Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/11/04/asa_ruling/
STRONG REAL SEX? That's not porn, rules ASA
The kids'll never notice
British parents can be reassured that a newspaper picture of a man and woman having sex at the base of tree to advertise a film which "CONTAINS STRONG REAL SEX, BLOODY VIOLENCE AND SELF-MUTILATION" is not pornographic.
The Advertising Standards Authority made the ruling after seven complainants turned to it in horror after seeing ads for the film Antichrist which appeared in the Guardian, The Times and the Independent.
Apparently the benighted stick-in-the-muds thought the depiction of a naked couple having sex was offensive and inappropriate for publication in a newspaper where it might be seen by children. Some - clearly from Norfolk or somewhere - even thought it was pornographic.
Artificial Eye Film Company explained to the ASA that the picture of the rutting couple was the only one they'd be given to punt the film.
They added that they "thought The Times, The Guardian and The Independent were read by adults, not children, so saw no reason to change the ad for appearance in those publications, which all editorially approved the ad." (Which just goes to show how unsuccessful the Times and Guardian's children's sections are.)
The Times argued that "although the newspaper might be seen by children, the reader would need to be reasonably adult to understand what was being portrayed" and added "the image, taken as a whole, was therefore not as offensive as ordinarily would be expected from a depiction of a couple having sex". Luckily Times readers bring their kids up to be seen and not ask questions.
The Guardian said it "believed the ad was not offensive or pornographic, because the image was not explicit and the ad contained no swear words or obscenities" and added it was "aimed firmly at an adult audience and they thought the ad would not have caused serious or widespread offence to their readers". Presumably the CO2 produced by the shagging duo had been appropriately offset.
The Independent argued that both the film and the newspaper were aimed at adults, adding that it did not publish a children's page or section, and did nothing to recruit readers of school age.
The ASA was clearly reassured by these arguments, deciding not to uphold the complaints. "Although the possibility of children seeing the ad in those publications could not be ruled out, we considered it unlikely," the argued.
In addition, if children did see the rutting pair while playing with the recycling, or spreading out waste paper before doing a little bit of creative play, "we considered it was not particularly explicit and the dream-like context, introduced by the hands protruding from the tree (or roots), had the effect of making the image of the naked couple seem removed from reality."
"We considered that the ad... was unlikely to be seen as irresponsible or cause serious or widespread offence to readers of The Times, The Guardian and The Independent."
We look forward to the ASA's judgement the next time someone tries to advertise non-Virgin olive oil in the big papers. ®