Gender, sex and relationships
Helpful information on the advertising rules for ads that address matters around love, physical intimacy and people’s gender.
When depicted in ads, gender stereotypes, nudity, sexual orientation and other matters relating to sex and relationships can often generate a high number of complaints.
When we are assessing complaints we always take into account the context of the ad and where it was placed. These factors are especially important when the complaints refer to matters around love, physical intimacy and gender. For example ads featuring nudity are generally more acceptable if they have some relevance to the product being advertised – such as lingerie or swimwear. Furthermore an ad that contains adult themes or that is slightly sexually provocative may be acceptable in a targeted magazine but not on a poster that could be seen by children.
We also always try and take into account prevailing social standards when assessing complaints and this can be a big part of our decision making when it comes to matters relating to gender, sex and relationships.
Light-hearted innuendos in ads are likely to be acceptable but being excessively explicit about sexual activity, even in ads for contraceptives, is not considered reasonable. While some people find products such as contraceptives and sex toys offensive, this is not grounds alone for finding an ad to break our rules; these are legal products which can legitimately be advertised. That said advertisers should take care not to trivialise sensitivities and issues surrounding the use of such products, e.g. emergency contraception, unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and unprotected sex.
Another common cause for complaint relates to sexual orientation and references to or depictions of homosexuality in ads. References to homosexuality should always be handled with care in ads but it is in no way prohibited under our advertising rules. The expression of political views on issues such as gay marriage in ads is also not prohibited provided that the content does not offend.
The depiction of gender stereotypes in ads can also raise concerns. Ads which are insulting or demeaning towards or reinforce negative gender stereotypes are likely to be unacceptable and advertisers should be careful not to: mock women or men in non-stereotypical roles; reinforce negative stereotyped views of gender roles; objectify or overtly sexualise men or women to the point of being offensive; depict body image of men or women in a manner that could be irresponsible or harmful.