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Shenzhen subway pulls condom ads after complaints

Shenzhen Metro has called off an ad campaign by Japanese condom brand Okamoto, reportedly after receiving multiple complaints from people who said that the commercials made them very “uncomfortable.”

According to Southern Metropolis Weekly (in Chinese), a news outlet based in Guangzhou, some locals have been reaching out to them venting about the spread of condom commercials at the city’s Houhai subway station since about a week ago, when the Japanese condom manufacturer launched an ad campaign promoting its product Okamoto Zero One 001, which is one of the thinnest condoms in the world.

condom ads

For what it’s worth, the ads at the station doesn’t feature any jarring sexual innuendos or anything overly graphic. Most of them are just beautiful illustrations with taglines that read, “Number-labeled thinness, Okamoto.” The campaign seemed to be targeting the upcoming Qixi Festival, also known as Chinese Valentine’s Day, given that one tagline specifically says, “Qixi, hold thinness in your arms.”

Regardless, some subway riders still considered the ads inappropriate and filed complaints with Shenzhen Metro, which decided to take of them down on August 4.

condom ads 4

The removal has triggered an avalanche of criticism on the Chinese internet, with many open-minded and sex-positive people arguing that there’s nothing indecent or offensive about condom advertising as long as it’s executed in a tasteful way. Calling those who made the complaints “ignorant prudes,” proponents of Okamoto’s ad campaign also argued that being unnecessarily sensitive about contraceptive advertising is actually a threat to public health in China, where sex education is dangerously lacking.

Below are a collection of internet reactions to the news:

Screen Shot 2019 08 06 at 4.14.42 PM

“These ads look subtle to me and they don’t contain any low-brow sexual innuendos. What are they uncomfortable about? These uncomfortable people were brought to the world because their parents didn’t use condoms.”

Screen Shot 2019 08 06 at 4.14.48 PM

“The people who felt uncomfortable are not prudish. They are obscene.”

Screen Shot 2019 08 06 at 4.14.57 PM

“Feel uncomfortable? I suspect that they take off their clothes faster than anyone else when it’s time to use it.”

Screen Shot 2019 08 06 at 4.15.21 PM

“Do you have a brain tumor or something? So you feel comfortable when your children tell you about their unexpected pregnancy? Safety first.”

Screen Shot 2019 08 06 at 4.15.33 PM

“OK, can those who made the complaints stop using condoms for the rest of their life?”

Screen Shot 2019 08 06 at 4.16.06 PM

“What’s disturbing about it??”

Screen Shot 2019 08 06 at 4.16.15 PM

“Why has no one filed complaints about those abortion ads?”

Screen Shot 2019 08 06 at 4.16.30 PM

“There are so many food ads out there and they make me uncomfortable when I’m hungry. Change them immediately!”

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Jiayun Feng

Jiayun was born in Shanghai, where she spent her first 20 years and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Fudan University. Interested in writing for a global audience, she attended the NYU Graduate School of Journalism for its Global & Joint Program Studies, which allowed her to pursue a journalism career along with her interest in international relations. She has previously interned for Sixth Tone and Shanghai Daily.

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