At first glance, the website PINK Loves Consent appears to be genuine. Could it be that Victoria's Secret is actually starting a campaign raising awareness about sexual violence and rape? It sounds too good to be true, and unfortunately it is.
After further inspection of the website, one finds statistics, a page called 'Then and Now' that calls out misogynist underwear slogans that Victoria's Secret puts on panties and displays an alternative slogan, and some suspiciously photo-shopped looking underwear, but the real giveaway that this site is a commentary on Victoria's Secret is the range of women used to model the 'new campaign. On the home page is a curvy African-American woman, and other pages feature plus-sized white women. All of the women on the website are beautiful, of course, but would Victoria's Secret really go so far as to change their slogans, provide education on healthy sex, AND portray an array of body types? Not likely.
It is obvious this website is attempting to bring awareness to some of the issues with Victoria's Secret, such as the unattainable sizes of the models and promotion of rape culture. Perhaps you're wondering, what is this 'rape culture' I keep mentioning. Well, let me explain:
"Rape culture is a concept used to describe a culture in which rape and sexual violence are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone rape."
Some indicators that you may live in a rape culture include: victim blaming, sexual objectification, and trivializing rape. An example of trivializing rape is rape jokes; rape jokes are not only disrespectful and potentially harmful to victims' feelings, but also communicate a social acceptance of rape as a behavior and may communicate to rapists that their actions are acceptable or even normal. In a rape culture, sexual violence towards women is commonplace and women's bodies are regarded as sexually available by default.
While there is some debate over whether or not America constitutes a rape culture, personally I believe that it doesn't take a whole lot of thought and observation to recognize that it does. Rape culture is a problem because the behaviors that characterize it are correlated with not only increased sexual violence, but also increased racism, homophobia, ageism, classism, and other forms of discrimination.
Victoria's Secret is a prime example of contributing to rape culture by mainstreaming ideas such as 'No Means Yes' and women's sexuality is there for men's taking, and it does it all under the pretense of empowering women. And certainly some aspects of Victoria's Secret can be argued to be empowering: if wearing sparkly underwear or a feathery teddy makes you feel sexy, more power to you. But, if that same sparkly underwear has a slogan that objectifies you, are you really being empowered, or are you being manipulated? Take these from the Christmas Collection, for example:
And when VS isn't objectifying women, it's demeaning their character as materialistic:
Really, the slogan closest to being empowering I could find was 'Dream On', which I suppose could be empowering to your own self, knowing that your underwear carries the slogan, but also could be intended to be humorous because in order to read the phrase, you would have to be displaying your underwear...
While the campaign Pink Loves Consent was a hoax created by FORCE: Upsetting a Rape Culture and was rather quickly outted by Victoria's Secret as such, there was an overwhelmingly positive response from people who supported the commentary and wished the campaign was legitimate. You can read more about what FORCE had to say about their efforts here.
Hopefully Victoria's Secret will take into account the amount of backlash this scam has created amongst their target group and will consider adopting Pink Loves Consent. One can only hope.