December 6, 2010

“Don’t be That guy”

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:26 pm by sacetalks

by Meagan Simon

As a newbie here at the center, I get excited over the little things – having an office to myself, getting to work with amazing people who care a lot about their work and extra lamps. So you can imagine how tickled I was when I got to accompany our Executive Director, Karen Smith, to the media launch of a new and innovative awareness campaign in Edmonton called, “Don’t be THAT Guy.” It would have been amazing to have been here months ago when all the planning and prep work went down, but at least I get to see the results.

The initiative for this campaign began when the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton joined forces with other community organizations, the Edmonton Police Service, and interested individuals in Edmonton and its surrounding area and formed a coalition called the Sexual Assault Voices of Edmonton (SAVE). According to Superintendent Danielle Campbell of the EPS Criminal Investigations Division, about half of the reported cases of sexual assault in Edmonton involve alcohol. Offenders of sexual assault often use alcohol to incapacitate the people they wish to assault. It is the most common rape drug.  In light of a shared concern for the high numbers of alcohol facilitated sexual assaults in Edmonton reported to the police, SAVE decided to combine their intellectual and compassionate might in an effort for the prevention of sexualized violence in Edmonton.

Last Monday, November 22 2010, SAVE launched their first major campaign. It involves posters with the message that sex without voluntary consent = sexual assault. One shows an intoxicated women being led to a car by a man with the tag line, “Just because you help her home… doesn’t mean you get to help yourself.” Another ad shows a passed out women on a couch with alcohol strewn around her and the words, “Just because she isn’t saying no… doesn’t mean she’s saying yes.” While SAVE hopes to reach a broad audience, the ads specifically target males aged 18 to 24 in the most appropriate setting I myself can fathom, the male washrooms of local bars. It is here that the most direct and simple message is used, “Just because she’s drunk, doesn’t mean she wants to f**k.”

A study in the UK recently found that 48% percent of their respondents, men aged 18 to 25, believed that sex with women too drunk to know what was going on is not rape. This finding supports what EPS have found in our community; the most common offenders of alcohol facilitated sexual assault in Edmonton are men between the ages of 18 to 24, who are usually known to the people they assault. These findings are appalling and reflect a disheartening truth in our communities – a great number of young men do not believe it is wrong to coerce sex from an intoxicated woman. While we can all balk at the implications of this and share our disdain of phrases like, “What, am I supposed to get her to sign a contract or something?” it seems more prudent to address our concerns as SAVE did. They took it as an educational opportunity.

Like I said before, I think SAVE did a great job targeting their core audience by placing the ads in male washrooms of 26 Edmonton bars. These washrooms have two main advantages as a setting for the campaign. One, they are “social spaces” whose main patrons are the target audience of the ads. What’s more, they are areas where alcohol facilitated sexual assaults may likely occur or begin, where young men have easy access to alcohol and people to potentially sexually assault. Posters will also hang in the University of Alberta and Corona LRT stations, and will be printed in campus papers and independent news magazines.

The ads aren’t just there to shame men into submission. They definitely make an accusation about men aged 18 to 24 as potential offenders, suggesting that they are capable of sexually assaulting and need to stop themselves. They also challenge the notion that it is up to the survivors of sexual assault to prevent it from happening. To say that people are potential offenders doesn’t mean that everyone who sexually assaults is marked by a predisposition or personality trait that makes them do it. We don’t want to mark these men as “bad people.” No, we just want statistically verified behaviors and beliefs to stop. We want people to know sexual assault is wrong and to stop doing it. It is very likely that some people, though not all, will respond to the posters with resistant and defensive tactics, either making excuses for their own behavior, deflecting blame onto the survivors of sexual assault or claiming innocence of the whole thing. “You man haters.” Don’t be that guy. Don’y be that guy who does not take responsibility. Don’t be that guy who does not make sure his partner is consenting. Don’t be that guy who sexually assaults a girl too drunk to consent to sex. Don’t be that guy who uses alcohol as a tool to sexually assault. Don’t be that guy who believes it is not rape.

http://www.thehavens.co.uk/docs/Havens_Wake_Up_To_Rape_Report_Summary.pdf

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7 Comments »

  1. […] There is a great ad in Edmonton right now: Just because she’s drunk, doesn’t mean she wants to f**k. […]

  2. I have mixed feelings about this campaign. I do like that it targets behaviours rather than telling survivors how to avoid being raped. However, the frequent portrayals of the campaign as “finally telling men not to be rapists” is more than a little minimizing to male rape survivors. Further, it does give the impression that only men commit rape and that they are all going to be rapists unless taught otherwise. Consent campaigns are an improvement, but I take offense at the concept that I have to be taught not to be a rapist. When I was the age of the target demographic – I was being raped – by a woman who used alcohol she bought to drug me. I’m not a statistical anomaly, more than simply a deliberately ignored demographic. Consent is not a gender issue, regardless of how some may wish to paint it.

    The woman who raped me BOUGHT my drinks for me and spiked the second one before doing what she wanted and then blackmailing me into silence. Of course, I’ve been told by both men and women that I must have wanted it, was at fault for drinking with a woman I didn’t know, men can’t be raped, women can’t be rapists and every other victim-blaming tidbit you can think up.

    Someone never told my rapist “Don’t Be That Gal.” 20 years, countless panic attacks, years of lost sleep, and thousands of dollars in therapy bills could have been avoided if she’d cared about consent herself. How many women violate the consent of their partners regularly, only to get away with it because female on male rape is considered a big joke, or worse – that he was asking for it (i.e., erections = consent, men can’t be raped, men always want sex).

    Somedays I hate her and other days I reserve my stronger emotions for those who make excuses for people (not just men) who violate consent and do what they want, when they want, without regard to the damage they leave behind.

  3. Meagan said,

    Thank you for your comment. I’m just going to respond to a few points that you’ve made.

    First, 97% of offenders of sexual assault are male. That finding does not negate that men are also survivors of sexual assault. At least 1/6 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Most offenders of sexual assaults against men, are heterosexual men.

    This also does not negate the fact that women are also offenders of sexual assault. I’d like to thank you for reminding people that it does not matter what gender a person is, and how often it is the case that a person of that gender is an offender of sexual assault, we all share an imperative to stop sexually assaulting people.

    However, the SAVE campaign recognizes that there is a notable relationship between gender and sexual assault. When it comes to alcohol-facilitated sexual assaults reported to police in Edmonton, the offenders are predominantly male. This isn’t to say that a female is not capable of using drugs or alcohol to make it easier for her to sexually assault someone else; however, it suggests that either this doesn’t happen as frequently or that survivors of sexual assaults involving a female offender are less likely to report that to police. Thank you for sharing your personal experience and I believe you that it did happen to you. It was not your fault, despite what others say. I am so glad to here that you have a firm grasp on victim-blaming rhetoric. Consent is not something that only men should pay attention to. We all should be aware of the consent laws in Canada, and we all have the responsibility to make sure all of our partners consent.

    However, I think we can also recognize that sexual assault is a concern that is both, relevant for all people regardless of their gender, and related to our understanding of gender and ways of performing it in society.

    Because it still remains that 97% of offenders of sexual assault are men. Why is that?

    One way to understand why 97% of offenders of sexual assault are men, is to think about how we understand gender and sexuality. The normative way (meaning the way most people see things to be true, though it is not necessarily true) of understanding sex is binary. An examle of this would be how we understand directions, left and right. They are opposite directions, which are completely distinct from each other. In our understanding of sex, one person is active, usually the male, and the other one is passive, usually the female. People do not have to conform to this way of understanding and performing sexuality, because it is one out of an infinite number of possibilities that we may construct sexuality, however it is the dominant, binary, way of separating sex into active and passive roles. Being the dominant construction, it is the one least questioned.

    From this basic separation of roles, we develop stories about how those roles ought to normally play out. The man “chases” the woman, seduces her, and convinces her to “give in” to his advances. The woman’s role as the passive sexual agent is to resist his advances, “pretend no,” and then finally submit. The male is recognized as having sexual desire and the woman is the vessel to fullfill that desire.

    You might be reading that and thinking, “Oh, how archaic. Nobody thinks like that anymore.” Even if nobody ever said anything about men, women and sexuality exactly like I just did, we see and here things all the time from our friends, our parents, in music and on television, in the ways we make sense of our relationships, that perpetuate the idea of the active male sexual agent, who’s main purpose in life is the aquisition of sexual gratification from a female who is understood in terms of how her body might best fullfill that gratification.

    That understanding of male sexuality contributes to the myth that men can’t be sexually assaulted. If a man is always looking to acquire sex, how could he be forced to have sex?

    The truth is that just like women, men have the right to decide with whom they want to have sex with, what kind of sexual activity they want to engage in, and when.

    That understanding about male sexuality also unfortunately looks a lot like sexual assault – the male uses strategies to convince the female to have sex with him / the offender uses coercion to force a person to engage in sexual contact that they have not given voluntary consent to. That understanding of male sexuality is problematic in two ways then – it reinforces the myth that men can’t be sexually assaulted and it legitimates sexual assault by framing men as naturally using tactics such as coercion to obtain the female object of their desire.

    Please, be clear that my intention is not to demonize men or to say that all men naturally sexually assault because they naturally use coercion. I know that not all men are offenders of sexual assault and I do not believe that any does anything naturally, and therefore, understandably. What I am suggesting is that the reality that most offenders of sexual assault are men is likely related to how we understand the role of active, male sexual agent, and how some then go on to perform this role.

  4. I understand all of your points, even if I see them from a different angle. You might want to interview some male survivors with regard to future campaigns to see just how they may be interpreting the campaign and how they can be better served in the future.

    With regard to statistics there is also the added element that is usually missed as to the ways sexual violence committed by women is often classified differently that that committed by men, skewing the numbers. In the U.S., any stats gathered by the FBI completely erase male survivors as victims and women as rapists, unless they are raped by a penis. This deliberately erases men like me as survivors. These statistics are then parroted all over the place and cited as valid. This is in the beginning stages of a controversy that will hopefully lead to positive changes.

    Further, the message that male survivors often see with regard to the reporting of statistics that treat us insignificant or a distraction from the “real issue” through the gendering of rape as male = rapist, female = victim crime also keeps the real stats for male survivors nearly invisible. Speaking from personal experience, I and most most men, have been conditioned to believe that men cannot be raped outside of prison or unless the perp is a male who commits anal rape. So what does that mean?

    Male survivors report and disclose at much lower levels than female survivors, which is something that nearly every large, national level sexual violence organization in several nations has acknowledged at one time or another. While I understand your point, the 97% statistic has a giant footnote in that regard, which needs to be acknowledged. Until men are encouraged and welcomed to come forward in greater numbers and violence committed by women against other women and men is treated as more than a statistical burp to be set aside, those numbers are not going to reflect the true face of survivorhood.

    Perhaps SAVE can create an internet campaign that includes men and women who’ve been victimized by women. I think you’d be surprised at just how many of there are out here, sitting in silence, believing that we are not true survivors based on the language often used in campaigns, websites and organizational literature that either unintentionally (or in some extreme cases intentionally) ignores, erases or minimizes their experiences.

    I write not only as a male survivor, but also a speaker for a national mixed gender survivor advocacy organization. I’d be happy to discuss this further offline is SAVE is interested.

  5. Lee said,

    James: I hear and sympathize with your situation. You are not the only victim of woman-on-man rape I have encountered. It does happen.

    Nonetheless, you are currently engaging in what many women see as a common form of hijacking behavior: coming into a discussion of an issue which primarily affects women and saying, “But what about the MEN?” Everything you say about having your concerns as a rape survivor ignored and glossed over and brushed off, you are doing here to female survivors — and you’re doing it *because* this is a discussion of how to change those attitudes, which women (and not just sexual assault survivors, either) encounter every single day.

  6. jlandrith said,

    Hello Lee.

    Thank you for your comments. While I understand and appreciate your points, I do feel that a serious correction is in order. I am familiar with hijacking and see it often. That said, my comments here are not hijacking. The thread is about a campaign, not female survivors specifically. I commented on the campaign and offered my own experiences for demonstration. I did not engage in “what about teh menz” as those who revel in minimizing male survivors love to scream at any male survivor who offers criticism or comments on specific issues.

    I’ve neither silenced, minimized nor oppressed female survivors by adding my perspective. I work with and speak to mixed gendered groups of survivors and non-survivors often as a member of the RAINN Speakers Bureau, as a speaker/trainer for a Virginia based survivors caucus and as a moderator for one of the worlds largest online survivor communities.

    I am not someone who suppresses, oppresses or silences. I do feel (and have the support of many female survivors on this point) that this campaign sends the unintended message that rapist = man and victim = woman.

    That is not “what about teh menz” (which is such a condescending and minimizing meme to promote in response to crIticism”, but instead an actual and legitimate viewpoint posted on a thread about the campaign in question. I support the campaaign and see it’s merits and slick execution, but I also have reservations about the unspoken message it sends and voiced such. There is a gigantic world of difference between the two.

  7. […] Just because she’s drunk, doesn’t mean she wants to f**k. […]


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