A new ad campaign for American label Calvin Klein is at the centre of a heated debate following complaints one of its images depicts sexual harassment.
The image in question features 23-year-old Danish actress and model Klara Kristin looking down at a camera positioned between her legs, with her underwear in full view underneath her skirt.
The text splashed across the photo reads: “I flash in my Calvins.”
Another composite image of Kristin includes a series of the same revealing pose with the text: “I enchant in my Calvins.”
The contentious shot is just one in a series of provocative photos starring model Kendall Jenner, popstar Justin Bieber, Australian model Abbey Lee Kershaw and others.
While the rest of the campaign (aptly titled ‘Erotica’) is eyebrow-raising, the photo of Kristin has sparked widespread social media criticism for simulating the criminal act of “upskirting” women without their knowledge or consent.
The New Daily has chosen not to publish the full image.
Calvin Klein’s official Instagram account still featured the controversial advertisement at the time of writing, despite overwhelmingly negative response from the public.
Immediate reactions to the ad have been scathing, with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation in the United States launching a petition for the brand to “stop normalising and glamorising sexual harassment”.
“Up-skirting is a growing trend of sexual harassment where pictures are taken up a woman’s skirt without her knowledge, or without her consent,” a statement from the NCSE said.
“Not only is this activity a crime … it is also a disturbing breach of privacy and public trust. By normalising and glamorising this sexual harassment, Calvin Klein is sending a message that the experiences of real-life victims don’t matter, and that it is okay for men to treat the woman standing next to them on the metro as available pornography whenever they so choose.”
@CalvinKlein I buy your underwear but I’d just like to say that this ad objectifies women and encourages perverts to continue acts like this
— WHO GOT LUCILLED (@TWDandBenHaenow) May 12, 2016
Twitter users argued Kristin looked younger than her 23 years, giving the ad “paedophilic” elements, while others described it as “predatory”, “desperate” and “soft porn”.
@CalvinKlein Wow. It’s like I’m looking up the skirt of my little niece. Exactly what audience are you trying to target? Disgusting.
— Kathleen (@kathleen_noa) May 12, 2016
Not all the comments were critical, however, with some arguing the image is in line with the brand’s previous advertising and no different to a similarly sexualised image of Justin Bieber from the same campaign.
— J. Jackson (@jewa2000) May 12, 2016
If the ad was to be widely distributed in Australia, it is likely it would breach several points on the Australian Association of National Advertisers’ Code of Ethics. Currently, it can only be found online.
The AANA and the Advertising Standards Bureau have not yet received complaints about the recently released advertisement.
In 2010, the ASB upheld complaints over a Calvin Klein underwear billboard that some felt “depicted gang rape”, while in 2011 a perfume ad for CK Shock was banned from airing in a specific time slot after viewers claimed it “simulated sexual activity”.
For now, the brand is standing by the images – even citing the #mycalvins umbrella campaign as a major driver of consumer engagement and commercial success.
“The campaign drew interest from Millennials, adding to the aspirational, yet accessible, nature of the brand,” a statement on the website of its parent company Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation.
“Through #mycalvins, among several other high profile marketing efforts, Calvin Klein has seen a sharp increase in followers across social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Weibo.”