In a recent video from the Italian media company Fanpage.it and Ciaopeople Media Group, a group of school-aged boys are introduced to a girl, Martina, on the street and asked to compliment her, caress her, and, eventually, slap her. The PSA about Italy's domestic violence issue has gone viral since being released last week, with almost 45 million views on Facebook and 20 million on YouTube. Many have called it "heartwarming" and "remarkable" because the boys refuse to slap Martina. I find it disturbing, and, luckily, I'm not alone
The boys in the video say they won't slap Martina because it's not okay to hit a girl. Um, it's not okay to hit anyone! One of them adds he won't hit her because she's pretty—so, if she were an uggo, he'd be okay with it? Another concludes, "'Cause I'm a man!" As a male friend of mine said, these boys are doing the right thing, but for the wrong reasons. (To be fair, when asked why they won't slap Martina the boys in the video also say, "I don't want to hurt her, "Because Jesus doesn't want us to hit others," and "Because I'm against violence," but those arguments get lost among all the "because she's a pretty girl" justifications.)
Plus, the "caressing" part is really creepy. From the look on Martina's face when the cameraman instructs them to do this, she was not expecting this and is not comfortable with it. The boys appear to caress her without questioning the command, and seem to enjoy it despite Martina's lack of consent and occasional cringing. Watching them stroke her face, hair, and arm is really disturbing, and I can't believe the boys didn't also refuse to do this. Perhaps the Italian culture is not as puritanical as ours here in the U.S., but, no matter where you are, caressing a girl you just met on the street without her go-ahead is not okay.
And don't even get me started on the "Kiss her" part at the end of the video. The boy asks the cameraman, "Can I kiss her on the mouth or on her cheek?" Hey, kid, Martina is standing right there! Ask her.
Ellen Sturm Niz is a New York City-based editor and writer who would not be pleased if Italian boys caressed her third-grade daughter. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ to see more of her articles about kids and parenting, home design and DIY projects, and food trends and menu ideas.