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.