"I’m willing to do anything to spark the vote."
The upcoming federal election is shaping up to be a real sweepstakes for a certain kind of voter: free weed is on offer, courtesy of a marijuana dispensary in BC, and now there's the promise of nude pics, thanks to a group of young Canadians calling themselves "Sluts Against Harper."
On Tuesday, the group of young men and women launched a campaign on Instagram offering to send personalized nude pics to anyone who messages them and proves they've voted. Although the "VOTES4NUDES" campaign has only been around for a day, the Instagram account already has hundreds of followers and a lot of bare (yet tastefully censored) skin to show for it.
The woman behind the campaign is a 24-year-old artist and university student living in Montreal who goes by the alias "Jessica Simps." The name, she told me, is a reference to singer, actress, and reality TV star Jessica Simpson herself, and reflects three of the core values of her campaign: being fun, flirty, and getting away with shit.
To find out more about why Simps thinks nudes are the best way to get young Canadians to vote, I called her up and asked her about everything from voter suppression to making the word "slut" a positive political tool.
Motherboard: In your email you mentioned you had class today—what are you studying in university?
Jessica Simps: I study sexuality.
What gave you the idea to get people to vote by promising nudes?
The first thing I did was post a status on Facebook promising BJs for votes, but I think that scared too many people away because it's not realistic. Instagram's a great platform for keeping people feeling anonymous enough, and safe. And the word spread so fast, so I thought it would be fun.
"We're terrifying as women, and as young people"
You're not sending all these photos yourself, right?
I reached out to a couple girls—some of them I've met, and some I haven't—mostly in Toronto, but some in Vancouver, and some in Calgary. This is Canada-wide. I reached out to them because I thought that I might be in over my head here if I try to do this by myself. We've tried to make it inclusive, because we are a pack of white girls with pretty much the same body type, so we wrote in the profile that if you want to be part of the project, you can just send us a photo. All the photos are made by the person in the photo, which we feel is important, because that way it's not an exploitation of women's bodies, but it's us taking action and using our bodies as a resource.
You've already started sending nudes out, so what's the response been? Has it been mostly men sending you messages, or women too?
It's mostly been men so far. The polls open on the 9th, but you can vote any time now, so we've gotten a few early voters, which is great. We're expecting most of the traffic to come closer to the 19th. But yeah, so far it's been mostly dudes. But many women have thought it was a funny idea and shown a lot of support.
"If there's anything that Stephen Harper doesn't care about, it's women and women's bodies"
During VICE's recent town hall with Justin Trudeau, Trudeau said that "Stephen Harper doesn't want you to vote." What do you think of that?
I think it's true. I think that we're terrifying as women, and as young people. Basically, I'm willing to do anything to spark the vote and get some interest.
Why did you choose the name "Sluts Against Harper"?
In the sex-positive and queer community, "slut" is a really empowered word. It's also fun. We want to keep it equally light-hearted and flirty, and engage people in a way that is engaging, while making "sluts" a powerful thing. If there's anything that Stephen Harper doesn't care about, it's women and women's bodies, that's for sure.
What do you think are the most important issues for young people in this election?
I think we're all terrified about the pipeline, we're all pissed off about missing and murdered indigenous women, and we just can't handle any more of it, you know? Harper's been in for too long, and it's gone too far. Immigration and second-class citizenship… it's nuts.
Who are you going to vote for?
Anybody but Harper, baby. Anybody but Harper. That's the thing: I don't want to control who anybody is voting for, that's their right. I just want them to vote.
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