I recently found out about the Real Men Don’t Buy Girls campaign from this Newsweek article about a new study of users of pornography and buyers of prostitutes. The campaign was started by Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher and it involves a number of videos featuring male celebrities promoting the anti-child-trafficking message. As I was watching the videos, it seemed almost every man featured had done something notably anti-woman that I could recall off the top of my head. While they may support anti-trafficking efforts, many of these guys don’t seem on board with my Men Shouldn’t Be Awful Jackasses campaign.
The DNA Foundation (because “Demi ‘N’ Ashton”) has a great mission statement and seems quite legit in their cause:
Believing that freedom is a basic human right, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher founded The Demi and Ashton Foundation (DNA) to raise awareness about child sex slavery, change the cultural stereotypes that facilitate this horrific problem, and rehabilitate innocent victims.
The organization has plenty of facts about prostitution, and, in addition to wanting people to support the Real Men campaign, they also are trying to diminish the ways in which pimps can advertise underage girls online. Moore and Kutcher were also involved in the United Nation’s creation of a trust fund for victims of trafficking. I don’t doubt that they are sincere in wanting child prostitution to end. My problem here is not with the organization nor even with the idea of male celebrities telling other men that “hey, purchasing girls to rape is wrong, bro!” (How sad it is that men have to be told not to sexually abuse kids… you’d think that would be a basic part of being a decent human being by now.)
The Newsweek article from which I learned about the Real Men campaign describes an issue the researchers had. For their control group of 100 men, they could hardly find a man who hadn’t consumed pornography and/or bought prostitutes.
“We had big, big trouble finding nonusers,” Farley says. “We finally had to settle on a definition of non-sex-buyers as men who have not been to a strip club more than two times in the past year, have not purchased a lap dance, have not used pornography more than one time in the last month, and have not purchased phone sex or the services of a sex worker, escort, erotic masseuse, or prostitute.”
Not only is this fact massively depressing, but that the Real Men campaign couldn’t find a group of men with clean records in the misogyny department is similarly awful. And telling.
Justin Timberlake featuring Piers Morgan
Justin Timberlake. . . where do I start? Let’s just say that a number of his music videos have been a bit heavy on the “objectification of women” front. (Goodness, he sure likes to casually sit in chairs while women in very little clothing dance around him, doesn’t he?)
Beyond that, this month, Justin Timberlake offered up his “Friends With Benefits” costar, Mila Kunis, to a U.S. marine who invited her to a Marine Corp ball through a video on YouTube. Like any Real Man, Timberlake ensures the marine that he will “make it happen” and that he’s “going to work on this”. Seriously. It’s gross.
The eeriest part of the exchange:
Kunis: Are you coming with me to this ball?
Timberlake: No! They don’t want to hang out with me, they want to hang out with you!
Kunis: I have to go by myself?
Timberlake: Yeah! You’re going to the ball with this guy!
Kunis: What if he’s —
Timberlake: You’re doin’ it.
Kunis: Alright. Okay.
Kunis has since said that she has work conflicts and likely won’t be able to go.
The other guy featured in the Timberlake video is Piers Morgan. . . who laughs it up as noted fauxgressive Bill Maher calls Sarah Palin and Rep. Michelle Bachmann MILFs. He was also totally skeevy towards Beyoncé. And these were just from the two of the three episodes of his show that I’ve seen.
Sean Penn was charged with felony domestic assault when he was married to Madonna in the 1980s. He plead out to a misdemeanor.
Jamie Foxx featuring Donald Trump
Jamie Foxx was featured in Kanye West’s misogyny-fest song and video for “Gold Digger”.
Donald Trump has a history of misogynistic remarks and actions, including going after Rosie O’Donnell. Then, of course, he also owns the Miss Universe Organization which is responsible for a number of patriarchy parades — er, “beauty pageants”. Finally, and perhaps most disturbingly, Trump also said of his eldest daughter, Ivanka, “She does have a very nice figure . . . if [she] weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.” Real creepy men?
Bradley Cooper featuring Conan O’Brien
Cooper has been involved in a number of dudebro films such as The Hangover, The Hangover Part II, and Wedding Crashers.
If these are “Real Men” I’d hate to see what Non-Real Men do and say.
If you’ve watched each of these videos (or the other ones), you’ve noticed the pattern: a man doing a task (often a “manly” task) followed by a bizarre/humorous twist, a jaunt down the hall of fictional Real Men, and then a sexy sexy hot lady chick asks if you are a Real Man. It’s not a coincidence that Jessica Biel and Eva Longoria were chosen for this. Just as the Real Men attract their dudely admirers, so do the attractive women who encourage you to be a Real Man (because they “prefer Real Men”). And, hey, if you’re a Real Man who doesn’t rape children, maybe one of these sexy women will want you, huh?
I get it. You want the campaign to get buzz and appeal to men who, after all, comprise virtually all of those who use prostitutes. It’s like how the Julyna campaign “raises awareness” for cervical cancer by instructing women to trim and shave their pubic hair into different shapes. It gets people talking. The Real Men Don’t Buy Girls campaign is not as overt in its attempts to gain attention with “sexy” aspects, but it’s still the case that they are resorting to using pretty women to convince men that they shouldn’t rape little girls. If the appeal to men to STOP RAPING CHILDREN requires showing those men some attractive adult women as a replacement, I’m guessing that’s not going to be enough to win them over.
It is also important to note that it is not just “girls” who suffer in prostitution, but adult women as well. As the DNA Foundation’s website says itself, the average age for entry into prostitution in the U.S. is 13 years old. Four years later, that “trafficked child prostitute” does not suddenly become a “free-choice-making woman who just loves sex”. Although, because the age of entry into prostitution is so low, focusing on eliminating child prostitution is vital (but politely asking men to promise to be good won’t work on its own). However, the angle of the foundation — that of abolition and placing the blame on pimps — is absolutely the correct path.
I’m glad to see a bunch of male celebrities supporting a no-duh “cause” such as this, but what does it say that this group was the best they could gather out of all the famous men? A serial objectifier, a convicted woman-abuser, and a number of run-of-the-mill misogyny supporters & beneficiaries?
They got this much right: these are real men.