“Slap Her”: The So-Called Heartwarming Video That’s Actually Disturbing

A viral video called “Slap Her” is going around Facebook. It features five young Italian boys who are introduced to a young girl named Martina. Luca Lavarone, the videographer, instructs the boys to do a number of things to Martina: say what they like about her, “caress her,” make funny faces at her, and then — finally — to “slap her hard.”

You can watch it here:

The video is getting talked up all over the Internet as cute, adorable, and heart-warming because —  surprise  — the five young boys don’t want to slap a pretty girl they don’t know — that they just met — in public while on camera. Somehow that demonstrates the goodness of humanity. Because actual violence against women is comparable to slapping pretty girls you don’t know — that you’ve just met — in public while on camera?

But underneath this supposedly feel-good veneer — and all the media attention about how positive its anti-violence against women message is (which is questionable in itself due to harmful gender messages) — is the disturbing middle part of the video: where the boys are told to “caress her.” Not a single boy refuses. Not a single boy asks Martina if she’s ok with them doing so. They just go ahead and touch her. They touch her despite the fact that she looks visibly uncomfortable with the situation.

Not happy:

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Not happy:

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Not happy:

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 7.16.58 PM

While I believe violence against women absolutely needs to be addressed, it needs to be addressed intersectionally. It cannot be addressed by pushing against physical violence against women while encouraging sexual violence against women. (Not to mention its misguided message that you don’t slap women simply because of gender. Where does that leave gay boys? Trans* boys? Trans* girls? Would these boys be ok with slapping another boy if he wore pink… simply because he was not a “girl”?) And by presenting the “caress her” moment as somehow as innocuous and innocent as the “make a funny face her” moment, it’s communicating that it’s ok to touch women without their consent — which is a foundational aspect of sexual violence against women.

It’s actually rather chilling, if you think about it: these young boys wouldn’t hit a pretty girl that they don’t know — that they just met — in public while on camera — but —

But they would “caress” a pretty girl they don’t know — that they just met — in public and on camera without her consent.

Without further background information, that’s what the video communicates — and that should be alarming for anyone watching the video. Clearly we have a long ways to go to teach young people around the world that women’s bodies belong to themselves and no one has a right to touch them without permission, even if they are asked to do so by an authority figure behind a camera. They should be just as appalled by such a suggestion as if they were asked to “slap her hard.” In this video they are not, which is exactly the problem.

*****

P.S. I am sure someone will read this and object that Martina was probably thoroughly aware of the video’s script and thus consented ahead of time to potentially being caressed. If such an objection is raised, then I must point out that she would have also been aware of the potential of being slapped — and thus rendering the whole point of the video moot other than for educational purposes. And if the video is only to educate, then it should be educating about both physical and sexual violence against women — which it failed to do.

 

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6 thoughts on ““Slap Her”: The So-Called Heartwarming Video That’s Actually Disturbing”

  1. I agree and I’ll add a couple of more reasons why I have a problem with this. The first is that I’m tired of these deceitful people presenting their videos as something they’re not. They script them and tell us that they were spontaneous. If their intention is to demonstrate genuine human behavior in order for us to reach deeper understandings, they deliberately work against their alleged goal. Why do I assume this is scripted? Look at where they’re doing it: in full view of the general public. How could they know that one of the boys wouldn’t slap the girl? They DIDN’T. Could they afford to have a boy slapping a girl hard in public like that? Hardly. Could they afford to assume that this girl wouldn’t get decked by one of the boys and risk getting in trouble for it? No.

    The second problem is one that no one wants to talk about: domestic violence is often a pattern of behavior of both parties. Look at the Ray Rice video. The complete video. It’s clear that both of these people engage in domestic violence. It’s a cycle that is apparently a-ok until the stronger person’s degree of anger escalates beyond their norm. Then he gets targeted as the villain. Whether these people stay together or not, they carry a likelihood that their next relationship will be violent and if they have kids, they pass that violence on to their kids. Domestic violence is about control. That control can be overtly violent or subtly violent. Either way, we risk the same outcome. Until people are willing to point our fingers at both parties, the violence won’t stop. But that’s really all that matters to many people. Pointing fingers is one of the things we do best.

  2. Yeesh, that’s beyond disturbing! I find the entire setup to be extremely dehumanzing. They have a girl stand there and tell the boys to say what they like about her and then do things to her. She is not to respond or react significantly. She is just there to be acted on. She is a prop for the entire video. That is creepy.

    Furthermore, I can’t help but feel a huge amount of disappointment that many of the boys explained that they couldn’t hit her because “it’s not right to hit girls”. The video seems to encourage that this is a great response, completely ignoring that it is benevolent sexism. Also, is it okay to hit boys? Really?

    Ugh, I can’t even fathom how far off the mark this video was. Sadly, I think it has served to reinforce the objectification and sexism that supports violence and sexual assault, despite claiming to have a pro-feminist message.

  3. Hmmm. I think there is also a cultural distinction which needs to be made here. I have often observed French and Italian children kissing each other on the cheek when they meet at the playground, or at the beginning of the school day. European cultures, even among children, tend to be much more demonstrative. Children refusing to kiss their classmates’ cheeks might be interpreted in a similar way to an American child refusing to shake someone’s hand. How often do you feel you can refuse to shake hands? If you shake hands purely out of social niceties, do you feel violated afterwards?
    In my experience, among European children (and particularly Scandinavian children, where until recently TV was highly regulated) play tends to be a lot less aggressive than US and British children.

  4. In regards to cultural differences- then is it okay in Europe for boys just to kiss strange girls on the street? It’s one thing to kiss a good friend, but quite another to kiss someone you have never met- especially on the lips, as the boy asks at the end. If I were a girl in Europe, I sure wouldn’t want boys to just come up to me in the street and want a kiss or else I was being rude!

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