Hilarious Canadian anti-sextortion campaign asks teens to send naked mole rats instead of sexts
Heterocephalus glaber is a small burrowing rodent most recognizable by its pink, wrinkly skin, hairless, tubular body, beaver-like teeth and a proclivity for eating its own poop (fact). Known widely as the naked mole-rat or sand puppy (yes, amaze), you're not likely to find it on (or in) Canadian soil. The sand puppy, which maxes out at a modest 4 inches, is native to East Africa. And with the exception of maybe the Geoduck (pronounced gooey-duck), it carries the distinction of being the most phallic looking living critter (toothiness notwithstanding) to grace our wondrous planet. Most recently the naked mole-rat has procured another honour: it's the latest member of Canada's anti-sextortion crime fighting team.
Last month the Canadian Centre for Child Protection launched Don't Get Sextorted, a hilarious and, rodent willing, effective campaign aimed at teenage boys who, like all teens, get targeted frequently in sextortion schemes that rely heavily on sexting. About 30 per cent of teens who fall victim to online blackmailing are male. The most common form of attack being a request for nudes from an attractive stranger on social media who then immediately promises to leak the pics to friends and family unless money is sent. Executive Director of the organization, Lianna McDonald, confirms a recent spike in cases. "We started to receive calls from very distressed kids panicked over what to do, because the threats were, 'If you don't comply, I'm going to send this to all of your contacts.'" If McDonald has her way, financially driven sexual predators will find themselves foiled more frequently by savvy teens and online creeps will walk away empty handed after staring down the barrel of a naked mole-rat.
Their campaign's cheeky PSA has opted to appeal to the adolescent male mind, the mysteries of which clearly haven't changed in millennia, the best way they knew how: with what is essentially a visual d!ck joke. McDonald admits the tone is risky, given the subject matter, but maintains it was the best way to capture their target audience. "It's brazen. But when you're dealing with young people, you have to think creatively. If we're not getting their attention, we're not doing our job," says McDonald. Cue naked mole-rat.
"We're hoping that this character will be effective in capturing the attention of boys to bring widespread attention to the issue," McDonald said in a release. That character, again, is the now heroic sand puppy. They hope the numerous naked mole-rat memes created for the campaign will protect teens by serving as comedic surrogates for their own nude body parts. "We want our communications to empower boys to think twice before sending a nude. The threat of 'sextortion' is scary enough, but having the conversation doesn't have to be." No doubt. This type of victimization is harrowing for an adult to handle, let a lone a kid. The average teenage boy is already praying to all the gods for luck to be a lady tonight while wrestling enough awkward and angsty feelings to fuel half a decade of stress zits. The terror and shame of that "luck" (and normal hormone-propelled teen feelings) turned sideways into something nefarious is a nightmare. If mindfulness and protection comes in the form of an unfortunately farcical animal, so be it. You have my vote, sand puppy.
Fighting crime with comedy may be something of a Canadian hallmark. Saskatchewan's branch of Crimestoppers recently asked criminals caught on video to turn themselves in using candid online requests that read with a healthy dose of irony. One such message posted beneath a clear screen grab of the perp's face (captured by a security camera) made this very reasonable request: "If you wouldn't mind, can you just come turn yourself in at the Saskatoon Police Service located at 76 25th St East. That would be super helpful." To snark and protect. Gatineau police tackling sexplotation in Quebec offered a more produce-based alternative to sending sexts online. Their efforts to thwart sextortion made liberal use of animated melons and bananas and the hashtag #KEEPITPRIVATE.
If the pitfalls and the pervasiveness of teen sexting can be sidestepped with the help of weird little bawdy rodent, we're pretty much just fighting fire with fire. Any naked mole-rat burrowing its way into online crime circles to stymie sexual predators deserves a tiny medal of valor on its pink, wrinkly chest. And any decidedly d!ckish two-legged rodents creeping on social media looking to exploit teens should take heed — sand puppies are coming for you.
Marc Beaulieu is a writer, producer and host of the live Q&A show guyQ LIVE @AskMen.