University of Sussex freshers given 'pornography' beer mats

Beer mats Image copyright Brushbox
Image caption The beer mats "send a message about women's place in society", a gender expert said

Beer mats provided to University of Sussex freshers have been criticised as "pornography" because of their suggestions about oral sex.

The beer mats, produced by toothbrush firm Brushbox and distributed by Dig-In for the students' union (SU), refer to whether you "spit or swallow" and show a sexualised image of a woman's mouth.

Gender expert Raquel Rosario Sanchez said it turned women into sex objects.

Brushbox and Dig-In apologised. The SU said it did not condone the material.

A University of Sussex spokesman said they understood why the promotional material had caused such a strong reaction.

"It sends a message about women's place in society," Ms Rosario Sanchez said.

"It's saying you are still going to be seen as a sex object, regardless of you getting into university on the basis of your achievements and people can still see you as an oral sex joke.

'Porny mouth'

"The #MeToo movement has raised awareness about social issues and a lot of students will have experienced those issues themselves."

She added the beer mats were the "latest backlash against political correctness".

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A PhD student at Bristol's Centre For Gender and Violence Research, Ms Rosario Sanchez flagged up the issue on Twitter as #EverydaySexism.

Objections had started with a This is Wrong Right? thread on Mumsnet where a member calling themselves "Duke of Sussex" posted: "What really winds me up is that it's obviously aimed at 18 year old freshers but the marketing was very likely by middle aged men."

One user described the image as a "be-lipsticked, porny mouth", while Notonyournellly pointed out "no-one swallows toothpaste".

MaryandMichael wrote: "If they wanted to be overtly sexual couldn't they have just done something useful like hand out condoms? It's just about women as pornography."

The Sussex Students' Union described the artwork as "inappropriate", adding: "There was evidently an oversight, from both Dig-In and ourselves."

Brushbox apologised and said it was "inappropriate and misguided".

In a statement, Brushbox said: "We completely understand that the image could be deemed as derogatory to women and for that we are truly sorry."

Dig-In also apologised: "The beer mats distributed in some of our freshers' boxes do not, in any way, reflect our high ethical standards."

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