Some Notes On Rape Culture

I happened to catch a tweet from Karnythia yesterday that turned my blood cold.

#rapeculture hurts everyone. The same rhetoric VSB spouted is used in court to make sure less than 20% of all rapists do time.

Say what?

Turns out, Damon (a.k.a. The Champ) decided to create a really flip response to Zerlina Maxwell’s piece “Stop Telling Women How to Not Get Raped.” Despite Maxwell writing lines like these:

Our community, much like society-at-large, needs a paradigm shift as it relates to our sexual assault prevention efforts. For so long all of our energy has been directed at women, teaching them to be more “ladylike” and to not be “promiscuous” to not drink too much or to not wear a skirt. Newsflash: men don’t decide to become rapists because they spot a woman dressed like a video vixen or because a girl has been sexually assertive.

How about we teach young men when a woman says stop, they stop? How about we teach young men that when a woman has too much to drink that they should not have sex with her, if for no other reason but to protect themselves from being accused of a crime? How about we teach young men that when they see their friends doing something inappropriate to intervene or to stop being friends? The culture that allows men to violate women will continue to flourish so long as there is no great social consequence for men who do so.

Damon still decided to write his piece, essentially asking this question:

But, why can’t both genders be educated on how to act responsibility around each other? What’s stopping us from steadfastly instilling “No always means no!” in the minds of all men and boys and educating women how not to put themselves in certain situations? Of course men shouldn’t attempt to have sex with a woman who’s too drunk to say no, but what’s wrong with reminding women that if you’re 5’1 and 110 pounds, it’s probably not the best idea to take eight shots of Patron while on the first, second, or thirteenth date? Yes, sober women definitely get raped too, but being sober and aware does decrease the likelihood that harm may come your way, and that’s true for each gender.

It seems as if the considerable push back again victim-blaming has pushed all the way past prudence and levelheadedness, making anyone who suggests that “women can actually be taught how to behave too” insensitive or a “rape enabler.” And, while the sentiment in Maxwell’s article suggests that victim-blaming is dangerous, I think it’s even more dangerous to neglect to remind young women that, while it’s never their fault if they happen to get sexually assaulted, they shouldn’t thumb their noses to common sense either.

Damon’s already (somewhat) apologized and been raked over the coals by folks on his site, Twitter, and Tumblr.

So my goal in writing this piece isn’t to hold him accountable–that’s already gone on. My goal in writing this is to answer his question. And since I recently gave a talk at Swarthmore on rape culture, I just so happen to have a bunch of examples and facts right at my fingertips.

First, the primary premise is flawed.

Damon seems to think that reinforcing to men that circumstances and consent are different things means that we are also letting women off the hook for reckless behavior. However, most men aren’t privy to all the rape prevention tactics women employ everyday, as a matter of course. (For the purposes of this discussion, the framing will be around cisgender, heterosexual men and women, though we are not the only people impacted by this type of thinking and this type of violence.)

I could share stories about being told from the time I started going out to always cover your drink with a napkin, never be alone after dark, always have your keys out in case of an attack, to never be alone with a guy you don’t know. I was also told not to open the door for boys I didn’t know, but in my case, it was the boy you kind of know that gets you. But I digress.

We could tell our stories all day, but where’s the data? When I presented at Swathmore, I ran a little experiment based on a question I had. How do men talk about rape? So I took it to the newsstands.

Cosmopolitan Magazine is best known for it’s unrelenting focus on sex tips, meeting men, and the ubiquitous “75 new ways to make him pop!” feature. However, in each issue, Cosmo always has something on rape prevention. Since they are the most popular magazine sold on college campuses, they just rolled out an initiative on stopping campus rape, encouraging their readers to lobby their schools and Congress for changes. If you search the content on the Cosmo website, a search for rape pulls up 24 action oriented articles–however, that is misleading as the majority of Cosmo’s content in magazine exclusive, so a lot of their monthly features aren’t in there. I’ve been reading Cosmo since I was 17–if they run one article on rape prevention each month (and sometimes, they run two), I will have consumed 132 of them. And that’s just Cosmo. Other major women’s magazines, like Essence, Marie Claire, and Glamour also cover rape, but not with the same frequency as Cosmo.

So how do Men’s Magazines stack up?

Interestingly, most men’s magazines don’t do “How Not to Rape” articles. They don’t really do “How Not to Get Raped Articles.” A further reading into what these articles were about revealed that most of the articles listed on men’s mags weren’t about rape at all–many were jokes about prison rape (or reviews of Oz) or contained the specific phrase “against abortion except in cases of rape of incest.” With one huge exception from Esquire‘s Tom Chiarella, the majority of men’s articles that mention rape aren’t actually dealing with the subject.

In my talk, before I got into the rape-culture nitty gritty, I asked students to consider a scenario:

[A] spends a late night drinking heavily at a bar. After going a few rounds [A] meets a group of people that includes [B]. [A] continues to hang out with the group for a while, drinking more and more. Later, [A] ends up with [B] alone. [A and B] are both dating other people. Something went down – but [A] was so drunk [A] doesn’t remember exactly what happened. Neither does [B].

I asked who was at fault. There are no easy answers. If I say A is female, a lot of people responding to Champ’s post might have said that she needed to take responsibility for drinking so much. But what if I say A is male and B is female?

This is the rape story in Details, about a guy named Kevin Driscoll who was brought up on rape charges. He’s the person I condensed into the A story.

As he was packing the car, Driscoll got a call on his cell phone. “I don’t know if you know who this is or not,” the caller said, “but, um, this is the girl from the other night.” He remembered her as the pale brunette with the big smile he’d picked up two nights earlier at the Tumble Inn, a dive bar a couple of miles from his home in Redmond. They talked for a few minutes. The woman said she was in a relationship and was freaked out about contracting an STD. Driscoll assured her that he was clean but promised he’d get tested again. “Like, why didn’t you just stop, like, when I was trying to tell you no?” she casually added. “Well, you didn’t say no,” he responded. Soon the woman wished Driscoll a good day, and he hung up, perplexed. He got everyone in the car and started to drive, but he didn’t get far—a police car pulled him over a few blocks away, in front of Pappy’s Pizzeria. Moments later, four more squad cars appeared. The officers, their hands on their guns, ordered Driscoll and Dunn out of the car. One took Driscoll aside and told him he’d have to come down to the station. Driscoll asked for a minute to talk to Dunn, who was getting visibly upset. “That cop told me you beat some girl to death and raped her,” Driscoll recalls her screaming as he walked toward her. “What the fuck is going on?!”

And so began Kevin Driscoll’s nightmare. Charges of first-degree rape—three counts. A very public humiliation. Two trials. And the loss of just about everything he valued in life. After two years, Driscoll was acquitted of all charges—when the not-guilty verdict was handed down, each of the jurors shook his hand—but to him that’s no more than a footnote to the fact that he will forever live under a cloud of accusation, a pariah. Last Halloween he ran into two friends who hadn’t spoken with him since he was taken into custody. “I heard everything worked out for you,” one had said. “Yep, that’s what I heard too,” Driscoll said.

“You didn’t say no” is not a “yes.” And somehow I doubt that people tsk-tsked Driscoll about taking responsibility for how much he was drinking and going home with people he didn’t know. That’s almost exclusively reserved for women. Ultimately, a jury decided to clear Driscoll of the charges–but reading that story as a feminist, I wonder what kind of messages Driscoll received about rape and consent. (Not to mention fidelity.)

Moving on from Driscoll, the crux of my talk was that pop culture helps to normalize rape culture by painting problematic behavior as okay, and even laudable or romantic. Case in point: The Twilight Series. There’s a lot of questionable content in there, that has been discussed for years and years at this point. But it is fascinating to contrast a scene that made it into the movie and the book.

(Notice that undercurrent of violence right there amongst all the sweet talk? Rape culture harshes my squee, son. They’re making it hard to be Team SuckaAssJacob.)

You know what’s so bad about that scene? Besides the fact that you have a man literally forcing himself on a woman (just not with his penis)? The one in the book is actually worse!

Why is she using the type of tactics that rape survivors describe to escape from the situation to talk about this kiss?

But Jacob is still one of two heroes, and he and Bella go on to share a consensual kiss later in the series.

Films and books aren’t the only places where rape culture is normalized.

It also occurs in music videos. In the talk, I illustrate these points with clips from Byron Hurt’s Beyond Beats and Rhymes, and from Sut Jhally’s Dreamworlds 3. (Some images NSFW.)

(Relevant part of the clip starts at 6:05 with Beverly Guy-Sheftall and runs to the end.)

Sut Jhally takes a multi-genre look at how rape culture is encoded in our society, with seemingly innocuous choices in music videos. While Jhally makes powerful points by just stripping away the sound, but he really drives the point home at 4:12, where he contrasts the images of women being assaulted in Central Park with popular music video tropes.

Here’s what he concludes:

Rape culture is why we have to treat random men on the street like Schrodinger’s Rapist. Because we don’t know. And we can’t know.

To expand on an earlier point, here’s the full Limp Bizkit video:

What Durst fantasizes about in the video has been conveyed to me by men on the street time and time again. Reject me, there will be violence. Accept me, and there will be love (edged with a violent threat). This video isn’t just exploring the pornographic imagination, as Jhally says–at this point, we’ve entered the psychopathic imagination. In this world, a woman will acquiesce to a man’s demands through a combination of pretty words and violence. Durst’s created world is disturbing–a kidnapped and terrified woman will eventually come around to love? Are you fucking kidding me?

At this point, people who haven’t spent a lot of time thinking through rape culture will be screaming. “All men aren’t like that!” Yeah, most of us are aware of that. But it only takes one to change how you approach other interactions forever. It only takes one to destroy your trust in the inherent goodness of other people. And it only takes one to fuck up your life.

The men reading this probably aren’t that one guy. (Then again, you could be…to someone else.)

But most of us have already met him.

Women are told, over and over again, that it is their responsibility to keep themselves safe. And in the event that you fail, rape culture will ensure that people will blame you for dropping your vigilance, while directing little, if any attention to the person who actually acted without consent. And this is why we started shifting the conversation to speak to men directly.

Because all the words aimed at us still aren’t keeping us safe.

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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

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  • Anonymous

    Thank you for this article and everything that went into it.

    I had a major “a-ha” moment reading it and FINALLY realized why being given rape prevention advice and being told by loved ones to be careful out there, “there’s some crazy people out there,” has always me feel so ICKY. Why does it feel sexual and demeaning to be told this by loved ones? I’d always thought I was just weird. But reading this I realize:

    Anti-rape advice objectifies women and places them on the rapable/unrapable continuum. As soon as you tell a woman not to drink because of rape, you’re forgetting that she’s a *person* and people drink. When you tell her not to go out at night you forget she’s a person and people go out at night. You tell her not to work in [x] profession, you forget that she’s a person with ambitions. It is OBJECTIFYING. Suddenly a woman is placed on the same continuum with the ‘video vixens’ in the post and the fantasies of rape culture on one end and an idealized cloistered virgin on the other, but where actual humanity exists completely outside of that continuum. People who know me suddenly think of me as a rapeable object. If they were thinking of me as me, they’d probably consider that I’ve heard it before, that I may be doing something unique to me in that moment. But they just follow the script.

    “But it only takes one to change how you approach other interactions
    forever. It only takes one to destroy your trust in the inherent
    goodness of other people. And it only takes one to fuck up your life.” I completely agree with this. But I’d like to add that it took a culture to nurture that attitude in Durst, a team of producers to make and back the video, and a massive amount of fans to made it popular. Imagining that I’ve been a victim of rape and am looking for someone supportive to tell, if I knew somebody was a fan of things like Durst’s video, even if that person wasn’t a rapist or violent person, I wouldn’t feel OK telling that person. For every person who buys unquestioningly into rape culture, he or she is one less ally for rape victims & survivors, one more place for a rapist to hide. And when you consider that nearly everything, everyone, everywhere is saturated in rape culture that’s the problem.

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  • Sara Rooseboom

    Men have been raised to believe that their value is tied to their masculinity – men don’t want to talk about rape because the idea that it could happen to them is extremely uncomfortable, so they buy into the notion that rape is a “women’s issue”. And while the overwhelming majority of rape victims are female, that men are able to remove themselves from the issue as neither victim not assailant makes it extremely convenient to not discuss the problem at all. 

    The rape of young boys and men continues to gain recognition, but adult male victims of penetrated rape are seen as weak or somehow deserving (in much the same way as women, but with the added homophobic-ultramasculine stigma) and victims of forced penetration are assumed to have wanted it in the first place. This makes it highly unlikely that most male victims will tell someone about it – much less report it. It makes me wonder just how high that statistic truly is. 

    The main difference that I see between the effect rape culture has on women and the effect it has on men is that women live our daily lives in constant fear of being raped. It is difficult for a man to imagine – as is worded perfectly in the article – what life would be like knowing and accepting that you are prey. It is almost impossible for any man to understand that each and every woman, whether she has ever been raped or not, lives with the reality of rape every single day, in every interaction she has. Every man a woman meets is a potential rapist, yet we want to be able to trust the men we know, like and love. We have to constantly be on our guard, lest something terrible happen to us that we might very well be blamed for later. 

  • S. Mandisa

    Im always put on concern and notice when someone says “not to stereotype an entire region, but”, and then proceeds to only give examples from that region. 


    I think it would be better if you just said this has been my experience in west africa have been bad-because you wouldnt sound any less problematic than you sound now. 

  • S. Mandisa

    Im always put on concern and notice when someone says “not to stereotype an entire region, but”, and then proceeds to only give examples from that region. 


    I think it would be better if you just said this has been my experience in west africa have been bad-because you wouldnt sound any less problematic than you sound now. 

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  • jt

    that piece with the footage from the puerto rican day parade took me back. in one way becuase I was young when it happened but remember hearing about it on the news. and in another at the violence and relative impunity of the perpetrators. as well as ALL those people who did nothing. what a disgrace. it was like it only took one person to pounce and everyone just joined in. are we that oblivious to the pain being inflicted? im sick to my stomach from that.


    Good post Latoya and those are all some disturbing images up above…I am especially disturbed at how Twilight perpetuates various myths about male passion and aggressiveness as being “normal” to its predominantly younger female fanbase. In relation to Twilight, another perpetuation of rape culture through popular media is the idea that when cute guys aggressively pursue you, it’s called flirting but when unattractive guys pursue you that’s when it’s harassment. Jacob’s aggressive behavior up above can thus be excused with that disturbing idea usually perpetuated by various forms of media.

  • Jay

    I agree with Latoya’s comment. I would also suggest that you consider how extreme your negligence as a homeowner has to be before people think you are asking to be robbed, and compare this to the behavior women have to display before it is claimed that they are asking to be raped. To use “leaving your house wide open” as an example seems very telling to me, because who really does that? To match the level of victim-blaming that rape victims experience and make it seem reasonable, you have to ratchet up the hypothetical negligent behavior of other crime victims to a level that is quite unlikely in reality. If you have to stretch and contort circumstances that much, maybe it isn’t as similar a situation as you think.

    In fact, women don’t have to do anything to get blamed, except be victimized by a rapist. They are viewed with suspicion no matter what they did. That’s why no other crime is truly comparable.

    I have to admit your post is confusing. You start out professing concern that rape culture is being inaccurately characterized, and then bend over backwards to make the claim that rape is not treated differently from any other crime, which comes quite close to denying that rape culture even exists, or at least is an attempt to minimize it by lumping it in with other forms of victim-blaming.

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  • Anonymous

    I can see your point, but it’s not quite the same – even if other people think that you should have taken more precautions with your things, they will still prosecute the thief, if the thief is found. The trouble with victim blaming in cases of sexual assault or rape is it challenges the idea that a crime has occurred.

  • Malik

    That VSB topic was fucking tiresome all fucking day. 

    • Anonymous

      Malik, I really appreciated your calling out Damon and other commenters on their ridiculous and often contradictory statements. Seriously.

  • Neptuna5

    Years ago, frustrated with being blamed for other people’s behaviour regarding not-rape culture (that’s what happens when you go to bars, walk alone at night, blah blah blah) I wrote a brief article about the frustration around being responsible for not only my own behaviour, but the behaviour of men I didn’t know (ie you must have done something to provoke him). One of my male friends read it and his response was illuminating. He was angry about what had happened to me, but went on to say that he never once worried about the things most women worry about everyday, and more upsettingly, that women were prey and we had to accept that. As you might imagine, there was a lengthy discussion about that. I am not sure how he reconcilled his feelings of upset over what had happened to me and his generalization that women were prey.

    This has pissed me off for over 20 years and I am thankful for all the articles on this subject!
    And for Slutwalk.
    And the “don’t be that guy” campaign.

    One line in this that I found especially poignant, to the point of anger, is how Driscoll was never questioned on his actions of drinking too much and going to a motel room with a stranger, the way a woman would have been. This whole ‘boys will be boys’ thing has to stop. Along with the idea that creepy stalker/possessive violence behaviour from men (like in the examples cited above and most romance novels) is not romantic or acceptable.

    • Bee

      I think I may have read your article. (Really enjoyed it btw). And I know what you mean about responses like your friend’s (I’ve heard similar from some of my guy friends). One even admitted that although he wouldn’t rape anyone, seeing females in tight leggings – basically him and other guys still get the urge to just rip them off! And the limp bizket thing about identifying as a beast? – yeah that too… There really does need to be less violence taught to guys. OH! The other disturbing thing… friends of this guy, have had numerous girlfriends admit to them about fantasising about rape… although no conclusions were drawn at the time, I felt it came dangerously close to almost saying those girls kinda want to be raped. NO THEY F*KING DO NOT! Bloody hell… It’s like imagining your own death, you don’t actually want to die! I really would love to see more positive portrayals of men and their sexuality in pop culture… those videos from central park horrified me, so disturbing..

  • Lynne Coppendale

    This is an incredible and deeply upsetting article, especially Jhally’s shocking but vital videos.  thank you for writing this and really waking me up, I am going to share it, but with trigger awareness warnings.

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  • Eva

    Because normal doesn’t get the ratings crazy gets.  Because people think normal and healthy are boring.  I don’t think that, but I’ve heard people say that about wanting to see normal on TV.

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  • Anonymous

    Excellent post.

  • Anonymous

    “No” means “no.” I get that. I also get that someone under the influence of alcohol or another drug CANNOT give consent. So why is it if BOTH parties are drunk, only the man is guilty of rape? I know I am about to be shouted down as some kind of rape apologist, but I most definitely am not. I believe in equality, and equality means that all genders and orientations are capable of and should be held accountable for inappropriate and/or violent sexual behavior. Equality means that men are no more able to give consent under the influence than are women, and vice-versa. If two drunk or otherwise chemically impaired people engage in sexual activity, even with an explicit “yes” on both parts, they are both guilty of rape, and they are both victims of rape.

    I will now sit back and prepare myself for the impending onslaught of attacks.

    • Carmen Tracey

      As a woman who has been raped by a woman, I’m certainly not going to come down on you for pointing out, rightly, that people of any gender or sexual orientation can be either perpetrator or survivor, or sometimes both. I’d just like to point out that, as a matter of cultural conditioning and probably some physiological stuff, men are far more likely to be the aggressor (the partner actively seeking or taking the sexual initiative), and that men who are raped are likely to identify as homosexual or transgender… in other words, the rape of cis-gender, hetero men is nowhere near as large a problem from a societal, sheer-numbers standpoint, than the rape of women and other disempowered classes. Not that I don’t think we shouldn’t talk about it when it does happen, or that it’s any less horrifying (it isn’t). I just don’t see it as a problem of similar pervasiveness and cultural acceptability. 

      • John H

        Hmm, yes and no. Check this article out:

        “And one in 21 said they had been forced to penetrate an acquaintance or a
        partner, usually a woman; had been the victim of an attempt to force
        penetration; or had been made to receive oral sex.”

        This has happened to me. I have, by this definition, been raped. While I didn’t experience it as a violation of my bodily integrity or even my agency (I was able to quickly extract myself from the situation) – ‘only’ a violation of my trust in my sex partner – it did create some worries for me around STI transmission and potential (though extremely unlikely) liability for creating a pregnancy. The flip side of rape culture is that men are seen as always wanting any kind of sexually activity under any circumstances, to the point that women who are sexually-assertive (and I think this is a very good thing for women to be) may not recognize that their actions could be unwanted and therefore that acting without consent could be rape on their parts. While the percentage of cis, straight men assaulted/raped by female partners is certainly lower than the reverse, it’s not an insignificant number, and not as much lower as people seem to think in general. Female victims/survivors of rape certainly still have issues with visibility, and male victims/survivors are so invisible that we may as well not even exist.

        I think at least part of the problem here is that no distinction is drawn between what we should consider to be acceptable behavior, and what should be legal behavior. The situation that pHerret describes, where two intoxicated have sex and one or both considers it a non-consensual violation after the fact is an EXTREMELY complicated situation. It’s probably safest to say, “Never have sex with anyone who is under the influence of any drugs,” but that eliminates a WHOLE lot of perfectly consensual, mutually-enjoyed sex. To out-and-out criminalize that is problematic as a result, because it denies people who want to do so the agency to get a little drunk and have sex. Too, one is assuming that one or both parties are in the position to judge the intoxication level of the other, in order to be able to tell whether that person is in any state to actually consent. As one becomes more intoxicated oneself, this becomes more difficult. Finally, we consider intoxicated persons incapable of consent because intoxication impacts decision-making abilities, but this is certainly true for both parties in the case where both are intoxicated. While cultural factors make it more likely that a women in such a situation will experience the sex as problematic or a violation, structuring or executing laws in such a way that men are punished for the behavior (i.e. drunk sex) and women are not doesn’t really address those cultural factors. Add to that the fact that a guy in such a situation may not be feeling okay about it at all (STI risks, pregnancy risks – while child support is notoriously difficult to enforce, and women frequently face access barriers to contraceptive or abortion care, including coercion from partners, legally speaking the decision of whether to continue a pregnancy and have a child is a woman’s alone, creating a legitimate worry for the man that he may be liable for supporting and caring for a child he had no intention of helping create, especially if he’s not an asshole and dedicated to ethical behavior), and it’s not clear that a legal definition of rape that criminalizes drunk sex serves anyone very well.

        This in no way excuses men who actively take advantage of women because the women are intoxicated, whether the man is intoxicated or not (same goes for women, though as you point out, this is less common). The problem is that proving intent is almost impossible, and because the law operates on principles of equality-of-application, it becomes extremely difficult to enforce a law based on intent with any effectiveness in the courtroom. The best solution I see, and it’s far from perfect, is to make it culturally-unacceptable for anyone to rape anyone, ever, whatever the circumstances, while limiting the legal consideration to what can actually be effectively addressed by the courts. I could easily be wrong, that could totally not be the best possible option, and maybe it’s worth jailing some number of men who are themselves victims because doing so prevents harm to WAY more women, but this is nowhere near as simple as some of the commenters below seem to be suggesting.

        • Jason Tompkins

          Yeah, this is hard.  The invisibility/lack of resources for male rape victims speaks to a need for innovative, participatory justice responses to intimate violence, that goes beyond “how not to rape”, but (to appropriate a PIC activist phrase) “create a world/community in which rape is obsolete.”

          Also, with the PIC in mind and having the data to show that it *does not* prevent or reduce violence, attention must be given to ways that intimate violence can be challenged that don’t necessarily involve pressing charges and pushing for sentence enhancements.  I can imagine that’s hard to hear, but I say this as a queer male survivor of bullying who is also a harsh critic of “hate crimes” legislation…

    • Matt Pizzuti

      THAT’S your take-away from this piece?

    • nirrti

      Good Lord Jesus, Really??!!!?

      I guess I’ll get out my burka anytime I want to leave my front porch….

      • k.eli

        Totally agree with your sentiments in the first part but the second statement is problematic for 2 reasons: 1) it once again reinforces the belief that women who are dressed modestly are less likely to be raped, and 2) it insinuates that women who wear the burka aren’t victims of sexual harassment/rape themselves (both are which are obviously untrue). I’m pretty sure you meant it as a sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek kind of comment but it still bothered me for those reasons above.

    • Anonymous

      Hmm…I’m not sure if you are responding to the Driscoll story or the overall argument. 

      Intoxicated situations are tough – Cosmo caused a hell of a ruckus a few years back by publishing a piece on “gray rape” where people aren’t exactly sure what happened.  Feminism was heavily divided on this one, with more people leaning toward the idea that rape is rape.

      Real life, however, is much more complicated.  In an ideal world, no one would have sex while intoxicated.  However, most of us know people (and are people) that have done exactly that.  (Shit, that’s my plan every NYE.)  The trouble comes in when one person did not intend to have sex and the other did.  I don’t think there’s an easy pat solution for that one.  It’s why I like the idea of enthusiastic consent – seriously, people act like passing on sex is going to be the end of the world. 

      I don’t agree with the idea of holding chemically impaired people who are consenting accountable – there are various levels of intoxication, and they may mean to sleep with each other under the influence of a substance.  And, as adults, they should be able to do that.

      I don’t think there’s ever going to be a perfect measure of law to address mutual intoxication.  I think the best thing in this scenario is to educate both parties into looking for consent from their partners, and if there is any doubt, waiting until people are sober again before getting involved.

      Now, in the Driscoll case, he was just stupid.  Again, his actions would have gotten a woman raked over the coals already – AND he was cheating on his girlfriend to boot!  Part of his defense was that he had sex with her after another, more brutal encounter in the driveway.  So there were many opportunities for Driscoll to have thought to himself “this seems like a bad situation.” But we don’t teach men to think about that, we tell men to score, score, score.  And here we are.

  • Jay

    It’s not that there’s anything wrong with being careful of potentially dangerous situations (don’t we all try to be careful of potentially dangerous situations?!), it’s that providing that as advice to women so they don’t get raped is incredibly condescending and useless, and places an unfair burden of prevention on the victims of rape, when it should be squarely on the perpetrators. I’m struck by this quote:

    “But, why can’t both genders be educated on how to act responsibility around each other?”

    Doesn’t he see how this sets up a false equivalence between rapists and rape victims? He is basically saying it takes two to tango — a rapist, and a victim who lets herself get raped. Presenting this equivalence is both offensive and inaccurate.

    No other crime is talked about this way. No one says “Why can’t burglars and homeowners both be educated on how to prevent break-ins?” No one is going to argue that securing your home isn’t important, but presenting the situation as one where the victim and perpetrator are equally at fault and both need to be “educated” makes no sense, and is not something anyone actually would say.

    • Grace


    • Nevadashady1

      While you make a valid point with your argument, i must challenge you on your analogy. Homeowners/renters are challenged on “how to prevent break-ins” often, especially depending on what city/urban area that particular homeowner lives. I’ve known people who had break-ins and the first thing people ask is, “What area do you live in?” and depending on the answer, the follow up response is either stunned surprise or chastisement, as if that person should have known better than to, leave their windows open or whatnot, considering the area in which they live.

  • Kitadiva2

    What the media puts out there on the daily about men, women and relationships just…. Uhhhh.  NO. NOT.

    The mere idea that women are looking to be victims of such a brutal and violating crime PISSES me off.   The idea that forcing a woman to kiss you, be with you – wait her out to make her be with you…. uhhh.  The mere idea that so many men do not get at all how brutal rape is – someone is FORCING themselves into your body without your F”ING consent – that so many of them are so foolish and stupid to not know that there is no BIGGER violation to a woman than this just makes my brain go rabid. I mean, MEN just think about the rape scenes from the Wire – go watch them now – and finally get it.  Rape is brutal.  It’s wrong, it’s wrong AND it is just about POWER!!  Stop convincing yourself that this is LOVE or Interest or somehow the woman’s fault. No. It. Is. Not.  You had to overpower and TAKE from this woman what she did not give you willingly.  There ain’t no Love or Interest in that – that is power and domination.  Deal with it.

     I don’t care if she had 50 strong drinks, I don’t care if you can see her panties, I don’t care if you thinks she likes you, I. DON’T. CARE!!  Unless she said yes the answer is NO. Get out your five friends and take care of your business yourself.  Better yet,  Go. Home. 

    There is little to nothing most women can do to avoid being raped.  For men not to take responsibility about it, for men to avoid accountability – for men to try to say just use common sense rather than to say that they – MEN –  need to accept no and to move on …..   culpability and cowardice.  The only words I have left for men who think like this.  

    • Eva

      I have to say YES to this post; though I don’t remember too many rape scenes in “The Wire.”   I do remember them on “Oz” though.  Anyway I think a lot of the crap in all sorts of media about relationships is really damaging.  I once knew a woman who liked a man but she pretended that she hated him because she wanted “to make him wait.”  She wanted him to “wait her out.”  She wanted to make him sweat until she finally said yes.   Yuk.  So I told her that “If you say you don’t like someone, that means you don’t like him.  Don’t confuse people.”  And then I got accused of NOT being a romantic.


  • BlackLizLemon

    Argh.  I’ve been wanting to see Beyond Beats and Rhymes for the longest, but I’m not sure I can watch it now that I know “Baby Wipes Woman Beater” Howard is involved.  

    • BlackLizLemon

      Praise God!  He was just introducing the film for a PBS series. 

  • k.eli

    Great article! I can’t even being to distill how much it pisses me off whenever men make 1,001 excuses for other men who sexually harrass/assault/rape women while at the same time castigating the woman for not doing enough to protect herself. Are you kidding me? I took a rape awareness/women’s self-defense class in college and one of the deputies said something I’ll never forget: there’s not a day that goes by where a women isn’t concerned for her safety in some manner. For me it was an a-ha moment because I realized how true that was for my own life. As you said in the article, it does only take one to change your entire perspective. I found myself always being cognizant of who was around, of what I was wearing, and of how I reacted. But none of the apologists want to hear that. They just want to assume that I must’ve subliminally been “asking for it.” But at what point do they realize that women have the right to walk down the sidewalk without being harassed? At what point are we allowed to freely exist?

    And on a side note, can I point out how amazingly hypocritical I find it when American men (or Western men in general, I guess) accuse  Middle Eastern and/or Muslim men of treating their fellow women horribly while remaining blissfully oblivious to the continued mistreatment of women in this country. It astounds me how some people can in one breath claim that Islam hates all women before turning around and saying that a women who is raped and becomes pregnant should treat it as a “gift from God” and “turn lemons into lemonade” (here’s looking at you Santorum).

  • Anonymous

    Omg thank you for highlighting the Jacob/Bella scene between the movie and book! That has always made me very angry!

  • Goldenbrownglow

    This piece made me sooooooo angry, but in a (mostly) healthy way. What I would say is, show me the stats that women under the influence, “scantily clad” women, or women who don’t know tae kwon do (c’mon now…) are raped or sexually assaulted more than women who are straight edge, fully covered all the time, or have taken defense classes. It’s a silly (but effective) technique designed to construct a binary in which *those* women get raped and *these* do not, so that if you get raped, we as a culture can say, subtley or overtly, “It’s your fault.”

    • Anonymous

      Plus, if any of that was true, old women and very young girls wouldn’t get raped, and yet they do.  

      Besides, does anyone else ever cringe at how our culture allows young girls who get gang raped (usually after getting lured away by older boys) are portrayed as young Jezebels by both the defense attorneys AND the mothers of the rapists.  

      I mean, I’ve seen one too many cases on the news about little girls who more or less had their insides torn apart by gangs of boys and yet someone can still with a straight face pretend that the boys were lured to do it?  WTH?

      My only close call came as a teenager but luckily the much older person in question took “no” for an answer and I was allowed to go along my merry way.  I honestly didn’t even process what COULD have happened for many years, but I’m lucky b/c I don’t feel traumatized, just skeeved out.   The intent was clear but it honestly didn’t occur to me that he might not have stopped when I said “no thanks” to the come on.   But yes, I would have been subjected to the usual treatment I’m sure and I was and still am very conservative and I was alone with someone older who was actually in a position of authority (resident tutor at a summer program for high school students). 

  • joe

    This is amazing and powerful. I only hope many, many people read it. Thank you for bringing such intellect, insight and great writing skill to this issue. I’ve known 2 close friends who were raped. As a man, it’s hard to relate to that (despite that I know that men are raped). I have two young sons and you’ve really opened my eyes on how important it is to see clearly the way media reflects how we perceive rape – the problems in that reflection. Awareness of that seems the only hope – so I thank you for that,  truly. Sex is such a loaded term for so many of us, such a powerful force, so deeply affecting. To see it handled with such eloquence and intelligence is very impressive – and more importantly, very effective.

  • Gen

    Excellent post. It really struck a nerve with me.

    What a lot of people who put the burden on women fail to realize is that no matter how many “rules” women may live by, if you’re faced with a man who won’t take no for an answer, then there’s only so much you can do to protect yourself. In my case, it was a man I’d known since I was 15, had dated for three years, and trusted completely. It only took one man to decide that since I was his girlfriend, he had free access to my body, even when I said no. It wasn’t someone who had been abusive, or who I should’ve “known better” than to be with. It was someone I thought loved me. So who should’ve been the one with better education there? Me, who rarely drinks — never to excess — dresses conservatively, and never goes home with strange men or is alone after dark — or the man who thinks it’s okay not to listen to the no, as long as you’re in a relationship. And what about spousal rape? Once a woman’s married, she’s never allowed to say no? Are we expected to do our due diligence around our own husbands?

    I’ve had conversations with men since then, and it never ceases to amaze me what they think is “okay” in certain situations. “No always means no” is not something a lot of men have picked up on yet, and the education needs to be there. Too many women are affected by a view of what really constitutes rape that has been defined by people who have never experienced the act first hard.

  • Eva

    Thank you so much for this.  As for the A and B.  My opinion is that BOTH A and B should be concerned about their drinking.  If you’re drinking so much that you black out (NOT pass out), alcohol could be a problem.

    I’m a fiftysomething woman and my feeling is that relationships are a dance and before you have sex with someone, you should know who you’re dancing with. 

    I remember that scene from Twilight and I did think it was awful, because Bella didn’t want to kiss Jacob.  It wasn’t right for Jacob to force Bella to kiss him.  Like I said, relationships are a dance, and if someone doesn’t want to dance with you, you have to look for another partner. 

    Another problem is that in so many movies, books and TV shows there’s always a storyline where A and B don’t like each other, or A likes B but B doesn’t like A.  However by the end of the movie/series/book, A and B are madly in love.  I wonder if things like that send mixed messages to people, that even a NO could mean a yes down the road. 

    • Medusa

      “I wonder if things like that send mixed messages to people, that even a NO could mean a yes down the road.”

      Yes. There was an ENTIRE episode of How I Met Your Mother based on this, and (I believe the title was like “How to Turn a No into a Yes” or something). The entire fucking thing pissed me off, and I was so shocked that it was perfectly fine to seemingly everyone and that they were even encouraging Ted Mosby to get this woman to go out with him, even after she had said no, and that he succeeded.

      It does normalize it, but people should still know better than to copy shit that they see on TV.

  • STaylor in Austin

    Excellent  post. Thank you
    As a man I see examples of  media’s presentation of “rape culture” on sports blogs, men’s magazines and other media. It’s very easy as a man to become numb to these representations and I’m usually only shocked out of my stupor when I see a person of color in the picture or video.
    As people we need todo  an infinitely better job of respecting women and knowing that there are boundaries and also recognizing that doing the right and moral thing is always more important than committing a crime and ruining a woman’s life
    I recently spoke to some U of Texas students and told them about the extremely under-reported rape numbers that UT and all universities officially report. It’s a well known story, but I was shocked that almost none of the students knew about the rampant sexual assault numbers. I was also shocked that many said that those must have happened “off Campus” as if there was some magical dividing line  ( “off campus” at UT is literally two blocks away from the main campus)
    Almost all of us need to change our views ( me included) and  stop accepting criminal behavior