Feminist Win of the Week: The Where Do You Stand? Campaign

16 Jan

I get really, really sick of sexual assault prevention campaigns that are targeted toward women. My undergraduate residence hall required me to participate in a certain number of educational events each year, and one of the annual events offered was always a women’s “rape prevention” seminar led by our university’s chief of police. The seminar focused on what we ladies were supposed to be doing to protect ourselves: keeping our keys between our knuckles when we walked around at night, keeping our drinks with us at ALL TIMES when at bars or parties to avoid potential roofies, wearing modest clothing, and carrying a rape whistle. Complimentary rape whistles were passed around, we applauded politely, and we left  with the comforting knowledge that we were now immune to rape.

Not. Women’s “rape prevention” is an idiotic, dangerous concept that perpetuates victim-blaming, makes women (and men) less likely to speak up after being sexually assaulted, and impedes prosecution of rapists. The vast majority of sexual assaults on women are not stranger rapes; they’re committed by men that women know and trust. Baggy clothes and a hand over your drink aren’t going to do you a lick of good if a rapist is already inside your house, sitting in his usual place on your couch. As a society, we need to spend less time and resources teaching potential victims how to “avoid” rape, and more time and resources teaching men how to recognize sexual assault and how to prevent it. Most men who commit sexual assault don’t consider themselves rapists afterward (check out the stats here); a “rapist” is someone who roofies drinks or attacks women in dark alleys, not someone who decides that a woman is radiating nonverbal come-hither signs and is playing hard-to-get by saying no. Men live in a media culture permeated with the idea that guys are supposed to take the lead when it comes to sex and that a woman’s “no” is most likely an eventual “yes.” I don’t know why we continue to be surprised by the depressingly high sexual assault rates in our country when we do so little to teach men how to appropriately initiate and respond in sexual situations and help their friends do the same.

That’s why I’m really loving the new Where Do You Stand? ad campaign over at mencanstoprape.org, which urges men to recognize and stop behaviors associated with sexual assault. These posters model specific bystander interventions that inform young men what they can do, implicitly convey what types of behaviors are unacceptable, and portray the modeled interventions as actions fit for men with strength, self-confidence, and integrity. This isn’t the first ad campaign Men Can Stop Rape has produced, but it’s by far my favorite. Men Can Stop Rape also offers trainings and action guides for college campuses interested in expanding on the materials in a systemic way. Props to an excellent organization for a much-needed campaign. I would love to see these posters plastered all over my town.

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