Real Men Don’t Buy Girls, They Just Do Everything Else

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

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.

Conan O’Brien thinks rape is hilarious and other sexual assault is funny too. He is also generally quite terrible on his show otherwise.

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.

  1. FCM said:

    yes the bar is set extremely low here isnt it? charlie sheen is a real man too, assuming all his victims have been over 18. of course, hes a “real man” even if they werent, thats kind of the whole problem. real men sexually use and abuse women all the time. real, live, flesh and blood men. the banality of evil and all that.

  2. rmott62 said:

    This is the most stupid and brain-dead ad campaign – nothing to show the reality of even under-aged prostitution, let allow the rest of prostitution. Having men so stupid they can’t even use a remote control – how that say anything about the destroyed lived of women and girls in prostitution
    But more important – all men are capable of using prostitutes – doesn’t matter what labels they call themselves.
    God, I’m bloody furious – but that may just trauma and menopause – or knowing that many “real men” fuck me into a lifetime of trauma, and doing to millions of women and girls all the time.

  3. sea said:

    I’m glad you mentioned the Mila Kunis thing. Did you watch the video of the marine who “invited” her on the date? Firstly he has weapons strapped all over his body, but the wording he chooses I found astonishing. Firstly he states his army rank then gives her ‘permission’ to call Jim by his first name. Then he says “I’m taking a moment out of my day to invite you to go to a ball with yours truly” and tells her to think it over and get back to him. He doesn’t say please, or that he’d be honored of she would consider going with him, or that he admires her acrid or ANYTHING to even remotely hide the fact that this is a proposition of a sexual nature by a member if the armed forces and she should be lucky to receive it. Justin Timberlake even tells Mila that she has to “do it for her country”! So if you’re an attractive woman in the public eye and you’re propositioned by a stranger that happens to be an army officer you’re unpatriotic if you refuse. Disgusting.

  4. Does anything scream “MEN HATE YOU” louder than the fact that they need to be wittily cajoled by bright and shiny people into not “buying” girls (children!!!) and that nowhere does this campaign say that men (real or otherwise) shouldn’t rape girls regardless of whether they “buy” them or not?

  5. zeph said:

    Excellent post, Lishra. Good exposure of the lack of sincerity of these men; the vids are taking the piss. “Real men know how to make a meal” watch the film, no they don’t! “Real men don’t buy girls” yes they do! The value of doing one thing while saying another is established, so the viewer knows that the opposite of what they are saying is true. It is a typical patriarchal reversal.
    The survey is a joke, because they could not find any non buyers. Only men who had not bought for a month, so how can you establish the difference buying makes to men? Clearly one set put forward a sympathetic tone while the others told an unpalatable truth. All men buy! This is just a diversionary tactic to send this generation of women on a wild goose chase trying to persuade the non-existent non-buyer to put a stop to the existent universal buyer, which includes themselves.
We will no doubt provide sex, and birth a whole new generation of buyers while we attempt this, which is all men want us 
to do.

  6. yttik said:

    Great article. You helped me figure out what was bothering me so much about the “real men don’t buy girls” campaign.

    It also annoys me because it’s still all about the men. Don’t buy girls because it’s wrong, harmful to the girls?? Nope. Don’t buy girls because it might hurt your image as a “real man.” These girls suffer unbelievable atrocities and it’s like, “oh well. Meh.” But point out that a man might suffer a tiny spot on his reputation and suddenly it becomes a cause worth supporting.

  7. FCM said:

    yes! this is all about reversals! thanks zeph. i still need those pointed out.

    did anyone see the twitter war between ashton kutcher and the nyc “alternative” newspaper “the village voice”? apparently the village voice sells advertising space in the back to all manners of pimps and traffickers (craigslist style) and the voice went after ashton and his campaign bc they sited a study on child sex trafficking and misinterpreted the statistics. then ashton got all offended because “he only plays stupid on TV” and didnt appreciate the voice telling him he was a moron for misinterpreting a statistic.

    it was all very much “what about teh menz” for days, as ashton and the doods at the voice duked it out amongst themselves, and about themselves, on twitter. thats what always happens though isnt it?

  8. AmazonMancrusher said:

    ‘REAL men… don’t do nasty things to women and children’ type campaigns will always fail, aside from the fact it is ridiculous because of course it is actual ‘real’ men, but also because the aim of the ‘REAL men….’ message is: firstly to pretend to present an alternative and nicer form of masculinity. But masculinity, in and of itself, is violent and oppressive. There is only one way to excersize masculinity and it is oppressively and always involves harming females. Secondly, the aim of the ‘REAL men….’ messages are for men to con women into thinking that some of them are really nice nigels, who obediently excersize masculinity and maleness within the realms and boundaries of social normality, as opposed to those who allegedly step outside by being just a little too abusive (and usually towards girls, because adult females ought to have learned our role by now and our trauma no longer matters, even a little bit). But the boundaries of social normality for how men are enabled and encouraged to behave and operate masculinity violently and oppressively invades every angle of female interest. This will always be a false divide and women need to see through it. It would be better for women’s consciousness and liberation if men created a campaign like ‘REAL men DO rape and abuse girls and women’ – at least that would be encouraging females to see through all the bullshit instead of just further covering up the truth.

  9. cherryblossomlife said:

    Yes, it is actually disgusting that the REal Man ad is basically admitting that men don’t have the moral fibre to decide NOT to buy girls without being coerced or promised something in return, in this case, a cookie from certain women and the chance to improve on their “image”.

    ANd Zeph, WTF was that reversal?! “Real men know how to make a meal” (except he can’t) Real men don’T buy girls (except they do). I though the punchline would be that that guy was a loser, not a real man, but then they go and put his face in a plaque with the inscription “Real Man” underneath. 😯

  10. cherryblossomlife said:

    It is noteworthy that Real Men are within their rights to buy women. It’s just children that are off the menu

  11. kathy said:

    Yay, finally a take down of this campaign. and more appalling then I thought–I didn’t know about the “pretty women” part of the “deal”–ugh. Just one point of confusion: you mention the Newsweek article and Melissa Farley’s research. It’s her research project not the Real Men campaign that talked about how hard it was to find men who did not use porn, prostitutes, strippers, etc. The Real Men campaign under your analysis, however, proves her point! thanks.

  12. kathy said:

    “It would be better for women’s consciousness and liberation if men created a campaign like ‘REAL men DO rape and abuse girls and women’ – at least that would be encouraging females to see through all the bullshit instead of just further covering up the truth.”

  13. zeph said:

    Hi Kathy, I did not mean Melissa’s work was a joke, far from it. As you say she exposed the problem, I meant that trying to get results about non-buyers ended up being a joke because none could be found!

    “I thought the punchline would be that that guy was a loser,”

    Cherry, it should have been. They’re a motley lot when you consider they come from Hollywood!

  14. julia said:

    Excellent post.
    Whatever happened to NOMAS?

    Bill Maher – didn’t he hit his girlfriend at a party?

    All of this makes me sick. Makes me think of how much the Backlash against women has made it worse.

    I was at a march and vigil in January, organized by a woman from the University and I was the only one there with a sign about women and girls! Even the sole speaker, a woman professor, did not once say ‘women and girls’. This gives the idea that it is ‘everybody’.

  15. julia said:

    Ooops, I meant to write a march against human trafficking.

  16. ashley said:

    I just think it’s a stupid premise that anyone who is morally capable or purchasing a young girl for rape gives a flying fuck whatt Ashton Kutcher or anyone else thinks about him. If you have the ability and willingness to do such a thing, and an ad like that comes on, you’re laughing your ass off with your shitbag friends while you drink whiskey out the bottle.

    Yes, it’s all about a dude (Kutcher) building himself up. as per…usual.

  17. KatieS said:

    Many of the ones that do this are doing it only for PR. That’s what they do. Some of the women and perhaps men are doing it because they want to make a difference. The only thing is that, for those who are sincere they don’t know that to make a difference, you have to do radical things, unpopular things, things that upset the powerful, that go against the patriarchy. You have to tell the truth about what’s really going on, and burst the little fantasy bubble that these stupid ads portray.

    Occasionally, stars have done this, like Sinead O’Cononnor going on SNL with her unscripted anti-pope bit. She was Irish and the stuff about sexual abuse in the church was just beginning to come out. Most people did not believe what the victims were saying and were pillorying them. She stood up to the patriarchy, in the form of the pope, and that’s a pretty big patriarchy symbol to take on. This was at a time when it was not done, especially in Ireland. It did hurt her career. People were booing her offstage in subsequent performances. But it also was a beacon for many people. What came out later, vindicated the truth that she tried to tell.

    What I see with these videos=”the feminist movement as a trendy little advertising meme.” Just like the “this is what a feminist looks like” deal. The funfems and post-mods think they can “create a new reality” through these minor trendy memes or something. It’s so shallow. It mocks real feminist/women’s liberation. Real radical feminism/women’s liberation was fierce and dangerous to patriarchy. Those who spoke out took risks.

  18. survivorthriver said:

    I appreciate even seeing the anti-trafficking out in the mainstream. I belong to an anti-trafficking nonprofit so I get news on the topic more than some, and it’s been a hard fight to get the prostitution of underage persons even recognized as a sex crime. Back when my foster daughter was trafficked, she was arrested and put in juvenile detention and then a group home as “incorrigible” instead of removing her pedophile violent father from the home. Nothing happened to her pimp boyfriend at all, zip, zero.

    The advertising campaign in question is one of the first I’ve seen where it’s a male advocating against buying girls (and boys).

    I hope there’s more ads rolling out of this campaign and begin to expose the cowardice of the johns, who fear publicly being outted as pedophiles and child rapers. Many pedos and child rapers had stuff happen to them in early and become abusers as a result in a sick cycle (not a justification!) , but most of these johns pass as normal in society, come from all walks of life and just need to begin to be more publicly humiliated for being such cowards and liars and preying on our children. There’s also a lot that can be done to end the cycle of child abuse, the root cause of some abusers abusing.

    What really radical, unpopular, upsetting and against-the-patriarchy campaign could radfems devise to burst the little fantasy bubble of delcsion? I love that descriptor of yours KatieS. My lame tagline for our campaign, “Men who buy prostituted children are pedophiles”. Kind’ve a lot of words for a t-shirt.

    I love the Swedish model with the adult prostitute decriminalized but johns and pimps arrested. I think with how lucrative trafficking of persons is we can turn the tide and massively prosecute those getting rich off this. The revenues from shutting down even a corner of that market would provide shelter for all the underage victims of john rape, I’d bet. Sigh.

    I don’t find anything wrong with “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls” as a tagline. But I do think we should shine that big spotlight of inquiry on just who are the men who really do buy girls – as in put their head in the public stocks for starters.

    I liked a lot of the comments here and think you’ve all got legitimate points. What does a radfem anti-trafficking campaign look like? Busting johns as pedophiles and then having to list themselves as sex offender seems a great start. ?

    I thought “breaking the silence” was a great emmpowerment for survivors of incest and gender trauma. We need mroe breaking the silence about how much hurt this trafficking, porno, pimping and filming the pimping is creating in society, and all because there is DEMAND.

  19. AMeanderingSoul said:

    Real Men do buy women!

    In a recent interview, Ashton Kutcher was asked, “Do you prefer strippers or porn stars?”. Ashton replied, “I have a foundation that fights human trafficking and neither of those qualify as human trafficking. You know the live thing is nice, there’s nothing wrong with a live show, who doesn’t like a live show”. This ‘Real Man’ has given out the message to millions of his followers that pornography and strip clubs have nothing to do with human trafficking, when in fact they do. Note that the DNA Foundation have not stated that they want to help end adult sex slavery. (09:44 onwards).

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