OPINION: Don't punish the behavior you want to see

Person holding a smartphone at a protest. Via Scopio.

Warning: This piece contains some content related to sexual assault.

While TikTok POVs have long been the subject of mockery, one trend in particular seems to generate criticism for the wrong reasons. For those who don’t know, a POV is a “point of view” video that usually consists of captioning explaining what is happening from the viewer’s perspective, while the person in the video acts out the scenario.

I’ve seen a few POVs recently in which men act out a scenario that centers around them not assaulting a woman. For example, Jacob Sartorius posted a POV where he acts out a friend encouraging him to bring a drunk girl to his bedroom, and he refuses by lip syncing a derogatory name in response. The video garnered mixed reactions in the comments, with some people commenting that he gained their respect — but the majority of commenters gave negative feedback, saying he shouldn’t be praised for doing the bare minimum. (Disclaimer: I do not claim to be a fan of Sartorius in any way, shape or form, nor do I know much about him aside from this one specific video.)

In another video that I saw duetted on my For You page, a man posted a POV in which he asks his partner if they’re ready, and they say yes. He notices that they don’t seem ready, and they respond that they’re not sure. He reassures them that it’s okay, and suggests that they go get something to eat instead. In the duet of the video, which has since been deleted, a woman dances around to sarcastically praise the man for not assaulting his partner. Many of the comments say things such as, “The bar is on the floor,” and “The bar cannot get any lower.”

My concern when reading these comments is that they will discourage male influencers and creators from making similar content in the future. I agree that not taking advantage of someone when they’re drunk, or making sure your partner is comfortable when initiating sexual activity, are actions that should be the absolute bare minimum. I agree that it is frustrating to see men expecting praise for, essentially, not being predators. I am also bothered by the suspicion that some of these men may be making these videos for clout. However, I think, or at least hope, that these types of videos will normalize asking for consent, especially among young viewers.

Since approximately one in six women and one in 10 men report having been sexually coerced in their lifetimes, I would argue that while these videos portray men acting with basic human decency, they sadly do not portray the norm. Furthermore, as of 2018, only eight states require consent to be taught in sex education in public schools. If kids aren’t going to learn about consent in school, maybe they’ll learn from TikTok.

I’m a firm believer that we should not punish or discourage the behavior we want to see. As someone who grew up listening to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and watching “Grease,” I see this as a welcome shift in pop culture. I’m not going to tell anyone not to be annoyed by this trend, but I do encourage people to think twice about criticizing videos that could be a step in the right direction.

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