20/09/2017 13:05 BST | Updated 20/09/2017 13:05 BST

Banning This Pretty Little Things Ad Sends A Dangerous Message About Women's Sexuality

Women, be careful how you behave when out in public or someone might mistake you for a child and have inappropriate thoughts.

That's the message I got from the Advertising Standards Authority's decision to ban a Pretty Little Thing advert because it featured models who it deemed appeared to be under 16.

The models are in fact aged 23 and 24 - ages that clearly make them grown adults.

The fact that one of them has (as described by the ASA) "smooth facial features, doe eyes, long lashes and a lean frame" and they were behaving "in a manner that could be considered as juvenile and mischievous", does not change this fact. They are both adults.


The ASA received a complaint from a viewer who spotted the ad when it was first aired during 'Dinner Date' on ITVBe on 12 April 2017.

The viewer challenged whether the ad was irresponsible because they believed the models featured appeared to be children and had been portrayed in a sexualised manner.

The ASA upheld this complaint, stating that the models' appearance and mannerisms made them appear "to be children".

How insulting for these young women to be told they look like children - just because they possess the very same characteristics seen on most models featured in advertising: "smooth facial features, doe eyes, long lashes".

There are shelve-loads of beauty products that promise to give women smooth facial features, doe eyes and long lashes. Should we ban them too?

Because surely if the ASA's logic is to be followed, women who use these products and then exhibit sexually provocative behaviour, could cause confusion and outrage.

In fact there is a whole market of products intended to make women look younger - the very thing this advert fell foul of.


The ASA also noted that: "the models featured were acting in a manner that could be considered as juvenile and mischievous - eg. both models were seen twirling, one model was swinging off an arch and in a later scene, clambering on one of the letters of the giant 'PLT' signs."

Someone had better warn the 'Strictly Come Dancing' team that twirling and swinging are not considered suitable behaviour for adult women to partake in.

And we'd better all delete those Instagram images of us climbing on signs from Hollywood to Amsterdam - because only children can be playful, apparently.

That's not all, the ASA also noted that: "the makeup and styling were reminiscent of 1990s teenagers' fashion, in particular the model who was wearing two high buns on the top of her head."

Take note Rita Ora, Michelle Keegan, Rihanna and literally everyone at Coachella this year, if you choose to partake in the 90s fashion revival then you better make sure you act in a chaste manner while doing so - just to avoid any confusion.

The ASA conceded that: "the outfits shown were generally reflective of the type of outfits popular with some music festival goers, and that the background and colourful set was evocative of summer festivals."

But then countered this with: "we noted that some of the outfits featured - eg. short body con dresses, a body suit worn without tights, low cut strappy bralette with short denim shorts, a thin cross-over bandeau - were tight fitting or revealing."

In other words, what you'd expect to see at a festival.

If these were children being used to sell "low cut strappy bralettes" then perhaps the ASA would have a point, but as they noted the models are aged 23 and 24 - ages at which it is perfectly acceptable to wear anything you want without first asking your mother's permission.

Clearcast, a company that checks ads against the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising, to ensure they aren't offensive, have said their internal viewing panel "felt that the tone of the ad was in line with the summer or festival spirit of the products and the models featured were neither childlike nor indecent or overly sexualised."

Yet one person's complaint has led to the advert being taken off screen - what message does this send to young women about their bodies and their sexuality?

Protecting children is a serious issue. But this ruling is not protecting children, it is suggesting that the behaviour of adult women is inappropriate purely because of their youthful appearance.

These women were not pretending to be children, they were styled and behaving in a manner appropriate for their ages.

Women's bodies take many different shapes and forms. It's perfectly natural for some women to have "lean" physiques and telling them that sexual behaviour is inappropriate for them is body-shaming.

So unless the ASA wants to go one step further and say that sex should not be used to sell - which would mean waving goodbye to a large proportion of ads currently on our screens - can we please stop policing young women's behaviour and holding them up to standards that aren't expected of others.