Controversy has broken out in Edmonton as a group that calls themselves “Men’s Rights Edmonton” has launched a campaign that claims that some women lie about being sexually assaulted. The campaign has the strap line “Don’t Be That Girl” and the posters read “Just because you regret a one night stand, doesn’t mean it wasn’t consensual. Lying about sexual assault = a crime.” The idea is that when women regret one night stands they cry rape, to absolve themselves of all responsibility. The campaign is a parody of the “Don’t Be That Guy” posters from a few years back, which advised men not to sleep with a girl who was too intoxicated to give consent. Both campaigns delve into the grey area of drunken one night stands where consent is implied but not explicit. One side sees it as rape if consent is not obtained; the other side sees it as consensual unless the woman explicitly says no. This is the message that Men’s Rights Edmonton is trying to convey with these posters – that not all men are potential rapists, and that women need to take responsibility for their own sexual behaviour.
As you can imagine, this has sparked quite some controversy. The Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton has responded, saying that the posters are both a violation of copyright and inaccurate. Their Facebook page carries a statement saying “We are disgusted and troubled by posters that have been going up around Edmonton recently that spread rape myths by distorting our campaign. Let’s hope this is a teachable moment that takes the conversation even further and helps folks understand that people don’t lie about sexual assault.” Meanwhile, Lise Gotell, chair of women and gender studies at the University of Alberta (where the posters appeared) said “What I find offensive is that they’ve distorted an anti-sexual assault message into a rape apologist message.”
Men’s Rights Edmonton felt they had no further options when it came to debating the issue, so they launched their own poster campaign to open a dialogue. They insist it’s not a rape apologist message, but rather an attack on those who make up accusations against innocent men. Their blog states “false accusation of rape is a terrible, terrible thing. I might even say, as terrible as rape itself.” They also draw comparisons between the “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign and lynching’s in the Deep South (with suitably gruesome pictures), saying that it’s hate speech to assume that all men are capable of rape.
So, who is right? Is an anti-sexual assault campaign targeting all men offensive? Or is it a necessary precaution against sexual encounters where consent isn‘t clear? Will these posters discourage a victim of sexual assault from coming forward? What do you think?
Until next time,
Peace, love and vitamin C!