The below anti-sexual assault PSA was unveiled by Vice President Joe Biden during a White House event that introduced new guidelines for college campuses to help curb sexual assaults.
Biden’s speech was poignant and on-point, addressing many of the most difficult issues facing victims of sexual assault. He slammed the tendency of people investigating such crimes (especially on campuses) to “re-assault” victims by insinuating they were responsible for what was done to them and calling into question the victim’s actions, while giving the perpetrator the benefit of the doubt.
“We almost always ask the wrong questions when it comes to sexual assault,” Biden said. “We continue to ask questions like ‘What were you wearing? What did you say? What did you?…The real question is what made him think that he had the right to do what he did?” He added that there needs to be a clear message that there are no extenuating circumstances when it comes to rape. “No means no, whenever it is stated,” he said.
This is a vitally important issue facing our society, and the need for influential people to help guide this national conversation in the right direction is paramount.
For this reason, Biden’s decision to personally reach out to popular actors and ask them to spread this message seems like a good one. These are all talented people, Biden himself is rightly impassioned and eloquent about the issue, and the new guidelines for campuses are useful and important, so the resulting PSA should have been a powerful one.
Most unfortunately, it comes across as pandering instead.
It completely lacks the specifics, the fire, and the straightforwardness of the speech that introduced it. It feels like alpha members of the stronger gender asking other (less civilized) members of that stronger gender to stop taking advantage of the weaker sex, and to use their manliness to intervene if they witness others doing so. Men addressing men, as equals, about the seriousness of sexual assault? That could be powerful. But men treating other men like children who need to be reminded about basic ethics by their superiors? Pandering.
We don’t mean to bash what is clearly an effort made for the right reasons and for a good purpose, but the issue is too important to be represented by a PSA that will likely invite mockery and leave room for scoffing. It probably would have been more powerful and effective to film Biden’s speech and run that rather than this.