Screenshot from ad carried on

London - A dishevelled young woman makes her way past morning commuters, still wearing her party dress from the night before.

She’s on her way home from a one night stand and is no doubt feeling a little embarrassed.

But perhaps she shouldn’t be so hard on herself. Casual sex no longer carries a stigma, at least if the latest ruling by advertising watchdogs is to be believed.

They were asked to rule on a controversial ad by Harvey Nichols, which features young women attracting glances from passers-by as they shuffle home in crumpled dresses.

A slogan saying “avoid the walk of shame this season” then appears and is followed by a shot of a well-dressed woman returning home at dawn radiating confidence. She is wearing a dress from Harvey Nichols, unlike the other eight women.

“Walk of shame” is a phrase often used for a woman’s journey home after a one-night stand.

The Advertising Standards Authority ruled that the depiction of women in this way was “unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence”.

Although the ruling is confined to one advertisement, it suggests society should be less judgmental of women who have casual sex.

However, Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust campaign group, said the ad was irresponsible.

“It trivialises casual sexual encounters which can have damaging long-term consequences,” he said. “Not only do they present a risk to the physical and emotional health of those who engage in them, but they also contribute to family breakdown with all its associated misery.

“It is natural and healthy to feel a sense of shame when we have done something wrong, and a new wardrobe will never be able to eliminate what is a natural human response.

“There is no need for a company that prides itself on its exclusive fashion brands to sink to such depths.”

The 55-second ad, set to the hymn Morning Has Broken, was shown on YouTube in December. Four viewers complained it was offensive. They said it reinforced negative stereotypes of women, particular those who chose to have casual sexual relations.

One viewer said that the ripped tights worn by one of the women “implied sexual violence”.

They also said the advertisement suggested that lower-class women who had one-night stands should feel ashamed, while richer women, such as the one at the end of the advertisement, should feel proud.

But the ASA ruled that the advertisement did not cause harm or offence and was not socially irresponsible.

However, the watchdog dismissed Harvey Nichols’ claim that the women in the ads had not necessarily had one-night stands. By using the phrase “walk of shame” the implication “was that the women had had casual sex the previous night”.

It dismissed accusations of sexual violence, saying that ripped tights “were common in everyday situations”.

“We acknowledged that some people might find the theme of the ad distasteful, but we concluded that it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence,” the ASA said.

A Harvey Nichols spokesman said the intention of the advertisement was to “raise a smile by reminding people of a familiar hazard of the Christmas party season – waking up somewhere unfamiliar the day after a night out and having to embark on the journey home in attire that was less than suitable for the morning rush hour”.

The spokesman said the ad was meant to convey that women did “not have any reason to be ashamed” and added that Harvey Nichols wanted to highlight the fact that society tended to be judgmental and to suggest that a woman’s choice of outfit could go some way to offsetting that tendency. - Daily Mail