Why Are Conservatives Defending Audi’s Rapey Super Bowl Ad?

Every Super Bowl brings some sexist ads. Is it being a "humorless feminist" to point that out?

Every Super Bowl brings with it a few commercials that cross the line into sexism and even outright misogyny. There was Dexter’s Dodge commercial a few years ago, as well as every Go Daddy ad ever. I’m not sure why some companies think it’s in their interest to potentially alienate the half of the money-spending population that doesn’t have a penis, but hey: Nobody’s asking me to run their Fortune 500 company either.

Still, this Audi commercial from Sunday’s game struck me as being particularly rapey:


Rapey? Sure. Here’s what we know about the kiss in this commercial, based entirely on the information given us onscreen:

• The young woman who receives the kiss chose to be at prom with someone else.

• Our “hero” forcibly turns her around and jams his mouth to hers almost before she can identify him, and certainly without any permission being sought or given. What’s more, this is a demonstration of his new, Audi-fueled power.

• He leaves prom without her—suggesting that she still chooses to be at prom with somebody else.

Does she smile? Sure. It’s a commercial. It’s supposed to be fun, for dudes at least. Just understand in real life, such behavior is more likely to get you prosecuted than to win you the heart of the prom queen.

Within minutes, conservative commentator Ben Domenech—with whom, full disclosure, I share some mutual friends—popped up on Twitter with this:

So I asked:

His response:

I guess I don’t get this. I’m not a conservative, but I don’t know why defending rapey TV commercials has to be thought a conservative value. Maybe it has something to do with National Review’s celebration of frat boys as natural free-market Republicans. Maybe they don’t understand (or care) that many women don’t find such behavior delightful, but kind of scary instead. (That would explain why so many Republican candidates have found themselves on the wrong side of rape remarks in the last year.)

Or maybe, as Domenech suggested in his Tweet, conservatives hate liberals so much they’d rather find humor in sexual battery than end up agreeing with the left about anything. But boy, it sure seems like conservatism can be better than that, can’t it?

Maybe I’m just—as another conservative friend suggested—a humorless feminist. I don’t think that’s quite true.  I’m not interested in ruining the fun, whether it’s the Super Bowl or light-hearted commercials accompanying the Super Bowl.

But if the fun conveys a bad idea, or comes at the expense of somebody who doesn’t deserve it, then it deserves to be critiqued. “Show your power by forcing a kiss upon an unsuspecting girl,” strikes me as a bad idea. I’m not anti-delight. I am anti-dudes-taking-unasked-for-liberties. And I’m pretty sure I’m right to be.