The UK organization This is Abuse has launched a new rape-awareness campaign geared towards 13-18 year olds. Central to the campaign are videos that enact situations that teens may commonly face. In the video below, a boy chooses to not to respect a girl’s wishes to stop the sexual encounter and rapes her. The male actor watches his actions from the outside, and attempts to tell himself to stop. As the video shows, no matter what has come before in this situation, no matter how “ok” the boy may think it is, sexual intercourse without consent is rape. Without her consent, he has no right to access her body in such a way.
The videos take a positive step in asking the person who has caused harm to change their behavior, rather than blaming the person to whom the harm is being done. It does however run the risk of presenting perpetrators as strictly male, and victims as strictly female. A new series of videos might demonstrate through other situations that sexual assault can occur between people of all genders and sexual orientations.
Like a previous campaign by Men Can Stop Rape, This is Abuse reaches out to a heterosexual male audience. Often this kind of onus is placed on women, who are usually positioned as the victims of rape, to “be more careful” in order to “avoid” rape. As Jezebel notes, the video moves away from a victim-blaming mentality:
Aside from the ad’s rawness, what stands out is that it’s aimed at boys. For once someone’s telling them not to rape, rather than telling girls not to drink or wear short skirts or go out by themselves.
The videos show that rape is not simply a “woman’s issue”, it is everyone’s issue. It is everyone’s responsibility to recognize rape and put an end to it.
Scary But Smart PSA Combats Teen Rape [Jezebel]
PETA has a new ad campaign to encourage men to try a vegan lifestyle. Their approach uses sexual violence to equate virility and assumes this must appeal to men as good reason to try vegansim. The campaign labels girlfriends of men who go vegan as “victims” of BWVAKTBOOM: Boyfriend Went Vegan and Knocked the Bottom out of Me. The video above accompanies a whole site dedicated to this fictional phenomenon. This is not the only video; there is a whole section of videos. One portrays a woman talking cheerily about the “side effects” of her partner’s veganism while covered with bandages.
PETA presents these “side effects” as a reason to go vegan, as though beating a partner were a good thing. It is just another way sexual violence is used to sell something; in this case an otherwise healthy lifestyle. This campaign says that being vegan doesn’t have to mean losing one’s masculinity, because according to the website, veganism can encourage behaviors that appeal to men:
For years, women have been open to the physical, emotional, and karmic benefits of veganism. But now, more and more men are discovering the perks of a plant-based diet. More specifically, a dramatic increase in their wang power and sexual stamina.
In the videos above, “wang power” is equated with sexual violence. This maintains the idea that a sexual male is ought to be a controlling, violent male. Connect the Dots has a response to this disgusting ad campaign. The post addresses that PETA missed an opportunity to approach veganism through a sex-positive lens and just about everything else wrong with this ad:
What’s the real message here? Rather than a sex-positive take on veganism, this ad plays on traditional and harmful notions of masculinity. It perpetuates common norms, like power and violence, that support a culture of sexual violence and exploitation. It sends the same old, tired message that being a man is all about power, violent and sexual power, over women. We wonder if vegan men appreciate being portrayed in this light. And what are women good for? That’s obvious.
Why PETA would approach a male audience in this way is not only baffling but extremely offensive not just to women, but to men. This horrific ad campaign rests on all kinds of assumptions about men’s desires and actively promotes the idea that men should use violence to assert their sexual prowess. One can only hope PETA will respond with an apology.
One Plus Negative One Equals Zero: A Response to PETA’s Rapey Ad [Connect the Dots]
UPDATE: Here is a link to a petition asking PETA to terminate the campaign: http://www.change.org/petitions/tell-peta-violence-against-women-is-never-okay
Calvin Klein’s Spring 2012 ad campaign features Lara Stone in the brand’s latest wares. The model, despite being front and center, is in a rather powerless position; she is on her back, eyes closed, perhaps clutching her jacket closed. With her breasts partly exposed and her legs almost open, she is not only submissive but sexually available. Her position is compounded by the addition of a silhouetted male figure looming over her in the upper right corner. The image goes from simply portraying a model in a sexual pose, to suggesting violence, all with the intention of selling a high-end product.
This isn’t the first time a fashion advertisement has portrayed the potential of sexual violence in a glamorous way, not even close. In a previous post I recommended watching Jean Kilbourne’s Killing Us Softly film series, and again I can’t recommend it enough. In the second half of her most recent installment, she describes what she calls the “Romantic Stranger” trend. The video is embedded below, skip to 17:52 to hear her analysis of the eroticization of violence in advertising. This ad and its meanings are by no means unique. Women are frequently subjected to many types of violence in their lives, including physical and often at the hands of men, yet fashion seems to have no qualms about portraying this in order to sell a product. In numerous examples the female models often have an ambiguous facial expression, somewhere between pleasure and pain, and the image suggests that violence against women is not only potentially pleasurable, but glamorous.
Funny that an industry whose products are marketed almost entirely to women is so insistent on selling them on the “glamour” of their oppressed state.
Slate and Feministing are both singing the praises of a new ad campaign from Men Can Stop Rape targeted at a young, heterosexual male demographic to take a stand against rape and sexual harassment. These ads succeed in addressing common situations where a man can easily step into prevent violence against women. As Slate points out, while this type of ad could easily veer into a white knight saving the damsel in distress paradigm, they do not remove any power from the woman in question but offer men a simple way of helping to prevent a potentially dangerous situation. In reference to the ad featured above at left, Slate says:
The woman in question is neither left alone in a risky situation nor controlled by a presumptuous hero. Rather, she is invited to partner with a concerned male friend in making her own decisions, and everyone involved is allowed their agency.
Men Can Stop Rape’s campaign offers men an alternative to acting as a passive bystander. Rape and assault are not always the product of explicit violence and these ads recognize a far more common situation where women are susceptible to harassment or assault. The ad campaign addresses a near everyday reality for many women in the form of street harassment; the image pictured at right asks men to take a perhaps very difficult but very simple role in preventing this kind of harassment. Street harassment, while not as easily recognized as a form of assault as it is not physical, is still an overwhelming problem which violates a woman’s right to access a public space. To call out a friend for participating in such behavior requires a certain amount of courage and the campaign is very progressive in asking men to take a stand against such a widespread activity. Asking young men to alter rape culture amongst themselves is an almost unseen but welcome and necessary approach to preventing sexual assault.
Taking an active role in preventing sexual assault is easier said than done, for anyone of any demographic, but in viewing these ads maybe more young men wil feel they can do so in their everyday lives.
The Where Do You Stand? Campaign [Men Can Stop Rape]
New ‘Men Can Stop Rape’ Ads Rock [Feministing]
Above is a recently released PSA on domestic violence by the National Domestic Violence Hotline. As Jezebel reports, multiple men’s rights groups have already protested the ad on the basis that is implies only men can be abusers.
The PSA’s language is both gendered and heteronormative; fathers are abusers, mothers and children are victims, and sons will grow up to abuse their, presumably, female partners and daughters will grow up to be abused by their, presumably, male partners.
The PSA does not advertise the hotline’s services as only for women, while it does imply that most victims of domestic violence are adult females or children. Do you think this ad reflects a reality that women are more frequently victims of domestic violence than men? Is gendered language necessary in this case? Or does it maintain gender stereotypes and binaries that men are always aggressors and women are always victims?