Campaign posters: too much information?

These posters are on pretty much every bus stop in my town:

I’m sure you’ve seen them. The series includes a poster with girls drinking, another one with a couple snogging in the back of a cab, one showing a girl wearing a low-cut top, etc etc etc.

The idea behind the campaign is laudable enough – it’s an attempt to shift the blame culture where, incredibly, significant numbers of people still believe a woman wearing a short skirt was in some way “asking for it” – but it makes me uneasy – as did the recent poster campaigns warning kerb-crawlers, and some of the domestic violence ones. These are campaigns by adults for adults, but they’re appearing in spaces used by young children. So for example, the anti-rape posters are on the bus stops used by primary school kids round here, the anti-kerb crawling billboards were all over Glasgow’s South Side (one I saw was within a few hundred yards of a primary school) and so on.

I dunno, am I being overly sensitive here? I’m all in favour of changing attitudes, but is there such a thing as too much information when posters are being seen by everybody? Is having to talk to very young kids about this stuff the price you have to pay to change adult attitudes? And do such campaigns even work? “Hmmm, I’m feeling like committing a shocking crime against a woman,” a rapist said yesterday. “Because quite frankly I’m a maniac. But then I saw a poster and realised it was, like, a really bad thing.”

On a related but completely different note: nice, balanced viewpoint from some religious nut-job on Radio Scotland this morning. The caller was discussing the plans to introduce (very basic) sex education for schoolkids. “I’m very suspicious of any adult who wants children to know about sex”, she said, before hissing that the only words children of any age should hear about sex should be “God”, “sin”, “hell” and “temptation”.

*sighs*

17 thoughts on “Campaign posters: too much information?

  1. Squander Two says:

    It’s not just awareness campaigns with good intentions, though. I think it’s part of a more general trend for adults to see the world as purely their own and not to modify their behaviour in the presence of children, which I suspect is related to the fact that so many of them don’t have kids now.

    I mean, I really like Friends. But it’s an adult comedy, containing regular references to sex, group sex, oral sex, promiscuity, orgasms, erections, ejaculation, etc. All quite tame by contemporary adult standards, but Channel 4 have decided that it’s basically a modern version of Happy Days and show it at ten in the morning.

    Where once people wouldn’t have talked about adult things ’cause there’s a kid in the room, now they talk about whatever the hell they want and expect the kids either to be removed or to put up with it. And the result is that kids don’t have childhoods anymore. Not to the extent we did. I don’t think that’s progress.

    Funny thing is, the trend is driven by the same people who’d fight tooth and nail against any suggestion that, say, kids could go to work at age twelve. They’re being forced to grow up early when it comes to sex, STDs, rape, promiscuity, etc, but heaven forfend they do anything dangerous like get an apprenticeship before they’re eighteen. So we have a generation of kids who’ve been taught all about adulthood but aren’t allowed to join in with it. And then we wonder about their behaviour.

    Your religious nutjob may be wrong about the whole hellfire thing, but the rest of her point is reasonable. Increasingly, I hear these people and think “Why the hell are you so keen to teach my daughter about sex?” If it were some bloke in the street, you’d call the police. If it’s someone from a political campaign group, apparently it’s OK. Presumably because they’re so trustworthy in every other respect.

  2. mupwangle says:

    Good old-fashioned, religious views on sex. Sex should be kept out of the classroom and kept in the vestry, where it belongs.

  3. McGazz says:

    “not to modify their behaviour in the presence of children, which I suspect is related to the fact that so many of them don’t have kids now.”

    That doesn’t ring quite true – because I’m not a parent, I’m never in the presence of children. It’s *parents* not modifying their behaviour that has the effect on kids, not childless adults. You’d be the first to agree that children are the responsibility of their parents, not Ch4’s schedulers.

    “So we have a generation of kids who’ve been taught all about adulthood but aren’t allowed to join in with it. ”

    That’s a very good point. Especially as the Government seems to think that the way to discourage smoking and drinking is to raise the age at which you can buy fags and booze. One minute we’re treating kids like adults, the next minute, treating adults like kids.

    I find it weird seeing children being asked to understand adult concepts, while adults themselves behave more and more like children. I’m picturing a 10 year-old trying to impart sex advice to his Playstation-using kidult Dad.

    “it’s someone from a political campaign group, apparently it’s OK. Presumably because they’re so trustworthy in every other respect.”

    You think anti-rape campaign groups are automatically untrustworthy. Or do they have a secret agenda?

    The level of sex ed in schools makes no difference to teenage pregnancy rates anyway, which are pretty much entirely dependent on socio-economic factors.

  4. mupwangle says:

    >> Especially as the Government seems to think that the way to discourage smoking and drinking is to raise the age at which you can buy fags and booze.

    I’ve never been able to get my head round the logic of that. “The are too many kids smoking and drinking under the current legal age. We must increase the legal age. That’ll stop em.”

    It’s a shame that I missed out on them attempting to raise the drinking age to 21. Underage drinking was always much cooler than aged drinking.

  5. Heather says:

    What really worries me is that the primary school girls looking at those ads are likely to have pink Playboy school supplies in their bags. Erm, of course, those are school supplies aimed at adult women which just happened to be shelved next to school supplies at WH Smith. Wouldn’t want Christie Hefner to get litigious on Bigmouth, now.

    It’s difficult stuff raising a girl these days, when the mass media wants little girls to act like women and women to act like little girls; and then a campaign like this comes along and confuses things for them even further.

  6. Squander Two says:

    > It’s *parents* not modifying their behaviour that has the effect on kids

    No, it’s parents and everyone else. These posters were not put up at bus stops by the parents of the children who use those bus stops, for them to see. The classic example of the attitude is those gay men who insist on carrying giant inflatable dildos and wearing leather thongs and nipple-clamps on Gay Pride marches, which take place in public in daylight hours and are marketed as fun family days out. Not many of them are parents.

    > You’d be the first to agree that children are the responsibility of their parents, not Ch4’s schedulers.

    Just because children are their parents’ responsibility, doesn’t mean Channel 4′ viewers aren’t Channel 4’s responsibility. I don’t think I’d be particularly bothered if they got rid of the watershed and gave all parents fair warning. But, while the watershed’s there, broadcasters should obey it. Gives us all a framework in which to work.

    Anyway, I wasn’t talking about responsibility; I was talking about attitude. TV is watched at ten in the morning by students, the unemployed, and small children, generally the under-fives. There are all sorts of things that students and unemployed adults might like to watch which broadcasters used not to broadcast because they were aware that kids were watching too. Now, they’re ceasing to bother about the kids. They want to act like adults in their adult world with other adults and just not give a shit whether any kids might be around.

    > You think anti-rape campaign groups are automatically untrustworthy.

    I thought it was pretty clear what I was writing about in that paragraph, even without the fact that I was obviously responding to the bit where Gary said “On a related but completely different note”. Yet you still manage to get the context 100% wrong. Well done.

    > because I’m not a parent, I’m never in the presence of children.

    Of course you are.

  7. mupwangle says:

    >>> because I’m not a parent, I’m never in the presence of children.

    >Of course you are.

    Actually, I tend to agree with McGazz. I’m very rarely in the presence of kids. The only notable exception was being on holiday with the extremely adorable Bigmouth Junior (who is a definite improvement on Bigmouth Snr. IMHO. :-) Sorry Gary, but you don’t like Tigger!) Other than that it is only in shops and that can easily be avoided by shopping later on. Other than a couple of teens coming to the door due to a school closure campaign, I can easily go weeks at a time without seeing anyone under 16.

  8. Gary says:

    @McGazz: “The level of sex ed in schools makes no difference to teenage pregnancy rates anyway, which are pretty much entirely dependent on socio-economic factors.”

    What about STIs? I’m sure there was a body of research showing that while ignorance-based sex education didn’t make any difference to the age at which teenagers had sex or the number of partners they had, it did have a noticeable (negative) impact on the spread of STIs. Don’t have the data to hand, far too tired to go looking for it :)

    @S2: “Increasingly, I hear these people and think “Why the hell are you so keen to teach my daughter about sex?””

    Depends on the what and the why, I think. It’s not as if the government’s planning to teach five year olds about sexual positions… my gut feeling is that knowledge is a good thing, subject of course to age-appropriateness and all that. I think *something* is necessary to counteract the fact that we live in a hyper-sexualised society. Obviously that’s primarily up to the parents, but I do think schools have a role to play too. Not least because while I’m pretty sure Sophie will be well-informed, I can’t say the same for her peers. I guess I’m suggesting herd immunity from stupidity :)

    “Your religious nutjob may be wrong about the whole hellfire thing, but the rest of her point is reasonable.”

    Sorry, I wasn’t explicit enough – she implied that anyone who wants sex education taught to under-16s is a kiddie-fiddler. It’s the same school of thought that puts cervical cancer vaccination in the same category as Gary Glitter.

    “These posters were not put up at bus stops by the parents of the children who use those bus stops, for them to see.”

    I wonder, though – maybe the issue of kids *was* discussed by the people behind the posters, and they thought that having young kids see such posters would be a good thing. If that’s the case, it’s worse IMO: I’m not greatly bothered about the government deciding when my daughter learns about basic biology, but I do object to someone else deciding when I should be talking to her about rape, prostitution and all the other wonderful things that happen in the world.

    My gut says you’re right, though, and the thought that kids would see the posters simply didn’t figure. Same way it doesn’t figure in the minds of magazine publishers who’ve turned the shelves of tesco into a soft porn extravaganza, etc etc etc.

    “I don’t think I’d be particularly bothered if they got rid of the watershed and gave all parents fair warning. But, while the watershed’s there, broadcasters should obey it. Gives us all a framework in which to work.”

    I’d agree with that.

    Obviously it’s even worse with the internet – I don’t favour a PG-rated internet, but I do think that computer firms (or anybody else who provides access – eg mobile phone firms) have a responsibility to give parents the necessary tools to control what their kids do – and parents of course have the responsibility to use those tools. So it’s good to see things like PIN codes protecting Xboxes and Sky Plus boxes, the parental controls in OS X and Vista, etc. Although I’m not sure how many parents even know they exist.

    @Heather: “It’s difficult stuff raising a girl these days, when the mass media wants little girls to act like women and women to act like little girls”

    That’s a brilliant way to put it. I have to be honest – I thought I was pretty right-on and aware of the crap directed at women and girls, but since Sophie’s come along I’ve realised I barely noticed anything. That’s partly because becoming a father makes you less permissive than, say, Hitler, but it’s largely because when you’re a bloke you simply don’t spot it.

  9. Gary says:

    Sorry, just wanted to add:

    “So we have a generation of kids who’ve been taught all about adulthood but aren’t allowed to join in with it. And then we wonder about their behaviour.”

    That’s a whole other can of worms :) I agree, though.

  10. Lis says:

    Don’t Yell At Me Disclaimer: Am on pain meds and had 2 hrs sleep.Am too tired to really read the minutiae of a very good arguments on both sides of this debate.

    Recently there was a debate about the very provocative billboard and TV ad campaign for one of the present day “Friends.” I drive by one of those billboards and I didn’t really notice them because I don’t have kids. After listening to the debate while sitting in stand-still traffic I thought, “Hmm..if I had a kid in the car, they’d be sitting under this billboard with a nearly sexually explicit banner staring at it for the last five minutes..”
    Remembering that when you’re under 5 or 4 feet, you don’t see much other than what’s up above you (squat down in your backseat if you don’t remember). But see, were I entrusted with the care of a curious child (or my own) that started asking questions about it, I’d do what my dad did probably which was, “I have no idea what it means” and then start an intellectual discussion on something else.

    But a lot of kids today are not in the constant custody of their parents. They are with their older brothers or sisters and their friends/boyfriends/girlfriends, they are with someone who doesn’t share your values 100%. If I were doing a baby sitting favor, in a car driving with Baby Bigmouth and taking her to her parents and we got stuck under that billboard and she asked me what “B.J.” meant, Mr & Mrs Bigmouth would have unknowingly put a 3rd party to use their own judgement about what to say and what not to say. Or worse yet, I have more than one child in my car,I have my other friend’s 13 year old in the front seat. She turns around and says, “That’s a blow job Sophie, duh!” Mr and Mrs Bigmouth will beat me with wine bottles, possibly.

    The concern of parents is understandable. You can’t watch your children 24/7, you cannot control every thing that they come into contact with or from whom they will get their information. The best you can hope for is a lot of trust between you and your child that when you say, “you’re not old enough to know” after you’ve given them enough age-appropriate information or analogizing it to something more understandable. That’s the responsibility of every parent and always has been since kids started walking in on the deed.

    That said, I think it’s sort of sad that those ads are targeted towards my generation (thereabouts anyway) because I miss the beauty and risk of taboos, the lost art of innuendo etc.

    If kids are anything like the generation I grew up in, we wonder what the hell our parents were thinking letting us watch “Three’s Company” which has innuendo and outright references to sex, orgies, promiscuity etc. It zoomed right over our heads. Hell, I didn’t even “get” what “The Reflex” was about until I was 22.

  11. Squander Two says:

    > What about STIs? I’m sure there was a body of research showing that while ignorance-based sex education didn’t make any difference to the age at which teenagers had sex or the number of partners they had, it did have a noticeable (negative) impact on the spread of STIs.

    Pootergeek has some interesting stuff to say about such research, having worked in the field. The summary is, if I recall corrcetly: kids lie through their teeth to sex researchers.

  12. Gary says:

    @Lis:

    “But a lot of kids today are not in the constant custody of their parents. They are with their older brothers or sisters and their friends/boyfriends/girlfriends, they are with someone who doesn’t share your values 100%.”

    Yeah, I agree entirely. I guess what I’m wondering is whether worrying about this kinda stuff is as effective as King Canute’s demonstration of holding back the tide.

  13. Heather says:

    For what it’s worth a friend’s daughter recently was the victim of an attempted rape, by her best friend’s brother. During the ordeal, her best friend told her to “just lie back and enjoy it”.

    My post-feminist mind wants to say that the sister is even guiltier and a worse person than her brother. What conditioning has gone into her head in her short life where she would say “just lie back and enjoy it” to someone screaming and weeping.

  14. mupwangle says:

    >>My post-feminist mind wants to say that the sister is even guiltier and a worse person than her brother.

    I’m not sure that that is your “post-feminist mind” or just the fact that you’re a human.

    I think someone has managed to misunderstand the term “best friend”. :-(

  15. andi says:

    Rape is wrong, non consensual sexual activity is wrong, interfering with kids is wrong, gary glitter is a horrible stupid man.

    And with reference to all the above i blame the parents (mine included), which is why the schools are in the position of doing so much teaching both the practical (the area mine were lacking in) and emotional aspects of sex.

    If you don’t start educating at some stage (age appropriate), either in school or in the home you end up with 16yr olds who the first thing they want to do apart from necking a bottle or 3 of buckfast or cider is “to do it”. Alternatively you end up with adults so fucked up bout sex (dirty, wrong and only for making babies), that they repress everything, and you’re back in the 50s.

    Anti sex educationists seem to think that a 5yr old is the same as a 15yr old, both must be treated the same way and protected from temptation. As for religion and sex, I’m from dublin and have witnessed the shit the religious propagate about sex, moving child molesting priests around, the magdalen laundries, denying contraption and all the rest. So anything said about sex by them is ignored.

    One thing that does need to be done, sentencing for sexual crimes need to be stronger, and run consecutively and not concurrently, a couple of years for a rape is an insult to the victim.

    On the posters, its a waste putting them on bus shelters, stick them in toilets of pubs. On the attempted rape, either report him or kneecap him, but definitely that whole family is out of her life forever.

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