Yesterday, Zerlina Maxwell over at Feministing pointed to a new ad campaign by the anti-rape culture group Men Can Stop Rape with glowing praise, and I totally agree—it's great. The series of posters and other materials, titled “Where Do You Stand?,” feature college-age guys relating plausible (if a touch after-school-special-ish) campus situations in which they stood up for women in potential danger of sexual assault. For example, one states “When Kate seemed too drunk to leave with Chris, I checked in with her,” evoking the set-piece rape scenario of a female friend having had one too many at the frat party.
In a culture that tends either to grossly blame the victim or partake in a similarly discomfiting “white knight” dependence on men to save the tipsy damsel, these ads are admirably precise in their rhetoric. Kate seems too drunk to the protagonist, and so he “checks in” with her, instead of jumping to conclusions and stepping in uninvited. The woman in question is neither left alone in a risky situation nor controlled by a presumptuous hero. Rather, she is invited to partner with a concerned male friend in making her own decisions, and everyone involved is allowed their agency.
Some ads in the series follow a similar model, while others encourage guys to engage with their own gender group in terms more along the crude-but-effective lines of “dude, don’t be an asshole.” Hopefully, these ads will encourage more men to get involved in these discussions and move our culture away from one that in some ways reserves more scorn for a “cock block” than for a rapist.