UK PSA: “Sex with someone who doesn’t want to is rape”

**Trigger warning**

This recent PSA from the UK’s “This is Abuse” campaign takes aim at the misconception that rape is something that only happens in dark alleys and at the hands of a stranger.

“Anyone who has been pressured to have sex without giving their consent has been raped,” the campaign’s website stresses. The video makes it even simpler: “Sex with someone who doesn’t want to is rape.”

I really like the framing of this – “if you could see yourself, would you see rape?” – because so many studies show that men who would be okay with coercing a woman into sex wouldn’t consider it rape. Most guys, if asked, will acknowledge that of course, rape is awful. But, as Thomas Macaulay Millar wrote at Yes Means Yes! a few years ago, “if a survey asks men, for example, if they ever ‘had sexual intercourse with somone, even though they did not want to, because they were too intoxicated (on alcohol or drugs) to resist your sexual advances,’ some of them will say yes, as long as the questions don’t use the ‘R’ word.”

I also like that, as confronting as it is to watch, this PSA challenges the conception that I think a lot of guys have, which is that rapists are the Other. One of the reasons this video is so very hard to watch is that it’s about acknowledging the possibility, at least, that you are capable of sexual violence, especially if you don’t know where the line between consensual sex and rape lies. This is not about the Other, some stranger in an alleyway somewhere. This could be one of your mates. It could be your brother. It could be you.

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 chloesangyal.com

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

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  • http://feministing.com/members/clarabelle/ Clara

    These things really do me in. On one hand, I am positively delighted that there’s finally something out there for teens. On the other, I watch the actor hammering on the glass and I think, there’s no way, for so much as one second, that the person who abused me when I was a teen would see it like that.

    I hope it makes a difference to someone though. I really, really do. Having these around when I was that age might have made all the difference to me.

  • http://feministing.com/members/4min33sec/ Matthew

    ‘“Anyone who has been pressured to have sex without giving their consent has been raped,” the campaign’s website stresses. The video makes it even simpler: “Sex with someone who doesn’t want to is rape.”’

    If we accept this definition of rape, I was raped repeatedly by my girlfriend over a period of at least two years. All she wanted to do was have sex; she rebuffed every attempt I made to develop or maintain any other connection between us, and nagged, demanded, and threw tantrums until I gave in just to shut her up. There are few things quite so delightful as having to learn to achieve orgasm quickly just to get it over with.

    All of which is to say, yes, it could be your brother, but it could also be your sister. Or you.

  • http://feministing.com/members/oriana/ Ariel

    This was horrible to see. I even had the sound off and it didn’t help to stop me from crying. Trigger warning is right. Triggered here.
    I honestly think this is a great campeign/commercial/whatever it is going to be put to use as. But I doubt that the guys who watch this will all have revelations that they raped someone. Or that it will cause a great deal of change alone. I’m sure most guys will rationalize what they figure out they did, away.

    Clara: “there’s no way, for so much as one second, that the person who abused me when I was a teen would see it like that.”
    I agree with that. It makes me feel awful, but I think it’s the truth.