This is why old people need to be trained on how to use social media.
Yesterday, Phil McGraw tweeted out the since-deleted message, “If a girl is drunk, is it OK to have sex with her? Reply yes or no to @drphil #teensaccused.”
Yikes. In the best possible light, McGraw was likely trying to begin a discussion presumably for fodder on his show about consent. Unfortunately, a social forum where a response can only be 140 characters was just so not the way to go about that. The fact that the question itself promotes rape culture is pretty much the worst, so it’s no surprise that the Internet reaction was swift. (The trending topic #DrPhilQuestions had users asking other mocking queries.)
Today, a Change.org petition was started by Carmen Rios, who shares, “As a former college sexual assault activist who taught about rape and consent and friend to many survivors, I am shocked and appalled by this question. … The key to ending the plague of rape and sexual assault in this country is educating young people about the difference between consensual sex and rape and having Dr. Phil approach that topic on national television would be a huge step forward. Unfortunately, the use of the hashtag #teensaccused implies that the story around the epidemic of rape and sexual assault in the United States, from Steubenville to Notre Dame, should be centered around the young men who raped as ‘victims’ rather than the other way around. It’s the opposite.”
She proposes that he publicly apologize, but also calls on him to announce that he’ll “produce and air a show that centers on survivors’ voices and educates the public about the true definition of rape and sexual assault, as well as how to prevent it.”
EW reached out to both the Dr. Phil show and McGraw’s personal team. UPDATE: A spokesperson for the show said in a statement to EW, “This Tweet was intended to evoke discussion leading into a very serious show topic based upon a recent news story, hence the #teensaccused label. It was a poll question, not a statement or a joke. As he has maintained over many years, Dr. Phil believes that the position of those incapacitated in any fashion; be it drugs, alcohol, age or mental illness can not and do not have the capacity to give their consent to anything, especially sex, which could have life changing repercussions. This was a research post in preparation for a show, not a personal post and Dr. Phil deleted it the second he saw it. It was clearly ill-advised. We sincerely apologize that it suggested anything other than what was intended, data gathering. As you can imagine, Dr. Phil is very upset that this happened.”
Is trying to begin a McGraw-led conversation on Twitter about rape a a no-win scenario? Reply yes or no in the comments.