This Rihanna advertisement has been deemed too sexy for British kids

If you’re a British child, avert your eyes. This story is not for you: It involves a pair of stilettos, a perfume bottle and a provocatively posed pop star. And according to this announcement, these elements are too raunchy for kids.

On Wednesday morning, the United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority, which adjudicates complaints to enforce national advertising codes, restricted a Rihanna advertisement that depicts the singer pressing her legs against a bottle of Rouge perfume. Prohibiting the advertisement from being shown in areas where children may see it, the authority said “it featured a sexualized and provocative image, which was inappropriate for children to see.”

“We noted the ad was not given a placement restriction and had appeared in a number of places where it was likely to be seen by children,” the restriction said. “While we did not consider the image to be overtly sexual, we considered that Rihanna’s pose, with her legs raised in the air, was provocative. Because of this, and the fact that Rihanna appeared to be naked except for high heels, we concluded that the ad was sexually suggestive and should have been given a placement restriction to reduce the possibility of it being seen by children.”

Such reaction is of course nothing new for Rihanna, for whom nudity is a trademark. Just yesterday, The Washington Post’s Soraya Nadia McDonald pointed out that she made headlines well beyond the world of fashion with her almost-naked number at the CFDA Awards. But this may be one of the first times she’s actually offended an advertising watchdog.

Another issue in the complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority said the advertisement in question was “overly sexual and demeaning to women.”

The watchdog wasn’t buying that one, though. “Rihanna appeared to be naked in the image and one of her buttocks was visible, with her legs raised,” the board humorlessly states. “However, we also noted that she was presented in such a way that she was mainly covered, and the image was not overtly sexual.”

It said because Rihanna looked “defiant” rather than “vulnerable” it wasn’t demeaning to women: “We considered that the overall impression of Rihanna created by the ad was one of confidence. We concluded that the ad was unlikely to be demeaning to women or to cause serious or widespread offence.”

The company behind the ad, Parlux Frangrences, said it hadn’t gotten any other complaints about Rihanna’s pic. “They believed the majority of women would not consider the portrayal of Rihanna to be demeaning,” the advertising committee said. “But rather she was depicted as being in a position of power, as indicated by the name ‘ROGUE,’ which suggested one with the courage to challenge boundaries.”

Terrence McCoy is a foreign affairs writer at the Washington Post. He served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Cambodia and studied international politics at Columbia University. Follow him on Twitter here.
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Terrence McCoy · June 4