January 24, 2010
T-SHIRT slogans condoning rape and featuring semi-naked and gagged women have outraged anti-exploitation advocates.
An Australian website, run out of Los Angeles, allows designers to sell T-shirts with slogans such as ''It's not rape if you yell surprise'', ''Rape, murder, arson … I like rape'', and ''I want rape''.
The tops have been designed for men and, surprisingly, women.
Menswear company Roger David has also been embroiled in the furore through two of its controversial T-shirt labels.
One T-shirt, by Los Angeles-based company Blood Is the New Black, shows a woman who appears gagged and roughed up. The other, by US brand Chaser LA, has two semi-naked women with a strip across their eyes.
The graphic T-shirts have angered women's groups, while a Facebook group called ''Roger David: NOT ok to promote violence against women!'' already has more than 800 members.
Women's advocate and co-founder of the anti-exploitation group Collective Shout, Melinda Tankard Reist, says the T-shirts must be outlawed.
''[They are] mocking the serious crime of rape,'' she said. ''I don't think there has been any consideration of the message it sends sexual assault survivors.''
The image used by Chaser LA was largely copied from a controversial 1974 album cover by British rock band Roxy Music.
''They're taking messages you would normally find in pornography or the sex industry and mainstreaming them in what was once considered conservative menswear stores,'' Ms Tankard Reist said. ''Is this how Roger David likes its women? Is this how it thinks women should be portrayed?''
Roger David didn't return calls but an insider said its T-shirts had been selling ''reasonably well''.
Chrystina Woody, a spokeswoman for Blood Is the New Black, suggested the T-shirts, as art, would spark debate. ''Art is meant to inspire and educate, and the meaning and interpretation is left in the hands of the viewer,'' she said via email.
A spokeswoman for the LA-based T-shirt website said the company was not responsible for material designers provided, as long as it met the requirements of the site's user agreement.
But according to the site's user content clause, designers are not allowed to use images deemed ''abusive, vulgar, harassing, pornographic, indecent and socially and morally objectionable''.
Director of Kids Free 2B Kids Julie Gale said clothing degrading women was a growing concern, and that many of these images were now on the shelves of mainstream stores.
''A lot of young females are starting to sexualise themselves in the way they present themselves and young men are reading them a certain way,'' she said.