Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Consent activists hijack the Victoria's Secret brand

Jezebel reports that a promotional e-mail is circulating, claiming that a new Victoria's Secret line "promotes consent to fight rape in new panties."
"Victoria's Secret is using its nationally-recognized image to lead the country in the next sexual revolution: CONSENT. PINK loves CONSENT is a new line of styles that reminds customers and their sexual partners to practice consent. You can join the "CONSENT REVOLUTION" at pinklovesconsent.com."
The campaign web site  even has a Victoria's Secret copyright claim.

But once you get into it, it's obvious that the whole thing is a critique of Victoria's Secret:

Limited Brands, which owns VS, has denied any involvement. (They're probably contacting their lawyers.)

It's a sendup on Pink Nation, complete with branding.

The group behind the hoax provide links to their campaign Facebook Page and Twitter, on which they are running a consumer lobbying campaign aimed at Victoria's Secret. (They also have non-VS-branded Pinterest and Instagram presence for their "consent panties".

Who is behind this? Feminist duo FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture have claimed credit.

Yesterday, young facebook users hi-jacked the social media outlets of Victoria’s Secret to promote something very different from panties and push-up bras. Within ten hours, over 50,000 people visited PinkLovesConsent.com, where they saw Victoria’s Secret’s image “promoting consent to fight rape.” 
The satirical website was launched at noon on Monday, December 3. According to the site, “PINK loves CONSENT is our newest collection of flirty, sexy and powerful statements that remind people to practice CONSENT. CONSENT is a verbal agreement about how and when people are comfortable having sex.” 
Through Victoria’s Secret’s social media, the concept of consent was cropping up in some unexpected places. The Victoria’s Secret facebook pages were flooded with “I heart consent” posts, excited campus reps were retweeting pinklovesconsent.com, and the “pink hearts” at pinknation.com were declaring their love for “open sex talk.” One employee tweeted, “I am so happy to currently have a job for a company that stands for something so beautiful!! @LoveConsent #victoriassecret #loveconsent”  Highschool students were tweeting “I’m loving the new @LoveConsent! Victoria’s secret goes feminist!” At the outset, 100 young facebook users were in one the prank. It just went viral from there.  

Here is what they hope to achieve:

Will Victoria’s Secret take a nod from the customer fan mail and change their styles? Fighting rape would be a major shift for the brand. Though they are a woman-focused company, VS has never taken a stand on any women’s issue. In fact, their current designs seem to lean more toward rape culture than consent. Their PINK brand, marketed at high school and college-aged women, sports thongs with the slogan “SURE THING” printed right over the crotch. Young women across the country are wearing underwear with “SURE THING” literally printed over their vaginas. We can think of one circumstance where a vagina is treated like a “SURE THING”: rape. 
So if Victoria’s Secret clearly would NEVER promote consent why use their brand for a consent campaign? The organizers say, “We could write a pamphlet about consent.  In fact, we have written and distributed pamphlets about consent.  But how many people are reading pamphlets about sexual practices and how many people are reading facebook post about Victoria’s Secret? Consent needs to become a mainstream idea. Condoms became a mainstream idea in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Just like pausing to put on a condom prevents the spread of STDs, pausing to check in with you partner prevents unwanted sexual experiences. 
Social media is becoming a tool for social change. We have seen the role of social media in revolution in the Arab Spring, but change Victoria’s Secret? “Probably not,” says the organizers.  “We’re not about taking Victoria’s Secret down.  We are about changing the conversation. The sexiness that is being sold to women by Victoria’s Secret is not actually about sex. It is not how to have sex, relationships or orgasms. It in an IMAGE of what it is to be sexy. So while we are sold cleavage, white teeth, clear skin and perfect hair no one is asking us how our bodies feel and what we desire. Victoria’s Secret owns the image of female sexuality, instead of women owning their own sexuality.” 
As the project went viral, some saw right through the shenanigans. Many who knew it was a prank openly wished that it was real.  After a first incredulous look and some detective work, Jezebel blogger Katie J.M. Baker said, “If only Victoria’s Secret focused on empowering women rather than objectifying them!” Bloggers wrote about how the Pink Loves Consent project makes women look powerful and strong. Jezebel users commented on the “fiercely real” body types represented on the site. “Too bad they don’t use some models like her for their regular advertising. The girl’s gorgeous and it’s awesome to see a different body style once in awhile.” A frustrated Facebook user commented, “Damn, I wish these were real. I just got paid.”   And a savvy Victoria’s Secret customer tweeted, “So I guess the #loveconsent campaign isn’t actually affiliated with Victoria’s Secret but they SHOULD BE I WOULD BUY SO MUCH UNDERWEAR.” 
Why do so many women love something they know is not real? FORCE made something that people want, but that a company like Victoria’s Secret can never give them. Imagine how different our lives would be if we put as much time and thought into sharing ideas like consent as we do into selling underwear. 
FORCE apparently used to sell their consent panties on Etsy, but the store is currently empty.

A very effective way to get attention, if you ask me. I hope the PR turns into an attitude adjustment about sex and consent, if only for a few of the people who were hoaxed.

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