There are countless ways to explain the concept of sexual consent.
A new trio of videos released in partnership with the It’s On Us campaign uses a less obvious strategy: humor.
In each of the videos, a woman has an urge she can’t control, so she indulges herself in the most comical way possible. In just a minute, the absurdity of each scene demonstrates how so-called logical justifications for sexual assault make zero sense.
First, a woman sees a wedding cake that’s impossible to resist. She shoves a fistful of the dessert into her mouth as the baker watches in horror. Next, two women see a sculpture in a museum they absolutely must touch. The guard implores them to stop, but they just laugh in his face.
Finally, a woman walks into a hardware store dying to pee and rushes to use a floor model toilet. « You need to leave right now or I’m gonna call the cops, » says the store clerk.
The woman becomes outraged. « Dude, what’s your problem, » she shouts. « I come in here with a biological urge that I can’t be expected to control. You’ve got everything just out on display, super proud to show off what you got, and then you’re shocked when I come in here and let nature run its course? Really? »
When she puts it that way, the most common defense of sexual assault looks not just idiotic but grotesque.
The videos were created by the advertising collective 101-North Marketing and are being distributed by It’s On Us, the campus sexual assault prevention campaign launched by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in 2014.
« Sexual assault is a delicate subject, and while we didn’t want to make light of the issue, we also thought that if we could find the right angle, addressing it with comedy could be really effective, » said 101-North Marketing writer/director Johanna Stein and producer David Gassman in an email.
Elvin Bruno, the campus programs director for It’s On Us, says the campaign is always looking for new ways to communicate its message. Indeed, these humorous videos make consent look like common sense without raising the darker themes that often define sexual assault prevention PSAs.
The timing is important, says Bruno, because the Department of Education, led by Trump appointee Betsy DeVos, is reviewing Obama-era protections for campus sexual assault victims.
DeVos has criticized the system for how schools establish the guilt of alleged rapists and said that approach may lead to litigation and appeals that re-traumatize survivors. Advocates believe the current guidelines hold schools accountable for investigating accusations of assault and punishing guilty students.
Bruno says the best way for students’ to protest any changes to the current system is to comment on the process. It’s On Us will send people an alert when the comment period opens if they signup for the campaign’s pledge.
« We’re issuing a rallying cry for everyone to become part of the solution … and create an environment where survivors are supported, » says Bruno.
If that happens to be triggered by watching an unexpectedly funny video about consent, then all the better.