A New Zealand Ad Campaign Is Using ‘Porn Stars’ to Promote Cyber Safety

“We don’t even talk about consent do we? No, we just get straight to it.”
June 22, 2020, 10:16am
new zealand, porn, advertising
Image: New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs

As the Canadian thinker and communication guru Marshall McCluhan once famously said, “The medium is the message.” It’s fitting, then, that when the New Zealand government decided to issue a message to parents on porn literacy and having tough conversations with their kids, it chose as its medium an advertisement featuring two nude “porn stars.”

The advertisement, part of the Keep It Real Online campaign, shows two naked actors—who call themselves Derek and Sue—greeting a child’s mother at the door to notify her that her son just “looked them up online” (and on a staggering number of devices, at that).

The pair proceed to explain to the mother that they “usually perform for adults, but your son’s just a kid,” and “might not know how relationships actually work.” In particular, Sue notes, porn contains no mention of consent.

“We don’t even talk about consent, do we? No, we just get straight to it,” she adds in typically chipper Kiwi fashion.

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The visit prompts the mom to start a full and frank conversation with her mortified son about the differences between sex in the real world, and sex as it’s depicted in porn.

The Keep It Real campaign also includes commercials dealing with online bullying, grooming by child molesters, and harmful content, but the ad for porn literacy has grabbed the most attention, for obvious reasons.

“We really, really wanted it to be picked up so parents did understand the key issues and risks in the online environment,” said Trina Lowry, of the government’s Department of Internal Affairs, in an interview with BBC.

“We do know that young children are accidentally accessing pornography, which is quite drastic and dramatic for them,” she added. “We know that people are purposefully accessing it when they’re in their really early teens, which is not a good time for them to be learning about sex in that way.”

The issue, it would appear, is very real. A study released in December revealed that many young people in New Zealand were using porn as their first gateway into learning about sex, and that as many as 35 percent of the clips studied featured some non-consensual content.

As New Zealand's chief censor's office put it in a blog post accompanying the report: "for young people, or people inclined to coercion, the repeated theme of ‘no’ becoming ‘yes’ could very easily be problematic."

The purpose of the new ads, according to Lowry, is to open up a conversation between parents and kids about sensitive matters in the digital sphere, “and then just talking to kids about what is reality like, compared to what they’re seeing online.”

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