It happens every day. In fact, it is pretty hard to avoid it. There are some things that can only be understood with a slap on the forehead. Things so mind-boggling that one wonders how humans managed to evolve thumbs while being this mentally inept. Case in point:
Real Men Get Raped
I am all for a catchy title. I am all for encouraging male victims of rape to come forward. However, there are much better ways to do that than this:
A spokesman for Survivors UK, the organization that created the ad, explained the intent:
Survivors UK launched the campaign this week with a poster featuring a rugby ball punctured by a nail. Featuring the slogan – Real Men Get Raped and Talking About It Takes Great Strength – the advert has been unveiled at 140 stations on London’s Tube network to coincide with the Rugby Union’s Six Nations championship.
According to spokesman Michael May, the group chose to run the ads during the tournament to make the point that anyone, even a male rugby union player, can be a victim.
“We’ve chosen to use an alpha male sport in our advertising to challenge assumptions about the type of men who get raped,” he said.
“It’s just as likely to be a rugby player as a librarian, a suited city banker as a hooded gang member. And we hope that by challenging our innate assumptions about the identity of male victims, we can make it even fractionally easier for a male rape victim to ask for help.”
That is great, but that is not the message that comes across from the ad. The headline makes no sense at all, and the follow-up line implies that the men and boys who do not come forward are not strong.
It reminds me of an ad campaign from a few years ago. JWT London decided that the best way to address domestic violence against men was to create an ad featuring a neutered man:
While Survivors UK’s ad is not as bad as that, it does suffer from the same lack of forethought. The stereotype about “real men” needs to be challenged, but you cannot do that playing into it. An easy way to have gotten around that would have been to put the phrase in quotes like this, “‘Real men’ get raped.” At least it would be clear that the organization was not implying that there some men are not “real men.”
That said, because of some of the criticism, this campaign is succeeding in getting people to talk about sexual violence against men. So technically it is a successful campaign, even if its approach is less than appropriate.