drama downunder campaign posters ad complaints
Photos: supplied.
National, News, Victoria

Homophobic backlash over ‘revolting, grotesque’ sexual health campaign

The Drama Downunder, Thorne Harbour Health’s longest-running sexual health campaign, has continued to spark complaints to Australia’s Ad Standards with its latest posters.

First launched in 2008, the Drama Downunder has been highlighting the importance of sexual health and wellbeing for over a decade. 

It has regularly received complaints, reaching a peak in 2019 when it cracked the top 10 most complained about ads.

The campaign has historically shown models in white briefs in various light-hearted situations to destigmatise the discussion around sexual health.

“We’re incredibly proud of the Drama Downunder campaign,” said Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth. 

“It was the first sexual health campaign specifically designed for gay men to be implemented in the mainstream in this country. 

“For years, the award-winning campaign has been successfully reminding people to look after their sexual health all over Australia.”

Ruth said that the decision in recent years to diversify the representation in the campaign, featuring multiple models, had brought a new wave of complaints.

“Having two men in the campaign has clearly sparked some homophobic backlash,” Ruth said.

The most recent complaint accused the advertising of “sexually explicit images of two men, suggestive, compromising and grotesque, 24/7 in full public view, without any consideration of who sees these images and how they might impact children, religious persons, conservative people, foreigners and many more.”

The complaint further claims: “We do not openly promote prostitution, alcohol use & smoking and not normal sexual behaviour, but gay love is displayed like a car advert? It is utterly revolting!”

Ruth said that such homophobic reactions damaged the public health benefits of raising awareness of sexual health issues.

“It’s blatant homophobia and stigmatising views like these that remind us how important it is to have health promotion campaigns like the Drama Downunder clearly depicting gay men and taking the shame out of having a discussion around sexual health,” said Simon Ruth.

The latest Drama Downunder campaign features eight community models and revisits the idea of ‘seasonal testing’ every three months. 

The Drama Downunder has run across Australia over the years, and the campaign is currently featured on street posters in metropolitan Melbourne. 

Ad Standards have advised that the campaign does not breach its advertising standard codes.

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