He may not be in the White House anymore, but that doesn't mean former Vice President Joe Biden has given up on his long-time crusade against sexual assault. Biden tweeted a painful but necessary PSA about rape culture from his It's On Us campaign, which focuses on preventing sexual assault through bystander intervention, with a simple statement: "The correct word for sex without consent is rape. Period. #ItsOnUs to know the signs and to stop it."
The video, at just over 30 seconds, frames a conversation between two friends that's eerily reminiscent of the "locker room talk" that was examined at length during the election. As one friend talks about the "drunk chick" they were hitting on at a party, the phone's autocorrect feature reveals the chilling reality — "talking to" is autocorrected to "targeting"; they say they had to "encourage" her to have sex, and it's autocorrected to "force." Meanwhile, the conversation partner's passive responses are autocorrected as well: "She totally wanted you" corrects to "she totally wanted you to stop." The conversation continues as the first texter complains about a friend who intervened and "shut down a good time" (autocorrected to "shut down a rape") as the voice-over implores viewers not to "ignore the subtext."
There are a few layers to this video that make it particularly striking. For one, there's the reality of the language used to discuss sexual assault that perpetuates rape culture — particularly the predatory ways that sex is somehow turned into a game (frequently among young men) where "getting some" trumps getting consent.
Then there's a look at how a rapist and a rape apologist (whether they mean to be or not) frame bringing an incapacitated woman into a room to presumably have sex without her consent (read: rape). To the pair texting in Biden's PSA, it's an acceptable pick-up tactic (instead of what it is: a crime). And to the same pair, the heroic person who intervenes and stops the rape is considered "a bitch." This exchange should be perceived as incredibly disturbing. Unfortunately, this attitude is perpetuated all too often.
Ultimately, the conversation exposes how people too easily forgive this kind of language from peers and friends in private "locker room" scenarios or at parties —even when they understand the subtext. But at the same time, the It's On Us ad also shows how simple it is to speak up and challenge this particularly insidious part of rape culture.