An alternative anti-rape ad campaign…?

// 5 May 2010

Tags: , , , ,

busads.jpgA while back in comments, the notion of a feminist bus ad campaign, as an antidote to some victim-blaming ‘anti-rape’ ads by TfL.

Sian of Sian and Crooked Rib has posted her ideas following up on this on her blog:

[Headline] MEN! Don’t drink and date rape
[subhead] Many rapes happen when the rapist is under the influence of alcohol. Don’t let it happen to you

[Headline] MEN! Confused about consent?
[subhead] It’s easy! Just remember, no means no whether said before or during intercourse.

[Headline] MEN! That girl at the bar giving you the eye?
[subhead] Just remember! She’s not giving an invitation to rape

[Headline] MEN! make a stand this Saturday night!
[subhead] And don’t turn her into a crime statistic

I particularly like the first one which i think could be designed like the don’t drink and drive ad – with Stop written in yellow on the road surface.

Taking the snarky point made by Sexual assault tips guaranteed to work, and turning it into a serious campaign to turn rape prevention ads on their heads?

Photo by djsosumi, shared on Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Comments From You

Kristin // Posted 5 May 2010 at 1:54 pm

A campaign to turn rape prevention ads on their heads would be fantastic. I think the original ‘sexual assault tips guaranteed to work’ are much more witty and concise though than Sian’s, sorry. I don’t think prefacing every point with ‘Men!’ would be helpful, as this would cause resentment in men who are not rapists. Just go with ‘you’ or ‘Don’t’ (do this or that). And how about including something about how a woman who is drunk can’t consent?

I would finance it myself if I had the money. Unfortunately I don’t, but I would be prepared to make a donation.

Jess McCabe // Posted 5 May 2010 at 1:57 pm

@Kristin I don’t think the intention was to make the slogans witty, but to deliver a clear and serious message?

Laurel Dearing // Posted 5 May 2010 at 2:49 pm

i agree, and would also add that “[Headline] MEN! Confused about consent?

[subhead] It’s easy! Just remember, no means no whether said before or during intercourse.” simplifies to people who are able to consent, or to not consent. by saying its easy especially, because it makes out that people not saying “no” clearly couldnt possibly have been raped. theres a lot of shitty behviour from mild coercion before it becomes easy for some people to tell. most women wouldnt think of being told “oh go on!” or being played about with continuously in order to have their mood changed so they are interesting as unfair coercion and pressure that could be considered rape. rather its whether the woman feels it or not, because this is encouraged in our society as the norm, and honestly i think most of us male and female to the latter on some level if it seems to work. thats not even addressing women who are drunk, or blackmailed, or in hospital, or didnt say anything, or are underage, or dont know what to do, or freeze, or think that saying anything will be more dangerous. i dont believe in “grey area”, but without communication, its not always “easy”.

coldharbour // Posted 5 May 2010 at 3:02 pm

I think making the victim gender-specific is heterocentric and invisibilizes male rape victims. Apart from that I think the campaign is definitely good in theory but I found the tag lines a bit patronizing and condescending to be honest. I think the problems regarding violent crime (like most crime) are do with immensely complex socio-economic conditions (primarily socio-economic inequality) and until these are addressed we as a society will never get to the root of the problem. Until then everything else seems like an insubstantial token gesture.

Jess McCabe // Posted 5 May 2010 at 3:15 pm

I really don’t agree that a public education campaign on consent, that could reach many many people, is a token gesture. It’s not going to be a silver bullet of course, or solve everything, but please let’s file efforts to address the massive problem of rape and sexual assault under: cannot wait for the revolution.

coldharbour // Posted 5 May 2010 at 3:28 pm


My point wasn’t that ‘we have to wait for the revolution’ to do something about sexual assault and rape, the point was the net effect the campaign was going to have. Speaking from an anthropologists point of view the idea that you can reduce criminality in society by having have posters on buses saying ‘don’t commit crime because it’s bad’ seems like childish nonsense. Put it this way Jess, how many rapists are going to stop raping because they saw a poster on the number 57 to Tooting telling not to do it?

Jennifer Drew // Posted 5 May 2010 at 3:50 pm

It’s a start addressing the male perpetrators instead of constantly engaging in blaming women for men’s sexual violence. Do I see those words ‘all men don’t drink and date rape?’ No so clearly this message is not about all men but it certainly is about focusing on those men who choose to commit rape – or should that be have unlimited sexual access to any woman because it is their right?

End Violence Against Women has statistics which show that overwhelmingly it is men who commit sexual violence against women and therefore it is men’s responsibility to cease commiting rape and/or condoning rape because the perpetrator claimed ‘but she didn’t say no.’

Male violence against women is endemic within our society and seeking to hide male accountability only serves to reinforce myth that male violence against women are isolated acts rather than systemic and are caused because men as a group continue to hold socio-economic power over women as a group. No, women have not achieved human status despite claims to the contrary – that continues to be held by only men.

Having these straplines will not solve the problem. No one is suggesting it will but until we focus on perpetrators and those men who choose to enact bystander behaviour by believing ‘it has nothing to do with me because I’m not a rapist’ then nothing will change.

Should we cease having drink/driving campaigns because these campaigns alone do not cause individuals to cease drinking and driving?

Perhaps the real issue is because these straplines focus on male behaviour and this is seen as too radical because as we are constantly told – it is always women’s fault for supposedly causing men to commit violence against them.

Kristin // Posted 5 May 2010 at 3:53 pm

Jess, point taken. But a clear and serious message will always have a much stronger attention-grabbing and thought-provoking impact if it’s delivered in a concise and witty manner. Always always always.

evie // Posted 5 May 2010 at 3:58 pm

I’m absolutely behind this kind of campaign, and those slogans are great. But could we do better?

A recent massive study found that a small number of men commit most rapes, and calculatingly plan to do so. Skip to the ‘recommendations’ section of Thomas’ analysis at Yes means Yes:

He basically says that we should focus prevention work at rapists – they need serious intervention programmes etc – but at bystanders. So we need to get the message out that we can, and must, stop men raping. By realising that “The guy who says he sees a woman too drunk to know where she is as an opportunity is not joking”. By making sure that we don’t let men get away with it on the basis that rape is just a misunderstanding, because he’ll probably go on to rape 5 more women. Etc.

Not sure how to get that into a catchy bus slogan, though. Maybe:

[Headline] MEN! make a stand this Saturday night!

[subhead] Don’t let him turn her into a crime statistic

sianmarie // Posted 5 May 2010 at 4:08 pm

hello all!

i don’t think its a token gesture. i think anything that opposes the current culture that women are responsible for preventing rape can only be welcomed. obviously there are massive socio-economic elements in play but in an ad campaign you unfortunatley have to reduce things to slogans.

also, i don’t want to make male rape victims invisible. but again, all the current ad campaigns are focused on women preventing rape, and refuse to recognise men as perpetrators of rape. i was trying to redress this balance by saying that the only people who can reasonably prevent rape are men. i’m not saying that all men are rapists, but trying to express that men have the power to prevent rape, because overwhelmingly rapists are men. (a very different thing)

in terms of them being condescending, i agree with you! they are kind of deliberately meant to be condescending because i feel like we live in a culture that doens’t take rape seriously and sometimes it feels like you have to start from the beginning, the basics and over-explain things! for example, having to explain to someone who seems perfectly sensible but doesn’t realise that consent can be withdrawn during sex. we live in a world where danny dyer has just written in a magazine that you can slash your ex’s face if you’re mad at her. sometimes we need to be condescending.

i agree with the point about consent. perhaps we could change it to say ‘it’s easy etc etc. and remember, silence isn’t consent’ or something like that. it was my mistake to leave that out and a big one.

but i think it is important to start the slogan with ‘men!”. because this message is for all men, and all women, not because i think all men are rapists (of course they’re not!) but if we want to change attitudes around rape myths then we need to open up the conversation so that everyone recognises the fallacies of rape myths.

anyway. they were just ideas and i think if we did run a campaign we would need people other than me/as well as me to contribute slogans and ideas – this was just a way to get the ball rolling!

sianmarie // Posted 5 May 2010 at 4:12 pm

kristin – i think a witty campaign is needed as well. i’m not very funny tho! so if people can find the witty slogans then please lets get them as the more enthusiasm and ideas the better.

Kristin // Posted 5 May 2010 at 4:25 pm

Maybe call it something like the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stoopid!) campaign. Start with ‘Did you know rape carries a sentence of up to X years?’ Then, ‘Keep it Simple, Stoopid! No means no. Anywhere. Any time.’

Or something. This would (or so I’d like to think) be quick, simple and attention-grabbing, directly target those who would commit rape, AND fit on a bus stop or bus, etc. poster.

LonerGrrrl // Posted 5 May 2010 at 4:29 pm

I like Sian’s slogans, I think they send a very clear and important message.

I would also add that campaigns like this are important in not only addressing men directly to get them to change their attitudes towards women and rape, but in also changing attitudes about rape amongst the general population. Many female rape victims still don’t see their rapist convicted, often because the jury – made up of members of the general public – have equally appalling attitudes, believing the woman is somewhat to blame if she’s been drinking etc etc. So campaign slogans like this would be important in trying to reverse attitudes more widely, which is most important.

Clare // Posted 5 May 2010 at 4:30 pm

Fabulous idea – and remember the Atheist bus ad campaign was funded by donations so if someone can get this onto CiF or another massive forum then we could start a movement.

I think slogans are always tricky and we’ll never find one which ticks every single box – just find one which ticks most!

I quite like the idea of a “Only “YES” means yes” slogan – i.e. that only express consent is consent. After all, that’s what the law now says, even if it is routinely ignored (see Jack Tweed and pretty much every other date rape report).

Regarding the focussing on men part, legally only a man *can* rape, as it’s about penile penetration – the gender of the victim doesn’t matter. I think by making our slogans genderless they would lose lots of their power.

I agree that men have got the power to end rape – not because they’re all rapists but because they’ve got more sway when it comes to changing the culture. Sadly whenever I’ve been in a mixed group a man’s objection to rape jokes is taken much more seriously than a woman’s and I think this is the sea-change we need.

Am rambling now – hope I’ve made some kind of point!!

Kate // Posted 5 May 2010 at 4:47 pm

The GEO have put together an interesting document on messaging violence against women campaigns. I’m sure a lot of posters will disagree with it but one of it’s key conclusions is that strong language targeting men as potential rapists doesn’t work, it just alienates them. I would love to see a campaign that didn’t focus on women though.

I think to actually engage the audiences it needs to reach it has to be more subtle and less hostile. Something like “You know no means no. But what about…” and then list things that could indicate a woman isn’t consenting.

And on recognising male victims. Maybe a group of men could organise it over the internet and fund raise for it? I am sick of the women’s movement being hijacked. It’s not as though we’ve been handed anything on a plate.

Holly Combe // Posted 5 May 2010 at 4:51 pm

While I appreciate the messages in those posters come with a risk of backfiring (partly due to resentment from men who may feel presumptuously targeted or insulted by them), it doesn’t strike me that the thinking behind them is that “you can reduce criminality in society by having posters on buses saying ‘don’t commit crime because it’s bad'”. I don’t think many people really believe that rapists who know that’s exactly what they’re doing and already couldn’t give a damn about it will suddenly stop. I’d say it’s more aimed at

1) people who think rape is something only out-and-proud misogynistic “monsters” do and don’t consider it’s actually something that can happen when a “nice guy” doesn’t realise just how easy it is to rape someone if he doesn’t ever think about consent and how he can make sure he’s got it and

2) people who reckon only potential female victims can stop rape happening and that we should do this by modifying our behaviour to make it apparently less likely that “bad men” and “monsters” will strike against uspatronising e-mails that focus all the attention on potential victims and does this by focusing on the responsibility of the rapist for the act instead. I understand one reason this could possibly be counterproductive is that many men won’t be familiar with the “how to avoid being raped” e-mails and therefore won’t fully appreciate the context. (I know they often say “forward this to any women you know” but, when I’ve received such an e-mail in a workplace, I’ve noticed the majority of the list of recipients tend to be the women there.)

Lauren // Posted 5 May 2010 at 5:18 pm

Coldharbour – you ask how many rapists would this ad make think twice about raping?

You’d be surprised. If it had no influence, you wouldn’t be arguing about it. Anything in feminism which causes the usual stir is basically a step in the right direction, and is doing something. If it had no effect you wouldn’t give a crap and wouldn’t comment!

We need to put the nasty stigma back into rape. A poster on a bus is certainly better than a poster nowhere.

It’s not even a ‘start’ .. it’s brilliant.

Elmo // Posted 5 May 2010 at 6:23 pm

aw u didnt put my suggestion up-it was

“Men-want to prevent rape? THEN DONT DO IT”

Meh, not the best, but y’know. To the point

coldharbour // Posted 5 May 2010 at 6:46 pm

I’m too busy tonight to make a comprehensive response but I’ll be back on tomorrow. This video is U.S. specific but as the U.S. is becoming more and more the model of criminal social policy in the U.K (cue the Tory government) it is very relevant indeed.

I also highly recommend these.

Sar // Posted 5 May 2010 at 7:21 pm

How about taking from the ‘Yes means Yes’ campaign?

“Like sex? LOVE consent! Only ‘Yes’ means YES!”

bangles // Posted 5 May 2010 at 7:22 pm

I’d love to see this come to pass. So many of my friends have no idea about what constitutes rape and buy into so many of the myths… it would be great for a different voice to be brought into the mix. And the atheist bus campaign at least got people talking… why couldn’t this one too?

antsy // Posted 5 May 2010 at 8:19 pm

Talking of horrible men, did yous see what the awful Danny Dyer said?

What a shitbag!

polly // Posted 5 May 2010 at 8:21 pm

Surely the point about a campaign like this would be to draw attention to the myths surrounding rape and raise public awareness? I like the first one because it’s a direct counterpoint to the ‘women shouldn’t drink to avoid rape’ old chestnut that gets dragged out constantly by the government and others.

Not everyone who drives a car drinks and drives, but all motorists are targeted by anti drink driving campaigns. So why should men who don’t rape be offended by such a campaign? But if the word “men” really is a problem – why not just remove it and have the rest of the slogan – it’s still understandable.

I also like Elmo’s suggestion.

The one thing I’ve heard women say again and again who’ve been raped is that they were to blame. And astonishingly most of the time other people tell them that they are as well. We need to start putting the blame squarely where it belongs.

AngelRachel // Posted 5 May 2010 at 9:12 pm

I love the idea and the slogans suggested. I get sick of the victim-blaming adverts and also find them somewhat distressing, so humour would remain engaging and get the message across.

But I expect the reason that current communications are aimed at potential female victims is because that’s where the policy-makers have found they can have most impact. It’s probably bloody hard to change the mind of a potential rapist, and I know this is a terrible argument…! Of course that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, but if we’re going to prevent *most* violent assults by reducing opportunity (ie getting women home safely), then shouldn’t we being doing that?

Jess McCabe // Posted 5 May 2010 at 10:04 pm

@AngelRachel Please see this post at Feminism 101 on what’s wrong with suggesting women take precautions to prevent being raped.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 5 May 2010 at 10:11 pm

I think the thing with a campaign like this is that it isn’t necessarily aimed at rapists- but jury members and the family and friends of rape victims- to make them rethink rape.

But, another concern is- and it is one we always make about the stupid ‘don’t drink and get raped’ type campaigns- is that it maintains the myth that rape is something done by strangers at the weekend to drunk women. When stranger rape makes up only about 3% of rape- and the largest demographic of rape victims are actually teenagers- rather than adult women in bars. So where are the posters saying- ‘don’t rape your daughter’ or ‘your wife can say NO too’. I think that at least one of the reasons that so many rape cases don’t get convictions is because the jury doesn’t recognise the events described as rape- because there is no public narrative of them at all.

Elmo // Posted 5 May 2010 at 10:22 pm

antsy-I saw Danny Dyer for the first time properly in a programme where he explored UFO myths (yeah, well, there reaaally wasnt anything else on).

What a wanker. He didnt even say anything sexist on the show, I took offence simply because he was there. Hes one of those ladzz that would make old ladies want to hurt tiny kittens. Grrr

Feminist Avatar, I never knew that teenagers made up a large percentage of rape victims, this is very interesting-do u know if its normally partner rape? If so, perhaps that new add on recently might well be effective-although I havnt actually seen it on TV yet. God I am so frustrated at the lack of information and education for the public/schools/anyone at all basically.

Andrew // Posted 6 May 2010 at 2:29 am

I like the first message significantly more than the others, because it connects more strongly that this is aimed at ‘normal’ men – that is, the reader. If I saw a “Don’t Rape!” sign, I’d just think to myself “Duh, I’ll point that out to any rapists I meet.” The “Don’t Drink and Date Rape” message, though, immediately connects via the existing “Don’t Drink and Drive”, which I *know* is aimed at ‘normal’ people like myself. The thing is, this doesn’t only make you think about that particular situation, but force you to consider that you might ‘accidentally’ commit rape and therefore be more careful in other situations as well. There are important thoughts to provoke.

sianmarie // Posted 6 May 2010 at 8:56 am

hi everyone – i’m back!

loving the suggestions for different slogans coming in! keep it up! i also thought this morning of:

‘Men! you have the power to stop rape!’

i also think some slogans to do with rape within relationships would be great. i tried to focus on that with the consent one, and agree that changing it to a yes means yes message would be stronger.

I think an ad campaign of this sort is a way to raise awareness that:

a. women are not to blame for rape and do not have the power to prevent rape.

b. rape myths abound and are simply myths

c. the only people who can prevent rape are men.

i think the risk is there that they isolate men. but i would hate to end up not taking action to destroy rape myths because i was scared of offending some people. i would hope that rather than offending every man in the country they would actually provoke people to think about how they view rape and help dispell some of the attitudes that surround women.

Jeff // Posted 6 May 2010 at 10:58 am

Absolutely agree with everything Feminist Avatar just said, I think posters along those lines would be far more effective than the ones in the OP.

The OP’s headlines are, I think, more likely to just backfire. If I saw a poster like that, it would just annoy me. They essentially give the impression that the people behind those posters think every man is a sexual deviant who needs to be reminded not to assault women, which isn’t true.

On the other hand, posters that counter some of the more common myths about what rape is. For instance;


Happy she finally gave in?


Bullying a woman into it, is still RAPE

To get people to see that just pestering a woman till she gives in is still rape, or;


Getting mixed messages?


Then stop. Because if she said no, then it’s RAPE.

Yeah yeah, I’m not exactly a media tycoon. But you get the idea. I think they’d be more effective tbh.

bell bajao-fight domestic violence // Posted 6 May 2010 at 11:20 am

I think this is stereotyping men too much

Clare // Posted 6 May 2010 at 11:29 am

Have been having another think and perhaps it would be good to myth-bust the whole idea of consent – Isent a rather snidey email on this subject a while ago along the lines of

REMEMBER – being too drunk to say “no” isn’t saying “yes”!!

REMEMBER – being too scared to say “no” isn’t saying “yes”!!

Men – it is YOUR responsibility to ensure s/he consents – if you don’t then it is RAPE and you are a RAPIST

I think it’s so important to try to change perception of this part of rape – people still think that just because someone doesn’t say “no” loudly, repeatedly and backed up by fighting back then they have obviously consented – though this strangely isn’t applied in muggings, no defence has rested on the fact that the victim ‘gave’ them their bag/phone/etc and therefore it was a gift, even if it was demanded with threats!

Yes, it might seem to focus only on men, but as legally they have to have obtained consent or be ‘reasonably’ convinced that consent has been implied for it not to be rape then I think it’s fair dinkums.

Lindsey // Posted 6 May 2010 at 11:30 am

I would love to see this kind of campaign out in the world – though it may not directly stop all rape it would break down taboos, get people talking about it. The effect of hearing your mates say “that is just not cool, I would never do XYZ” cannot be underestimated.

Jeff // Posted 6 May 2010 at 11:38 am

bell bajao,

Unfortunatly, something ridiculous like 99.6% of rapists are men, so it’s important for these ads to recognise, rather than hide, that fact. I well understand that starting the captions with “MEN” seems to stereotype ALL men, but if you just had “RAPISTS” then the vast majority of guys would think “That’s not me” and walk on by, retaining their current perceptions on what rape is, which may be in need of correction.

AngelRachel // Posted 6 May 2010 at 3:57 pm

@ Jess, I totally appreciate the reasons why this kind of advertising isn’t appropriate, and that rape isn’t only an ‘out in the open’ activity. What I’m suggesting is that strategic decisions are made in communication campaigns, about how to affect the most change. If the communicators (TfL in this case) have evidence that violent crime is mostly reduced by this route, then perhaps it is the most appropriate. I don’t like it either, I would rather that the light is shone on the perpetrator and that women aren’t blamed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But, I can support the decision to target the biggest market they can influence.

Hannah // Posted 6 May 2010 at 4:03 pm

I like the idea of something shocking, to make people stop in their tracks, but as I feared when I saw the title, a lot of the suggestions on here would probably alienate male feminists. Sometimes I wish more men read this blog, it would be helpful to get a male perspective on this. Still, if we were always worried about offending someone then we’d never get anything done, and if this did get off the ground as a campaign, a la atheist bus, you’d have my support!

My favourite suggestion so far is Sar’s. Someone wrote on here recently that the opposite of no is not consent, but enthusiasm…I like the idea of stressing this, and painting feminism in a positive light.

“How about taking from the ‘Yes means Yes’ campaign?

“Like sex? LOVE consent! Only ‘Yes’ means YES!”

Feminist Avatar // Posted 6 May 2010 at 4:57 pm

@Elmo- I don’t know- all the studies which break rape down by age don’t tend to then detail the types of rape happening. But given that the majority of rape victims are raped by partners and ‘other intimates’, the math might suggest yes. On the other hand, many of the women I know who were raped as teenagers were raped by family members, including brothers, uncles, cousins, and sometimes fathers, etc.

I think part of the difficulty for teenagers is that they can find it difficult to both know what is legitimate or normal sexual behaviour (from partners or family members)- and remember we live in a culture where violence in sexual situations is a fairly common narrative on tv, and as adults we assume that this is ‘read’ as wrong, but have we told our young people this? We also talk of sex as ‘conquests’ – the language of war- and as women as hard or easy- which is a measure of female vulnerability and so violent language. We also expect our young people to put up with a lot of bullying- even sexual bullying (looking up skirts, groping)- in schools with very little consequences- behaviour we would never tolerate in the workplace (hopefully!). And because we don’t really discuss sex openly with teenagers, if they are being raped, they don’t have people to discuss their situation with and if they are being raped at home, who do they turn to? No wonder they are so vulnerable.

EmilyBites // Posted 7 May 2010 at 5:43 pm

I think this is a FANTASTIC idea, and I agree that Sar’s is the best message so far – yes means yes has got to be the message we are pushing, NOT no means no. Obviously no does mean no, and many, many men still aren’t aware of that, or pretend it’s code for ‘convince me’ – but the enthusiastic consent of all partners has got to become the basis of sex if we are going to end this rape epidemic. Capitulation is not consent!

@bell bajao-fight domestic violence

The fact is that in the UK over 90% of rapists are male, rape victims are gendered female and overwhelmingly women are the ones being raped. Rape is a gendered issue, and we have a profound sexual double standard in our culture, so this approach makes perfect. Kthxbye.

coldharbour // Posted 9 May 2010 at 6:43 pm

“The fact is that in the UK over 90% of rapists are male, rape victims are gendered female and overwhelmingly women are the ones being raped. Rape is a gendered issue, and we have a profound sexual double standard in our culture, so this approach makes perfect.”

So say hypothetically there was empirical statistical data to prove that a disproportionately large volume of a specific ethnic grouping (say 90% to correspond with your argument), would that in turn justify racial profiling? The logic as you summarized yourself is that if a demographic is disproportionately responsible for a crime is morally justifiable to target (or harass) that demographic as they are statistically more likely to be the perpetrators. There has been a huge debate about this in the U.S. very recently, while it is illegal (for obvious reasons of discrimination) it considered the norm tacitly by most officers on the ground. A good article here on Amnesty U.S.—-threat-and-humiliation/

Holly Combe // Posted 10 May 2010 at 11:54 am

@coldharbour. I don’t get the impression that anyone here was suggesting men should be routinely harassed by the authorities as potential rapists. There’s a massive difference between a poster campaign that dares to subvert the standard anti-rape advice directed at women and the kind of appalling treatment the amnesty link describes.

I think it’s one thing for people to question the effectiveness of such a campaign and suggest it stereotypes men but quite another to compare it to the years of racism and abuse that people of colour have historically had to endure from white people. It just doesn’t hold up.

There will always be nuances between people in individual relationships and obviously any kind of long-term “turn the tables” solution would be hypocritical but I think it’s clear that, overall, men as a group have more power than women. With that in mind, I really don’t see a problem with using a public space to put out messages that call members of that group out on their privilege. This is not the same as approaching people physically (i.e bullying and harassing) or invading people’s personal space as they go about their day-to-day business.

Likewise, I don’t have a problem (as a person with privilege of my own) with any kind of campaign that urged me to think about my behaviour and not behave in an oppressive manner. If it hurts my feelings and it’s too much for me to try to behave more responsibly, I can choose to ignore it.

Holly Combe // Posted 10 May 2010 at 12:06 pm

…Which, of course, leads to questions over why anyone would make such a fuss over such a campaign that arguably isn’t going to be fully effective if people don’t want to acknowledge their privilege. It seems to suggest that what’s really at stake when it comes to education campaigns etc is the dominant group’s ability to do whatever it pleases without any challenges cramping its style.

EmilyBites // Posted 10 May 2010 at 2:39 pm

No coldharbour, I do not think that the UK police should be harassing, assaulting and arresting men randomly on the street.

However, I do think that we should be challenging the rape myths that prevail in our male supremacist society, which includes targeting men with messages about the importance of free and mutually desired sexual encounters.

The ‘drunk girls can’t be raped’ myth especially needs challenging because of the pervasive cultural messages to the contrary. It happens often, people joke about it, it is rarely if ever prosecuted successfully and it has been normalised to the point that it features as a mainstay of male homosocial interaction.

As Holly Combe said, ‘I think it’s one thing for people to question the effectiveness of such a campaign and suggest it stereotypes men but quite another to compare it to the years of racism and abuse that people of colour have historically had to endure from white people. It just doesn’t hold up.’

When political, social and economic power rests mostly in the hands of women, within an infrastructure designed by and for women, governed by a mindset that female is superior and male inferior, when men are being raped and murdered by women globally and in the UK at the same levels as women now, then perhaps we can talk about analogies between racial profiling and aiming anti-rape campaigns at men. (Hah!)

Rape is a result of male privilege in action, specifically the right to access women’s bodies, and it’s frankly pointless and disingenuous to compare an attempt to combat this mindset with white supremacist law enforcement profiling of historically oppressed racial/ethnic groups.

coldharbour // Posted 10 May 2010 at 4:12 pm

“When political, social and economic power rests mostly in the hands of women, within an infrastructure designed by and for women, governed by a mindset that female is superior and male inferior, when men are being raped and murdered by women globally and in the UK at the same levels as women now, then perhaps we can talk about analogies between racial profiling and aiming anti-rape campaigns at men. (Hah!)”

The problem with this argument is that it is essentially predicated on females being the only minority demographic; there are many socio-cultural hierarchies that co-exist simultaneously based on class, ethnicity, religion, national identity, language/dialect grouping and so on and so forth. So that raises the question in terms of race/class: what about men of colour? They obviously fit into a majority demographic (in terms of gender) and a minority demographic (in terms of ethnicity) simultaneously; in other words there is no one solitary factor you can select to quantify if someone is ‘privileged’ or ‘unprivileged’ in qualitative terms. It is not a linear binary quantification based on gender (as I would argue your statement is based). This is an interesting article here:

Holly Combe // Posted 12 May 2010 at 11:45 am

I agree with Calderón (in the link above) that failing to explore the complexities of the interplay between rape and racism in cases such as the ones she describes doesn’t help activists to change cultural norms that support racial and gender inequities. However, I don’t think that applies to the argument being made here about speaking to men as a target group in a general poster campaign. Again, I would say lacking privilege in one area does not mean a person can’t have it in another or that it somehow can’t or shouldn’t be addressed.

EmilyBites // Posted 12 May 2010 at 1:20 pm

@ coldharbour

‘The problem with this argument is that it is essentially predicated on females being the only minority demographic’

Nope. Surprisingly, I’m well aware that the population of the UK is not differentiated solely by a binary sex categorisation. But I thought this was a discussion about how to prevent (mostly men) raping (mostly women), and it helps to frame that discussion in terms of the politics and history of sex and gender.

‘So that raises the question in terms of race/class: what about men of colour?…in other words there is no one solitary factor you can select to quantify if someone is ‘privileged’ or ‘unprivileged’ in qualitative terms.’

You are heading into derailing territory. The the interplay of privilege and discrimination is complex; I think we can all agree on that! And I would welcome a solution to rape that took into account racism/classism.

But really, I fail to see your point as regards this topic. Are you arguing that targeting men of colour for anti-rape campaigns would be in some fashion discriminatory because they already suffer from a lack of racial privilege? That’s a bit of a straw man, so truthfully I don’t think you are – but what is your point, regarding the merit of aiming these anti-rape posters at men?

coldharbour // Posted 12 May 2010 at 2:52 pm


‘The problem with this argument is that it is essentially predicated on females being the only minority demographic’

Nope. Surprisingly, I’m well aware that the population of the UK is not differentiated solely by a binary sex categorisation.

The argument I was referring to was here:

“When political, social and economic power rests mostly in the hands of women, within an infrastructure designed by and for women, governed by a mindset that female is superior and male inferior, when men are being raped and murdered by women globally and in the UK at the same levels as women now, then perhaps we can talk about analogies between racial profiling and aiming anti-rape campaigns at men. (Hah!)”

This argument inarguably does not accommodate or infer any other socio-demographical causational factors other than gender, it clearly stipulates that power is solely predicated on biological sex.They are quite obviously paradoxical in content if not misleading. But to get to the point I think we have to look at the facts; due to tabloid propaganda and other unsavory media outlets a segment of out society is constantly being lumped together as being wholly criminal (read: young black male). Now personally I don’t feel stereotyped of persecuted by these proposed adverts targeting would be criminals one bit; maybe thats because I have no self-identification with biological males, more probably because because of my skin tone I don’t get constantly harassed by the Metropolitan Police and made to feel like a criminal ( or worse 22/07/2005) regardless of my behavior. I’m not aware of Jeff’s social or ethnic background but I’m sure this sentiment he pronounced ‘They essentially give the impression that the people behind those posters think every man is a sexual deviant who needs to be reminded not to assault women, which isn’t true.’ would be amplified hugely by someone who is used to being told constantly he is a criminal in the first place. I spend a lot of time in under-privileged areas in London talking to young me who feel they being left to rot, I hate to think what malignant social policy is going to get through with the Lib Dem’s given a nice big P.R. carrot.

EmilyBites // Posted 13 May 2010 at 11:59 am

coldharbour, you’re on the wrong thread. This is not a discussion about discrimination against men of colour. Kthxbye.

I would really like to see this project work – what is the next step? Do we need a high-profile/ accredited feminist representative to speak to tfl for us (or approach the mayor?). I realise we’d have to finance the thing, and these ads are pretty darn expensive, but first we have to find out if we can do it. Perhaps approaching

I really think the drinking message is one that needs to be emphasised. We could (I’m laughing even thinking about it) approach the new Minster for Women…

Jim // Posted 19 May 2010 at 8:15 am

How about something like

‘If she does not responded to a shake, don’t give her a poke’

It’s not blatant and does not attack anyone directly which is generally a big problem if your trying to change people’s minds.

Also targeting just men as being sexual predators is rather wrong there are a significant number of female predators out there and marginalizing and dismissing their victims is rather wrong.

Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds