A new advertising campaign is promoting the importance of sexual consent. To get viewers’ attention, it’s taking a humorous approach to a weighty subject.
The Canadian Women’s Foundation launched its annual advertising campaign, called “Get Consent,” on Tuesday. An online video shows how ridiculous life would be if people assumed they could do whatever they wanted when others said “yes” once. Examples include a woman who asks for gravy and watches a waiter drown her fries in a bowlful, despite her protestations, and a man whose grandmother asks for a band at her birthday party and hires an ear-splitting metal foursome.
For years, sex educators have pushed what should be a simple message: “No means no.” But when it comes to sexual activity, being absolutely sure that a partner has said “yes” is as important as respecting “no.” And yet many Canadians are unclear on how to define sexual consent, according to the foundation’s own research.
In a survey this year, it found that while 97 per cent of Canadians said consent is needed between new partners, roughly one in 10 said it was not always necessary between spouses or long-term partners. In contrast, the foundation wants to send the message that consent is an ongoing responsibility – both during an individual encounter and in longer relationships.
The group is hoping that by using a more lighthearted tone, its message will get through to a wider group of people.
There’s another motivation, too: The foundation was concerned that a massive surge in emotional advertising among everyday brands may have inured viewers to the heartstring-tugging tactics that cause advertising is known for. The hope is that humour will have more success in catching people’s attention.
That’s a big departure for the Canadian Women’s Foundation, which in the past has launched very serious advertising campaigns – not surprising, given that the group focuses on issues such as sex trafficking and abuse.
Last year, for example, the group released ads called “Donate Your Voice,” telling the stories of young girls who had been forced into sex trafficking. In the ads, those stories were told by adult men and women, to emphasize that the real victims are too frightened to speak up themselves.
In 2012, the group’s ads featured a baby shower with a prominent sign exclaiming “It’s a Girl!” The expectant mother opens one gift to find a rape whistle – a jarring reminder of how likely girls are to experience physical or sexual abuse.
This year’s effort is more colourful and upbeat. The everyday situations in the ad are intended to show how straightforward consent should be. The campaign website gives more information on consent and asks visitors to spread the message on Facebook and Twitter, and by e-mail.
The video will appear online, as well as on out-of-home video screens such as in malls, offices and Cineplex movie theatres. The campaign will also be promoted through posts on social media and in radio ads nationwide.