American Apparel rapped again for sexualising children

American Apparel has been censured again by the advertising watchdog for appearing to sexualise a child in one of its ads.

American Apparel

The American Apparel ad banned by the ASA.

The ad, which featured on the back of free magazine Vice, pictured a girl posing with her legs up on an office chair, wearing just a jumper, knickers and knee-length socks.

Complainants objected the ad was “irresponsible” and “offensive” because they believed it sexualised a child as the model appeared to look under 16-years-old.

American Apparel said the model was over 18 years of age and was shown wearing products that were meant for adult consumers. It pointed out that the ad was placed in Vice magazine, which is a publication written for adults.

Vice Magazine said the ad contained no nudity and that in the wider context of fashion and underwear advertising, the image was “tame and tasteful”.

The Advertising Standards Authority said that the model pictured appeared to be potentially under the age of 16.

The watchdog added that whilst the image did not contain explicit nudity, the “amateur” photo, the model’s pose and her unsmiling expression meant the photo would be interpreted as having “sexual undertones” and a “voyeuristic quality”.

It concluded the ad inappropriately sexualised a model who appeared to be a child and was therefore irresponsible. The ASA also judged that because the ad appeared in a magazine that was untargeted and freely available it was likely to cause serious and widespread offence.

The ASA ruled the ad must not appear again its current form and told American Apparel not to depict any model as inappropriately sexualised who could, through their appearance or styling, appear to be a child.

The latest ruling against the retailer marks the second time in two weeks American Apparel has been slammed by the ASA - again for sexualised imagery of a model that could be perceived to be under 16. It was also guilty of similar breaches to the advertising code in April this year and in 2009.

The ASA told Marketing Week while American Apparel has breached the code on a number of occasions, it recognises a willingness on the retailer’s part to work with the watchdog and comply.
A spokeswoman adds: “There is no plan to impose further sanctions at this stage but that is something the ASA will continue to monitor.”

Readers' comments (4)

  • You can see where the ASA are coming from. Deliberate or perhaps like most of their fashion shots totally over 'photoshoped' making their models look underage or just plain abnormal!

    Perhaps if the models are older than they look then maybe American Apparel needs to get into the anti-aging cream business.

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  • I cannot look at this image without relating it directly to Balthus' Girl and Cat painting. Definitely a overly sexualised image of a young girl, whether or not the model is over the age of eighteen it is not a good image. Maybe we should be looking at the issues surrounding using women (and men) as objects of sex to sell.

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  • "appeared" to be? Wow. I mean, trust me, I'm the last one to let sexualization of children slide but that's kind of ridiculous. When I was 16, most people mistook me for a woman in her mid-twenties. Does that mean if a picture like that had been taken of me it would have been okay?

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  • The ASA has way bigger things to focus on if they want to tackle the subject of sexually objectifying women in advertising than this. The language is scary and reminiscent of some of the obscenity rulings that could be found a few centuries ago. They cite the amateur ascetic and lack of smiles as conveying underlying sexuality. The model "appears" to be "potentially" 16 years old. These are all very scary comments. Yes, AA and Vice push the envelope and personally, our taste has never leaned towards either of those brands however, we don't attempt to enforce our tastes on others, which seems like what is happening here. The ASA needs to be watched least they become yet another, moral police, censorship group.

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