Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Real America, with Abe Sauer: Knock, Knock. Who's There? Your Stalker.

dandg-adThe Dolce & Gabbana maybe-gang-rape ad of two years ago looked rather harmless at the time. It was just one of those nonsensical things fashion types do to look arty or whatever-bleeding edge "LOOK AT ME!" and all that. But through the prism of the last month's gang rapeof a 15-year-old girl outside her high school's homecoming dance, it looks a little, well, harder to look at. Events like that certainly make Whoopi Goldberg's Roman "I don't believe it was rape-rape" Polanski statement look even more absurd. All this, and the LAPD recently celebrated having reduced, by 64%, its backlog of unprocessed DNA evidence from thousands of rape and sexual assault cases. Only 2,500 left! Rape as a focus for media "debate," or as something for marketers to exploit, is out. Domestic abuse and sexual harassment, however, are in.

Chris Brown punches his girlfriend and goes right on to put out a new album and a side of beef choked a popular cocktail or something, and OMG did Paris' new bf like totally abuz her or what? (Telling that Hollywood gossip site The Frisky ("Love. Life. Stars. Style.") has a Domestic Violence tag. Of course, so does Jezebel.) Even poor Oprah got into a kerfuffle by booking gospel singer BeBe Winans on her show despite her personal "no domestic abusers" policy, though she later put him on hold. (Winans is currently charged with tuning up his wife.) And then there was this: Mackenzie Phillips: "We have to talk about when you raped me." Mackenzie Phillips' Dad: "You mean when we made love?"

Did you also know that October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month? This is a holiday that marketers have yet to figure out a feel-good way to exploit and profit from. Unlike its fancier cousin "rape," "domestic abuse" is so mundane that only the most ripped-from-the-headlines-L&O:SVU-worthy cases or celebrity versions make big news (see above). But do a Google News search for "domestic abuse" within the "last week" alone and it does not get any less depressing: "Oklahoma City police sergeant suspended amid domestic abuse investigation…" / "Stone Roses Singer Arrested On Domestic Abuse Charge" / "Earlimart man arrested on suspicion of spousal abuse" / "Domestic violence cases on the rise" / "Man Threatened Wife With Saw" / "Obama's half brother recalls their abusive father."

But hey, it's also sexy, right?

Right? (Warning: YouTube link contains some nudity, and may be not safe for work if you consider Jessica Alba getting whipped with a belt or Jessica Alba acting "not safe.")

To entertainment's credit, there have been two recent compelling storylines about domestic abuse that aren't "Law and Order: SVU"ed-up. The first is from "Mad Men", particularly the Joan and Greg arc (though that relationship's depictions of abuse have detractors as well). The other is the ongoing rape storyline of Gemma on the FX show "Sons of Anarchy."

And what about domestic abuse's poorer cousin, harassment? Well, funny you asked-because harassment is entertainment gold.

This year has seen three films that, with reversed gender roles, would never have been made. Surprisingly (or not, maybe), two of them star America's Sweetheart®™© Sandra Bullock.

· All about Steve: "Convinced that a CCN cameraman is her true love, an eccentric crossword puzzler trails him as he travels all over the country, hoping to convince him that they belong together."

· Obsessed: A "sexy," "catfight thriller" about a temp worker stalking her boss that "scratched and clawed its way to the top of the box office."

·The Proposal: "A pushy boss forces her young assistant to marry her in order to keep her Visa status in the U.S. and avoid deportation to Canada." (Right? Letterman was just having a little fun, get over it… or was he?)

Sexual harassment even has its own offensive high-fashion ads!

And then there are advertisers who look at sexual harassment and say, "That's a great way to sell something to everyday people."

When I recently passed around an ongoing ad campaign by Broadview (formerly Brinks) Home Security, looking for reactions, many friends of mine came forward with sobering, frightening experiences with men they had dated or knew. These ads are running in heavy rotation on cable networks with "target rich" demographics, such as WE. They are, in the opinion of the women I spoke with, "compelling."

So those last two were a little lighthearted but frame the ultimate larger point: Our media is saturated with allusions to domestic violence and this saturation may allow many to feel like the subject is on the forefront of everyone's mind, and is being addressed. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Finally, if you would like to talk to someone about sexual abuse, domestic violence or stalking and harassment, RAINN and the Domestic Violence Hotline are good places to start if local law enforcement doesn't give a shit about you, which it seems is pathetically common.

Abe Sauer also has a blog.

32 Comments / Post A Comment

Backslider (#819)

Your hottest post yet Abe.

HiredGoons (#603)

*drooling (will come up with something constructive shortly).

KarenUhOh (#19)

Scary as shit, and needs to be kept on said.

By the way? They don't call quite that fast.

And I like how they are instantly relieved when "Brad" says, "I'm sending help." Because nothing bad could happen between then and the cops arriving.

oatsmoats (#310)

Thank you, as always.

Bucko (#1,599)

Whenever I read your posts I get the feeling that you're either fifteen, or just came to this planet recently. Either way, it seems like a few hours with Google supplies all the knowledge you have about the subject at hand. The Dolce ad wasn't offensive until recently when you finally realized gang rape could be real? You list only two very recent TV plot lines that deal with domestic abuse. Was there nothing before that, or is it just too hard to get that kind of information out of Google? You use a huge brush to paint stalking, domestic abuse, sexual harassment, and gang rape as if they're all the same thing, but you offer no evidence that one leads to the other, or any analysis about how we as a society should change to address this. It's just a long list of related topics like you googled "stalking" and took whatever it told you.
And your final paragraph couldn't be more naive. As if some abused woman got all the way to the end of your post and hadn't realized that either help existed or that the police suck, both of which I assure you any abused woman knows.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Whenever I read your comments I get the feeling that you’re either fifteen, or just came to this planet recently. Either way, it seems like a no matter what subject it is, all the points in the post are contrary to your greater well of knowledge. You use a huge brush to criticize whatever is is on the Awl that you read, whether it is this post or a criticism of TV's "V."

And this most recent comment couldn’t be more typical. As if some abused Awl reader got all the way to the end of this one and hadn’t realized that it was another knee-jerk criticism of an Awl writer, of which I assure you everyone knows.

Matt (#26)

I was an Abused Awl Reader this morning when I was erroneously lead to believe that something terrible had happened to Cat, due to the damnable lack of tone on the internet.

KarenUhOh (#19)

He's not from this planet. He's from North Dakota.

andrea (#1,025)

Totally agree. This post was actually borderline incoherent. What was the central point? That these things are bad? All tone, no substance.

The writing on this site is otherwise so great that Abe's posts seem even more jarringly out of place.

davidwatts (#72)

This thing looks like this thing.

Hobbesian (#255)

Boy, people up in the 1000's are really bringing it today.

Backslider (#819)

I think it would be awesome if Abe were a teenage alien from outerspace. John Lithgow could play his father in the Dawson's Creek like dramedy set in North Dakota.

The hook would be that five years into the series Abe's TV dad would say to him, "Son, I have something important to tell you. We're not really from outer space. We're just jewish." Then the would all wake up in a big bed next to Bob Newhart

Abe Sauer (#148)

Ha! That's a sci-fi show because I'm not Jewish!

Maevemealone (#968)

That second video gave me goosebumps. But I also couldn't help but think Bree van den Camp probably has a syringe of bleach or a hand hammered copper sauce pan hidden behind the credenza.

cherrispryte (#444)

The D&G ad definitely caused an outcry amongst certain circles when it first came out, to the degree that it was pulled from print media.–gabbana-cancel-gang+rape-print-ad

Perhaps the problems of rape, sexual harassment, domestic abuse, and the media's complicity in creating rape culture are only now penetrating the haze of priveledged white men?

cherrispryte (#444)

My comment is awaiting moderation?!?! What did I do?

Tuna Surprise (#573)

Double link. Don't ever do it again.

propertius (#361)

I thought the homo version of that D&G ad was marginally creepier. It would make a great photo for a caption contest.

Well now that I revisit it, maybe a lot creepier.

Both ads seem to be more voyeuristic than gang rapey to me. The man is holding the woman down in the ad but her ass is lifted and the guy is arching his back so I don't get that either is resisting.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Clearly, just how "rapey" the ads were (and subsequent outrage) was in the eye of the beholder. The "straight" one was something many media were willing to take on and hold up and show they're readers/viewers. The is-it-rape ramifications of the "gay" version were less important… like all gay things. How many people would simply find the second one offensive if the dudes were just standing around being, you know, gay and not "doing" anything at all?

Abe Sauer (#148)

their. *sigh*

propertius (#361)

I kept thinking that the old guy pointing at the naked guy was some kind of consulting gaynocologist. The atmosphere is not so much sexual violence as dementia – as if maybe these men do not know what to do. But I'm fairly jaded about this stuff, and can see a YMMV factor in play here.

Maevemealone (#968)

Does any of it count if they are all dead in the eyes?

At first I though the gay version was all one picture and the guy unzipping his pants was going to have sex with the naked guy and the others were going to watch. Which is what the straight version implies to me (though the others may join in later). However the gay version is 2 photos with 2 separate scenarios.

None of the pictures in this ad campaign read rapey to me. The people seeing this as condoning rape must not be familiar with the concepts of consensual group sex or 2 men getting dressed in the same room.

ProfessorBen (#1,254)

i've not seen the gay version of this ad before. It's HOT! Gay sexuality is generally so completely different from nongay sexuality in its expression (escorts! groping! non-monogamy! bears! camp!) that it's hard to see this version of the ad as 'rapey' as the other one (about which I believe you see in it what you want to; if you're really disappointed in it maybe you should also be disappointed with 'high fashion' or 'capitalism' or 'marketing' generally).

missdelite (#625)

If the formula didn't work, it wouldn't sell the
In fact, it'd take a fucking genius to sell high volume crap to the mainstream while challenging embedded sexual mores at the same time.

maebefunke (#154)

Race and rape and all kinds of goodies on the Awl today. I kind of enjoy watching the epistemological breaks leading to so much comment and response-post ire. "OMG is he serious or ironic? Does his irony work or not work?" Who the fuck cares, at the end of the day I still think Choire and Abe are hilarious and the critics all sound like Charlie Brown's teacher.

HiredGoons (#603)


Donald (#2,198)

When I first saw the D&G ad, I assumed it was a hot shirtless priests performing an exorcism.

The Swifter spot is "saturated with allusions to domestic violence"? C'mon, Abe! It's too ludicrous! This sponge mop is a lover, not a fighter, whose attempts to rekindle the affair have been spurned, nothing more.

caitlinate (#416)

Sarah Haskins just did a spot on those security ads.

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