Good Idea: Commercial brakes

In a sex-smeared world, advertising is one of the grubbiest corners of our culture, finds the psychologist Linda Papadopoulos in a Home Office report on the connections between the sexualisation of young people and violence against women and girls. No more surprising, if a bit more depressing, is her conclusion that these images turn the women they depict - and they usually depict women - into objects in the eye of the beholder, especially if that beholder is very young. Thus both sexes grow up lacking respect for women.

The problem, as Papadopoulos puts it, is "multi-factorial", and demands a number of sensible, rather than groundbreaking, solutions.

But among them is the idea that advertising should be monitored by the government as well as the Advertising Standards Authority: to clean up internet ads, to put disclaimers on airbrushed photos, to make sure billboards are "not offensive on grounds of gender".

It's all very well, but it does add a complicating layer to the watchdog. And the ASA is already bound by the Committee of Advertising Practice, regulation 11.1, to ensure adverts "contain nothing that condones or is likely to provoke violence or antisocial behaviour". If the government is going to get involved in regulating sexualised images in advertising, perhaps it could simply help to enforce the existing code.

This article first appeared in the 08 March 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Game on