Real Men Don’t Rape: A Postscript

Apropos our earlier look at the rhetoric of anti-rape advocacy, Sarah again pointed me in an interesting direction. This time to Vancouver, where a familiar campaign was launched last year. Echoing a similar phraseology (We Are Man; My Strength Is Not For Hurting; Real Men Know The Difference), this one says: Don’t Be That Guy. As is the vogue, the focus is principally on intoxication, nights out and not taking advantage, accompanied by cod-parental instruction: Just because you help her home, doesn’t mean you get to help yourself; and Just because she isn’t saying no doesn’t mean she’s saying yes; and Just because she’s drinking doesn’t mean she wants sex.

What’s interesting is that this exercise in ‘behavioural marketing’ is now seen as a success, and being given significant credit for an apparent 10% drop in rape rates since 2010. To wit:

The reversal in the trend related to sexual assaults reflected the impact of the new education program, better training for police officers and more effective investigation and enforcement, [Deputy Chief LePard] said.

The exact causal balance here is unclear, and there are no firmer details on this gendered accounting for us to work with. There still seem to be some good reasons for scepticism, but if anyone does know of more comprehensive studies on the impact of men-focused campaigns, do share. Particularly interested to hear of any research into the effects of similar behavioural marketing as part of mass anti-rape efforts in the midst of militarised-humanitarian intervention, whether in Congo or elsewhere.

5 thoughts on “Real Men Don’t Rape: A Postscript

  1. Don’t know specifically, but I have heard or read somewhere about implicit rules among inmates when doing various workshops, the already presupposed rules of the social order and the kind of talking down one of them may get when if ‘he’ steps out of line.. This campaign strikes me as using the same sort of admonitory man’s talk. Reading
    Julian Jaynes’s book ‘The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind’.. perhaps, there’s something to be said for the ‘disembodied voice (sign)’ (whether we call this the ‘Super-ego’ or the more primitive part of brain) in helping ‘do the right thing’..


    • Hi Keni,

      Thanks, sounds interesting. The disembodied voice is, I think, part of the problem here, since such campaigns will appear to manifest success insofar as the men subjected to them seem to hear the message. They will register on the metrics as having gained a new ‘consciousness’ of rape and its wrongs.

      But mimicking the effects of the super-ego is not the same as internalising a super-ego injunction and in the absence of some thin assumptions about behavioural reinforcement, we are left with the suspicion that men will ‘play along’ with the roles expected of them, without it changing how they actually conceive of, and act on, gender.


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