Recently, leading American retail store Bloomingdale’s, in their holiday catalogue, published an advertisement which disturbingly promoted date rape. In it, a woman is laughing with her head tossed back, looking at something over her right shoulder while a man stares at her unsmilingly (creepily, even). The caption reads: Spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking.
Social media instantly went into an uproar, and rightfully so. Date rape—or the practice of drugging an unsuspecting person and then sexually assaulting them—is a very real issue that is plaguing not just America, but various parts of the world. It is a blatant violation of consent, and, in encouraging people to “spike your best friend’s eggnog”, Bloomingdale’s only perpetuates this terrible kind of violence. Though, due to the social media backlash, the store had to issue an official apology where their spokesperson stated: “In reflection of recent feedback, the copy we used in our recent catalog was inappropriate and in poor taste”, that still doesn’t make this okay. The photo, and the accompanying caption sends the message that it is okay to have sex with people who are incapable of providing consent, that it is okay to drug someone just so you could get laid—and this is absolutely horrifying. Drug-facilitated rape is one of the most commonly reported sexual assault crimes, according to the American Justice Department. And, according to the National Institutes of Health, atleast half of sexual assaults involve the consumption of alcohol by the perpetrator, the victim, or both. The conversation about rape culture, and especially campus rape, has been strong this year, with the Department of Education surveying around 106 college campuses about their handlings of sexual assault reports and came up with shocking results about how poorly rape charges are dealt with. In pop culture, Lady Gaga continued this important discourse through her latest music video.
Bloomingdale’s, it turns out, is the second big company this year to face accusations of promoting rape. In April, the following Bud Light label went viral: “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night” and stirred up a social media storm for the company. At the time, Francine Kantz, one of the company’s former high-ranking employees blamed the distinct lack of women on its staff for the insensitive ad. Bloomingdale’s, however, doesn’t suffer from the same ailment. Nearly three-quarters of managers across Macy’s Inc., its parent company, are women, and so are six of its thirteen board members. What, then, caused the sanctioning of this ad? This only goes further in proving that, no matter what gender you belong to, rape culture is still inescapable and all-encompassing; to the extent that it can co-opt us into thinking that violation of consent can actually become a means of selling a product.