The new CEO of Absolut Vodka explains why she’s launching a #SexResponsibly campaign on Valentine’s Day.
There is a link between drinking excessively and sexual assault. Drinking doesn’t cause assault, but sexual assault is more likely to occur in situations where alcohol was consumed, the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism confirms. Research finds that the presence of alcohol can increase the likelihood of intimate partner violence.
You know this. So does Ann Mukherjee. She’s the new CEO of Pernod Ricard USA, the giant beverage company that includes brands like Absolut, Jameson, Kahlúa, Malibu, and Glenlivet. Her job is to sell alcohol.
And when she was a child, she was sexually assaulted. Her attacker was intoxicated. It’s her earliest childhood memory. She was four years old.
Mukherjee jumped to take the position at the liquor giant, stepping down from a C-suite role at the multinational company SC Johnson to head up Pernod Ricard. She says her first thought when she got the job was “Now I can create change.”
On Valentine’s Day, with Muhkerjee at the helm, Absolut Vodka will roll out a new ad campaign. Don’t expect a chiseled man sinking an eight-ball into a pool table, a writhing, bikini-wearing model dripping in liquor, or any other booze-soaked male fantasy. Absolut Vodka is running an ad campaign about consent. “Drink responsibly,” Absolut ads will say, as usual. Then they’ll add, “#SexResponsibly.”
“Only a Yes to Sex Is a Yes,” the campaign text reads. “Because sex without consent is sexual assault.” The campaign is meant to highlight how accepting a drink from someone or even getting festively drunk in their presence doesn’t equal consent.
“Everyone has the right to great sex. Why should they feel unsafe?” says Mukherjee. In about half of the sexual assaults that happen on college campuses, she points out, either the perpetrator, the victim, or both had been drinking before the assault. “That’s why they think companies need to take a stand. And that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing—we think companies need to create a conversation around responsible alcohol use and consensual healthy sex.”
Have a biological predisposition to be skeptical of “social good” ad campaigns, but what
is doing is good