"Sex shop" Santa ad breached ASB code

Rachael Micallef
By Rachael Micallef | 28 January 2016

Complaints over an ad showing “bound and gagged” Santa Claus for lingerie brand Honey Birdette have been upheld by the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) for showing sexual violence.

The two poster ads were shown in Honey Birdette stores in Westfield shopping centres. One showed a woman in red lingerie standing over a Santa Clause figure on the ground, the other showed a woman standing over a gagged Santa, with the words 'Silent Night' over the top.

However the ad drew a spate of complaints for sexuality, objectification and violence.

One complainant noted: “The ad uses an easily recognisable childhood icon - Santa Claus - to draw attention to advertising for a sex shop which masquerades as a high end lingerie store.

“Santa is bound and gagged in a somewhat demeaning activity (bondage), which is displayed at my children's eye-level.”

“Children will naturally be attracted to the image of Santa Clause and especially as he seems to have fallen over. It could create concern for them...the connection between Santa and sex is so wrong.”

While the ASB dismissed concerns that the poster was objectifying the woman in the images, it did uphold complaints over the use of violence.

“The board noted that Santa is bound and gagged and that this is a depiction of violence,” the ASB says in its determination.

“The majority of the board also considered that the image of Santa bound and tied in conjunction with the depiction of the woman in her lingerie standing over him while he is bound could be seen by people as suggestive of sexual violence and the expression on Santa’s face would appear to strengthen this suggestion.”

In response, Honey Birdette noted that the signage as been removed following the Christmas period but that it did experience its “strongest sales ever”.

“We actually refute the claim that “the image is extremely degrading to women as the woman is placed as a sexualised object” – perhaps the complaint came from someone who did not understand that we sell lingerie,” Honey Birdette says in the statement.

“In order to market and advertise lingerie, we need to show a model wearing it, however we do this in a way that empowers women rather than demean or degrade them.”

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