NOTE: I talk about my personal experiences here, and nothing is currently under a spoiler tag (though of course I'll respond to requests for a cut), so trigger warnings are in full effect.
I've seen this ad around campus lately; it's on the door to the Women's Center and, oddly enough (considering it's aimed at a male audience), inside the women's restrooms. I'm glad there are more anti-rape campaigns focused on potential rapists these days, but I can't bring myself to fully support this one.
First, let's focus on what is right
with this campaign:
1)As I already said, it's aimed at potential rapists, rather than potential rape victims. It puts the responsibility where it needs to be.
2)This is not the only poster put out by this organization, it's simply the one that my campus' Women's Center decided to focus on and distribute. The other posters (found here
) include a diverse cast of models, including one homosexual couple, which reinforces the idea that there is no one type of rapist and no one type of victim or survivor. They focus on situations most likely to be excused by rape apologists, such as the woman wanting to stop in the middle of the act, or the woman being too intoxicated to consent. One focuses on the idea that women “owe” men who pay for everything on a date.
3)Every poster features a couple, reinforcing the fact that most rape victims know their attacker.
So with all of these positives, why am I picking on this campaign?
Honestly, it's because of the name. I just cannot get past the name.
See, "my strength is not for hurting" implies that rape is always a show of physical strength, an act of violence. But this is ignoring an entire subset of rapists, possibly the most common type of rapist. It's ignoring my
rapist, who never thought of himself as strong. And he would say he never used his strength against me when raping me (of course, he'd also say he never raped me in the first place). He didn't have to use his strength. Most of the times he raped me, I was asleep. When I was awake, he'd coerce me by picking a fight, then pushing for make-up sex so I could "prove" that I still loved him and that the fight hadn't ruined our relationship. Sometimes he'd just ask me repeatedly, over and over and over, while grabbing at my breasts. Sometimes he'd guilt trip me by pointing out how many times I'd initiated sex in the past (whatever time frame he felt like focusing on), and shouldn't he get to start the fun once in awhile? None of this was an act of strength for him. It was a game.
And I know too many other women who relate with me on this. Their rapists weren't "violent", not in the traditional sense that everyone is going to think of when they see these posters, and not in the sense that it seems the people behind the campaign are thinking of (I say this because they also have a pamphlet directed at athletes, which seems to focus almost entirely on acts of physical strength). These men were cunning, manipulative, and sneaky. They were the type of men who would look at these posters and pat themselves on the back for never "using their strength for hurting". Of course they wouldn't use their strength while hurting us. They don't have to.