Bisazza Geisha Bondage Banned
The UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned the Italian firm Bisazza Mosaic from using a photograph of a tied-up geisha in magazine advertising on the grounds that the geisha was "shown in a submissive pose … [that] … could be seen to imply that sexual violence had taken place or was about to take place." The photo in question is part of a series in the company's Advertising 2009 taken by renowned Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki and appeared in magazines such as Vogue and Elle Decoration.
The banned Bisazza 'Visibly Upset' Geisha Bondage image
Bisazza's website describes the company's 2009 advertising concept as "representing Araki's personal interpretation of the Bisazza brand, with an oriental woman tied as per the ancient art of … kinbaku … an exercise in visual poetry … confirming Bisazza's love for avant-garde artistic expression."
The ASA apparently upheld six complaints against the Bisazza ads because the geisha had her kimono pushed up to expose her thigh and appeared "visibly upset." The woman is of course a model and is not upset, nor is sexual violence involved. The photo is typical of the genre loosely known as Japanese Bondage in which the model is tied up using specific and visually intricate patterns of special hemp rope.
ASA intervention is unfortunate as it both displays cultural ignorance and reinforces a false connection between harmless 'lifestyle' activities pursued by consenting adults and real violence againt women. Why not ban Amazon from advertising books about the Art of Japanese Bondage? At any rate, a grand total of six complaints upheld doesn't seem very many, especially as the CAP Code on Decency (ie avoiding serious or widespread offence) states that marketing communications may be distasteful [to some people] without necessarily conflicting with prevailing standards of decency.
One can see that there is a difference between the Amazon and the Bisazza ads in that someone would need to be knowingly searching for 'Japanese Bondage' to find the Amazon page whereas a child might stumble across the geisha photo in a fashion magazine and, because the model isn't smiling, perhaps assume it was an image of a damsel in distress. This is presumably part of what the ASA had in mind when it imposed its ban.
This is one more example of the Nanny State. Exposure to such mild ambiguity when reading magazines like Vogue is surely a natural part of growing up.