What’s this?? An “Ask First” thong on Victoria’s Secret’s display rack? Did Victoria’s Secret get the message, join the revolution and start making consent-themed panties?
This “Ask First” thong showed up in this Victoria’s Secret in Miami
It all started last Monday, when FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture borrowed the company’s trademark image to promote the satirical website pinklovesconsent.com. The site spoofs Victoria’s Secret “PINK” (an official line marketed at college and highschool students) as a way to promote consent and fight rape. Consent is a verbal agreement about how and when people are comfortable having sex. The fake site sports panties reading consent slogans, such as “Ask First” or “No means No.” On the “Then and Now” page, the parody says “Then we loves styles that were all about rape culture. Now we love styles that are all about consent. Catch changes hitting stores this holiday season!”
The organizers of PINK loves CONSENT believe the idea of consent should be as mainstream and common as wearing a condom. Just like pausing to put on a condom prevents STD’s, pausing to check in with your partner prevents unwanted sexual experiences. They say, “We need to create a culture where the sexual empowerment of women is more pervasive than the sexual violation. We want to see the practice of consent show up in the bedroom just as much as ‘V-string’ thongs.”
The panty prank got an overwhelmingly positive response. In two days, this site had over 200,000 hits. The stunt was written up in the Huffington Post, Jezebel, The Daily Beast and BUST to name a few. EVERYONE was talking about it on social media. High school and college aged students blogged and reblogged the story like crazy. International consent enthusiasts tweeted positive declarations about why they #loveconsent. On facebook, VS customers were wishing the consent campaign was real. And during the broadcast of the annual Fashion Show the #victoriassecret hashtag was successfully hi-jacked to promote #loveconsent more than the #vsfashionshow.
FORCE says, “The flash attention the project got didn’t come from us. It came from somewhere deeper and more important. People agree that sexual violence is unacceptable and are starting to wake up to how pervasive it actually is. People are also starting to imagine a new world- a world without rape, where the sexual empowerment of women is more pervasive than sexual violation- where good communication replaces coercion and silence.”
With all of its humor, PINK loves CONSENT is a serious glimpse of that imagined world. The project opened up a way for people to express their desire and need for change. As one headline read, “Victoria’s Secret does not heart consent, but they should.”
After a week of viral internet action, consent has now gone analog. Not only has consent popped up in unexpected place on the internet, such as Victoria’s Secret’s twitter feeds and teenage fashion blogs, but consent is now showing up in the material world, namely in Victoria’s Secret stores.
“We wanted customers who hadn’t heard about PINK loves CONSENT on the internet to stumble upon it in stores. Last week, Victoria’s Secret had shut down pinklovesconsent.com and @loveconsent [both the website and twitter handle are back up after the group fought the take down] and we realized we need another method to spread the good news of consent. So, we cashed in our “Secret Rewards” card, printed up some con-sexy undies and shipped them out to supporters nationwide. We want the important message of consent to continue to reach a broader and broader audience.”
When one shopper found them in the store in Miami, FL, she said, “When I picked up this pair of underwear, it was fun because I knew that they had been planted in the store, because I knew about pinklovesconsent.com. I didn’t buy them, though- figured another shopper would appreciate the message and might join the consent revolution!”
Another shopper in Philadelphia, PA said she purchased a pair with the Ask First slogan, “…because if I am wearing sexy underwear, that doesn’t mean I am asking for anything. Ask me first!” She was not aware of PINK loves Consent prior to the purchase.
Lots of fans of the PINK loves CONSENT campaign are asking “Where do I buy these?” As one Jezebel journalist commented “My only complaint is that you can’t actually buy anything off the site, because now I kind of want some underwear that says “respect” on the crotch.” FORCE, the group behind the prank, is not able to sell the underwear because they would probably get sued.
“At this point, we can argue that the PINK Loves Consent project is protected under fair use, because we are spoofing the Victoria’s Secret brand to educate people about consent and to critique the company. They have already taken legal action to try and block our website. If we were also using their brand to sell underwear, we would probably be in court right now. There never was a plan to sell consent themed panties, just to create a consent revolution!”
Images from the “Panty Drop”
“We can’t sell these but we would love for all the people who really, really, really want them to have them. Happy DIY-ing!”, says FORCE.
The other analog action the group is taking these days is a “PINK loves CONSENT Pocket Companion”. The guide provides readers with information about consent and how to practice it at home. You can view or download the guide at upsettingrapeculture.com/pocket .
“The pocket guide is a great way to keep spreading the good news of consent. And, it makes for excellent bedtime reading (wink, wink!). If you wished you had been in on the panty drop, we are sorry to say that we are out of undies. But, you can download the pocket guide, print it out and leave it wherever you see fit: your dorm room; your bed side table; the dining hall; even the pocket of some corporate lingerie store’s hoody. We think loving consent is the best way to add bling to this year’s holiday styles!”
Where will consent end up next? “Hopefully everywhere!” says FORCE. “We would love to see consent in sex education, college campus policies, anti-rape laws and on the cover of Cosmo Magazine. We live to see the day where sex-advice promotes good communication rather than ‘7 Ways to Tell What He’s Really Thinking.’ We live to see the day where communication and empowerment replace violence, coercion and silence.”
While the Victoria’s Secret parody was an excellent platform to spread the message of consent, you don’t need a pair of printed underwear to tell someone to “ask first”. Consent is more than a style. Consent is more than a product. Consent is a practice.
“While watching consent spread like wildfire on the internet is AWESOME, what we really need is for consent to take root in the bedroom. The best way for the consent revolution to take root is for us to all practice what we ‘tweet’ and practice consent.”