EU’s liberal fascism strikes again

I won’t comment.  You know what I’m thinking:

They have amused us, angered us and sometimes – just occasionally – they have actually made us buy something.

But now the end could be in sight for adverts which use sex to sell after they came under the unforgiving gaze of Brussels.

And, this being the EU, it is not simply raunchy advertising that is in danger. Any campaigns which are deemed sexist might have to go.

That could mean an end to attractive women advertising perfume, housewives seen in the kitchen and men doing DIY.

The new rules on sexism and inequality in advertising come in a report by the EU’s women’s rights committee which has been adopted by the European Parliament.

It wants anything which promotes women as sex objects or reinforces gender stereotypes to be banned.

Such a move would send shockwaves through the industry.

It would probably prevent images of models – male and female – in a state of undress, even when they are advertising underwear.

You can read more here.

And I changed my mind.  I will add one comment.  I think we live in a sexually saturated society, and I’d like to see that change.  Having angry bureaucrats in Brussels, who have a victim mentality about women a la Gloria Steinheim, using massive government power to make that change really scares me.

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Comments

  1. Ymarsakar says

    They are already setting up the foundation for Shariah, Book.

    And it is funny how ignorant Americans keep saying Europe is less stuck up about sex compared to America.

    No, they are not as cosmopolitan and relaxed as people thought. They never were. The tension between the sexes was always eclipsed by class tensions. Remove the class tensions by raising up, once more, an aristocracy, and they will get to decide what the issue of sex will be. And it will be far more puritan than the Puritans.

  2. Danny Lemieux says

    The fascist nannycrats at the EU are steadily and surely tightening a straight-jacket around EUro society that reminds one of the George Lucas film THX1138.

    Soon, individuals won’t be able to move inches (centimeters) from their tightening zones of intellectual control before the state squeezes all initiative from them. This is a society that mandates the degree of curvature on bananas, for God’s sake.

    They are dying the death of a thousand cuts and many don’t even realize it. Unfortunately, nearly half of the U.S. electorate is trending in the same direction. We call them Democrats.

  3. dg says

    This is so ridiculous, I agree. And I’m glad you’ll all be supporting the next Mapplethorpe type of display in this country when conservatives (e.g., Robertson, Buchanan, Giuliani, et. al.) attack it for being too racy or insulting to Christianity or some other personal feeling of disgust, and impose their narrow views of what constitutes legitimate media or art on the rest of us. The threat of an emerging THX1138 (great film; named after the new sound technology installed ahead of its debut) does not just lie in Europe, my friends.

  4. BrianE says

    when conservatives (e.g., Robertson, Buchanan, Giuliani, et. al.) attack it for being too racy or insulting to Christianity

    As disgusting as these vile displays of hate masquerading as art are, I think most of the objection was the fact tax dollars were paying for that trash.
    Let the free market work.
    Yeah, let’s be more like Europe.
    Having said that, it would be nice if someone somewhere in the media would show just a modicum of restraint, instead of ‘pushing the envelope’, which is code for juvenile purience.

  5. dg says

    BrianE, while Bookworm agrees with you because it is convenient to her simplistic argument (on individual rights, the US is all good, whie the EU is all bad), the reality is that the actions of conservatives in this country (e.g., Giuliani) were found unconstitutional and have been rejected by more centrist elements (cf. http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/Speech/arts/topic.aspx?topic=art_funding). More importantly, conservatives have a bad habit of restricting speech even when the public is not paying for it. The FCC regularly fines networks for racy content (just ask Howard Stern), which private sponsors are willing to pay for and millions of Americans tune into.

  6. dg says

    Suek, I do not lie. If I did, I’d be far easier to dismiss. I could be mistaken and have in the past admitted on this site when I have been. And you have every opportunity to demonstrate my error in this case (i.e., that conservatives didn’t force Stern off the air not because of public funding but because they found his content offensive, just as Eurocrats are trying to force sexist ads off the air because they find them offensive), but have chosen not to do so. Instead, you call me ignorant. But you fail to demonstrate a greater command of the facts. I’m sorry you find me tiresome. Facts and reality can be tiresome, because the world is complicated and nuanced and highly uncertain. This is likely why so many choose to live in simplified, belief-based worlds of their own creation and become somewhat hostile when the factual basis of those worlds are called into question.

  7. expat says

    The report I saw on German TV last night showed TV ads for dishwashing liquid from the 60s. I guess they are serious about this aspect of equality. I can’t wait to be protected from those evil stereotypes.

  8. Danny Lemieux says

    Conservatives forced Howard Stern off the air? You aren’t referring to the basketball girls comment, are you?

    DG- I don’t think you fully appreciate what is happen in Europe. Witness the UK’s stated goals of putting everyone under camera (THX1138) and into a DNA database.

    Also, as with many Liberals, you confuse criticism and voiced opposition (a 1st Amendment right, the last time I checked) to an issue with censorship (which only the government can do).

    Conservatives should be free to heap scorn on Mapplethorpe exhibits, Piss-Christ and other “art” they deem offensive. However, I don’t know of any serious censorship movement among conservatives to ban the right of individuals to either develop or display such materials – the argument, as BrianE and Book point out, is whether taxpayer money (i.e., government swag) should subsidize such.

  9. Ymarsakar says

    BrianE, while Bookworm agrees with you because it is convenient to her simplistic argument

    You were right, d.g People with weak minds truly cannot comprehend the actual details and positions of their political opponents. Regardless of the effort or time used to close the gap.

  10. Ymarsakar says

    Conservatives should be free to heap scorn on Mapplethorpe exhibits, Piss-Christ and other “art” they deem offensive. However, I don’t know of any serious censorship movement among conservatives to ban the right of individuals to either develop or display such materials – the argument, as BrianE and Book point out, is whether taxpayer money (i.e., government swag) should subsidize such.

    hey Dude, haven’t you realized yet that such actions ARE banning the right of individuals to express themselves?

    You have to realize and understand that when the Democrats say individual rights, they are talking about the individual’s right to government, thus your, largesse.

    I would have thought folks have would realized this about the Democrat way of life and thinking by now, especially if they are active readers of classical liberal and conservative blogs.

  11. suek says

    >>Suek, I do not lie.>>

    You’re right. I did say you lie. And honestly, I think you do. Perhaps you don’t in the sense that you believe what you say, but I think you present false material as factual. Which may be lying or may be simply mistaken. However, since the Dems have given “lie” a new definition, as in “Bush lied, people died”…I feel it is not inaccurate to say you lie.

    I thought you were referring to the comment on a totally different thread – the thread on which you made the original statement. Sorry – I don’t keep a log of what I post…my mistake.

  12. suek says

    >>You were right, d.g People with weak minds truly cannot comprehend the actual details and positions of their political opponents. Regardless of the effort or time used to close the gap.>>

    I’m not sure why he wastes his obviously amazing talents on such simpletons as we seem to be.

  13. Ymarsakar says

    Perhaps you don’t in the sense that you believe what you say, but I think you present false material as factual.

    That’s not him lying. That’s him misinterpreting and misrepresenting the data and evidence.

  14. Ymarsakar says

    feel it is not inaccurate to say you lie.

    They also defined the word “liberal” as somebody that wants to take away individual liberties. You want to reinforce their terminology? That’s not wise.

    Reject their use of words, yes, but don’t let them set the tone and vocabulary, either.

  15. suek says

    >>That’s him misinterpreting and misrepresenting the data and evidence.>>

    If it’s deliberate, then that’s a lie, right?

    However, we don’t know if it’s deliberate.

    Although if it’s not, and if, as he says, he’s a credentialed lawyer, we _really_ have a problem, don’t we!

  16. Danny Lemieux says

    Here’s a brilliant analysis on what ails Europe from the almost always brilliant Norwegian pundit /historian, Fjordman (thought I posted this earlier but apparently not).

    http://gatesofvienna.blogspot.com/2008/09/eastern-europe-and-new-threats-to.html

    Note, DG, Sweden’s vote to permit unchecked government access to peoples phones and emails. And you worry about the Patriot Act?

    Read the comments…very thought-provoking. Best line – “Hard socialism is homicidal, soft socialism is suicidal”.

  17. dg says

    Suek, I think I try to leave citations more than anyone else on this site. If lying now means putting up sourced facts you disagree with, then I suggest you consult the dictionary on the meaning of the word. Otherwise, show me what I’ve posted that is false and that I’ve known is false when I posted it. Else, I think you owe me an apology. (I won’t hold my breath.)

    Danny, you are confusing Don Imus with Howard Stern. The FCC has fined media such as the Howard Stern show because the organization is headed up by conservatives and receive a lot of pressure from conservative groups to force them off the air. The head of the FCC during much of the Bush Administration, Kevin Martin, is very conservative, very close to Cheney, and mentioned at a communications conference that he receives a lot of pressure from conservative groups to heavily fine racy content on TV and radio. Conservatives are putting pressure in these cases on media that is privately funded. Don’t kid yourself. Conservatives don’t want me to have access to this content in my own home even if I am paying for it. Otherwise, those stiff fines wouldn’t be levied by GOP controlled FCC administrations.

    Also, you’re preaching to the choir on the government intrusion stuff. I just wish you were as big a critic of the Bush administrations spying after 9/11. It is not just foreign phone calls they are tracking, you know.

  18. Danny Lemieux says

    “Also, you’re preaching to the choir on the government intrusion stuff. I just wish you were as big a critic of the Bush administrations spying after 9/11. It is not just foreign phone calls they are tracking, you know.”

    No I don’t – please elucidate!

  19. suek says

    >>show me what I’ve posted that is false>>

    Ok. Lets start here:

    >>The FCC has fined media such as the Howard Stern show

    This part is true.

    The FCC has fined media because there are rules in place about the use of the public air waves which Howard Stern broke.

    Do you deny that there are such rules? or that Howard Stern broke them?

    >>because >>

    Ascribing motivation is always a risky thing. Reading peoples’ minds is not a valid skill, though many liberals attempt it.

    >>the organization is headed up by conservatives and receive a lot of pressure from conservative groups to force them off the air.>>

    So these are new rules? Who made them? when?
    The FCC simply said “follow the rules or lose your license.”

    Are you attacking an organization’s leaders for doing the job they are _supposed_ to do…apply the rules? Or are you saying that the conservatives don’t have the right to ask that the rules be enforced? Or are you saying that the FCC doesn’t enforce the rules unless certain groups demand that they do?

    >>and that I’ve known is false when I posted it>>

    Now that’s tricky. So…you agree that knowledge of falsity is required for a lie?

    And therefore, you don’t ascribe to the “Bush lied, people” died theory?

    I have no way of knowing what you know about the FCC. Assuming that you’re the credentialed lawyer you say you are, you probably _do_ know how to use both Google and Lexis Nexis, though. Assuming that, I’d also assume that you’d know if the media fined for Howard Stern’s broadcast sued to have the fine lifted and if the court upheld the fine.

    >>Conservatives are putting pressure in these cases on media that is privately funded.>>

    Over publically licensed air waves.

    >>Conservatives don’t want me to have access to this content in my own home even if I am paying for it>>

    I don’t believe they have any input if you choose to subscribe to satellite radio or TV. Those use methods of transmission that are _not_ publically licensed. By all means, avail yourself of them.

    In other words, you’re a citizen, and the conservatives are citizens. If they pressure government officials to enforce the rules put in place by legislators and you object, then either you’re in the minority and lose, or you succeed in putting legislators in office who agree with you and who will change those rules.

    That _is_ the nature of democracy – not just that he who has the lowest standards gets to negate the standards of everybody else.

  20. Danny Lemieux says

    “That _is_ the nature of democracy – not just that he who has the lowest standards gets to negate the standards of everybody else.”

    I believe that Daniel Moynihan explained that as “defining deviancy downwards”.

  21. BrianE says

    dg said:

    Suek, I think I try to leave citations more than anyone else on this site.

    Think again. You don’t. You seldom link to a source, just some vague somebody somewhere said something, blah, blah, blah.

    Otherwise, show me what I’ve posted that is false and that I’ve known is false when I posted it.

    No can do, since nearly everything you say is opinion.

    More importantly, conservatives have a bad habit of restricting speech even when the public is not paying for it. The FCC regularly fines networks for racy content

    You may be too young to remember, but there used to be a time when content was restricted when children were likely to be up. Maybe you have the same moral conviction as Scott in SF, who believe children should be exposed to all sexual content at an early age.
    Most Americans still want to shield children from sexually explicit material, hence movie ratings, cable movie channels show pornography late at night, and pornography stores are restricted by zoning laws.
    There’s plenty of sources for pornography, hopefully out of the eyes and reach of children.
    No, I avoid listening to Stern, but what I have sounds like an 8 year old that has just discovered his male part.

  22. dg says

    SueK, a few points in reponse to your lengthy post. First, of course lying requires knowledge that the statement being made is false. This is definitional. Second, the frequency and amount of fines went up under the Kevin Martin FCC and this most definitely had to do with political pressure from conservative groups, as he has privately admitted as much. You may not find a public quote on this, but Kevin Martin frequently attends investment banking and brokerage conferences on the telecommunications industry and has spoken of this issue before industry analysts and leaders. In any case, as a conservative he has enforced the rules with greater zeal than more liberal prior FCC chairmen, and that enforcement function has a great deal of subjective judgment associated with it. Third, I find it amusing that conservatives say that they are only concerned about the use of public funds (e.g., used for offensive art) or public goods (e.g., used for offensive talk radio) but then they push for puritanical rules regarding our own advertising freedom (e.g., cannot advertise spirits except after a given hour–used to be not at all–and heavily restrict tobacco advertising, etc.) and readily boycott private companies like Walmart when a conservative like O’Reilly declares a war on secular humanists who have caused such a company to greet holiday shoppers with “happy holidays” rather than “merry christmas.” If those conservatives-driven restrictions and campaigns were not so successful, I might actually believe you. But I really think that the majority of evidence shows that conservatives are interested in promoting their own beliefs in the public sphere, which is why such restrictions and campaigns occur–not to mention the attempts to put Christian iconography in the public square–and it has little to do with who is paying for it.

    I believe the O’Reilly annual counter-attacks on the alleged war on X-mas, I believe, are pretty well-known. The conservatives push to restrict alcohol advertising, perhaps less so, but here is an example from a leading conservative thinker, Bill Bennett (from NYT Magazine, 3/22/98, which highlights that the Clinton Administration was less restrictive of alcohol advertising than the prior Bush Administration):

    ‘…Bennett had published a book, called “Body Count,” on the fight against drugs and crime. While mostly about illegal drugs, the book included a 13-page section on “Liquor, Disorder, and Crime.” “Make no mistake,” the book asserts, “liquor is as much a part of the problem as drugs, perhaps a bigger part.” The problem, “Body Count” asserts, is particularly acute in poor inner-city neighborhoods, “where liquor outlets cast their shadows everywhere.” As a remedy, the book calls for measures aimed at reducing alcohol consumption, including stricter zoning codes and limits on advertising…’

  23. dg says

    BrianE, the problem is that one man’s “pornography” is another man’s entertainment and I am certainly not calling for a cultural or decency “race to the bottom” but I am pointing out that the “corrosive” impact of purient speech being widely available is being balanced against restrictions on my freedom to access such content, just as the EU is balancing a similar negative impact of showing women in “degrading” imagery against the freedom of consumers to be coaxed into buying stuff based upon subtle sexual cues. I am not defending either policy, nor stating what the balance should be, but merely highlighting that we (like the Europeans) are making similar balances using restrictions of freedom. That the content that triggers the restrictions is different doesn’t change the fact that freedom is being restricted. Again, painting the EU in broad brush as fascist while ignoring the encroachment on freedoms in this country makes European critics look somewhat hypocritical, in my opinion.

  24. BrianE says

    dg said:

    Third, I find it amusing that conservatives say that they are only concerned about the use of public funds (e.g., used for offensive art) or public goods (e.g., used for offensive talk radio) but then they push for puritanical rules regarding our own advertising freedom (e.g., cannot advertise spirits except after a given hour–used to be not at all–and heavily restrict tobacco advertising, etc.)

    There you go again, dg.

    Tobacco on Television

    In 1967, the Fairness Doctrine required that all TV stations broadcast 1 anti-smoking public service announcement (PSA) for every 3 cigarette ads that aired. These PSA’s were very effective in the war against smoking.

    In 1969, Congress proposed a ban on all cigarette advertising on TV and radio. As expected, the tobacco companies were initially against it. However, they soon realized that a ban on TV commercials would free up funds for other types of advertising, and would also remove the anti-smoking PSA requirement. Rather than fight the inevitable, they decided to cooperate, and the proposal was signed into law by President Nixon in 1970.

    The ban took effect on January 2, 1971, in order to give the cigarette companies one final chance to advertise during the New Year’s Day bowl games on TV.

    (source: http://www.angelfire.com/retro2/lisanostalgia/70sbuyme.html)

    The beginning of the end for tobacco advertising was the fairness doctrine, hardly a conservative principal. I remember the fairness doctrine in the 1960’s and how it was used to drive religious broadcasters off the air.

    As to alcohol advertising:

    Justice Thomas first assumed a prominent role in commercial speech jurisprudence when he authored the Court’s unanimous 1995 decision in Rubin v. Coors Brewing Co. In Rubin the Court struck down the portion of the Federal Alcohol Administration Act (FAAA) that prohibited the display of alcoholic content on beer labels.

    In this case Thomas used an exacting Central Hudson analysis to scrutinize the government’s interests in preventing “strength wars” among brewers and in facilitating state enforcement. Thomas acknowledged the “strength wars” interest, but said the labeling ban did not directly advance that interest and was more extensive than necessary.

    By the following year, however, Justice Thomas had come to embrace the uncompromising vision of Virginia Pharmacy over the formulaic Central Hudson balancing test. In 44 Liquormart v. Rhode Island, Thomas called for a fundamental revision of the Court’s approach to commercial speech.

    The 44 Liquormart Court had to determine whether a Rhode Island restriction on alcohol price advertising designed to curb consumption violated commercial speech rights. The Court unanimously invalidated the law, causing one First Amendment commentator to the refer to the Court as “a fierce defender of free speech.”

    The fiercest defender, however, was unmistakably the much-maligned Justice Thomas. While the other Justices invalidated the state law under the Central Hudson test (for reasons similar to those in Rubin), Thomas boldly articulated a vision of commercial speech better in line with the Virginia Pharmacy understanding of the First Amendment: protection for commercial and noncommercial speech alike.

    Unlike the Justices who strongly reaffirmed Central Hudson, Thomas articulated an analysis that ran much deeper and purer for commercial speech proponents. Instead of reinvigorating Central Hudson, Thomas embarked on a much grander course: the elimination of the Court’s distinction between commercial and noncommercial speech. Decrying the Court’s “sudden turn” away from Virginia Pharmacy in Central Hudson, Thomas concluded:

    “I do not see a philosophical or historical basis for asserting that ‘commercial’ speech is of ‘lower value’ than ‘noncommercial’ speech. Indeed, some historical materials suggest to the contrary. … Nor do I believe that the only explanations that the Court has ever advanced for treating ‘commercial’ speech differently from other speech can justify restricting ‘commercial’ speech in order to keep information from legal purchasers so as to thwart what would otherwise be their choices in the marketplace.”

    http://www.mediainstitute.org/digest/97fall/hudson.html

    Last time I checked, Justice Thomas was considered a conservative.

  25. dg says

    BrianE, two points: First, the restrictions on tobacco advertising began before the Fairness Doctrine and continued long after its demise. Tobacco advertising restrictions have been supported by conservatives and conservative groups alike.
    For example:

    http://energycommerce.house.gov/cmte_mtgs/FC040208MU/FUAT.support.ltr.pdf.

    Cornyn, last I checked, is a conservative, as are the majority of religious groups that signed that letter.

    Or this:

    (http://209.85.141.104/search?q=cache:c-s2rtDizEoJ:www.reason.com/news/show/124939.html+evangelicals+against+tobacco+advertising+us+america&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=18&gl=us)

    In 2004 the board of directors of the National Association of Evangelicals adopted an “Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility” affirming that “because clean air, pure water, and adequate resources are crucial to public health and civic order, government has an obligation to protect its citizens from the effects of environmental degradation.” Huckabee, the evangelical candidate, says plainly that he wants to be “a good steward of the earth”—and, to that end, favors an economy-wide “cap-and-trade” system to control greenhouse gases.

    The heirs of the Social Gospel have also enthusiastically embraced and promoted modern campaigns for clean living. Contemporary anti-smoking campaigns resemble the old crusades against demon rum, particularly in the willingness to go beyond educational efforts and push draconian government controls. Campaigns against lifestyle diseases are just beginning. In 2006 New York City public health officials began requiring medical labs to report the results of blood sugar tests for all the city’s diabetics directly to the health department. This is the first time that any government has tracked people with a chronic disease. The New York City Department of Health will analyze the data to identify those patients who are not adequately controlling their diabetes. They will then receive letters or phone calls urging them to be more vigilant about their medications, have more frequent checkups, or change their diet. If nagging is not sufficient, more coercive steps may be taken. For example, in a 2004 editorial in the American Journal of Public Health, New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Friedan called for “local requirements on food pricing, advertising, content, and labeling; regulations to facilitate physical activity, including point-of-service reminders at elevators and safe, accessible stairwells; tobacco and alcohol taxation and advertising and sales restrictions; and regulations to ensure a minimal level of clinical preventive services.”

    Second, you might want to see what the for-against count was on that ruling that Justice Thomas authored, before you call that ruling indicative of an exclusively conservative ruling. The fact is that the Supreme Court is generally and universally hawkish on free speech, but Thomas does not reflect the views of most conservatives whose behavior I have observed over the years. Just ask the poor store managers at Walmart, who had to deal with the obnoxious speech police of the right.

  26. suek says

    You’re not worth the trouble, dg, but assume everything you say is correct. So what? If conservatives are in the majority, their philosophies will predominate. You’re certainly entitled to vote against them, as are those who think like you. But as long as you’re in the minority, well….you’re in the minority.

  27. dg says

    SueK, so now the logic is, when the Europeans do it, it’s fascism, but when we do it it’s simply democracy… Also, why do you insist on trying to hurt my feelings? I’m “not worth the trouble.” Now that is not a nice thing to say, especially coming from a person who so regularly responds to my posts. I think I liked you better when you were merely threatening to push me into your pool…

  28. Zhombre says

    dg, was it with you I exchanged the posts about Intrade? I note today Intrade has Obama 51 and McCain 47. Obama is losing ground. I predicted the odds would flatten. We shall see.

  29. suek says

    >>when the Europeans do it, it’s fascism, but when we do it it’s simply democracy>>

    In Europe, it’s socialism, not fascism. At least not yet. The people are _not_ being given the right to vote, though, so it certainly isn’t democracy. Facism is nationalistic, whereas they’re trying to establish the united Europe. I don’t think it’s going to happen…I suspect that somehow there’s going to be a big blow-out. Time will tell.

  30. dg says

    So is this liberal fascism too? Or are you allowed to regulate the “sexy”/racy ads if it offends conservative sensibilities????

    In today’s WSJ:

    As the Selling Gets Hot,
    India Tries to Keep Cool
    New-Age Dilemma:
    Too Sexy? Just Fun?
    The Chocolate Man
    By NIRAJ SHETH in New Delhi and TARIQ ENGINEER in Mumbai
    September 9, 2008

    Some hot new ads for men’s deodorant are causing a high-level stink.

    Last month, the Indian government suspended a television advertisement for Axe men’s deodorant, made by Mumbai-based Hindustan Unilever Ltd. The ad shows a man transform into a walking chocolate figurine after spraying himself with Axe’s Dark Temptation deodorant. As he walks through the city, women throw themselves at him, licking and biting off various parts of his body.

    YouTube
    A scene from an Indian TV commercial for men’s deodorant.
    The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting stopped the ad from broadcasting after receiving a complaint from a viewer who found offensive a shot of a woman biting the chocolate man’s bottom.

    The ministry has referred the ad to the Advertising Standards Council of India, the industry’s self-regulation body, which has yet to issue its verdict. The ministry has the final say once the ad-industry council has issued its opinion. Officials at the ministry declined several requests for comment.

    The scramble over the Axe ad shows how the traditionally conservative country is still trying to decide how much sexuality to allow in advertising. India’s growing economy and rapid internationalization are adding to the issue, as they challenge India’s homegrown mores in new ways. The deodorant ad is part of an international campaign by Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch company that holds a majority stake in Hindustan Unilever. The ad originally played in Argentina, followed by Europe, before coming to India.

    In a statement, Hindustan Unilever said it will abide by the government’s final decision but insisted that the ad wasn’t intended to be inappropriate. “Our consumer research showed the advertisement was humorous and witty in expressing the new fragrance’s promise of being as irresistible as chocolate,” the statement said.

    So far, the Axe ad has been the only body-spray ad to face scrutiny from the government, even though Unilever’s competitors have run racy ads of their own. In one for Wild Stone body spray, a woman bumps into a male stranger, causing her to drop her belongings. As he stoops to help her, she catches a whiff of his deodorant and begins to fantasize about the two of them in bed, followed by shots of their hands clasped and her rearranging her ruffled clothes. Wild Stone is made by McNroe Chemical Private Ltd., based in Haridwar in the Indian state of Uttarakhand.

    Because men’s body sprays are aimed at young men, it isn’t surprising that the ads are risque. The market for men’s grooming products overall in India stood at $320.9 million last year, according to data from Euromonitor, and is expected to grow to $366.4 million this year. Unilever is the market leader in deodorants, with its Axe, Lynx and Ego brands commanding 61% of the market. Last year, sales of deodorants in India totaled $25 million.

    Traditional taboos are easing in other areas as well. Billboards of scantily clad starlets line the streets in Mumbai and New Delhi, for example, while kissing is no longer uncommon in Bollywood movies.

    Still, the country, especially outside cities, remains conservative. Last year, a court in Jaipur, in the state of Rajasthan, issued an arrest warrant for actor Richard Gere after he kissed Indian actress Shilpa Shetty at an AIDS awareness event in New Delhi, under charges of breaking public-obscenity laws. Mr. Gere quickly left the country, and the Indian Supreme Court later threw out the case.

    The chocolate Axe ad isn’t the first the government has pulled. Last year, it yanked commercials for two underwear brands. In one for Amul Macho underwear, a young woman comes to a river to wash her husband’s clothes. She pulls a pair of men’s boxer shorts from the laundry pile and begins to wash them by hand, giving sultry looks to the camera and throwing her head back in a suggestive manner. The ad ends with a breathy female voice saying: “Amul Macho. Crafted for fantasies.”

    Pushpinder Singh, head of Saints & Warriors, the creative agency that designed the Amul Macho ad, says it resounded with the targeted audience — young Indian men — even if the Indian government wasn’t amused. “The thinking was very simple — inner wear is a surrogate for male sexuality,” he said. “If we can show a woman fantasizing about a man, what greater compliment to a man’s sexuality?”

    Despite the government’s disapproval, ad-agency executives say sexually charged ads are working with the target audience. “I wouldn’t say we’re as ready as the West is, but we’re changing rapidly and there is an increasing tolerance even among those who aren’t targeted by the ads,” said Sam Balsara, a former president of ASCI and chairman of Mumbai-based advertising agency Madison World. “I personally didn’t find the Chocolate Man ad vulgar or offensive.”

    Alan Collaco, secretary of the ASCI, has started organizing road shows to help companies better understand the boundaries of indecency in advertising. For the past two months he has given companies presentations explaining the industry body’s code. At each stop, he screens ads that have breached the ASCI code, along with others that didn’t, to illustrate the differences. We want “to make companies more aware and to sensitize them to what the public thinks about various ads,” he said.

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