But it's also scary for me to note that these same messages were pitched at me when I was a teen, more than 20 years ago. Has anything changed?
This campaign, launched yesterday by Sexual Assault Voices of Edmonton, is intended to raise awareness among young men that intoxicated women cannot consent to sex. In other words, sex with these women is rape.
According to the campaign site, this is a new approach:
"Typically, sexual assault awareness campaigns target potential victims by urging women to restrict their behavior. Research is telling us that targeting the behavior of victims is not only ineffective, but also contributes to how much they blame themselves after the assault. That's why our campaign is targeting potential offenders - they are the ones responsible for the assault and responsible for stopping it. By addressing alcohol-facilitated sexual assault without victim-blaming, we intend to mark Edmonton on the map as a model for other cities."The "Don't be that guy" campaign has already picked up blog coverage from AdFreak and others. But curiously, the full ads have not been made available until today, when they popped up on SAVE's Facebook page.
According to the first article I saw on the campaign, in the Edmonton Journal, there is also a third ad that appears only in men's washrooms at bars and reads: “Just because she’s drunk doesn’t mean she wants to f***.” [UPDATE: Here it is...]
As I said, an important message. But why has nothing changed in two decades?
When I started university in the late '80s, there was a very tense environment of gender politics at Queen's. The "take back the night" and "no means no" campaigns were in full swing, and the sensitivity about sexism was so hair-trigger that a student group prevented the Barenaked Ladies from performing on campus, just because of the band's goofy name.
It was one of those times in history when the pendulum of political correctness was hitting an apogee. And I daresay that there was at least one life-destroying rape accusation that didn't stand up in court.
Like I said at the start, don't get me wrong. Men who purposely get women blind drunk to take relatively lucid advantage of them are criminal rapists. They're little better than guys who use roofies.
But there is another side to this issue, and that is the mutually drunken hook-up. Young men my age were terrified by urban legends of women who would go home with them willingly, only to regret it later and claim coercion. Magazines like National Lampoon joked about not having sex with someone without a notarized contract.
Do young men still have this paranoia? As much as I wish we could move on from our instinctive sexism that views women as gatekeepers of sex and men as the barbarians at their gates, I doubt we've made much progress. Women are still seen as having more to lose from a casual sexual encounter than men are, even with effective birth control. Why is that?
And that's the thing that gives me pause about this campaign. Women are prey. Men are the predators. Therefore, we must scare away the predators through the threat of legal action and social shame. And the women are helpless in the face of male pressure and demon alcohol.
Won't it be great when we can have a campaign about fixing that?
You can access, and freely share, all campaign creative here.