This section applies equally to images of men as well as images of women and children.

Issues highlighted in cases relating to Section 2.4 of the Code that have been considered by the Ad Standards Community Panel include:

Product relevance

In considering cases under Section 2.4, the Community Panel will consider the relevance the sex, sexuality or nudity has to the product or service being promoted. Each year the Community Panel consistently receives complaints about the use of sex, sexuality and nudity in the promotion of lingerie, fashion, sex products and services and dating services. In general, using themes of a sexual nature to promote sex shops or lingerie products will be more understandable as the imagery relates to what is sold.

The Community Panel’s view is:

  • While there is significant community concern about advertising sex products and services, advertisers are legally able to advertise these product, and where the level of sex, sexuality and nudity used is not inappropriate for the audience the Community Panel will dismiss the complaint.
  • It is appropriate for advertisements for cosmetic surgery or similar services to depict people in limited clothing to highlight the services they offer where the advertisement is not overly sexualised.
    • The Cosmetic Institute Bondi Junction – 0162/16
    • John Flood Plastic Surgeon – 0145/17
  • Advertisements for sexual performance enhancers, if they are not overly explicit and are not inappropriate for the relevant audience, will also be found not to breach the Code.
  • It is reasonable for a lingerie advertiser to depict lingerie being modelled in its advertising, where the images are not overly sexualised and do not use inappropriate nudity or exposure.
  • Advertisers are allowed to depict people in the clothing they are advertising, where advertisements are consistent with fashion advertising and not overly sexualised.

Although relevant to the product or service being advertised, advertisements can still cross the line of acceptability if the use of sex, sexuality and nudity is too explicit. The Community Panel’s view is:

  • Advertisements for lingerie can breach section 2.4 of the Code if they are overly sexualised and not appropriate for a broad audience.
  • Although legally allowed to be advertised, sex products or services advertisements can breach Section 2.4 of the Code if they are overly sexualised and/or depict a high level of nudity.
  • Advertising for sexual performance enhancers can cross the line of acceptability if the use of sex, sexuality and nudity is too explicit.

Humour and sexual innuendo

Humour and sexual innuendo in advertisements considered by the Community Panel generally raised questions of whether the advertisement was appropriate for a broad audience which could include children. The Community Panel’s view is:

  • Advertising with mild sexual references, which would not easily be understood to be sexual by children, were seen to treat the issue of sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience.
  • Advertisements which use double entendre, where a non-sexualised explanation of the meaning would be taken away by children, was seen to treat the issue of sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience.
  • A higher level of sexualised content in advertising which is limited to an adult or older teenage audience is appropriate and sensitive to the relevant audience.

While humour and innuendo can often make an advertisement more acceptable, advertisements still need to be appropriate for a broad audience. The Community Panel upheld a number of advertisements in this area. The Community Panel’s view is:

  • Advertising which is able to be viewed by children must still treat sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to this audience, regardless of humor used.

Nudity

The Community Panel has recently found several advertisements to be in breach of Section 2.4 of the Code in relation to nudity. The Community Panel’s view is:

  • Advertising which contains explicit nudity will often be found to breach this section of the Code, especially if in a medium which is likely to be seen by children.
  • Advertising which features naked or semi-naked people may breach the Code if the people are in a sexualised pose, even if there is no explicit nudity.
  • Advertising which uses images of people with little or no clothing to promote an unrelated product may be seen to be a use of nudity that is not appropriate.
  • Advertising featuring naked people, even when the advertising is not sexually suggestive, may be considered inappropriate if able to be viewed by a broad audience including children.

Certain levels of nudity can be considered acceptable by the Community Panel if it is presented in a manner appropriate to the audience and does not expose genitalia or contain overly sexualised content. The Community Panel’s view is:

  • Advertising which suggests nudity but where the people featured are adequately covered will usually be considered acceptable where the nudity is not sexualised.
  • A higher level of nudity is considered acceptable in mediums which are unlikely to have a young audience.
  • It is normal to be naked when bathing or showering and advertisements showing people in the shower or bathroom, where there are no breasts or genitals visible, are considered appropriate.
  • The Community Panel has consistently determined that it is not inappropriate to show women breastfeeding in advertisements, and that this is not sexualised and is does not constitute inappropriate nudity.
  • Advertisements showing people’s bodies and bare skin for toiletry products, where the images are not sexualised, will usually be considered appropriate.
  • Advertising which shows men without shirts on, which is only mildly sexualised, is not inappropriate nudity.
  • Advertising which depicts nudity in a tasteful manner, related to the artistic product or service being promoted, will not breach Section 2.4 of the Code.
  • Advertising which uses nudity in a humorous, not sexualised manner, where people are still covered appropriately will not be seen to breach Section 2.4 of the Code.
  • The Community Panel has also consistently dismissed complaints about women and men in swimwear, where poses are not sexualised, especially in conjunction with beach, pool or fitness activities.

The location of an advertisement can also affect whether the level of nudity in an advertisement is inappropriate. The Community Panel’s view relating to advertising which featured naked woman, with her nipples and pubic area covered and her bottom exposed:

  • was not inappropriate for a medium which would mostly be seen by adults - a print advertisement placed in a fashion magazine (Tom Ford Beauty – 0199/15).
  • was inappropriate for general audiences which would definitely include children - a large poster advertisement in a department store (Tom Ford Beauty – 0158/15).

Suggestive phrases and acts

Explicit references to sexual acts are usually viewed negatively by the Community Panel. The Community Panel’s view is:

  • Highly explicit or sexual content may breach this section of the Code even in a medium which is restricted to older audiences.
  • Highly explicit or sexual content in public places which are likely to be viewed by broad audiences including children, will breach the Code.

The Community Panel also dismissed a number of complaints about advertisements in this area. The Community Panel’s view is:

  • Advertising which features couples, including same-sex couples, kissing or embracing, as long as no private parts are visible, and are appropriate for the intended audiences, would not be seen as explicit sexual content.
  • Advertising which uses factual sexual language to promote an important health or social message will usually be seen to be appropriate when they take into account the sensitivity of the relevant audience.
  • Advertisements with sexualised themes are appropriate when care is taken to ensure these advertisements take into account the sensitivity of the relevant audiences.

Sexualisation of children

The Community Panel and the community continue to hold strong concerns over any imagery in advertising which may exploit or sexualise children. All complaints concerning the sexualisation of children are taken seriously and considered thoroughly by the Community Panel.

Advertisers are responsible and cautious in the portrayal of children in advertisements, and there have been very few cases upheld in this area. The Community Panel’s view is:

  • Advertising which has sexual overtones or connotations relating to a child, even when not intended by an advertiser, will breach this section of the Code.
  • Advertising which shows a naked child in the company of a group of adult men, which does not clearly justify the nudity will breach this section of the Code.
  • Advertising where children are posed in an adult manner, or who are depicted in a way which makes them appear sexualised will breach this section of the Code.

The Community Panel has dismissed complaints about sexualisation of children in a number of advertisements. Their view is:

  • Advertising which uses adults and children to show a fashion range will not be considered inappropriate, where the children are not depicted in a sexualised manner.
  • Depicting an older woman with a younger man, or vice-versa, as long as both parties are clearly of a consenting age, is not sexualisation of children.
  • Complaints are often received about advertising which show images of young children in swimwear or underwear. Where these images do not employ sexual appeal, the tone of the advertisement is innocent, the children are appropriately covered and there is no undue attention on the child’s body, this is not considered sexualisation of children.
  • Advertising which depicts men interacting with their children in regular every-day situations will not be seen by the Community Panel to be sexualised in any way.
    • GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Australia – 0268/16
    • Kia Automotive Australia – 0272/16
  • Caution should be taken when using adult models who may appear to be teenagers in advertising, however when these images are not sexualised and appropriate for general audiences they will not be considered sexualisation of children.

See also Sex, Sexuality and Nudity