Monday, December 13, 2010

Alberta’s “Don’t Be That Guy Campaign”- Katie Krebs

Date Rape and the “Don’t Be That Guy” Campaign

Of industrialized countries, the United States has the highest overall rate of rape (1). Rape perpetrated by a date or acquaintance of the victim is more common than rape by strangers, with 50-88% of rape victims having known their perpetrator (1). This so-called “date rape” is defined as “unlawful sexual intercourse accomplished by force or fear with a person known to the victim who is not related to the victim by blood or marriage” (1).

Historically, anti-rape campaigns have focused on teaching potential victims how not to be victimized, and providing tips for prevention to potential victims. This focus most likely results from the fact that women are charged with most of the responsibility for sexual morality (2). Furthermore, the Edmonton Police points out that “Tips [to prevent being assaulted] just reinforce the myth that women are somehow responsible for anticipating and preventing sexual violence [against themselves].” (3).

A coalition of Canadian organizations advocating for victims of sexual assault and working to prevent rape, called SAVE, has developed one of the first anti-rape campaigns focused on perpetrators rather than victims. While the idea of targeting those engaging in negative behavior is not novel in general (for example, we never see anti-drunk driving campaigns focused on telling people not to walk in front of cars driven by drunks, or to watch out on the road for drunk drivers so as to avoid being hit by them), this is a new approach in preventing rape, and one that has been met with positive reviews. While the campaign takes place in Canada, it serves as a model for focusing on perpetrators of sexual assault rather than victims in anti-rape campaigns in the US.

This campaign began running in Edmonton, Canada in late November, 2010, and focuses specifically on alcohol-facilitated sexual assault (4, 5). The Edmonton Police define alcohol-facilitated sexual assault as “a sexual act committed on a victim who is profoundly intoxicated to the point of near or actual unconsciousness. In these cases the victim cannot give consent.” (4, 5).

According to the Edmonton Police, alcohol was a factor in half the rape cases investigated by the police in 2009. In each case where alcohol was a factor, the victims were visibly intoxicated and in some cases intoxicated to the point of unconsciousness during the assault. In all cases, the victim knew the perpetrator (4, 6). Sex without consent is rape, and given that the most likely perpetrators of alcohol facilitated rape are known to the victims, this campaign is specifically targeting date or acquaintance rape, and provides a model for addressing this specific type of rape, which is distinct from stranger rape or intra-marital rape. (4, 5).

The campaign targets males ages 18-24 and relies on 3 ads comprised of graphic language and images (4, 5). The main message is “Sex without consent is sexual assault” (4). One ad depicts a man helping a woman into a car at night, and displays the text: “Just because you help her home...doesn’t mean you get to help yourself.” Another ad depicts a woman passed out face down on a couch, presumably from excessive alcohol consumption based on the empty liquor bottles nearby. The text reads: “Just because she isn’t saying no...doesn’t mean she’s saying yes.” This campaign will be seen on trains, in magazine and newspaper ads and on university flyers. A third ad will be placed above urinals in 26 bars around the city, and reads: “Just because she’s drunk doesn’t mean she wants to f***” (4, 5).

“Don’t be That Guy” and The Theory of Planned Behavior

This campaign appears to have some basis in the Theory of Planned Behavior, which looks at intention to engage in some behavior as the sum of attitudes and beliefs about that behavior, subjective social norms surrounding that behavior, and perceived control over that behavior (7, 8). “Don’t Be That Guy” appears to operate under the assumption that if the attitudes and beliefs about the behavior (rape) are changed from common rape myths to truths about sexual assault and consent, then men will choose not to rape women when they are presented with an opportunity to do so. In essence, their intention to rape will be lessened. Some common rape myths alluded to in this campaign include the idea that “women want to be raped,” that “no” actually means “yes,” that drinking with a man or being drunk means that a woman “deserves” or has “asked for” rape, and that when men buy women things or provide for them by helping them get home safely, for example, women incur sexual debt and “owe” sexual acts to men in repayment. (1, 9)

The Theory of Planned Behavior states that intentions to perform behaviors can be predicted by the aggregate of attitudes toward the behavior, subjective norms and perceived behavioral control (7). Hockett et al. note that rape motivation can be described by the criminological view of rational choice, which suggests that male sexual violence against women is rooted in the attitudes, subjective norms and beliefs about the outcomes of such behavior (rape), as described in the theory of planned behavior. Indeed, the campaign seeks to warn men that they will be arrested for engaging in rape behavior (consequence), and seeks to educate men that sex without consent is rape (changing attitudes and beliefs) (9).

1. Lack of perceived behavioral control undermines intention

Hutchinson describes the role of “control beliefs” about the difficulty or ease with which a behavior can be performed (8). If we consider the behavior to be refraining from rape, we can reword this description to read that the belief a potential perpetrator has about how easily he can resist the urge or temptation to rape will play a role both in his intention to rape and in his ultimate success in refraining from rape. As Azjen notes, it is not the actual control the potential perpetrator has over this behavior, but rather his perceived control, that ultimately leads to the success or failure of refraining from rape (7).

The ads used in the “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign focus on alcohol facilitated rape, and the context of these ads is a party scene or a scenario in which it is likely that both the victim and perpetrator have been drinking. The potential perpetrator who views these ads may then perceive minimal control in the displayed scenario. Assuming that he recognizes that rape is wrong and that sex without consent is rape, and assuming that the social norm in his environment is that rape is not normal, the fact that he perceives minimal control in the situation in which he would be faced with the opportunity to force sex will undermine his intention to refrain from rape and prevent that intention from becoming an action (no rape).

Gerber et al. note that when alcohol is involved in a date rape, more blame is placed on the victim. Research on incarcerated rapists and college students found that men were viewed to be less responsible for raping someone when intoxicated, yet women were found to be more responsible for having been raped when they had been drinking (1, 8). This further supports the notion that men will perceive either their level of control over their impulse to rape or their responsibility for raping when they’ve been drinking as relatively low. Low perceived behavioral control prevents intention not to rape from translating into successful abstinence from rape.

2: Subjective norms and rape myths addressed, but not fully

The heart of this campaign is an effort to change the beliefs surrounding rape, by seeking to educate men that “sex without consent is rape,” that a drunk woman does not automatically consent by failing to say “no,” and that she does not “owe” anything to a man who helps her in some way. These messages reflect some deeply held rape myths, which color a potential perpetrator’s attitude toward and appraisal of alcohol-facilitated date rape.

As previously mentioned, attitudes and beliefs about a behavior are part of the equation that gives rise to intent and ultimately successful completion of a behavior (refraining from rape) (7). Attitudes and beliefs about behaviors are not limited to the sphere of self, but are also influenced by normative beliefs about social pressure to engage or not engage in a behavior (subject norms) (8).

Disturbingly, Gerber notes that 33% of college males admitted to some likelihood that they would rape if they were guaranteed not to get caught (1). As this campaign implies that men should not rape because they’ll be prosecuted if they do, only men who are afraid of being caught will be concerned. One study found that 20-30% of college students had either been victim or perpetrator of sexual coercion, and another showed that 28% of males admitted to having sexually coerced someone. These views are not unique to males in college, who have likely been exposed to images and stories of sexual coercion or force. A study conducted on high school students found that 43% of boys and 32% of girls reflected a view of male entitlement, finding it acceptable for a boy to force sex upon a girl if they had been dating a long time (1).

Gerber defines rape myths as “attitudes and beliefs that are generally false but are widely and persistently held, and that serve to deny and justify male sexual aggression against women.” Examples include: all women want to be raped, no woman can be raped if she does not want it, when a woman says “no,” she really means “yes,” and that “leading a man on can justify rape.” A study in London showed that 48% of men 18-25 don’t consider it rape if the woman was too drunk to know what happened (4, 5). These myths are more often held true by men than by women (1). Those who tend to have a strong belief in rape myths are more likely to rape, and also tend to harbor negative attitudes toward victims of rape, as part of an overall system of intolerant beliefs (9). This implies that those men who are likely to rape, who may identify with the men in the ads, or who believe they can control their behavior and exert power, do not have the appropriate social norms or beliefs and attitudes to bridge an intention to refrain from rape into actually refraining from rape.

While this campaign is headed in the right direction as far as attempting to change attitudes and beliefs, these beliefs are developed early (before high school), and are deep and persistent. Waiting until the years when men are likely to perpetrate may be far too late. The campaign also weakly addresses the influence of social expectation and pressure in an environment when rape myths are so widely considered true among males.

3. Resonance of the campaign message with potential perpetrators

In order for a potential perpetrator to take in the message from this campaign, he must believe that it applies to him. This means he must identify with the potential perpetrator in the ads. While the ads were chosen because they were clearly understood by and resonated with young men in a focus group (3), it is not clear that the young men in the focus groups were appropriate judges of the content or efficacy of the message. For example, if the men in the focus group were not potential perpetrators, meaning that they would not rape under any circumstances, their interpretation of the ads is based on the same guesswork the campaign developers tried to avoid by using a focus group in the first place. That is to say, the campaign developers are not 18-24 year old men likely to commit alcohol facilitated date rape, and therefore could not have presumed to know what would resonate with 18-24 year old men likely to commit alcohol facilitated date rape. They therefore sought out a focus group of young men, but these men may have been equally unable to provide relevant feedback.

If we assume, however, that the men in the focus group were representative of potential perpetrators, we encounter yet another problem. The mental state of the men during the focus group is decidedly different than it would be when faced with the opportunity to rape an unconscious or fully inebriated young female. To begin with, the men were likely sober during their focus group, and would likely be drunk when viewing the ads (particularly those in the urinals), or when acting on the information from the ads. Also, the focus group likely consisted entirely of males who were asked to participate in a focus group about anti-rape campaigns, not in a mixed gender setting charged with sexual expectation, excitement and substance use. It is therefore a big leap to assume that what resonates with a group of sober young men would also resonate with an intoxicated young man at a party. Indeed, Dan Ariely discusses this very issue in his book Predictably Irrational. The premise of this book is that humans do not act rationally, and if our health interventions are designed on the assumptions that humans are rational (implied in the Theory of Planned Behavior, which assumes that people plan their behaviors, or that intent leads to action), we will fail (10).

Ariely specifically looked at the irrational nature of human sexual behaviors by surveying men in a “cold” and “hot” state. The “cold” state represents the unaroused state, much like the focus group used for the “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign. Ariely makes the point that this is not the state in which decisions about sexual behavior are made, or in our case, decisions about whether or not to force sex or engage in sexual coercion. The “hot” state was simulated in Ariely’s experiment by inducing a state of arousal and then surveying men while still aroused. This state would be akin to the time during which a potential perpetrator is going through with rape or exercising control and refraining. In Ariely’s experiment, men’s willingness to engage in behaviors considered to be sexually deviant or violent increased significantly from the “cold” state to the “hot” state. This suggests that the resonance of the ad campaign with men during the focus groups speaks little to its resonance when they are faced with the decision to rape or refrain (10).

Furthermore, in his exposition of the Theory of Planned Behavior, Ajzek notes that in order for this model to accurately predict a behavior, intentions and perceived control must remain stable between original assessment and the time the behavior is observed or not observed. If events that occur between the formation of intent based on resonance with the campaign and the opportunity to rape change either the intention or the perception of control, an original intent to refrain from rape will not necessarily predict the reality of refraining from rape (7). Given that this campaign is targeted specifically to alcohol facilitated date rape, it is highly likely that an intervening event or altered state of mind (arousal or drunkenness) will change intent or perceived control, and therefore undermine the intended outcome of not engaging in rape.

Proposed Intervention: College based, male targeted social campaign

As many newspapers and blogs have noted in the days leading up to and following the debut of the “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign, an anti-rape campaign that targets perpetrators and brings men into a role of responsibility for sexual morality is refreshing, and in many ways promises to be more effective in reducing date rape incidence. Focusing on changing the behavior of perpetrators rather than victims also gives dignity to victims, rather than blaming them or dehumanizing them. This is the strength of the “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign and represents a positive new direction for anti-rape campaigns worldwide.

The proposed intervention would target male dominated groups such as fraternities and sports teams on college campuses, involving them in creating and supporting a male focused anti-rape campaign. These young men would be presented with the task of developing a campaign with the guidance of a public health professional, one that they feel would be effective, would resonate with men on campus, and one that would seek to change the social norms about sex and dating. The intervention could either be a collaborative effort among leaders from several male groups on campus, or it could be proposed as a competition between fraternity houses or sports teams to come up with the most effective campaign messages and materials.

The campaign would focus on the following messages: It is strong and masculine to refrain from rape, to respect a woman when she says “no” and to recognize when she is incapable of saying no or yes; sex is not a commodity that can be bought with gifts and dinners; and women are under no obligation to provide sexual favors when treated on a date, regardless of how much money is spent. And finally, a community of men who all support the notion that rape is wrong, and that sex without consent is rape, is crucial to changing the social norms from an acceptance of forced or coerced sex to an acceptance of respect for women and their bodies.

1. Creating social pressure not to rape: Use of social norms

Hutchinson notes that normative beliefs (social norms) reflect an individual’s perception of the approval or disapproval of a certain behavior, and that these beliefs impact an individual’s motivation to comply with a certain behavior (8). Ajzen refers to these beliefs as subjective norms: the perceived social pressure to perform or not to perform the behavior (7). In terms of rape beliefs and attitudes, a potential perpetrator is more likely to go through with forced or coerced sex if his action is approved or at the very least not disapproved by those individuals whose opinions matter most. Indeed, even if the potential perpetrator only perceives that there is social pressure not to rape, he will be less likely to rape. On a college campus, men would be influenced by the approval or disapproval of fraternity brothers or teammates, and it would therefore be effective to have all young men (or at least a large, persuasive population of men) in support of the campaign message. Furthermore, having a population of young men on campus responsible for sharing the campaign message creates the perception (and hopefully the reality) that there is social pressure not to rape.

Hutchinson notes that control beliefs can be improved through practice, positive reinforcement, and role modeling (8), suggesting that the visibility of support among young campus men for the campaign, the persistence of its messages, and the presence of good role models, such as upperclassmen, are key to the success of this campaign.

2. Feminist theory and the dominant male role

The feminist theory asserts that rape is the product of a need for power, or of the need to fulfill the male role of dominance in a relationship (9). Men tend to identify with rapists more than victims, even if they themselves are not rapists because the role of the rapist is one of dominance and therefore one of masculinity (1). Rape is seen by some feminists as institutionalized, as the incidence is high, but the rates of arrest and prosecution are low. This is seen as a further sign of male power exerted through rape (9).

The male desire for power and strength could be used to prevent rape by changing the “masculine” image from one of dominance to one of the strength and power to resist sexual violence. The message that giving in to the social pressure or urge to rape is weak and unmanly could be complimented by the notion that controlling sexual urges and being respectful of women is powerful. Men could also exert power by preventing others from raping: “Friends don’t let friends rape.”

3. Dating expectations and sexual social exchange theory

Dating script theory and sexual social exchange theory indicate that attitudes about dating norms and practices support forced sex or sexual coercion in a dating setting where a woman “asked for it,” “deserves it,” or “owes it” to a guy who helped her home (to use an example from the campaign critiqued). Dating script theory suggests that the roles assigned to men and women on a date contribute to such misperceptions: Men are supposed to be the initiators and sexual aggressors, while women are supposed to provide at least token resistance to sexual advances. (11)

Sexual social exchange theory explains that the expenditure of financial or other resources on a woman by a man comes with the expectation that women will reciprocate sexually. Female sexuality is attributed an exchange value to be used for money, support or protection. Male sexuality, in contrast, is seen as relatively worthless. While rape is thereby seen as stealing something of value (sexual favor), it also contributes strongly to this idea that men are entitled to sexual acts as “repayment” for gifts, dinner, company, etc. By this logic, a man might “take” what he is “owed,” thereby justifying forced or coerced sex (11).

Involving young men who are potential perpetrators in the campaign and focusing them on the idea that power can come from not giving in to a desire to rape or to dominate would help illuminate the reality that dominance and power need not take the form of dominating a relationship or a woman, or engaging in sexual violence. The program content would also address the fact that sexuality is not an item to be bartered, and would challenge the traditional date script. It would be important to explore with the involved men what their views of the date script are, and how that might be changed to introduce more balance into a relationship.


While the novel approach to rape prevention taken by the SAVE committee in creating their “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign is to be strongly commended and will hopefully pave the way for many more campaigns focused on changing the behavior of the perpetrators rather than the victims, it could be improved both by taking a deeper look at the theory of planned behavior, and by incorporating ideas from other social theories.

Primarily, the “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign focuses too much on the individual, and fails to consider the difference between the state of mind of the calm person reading the ads, and that of the potential perpetrator in the moment of deciding whether to refrain from or go through with the rape. The impact of social norms and deeply rooted rape myths and attitudes is also overlooked.

An intervention focused on involving groups of college males as key stakeholders and planners would shift social norms and create social pressure to refrain from rape. A focus on the act of rape as weak instead of powerful or dominant would also resonate with men and serve to deter potential rapists.


1. Gerber, G. L., and L. Cherneski. "Sexual Aggression toward Women: Reducing the Prevalence." Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1087.1 (2006): 35-46. Print.

2. Viki, G. Tendayi, Dominic Abrams, and Barbara Masser. "Evaluating Stranger and Acquaintance Rape: The Role of Benevolent Sexism in Perpetrator Blame and Recommended Sentence Length." Law and Human Behavior 28.3 (2004): 295-303. Print.

3. Sands, Andrea. "Ad Campaign Targets Men Who Prey on Drunken Women." Edmonton Journal. 20 Nov. 2010. Web.

4. Edmonton Police Service. "Don't Be That Guy" Behavioural Marketing Campaign Launches. 19 Nov. 2010. Web.

5. Mulcahy, Karyn. "'Don't Be That Guy'" Global News. 19 Nov. 2010. Web.

6. Angyal, Chloe. "Canadian Anti-Rape Campaign: "Don't Be That Guy"" Web log post. Feministing. 22 Nov. 2010. Web.

7. Ajzen, Icek. “The Theory of Planned Behavior.” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 50 (1991) 179-211. Print.

8. Hutchinson, M. Katherine, and Elyssa B. Wood. "Reconceptualizing Adolescent Sexual Risk in a Parent-Based Expansion of the Theory of Planned Behavior." Journal of Nursing Scholarship 39.2 (2007): 141-46. Print.

9. Hockett, Jericho M., Donald A. Saucier, Bethany H. Hoffman, Sara J. Smith, and Adam W. Craig. "Oppression Through Acceptance?: Predicting Rape Myth Acceptance and Attitudes Toward Rape Victims." Violence Against Women 15.8 (2009): 877-97. Print.

10. Ariely, Dan. "The Influence of Arousal." Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. New York: Harper Perennial, 2010. 119-38. Print.

11. Basow, Susan A., and Alexandra Minieri. ""You Owe Me": Effects of Date Cost, Who Pays, Participant Gender, and Rape Myth Beliefs on Perceptions of Rape." Journal of Interpersonal Violence 20.10 (2010): 1-19. Sage Publications, 4 May 2010. Web. .

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