Let’s Talk About Rape Culture in America

Nora Turriago ’16
Opinions Editor

This past week, a holiday advertisement by Bloomingdale’s encouraging spiking drinks received backlash, as critics said the image promoted date rape.

Released in the Bloomingdale’s 2015 holiday catalog, the advertisement features a woman looking away and laughing, as a young man leers. “Spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking,” reads the text.

Bloomingdale’s has since issued a statement of apology, saying, “In reflection of recent feedback, the copy we used in our recent catalog was inappropriate and in poor taste.”

The advertisement goes beyond the label of “poor taste” and instead highlights how rape culture is prevalent and normalized in society. The many people that approved the creation and publication of this advertisement prove the extent to which attitudes of sexual assault and date rape are deemed acceptable.  Spiking the drinks of others without their consent not only makes for a creepy holiday advertisement but makes date rape a punch line.

Bloomingdale’s is certainly not the first to downplay date rape. Let’s take a trip down memory road – Remember that classic Christmas carol, “Baby it’s Cold Outside”? Do you also recall that oh-so-charming verse, where the woman in the duet sings, “Say, what’s in this drink?” Perhaps that was the inspiration for Bloomingdale’s holiday advertisement. More recently, Robin Thicke and his tribute to rape culture – also known as the hit song “Blurred Lines”– featured lyrics like “I know you want it” as naked women danced around him and his pals (all fully clothed, of course). Beyond pop culture references, real life does not disappoint. Who better to illustrate this than Bill Cosby? In the past year, over 50 women have accused Cosby of rape, with the majority of stories sharing one commonality: Cosby offered his alleged victims a drink that had been drugged.

And there you have it, folks. Life imitates art – although in the case of Bloomingdale’s, perhaps the opposite is more the case, as their advertisement of date rape for the holiday season did not lack real-life inspiration. Unfortunately, Bloomingdale’s is not the only company with a penchant for ill-advised date rape ads. Earlier this year, the Budweiser “Up for Whatever” campaign released a Bud Light label reading, “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night.”

Sexual assault is not fodder for an advertising campaign. Sexual assault is not a punch line. The Washington Post reported that drug-facilitated rape is one of the most commonly reported sexual assault crimes. When the message of date rape and sexual assault is promulgated as funny and normal, it merely adds to the mainstream acceptance of rape culture within our society.

One Comment

  1. Dr. Necessitor says:

    Only murder carries a higher penalty than rape so to say “rape culture is prevalent and normalized in society” is ridiculous.

Leave a Comment