Canadian anti-rape campaign: “Don’t be that guy”

Finally, an anti-rape campaign that targets the perpetrators, rather than the victims! The campaign, which was launched in Edmonton, Alberta, last week, is called “Don’t Be That Guy.” In a series of posters, it addresses the legal reality that a woman who is extremely drunk, or even passed out, cannot consent to sex. With messages like “just because she isn’t saying no… doesn’t mean she’s saying yes ”and“ Just because you’re helping her home… doesn’t mean you get to help yourself,” the campaign targets “opportunistic offenders,” as Edmonton Police Superintendent calls them. According to the Vancouver Sun:

The three advertisements were chosen after focus-group testing showed the messages were clearly understood by, and resonated with, young men.

Campbell said she hopes the “graphic” and “blunt” messages make a real difference in educating young men and reducing sexual assaults.

In 2009, alcohol was a factor in half the cases investigated by the police sexual assault section, said Campbell. In the first six months of this year, 52 per cent of cases investigated, involving 153 victims, had alcohol as a factor, she said.

“In each of these cases, the victims were clearly intoxicated … in some cases passed out at the time of the sexual assault. In each and every case, the offender was known to the victim,” Campbell said.

I applaud the Edmonton Police force for the strong stance they’ve taken on this issue and for their willingness to work with assault prevention groups and hospitality industry representatives to create the kind of anti-assault campaign we so rarely see. This kind of approach is the only kind that can truly end sexual assault. After all, in the words of Karen Smith of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, “as long as society directs prevention strategies at women, we all stop looking at what the real problem is – the perpetrators.”

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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  • kcar1

    Yes, it is good to move beyond placing all of the onus on potential victims… but I think it is still really, really inadequate.

    Paraphrasing from Dorothy Edwards, Green Dot campaign, relatively few individuals are responsible for most assaults, in other words, it is a repeat offender problem not an accident or “misunderstanding.” The issue then is not knowing “no ‘yes’ means no”, it is not caring that “no ‘yes’ means no” and knowing they will probably get away with it. Talking to every male like he is a potential offender is in fact offensive and counter productive because most of them know “no means no” and would never dream of doing that so they TURN OFF any further messaging and it becomes just another “women’s issue” completely unrelated to them.

    More effective — empowering people to step in and “save” a friend or someone else (i.e., friends don’t let friends drive drunk –> friends don’t leave friends to get home on their own; don’t let predators interfere with your game, keep your favorite hangout “safe” and call a cab for someone who is past her limit) and tying it to the means to do so — taxi vouchers, tip sheets for effectively intervening.

    Edwards tells a story of a frat brother who told another brother his car was getting towed in order to interrupt him while he was taking an obviously drunk girl up to his room — non-confrontational (too much to expect in these situations) but effective.

    • Sarah

      I agree with this to a certain point. I have also heard Dorothy Edwards speak and I am very excited about the possibilities of bystander intervention, having seen its effectiveness firsthand. And I completely agree that ads that telling men not to be “that guy” probably lose resonance with many men because many men are not and would not be “that guy”.

      But, bystander intervention as a form of prevention still puts the onus on people who are not actually responsible for sexual assault as well. At the moment, it may still be the most effective prevention effort available but I think it is still important to recognize that moving toward a prevention effort that puts the onus on potential offenders would be most desirable and actually most effective. Bystander intervention is a step in this direction and has had some very positive outcomes but I don’t think it is a place to stop. Perhaps bystander intervention that comes in the form of encouraging women and men to be active bystanders when it comes to a culture that promotes sexual aggressiveness rather than just times when there is a “situation” (which I do know that the Green Dot campaign promotes as well) will soon become the norm, moving us even further toward that goal.

      • davenj

        “I think it is still important to recognize that moving toward a prevention effort that puts the onus on potential offenders would be most desirable and actually most effective.”

        See, I’m not so sure about that statement. The problem with that approach is that most offenders, as has been stated, are repeat offenders with attitudes bordering on sociopathy. I’m not sure how putting the onus on someone who doesn’t care whether or not he harms people is a valuable approach.

        It’s desirable that potential serial criminals recognize the error of their ways and don’t commit that crime, but I don’t see it as being particularly realistic, particularly with sexual assault, where in many cases predators employ a combination of drugs, privacy, and social pressure to essentially commit the “perfect crime” by creating vague situations where there’s not enough tangible proof to convict them of a crime.

        That’s the issue. There are serial rapists/sex offenders out there, whether they believe the label fits them or not, who know how to get away with their crimes and who don’t really care about who they hurt. The only way to deal with that is to cut them off in the middle of their act, because we know that if they get far enough into their progression of crime there simply won’t be a way to deal with most of them through the criminal justice system.

    • Lise Gotell


      I agree that bystander intervention is important and it is party this that we have been trying to encourage through this campaign.

      The Canadian legal context is probably different from your state. We have an affirmative consent standard that was set in place by legislation and clarified by our Supreme Court. Our standard is not “no means no,” but instead “only yes means yes.” And unfortunately there is a very low level of public awareness of the implications of this legal standard for behaviours.

      In this campaign, we are trying to specifically target the very common situation of alcohol-facilitated sexual assault. A UK study release last week found that a majority of men did to consider it rape to have sex with someone who is too drink to know what s/he is doing. This strongly suggests that a campaign like this one could have a real impact.

      • kcar1

        If the study is accurate, then obviously, educating about the consent and the law is appropriate. I am just surprised. I asked my husband what his understanding of the legal/moral line is now and was a decade ago. He didn’t hesitate that his understanding as long as he could remember having one is “only yes means yes” and I have a specific experience with him to back this up from when we were teenagers/early 20s.

        He picked up the “only yes means yes” message despite growing up in the rural South where sex ed has always been abstinence heavy, where it is still not uncommon to hear, literally not euphemistically, a women is “asking for it” if she gets drunk at a bar or party, where state law affirms that by stating that willing intoxication automatically lessens the charge to sexual assault regardless of ability to consent, and without any real, explicit counter-message from his parents. In other words, he was at best average in his exposure to the issue.

        • kcar1

          Sorry, I was incorrect. I should have said “in practice” willing intoxication reduces the charge to sexual assault because of difficulty establishing that there was not at least implied consent and that the offender’s understanding of consent was not “reasonable”.

          A US study (Lisak & Miller, 2002) focused on behavior, not understanding of the law, showed 6% of participants, men at a large urban university, were undetected sexual offenders, 80% using alcohol not force. 2/3 of those (4% of total) were repeat offenders who were also engaged in other acts of interpersonal violence, responsible for for 28% of interpersonal violence reported in the study (i.e., sociopathic, not “inadvertant” offenders). That leaves about 2% of the men who were one-time rapists (at that time) and possibly “inadvertent” offenders. As Edwards says, that is a pretty small target.

          Of course, the UK study may be a lot more comparable to Canadian circumstances than the US study.

        • Lise Gotell


          In Canadian law, silence and ambiguity do not equal consent. Consent must be actively communicated and it is specific to the act/person/time in question. In order for someone to claim belief in consent, they must have taken positive steps to ascertain consent — steps that are reasonable in the circumstances. There is no implied consent and no defense of advance consent (at least in Alberta). These things are terribly misunderstood. Most Canadians think that consent means respecting no.

  • Joy Brondite


    “More effective — empowering people to step in and “save” a friend or someone else (i.e., friends don’t let friends drive drunk –> friends don’t leave friends to get home on their own; don’t let predators interfere with your game, keep your favorite hangout “safe” and call a cab for someone who is past her limit) and tying it to the means to do so — taxi vouchers, tip sheets for effectively intervening.”

    Is that bordering on the notion of a chaperone? Designated watcher / behavior modifier? Are we ready for playing drunk to be equally frowned upon as driving drunk?

    • kcar1

      Oh, come on… this isn’t being a chaperon. This is acknowledging that friends owe it to each other to make sure that they get home safe and that it is just a good idea that if you see someone wasted past the point of being able to make good decisions – informed consent – you see about getting them home.

      This is not about playing the field with a few drinks in you, this is someone saying “I’ll call you a cab” when you are no longer to do so on your own.

      • Joy Brondite

        Well, what is wrong with the idea of a chaperone? Worked in the past. An older woman sits at the bar, sips tea, and keep an eye on things. That man is going to be on his best behavior.

  • Laura

    “Don’t be that guy” rolled out the same week as the “I Know Someone…” anti-sexual violence campaign at the University of Western Ontario, in London, ON. This new, and I’d say innovative, campaign received some decent media attention (such as this: and I’m proud to be a part of it! Both “I Know Someone…” and “Don’t be that guy” shift responsibility away from potential female victims, (the conventional idea that women need to protect themselves) – which I think is SO important.

    What’s so innovative about the “I Know Someone…” campaign (the name comes from the idea that everyone knows someone who is affected by sexual violence) is that it is a collaboration between the University Students Council and community organizations, is student-run, and explicitly targets not just potential perpetrators, but the entire community. The real problem isn’t the perpetrators (necessarily) but the CULTURE. Obviously, sexual violence is a serious problem on university campuses, and we’re working to change that – to create a culture in which it is NOT okay for sexual violence to take place.

    I’m so glad that you mentioned Edmonton’s “Don’t be that guy” campaign. And I just wanted to add another positive step in another part of the country, here in London, ON!

  • Barncat

    As an Edmontonian, I’m super proud of this progressive campaign.

    I’m also embarassed to say that my brother in law has been ardent that the campaign “infringes on his rights to express his admirations for a woman”; he has yet to listen to any reason I’ve provided to the contrary.

    Yeah… that’s the kind of people this campaign is up against. :(

  • Barncat

    As well, here’s the original article with a picture of the ads:

  • Redpine

    This looks like a good campaign. I also like the ideas posted in the comments about the responsibility of friends to prevent problems.

    Many years ago there was a local story about two students at a college who drank extensively on a date together. They went back to the dorms and had sex. They were both lucid and no coercion was involved as confirmed by both parties. The next day the woman claimed she could not provide consent because she was inebriated and was therefor raped — a standard set by campus policy. The man was expelled.

    The curious thing about this is that the man was also inebriated. Should not the woman have been expelled for raping the man since he was unable to give consent? Similarly, shouldn’t there be a parallel campaign that says, “just because he isn’t saying no… doesn’t mean he’s saying yes”?

  • Kerry

    YEAH!! Canada FTW! As someone with family in Edmonton, this is pure awesome. What a fresh campaign. Hopefully this is something that we in the States can pick up on…

  • chelsa

    As an Edmontonian, I have never been prouder of our EPS. I had this very discussion with my partner two weeks ago, basically saying while these situations can often be looked at as legally ambiguous, especially if both people are drunk, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t target the behaviour.

    I have a pretty standard suggestion that we teach young men to “Cover Your Ass”. As in, if you’re not sure if someone is sober enough to consent, CYA. At the very least, it assures you won’t ever be labeled a rapist. Why take that chance? It’s not all that different from calling a cab, even though you might be “okay” to drive this time. Is the ticket/ higher insurance/ madatory $700 classes/ criminal record worth it?

    Of course, he had to derail it with “not only guys do this sort of thing…” but that’s beside the point.

    As someone who has had personal experiences with both SART and SACE, I’m not surprised that they’re taking a more agressive approach to curbing the issue in our city. Even in “grey” situations, they still encourage assault victims to report! I must say, they’re an amazing group of sensitive, caring, awesome people.

    Way to go, E-town!

  • Jessica Moss

    i think this is a good step for the edmonton police.
    as a former edmontonian, ever since this horrific incident: (which i tried my best to contact feministing to post about)
    i can’t say i’ve felt to kindly towards the eps…..