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The messiness around the ban of an American Apparel ad

On Sex and Toys

In my recent history of sexualization post, I cheekily compared a Greek wall painting to the recent American Apparel controversy; basically, AA is being slammed for showing provocative advertisements in Vice magazine that include models that appear to be under 16:

After a little bit more digging, it was revealed to me that the key word in the previous statement was “appear”; turns out, the models were all 18 and only had a youngish look. Which brings about a big problem. Yes, the girl in the picture does look to be under 16, so anyone just glancing at this ad as they flip through Vice would assume that this is a case of child sexualization. But, technically, it isn’t. This girl is an adult, and can choose to show her body anyway she wishes. Is it fair that the ASA banned this ad simply for the fact that she has childlike features? American apparel responded to the ban with the following statement:

“It’s unfortunate that the ASA has made this ruling as our models are of age and were featured in Vice magazine, a publication clearly intended for mature, fashion-forward audiences. We’ll abide by this ruling as we have in the past with similar ASA decisions, but American Apparel will not be altering our classic advertising aesthetic which is internationally recognized for its artistic and social values."

AA seems to be taking a stance similar to the American law on obscenity; that is, material that may have obscence implications is okay as long as it has some social/artistic merit. And I believe it does, especially since the woman is old enough to legally decide to be photographed in such a sexual light. But unless a reader is going to, upon seeing this ad, disrupt their flow of reading to research the age of this model, clearing their moral conscience by legally allowing him/her to think this model is sexually attractive, people are just going to see this ad as a blatant incident of child sexualization.

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