Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Men Can Stop Rape: Awesome Awareness Campaign

I recently became aware of "The Strength Campaign" which is being promoted by Men Can Stop Rape. The campaign features a series of posters and billboards which all start with "My strength is not for hurting" and offer an example of how men men can support relationships with respect their partners' boundaries and advocating for enthusiastic consent. I'm a huge fan of the posters, which I feel play directly into the vision of healthy masculinity I advocate for. It's also an anti-rape awareness campaign which doesn't blame victims. It's so sad that this is a rare thing, but it is.

When I first learned about these posters, it was on Facebook and a discussion had evolved in which several people were saying that they didn't really see the point because "it's not like a rapist will have their minds changed by a poster." One person even went as far as to suggest that instead of awareness raising, programs should teach girls to carry concealed weapons. Listen, I get that rape is disturbingly prevalent in our society and it can be tempting to throw up our hands and think that female gun use is the only solution. But do we really want to say, "Whelp, fuck it, men are just going to rape. We better be prepared to shoot them." Is that what we really want for our society?

That ridiculous assertion aside, the people saying that these posters won't work because they won't have an effect on rapists are also missing the point. See, here's the thing. Nothing about life is so clear cut that there are purely “good” and purely “bad” categories. Even “good guys” who know that “rape is bad” might not have a nuanced understanding of true enthusiastic consent, which is what many of these posters are hitting at. For example, a man might treat a woman to a date and get pissed off if she refuses sex, but not rape her. The last poster here is asking for more than just not raping—it urges a more consent-driven mindset where he knows that she owes him nothing and he therefore applies no pressure, at all. That’s powerful, and often missing from our cultural narrative surrounding sexuality.

We’ve got to break away from the idea that all rapists are bad-guy-strangers lurking in a dark alley. That’s simply not true. We have to start conversations about what real consent looks like, and as an awareness raising campaign, this is spot on. It sends the message that consent is free from pressure or coercion. I love it.

Sure, much bigger efforts are needed to end rape. But this is a great start—it takes the responsibility off of victims and contains much needed messages of healthy masculinity. I guess what I’m saying is that even if you think it’s “not enough” we should all be able to agree that it is a generally positive force.

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