It seems that the age old adage “sex sells” doesn’t always ring true after all. The clothing chain General Pants seem to have gone too far with their Sex! & Fashion advertising campaign for Sydney-based denim designers Ksubi.

There has been an angry back lash from shoppers who are outraged and shocked by the blatant campaign. Staff asked to wear “I love sex” badges are also not happy and have been encouraged to lodge sexual harassment complaints with the Anti-Discrimination Board.

“To display material that is sexually explicit or sexually suggestive in the workplace could be in breach of the Anti-Discrimination Act,” said the president of the Anti-Discrimination Board Stepan Kerkyasharian.

“There have been displays of photographic nudity which have been found to be offensive and in breach of the Act. If anyone felt offended by that, they could lodge a complaint.”

Melinda Tankard Reist author, commentator and Right 2 Childhood speaker said “Staff have been turned into walking billboards for their own objectification. We will take our pants off for General Pants. As well as forcing female staff to work in this pornified environment, the “I love sex badges” provide further evidence of General Pants lack of care for the wellbeing and safety of its workers.”

Customers and staff alike felt that posters featuring a semi-naked woman wearing only black tape on her nipples and a pair of jeans that were being unzipped by a man standing behind her were inappropriate for the young people that frequent the General Pants stores.

According to The Sunday Telegraph many young shop assistants said they were uneasy and uncomfortable wearing the badges.
One female employee told The Sunday Telegraph the badges were inappropriate. However, she had to wear them at the instruction of management. “It’s pretty degrading as a woman but there is nothing we can do,” she said.

Another employee said she felt “uncomfortable” wearing the badge because she found it “embarrassing’ and “demeaning”.
“I don’t think we should be encouraged to wear them,” she said. “It’s sending out the wrong message to our customers, who are generally young teenagers.”

Parading sexually explicit material in such a public workplace could also leave female employees open to sexual harassment from both co-workers and customers alike, this was the feeling of Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick.

This view was supported by Ms Ellis Minister for the Status of Women “I would encourage any employees concerned by this campaign to seek advice on their rights and encourage shoppers to use their power as consumers to show companies what kind of values they want to see,” she said.

By law an employer is required to provide a safe workplace, when they fail to do so, an employee can make a complaint under workplace law. Clearly a workplace that encourages the opportunity for sexual harassment through its advertising campaigns is not a safe workplace.

According to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission “Sexual harassment is any unwanted or unwelcome sexual behaviour, which makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated.”

Sexual harassment may include:
• staring or leering
• unnecessary familiarity, such as deliberately brushing up against you or unwelcome touching
• suggestive comments or jokes
• insults or taunts of a sexual nature
• displaying posters, magazines or screen savers of a sexual nature
• behaviour that may also be considered to be an offence under criminal law, such as physical assault, indecent exposure, sexual assault, stalking or obscene communications.”

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source:  The Daily Telegraph. Melinda Tankard Reist