Global lingerie retailer Honey Birdette was forced to censor an Australian advertisement which features multiple topless men and women in the photoshoot campaign, ‘Fluid.’

Likened to ‘lesbian porn,’ the lingerie retailer says it was forced to censor the advert despite it being approved to be shown in the United States and Britain.

The founder of the Brisbane-born company, Eloise Monaghan prominently features in the photo shoot along with her wife, Natalie. The couple and other models feature bare chests and rainbow body-paint in a homage to the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, which commences on February 29.

Now based in Los Angeles, Monaghan said that while her ads could be shown in her New York and London, constant complaints in Australia have forced her to censor the poster in her own country.

Monaghan also noted that Australia used to be much more liberal with art and expression, but has since stagnated – a movement that she finds unsettling.

“I honestly don’t know what’s happening with Australia. It’s seriously frightening,” she told The Courier Mail.

“Australia was very free-thinking, and we’re not like that anymore.

“Those fringe groups are really having way too much of a say with the conservative government.”

The ad visibly features women’s nipples which unlike men’s nipples are banned according to Ad Standards, the Australian organisation that regulates the advertising industry.

Women’s nipples fall into a sexualised category and therefore are only allowed in specific circumstances such as marketing for plastic surgeons or art exhibitions.

“The Australian community does not find the depiction of male chests and nipples to be strongly sexualised or inappropriate nudity,” the Ad Standards guidelines state.

Honey Birdette has a history of controversy, including a 2019 ad which included a woman with pasties over her nipples. Ad Standards also removed this advertisement as the pasties’ drew attention to her breasts and that therefore the image is highly sexually suggestive.

However, Honey Birdette’s latest commercial has drawn criticism particularly from Collective Shout (CS), a campaign group that objects to the sexualisation of women, which claims that it had received complaints and concerns from Australian lesbians.

CS Campaigns Manager, Caitlin Roper wrote in an editorial on Thursday that the ‘pornographic’ nature of the advertisement, as well as Honey Birdette’s history of racey campaigning, perpetuated harmful stereotypes of LGBTQI women.

“Many of the women included are headless, but their naked breasts made it into the frame,” Roper wrote.

“The company’s long history of porn-inspired depictions of lesbian sexuality further entrenches sexist and harmful stereotypes of lesbians as male entertainment.”

Monaghan was quick to respond to claims from CS and other organisation such as ‘Listening2Lesbians’, saying that she was unapologetic at the advertisement’s message and that critics were perverting the ads original message.

“I am entirely unapologetic for the confidence and empowerment that this campaign portrays. Honey Birdette is passionate about equal rights for women in advertising,” she said.

‘We’re not in the business of just creating controversy. We’re in the business of creating love, and these new ad regulations are stricter than they’ve ever been.’

For more stories and information about the 2020 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, click here.

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