Semen or toothpaste? Sussex University slammed for distributing ‘sexist’ material to new students Sussex University have asked first year students if they “spit or swallow” on a promotional beermat in their welcome packs. The ad for toothbrushes features a picture of a woman’s mouth full of what could be toothpaste – or semen.

The UK university is now suffering the ire of social media users, who are circulating pictures of the beermat online. The third-level institution is now being of “sexual harassment” for allowing the distribution of the ad material which Twitter users have dubbed “degrading, intimidating and just hateful towards women and girls”.

One furious person took to blog site Mumsnet to slam the university for including the offensive material. “What a hostile, threatening environment for young women university has become… it feels as though we’re rapidly regressing back to the atmosphere of a 70s working mens’ club. “‘Get drunk and give oral, oh and make some lovely friends whilst you’re at it’. Ugh.’”

The University of Sussex took to Twitter to fire back explanations to those hurling accusations over the sexually charged beermats. The university pointed the finger at their Student Union for the decision. “We can absolutely see why this promotional material in freshers packs has sparked such a strong reaction,” the university said in an online statement, adding that they are sure that the student union “will feed back the reaction to the company responsible”.

The company responsible for distributing the beermats is understood to be Dig-In Box, who have partnered up with Brushbox and other suppliers for special deals for students. Dig-In claims their welcome kits reach 80% of fresher students – the majority of whom are teenagers fresh from high school.

Toothbrush company Brushbox took to Mumsnet directly to deal with the angry blog post. “The image was meant to be tongue in cheek and spark awareness for what is a serious issue, namely the fact that huge portions of the population suffer with really poor oral health… Whilst our image was intended to raise eyebrows, at no point in time was it ever our intention to cause outright offence.

“In particular, there was never any suggestion or intention (consciously or unconsciously) to be derogatory towards women in any way shape or form, this is something we would never do and we are sorry if this has in any way made you feel this way.”

Mumsnet bloggers were quick to fire back. One asked the company if they made “any versions using a masculine mouth”, before asking “Why did you choose a female one?” Another simply asked: “Do you consult women as part of the design process? Interested to know why you thought equating brushing your teeth with oral sex was in any way necessary or appropriate and anything other than flat out misogynistic.”

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