A POSTCARD produced by Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, which featured a naked man sitting on the back of a woman, has been criticised as being exploitative, degrading and highly sexualised by the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB).

The postcard, which was available from cafes and restaurants around the time of Mardi Gras this year, was the work of photographer Elvis di Fazio and featured burlesque performer Lillian Starr.

The image featured a man raising his hand to strike the woman, dressed in fishnet stockings and heels, similar to the action of a jockey whipping a horse.

The ASB said the advert broke several sections of the Advertiser Code of Ethics including using exploitative sexual imagery.

A complaint to the ASB said the advert sent “a message that Australian society tolerates — indeed promotes — sexual domination of women and that the ideal female is one who is willing to go down on all fours to enable a man to ride her.”

“The normalising of female submission and the objectification… through highly potent visual media products that are freely available to the general population… is unacceptable,” the complaint also stated.

While the complainant acknowledged Mardi Gras was unlikely to have intended the advert to be derogatory, the lack of context around the image or indeed any mention of Mardi Gras, meant it nonetheless promoted, “an overt message that is sexist.”

Responding to the ASB, Mardi Gras defended the postcard saying it was part of a broader series of three depicting a “highly stylised party scene,” and Starr “was a key contributor in devising the image.”

However, Mardi Gras conceded that “in isolation the image in question may have been confronting for some people and that the intent of the image could be misinterpreted without the appropriate context.”

In its ruling, the ASB said the advert had “no clear connection to the Mardi Gras and that the depiction of someone on all fours in this manner is an image consistently considered by the community as a sexualised image suggestive of one person dominating another.”

As such, the postcard broke section 2.2 of the Code of Ethics that states: “Advertising or marketing communications should not employ sexual appeal in a manner which is exploitative and degrading.”

The ASB also criticised Mardi Gras for allowing the postcards to be distributed in a manner that meant they “could easily viewed by children and by a broad section of the community that… is likely to consider the image highly sexualized.”

Mardi Gras told the ASB the postcard was no longer in circulation and would not be used in the future in “inappropriate venues.”

Mardi Gras have been contacted for further comment.

CLICK HERE to read the ASB’s full case report

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