Worse than not helpful: Normalizing rape.

In the post before last, I said that Edmonton’s “Don’t Be That Guyanti-rape campaign would not dissuade potential rapists, but would communicate a negative message about male sexuality.  And there’s another negative effect that a campaign like this may have, that I didn’t mention.  The “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign may actually send a message that normalizes rape.

What’s troubling is, the anti-rape campaign communicates that rape is something an average, decent guy might tend to do if he becomes disinhibited and has a moment of poor judgment.  It puts rape on the level of, say, driving after you’ve had a few too many beers – an undesirable act that a lot of people have probably done at least a few times in their lives.  That’s the message you send when you start with the premise that we need to teach young men the best way to avoid becoming rapists.

Consider this:  It’s been established that men who are physically violent with their partners tend to assume that other men do the same thing.  They don’t realize how abnormal and pathological their behavior actually is.  And I fear that if “Don’t Be That Guy” sends any message to the rapist, the message may be, “Rape is the sort of thing guys tend to do.”  This message not only normalizes rape, it lets the rapist off the hook.  After all, if men have such a strong, innate desire to rape, then the only thing that sets the rapist apart is poor judgment and a moment of disinhibition.  And you don’t send a man to prison because things just got a little out of hand.

On a somewhat different subject, (he’s discussing the Japanese video game “Rape Lay”), Penn Jillette makes what I think is a similar argument about the normalization of rape, starting at 4:30.

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