Can someone explain to me….?

// 18 February 2009

Why the ASA upholds complaints because the advert has the word S-E-X in it but doesn’t uphold complaints about the objectification and sexual exploitation of women? (See here and here and here and here and here and here and [OK ok we get it already – ed.])

Want Longer Lasting Sex Advert

Interesting the ad had already been pulled by the ASA for direct marketing of pharmaceuticals to consumers (not allowed in the UK, instead you must market them to doctors instead). Now it’s been banned again as it might cause “serious or widespread offence” – yet when women complain on the same grounds about objectifying images they get told it’s not the prevailing public opinion. Interestingly that was exactly what the manufacturers argued in this case

The company claimed the wider context of content in lads’ mags, reality TV shows, the “commonality of graphic simulated sex on prime time TV”, and posters for films such as Sex Drive and Sex & The City, showed that the UK was “living in a much more liberal and tolerant age than, for example, 10 years ago”.

From The Guardian

Of fascination here is that the target of this advert, according to the manufacturer, is men (“AMI said that “sometimes bold, arresting statements were the only way of successfully engaging men and promoting the availability of treatment and removing the perceived embarrassment or shame associated with seeking it”.”). I can only assume the same men (as in men in general) who are targetted by objectifying images of women in other adverts which are deemed by the ASA to not be offensive. Wierd, huh? Or is it just that the “prevailing opinion” is women are there to be positioned solely as sex objects, men’s sex isn’t to be mentioned as it’s too taboo?

Interesting given we now have “scientific” proof that if you present women as sex objects men process them cognitively as objects rather than people (different parts of the brain). Well, doh!

Comments From You

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 18 February 2009 at 12:59 pm

You got it on one Louise. On no account must men’s sexuality be mentioned or even portrayed as ‘problematic.’ Hence the reason for ASA promptly claiming this advertising was ‘offensive.’ Women however, are not human because we are simply men’s sexualised commodities, so it is acceptable for women to be represented in sexually degrading posters and advertising posters.

This is the patriarchal system at its finest – protecting male bodies and male sexuality but simultaneously promoting a misogynistic and women-hating message in respect of women’s bodies and female sexuality.

As regards AMI – well they are promoting a phallocentric male-centric discourse on what supposedly passes for ‘real sex.’ Ergo: it is centered around the male sexual organ functioning according to patriarchal definitions.

pollystyrene // Posted 18 February 2009 at 2:22 pm

I blame the patriarchy.

Leigh // Posted 18 February 2009 at 2:25 pm

Those links don’t seem to show how the ASA responded to the adverts…? And the playstation one is listed under the international section of ads of the world, so does it even fall under the jurisdiction of the ASA- was it ever published in the UK?

Secondly if it’s NOT the prevailing opinion that the objectification in those adverts of women is offensive why SHOULD the ASA uphold complaints about them?

Louise Livesey // Posted 18 February 2009 at 4:33 pm

If you want the ASA adjudications they can be found on the ASA website.

Ads of the World is published in the US therefore the UK counts as international (actually it counts as Europe – international refers to multi-country ad campaigns).

On your point about the ASA and prevailing opinion – 522 complaints about the longer sex ad was considered a sign of the prevailing opinion. Similar numbers of complaints about objectification of women haven’t been seen as a sign of prevailing opinionl.

Leigh // Posted 18 February 2009 at 6:46 pm

“On your point about the ASA and prevailing opinion – 522 complaints about the longer sex ad was considered a sign of the prevailing opinion. Similar numbers of complaints about objectification of women haven’t been seen as a sign of prevailing opinion.”

Wasn’t the Longer sex ad was taken down because it was in view of Children and that was the breach it was called up on? I mean that’s what I read from their RSS feed.

Further, ASA DID uphold the complaint about the sexy school girl ad Look

and on only 13 complaints. I’m really wondering if you checked these facts before publishing the article.

Look, I don’t want to be having a go but faulty information or misrepresenting the facts is what anti-feminists jump on to try to show feminism itself to be a bogus enterprise, and run by women like the one depicted in that crass national express advert you linked.

Amy // Posted 18 February 2009 at 11:56 pm

“Rising numbers of women are arrested for being drunk and disorderly, discovers Channel 4 News online.”

This was at the side of the first link….

All have a panic attack at what researchers to their horror have discovered! Pictured a pretty, young woman with her head slightly bent.

The women of THIS patriarchy being naughty promiscuous stop- outs??? :O Glug, glug.

Louise Livesey // Posted 19 February 2009 at 9:44 am

Dear Leigh,

Contrary to your assertion I don’t just publish whatever pops into my pretty little head. Go check your privilege. Perhaps I could respectfully request that rather than just asserting I am wrong you could have gone to check your facts using the ASA website I already linked to.

Yes I checked the facts. There were complaints about advert location but the ASA ruled on the likelihood to cause offence. From the ASA adjudication:

521 complainants believed the poster was offensive and, therefore, unsuitable for display in public locations… We also noted, however, a number of people who had seen the posters had felt that the language used was offensive and inappropriate for general public display.

We understood that many people also considered the posters’ bright colours and very large text, including the word ‘SEX’ to attract attention, was unsubtle and crass. We also understood that the word ‘SEX’, in itself, had caused concern in many cases and, in the context of ‘WANT LONGER LASTING SEX?’, which related directly to sexual intercourse, had also caused embarrassment…A number of complainants pointed out to us that the sheer size and prominence of the message made it impossible to avoid, which they found very uncomfortable…

We also noted the poster contained nothing explicit, and considered that the word ‘sex’ was not necessarily problematic in itself. We considered, however, that the style and tone of this ad, with direct reference to sexual intercourse through the phrase ‘Want longer lasting sex?’, was presented in too stark and prominent a manner, and as a result were concerned that it had caused both serious and widespread offence.

In view of this, we concluded that the poster was unsuitable for public display.

Not suitable for the locations chosen but plain old unsuitable. As I said. So yourself and all the anti-feminists who want to can go jump on whatever they want. I don’t publish unless I’m sure of the facts.

As for your final assertion (which amounts to “if it’s run by women it can’t be sexist” this expresses an extraordinarily patriarchal and oftentimes racist view that women are not involved in the oppression of other women and therefore if a woman heads it then it must be OK. This is simply not true – many women are involved in the oppression of other women on big and small scales and just because they are women doesn’t get them a “get out of checking their own privilege” card.

Leigh // Posted 19 February 2009 at 10:56 am

Firstly I apologise if I implied that you publish thing irresponsibly. Like everyone else on the fword I have benefited from your informative and thought provoking posts.

However your response seems problematic. You appear to have cut out the bit that related to the point I made! Obviously I find this a bit frustrating and so want to respond.

Look, this is what I was referring to from


1. 521 complainants believed the poster was offensive and, therefore, unsuitable for display in public locations, which included near schools and in areas with a high Jewish population, where it could be seen by children,

and then in the Assessment section you replaced this section with elipses

“amongst some parents or guardians who had been quizzed about its meaning by children.”

It wasn’t the only point that the adjudication was made on, but it was one of them.

On my other point, which I think relates to a comment on another post /blog/2009/02/whats_with_the

I didn’t claim that the ASA wasn’t sexist- I was objecting to the claim from another commentator JENNIFER DREW that it was ‘male dominated’ which, given that 7 of the 16 ASA council members seemed a hard statement to substantiate, and seemed to hold the rather unpleasant implication that all or most of the males on the council were misogynists.

And you didn’t respond to my observation that the ASA did uphold the complaint about the sexy school girl ad, complete with link? It seems unfair to accuse the ASA of ignoring things when they haven’t.

On the point of checking privilege. I think there are certain privileges nobody should ever have to surrender. The privilege to object to things they find wrong. The privilege to reply to accusations. The privilege to ask questions. Do you really find what I said above to be an example of patriarchal or sexist privilege? If you don’t want to respond on this blog then I would very much appreciate a response via email to the last point, because if what I said is oppressive it would help me to be informed how and why it is.

Thank you for taking the time to read and consider my comments.

Louise Livesey // Posted 20 February 2009 at 10:43 am

Dear Leigh, sorry but you entirely miss the point here.

The adjudication stated the post was unsuitable for public display – end of. Location was irrelevant – it was deemed entirely unsuitable for display. Whether or not a handful of the complaints were about colocation with schools isn’t the point .

You are trying to divert a post about the gendered double standards of the ASA into a discussion about a single poster. That is a very common tactic used to deny the power and existence of feminist arguments about women’s treatment. 522 complaints in the instance of the AMI poster was deemed to show “prevailing attitudes” – many more complaints about objectification of women are dismissed because that’s apparently not the “prevailing attitude” according the ASA. The point is that the ASA has clearly shown itself to be gender biased and inherently really quite anti-woman in it’s work.

I propose at this point that rather than continuing to indulge your merry-go-round of views we end the discussion here unless there is something new to add to it. On your second point – that refers to a post by a different blogger – we aren’t a hivemind and it’s inappropriate to ask me to speak for them. I do challenge your notion about the ASA council (who aren’t the people who make the adjudications by the way) being gender neutral purely because there are some women on it.

If you look at what interest groups are represented it’s a very different picture

Chris Smith – politician; gay, white man; private school and Oxbridge education.

James Best – career in advertising; white, heterosexual male.

Louisa Bolch – management career in television; woman of colour

Sally Cartwright – career in print publishing and advertising; white woman

Jean Coussins – career in industry sponsored advertising and race equalities work; Oxbridge education; white woman

Elizabeth Fagan – management career in retail and advertising; white woman

Sunil Gadhia – career in law, man of colour

Alison Goodman – career in fundraising for the third sector work on gay rights; white woman

David Harker – management career in third sector; white man

Gareth Jones – Oxbridge educated; theologian; white man

Andrew Motion – poet; white man

Susan Murray – marketing career in alcohol and tobacco industry; white woman

Colin Philpott – career in broadcast journalism; white man

Nigel Walmsley – career in media including advertisers representative body; Oxbridge educated; white man

Neil Watts – Oxbridge educated; career in education; white man

Diana Whitworth – career in third sector around carers and elders; white woman

So we have reps from the gay rights movement, race equality movement, elders and carers movement and the Anglican Church. The large group which seems to be entirely missing is from the women’s rights movement.

>Do you really find what I said above to be an example of patriarchal or sexist privilege?

Yes I did. And not because you responded to my post, or objected to what was being said but because despite being advised to check the adjudications at the ASA you still implied it was my task to furnish that for you and further implied that I was writing without knowing my facts. Such patronising attitudes I do take to be an example of patriarchal privilege and the assumption that it is an absolute right to simply throw out aspersions without any evidence and expect them to be taken seriously. Additionally I further take the attitude that when someone hauls you on your privilege it is because they are scared of challenge as another sign of manifesting patriarchal privilege – it’s a tactic used by MRA on a routine basis (as is, by the way deflecting the conversation into minutaie and making it all about men). As I said – go check your privilege – but thank you for stating you are open to hearing what the problems are.

Sal // Posted 20 February 2009 at 9:39 pm

Regardless of the actual content of this debate, in terms of the way her response is framed, I find the response to Leigh very offensive, and also very disappointing. A statement as unnecessarily aggressive as ‘Contrary to your assertion I don’t just publish whatever pops into my pretty little head. Go check your privilege.’ is not what I would hope to read on The F-word. There are more diplomatic (and consequently more effective) ways of expressing the same idea, that do not rely on assaulting everyone who disagrees with you as automatically anti-feminist and ‘privileged’. Leigh expresses herself in respectful terms throughout, and that Louise Livesey is unable to do the same is thoroughly disappointing. As I used to understand it, the F-word was a place for feminists to discuss, debate and even disagree. I don’t remember reading a feminist handbook that told me what was and was not acceptable feminist thought. I would have thought we had learnt to embrace and encourage varying perspectives, even if we don’t agree with them all. Unfortunately, this is a growing trend on the F-word that I have noticed, that to be honest switches me right off. I’m not here to bash other women or their points of view, even if I don’t completely agree, and I’m definitely not here to read other women bashing other women.

Leigh Woosey // Posted 31 March 2009 at 8:46 pm

Actually Sal I’m afraid I have to correct you. I am male and have never hidden it, but my name is spelled in a way that is more popular for females.

I have been chatting with Jess McCabe and I thought that I should leave one last comment. I still read the F-Word, But I don’t comment on it. Not because Louise had scared me off but because she defended this as a safe space for females to write in. Being a male feminist I may want to have my say, but I have to respect that there is still an inequality between how much male voices are heard over female ones. I think that part of being an activist is setting an example, the example I can set is by being quiet- listening but not arguing, even when I really disagree with something. Even if I feel put out this way I can say to myself: ‘Yes it IS possible to check your privilege. Yes it is possible to different and better ways to communicate’.

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