Recently Catie Warren, a correspondent for the website Total Frat Move, wrote an article titled “Stop Crying Rape.” In this article, Warren describes college-aged girls who go out, drink excessively, and subsequently sleep with their male peers, only to claim they have been raped when they wake up the next day regretting their actions. Warren believes that this practice creates a mockery of actual sexual assault victims. While I agree with her that a remorseful sexual encounter is not rape, I do believe there are a few points which should be discussed regarding this article.
In Catie Warren’s article, there is an overgeneralization of exactly what rape is. She writes as though the only victims of rape are college-aged women who have had too much to drink and fall into bed with someone. Sexual assault is very prominent on college campuses, but it happens in many different situations as well. Women can be victims; men can be victims. The attacker and the victim may be of the same sex. It can occur drunk or sober. The attacker may be a stranger, or it may be someone you have known your entire life. Even when it occurs on college campuses, only 5% of students who have been sexually assaulted will report the case. So why should we try to discourage others from doing so?
There is a lack of knowledge about consent, making it more difficult to know exactly what is and is not considered rape. Consent is an agreement between two people who voluntarily and willingly want to have sex with each other. Consent is discussed before sexual activity has commenced and is consistently revisited regarding different sexual acts. Consent is not implied or assumed, even if you are in a long-term relationship or have had sex with that person before.
Catie Warren’s article gives several examples of victim shaming (making a victim feel responsible or ashamed of his or her own victimization), a huge problem which attributes to today’s rape culture. Rape culture is an environment where sexual violence is excused in reality as well as in media and pop culture. Some examples of rape culture include blaming the victim, sexually explicit jokes, gender violence in movies and television, sexually fueled song lyrics, and refusing to take rape accusations seriously. Some ways we can avoid rape culture are to avoid using language that is degrading to women, to speak out when someone makes an offensive joke, define your own manhood or womanhood without letting stereotypes shape it, and communicating with sexual partners about consent.
Yes, Catie Warren was right to stress the fact that sex which you agreed to, though you may regret, is in not considered rape. But this article is missing several key points which I felt should be emphasized. Rape is not just something that happens to girls at parties. It can happen to anyone in almost any situation. Consensual sex occurs when two people have previously discussed that they want to have sex with each other. Therein lies an issue that needs to be discussed. How do we empower young women and men to have that clarifying conversation? Talking about and defining consent is the beginning and needs to be the norm. As a society we have to stop tolerating “rape” as a casual term. For example, “our football team raped in intramurals” or “I raped that calculus exam.” It is a powerful word with an emotional connotation and should not be used so innocuously it seems like an attempt to make an action of the word. We must band together to abolish a culture where it is okay to excuse or joke about rape.
Originally written for the Georgia College Women's Center.