A few thoughts on the ADSHEL/Rip and Roll controversy

This advertisement is excellent. It promotes safe sex without being tawdry, it shows two men who clearly love each other, and it’s very tasteful in getting a responsible social message out there.

However, I can see why it might be considered objectionable – mainly because there are some people who object to the existence of homosexuals, and the existence of prophylactics.

I don’t agree with them, but I feel some allowance must be made to let different parties hold different points of view. We do, after all, live in a liberal democracy, and freedom of speech is a necessity. I absolutely don’t agree with what they’re saying, but it saddens me to see intolerance countered with belligerent hate.

I don’t know much of the ACL, and I don’t understand the point of view that tries to marginalise members of our society. I don’t want to associate with them, but I don’t wish them any specific harm.

Most of my knowledge into this controversy comes from reading the Facebook page, and listening to yesterday’s Hack broadcast from Triple J. Wendy Francis does not seem like a very intelligent woman to me, or at the very least, she seems far too willing to hide behind simplistic rhetoric, but this doesn’t mean I find it acceptable to see some of the hate-groups directed towards her that have sprung up on Facebook.

It damages a valid argument to resort to petty name-calling. It makes you seem as petty as the ACL if you have nothing intelligent to respond with other than “fuck off bitch!” It also feeds the trolls.

That’s where my sympathy ends though.

Having read the complaints about the advertisement, most of which have been copied-and-pasted, the reaction is less about the promotion of condoms, as it is about the ad featuring two men – but then again, I don’t think anyone’s been fooled by Francis’ weasel words.

Her stance is that she is against the sexualisation of children. Y’know – cos this ad is clearly sexualising children. See all those children in there? They must be hidden by the two grown men who are sharing a loving embrace.

But to be fair, her concern is that she worries about her inquisitive children asking what condoms are, and her having to let them know that sex exists.

This is the biggest cop out ever.

Parents lie to kids all the time, and it’s out of necessity. Babies come from the stork. Santa brings presents at Christmas. The tooth fairy has an odd dental fetish and is willing to pay children for her fix. They’re simple lies. They don’t hurt anyone. Children are inquisitive, but they’re also easily distracted.

“Mummy, what’s that red thing the man is holding?”

“I don’t know honey, but can you tell me how many buttons I have on my shirt?”

Problem solved.

As for the claim that it’s promoting promiscuity – well clearly this is a couple having consenting relations. It isn’t a snapshot of a man amidst an orgy choosing to play it safe (though that’s a valid advertisement to make in the world of safe-sex promotion). It isn’t even all that sexualised. Sure they’re hugging, and there’s a peck on the cheek, and he’s holding a condom – but there is a lot more overtly sexual advertising for products that don’t have the same context.

What did you notice first – the breasts or the brand of vodka?
Or that she’s only just taking off her sunglasses to acknowledge him,
which just gives a certain rapey je nais sais quoi to the proceedings.

It makes sense for a safe-sex campaign to feature sexual undertones, but this is actually relatively innocent. As for the vodka ad above, well that’s somewhere where sexual tones are a bit jarring, because the product can affect the mental capacity of sexual participants. But sex sells, and it has for years, so maybe it’s time that the relevant conservative groups realise this and explain to the children that these ads aren’t realistic, instead of grabbing the torches and pitchforks.

The issue for the ACL is that the ad is promoting homosexuality. And while I think it’s ridiculous that this is something to get worked up over, it’s not like there aren’t other groups out there who have the same concern.

Say what you will about the ACL, they’re not the Westboro Baptist Church.
And I really don’t think these kids came to these conclusions themselves.

It saddens me that the world is still the kind of place where diversity isn’t accepted, but slowly, different voices are being heard.

What I’d like to see happen is for the furore to die down. In a way, it’s a good thing it happened; the ACL’s futile efforts to diminish a great ad campaign have given it more publicity than it could have hoped to achieve had it gone unchallenged. But instead of meeting intolerance with anger and hatred, it would be good to see reasonable and open minded people ignore the bigotry of one group of people who, like it or not, have a right to express their distaste, and instead work towards creating a society where it doesn’t even become a notable thing that the love in the advertisement is between two men.

Love is as love is, and it should be accepted wherever it’s found. Whether it’s the love of a mother for her children, or the love between two men, we should be happy that there is love in the world regardless.

This ad is promoting a good message. Those children will grow up one day, and it’s a better thing for them to know about safe sex then for them not to. But in the end, giving attention to the petty accusations of an agenda-driven lobby group does nothing but give attention to people we’d be better off ignoring.

But despite my attempts at eloquence, I’m going to leave you with Louis CK’s views on objecting to differing lifestyles.

To each their own. Spread the love.


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