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Rape culture is getting attention in a big way these days, but it usually takes a tragedy to spark the discussion. Recent examples in the headlines include students calling out Amherst College administrators for mishandling their cases and the investigation into Boston University hockey “culture of sexual entitlement” after two players were accused of sexual assault. However, the Baltimore activist collective FORCE:Upsetting Rape Culture, took a step to end rape culture, sans an igniting incident.
FORCE launched a guerilla campaign against lingerie empire Victoria’s Secret not by defamation, but by integration. FORCE made a website, complete with the Victoria’s Secret banner, promoting an imitation line called “PINK Loves Consent,” made to look exactly like the actual PINK line of underwear. In a “Then and Now” page, the group comments on actual VS products with “Sure Thing” and “No Peeking” on the front, saying that no vagina is a “sure thing” and using “no” in a joking way takes away the power the word must hold.
“Across the country, women are saying ‘NO’ and not being heard. Maybe it is because people (men and women alike) think that words like ‘no’ are for flirting and don’t have much meaning,” the group writes on its convincingly VS-esque site.
FORCE’s faux-brand replaces these sayings with ones that promote consent before sex, like “No Means No” and “Ask First.”
The activist group effectively culture-jammed Victoria’s Secret. Customers tweeted excitedly about the new line, some thanking VS for realizing it is “part of the problem.” Even employees thought the brand was real.
The website features models of all shapes, sizes and colors (which should have been a very obvious tip-off that the website was not made by VS, even before they confirmed it) wearing the “PINK Loves Consent” line.
Victoria’s Secret didn’t react well to the imitation website. They asked FORCE to take the website down immediately, and it was — but not for long. FORCE writes on their website: “According to the law, you are allowed to use a corporation’s trademark to criticize, parody or otherwise talk about the corporation. What you are clearly not allowed to do, under the law, is to sell a similar product. Since pinklovesconsent.com does not sell anything, the site is not in violation.” The Love Consent site still exists at the time of publication.
Victoria’s Secret claim that FORCE’s prank was “confusing customers,” but FORCE fought back, saying that customers weren’t confused at all.
“The outpouring of support for Love Consent on facebook, twitter and tumblr wasn’t from ‘confused customers’. It was mostly from a lot of young women, like us, who know and are saying exactly what we want,” the guerilla group published on its website, Upsettingrapeculture.com. “If Victoria’s Secret does not get this message, perhaps they are the ones that are ‘confused’.”
FORCE got people nationwide to talk about Rape Culture, making this project a success. In fact, the hashtag “#LoveConsent” was suggested as a related term in Twitter searches during the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show — a telling sign of consumer support. Victoria’s Secret is missing out on a huge opportunity to not only give power to their main demographic, but to get the business of those who boycott their line for the exact reason that FORCE cites.