If You Love Date Rape, You’re A Mitchum Man

While I’m on the subject of advertising… I thought that Mitchum had moved on from its horrible “You’re A Mitchum Man” ad campaign, but apparently no such luck.

String Bean Jen reports finding this coaster at a bar just a couple of weeks ago.

Fuck the Mitchum man

When I was doing sexual assault prevention programming with men, I used to use Mitchum ads as examples of rape culture. They so perfectly meld extreme pressure to be “masculine” with total disdain for women and pressure to have sex as a means of “proving” ones “masculinity” in one bright shiny package. They had a particularly fantastic interactive web ad, where a woman quizzed you on whether you were “a Mitchum Man.” She’d give you multiple choice questions about things like your favorite sport and car. The more your answer conformed to our culture’s standards of masculinity, the more points you would receive. The more points you got, the more clothes the woman would remove. The ad is gone now, in favor of an inoffensive (but gross) thing where people make fart sounds with their armpits. At least it’s an improvement.

My all-time favorite Mitchum ad was the one that actually explicitly encouraged nonconsensual sexual behavior.

mitchum-rapist.jpg

I think decent people can agree that it is an extreme violation of someone’s bodily integrity to distribute nude photos of them to anyone when they haven’t consented to it.

These ads don’t just condone the idea that “real men” collude with each other to “trick” women into sex, and that nonconsensual sex and sexual exploitation are acceptable. They actually glorify such behavior, and tell men that acting this way will secure their masculinity.

Obviously it would be better if this garbage didn’t exist—as an anti-violence educator, it took me three days to convince one of the college guys I worked with that he should not condone his friend’s habit of showing other men naked pictures of his latest sexual conquests without their knowledge. It takes some Mitchum ad writer 30 seconds to undo my work. But as long as ads like this do exist, we need forces to counter men’s indoctrination into ideals of masculinity that so encourage sexual violence against women.

Pressuring college administrations to fund full-time staff to implement sexual assault prevention programs is one way to do that. While there are many other student goals I support, from the creation of sexual assault crisis centers to better disciplinary procedures, I actually think that the creation of college-funded prevention programs is the most important thing SAFER works for. Maybe Mitchum will improve its advertising (I have to admit, if I wasn’t so turned off by the other ads, the one with armpit farts would probably appeal to my inner 10-year-old), but even if they do, there will still be a zillion terrible ads by every other Axe imitator and candy bar manufacturer out there. Working to change the media is a big, long-term goal, and we should absolutely do that work. But finding readily accessible ways to create institutional balance can actually start making a difference relatively quickly. It will take decades to get rid of sexist beer commercials (if we’re lucky), but a motivated group of activists can get their college to fund a sexual assault prevention program within a year or two. Have the program include a way for college students to become anti-violence educators to grade-school kids, and you’ve doubled your effectiveness. It’s important to have institutional funding and full-time staff, because student-run programs are generally unsustainable (people get busy, graduate, etc.), but once those things are established, the impact can be very positive.

So start agitating for a sexual assault prevention program at your school. With any luck, the program will someday rid your college of “Mitchum men” altogether.

    7 thoughts on “If You Love Date Rape, You’re A Mitchum Man

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    3. Thank you for writing this! I saw that Mitchum ad about the pictures on TV and wrote a very angry letter to Mitchum and REVLON – Mitchum is OWNED BY REVLON! (or at least was at the time). I also stopped buying Revlon products, which, granted, I didn’t buy very often anyway. I believe I wrote in my letter that they might as well have said “If you’re a sex offender, you’re a Mitchum man.”

      It’s an absolutely disgusting ad, and I’m glad to see someone writing about it after all this time.

    4. Thanks for writing the letter, Emily. I really think doing little stuff like that does matter–it has a cumulative effect, you know? I did the same at the time they were running that ad… Maybe our combined efforts led to them dropping the Mitchum Man thing and going with the opus that is the armpit symphony commercial ;)

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