The Twitter homepage is seen on a computer screen.

An established condom manufacturer has been slammed for posting sexist jokes on Twitter and has been accused of fuelling violence against women.

As part of a promotional campaign on Twitter, Durex South Africa ran this joke: “Why did God give men penises? So they’d have at least one way to shut a woman up.”

This prompted a flurry of outrage, some criticising the company for tweeting this on the eve of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign which kicks off on Friday.

Some of the strongest opposition was posted by writer and researcher Jen Thorpe on the website, who alleged that the attempted humour “endorsed violence against women”.

She wrote: “Once again I was reminded that violence against women remains a joke to most South Africans, and that there is little understanding of the connection of social messages that sanction this violence (e g inviting men to use their penises as a weapon) to the violence itself.

“Durex SA, you’ve really c***ed it up here. Using one’s penis to ‘shut someone up’ sounds a lot like rape to me. If you’re not sure what the definition is, feel free to have a read of the Sexual Offences Act. Forced oral sex is rape.

“I’m not going to spend this post spewing statistics about the high incidence of violence against women, because you can read them yourself on the SAPS webpage. It is important to understand that violence against a particular group does not arise out of nowhere, and the frequent perpetration of this violence by men is not a coincidence in SA where jokes like those with the hashtag #DurexJoke are popular.

“I want to talk about this social sanction of messages that promote violence.”

In response to messages condemning the Twitter post, DurexSA posted the following apology: “We’re really sorry for causing offence today, not intentional. We believe in the rights of woman and safe sex. Thanks for putting us right.”

Durex condoms are manufactured by Reckitt Benckiser in Johannesburg. Attempts to reach various marketing executives were unsuccessful today.

Popular blogsite ran the following analysis after Durex’s Tweet: “I feel bad for Durex SA because I do see it as an honest mistake on their behalf, but they way in which they dealt with it was really not great; an immediate response apologising to FeministsSA might have controlled this situation a great deal better.

“I don’t excuse Durex SA at all as I think the Tweet was uncalled for, but as an honest mistake, if only they had someone who understood Online Reputation Management, they might have avoided this whole situation.”

The author, writing under the name of “Chris M” warned companies that social media campaigns could backfire.

“Think before you Tweet – Twitter is so accessible, from your mobile phone, from your laptop and even from some cars! It’s easy to just blurt out a Tweet without thinking; we’ve probably all done it, but why not be the person who doesn’t make the mistake and who thinks before tweeting, a lot of brand damage can be avoided,” the expert advised. - Cape Argus