ANCHORAGE (KTUU) An Anchorage craft beer with a catchy name has triggered an active discussion on social media about sexual violence against women.
Panty Peeler is a Belgian-style tripel made with orange peel and coriander by Anchorage-based Midnight Sun Brewing Co.
It’s the brainchild of Barb Miller, one of Midnight Sun’s founders, according to Darcy Kniefel, beer ambassador for the brewery.
“The beer is about being free spirited and loving life,” said Kniefel.
The label displays an illustration of a naked, red-haired woman riding bareback on a caribou, her bra and panties tossed in the air behind her.
Although Panty Peeler has been sold since the late 1990s, it recently began being packaged in cans and also became the target of online critics who say the label and title promote rape in a state with high rates of sexual violence.
Nicole Stellon O’Donnell, a Fairbanks teacher, writer and poet, took to Twitter on Sunday to lambaste Midnight Sun.
“Great promotional sticker for #rapeculture! Oops, I mean beer made in the state with the nation’s highest rates of sexual assault,” tweeted O’Donnell, with a photo of Panty Peeler, which recently won honors from the Can Can Awards, a beer competition for canned beer products.
“I was not the first (to) point out this rape-y beer name,” O’Donnell also tweeted, linking to an article titled “The 13 Most Sexist Names and Labels in Craft Beer.”
Midnight Sun ended up banning O’Donnell's tweets, Kniefel said.
Anchorage playwright and former newspaper reporter Peter Porco also chimed in on Facebook, describing the Panty Peeler brand as “retro” and “sex-aggressive.” His post generated numerous comments about censorship, victimization and consensual versus non-consensual sex.
One of the most ardent defenders of the Panty Peeler brand was Avraham Barton Zorea, who describes himself as an oil painter and part-time defense attorney. Zorea described Porco’s post as “mean-spirited” and “tending toward censorship.”
Miller emailed KTUU a lengthy statement about Panty Peeler that defended the beer and the company.
“Our graphic artist and I spent a lot of time designing the label art because we wanted to portray playfulness and strength, especially with the Panty Peeler art. The woman is strong and adventurous; she is in charge and in control of her actions,” Miller said.
Claims that Midnight Sun is promoting rape culture are “very hurtful,” she said.
“Midnight Sun Brewing Company is, by no means, promoting or condoning rape,” Miller said.
She noted that most of Midnight Sun's beers are named by women.
"The Sales and Marketing team is made up of strong-minded, creative women. We also handle all of Midnight Sun Brewing Company's social media. Our direction is to promote strength, adventure and playfulness," Miller said.
The Council on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault was asked for its views on the Panty Peeler discussion.
Although Alaska has one of the highest rates of sexual assault in the nation, the council has helped reduce the reported incidences of the rape over the last five years and is trying to change norms that support the idea that drinking alcohol implies consent to sexual behavior, said Lauree Morton, executive director.
“That is a myth that continues to support the culture of rape and victimization of women. We believe it is time for every Alaskan to confront this myth," she said.
The beer controversy presents Alaskans with the opportunity “to look at the erroneous thinking that has pervaded our culture far too long. Drinking alcohol or being drunk in no way implies consent to sex. Unfortunately we, as a state and nation, are still at a point in time where ‘Panty Peeler’ implies sexual assault; not what the creator of the brand may have meant,” Morton concluded.
Miller said she plans to reach out to those who posted negative comments about Panty Peeler.
“We can work together to figure out a better solution,” Miller said.
Contact KTUU Senior Digital Reporter Paula Dobbyn at email@example.com, 907-762-9242, or @pauladobbyn