Use of the word ‘vagina’ is fine on national TV, rules ad watchdog

Use of the word ‘vagina’ is acceptable for Australian audiences, the ad watchdog has ruled.

An ad for Johnson & Johnson’s Carefree brand, which appeared on free to air, pay TV and online, prompted more than 100 complaints to the Advertising Standards Bureau.

The ad features a naked women who discusses vaginal discharge.

One complaint read: “I don‟t believe that the word vagina should be used so freely in any commercial of that nature where young children could be listening. And secondly as a male I find it highly disgusting that they mention any fact at all about the discharge between periods on national television.”

Another read: “Granted half the world has a vagina but I think is safe to say that none of the world want to think about it discharging anything between periods. I think the ad is too graphic.

And another: “The information in this advertisement will be used by boys and young men to taunt and humiliate young women and girls about their bodies. Even in instances where it is not used directly against women  it goes into the balance of rubbishy proof to judge that women are unclean and that their bodies are filthy.”

The ASB ruled that while some people may be uncomfortable with the use of the word vagina, “it is not a word which would be considered inappropriate in the context of the ad”.

On the woman’s nudity, the ASB said that it was “presented in a manner which is not inappropriate for a PG rated ad, and that as her private areas are covered up the ad does treat nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience.”


  1. Michael
    27 Jul 12
    5:42 pm

  2. “The information in this advertisement will be used by boys and young men to taunt and humiliate young women and girls about their bodies. Even in instances where it is not used directly against women it goes into the balance of rubbishy proof to judge that women are unclean and that their bodies are filthy.”

    This comment is making a completely different (and much more legitimate) complaint about the ad to the others.

  3. Simon
    27 Jul 12
    6:50 pm

  4. @Michael, there are a myriad of taunts that can be made to women on a number of different subjects so why is attention drawn to this? It only showcases that anyone who thinks this is a disgusting, ignoramus and those who stand by and let comments like this be spoken allowed and unchecked are just as responsible as those who make them.

    No the comment is not legitimate, and the comment is not different. It is just as bad as everyone else who gets offended by the everyday, completely normal functions of a women’s body. Whoever thinks a woman is unclean in any way needs to remember exactly where they came from.

  5. Stavros
    28 Jul 12
    4:52 pm

  6. Can anyone tell me what rating this ad got from Free TV?

  7. Ann
    28 Jul 12
    5:11 pm

  8. I agree, but needs to be after 7pm in my opinion

  9. haha-nielson
    29 Jul 12
    3:03 pm

  10. is ‘penis’ ok?

    Wonder if any ‘sexual performance enhancement product’ uses the word on their commercial

  11. Peter A
    30 Jul 12
    10:17 am

  12. Anyone who watched the Curb Your Enthusiasm series, which used to play on the Nine network after 9pm, would have heard the word ‘vagina’ (and much worse) used quite freely. If it’s okay for television programs, then it should be okay for television advertising.

  13. haha-nelson
    30 Jul 12
    11:27 am

  14. @Peter A,

    TV programs has Child-specific and standard ratings, obviously it doesn’t apply to commercial, which means you can’t do whatever in TV programs in your TVC

  15. Richard Moss
    30 Jul 12
    11:48 am

  16. I am trying to get my head around a concept that accounts for “Vagina” being a word that children shouldn’t hear.

    Does Pee pee or Doodle, Private parts or Whizzer get the seal of approval until the the child hears and uses the word “Cunt” and is then told that this is wrong?

    As for boys using this new found information to taunt girls about their bodies being some how unclean, well perhaps some “numb skulls” will, but at least the information they have received from the ad is correct information; I remember the old days when such an ad wouldn’t even have been considered for production, but it didn’t stop boys (and even Men) from making sick and offensive jokes about “Rag week” and spouting all manner of idle, vulgar and untrue comments about women.

    Growing to maturity takes different amounts of time depending upon the individual, some never get there, sadly, they just get older without much wisdom.

  17. JDB
    30 Jul 12
    2:03 pm

  18. I have less issue with the word, and more with the fact that the model had to be naked to say it. I’m pretty certain that the same model fully clothed saying those same words would have been just as informative.

  19. david
    30 Jul 12
    2:07 pm

  20. I am fine with the wword vagina – more appropriate than some of the other names that its been called. I am still at a loss at why she had to be naked though? Please explain that one someone?????

  21. Julie
    30 Jul 12
    4:36 pm

  22. I was watching Zathura – A Space Adventure movie on Friday night with my 8 year old son and his friend. Not happy when the ad popped up – enough for me to shoot off a complaint there and then. Clearly inappropriate media selection rather than the use of the ‘word’.

  23. Clare
    30 Jul 12
    9:26 pm

  24. Agree with Julie – we were watching Zathura. Didn’t appreciate having to explain to my 7 & 8 yo boy what vaginal discharge is.

  25. Sarah
    13 Aug 12
    1:33 pm

  26. it’s not the word that’s used it’s the content! as a female I am horrified that now the whole world knows what goes on with women when up until now we’ve been able to keep a dignified silence. The ad is just a terrible ad with no real meaning.

    advertisers should start trying to use actual content rather than just trying to shock people. Poor ad and I feel like boycotting the brand

  27. Rebecca
    21 Aug 12
    4:54 pm

  28. It’s very sad, then, Julie and Clare, if you don’t have the maturity to be able to explain the basics to your children. Will you hide under a blanket with your ears plugged the day they want to know where babies come from?? Seriously,please grow up.

  29. Hmm
    23 Aug 12
    4:41 pm

  30. Grow up people.
    We have to put up with an ongoing barrage of toilet humour and ‘willy’ references across TV.
    This is a normal physical attribute that should be de-sensitised.