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Anti-sexual assault PSA uses chilling autocorrect sequence to highlight rape culture

The video depicts a text conversation between two friends, talking about a party they attended the night before.

Anti-sexual assault PSA uses chilling autocorrect sequence to highlight rape culture
Cover Image Source: YouTube/It's On Us

A powerful anti-sexual assault ad shows how casual language subtly reinforces rape culture in our society. The 30-second PSA created by marketing company Mekanism for the sexual assault awareness and prevention organization It's On Us, shows a text conversation between two friends, talking about a party they attended the night before. As the conversation goes on, autocorrect switches certain words and phrases to reveal that a non-consensual sexual interaction may have occurred between one of the men and a woman the night prior. The chilling video titled Autocorrect resonated with internet users across the world, generating millions of views and dozens of articles in the press.



 

The disturbing conversation between the two individuals begins with one of them describing what — on the surface — appears to be an innocent one-night stand. "Remember that drunk chick I was talking to at the party last night?" the first person asks their friend before the words "talking to" get autocorrected to "targeting." It is then established that the woman was drunk and eventually ended up in the guy's room, where he "had to encourage her a bit."



 

"Nice. Get some?" the other friend asks. ''Well... I had to encourage her a bit," the response reads before the autocorrect turns "encourage" into "force," so that the sentence then reads: "I had to force her a bit." As the exchange continues, it becomes more and more apparent from the subtext that the encounter between the man and the drunk woman was not consensual. "She was getting into it" gets changed into "She was getting worried," and "Dude, she wanted you" is completed to read: "She wanted you to stop." The conversation then reveals that a third person stopped the impending rape by knocking on the door and asking if the woman was OK.



 

"Wow, what a b***h," the friend writes. The autocorrect, however, rectifies their statement to point out that this person is actually a "hero." The video concludes with the first conversation partner's complaint that the woman's friend "totally shut down a good time," being changed to a frightening: "Totally shut down a good rape." The It's On Us campaign, which has been backed by celebrities including Zoe Saldana, Josh Hutcherson, and Orange Is The New Black's Matt McGorry, was spearheaded by former President Barack Obama and President Joe Biden in 2014.



 

Speaking to The Huffington Post, It's On Us Director Rebecca Kaplan explained why it's so important to call out these subtleties of language. "At It's On Us, we believe it's important to highlight the subtle and common language that perpetuates rape culture because it’s so pervasive in our society and often goes unnoticed," Kaplan said. "When we don't check ourselves and our friends who are using that type of language, we make it acceptable. This is dangerous because language can make rape culture acceptable, and even perpetuate it."



 

It's On Us depicted a similar conversation in another PSA released the following year. The video titled Three Dots followed a text conversation between a group of friends the morning after a party. While most of the guys in the chat respond cavalierly to an assault that occurred during the party, one friend struggles to call out what happened. After typing and deleting several messages while the conversation proceeds, they ultimately send a silly emoji instead of a meaningful confrontation. "The end of the conversation aims to be both relatable and eye-opening in its casualness. Because the texter is unable to find the right words, or risk appearing uncool, we’re left with the unsettling conclusion that history may repeat itself," states a Forbes article about the PSA.

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