Not cool, you guys. You’re making me say things in defence of PETA. I hate when I have to do that.
I mean, it’s never happened before, because they’re horrible, but it’s happening now and I hate it.
If you don’t know, they’re People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and they recently released this 30-second ad:
And the majority of people on what I tend to think of as “my side” leapt on them for, primarily, “glamorising domestic violence“.
Only I don’t think that’s what they’re doing.
The joke seems to be a fairly straight-forward one: This girl’s boyfriend went vegan, and suddenly found that he had so much extra energy and potency that their sex became vigorous enough to damage the wall and cause an unfortunate, accidental neck injury.
Yes, the woman has suffered physical damage, but it doesn’t even obliquely reference domestic abuse, let alone glamorise it.
When we see the boyfriend, he’s repairing the wall and shame-facedly asking how his partner’s feeling. In response, she throws at him a bag of fruit and veg which she’s just been out to buy, implying that she’s not exactly displeased with these new developments. Perhaps next time they’ll position themselves more carefully, make sure any nearby hard surfaces are adequately cushioned, and continue to enjoy their kinky sex responsibly and safely.
Which is nothing to do with actual domestic abuse. This ad isn’t portraying or describing anything reprehensible, let alone condoning it. Getting physical with someone is only unacceptable in ways they haven’t fully consented to – there’s a danger of this being used as a bullshit rationalisation, admittedly, by someone trying to justify actions that are still fundamentally abusive, but that’s not what’s going on here.
The only real link to domestic abuse is that the tone of the ad is deliberately similar to some public service announcements that show women in abusive situations, which offer help and advice. The criticism then is that, by making this ad about a woman who enjoyed getting beaten up a bit, they’re demeaning the plight of women described by the PSAs it parodies, and people will take actual domestic abuse less seriously as a result.
Maybe there’s something there. But I’m not sure lodging complaints about this ad is the answer. If people are prone to such failures of imagination that they’re going to neglect domestic abuse sufferers on the basis of kinky people speaking out and consensual violent sex becoming more mainstream, I don’t see that being neatly fixed by telling those people to shush and stop pretending that anyone enjoys getting beaten up.
Which isn’t to stay that actual domestic abuse doesn’t need our attention too, but this reaction seems misguided. I actually think some feminists are missing the point of this ad the same way some Chris Brown fans did about Rihanna. Now that was a depressing story. It doesn’t matter how much you think you’d enjoy being punched in the face; what he did to Rihanna was not okay. Contrariwise, we don’t need to stop condemning all forms of abusive relationships if we want to let this fictional vegan couple just have their fun.
More to the point, is there any evidence that a vegan diet actually does improve your energy levels like this? That might be more objectionable than anything else about this.
Also, PETA are terrible.