A few days ago, I randomly happened to find a video on a social news site attributed to a campaign entitled “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls.” The video starred a one Mr. Isaiah Mustafa, the “I’m on a horse” guy of Old Spice commercial fame, up to similarly humorous antics that made him famous. In the video, a shirtless Isaiah comes striding purposefully through a parking lot, blindfolded, as a shlubbier man is seen fumbling around with the auto-locker on his keychain, aimlessly trying to find his car in a veritable sea of vehicles. Isaiah, on the other hand, succeeds in finding his own car whilst blindfolded, slides into the passenger seat, pulls down his blindfold as he mugs to the camera, and proceeds to back out of his parking spot whilst making a beeping noise.
Suddenly, text flashes on the screen as a deep, rugged voice says, “Real men have a sense of direction.” Then…”Real men don’t buy girls.”A screenshot of Isaiah’s mugging face is then digitally framed, and the camera pans to similarly poor digitally framed photos of other famous men in the entertainment business with a plaque under each photo that reads, “Real Man.” Pictures of Tom Selleck, Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, and other men I don’t recognize “hang” on the walls of a CGI room as Eva Longoria appears to inform viewers that, “Pete Cashmore is a real man; are you?”. Finally, a cut to a screen that somehow relates to the campaign cause – amidst links to make your own “Real Man” video, identify yourself as a “real man” or someone who “prefers are a real man”, and the site demiandashton.org, a small banner line at the top reads, “Take a Stand Against Child Sex Slavery.”
Child sex slavery? That’s what the video was about? Who is Pete Cashmore? What does he even have to do with child sex slavery? Maybe I just wasn’t “getting it”. Across the room, my partner looked up from his gender studies textbook to see my bewildered face. After inquiring as to what the matter was, I asked him to come re-watch the video with me. Lo and behold, he didn’t get it either. I watched a practical play-by-play reaction of how I felt when I watched the video the first time around play out on his face. First, a smile. Then, a chuckle. Then… “What? Wait…what?” And now he had the same bewildered look on his face as I did.
In researching the website, I found this was an ad campaign sponsored by the Demi and Ashton Foundation, also known as “DNA”. Quips about their cleverly named foundation aside, their focus is to raise awareness of child sex slavery, and these two fading stars have rallied all their celebrity friends together in an effort to achieve their goals. Raising awareness of child sex slavery? I’m all for it, but given that Sexual Assault Awareness Month is in full swing, and the surprising lack of public awareness about the pervasiveness of trafficking cases in and around Portland, the more effort aimed at public awareness as the first step towards eradication of the problem is more than welcome. However, this viral video campaign leaves much to be desired, with misplaced humor overshadowing an important message that isn’t getting across to the viewer. Not only that, but as my partner pointed out, even the slogan is lacking. Unfortunately, many people who happen across the slogan, “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls” will not understand the message implicit in this vague statement.
But how many people will come across the message that DNA (ugh) is trying to send out? Apparently, this campaign has been up and active since September 2010, and yet only by random chance and extreme boredom I found out about it. Considering the budget that they must have to work with, one would think that they’d go on the media warpath trying to get their message heard. Much of their budgetary habits don’t seem to make sense, however. Consider how sharp the quality of the filming seems to be during the “funny” bits, but suddenly cuts to poor green screen capabilities and a low-budget look once the video actually gets to even vaguely talking about the cause at hand.
Every single video in the series follows a similar pattern. You can visit http://demiandashton.org/videos to see the celebrity videos included in this campaign. Another drawback to the campaign is finding the whole collection of videos is surprising difficult to do—Google results for “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls videos” only reveals social media sites reporting on the campaign, with a few videos embedded in the article, tops. This in itself is truly a shame, because if other websites are the most common way people are finding out about the “Real Men” campaign, they will be even less likely to find out information regarding the realities of child sex trafficking. Even though the end of the video includes a small mention of the official DNA website, clicking on the video directly links you to their Facebook page instead, which is bereft of the pertinent information included on the official site, such as survivor stories, facts and statistics, and media coverage of the issue. Going from the Facebook page to the official website just adds another link in the chain between the time when an individual first clicks “play” on a “Real Man” video to the time they actually learn a thing or two about the truth of child sex trafficking.
Please watch a video or two to come to your own conclusion about the usefulness behind this video campaign. But more than that, I would encourage you to look into the real story about child sex trafficking, and become aware of the fact that this is an issue that affects every community. One site that I find very intriguing is http://slaverymap.org/, which highlights the point that slavery is a real, local issue—one that could even permeate your own neighborhood. The information revealed behind each documented case of slavery, no matter how brief, adds the pathos and realism sorely lacking the “Real Men” videos. The break in a case that was revealed in SW Portland occurred when, “…a man who paid for sex took pity on the 13-year-old and let her use a cell phone to call home. That call led the girl to call 911, reaching Portland police.” This simple statement says what the “Real Men” video campaign never does – that child sex slavery is no laughing matter.
And more than anything, getting out there to fight against sex trafficking commits you to the kind of pledge DNA is hoping the public can commit to, a pledge to stand up to the forces behind slavery in an effort to see its end. The DNA website gives great tips to start in the fight, by flagging Internet content which promotes the act of sex trafficking and slavery. Because the Internet is such an immense source of propagation in this day and age, making the effort to flag inappropriate on Craigslist and Facebook, and reporting websites to www.cybertipline.com can make a world of difference. To get involved in the fight on a personal level, Oregonians Against Trafficking Humans (OATH) has a wealth of information about how to get involved locally on their website, . And word is floating around that a new PSU student group, Students Against Human Trafficking, is in the works. Be sure to keep an open ear for any news related to this blossoming opportunity.
Written by Lacey Moore