The politics of sexual assault

Article by Jane Douglas /
Putting Her Oar In (Blog) /
October 23, 2010 /
Click here to view original /

Here’s an interesting article by Lauren Rosewarne that discusses the Advertising Standards Board’s decision to remove the Calvin Klein ad discussed in the previous post. Rosewarne makes the point that this is an unusual decision by the ABS as they decided to ban it after agreeing it’s ‘overall impact’ did ‘suggest rape’. Making that kind of moral judgement is apparently a first first for the usually free and easy ABS.

And, as the writer goes on to explain, there are so many other good reasons to ban this ad including that it is overtly sexual and so inappropriate content for a public billboard.

But in an effort to appear cosmopolitan and secular, and to underline that she is not in the Christian wowser camp, Rosewarn piffs at those who might object on grounds that the ad hints at sexual assault and says that it doesn’t do women any favours to ignore the fact that many of us desire and consent to group sex. It’s a slightly less irritating argument than the ‘it’s Art’ nonsense that’s been circulating but still misses the point.

A comment which appeared under the article summed it up so well, I thought I’d post it here and leave it at that:

Abigail Bray :

“According to popular stereotypes feminists who refuse to titter over the latest shock and awe tactic of corporate misogyny are members of those embarrassing others, the ‘moral panic’ population, that group of repressive bores, Christians, angry moralizing mums, unsophisticated reactionary lower-middle class wowers and hairy hard core 70s style feminists the cool intelligentsia loves to mock. Sometimes these stereotypes, however, are just so misguided. ‘Moral panic’ is an educated insult designed to simplify, silence and humiliate political critiques which threaten mainstream misogyny. Predictably people who use the term as an insult then set up a reactionary binary between ‘moral panic’ types (them) who have big heavy issues with sex in general and the more relaxed fun loving sexual sophisticates (us). All in the name of informing the reader that sex is ‘complicated’, that women and men are ‘complicated’. To be against ‘moral panics’ is to be tolerant of (sexual) complexity. But the stereotypes which support this heroic championing of difference are far from tolerant, far from complex. Of course some women might squint and squint and just see a CK advert, but for others the image is part of the complex politics of violence against women. It’s unkind to diagnose the politics of their gaze as wowser hysteria. Taking down this image is not just about the image alone, it is a political protest against rape.”