By Jasmine Kazlauskas
Outraged mums have slammed a lingerie company for putting up raunchy ‘spanking Santa’ underwear ads – ‘metres’ from where kids can meet Father Christmas.
Parents across Australia are boycotting Westfield shopping centres over the posters, which show a nearly nude model straddling St Nick with the caption ‘Sorry kids, we gave Santa the night off’.
Aussie lingerie company Honey Birdette launched the risqué ad campaign to promote their new Christmas-themed underwear collection and have defended the marketing as “fun and playful”.
But mums claim the “sexist” advertisements are too graphic to be displayed in family shopping centres – with some even calling the images tantamount to child abuse and grooming.
Women’s rights activist Melinda Tankard Reist, 54, claims many of the shopfront ads – located in malls across Australia – are clearly visible from where children can queue to meet Father Christmas.
Mum-of-four Melinda, from Canberra, said: “This advertisement is just sick. It is degrading to women and girls and teaches men and boys that this kind of behaviour is acceptable.
“Santa is displaying predatory behaviour, he is engaging in sexual touching, he is spanking one of the women’s nearly bare bum and snapping her underwear.
“And the woman in the poster doesn’t exactly look too thrilled about what he is doing to her, so there is that element of harassment, force and power as well.
“Westfield and Honey Birdette are promoting sexism and inciting harassment of women by allowing these ‘porn-ified’, hypersexualized images into shopping centres around the country.
“This is so harmful to our kids. It is grooming children to believe this behaviour is acceptable and that is how women should behave.
“At this time of year, shopping centres are such a fun place for kids who want to go and meet Santa and get a photo with him. They are full of Christmas festivities aimed at children.
“And then they see this image of Santa fondling a woman’s underwear about to give her a slap. It’s so confusing for them.
“Santa Claus in children’s imaginations is a benign figure. He is caring and brings them presents. It’s a downright betrayal for them to see this image.”
There are more than 50 Honey Birdette stores across Australia, primarily inside Westfield malls.
The lingerie outlet has faced fierce backlash over their use of provocative imagery previously with a petition calling for the store to stop using raunchy advertising racking up 56,000 signatures to date.
Mum-of-four Amber Maher, from Canberra, is also boycotting Westfield shopping centres over the ads and said exposing children to the images is tantamount to child abuse.
The 34-year-old freelance photographer said: “It’s well known that exposing children to sexually explicit material is child abuse – it would be like child abuse if walked my kids past this image.
“I’ve always avoided Honey Birdette stores due to their graphic imagery but this has just gone too far.
“I have four kids under nine who absolutely adore Santa and believe in the whole magic of Christmas, and I feel like they’re having their innocence stolen by being exposed to this.
“If this were on television it would be restricted content, so I don’t understand why it’s accepted here.
“Westfield is a family environment and this kind of thing shouldn’t be in everyone’s faces. Our rights as parents to protect our kids are being violated.
“The advertisement is calling out to children and has a picture of Santa Claus – of course kids are going to get drawn into it. It’s really scary.”
Melinda added: “We’re spreading sexism in family shopping malls and then wondering why boys aren’t treating girls with respect. We’re conditioning boys to act disrespectfully towards women.
“One mum told me how her four-year-old daughter imitated a Honey Birdette ad she saw by pouting, posing and rubbing her hand down her thigh.
“To say children don’t notice these images is insane and a lie.”
A spokesman for Honey Birdette defended the ads, saying they were a “fun and creative” way to showcase the brand’s luxurious lingerie.
The spokesman added: “It’s the festive season and what a time to have fun! We are a premium lingerie brand known for sexy, provocative collections.
“And our images, marketing material and campaign videos are a representation of our brands personality and products.
“Just in the same way any other retailer would display the products they sell.
“And what better time to really rock around a Christmas tree in a sultry way, than the holiday season?”