Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Advertising rape culture in anti-rape campaigns

Victim-blaming. It's ugly, it's hurtful, and it's doing nothing to stop people from raping other people.

In the aftermath of the Steubenville rape trial, in which two teenage men were convicted of raping and humiliating an unconscious teenage woman, it's time we had another look at what these supposedly-helpful ads are saying. 

Using some of the post-verdict, victim-blaming Tweets compiled on Sociological Images, I've twinned the infamous ads with their real-life counterpart messages.

The ad above is from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. I wrote about it on Osocio, and it was all over the mainstream media. The ad was pulled from the campaign.

This one is from West Mercia police. When called on it by British feminists, they refused to apologize.

This one isn't even about drinking. It's a "safe taxi" campaign by Transport for London, and note that it has the Mayor and the police endorsing it.

Christ. Did anyone pause for even a milli-second, and think, ‘Gee, maybe it’s NOT such a good idea to equate not booking a taxi with certain rape?’. Or did the advertising agency just convince Cabwise that it would provoke attention, and controversy?

Which brings us to my longtime prohibition-era nemesis, MADD:

MADD - Unbuttoned from Esparza Advertising on Vimeo.

Interestingly, when the message is being preached to men, the danger isn't being raped but rather having unwanted sex with somebody unattractive:

It's really bad, folks. People actually think that the only thing standing between a woman and her rape is how she controls herself. She must at all times be sober, fully covered, aloof and safely cloistered away from "bad people". Failure to observe any of these rules makes her responsible for anything violent that happens to her, because men — especially drunk men — have no control and will automatically seek to sexually violate her.

There is hope, however:

Sexual Assault Voices Edmonton, via Osocio.
Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, via Osocio

Via Men Can Stop Rape

Teach your children well. 


  1. I cant agree with this more, Its so painful to watch the victims get blamed. A woman should be able to walk around nude, drunk as all hell, and still not have to worry about some fucking piece of shit male trying to take advantage. And to the woman, who dont protect other woman, like its her fault, then i HOPE sincerely HOPE they learn a lesson in respect and empathy. I dont wish that kind of degrading thing on anyone, so the people who are victim blaming, need to take a step back and see the truth. Im so sorry to this girl and my thoughts go out to the family. As for the two boys, there 1 year sentence wasn't enough. Hope they become the bitch in prison ;) Not all men are insensitive assholes. Not all teenage boys would do that. Please keep that in mind.

    -17 year old male.

  2. Very powerful advertising for a very powerful subject. I always feel like these kind of ads really hit home, even with those who have never experienced anything so serious. From a solely business point of view, these are very simple and evocative ads which garner a lot of respect from advertising agencies. It's a true art and talent to be able to convey so much emotion in such small area. I hope to be able to be a part of something like this later on in my career, would be greatly rewarding to feel as if you've been able to contribute to a rise in awareness of something like this.

  3. This is all too prevalent it is repulsive. You would think it would be standard for people to understand that when a person is unconscious due to alcohol (or any other substances for that matter), they cannot consent to sex.
    I truly believe consent should be taught in our schools. Part of the problem is the "no means no" policy. People assume that consent is the standard, and that it can only be withdrawn when there is a clear "no". When in reality, consent is not the standard. It is the difference between "can I kiss you" and "oh I just kissed you oops I guess you actually didn't want that, what are you mad at me for? I thought you wanted it!". It makes it really easy for rapists to get off the hook. It makes the victims fear whether they can truly call it rape because society will harass her with assumptions about how she "put herself in the situation".
    An enthusiastic consent is the best policy. It assumes that consent is not the standard for people, so rapists can't weasel their way out of raping an unconscious women by saying things like "she didn't say no" or "she was drinking!".

  4. I actually agree with the cab one, there hav been a few disturbing stories about men driving these cars to lure women into them, it's only an ad raising awareness about the existence of these cabs and men, I didn't see the victim blaming in that?