In light of the recent deaths of Rhetaeh Parsons and Audrie Pott, and the apparent lack of knowledge of what the term “consent” actually means, a petition has been created to mandate that the definition of “consent” be discussed in public school sex ed classes along with STD’s and contraception.
While I think this is a good start (and if you do, too, please sign the petition), what I find even more in need of address is the definition of the actual term “rape”. In her article, ‘Rapists Who Don’t Think They’re Rapists’ Amanda Hess brings to our attention the fact that the majority of men don’t even realize that they have raped.
Using a study of 1882 College students, Thomas MacAulay Miller discovered that out of 120 of the students surveyed “six percent of the survey’s respondents… copped to either rape or attempted rape.” Mr. Miller also noted that,
“”If a survey asks men, for example, if they ever “had sexual intercourse with someone, even though they did not want to, because they were too intoxicated (on alcohol or drugs) to resist your sexual advances,” some of them will say yes, as long as the questions don’t use the “R” word.”
And they didn’t just admit to raping—they admitted to raping repeatedly (as long as it’s not really “rape,” of course!) According to the study, a small percentage of men are responsible for committing a large portion of sexual assaults—that’s a whole lot of “accidents,” “misreadings,” and “gray areas”:
Of the 120 rapists in the sample, 44 reported only one assault. The remaining 76 were repeat offenders. These 76 men, 63% of the rapists, committed 439 rapes or attempted rapes, an average of 5.8 each (median of 3, so there were some super-repeat offenders in this group). Just 4% of the men surveyed committed over 400 attempted or completed rapes.”
To read more on this study, click here.
Writer Soraya Chemaly recently observed the same thing in her article, ‘What Rhetaeh Parsons Death Teaches Us About Rape As A Conformity’. She writes,
“For every one that is raped, there are at least one, sometimes several, boys who rape. Some of them don’t even know they are raping. No one’s ever taught them. They think it’s funny. When they take and send pictures this would indicate that they think others will agree. These are not people filled with shame.”
The scary thing is, she’s probably right. Chances are, nobody has taught these boys what rape actually is. It may be a very long shot, but perhaps teaching what constitutes rape will help. What will also help is for us to talk openly with our children about what rape is, and the many forms in which it can present itself. Most of the time, when someone thinks of rape, it brings to mind a violent act, a struggle and perhaps even a weapon. The reality is much more innocuous. Just because you know the girl (or boy) and have been friends, doesn’t mean it wasn’t rape. Just because “(s)he didn’t say no” doesn’t mean it wasn’t rape.
What really needs to happen is for us to change our view of women and human rights. Once again, Amanda Hess says it best in her article discussing “accidental rape”:
When rapists engage in sex acts without bothering to gain their sex partner’s consent, they are not “accidentally” raping someone. Rapes don’t come from miscommunication. They are not isolated, unpreventable incidents. They are a product of institutionalized, reinforced, life-long privilege. They are the symptoms of a flaw in the rapist’s entire worldview. They are the product of the way the rapist has habitually devalued women, laid claim to the bodies of others, pursued what he wants no matter what—and never thought anything of it because he has never been called on it. That’s not an accident. That’s a system.