Being gay in public

Adshel has pulled the Queensland Government’s safe sex ads because someone complained about them. Apparently making sure children don’t see an image of two men touching trumps the fact that, in 2010, there were more people diagnosed with HIV than at any time since the mid 1980s. According to Paul Martin, executive director of the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities, “65 per cent of these diagnoses are among gay men”.

This is the hideously offensive ad:

Rip and roll ad

The Rip and Roll safe sex ad (image from

Shocking, I know. You can find the story here: Company defends decision to remove safe sex posters

An Adshel spokeswoman said:

“The decision to remove the posters was made on the basis of the large number of complaints received.

“Adshel does not take a position regarding the views or position of various community groups.”

Perhaps, but Adshel is half-owned by APN, which refused to run ads by the Atheist Foundation of Australia. That makes things a little more interesting.

You can read the complaints about the Rip and Roll ad here. They’re all pretty much the same: seeing a picture of two men hugging will “pre-sexualise” children; there shouldn’t be any condom ads in public places because children might see them; the image of the condom is “huge”; it promotes an “unhealthy lifestyle choice” to children; it shows two men “in the act of foreplay” (men hugging is foreplay? In that case, men playing cricket, rugby league, rugby union, AFL and soccer should be ejaculating all over the field).

Most of the wording is the same, so it’s clearly an organised campaign. We don’t know if it was the Australian Christian Lobby behind the complaints, but well-organised anti-gay complainers do tend to be connected to the ACL.

Why does the ACL have so much power? According to the 2006 census, 64 per cent of the population claims to be nominally Christian, but less than a quarter of those go to church each week. So, less than 16 per cent of the Australian population goes to a Christian church weekly. That’s less than the number who marked “no religion” (18.7 per cent), but a little more than the number who left the religion question blank (11.2 per cent).

When I was little, we filled out the census form as a family. When it came to the religion question, we all helpfully said “Anglican” (or was it Uniting? I don’t remember. The one without the guitars). We’d never been to church and as far as I know, none of us believed in God, but after a scripture class we asked our parents what religion we were and they said “Anglican/Uniting, I guess”. We weren’t interested in the religion, just the identifer – something that was about us, a label, which I understand is pretty normal child behaviour. (I wonder what my non-religious parents thought about their five kids insisting we fill in the religion question. I’d ask them but they’re in Turkmenistan.)

Anyway, my long-winded point is that I doubt the number of people who believe in a Christian god is as high as the census figures suggest. But we won’t know for sure unless the census includes a “do you believe in god/s” question.

As to whether the ACL deserves to be taken seriously at the moment, the ACL leadership has said some pretty disgusting things lately. The managing director of ACL is Jim Wallace, who tweeted on Anzac Day “Just hope that as we remember Servicemen and women today we remember the Australia they fought for – wasn’t gay marriage and Islamic!” He apologised for the timing of his comment but not the content. Earlier this year, he said a church school should have the right to expel an openly gay student.

In November, the Victorian director Rob Ward called the funding of a committee to advise the Government on issues affecting the gay community a “disgraceful act of undemocratic process”. Huh? How is giving a range of people a voice “undemocratic”?

And in August, the Queensland director of ACL Wendy Francis tweeted “Legitimising gay marriage is like legalising child abuse”.

Regular readers will know I have no religious beliefs, but I respect that others do. But what we have here is a small group of people blocking an important public health campaign, presumably because children might become gay if they know that gay exists. And once some children are gay, the rest will catch it from them. Or maybe they’re just homophobic.

Update: Adshel has reinstated the ads. Apparently receiving 40 or so complaints with the same wording didn’t tip them off to the fact that it was a coordinated campaign from a very small group.

21 responses to “Being gay in public

  1. Rhiannon Saxon

    Given the number of blatantly sexualised images on large billboards and bus shelters for fashion, shoes and chiko rolls, I think it’s pretty damn obvious that the motive behind this is both homophobic and nauseatingly sanctimonious.
    My mum who spent most of her career at ABS told me a few years ago that since the Howard government pulled federal funding for HIV/AIDS prevention public campaigns, the numbers of new incidences of HIV/AIDS has risen steadily.
    Anyone who subtly or openly thinks that people should spread disease, or that it doesn’t matter if they catch diseases, is hardly following Jesus’ instructions to love thy neighbour and help the sick, or injured.

    • I think that’s a big “IN YOUR FACE” to people who think blogs and twitter are frivolous.

      • That’s the way I see it. 😀

        The real power of social networking hasn’t even been realised yet, the way we perceive popular opinion and free will is actually quite awfully skewed by our neurobiology. For example we give equal weight to a concept being said 3 times by one person and a concept being said once by 3 people and we are hard-wired to instinctively conform to what we perceive as being the majority opinion.

        What happened today was a perfect example of that in action. It’s fair to be critical of Adshel and wonder how genuine their motives are but to me I really think they saw 40 complaints, all saying the same homophobic message and unthinkingly conformed to what they perceived to be the majority opinion.

        Thanks to effective social networking and blogging to promote it they were able to get a much clearer idea of what the majority opinion really is.

      • thefirstJanineonthisblog

        who thinks that?

  2. This made me so fucking mad.
    I read the article on, and it pretty clearly says (actually infers, but in a way that the connection is quite glaring) that it was an organised (hate) campaign by ACL.
    How rude.
    I think it is a lovely ad, and very tastefully done. They look like a couple, a couple that care about each other, which is a great message to be sending to children and everyone in fact.
    This isn’t presexualising, it is promoting the idea that love, respect and care can, and should, be found in all kinds of relationships*.
    You don’t see these same people complaining about fashion ads that have a half dressed male and female teenager, looking like they are partaking in sex and whatever else.
    Fucking grrrr.

    *Not that there is anything wrong with just sex sex 🙂

  3. “Legitimising gay marriage is like legalising child abuse”.
    I almost lost my breakfast there!
    I think the poster is lovely. I also greatly appreciate that they made it about tenderness and not just about sex. So there’s actually a double message there. SIgh. I just can’t get around the backwardsness of people.
    It’s so funny. I’m Belgian, so gay marriage, gay adoption, etc, it’s all normal too me, but it think Belgians are still rather closed minded… How off must the rest of the world be?

  4. Rhiannon Saxon

    I have been appalled at the amount of comments by people saying things along the lines of, ‘One of them is wearing a wedding ring and a crucifix, so it’s pretty clearly intended to cause shock and controversy.’
    Or you know, it could be because one of the men IS a Christian? In a committed relationship?

  5. As someone who spent way too much of her study-day following the facebook group, writing emails and making calls, one of the things that really warmed my heart was the massive response. Yeah, it fucking sucks that some small minded bigots got their knickers in a knot. Also sad that Adshel had a knee jerk reaction, which is all I can assume that they did. (Reading the complaints, many of them make illogical jumps in order to inflate their arguements (seriously, how on earth did you suppose that young children will infer sex from that ad – I walked past it five times before I realised that it had anything remotely to do with condoms) )
    But back to awesomeness – the ACL aren’t the only people who can write letters, call companies – there were a hell of a lot more people who support the lovely couple pictured.

    • That’s true. When Adshel said they’d put the ads back up, I felt very proud of my fellow Australians. So, what are we going to fix now? People who go on about “stopping the boats”?

    • I didn’t realise it was a condom ad either the first few times I saw it. (And as others have already pointed out, I too think it’s a gorgeous ad showing fully clothed, consensual adults being responsible and safe before engaging in the “nitty gritty”.) What a fantastic message to send to our kids. Sex can be tender, respectful, responsible and safe.

      The Outraged Christian can see sex and sin everywhere. They actively look for things to be outraged about. And this ad, well it’s like the outraged christian bingo card. Two men, touching no less, with a condom! (Yes, their bingo cards are as small and narrow as their world view.) I am unsurprised TOC would make the assertion that children will infer sex from this ad (just as they will no doubt catch teh gay if they look at it) TOC will tell you that the Priest in the Little Mermaid has an obvious erection. (If ask anyone else’s children they will tell you it’s a knee, but not TOC children.They are groomed to look for evil smut everywhere. Even in cartoons)

      It is indeed awesomeness that common sense prevailed. And thank you ACL, without your outrage, many of us might have continued to walk by that ad and assume it was an ad for something else entirely.

  6. Oh nips – if only!! Have you read
    It was written long before the last election, but remains true. It’s one of those, laugh so hard you cry – not sure whether from laughing or from the sad stupidity of it all

  7. “Apparently receiving 40 or so complaints with the same wording didn’t tip them off to the fact that it was a coordinated campaign from a very small group.”

    Yeah the Adshel excuse was pretty poor – it was obvious from reading a majority of the complaints that it was an organised campaign. It just shows how quickly major organisations will bow to fundamentalists when they pick on minority groups. I’m wonder if the ACL has done campaigns against other hetero ads (they probably have) where young girls are sexualised – you don’t often see ad companies caving as easily in these instances because of the implicit acceptance of these images in every day society.

    But, once they act against a minority group the ad company caves to the demands of bigots at the drop of a hat. I’m sure they saw the homophobic undertone to the complaints, and that they were all very similar, but just didn’t think the queer cause was something worth respecting enough to fulfil their obligations as business employed to do a job.

    Didn’t realise it was an organised campaign, my arse!

  8. Jim Wallace is a disgrace and I adrently wish he and the media would stop associating him with the SASR before revealing his latest offense. Fair play he was CO of the regiment but to link him constantly with the regiment in terms of his role as chief hand clapping antagonist lends itself to the suggestion that the SASR is as an organisation into speaking in tongues etc. Generally in the military even christians tend to keep their god-bothering to themselves.
    Point to note NWN is that the COE (or Anglicans) are pretty liberal about homosexuality (they have gay bishops in fact) which is a credit to them.
    Heaps of ads get complaints though for example this ad was complained about because ‘…Foxtel have desecrated one of our most sacred celebrations and religious observances by deleting Christ from Christmas and replacing it with “Fox”.’ UPHELD, this one because it offended cretins and vegetarians DISMISSED, this one because it offended stupid people who speed (seriously) read the advertising standards bureau website for more hilarity.

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