You might have seen these posters around (or other ones like them):
It's a visual media campaign addressing the issue of sexual violence toward women targeting men. Launched in November 2010, SavEdmonton says:
Typically, sexual assault awareness campaigns target potential victims by urging women to restrict their behavior. Research is telling us that targeting the behavior of victims is not only ineffective, but also contributes to and increases self-blame in survivors. Instead, the SAVE campaigns targets potential offenders – ultimately the ones who hold the power and responsibility to end sexual assault. By addressing sexual assault without victim-blaming, we intend to mark Edmonton on the map as a model for other cities.
Over the past few days, however, the University of Alberta has been the target of a reverse campaign, seeing the original posters vandalized and replaced with such messages as:
The content manipulation has opened up a ragged debate: women are still being pressured towards not getting raped (which prompted the need for a message reversal towards men: "Don't rape"); however, it would seem some folks feel men are getting a bum rap being targeted as they are.
Since no one as yet at the time of this post has come forward to claim responsibility for these altered posters, I must say flat out: cowardice.
Even if you did have a valid message, the method & means by which you have conveyed your message only further expresses the sexual violence victims face on a daily basis — humiliating, degrading, but mum's-the-word.
Not only that but you have made in all the more difficult for male victims of sexual assult to come forward and seek help. It was tough enough for male victims to come forward, but stunts like these reaffirm a lewdness that men need to show prowess, sexual virility and remain silent about the crappy stuff. How violent is that?
Canada.com has reported that 1 in 5 Canadians still believe drunkenness can provoke sexual assault. While many positive steps towards erasing bad messages in favour of communicating new ones have been taken, it's clear that many Canadians still think it's okay to take advantage of women when they're intoxicated or blame victims in genuine cases of sexual assult over something "she did".
For a long time, it was expected of men that they would sow their wild oats, get rowdy, go after women and get what they wanted. Vile though it was, it wasn't an option – an unspoken honour for being male. Now that these violent expectations are being challenged by both men and women, some it would seem are feeling threatened. They want to still be able to get away with sexual assault by blaming the people around them.
She was drunk…
She said yes (sort of)…
She was high…
She was wearing a thigh-high skirt…
She kissed me…
She was passed out, so she wouldn't have known…
She was asking for it…
Men profaning others by a continuous stream of victim blaming portray all men as little more than rutting stags, incapable of self-control or respect and love of others. This portrayal ought to offend ALL men (and women!), for we know that there are great guys out there who refuse to bow to cultural messages and insist on treating women as equals. Those who are trying to show women as rape liars are cowards.
Lying about anything is not good. True. But teaching the value of honesty (over anything) needs to begin at a young age; but the specific point of the Savedmonton's challenge is that victims are NOT lying; rather, the overall rape culture message still approves of men taking whatever sexual words, actions or attitudes they want without taking responsibility for them. It's time to change this.
As the pop meme goes "REAL men don't…"
In this case: real men aren't afraid of learning new messages, supporting victims of sexual assult, setting examples of how to treat others, or standing in the face of bullies who would suggest otherwise. Real men don't demand sex. Real men know when no is no.
Continuing to slut-shame, refusing to take responsibility on top of that, shows sleaze, cruelty, violence and ignorance.
But until men and women accept the reality that there is NO REASON for sexual assault, we will still see victims.
When we stop our excuses, perhaps as an entire society we'll accept that we are responsible for our own actions and intentions. No one else's dress, sobriety, movement during night time hours, or anything else justifies sexual assault.
Don't be that person.
UPDATE: Men's Rights Edmonton has claimed responsibility for the backlash campaign. While their message is clear about concern over false rape allegations and creating false assumptions that all men will rape, this writer still maintains that the campaign itself has used manipulation and power to subvert a needed cultural shift. Don't Be THAT Guy does not suggest all men are rapists, but rather that rape… whoever commits it… is wrong, and expresses tangible scenerios where/when rape has happened and how men can stop it.