PSNI tweet that links a Mistletoe kiss with rape misses the mark and trivialises sexual assault

The tweet carries an important message, but reads more like a joke


If you're an active user of Facebook and Twitter, you'll know that the various local PSNI accounts try to engage with people on these social media platforms using "humour", often with varying degrees of success.

Take for instance this post the Facebook account of PSNI Down put up after seizing a bag of cocaine. It's hard to disagree that, while somewhat cringeworthy, it's a lighthearted and funny way for the police to interact with the people they serve.

Image may contain: Ticket, Text, Paper, Plan, Diagram

Unfortunately, the PSNI's latest attempt to marry the law and humour has largely missed the mark. On Saturday 2nd December, this tweet was sent from the PSNI twitter account.

Image may contain: Text

Screenshot from MailOnline

At a first glance at the tweet I was simply baffled. Upon a second I thought, "wait, is this a joke?" By the third read anger started to build up. I could tell that the tweet was obviously talking about consent, and that's great. Unfortunately in this day and age, people still need to be reminded that to engage in a sexual act without enthusiastic consent is a form of sexual assault.

But what the tweet actually says is problematic. How can a "bump" (which I presume is a kiss under the Mistletoe) turn into rape? It almost reads as some joke you'd find in a MRA thread on Reddit, not coming from an account representative of the police force of Northern Ireland.

As people have rightly said on twitter, the well intentioned tweet has the danger of trivialising sexual assault. If gives fuel to the fire of those that say, "aw you can't do anything nowadays, glance at someone and it's sexual assault." While these people miss the point of consent and probably think they're entitled to grab women's bodies in clubs, the tone deaf PSNI tweet reiterates what they're saying.

Kissing someone without consent is a form of sexual harassment, but it is not rape. Who seriously needs to be reminded of this? By linking these two things, the seriousness of rape is completely undermined. The tweet is an insult to rape victims, turning their trauma into a catchy slogan accompanied with the hashtag #SeasonsGreetings for good measure.

Since the tweet was posted, the PSNI have responded to the backlash, saying that people have taken it out of context and that the message remains the same. But even this response is somewhat ambiguous, with Twitter users poking fun at the PSNI's wording and refusal to outrightly say that it is sex without consent that is rape:

The message the PSNI are promoting is an important one, but in this case their insistence upon appearing relatable has undermined their point. Perhaps it's time they learned how to talk about serious matters online, without the hashtag.