Wednesday, December 14, 2011


We’ve had some good times, the “My Strength Is Not for Hurting” social marketing campaign and Men Can Stop Rape (MCSR). The campaign has been around for a little more than a decade, its posters, billboards, banners, postcards, and bus ads gracing hundreds of walls, highways, and buses throughout the U.S. And sometimes it has traveled to foreign countries, like South Africa, Japan, and Scotland. At this point, millions of men have seen its striking visuals.

But any campaign that has been around as long as this one begins to lose its steam. And for good reason. While it was a groundbreaking at the time – someone just placed a 2002 issue of O The Oprah Magazine on my desk in which the campaign is called “stunning” – it has failed to keep up with the times in two important ways. First of all, how we understand and shape consent is beginning to change. Almost all the “My Strength” messaging springs from the phrase, “No means no,” a popular anti-date rape slogan. A few examples are: “My strength is not for hurting, so when she said no, I said okay,” “So when I wanted her, I asked her, and I took no for an answer,” “So when I wanted to and she didn’t, we didn’t.” The more positive phrase, “Yes means yes,” popularized by Jessica Valenti and Jaclyn Friedman’s anthology of the same name, is gaining credence. Yes Means Yes! is based on the idea that the prevalence of rape will substantially drop when both women and men value female sexuality and pleasure. While it’s a little ways off, Men Can Stop Rape wants to create a campaign in the near future targeting young men that incorporates this idea.

Secondly, when it comes to primary prevention bystander intervention (BI) is where it’s at right now, and the BI component of “My Strength Is Not for Hurting” has always been miniscule compared to the focus on consent. (See two past MCSR blogs for more on this issue, one about David Lisak’s work on predatory rape and college campuses, the other on men and bystander intervention.) The one BI poster* with four men that says, “My strength is not for hurting, so when men disrespect women, we say that’s not right,” has always been by far the most popular of all 19 posters, so there has always been a strong interest in promoting bystander intervention to men. From our perspective now, one BI poster doesn’t do the job. We know from research that a successful BI campaign has multiple examples of intervention that are specific to the particular situation presented. That’s why we created the [YMOST] Young Men of Strength for middle school boys and WHERE DOYOU STAND? for college men specifically as bystander intervention campaigns. They offer media materials with more specific situations and interventions that are addressed in even more detail during train-the-trainer trainings.

So we say a fond farewell to “My Strength Is Not for Hurting,” with the recognition that “being strong sometimes means being able to let go.”

* You could also include the “My Strength” poster with nine men that says, “Show your strength, stand up, speak up,” in the BI category but the intervention is so non-descriptive that it’s ineffectual. Share


  1. Anonymous6:56 AM

    a couple of things that concern me about the "yes means yes" slogan are that it may be a confusing message for men... it leaves out the issue of what if the woman says yes initially and then changes her mind... "yes" has the possibility of changing to "no" and the "no" will always be more important than the "yes"... so "yes means yes" automatically leaves out this important detail. also, most rapists do not give one crap about whether the person they are raping is enjoying it or not. rape is used to humiliate and degrade. it is an expression of hate. men who genuinely do not want to harm or pressure their partners will care about learning to value female sexuality and pleasure, but many rapists have an overall contempt and hatred of women. if they hate women, they're not gonna care about making sure we are nice and comfortable and relaxed... the thrill is from taking it from us and hurting us. just take a look at the attitudes of fratboys who promote rape... and think about the men who get pleasure out of raping someone who is completely knocked out on a date rape drug. the dignity and input of the sex partner is nowhere in the equation. these men need a complete overhaul by learning basic empathy and compassion.... they really amount to nothing more than conscienceless criminals.

    1. Anonymous12:38 PM

      Who says rape is an expression of hate? Are you a psychologist now?
      Firstly there are many definitions of 'rape' nowadays and each can be caused by various triggers or motivations. Hate is actually one of the less common reasons for rape. Frustration is a much more common one. Especially in situations where a woman has indicated she is sexually available or has been available to the man previously but then put the no sign up at the last minute.
      There are many other causes which I won't go into here cos there isn't space, but suffice to say its not so clear cut that you could simply label all men as criminals lacking empathy who do not value women or hate them. Women's behaviour can also sometimes play a role in these situations, and frequently does. The old cliche of a girl walking home alone in the dark when some balaclava wearing thug jumps out of the bushes happens more often in movies than in real life these days.

  2. Anonymous1:44 PM

    another problem to think about is that men are already receiving many messed up messages about consent. mainstream, hardcore porn is having a huge influence on our culture and the way men look at and relate to women. it depicts women as saying "yes" to anything and everything, and we supposedly love and enjoy everything done to us, even if we are crying and in pain. porn even tells men that even when we say "no", we really mean "yes". how are men ever supposed to recognizs true female pleasure and consent with these warped versions being branded into their brains? with images of "sex" that are barely identifiable from actual rape scenes teaching them about female sexuality and pleasure? "yes" can come from a place of fear and confusion and so many women feel pressured to give in and imitate porn.

    so if MCSR wants to do some campaigns based around female sexuality, then it would be extremely important to teach men about recognizing signs of hesitance, reluctance, tension, fear, confusion, past trauma, etc. to recognize true signs of willingness, enthusiasm, arousal, consent, etc. it has to dig so much deeper than "yes".

    i seriously do not think MCSR should abandon "no means no"-based campaigns. until men respect and take seriously "no", we are not going to get anywhere. this is so important that i don't care if it takes thousands of years of repeating "no means no" until men get it. focusing on learning about female sexuality is extremely important, too, but it needs to be paired with "no means no" without any confusing messages like "yes means yes".

    i think your decision to focus on bystander intervention is a marvelous idea, also. i know you guys want to change up your focuses and messages, but i think you should be mixing it up, not tossing anything out (except no posters with "yes means yes" written on it... ugh).

    1. Anonymous12:41 PM

      Are you SERIOUS... you want to teach all men to be shrinks by the age of consent so they can analyse a woman's mind in a bar or at a party while DRINKING and detect signs of past trauma... Did you actually THINK before you typed that.. with like.. your BRAIN?

      "He has to dig so much deeper than 'yes'" - Are you KIDDING me?! Umm any personal responsibility recommended here on behalf of women? No? Thought not.

  3. Anonymous11:45 AM

    Your argument isn't very coherent.

    I think your slogan needs to be "men, stop raping women".

  4. rape will substantially drop when both women and men value female sexuality and pleasure.

    Yeah, and theft will drop when people learn to value what they have.

    Anyway, back to reality...

    1. Anonymous7:33 AM

      prostitution is yet another form of rape,its not harmless fun it is a destroyer of human life .my prositites are sex slaves this is a crime against humanity .
      Men will always say well it will always exist,well yes it will all the time men think that way .but each man has the power to close a brothel

    2. Anonymous12:44 PM

      Well said Chrish K!
      They used to chat this rubbish back in the 90's when they told us at school that telling a bully that they are hurting your feeling by calling you names and beating the crap out of you would magically make them aware of something they had never actually thought of before and then it would stop and you could be friends.... HAHAHAHA... As you say my friend BACK TO REALITY - CHECK!

  5. Anonymous5:34 PM

    Maybe your next message could be that using a prostitute is just another form of rape,alot of men are not aware of that .
    Now recount how many men actually rape ?

  6. Anonymous2:52 PM

    I'm not entirely sure how I feel about everything in this article but I was thinking that it would be helpful for men that com here to read this

  7. Anonymous7:19 AM

    I think it is also important to let men know that prostitution can be just another form of rape ,because if a woman is being sold against her will this is rape.
    We need to view sex slaves, in the same why we do about the terrible black slavery it is evil to the core .
    But many men buy sex and view it as fun.when this is brought up they say it will always exist,well yes it will all time time men think that way after all if they all stopped buying it it would stop.

  8. I am stunned by the gross anti-male sexism and gender stereotyping in this blog post, which leads readers to assume that rape always happens to women and is always perpetrated by men. Sexual assault is not a gender crime. In fact, research studies of college-age young adults has found that MEN actually experience more or equal amounts of unwanted sexual contact and sexual coercion, which translates to sexual assault and rape. Female perpetrators are not rare; what is rare are males who feel safe enough to speak up about their abuse and social service campaigns that validate male victims of sexual assault/rape and hold female perpetrators accountable.

  9. Anonymous10:45 AM

    actually, a lot of big holes in the campaign. They leave out "just because she didn't say "no" doesn't mean yes" and "no means stop".