The ASA rules it’s OK to peddle prostitution to kids

notbuyingitlogoPress Release from the Not Buying It campaign


Advertising Regulator, the ASA, has ruled that placing porn and sex ads in a newspaper is ‘responsible marketing’ – as long as they are not on the back cover ‘because then children may see them in the shop or if the paper is left lying around the house’.

The ruling came after six months of deliberation, including a special Round Table meeting, following a formal complaint raised by pressure group Not Buying It,

The decision was made about the porn and sex ads found in The Sport which, despite being comprised entirely of adult-only content, is, shockingly, sold as a newspaper.

However, bizarrely the ASA ruling on The Sport is an industry-wide decision which applies to ‘real’ newspapers. This includes papers like the Evening Standard and Metro, freely distributed throughout London Transport and viewed by millions every day.


Not Buying It CEO, Dr Sasha Rakoff, says:

“Frankly, nothing sold as a newspaper, even The Sport, should carry porn and sex ads as by doing so the most harmful industries on the planet are legitimised.

Even more shocking is the fact that The ASA Council includes child protection experts, who are well aware that such material is routinely used to groom children with.

They will also be aware that children have now been so bombarded with porn that nearly 10% of pre-teens are addicted to it. Its accessibility in so-called newspapers like The Sport has no doubt directly contributed to this. To imagine kids won’t even open The Sport, let alone actively seek it out on the bottom shelf or if left lying around the house, is absurd.

But perhaps the most shocking aspect of all this is that a decision made about a piece of porn, is being applied to real newspapers.”

The ASA seems to have realised that it is in a bit of a proverbial pickle. It has been open to Not Buying It submitting a challenge to genuine newspapers carrying porn and sex ads – “which we’ve done”, says Rakoff. And it has even asked Not Buying It to submit recommendations for changing ASA codes on advertising, particularly around the porn and sex industry – “which we’ve also done”.

Not Buying It is not the only one shocked by this decision:


“There should be no place for pornographic imagery and text in a publication marketed and sold as a newspaper”

Caroline Lucas, Green Party co-leader and activist

For human rights groups, perhaps the greatest irony of all is that this ruling follows hot on the heels of an ASA probe into sexism in advertising.

Chris Green runs The White Ribbon Campaign in the UK, an international organisation run by men challenging male violence against women:

“No wonder sexist ads are the most complained about category of advertising (second only to the sexualisation of children) if the ASA thinks it’s OK even for newspapers to peddle prostitution.”

Michael Conroy of A Call To Men UK works with men and boys to end abusive attitudes towards women:

“Change can only happen when the media and popular culture stop bombarding men and boys with demeaning messages about women and stop shoring up hyper-macho stereotypes about men that boys are exposed to, everywhere, from the day they are born”

Over a dozen rights groups and individual experts have signed up to Not Buying It’s recommendations to the ASA to introduce new, meaningful regulation over the sexualisation of women. This includes ending the advertising of the pornography and prostitution in the public domain, such as newspapers or unrestricted internet sites.

Anna Fisher, co-founder of campaign group, Nordic Model Now!, which exposes the realities of prostitution, explains why:

“ASA codes have pages and pages of rules on how every imaginable type of potentially harmful, age-restricted industry like alcohol and gambling should be advertised. Yet there isn’t even a cursory mention of how promotion of two of the most harmful businesses on the planet, pornography and prostitution, should be regulated.

This is despite the overwhelming levels of harm associated with these industries for the women working in them and in the attitudes they promote towards all women. This is despite the Metropolitan police urging all newspaper editors to cease carrying ads for the sex trade because of their strong links with trafficking. It is despite the fact that many of the ads are likely to be advertising an illegal activity – sex with a women forced or coerced into prostitution”

Ads for porn and prostitution are simply the most obvious example of what comes out of the tired, male-dominated advertising world racked by sexism in the work place and ruled by antiquated and long-disproven myths like ‘(female) sex sells’. The situation is so dire that research by Unilever shows that only 3% of ads present woman as intelligent human beings.  Something directly contributed to by Unilever itself with its notorious objectifying Lynx ads of the lads mag era. “Unilever has now committed to ending sexist advertising. Unfortunately few other industry players, and certainly not the regulator, have followed suit” says Rakoff.


“The ASA needs to follow the lead of London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, who within days of coming into power condemned the hated ‘Beach Body Ready’ ad, tightened up advertising on the London Transport network and banned ads for pornography and prostitution”.

Do you think Newspapers should advertise pornography and prostitution? Have you say here:


Dr Sasha Rakoff
Director Not Buying It |

Download a PDF version of this press release.

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