Saturday, March 23, 2013

Rape Culture: What Are You Doing to Fight It?

I wasn't going to write about the Steubenville case, but I have seen so many people blame this young woman for what happened to her that I have seriously thought about deactivating my personal Facebook account. Learning that so many of my friends are blaming this victim is not easy. Sometimes I think it would be easier to just not know, to just go about my day assuming that my friends have the common decency to assume that a woman who is unconscious should not be penetrated and that anyone who does so is committing a crime.

March Against Rape Culture and Gender Inequality - 2

But I didn't deactivate my account. So what do I do now? Do I get into an individual Facebook flame war with every person who posts a status about how this woman was "asking for it"? Do I ignore them? Unfriend them? 

I don't want to create an echo chamber for myself. I need to be reminded that even the simple concept of consent has somehow been relegated to the margins of mainstream culture. I need to know that many, many people think that men just "can't help themselves" and that the responsibility is on rape victims to not get raped. 

But I also cannot get into an individual argument with every person who thinks that way, and I can't reinvent the wheel when so many people smarter and more eloquent than me have already done such good work, so I'm going to use this post as a place to gather the links I wish and hope these friends will read. 

If you think that the Steubenville verdict was too harsh, if you think that a woman in a short skirt is asking for it, if you think that a woman who is drunk isn't taking responsibility for her own violation, if you think that women shouldn't go out at night, if you think that women need to carry guns in order to prevent rape, please read these:

Rape Culture and "Asking For It"

"Asking For It" by Jessica Valenti in The Nation: "But making women responsible for men’s sexuality isn’t just about excusing rape and sexual harassment. It’s a cultural rule that enforces the idea that this is a man’s world—women just live in it."

"What is Consent?" from Vassar College's Sexual Assault Violence Prevention: "Consent is when one person agrees to or gives permission to another person to do something. It means agreeing to an action based on your knowledge of what that action involves, its likely consequences and having the option of saying no. The absence of 'no' does not mean 'yes'."

"Don't Be That Guy" A Canadian public awareness campaign about consent. Read about how effective it's been here.

Poster from Don't Be That Guy campaign. 

"Jam" a video by sex educator Karen B.K. Chan suggesting that we reframe metaphors for sex into the concept of a musical "jam." Like jamming, it can only happen if everyone is enthusiastically consenting to the act. Otherwise, it's not sex.

"Will Your Son Be a Rapist?" a post by PhD in Parenting (full disclosure, I'm cited in it) discussing how we should talk about consent with our children. 

"New York Times' Rape-Friendly Reporting" Mother Jones demonstrates how the reporting of a 2011 case where an 11-year-old was gang raped by multiple adult men focuses on how the girl was "asking for it."

"Women Do Not Need Guns to Protect Themselves from Rape" Policy Mic looks at the renewed push for using guns as rape prevention.

There's a petition at We the People urging a mandatory discussion of consent in all public school health or sex ed classes. 

On Steubenville

"On Steubenville High School & Teaching Boys Not to Rape" by Avital Norman Nathman: "Nobody wants to think of their son as a potential sexual assaulter. I know I don’t. I look at my sweet, sweet son and I know in my heart that he would never hurt a fellow human being, let alone violate and disrespect them in the way this 16-year-old victim was subjected to. But I’m also not living in a fantasy bubble. I’m sure the mothers and fathers of the boys involved thought their sons weren’t capable of such horrific, violating actions either. In fact, most of the town is still in denial, and they’re not the only ones."

"Steubenville Makes Rape Culture Harder to Deny" from The Raw Story: "Even after the verdict, there continued to be immense support for this belief that raping someone is not a crime so much as just fun times that the victim has no right to protest."

"25 Things Our Sons Need to Know About Manhood" from A Holy Experience: This Christian perspective explains that "When the prevailing thinking is boys will be boys — girls will be garbage.
And that is never the heart of God."

"CNN's Steubenville Coverage Matches 2011 'Onion' Athlete-Rape Parody Video" Thought Catalog takes a look at how close CNN's real-life coverage got to a parody that shows how pervasive rape culture is. 

"Responses to the Steubenville Verdict Reveal Rape Culture" Sociological Images has a round-up of some of the disturbing responses to this case and a set of even more links that discuss the problems. 

Rape Statistics

RAINN stats show that someone is sexually assaulted in the U.S. every two minutes and that 1 in 6 women will be victimized in their lifetimes. This is not a rare problem. Also, 54% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police and 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail. 

The Independent published an infographic of what conviction rates look like:

"50 Actual Facts About Rape"- Quick, easy-to-understand facts and some resources to learn more from The Huffington Post. 

Please add any relevant links or resources in the comments. 

Photo: CMCarterSS


  1. Thank you for this excellent post. You might like some of the articles on my blog at

  2. After I wrote this post, there was still a lot on my mind, so I wrote a post about what rape culture teaches men, and why men should be outraged at this portrayal of themselves:

  3. Thanks for sharing your site! There are a lot of great discussions there.

  4. Have you seen Ask Moxie's post? It is great:

  5. "You get immunity if you’re calling for help. My phone is always on, and it does not matter what time of day or night it is." So good!