‘Rape shirt’ and ‘girl-on-leash’ not the same for me

Karen Kunawicz

Karen Kunawicz

Last week, I posted a photograph on Facebook of a graphic t-shirt I found at SM. The text on shirt read: “It’s not rape, it’s a snuggle with a struggle.” It got 4,976 shares and made the news—from Time to Huffington Post, to Glamour to Refinery 29. The shirt was all sorts of wrong.

Things got a little crazy in a way I was not used to, so I took a bit of a back seat and wrote about Rurouni Kenshin instead.

Then, a few days after this broke out, there were suddenly complaints about the Bench fashion show being “degrading” to women.

My photograph of the t-shirt was put right beside an image of Coco Martin walking the ramp with a female model on a leash.

I do get why the folks saw the image as degrading but—I wonder if any of those people bought 50 Shades of Grey, and liked it or have plans to watch the movie. I pretty much saw that image as “kink.” Was Coco Martin dragging her around, did she show signs of resisting? It looked like they were both consenting adults engaging in their chosen form of “kink.”

That image of course has sparked a lot of discussion online. And that’s ultimately a good thing. The Plump Pinay blog had a list of things they found objectionable—they absolutely hated the model on the leash idea and I get their reasons. There can be a fine line when discussing sensuality, sexuality, and objectification of women’s bodies. What I can totally agree with though was that it was celebrating one body type—slender.

In another point of view, Dr. Margie Holmes, in her Rappler column felt the apology Bench issued after the incident was not necessary. She writes: “Instead, you buckled and posted a lily livered apology on your Facebook wall as if simply to stop the discourse on when we cross the line between private and public spaces, between fetishes and paraphilic disorders, between art and mere titillation.”

One good thing that did come out of all this—is it has come out at the same time Emma Watson spoke about the “He For She” campaign at the United Nations. It’s good that gender issues have been put in focus.

I have one more question about the Bench show—what do you think the reaction would have been, had it been Coco Martin on the leash on all fours and the female model standing up?


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