With all of the horrible news about rapes on college campuses and the development of “enthusiastic consent” policies to ensure that sex is a mutually agreed-upon activity, what does this new holiday TV ad from Famous Footwear teach young boys?
As far as we can see, it teaches them that kissing girls requires no consent at all. OK, it’s in the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe, but still! This isn’t a sweet, romantic smooch between a boy and a girl: It’s played as a moment of triumph for the boy (the kicker line is “Victory is Yours”). The ad ends with him putting his thumbs up and looking as tough as he can (despite his baby face).
The kiss is also preceded with the boy downing some “liquid courage”—in his case most probably punch, but this echoes the involvement of alcohol in campus rapes, where the perpetrators often use drunkenness as a cover for their behavior.
Sorry, Famous Footwear. You’re out of step with the need to train boys to communicate their desires to and with girls, not just “steal” a kiss. This video is designed to be “sweet,” but instead it’s creepy, especially if you imagine a boy like this growing up into a young man who doesn’t understand that the lack of “no” doesn’t mean “yes.” We should be teaching boys and girls how to respect each other, not provide a prepubescent training manual for non-consensual sex.
If you want to let Famous Footwear know how you feel about this ad, contact its parent organization, Brown Shoe Company, whose corporate headquarters are at 8300 Maryland Ave., St. Louis, MO 63105; 314-854-4000.
Michele Kort is senior editor of Ms.