A website for an equestrian products company, www.lemieuxproducts.com, seen in February 2022 featured a food supplement for female horses called “Slut Mix”. The product description stated “…can reduce inflammation in the ovarian region and offer mares much relief and comfort during their seasons. Slut Mix does attract a fair bit of attention, not least because of the name! However, it’s a serious product that contains extracts of Chase [sic] Berry (agnus castus) in a palatable liquid nutritional base and really can work. If your mare is constantly in and out of season, aggressive and temperamental then this product has proved to be highly successful in easing the problem.”
The website featured a pack shot of the product with the name visible.
IssueThe complainant, who believed the ad, especially the name of the product, was sexist and perpetuated negative stereotypes of women, challenged whether it was offensive.
ResponseLeMieux Ltd said that they were a third-party stockist of the advertised product which was named by its manufacturer. They said they did not advertise the product beyond its listing on their website. They asked the manufacturer to comment on the complaint. The manufacturer said that “slut” was a term commonly used by horse trainers to refer to a problem filly. They said that the product was exclusively for horses and they did not intend to cause offence to people. They said that the product had been on sale since 2000 and was sold in 15 countries.
The ASA noted that the advertised product was a nutritional supplement for horses and that consumers would understand that the users of the products were horses. However, the term “slut” was a well-known negative stereotype of women and was commonly used to refer to women who had or were perceived to have many sexual partners, in a derogatory way that passed judgment on those behaviours. We considered that, even in the context of an ad for horse supplements, consumers were likely to consider the word “slut” to be highly offensive, derogatory towards women and sexist. For those reasons, we concluded that the ad, which included an offensive gender stereotype, was likely to cause serious offence.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of: age; disability; gender; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. Compliance will be judged on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards.
Marketing communications may be distasteful without necessarily breaching this rule. Marketers are urged to consider public sensitivities before using potentially offensive material.
The fact that a product is offensive to some people is not grounds for finding a marketing communication in breach of the Code. and 4.9 4.9 Marketing communications must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence.
See Advertising Guidance: “Depicting gender stereotypes likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offence?” (Harm and Offence).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told LeMieux Ltd to ensure that their future ads did not contain anything that was likely to cause serious or widespread offence, including the use of offensive gender stereotypes.