Sexy or Sexist? Racy Ads Still Sell in Sweden


The birthplace of the Ikea flat-pack also finds itself home to some pretty controversial ads. Unlike its Scandinavian neighbors, Sweden does not ban advertisements insulting to women. Considering advertising a form of free speech, Sweden allows sexist images — such as nurse lying on a bed with male underpants covering her face. Such an ad, showing a woman in a demeaning position, would be banned in the countries next door.

In Denmark and Norway sexual and sexist images are forbidden unless they are relevant to the product. According to the BBC, the strict laws forbid anything that could make a viewer take offense or feel uncomfortable. Firms that do not remove inappropriate material are fined about $100,000 — though many businesses welcome the fine as a small price to pay for increased publicity. Head of Norway's association of the country's top advertising agencies says of their standards, "we're not that Puritan that you can't have naked bodies. But it has to be done in the right way, with charm and passion."

Do you agree with Sweden that sexist ads should be protected under freedom of speech? Norway and Denmark's ban on anything offensive seems like a pretty subjective standard. But do you think it would be easy to determine what crosses the line? Is it charm and passion or censorship gone wild in Denmark and Norway?

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