I recently watched a new PSA airing on MTV. It’s meant to make a point that young heterosexual women are the largest growing segment of the U.S. population becoming infected with HIV.
You can check it out right here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4ZBzMOV9Js
My first reaction was to be really angry about it. And that reaction hasn’t changed after two days. In this PSA we’re taken from soft porn to almost snuff. I get the point they’re trying to make, but instead of giving me something serious to consider, it makes me want to strangle the producers. But I’m a much older woman than those targeted by this PSA. I guess being much older gives me the breadth and history of seeing images of women where sex and violence (from men) come together, putting women in a completely powerless position (and how much more powerless can you get than dying?). It’s a sequence that, culturally, we’re used to seeing. I’m sure that’s why they thought it would make an impact. I’m trying to imagine a similar type of commercial that might be used if the point being made was that young heterosexual men was the fastest growing segment of the population being infected with HIV.
I can’t imagine the producers would merely switch the roles. That wouldn’t work because we’re not used to seeing young beautiful women shooting young men after having consensual sex with them. It would seem bizarre, and that’s what would stick with people, not the message about HIV. But here, the message will likely stick–for those who aren’t critical about the gender and sex implications– because the imagery makes sense on some sort of ghastly, historically reinforced, culturally-relevant level. I abhor the history behind these images as much as the images themselves.