It's time for offensive and violent bumper stickers to be banned.

We shouldn’t have to look at this stuff if we don’t want to. Image via Flickr.

We’ve all been there…

Through a twist of bad luck, or the wrong click of a link, we’ve seen something awful that we can’t un-see.

But just because looking at disturbing, sexist, racist or just plain ghastly images is a common occurrence, it doesn’t give people the right to force their aesthetic horrors on unwitting passers-by. Yet that is exactly what’s happening in Townsville right now.

A pickup truck with an image of a bound and gagged woman painted into its back wall is being proudly driven around the town, creeping out everyone who has to look at it. If you want to see that image, you can click here. (We’ve decided not to publish it here, a description suffices).

Not nice, was it? Of course, when you clicked the link above, you consented to seeing that image. Townsville residents weren’t offered that choice. Can you imagine how disturbing it would be to see that ute drive past you at an intersection? Unpleasant as the subject matter is, the painter is a dab-hand, and the “artwork” looks incredibly realistic. Which makes the whole thing that much worse.

“From a distance you possibly would think it is real… I felt quite threatened (at first),” Jane Chester, a resident of nearby Mount Louisa said of the image, when speaking with Townsville Bulletin

“It is bad enough that there are people living with the pain and fear of domestic violence without them having to see this image condoning and glorifying abuse.”

In a follow-up story, Bulletin reported that Bree Benyon, the woman who posed for the violent image, thought the town’s offended residents should develop a “sense of humour”. “My dad did the print six months ago and it was my stepmum’s car,” she explained.


Detective Senior Sergeant Dave Miles of Townsville Child Protection Investigation Unit, who was charged with investigating the image, said that no action would be taken. “It has to be obscene and corrupting morals, like sexual acts, nudity or offences relating to child exploitation to be considered under Section 228 of the Criminal Code.”

Of course, if this ute was commercially owned, there would be an avenue for recourse against the offensive, and potentially accident-causing, vehicle.

Wicked Camper Vans have repeatedly come a cropper of the Advertising Standards Board for the use of obscene and misogynistic paintings and slogans on their vans. One complaint, that was upheld by the ABS recently, was filed against a van that said “Fat girls are harder to kidnap!” a theme that is incredibly close to the painting on the ute in Townsville. The ruling found the slogan made “light of behaviour which is against community standards on safety”.

So why aren’t private citizens be held to the same standards when it comes to what they put on their cars?

If someone had painted a huge penis on the front of their home, the council would step in and force them to paint over it. In my apartment complex, I’m not even allowed to hang laundry over my balcony railing, let alone an image that any reasonable person would find offensive.

“Won’t someone please think of the children” is not a phrase I enjoy deploying. But in this case, I think it stands.

Some might say a painting like this is a matter of freedom, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to demand the freedom to leave the house without being confronted with a huge, ghastly reminder of rape and murder. I want that when I’m watching Game Of Thrones – not going to the grocery store.

I have a problem with outdoor advertising in general. Unless, like a bus shelter, it’s paying for some sort of public amenity, it’s nothing but an unpleasant degradation of the scenery. We really should have the right to live in a world that looks beautiful.

But this? This is about ten steps worse. It’s pathetic, nasty and incredibly lame, all at the same time.

Should this kind of display be criminal? No. But just like if a corporation did it, it should be subject to a hefty fine.