Tag Archives: no means no

Horrifying Reddit thread important for discussing rape

9 Aug

Trigger warning.

Photo credit Andrea Rose

I’ve been trying to figure out how to talk about this Reddit thread for a while now. In the thread, rapists talk about why they raped. (Some survivors talk about their experiences too, and it’s also terrifying, but hearing from rapists isn’t as common.)

The explanations are simple. Scary simple. Like:

  • Mixed messages (she wasn’t into it… but didn’t say no)
  • Peer pressure (drunk friends pressured drunk guy into raping drunk girl)
  • Because he could (she was unconscious or too scared to say no)
  • Biology/”I can’t help it” (she’s there for the taking, consent doesn’t matter when you have an urge)
  • Bad influences (it’s society’s fault, the rapist is the real victim here)

But one post really stands out. In a throwaway account (since deleted, but the post remains), a man talks about his days as a serial rapist in college. (For other “highlights,” see Jezebel’s post)

He describes himself as a student leader, community volunteer, and popular guy. He says he is tall and muscular – over 200 pounds. He says girls liked him.  He goes on to describe a systematic targeting of women. He says he would purposefully go for “damaged” girls who were average looking, self  conscious, and about half his weight. He would go on a date in public first, then persuade her to come over for the second date. During that date in his dorm room, he would start escalating physical contact over a period of a couple hours, despite any signals from her. He would premeditate what he was going to do when she got there.

 “The girls usually didn’t know how to respond. Some of them were into it, and those nights were usually consensual and boring sex, sometimes followed up by a few more nightly visits before getting the boot. However, the great nights were the ones who squirmed, ones who didn’t want to give in.”


This guy says he’s married now, to a woman who knew him in college but wasn’t raped by him. He says in a later post that he’s almost raped again, but has been stopped by friends. He says he feels remorse sometimes, but he takes solace in the fact that he was never told “no” by his dates.

A comment from Jezebel:

I’ve had several heated conversations with men who take women’s fear of sexual assault so personally, but I think this Reddit thread really validates that fear. Of course, not all men are rapists, but sussing out who is (or who could be) and who isn’t is hardly a simple task.

This really gets to the heart of the topic: what in the heck should we be learning from this? Don’t be a woman? Don’t go on dates? Don’t watch movies with guys who are popular and smart?

One 2009 study reported serial attackers can target someone just based on how they move. It came down to confidence: does the person move like she is aware of her surroundings and calm? Or does she look passive and docile – even frightened? Just like the guy on Reddit, serial attackers have an eerie ability to read for vulnerability.

And this is where the conversation usually devolves into blaming women for getting into situations where they are raped.

“This is what I was wearing. Tell me I asked for it – I dare you.”

Every woman knows how to “reduce her risk,” as if her body is an object that must be protected from thieves. She knows how to hold her keys to make a weapon, not to get drunk, not to wear short skirts or show her cleavage, to always meet in a public place the first time, etc etc.

But those things are just victim blaming.

The one thing consistent in all of the rapist’s stories is: they never heard “no”.

So simple. They never heard “NO”! In a weird double-negative way, not hearing “no” meant consent to them.

I think it’s time to re-educate our population on what consent is – what it looks like to give/receive consent, what counts as consent, and how to ask for it.


I really like this image. Basically, anything besides YES means no. I think that’s beautiful.

So it’s time to reprogram our peers, partners, kids, siblings, parents — that only YES means yes. Any response other than YES means you need to stop. If everyone asked for consent, and waited for a YES, we’d have a lot less rapes from misunderstandings or people taking advantage of not hearing “no”.

THIS needs to be the new standard. Say it with me: “Only YES! means yes.”

Manning Up About Man Down

6 Jun

Rihanna’s new music video, “Man Down”, chronicles a girl’s struggle to make her world right again after being sexually assaulted. Her way to make it right (in her mind, at least) is to shoot her rapist – something I think every rape survivor has thought (fantasized?) about doing.

The video is being criticized for promoting violence, not encouraging girls to go for legal help, and for being sexist (because a man would never be able to make a video about shooting a woman – except that’s not actually true; read on).

Attacking the video for being violent misses the point. The world is violent, and asking a pop star to refrain from talking about uncomfortable topics doesn’t make them go away.

Rihanna’s character was struggling with anger, shame, depression, and all the other confusing feelings that follow being assaulted. Instead of accusing Rihanna of being needlessly violent, why don’t we examine the world that would allow this to happen to someone?

There’s a phrase in a lot of feminist literature, “rape culture”. This basically means a society where glamorizing assault is ok and even encouraged. A culture where girls are raised to appreciate men who “need” them so badly than they’ll rip the very buttons off her shirt, where he’ll sneak into her room to watch her sleep because he misses her, where he’ll fight (with fists) other men for her affections. This isn’t healthy.

Instead of criticizing a society that romanticizes acting like that, some parental groups say Rihanna shouldn’t have talked about it. And rumor has it that Rihanna is considering re-shooting the video to cut out the violence (both the shooting and the rape).

Some are going on to say that her behavior is sexist, because a man never gets away with violence towards women in their music. I would like to take a moment to reflect on: Love The Way You Lie by Eminem and Rihanna (where Eminem’s character kills Rihanna’s character when she tries to leave him), and about a zillion other songs.

There seems to be a trend with parental watchdog groups to try and suppress books, music, and movies that bring up topics they don’t want to talk to their kids about. (For example, And Tango Makes Three, a children’s book about gay penguins who adopt a chick, topping the banned books list every year – because, as one critic said, how are they supposed to explain homosexuality to their kids?)

As NPR pointed out this morning, banning teens from reading about or listening to dark topics – like violence, rape, drug use, self-loathing, or any of the other popular themes in teen media – doesn’t keep them from knowing about them or even experiencing them. One in three women is raped in her lifetime – and a third of those are raped more than once before they graduate high school – and 90% of them never report it. If we say this is a topic we can’t talk about, then what are we saying to the survivors? That they need to be quiet too?

Surrounding teens with happy images all the time doesn’t change the reality of what they see on the news and at school – a reality of No Means Maybe, of being scared to say no, of being ignored or bullied when she has the courage to report what happened.

I hope that more musicians will take it upon themselves to talk about these issues – they’re on a unique platform to talk to young people, and often they’re not much older than the teens who admire them. Instead of changing the video, let’s change reality. Rihanna’s character can re-shoot to a happy ending, but 33% of girls don’t have that option.