Open Thread: Rape Culture USA

I was so shocked by the “high tech stalking” app that Dakinikat wrote about earlier today that I thought I’d follow up with some more examples of the rape culture American women have to survive in every day.

I missed this story when it first happened, so forgive me if you already heard about it. On March 23, Belvedere Vodka posted an ad on their Facebook page with a photo of a man apparently trying to sexually assault a startled, frightened woman. The ad copy read, “Unlike some people, Belvedere always goes down smoothly. Women quickly bombarded the page with outraged comments. From Jezebel:

Facebook comments ranged from “tell the cry-babies to shut up… this picture is AWESOME!!!” to “this kinda looks like rape.” Belvedere apparently decided to side with the “kinda” camp, because the photo disappeared from their Facebook page and Twitter account within an hour. An apology followed soon after: “We apologize to any of our fans who were offended by our recent tweet. We continue to be an advocate of safe and responsible drinking.”

The president of the vodka company, Charles Gibb, quickly apologized via Twitter; but really, this was simply inexcusable. Why anyone ever thought it was a good idea I never understand. But as some commenters noted on Dak’s post, some men just don’t get it no matter how many times it’s explained to them that rape isn’t funny or sexy and it’s not a good way to sell your product unless you’re looking to go out of business.

Now there’s more bad news for Belvedere. It turns out the woman who appeared in the ad–which has been plastered all over the internet even though it’s no longer on the company’s facebook page–is suing because she did not give permission for her image to be used in the ad.

Alicyn Packard is a vocal actress living in Los Angeles whose likeness was used in the Belvedere ad….

Packard never gave her permission for her likeness to be used.

In fact, the image of her was stolen from a comic on-line video by her production company, Strictly Viral Productions.

“The repercussions have been huge,” Packard told KTLA in a phone interview. “It’s been a really terrible experience. The whole thing.”

Unbelievable! But of course ads depicting rape are not new. Women are often shown in violent situations in high fashion ads. You may recall the famous Dolce and Gabbana ad depicting what looks like a gang rape in progress.

And you may have seen the series of Calvin Klein ads, which were banned in Australia. Here is one of the banned ads.

Why is sexual violence being used to sell products? The Belvedere ad appears to have been aimed at men, but the Dolce and Gabanna and Calvin Klein ads were designed to appear in women’s fashion magazines lke Vogue. Do women really respond to violent ads by running out and buying whatever product they are selling? I came across a 2010 article at Alternet that addressed this question.

To learn more about this issue, researchers, Barbara J. Phillips and Edward F. McQuarrie, interviewed regular readers of fashion magazines and discovered that most women don’t consider the implications of violent sexist ads, but rather, they gravitate to them for the tantalizing narrative.

They recently published their findings in the Journal of Consumer Research and explain that the women who liked such ads, “Would be transported into the story world set in motion by the ad’s pictures, asking themselves, ‘What is happening here?’ and ‘What will happen next? These women would immerse themselves in the images, examining its lighting, colors, lines, composition, and creativity.”

Unfortunately, the “researchers” only talked to 18 women, so this conclusion is really based on case studies and not particularly scientific. Experts in Australia argued that ads like this could encourage gang rape.

Clinical psychologist Alison Grundy, who works with sex abuse victims, said advertisers were reaching a dangerous new low by using sexual violence as a marketing tool.

“If we continue to subject future generations of young men to great barrages of aggressive, misogynist, over-sexualized and violent imagery in pornography, movies, computer games and advertising, we will continue to see the rates of sexual violence against women and children that continue unabated today. Or worse,” she said.

The thing is, we’re bombarded with these images all our lives. No matter how hard we try to protect ourselves from them, we’re going to be exposed to them at least occasionally. Frankly, the people who create these ads are also products of our rape culture. They have grown up seeing images of sexualized violence. No wonder so many women are raped and murdered! Young women especially are treated by our culture as objects for men to use and discard.

What do you think? Feel free to discuss this or any other topic in the comments.

25 Comments on “Open Thread: Rape Culture USA”

  1. northwestrain says:

    Those photos are just gross — the males are creepy — like they’ve all escaped from a Southern jail — chain gang. There is no — as in zero emotional connection on any level between the gang of males and the female. The female is treated like an inanimate object.

    I wonder if this is what the android/robots of the future will look like — the models are doing a great job of acting like machines — or bendy toy models or even clay models. Gross isn’t gross enough.

    We wonder why the young females aren’t out protesting the sexist/misogynistic laws being invented against women in the war on women — perhaps young women have been on purpose desensitized to images and video to the point that they don’t even see the violence anymore. That is until the violence happens to the women.

    • northwestrain says:

      Off topic — but Shakesville is now behind a Google wall — you must create a google blog account in order to read any blogs.

      Shakesville covers the rape culture and the war on women very well. But not I can’t go there because I refuse to set up a blog on Google I do not want to remember another secret pass word or secret handshake.

      I hope Shakesville moves to another blog site.

  2. Here’s a link to The Sexual Politics of Meat slideshow: Besides ordering The Pornography of Meat today, I also orders Sister Species: Woman, Animals and Social Justice.

    In the beginning days of Ms. Magazine, they always had an ad on the inside back cover. it’s sad that so many of the children who were born after the 2nd wave of feminism have little understanding of what the fight was about.

    And just an FYI, I stopped supported PETA when they began their “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” campaign. Maybe old school feminists, including Carol Adams, raised objections to that campaign and others, saying that PETA shouldn’t be exploiting women to call attention to the exploitation of non-human animals.

  3. Oops, I meant to say that the ad in Ms. was either one sexualizing or exploiting women to call attention to how women were portrayed by ad agencies.

  4. dakinikat says:

    D&G are some of the worst offenders. A lot of the fashion houses have used S&M images. They also use extremely young girls so there’s also pedophilia overtones. We have not come far at all, it seems.

    • northwestrain says:

      The fashion houses were also using models made up to look like drug addicts — deep circles under their eyes and very thin. Yep the pedophilia as well — little girls exposed to stuff well beyond their years. Strange.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    I came across this story about “rape tag” when I was Googling.

    Freeze tag during recess seldom raises eyebrows, but a variation of the game known as “rape tag” among students at a Minnesota elementary school has alarmed administrators and parents.

    Principal Bill Sprung of Washington Elementary School in New Ulm sent a letter home this week to parents to alert them to the disturbing game, which was described as similar to freeze tag, “except that a person had to be humped to be unfrozen,” the letter states.

    Sprung found out about the game after being notified on Jan. 10 by a concerned parent.

    He told parents that students in two classrooms were primarily involved. The school, he said, immediately notified teachers and recess supervisors to talk to students about the matter and put an end to the game. “We addressed it as an inappropriate game,” he told on Thursday.

  6. HT says:

    I’ve always had difficulty with any advertisements using women as pawns. I suppose it has to do with the past when I was raped. It’s not fun, it’s not fashionable, it’s not sexy, it’s not trendy, it’s horrific. It leaves life long scars – the inability to ever trust for one. The consequences (short and long term) are horrendous, and the advertising industry using it as a tool to sell stuff is abominable – hence I do not read magazines, I do have cable or satellite tv, I do not buy products that use sex as a selling point.
    I have never had a long term relationship. My children are a result of me deciding to have them with minimal male interaction and although I tried to maintain a companionable relationship with their male contributor I threw him out of the house when they were mere babes – I couldn’t stand to have him around, even in a non sexual way. I tried to continue the relationship in a friendship scenario at a distance for my children but could not maintain that beyond their teen years. I doubt that most people who have not been subjected to the horror that is rape understand the long term consequences.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I agree. Rape is definitely not sexy. I’m sorry for what you had to go through HT. I’ve had my own struggle with childhood abuse trauma.

      Using images of violence and even murder to sell products seem to be the “in” thing. I think it’s just wrong. I was somewhat encouraged by the strong reaction to the Belvedere ad.

      • HT says:

        BB I am also encouraged that finally people seem to be waking up, but why did it take a “rape” scenario to do that. Looking at the Klein and D&G ads which have been around for a long time, is it any wonder that simulated rape ads came along. Some of the ads in so-called respectable journals/magazines are tantamount to child exploitation. What is it with the current advertising industry? Sex sells so no matter how repulsive let’s launch it and see if it floats? How many billions are paid to these agencies that seem to be populated with sex obsessed stalkers? And how many millions of people buy the products that these abusers have been employed to sell? Until people start to recognize how they are being manipulated and stop feeding the engine, nothing will change.

        BB, thank you for your condolences and I understand completely about the childhood abuse issue. Me too. I have often thought that was what made me a target for the rape.

  7. bostonboomer says:

    Here’s the nightly Trayvon Martin update: It’s not George Zimmerman screaming for help on the 911 tapes, according to two voice experts.

    Tom Owen, forensic consultant for Owen Forensic Services LLC and chair emeritus for the American Board of Recorded Evidence, used voice identification software to rule out Zimmerman….

    Owen, a court-qualified expert witness and former chief engineer for the New York Public Library’s Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound, is an authority on biometric voice analysis — a computerized process comparing attributes of voices to determine whether they match.

    After the Sentinel contacted Owen, he used software called Easy Voice Biometrics to compare Zimmerman’s voice to the 911 call screams.

    “I took all of the screams and put those together, and cut out everything else,” Owen says.

    The software compared that audio to Zimmerman’s voice. It returned a 48 percent match. Owen said to reach a positive match with audio of this quality, he’d expect higher than 90 percent.

    “As a result of that, you can say with reasonable scientific certainty that it’s not Zimmerman,” Owen says, stressing that he cannot confirm the voice as Trayvon’s, because he didn’t have a sample of the teen’s voice to compare.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Ed Primeau, a Michigan-based audio engineer and forensics expert, is not a believer in the technology’s use in courtroom settings.

      He relies instead on audio enhancement and human analysis based on forensic experience. After listening closely to the 911 tape on which the screams are heard, Primeau also has a strong opinion.

      “I believe that’s Trayvon Martin in the background, without a doubt,” Primeau says, stressing that the tone of the voice is a giveaway. “That’s a young man screaming.”

      Zimmerman’s call to authorities minutes before the shooting provides a good standard for comparison, Primeau says, because it captures his voice both at rest and in an agitated state.

  8. I can’t remember if the story of the military tribunal in Egypt clearing the doctor who was ordered to perform virginity tests on 17 women arrested in 2011 in Tahrir Square. Here’s a link: The account on NPR last week was horrifying.

  9. janicen says:

    Check out this story. NBC “News” edited the audio tape of George Zimmerman talking to the 911 operator to make it sound even more racially charged. NBC is a disgrace.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I tend to be pretty distrustful of anything coming from Sean Hannity and Brent Bozell–to put it mildly. I’m going to need more than their word. In fact, I watched a segment last night of Hannity interviewing one of the Martin family’s lawyers, and I could not believe the distortions Hannity was pushing!

      I don’t know why someone at the Today Show edited the tape (if they did), but the change doesn’t make it seem any more racially charged to me.

      None of this back and forth is relevant to the crime. Unfortunately, some kind of influence kept (and is still keeping) Zimmerman from being arrested. This should all be adjudicated in a court of law, but the Sanford police and the states attorney decided instead to try to cover it all up. And now we’re in a situation where media outlets are competing for the story.

      Zimmerman should be arrested and go on trial before a jury of his peers. There is plenty of evidence to provide probable cause.

      • janicen says:

        To change ” Zimmerman: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.”
        911 operator: “Okay. And this guy, is he white black or Hispanic?”
        Zimmerman: “He looks black.”


        “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”

        …does change it’s meaning. Obviously I’m not justifying Zimmerman’s actions, but I think it’s wildly irresponsible of NBC. NBC News and The Today Show particularly has been out of control lately. I won’t watch anymore. I watched Matt Lauer interview Christie Brinkley and bully her and interrupt her and accuse her of being a bad parent when she only went on to discuss the musical she’s in. She actually broke down in tears. It was nauseating to watch. Facebook and twitter lit up with everyone raving that Matt should apologize to her. Did he? Nope. Instead he brought her abusive ex husband on the show the next day. You won’t find a clip of the interview anywhere. The way NBC released the story it went out saying “Christie Brinkley broke down during an interview” as if she was unstable, and it only shows the part where she cried. It doesn’t show Matt bullying her.

      • HT says:

        janicen, typical muckraking which seems to be the norm today;. No news, every interview has to have a hook etc. Strange that when Jon Stewart was hailed as the only newsman left a few years ago and Jon argued that he was a comedian, everyone laughed at the great joke. Today, Jon Stewart is still a comedian, but he is the only newsman left. How sad is that?

      • bostonboomer says:

        Frankly, I don’t consider the Today Show to be news. I still need more evidence than the word of Sean Hannity and Brent Bozell that this actually happened.

      • janicen says:

        So true, HT. Comedy Central is now the news source with the most integrity. How wrong is that?

  10. janicen says:

    All of the ads posted here are disgusting, but the vodka ad is just beyond the pale. They can’t even claim it’s “artsy”. It’s clearly depicting a man who won’t take “No” for an answer and a woman who is terrified of him.

    • BJK says:

      I agree. I delurked to comment that Ms. Packard needs to encourage her friend/co-actor to bring his own suit. While I agree that her suit has an obvious basis in un-approved use, his would have the additional claim of being portrayed as a (giddy) rapist. It certainly would be nice to get a guy to stand up to this sort of thing, even if it’s only based on the potential payday.

      • janicen says:

        That’s very interesting. I wonder if there are complaints from men who are offended at being portrayed as crazed rapists?