We Need More “Don’t Rape” Campaigns

An Image Inspiration for a "Don't Rape" PSA

According to anti-rape campaigns, women (but apparently not men) have many modern tools against rape: self-defense classes, walking in groups, avoiding getting drunk and being aware of their surroundings. What we don’t have is an comprehensive anti-rape campaign with one simple message to would-be rapists:


Campaigns raise awareness about rape by debunking myths, providing statistics and offering ways for potential victims to protect themselves. But the campaigns and discussions rarely address the rapist.

When we only spotlight the victims we create a disembodied construction of a rapist as a supporting character in rape prevention discourse. The rape victim is the focus while the rapist is an auxiliary entity. Meanwhile in the real world, rapists are related to us, work with us and go to the bars with us. They are our friends, lovers and family members. Rarely are rapists complete strangers hiding in the bushes.

Realizing that many of us have known or do know someone that committed rape is an uncomfortable truth. Focusing on victims is mentally convenient, especially in a culture places the onus of sexual responsibility on females. Since we’re already taking birth control and keeping male sexual desire in check it makes sense for us to prevent rape, whether through wearing teethed condoms or by starring in anti-rape commercials.

Imagine a different type of conversation about rape, one that focused on (primarily male) perpetrators. College campuses across the country would host a “Don’t Rape” Awareness week with presentations and activities aimed at the male population. Hunky male celebrities would appear in commercials extolling the virtues of consensual sex. In locker rooms across the nation, young males would talk about how hot it sounded when their dates said “Yes! Oh please yes!” to sex.

In South Africa, one commercial takes this approach and it makes my heart swell:

Compare this to this “Don’t Be Blind to the Danger of Date Rape” commercial

When danger of date rape is that the crime can happen to you, the responsibility falls on the victim.

This UK ad does direct the message at potential rapists, but uses fear as a tactic instead of self-awareness and control in sex as a source of pride (as in the South African ad):

None of what I write here is meant to downplay the amazing work done by advocates already. Incidences of rape have decreased by 60% since 1993, a huge decrease brought about by public conversations on rape.

Let’s expand that conversation and make those numbers even lower.

For more information about sexual assault in the US, please read the DOJ’s 2008 report here.

10 thoughts on “We Need More “Don’t Rape” Campaigns”

  1. While I wholeheartedly agree with you, I just don’t see anti-rape education targeted at males to be an effective tactic unless it becomes a mandatory part of sex education in public schools. Because no guy is going to think that he is a potential rapist. Men just don’t see rape to be anything except the ridiculous scenario you post as the stranger hiding in the bushes with a knife…’cause it never, ever, ever happens in frat houses or at parties or in high school. It’s not rape if I know her, if she’s drunk, if she’s passed out, if we had a previous liaison…hell, that’s practically permission! Ugh.

    The South Africa commercial though, is nothing short of brilliant and a humanitarian masterpiece. Bless the people who made that.

    1. I think that the conversation needs to be both in schools and as part of a larger PSA campaign. As far as representation, I agree with the unrealistic representations causing a mental disconnect. The UK ad suffers because of the sudden switch in the guy’s demeanor. Nice, kissy guy to aggressive rapist in an alleyway in under 5 seconds? Not exactly a common scenario.

  2. P.S.- I loathe the term “date rape”. It needs to die. It’s consensual or it’s not, end of.

    P.P.S.- that U.S. commercial was just dumb…for so many reasons, nothing short of the fact it completely missed the boat.

  3. Given that perhaps half of all sexual assault perpetrators have been drinking, I wonder if going at it from that angle would be worthwhile.

    “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.”

    “They don’t let them commit rape, either.”


    1. Great article … and I see they also take on the drinking culture and the “bros before hos” culture.

      I think I’m liking “Friends don’t let friends commit rape” as one of a number of good memes …

  4. rape is wrong, but i just realized this seems to be a feminist site, I don’t see anything about how female teachers have been raping male students . I read an article that it is on the rise and it’s under reported

  5. Yes because feminists cannot bear to tell the truth when it comes to women. Thank you so much for blowing the whistle, we needed that.

    Anywho, I dig this blog, and the South African commercial was gorgeous! I wish they’d show it here.

  6. This has been on my mind for such a long time.
    Thank you so much for actually writing about it.
    I hope I can do something about it soon.

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