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April 15, 2013


Christy Lou

Thank you.


Hear hear!

Tristi Pinkston

Shannon, you rock. :) Thank you for opening your page up to this discussion, which is so badly needed. I will be talking this over with my teenagers and making sure that they understand what they can do to be aware, to be proactive, and to help their friends understand that they need to do the same thing. I think that boys bragging to boys is a huge problem because then the claims have to become more outrageous to top the other guy's story, and that creates the idea that it's okay to behave that way. If we can educate our boys not to treat girls that way in their conversations, and if we can teach our girls not to put up with demeaning treatment and give them a voice and the power to stand up for themselves, and this from the time they're young, I feel that will be helpful in the long run. You think about it and talk about it before you do it - let's help them not think about it and talk about it. I'm tired and rambling - hope that made sense. :)

Rachel Coleman

Yes, yes, yes. This is fantastic. Thank you for your words.

Amy Marshall

Unfortunately, we must educate our children at younger and younger ages. And not just about themselves. My paretns were very clear about what I should/should not do or allow to be done to me. But when a fellow sixth grader said she had been having sex with a 20-something friend of her dad, I assumed she was just, well, a slut. Or that her parents knew and approved. I thought she was "wicked". I was horrified but the other girls in that little group went on and on about how "cool" she was, how "lucky" she was, how "mature" she was. It wasn't until many years later that I finally understood that the reason she wasn't smiling when she told us, the reason she didn't seem to be bragging or enjoying their comments, was that she was asking for help. But we were all to naive to understand.

Gabrielle Prendergast

This is an excellent analysis. The more I read and write on this topic the more I feel a sense of simmering epiphany, as if we are closing in on something fundamental about our species and the sexual politics that drive us.

I actually think it would helpful to come to terms with rape being "just how things are". Sexual aggression (and non sexual) is deeply ingrained in our species. That doesn't mean we have to accept it, only that to pretend it's some form of social aberration is not helpful. Oddly, I think we could talk about how sexual SUBMISSION is also built into our species. we could certainly talk about how tribalism (otherwise known as racism) is an evolved human condition.

The point of being a human, what makes us unique in the animal kingdom is our desire and ability to rise above our biology. But to rise above it, we must face it first, face the instincts and inclinations towards aggression, inter-group mistrust and disdain (which births both racism and victim blaming), the deep chasm of misunderstanding between males and females and the devastating emotional consequences of letting young people live out their hormone addled (this is a real thing, by the way) adolescence in the absence of very strict moral, emotional and biological guidance.


Shannon Hale, I love you!

Frequently, there is a stereotype about rape accusers being women who simply recognize their (for lack of a better word) trashiness and are experiencing regret--thus, they will accuse men of being rapists in order to reinstate their positive reputations. I doubt that this situation happens as frequently as some think, but it's a narrative that is reinforced by those problematic gender conceptions of "that's just the way things are": women should exist to please men, but they should feel guilty about having sex. They just can't win.

One of the major issues, I think, is lack of education (formal or not) for boys and men about what formal consent means. I teach in a college setting, and I still hear these guys saying things like "Well, it's only rape if she says no." No, she has to say yes. She can't be coerced or intimated or tricked into it, either. Women are so frequently taught: "Don't leave your drink unattended. Don't walk by yourself. Carry a rape whistle. After all, if you walk down a dark alley, waving money in the air, won't you expect to be robbed?" But we should be teaching both boys and girls about the problematic attitudes that reinforce rape culture: if you're comparing a woman's body to a wallet full of money, then clearly there's a larger problem at hand.


Shannon, thanks for this. I think another important element of rape culture is the idea that a girl who dresses "immodestly" somehow deserves to be violated, or at least makes the rapist less culpable by being "provocative." This is especially a problem in conservative religious cultures, I think.


Excellent post. I'm looking forward to the post that talks about how sex should be discussed openly with respect.


thank you for this and I will be talking even more with my kids.

Mary Lou Hart

Re-sharing on facebook. I have been having an on going conversation with a friend about this recently. He is a teacher and is posting several times a week on what sexual assault is and what we need to do as parents/educators/trusted adults to help victims. The rape/sexual assault culture in which we lives has come up repeatedly. Also thought you and your readers might like this blog post if you haven't already read it. Covers some things I would have not thought necessary to "teach" but now see as vital because I rape culture teaches the opposite. http://accidentaldevotional.com/2013/03/19/the-day-i-taught-how-not-to-rape/


Thank you for talking about this! Why isn't this a larger, national conversation? I feel like only women are talking about this, which is not ok.


Ugh. My comment just got erased. But thank you. The recent suicides of rape victims prompted me to sit down with my 13 and 11 year old home schooled girls and talk about rape culture. We've talked rape, suicide, drinking... but not the fact a cute, fun, smart guy could rape you while believing he was doing nothing wrong.


I have never been raped and I thank God for that. I have been molested on two separate occasions and choked on another--all before I turned 16. On all three occasions no one did anything. In fact the choking occurred on a school bus with several witnesses and all that happened from that was I was made to sit up front where the bus driver could keep an eye on me.

There are times when I'm alone in public and I become paranoid about the men around me and I start to panic. I usually just wait for my husband to accompany me to run any errands.

Ridiculously, my heart has been pounding as I type this. Each of those guys should be ashamed and feeling horrible, but I'm the one that's sitting here shaking.


I've got a two year old daughter and a three year old son. It scares me to death to think that I may not do a good enough job teaching them about life and not only how to survive it, but how to thrive in it and how to make it better for other people. It's so important for my husband and I to always communicate with my daughter, and teach her how to be assertive and to protect her self. But I think it's just as important for us to teach our son how to be a good man, how to not do those horrible things to women and how to not stand with those that do. My mom said the same thing to my sister and I nearly everyday for our entire school career: "be kind and sweet to those you meet, but don't do wrong to get along." lol I know it sounds simplistic and understated, but it's oh so true.


<3 to you, Rebecca!


Well-spoken, thank you for this post!


In school one time I heard a boy that a girl was "asking" to be raped by the way she dressed and some things she did. I was furious. It's true that there are things girls can and SHOULD do to protect themselves, but like you said, just because a girl's passed out doesn't mean it's all of a sudden her "fault."

I think these things are helped by talking about them. I distinctly remember a woman who came and talked at our school about this topic (she was actually the daughter of a rape victim). The best way to fight things like this is awareness. All children need to be taught what assault is, that it isn't all right, and that they need to report when it happens.

Strongly recommend the book, "Speak." It talks about a rape victim and how she finally comes to stand up for herself and tell what happened.


Mrs. Hale, Shannon, Oh great amazing author, or whatever you'd like to be called, I'm grateful that you are so willing to express what you feel is right and why. Too many people don't even know how to do that anymore these days. That, however, is not what I am commenting about. Personally, I pride myself with having the sense not to allow myself into situations where any part of me could be harmed. I also pride myself on being able to defend myself if anything like, say, rape were to occur to me. But, I see people around me, at school, at the store, I see them, my age, often younger, I see them pregnant. I hear rumors of people going off and getting themselves drunk on the weekends. I hear rumors of people "doing it" for the first time. I hear rumors of people getting in fights and rumors of people getting raped. Often times, in a high school setting, it does appear as though people are setting themselves up for tragedy through their dress, their words, their actions. Truly, I feel that occurrences, such as rape, could be countered if better values were taught. Unfortunately, media prevents this. I spend nearly an hour a day with a classroom full of second graders, and these little kids are talking about how they already have girlfriends and boyfriends, talking about watching Twilight, and talking about horror movies they've seen that I've only ever even heard of. I am horrified that these little kids are experiencing things, that I, as a high school student, have yet to experience and have yet felt a need to do so. Today's culture and society are bending, saying it's alright to do this here and it's alright to do that there. These creases create the situations and the mid sets that allow things like rape to seem even minutely appropriate. And I hate it.


Hmmm. I agree rape is a problem, but I'm not sure law enforcement is the problem. I see increased rape as a result of the free sex culture in our society. Pornography, immorality, substance abuse, and widespread promiscuity is not only accepted, it is heralded as a normal coming of age tradition. Women want to be seen as sexual images and chastity is mocked. Sexual "slavery" in a sense, is just being legalized in our society.

Yes, boys taking advantage of a girl who is passed out is different from boys experimenting with a consensual, drunk girl at a party. Both are wrong and yet society accepts promiscuity and tries to condemn rape. It is hard to draw that line.

Similarly it is difficult to outlaw lynching while beating a slave remains an acceptable, moral behavior. I'm not sure that lynching would have ended if slavery was still socially accepted and even morally justified. It took social reform-- in many different levels, to remove that evil. Sexually, we are going in the opposite direction. Current laws are making sexual perversions more acceptable and legal.

As morals erode, there will be an increase in rape, adultery, pedophilia, and prostitution. I'm not sure LAW can ever become more moral than the common people. It's sad.


Thank you for posting this, Shannon.


brava, shannon.


Great post Shannon! But I was a bit saddened to read Jennifer's comment, paritularly in regard to it being "hard to draw the line" between promiscuity and non consensual sex. Whatever your feelings on premarital sex etc., I think it the difference is clear between someone in control of their sexuality and choosing to experiment with consenting partner(s) and the act of rape (which studies have shown is based in power, control and dominance). Even if you consider the former immoral, the latter must be recognised as immeasurably more damaging and against the human rights each is owed.
I also find "women also want to be seen as sexual images" problematic. Leaving aside media portrayal etc, what would make sense here is women wanting to present themselves as sexual beings. The implication of "sexual images" is that they are objects to be acted upon, surendering all control after an initial agreement of sex. This plays into old ideas of being either a virgin or harlot, and what Shannon has been discussing of girls being there for pleasure, not active participants to sex that have a right to control over their bodies and the situation. Even the subtle phrasing of "boys experimenting with a drunk, consensual girl" instead of "boys and a drunk girl experimenting with each other" (being in a right state to consent is another topic) is suggesting the boys are the subjects and the girl, the object.
Perhaps, though I have misinterpreted Jenifers comment.


I grew up hearing more stories of boys and men being raped than I did of girls or women and I don't think anyone was ever punished in any of those cases. Society seemed to be of the opinion that any male, no matter the age, who wasn't strong enough to fend of his rapist deserved to be raped. And now society seems to think the same thing about girls and women. It's unfortunate but not unexpected. Until all people are taught to respect all people nothing will ever change because what is allowed to fester in one group will eventually spill over to all other groups.

Amelia Loken

Thank you for speaking up and expressing so eloquently. This is something that needs to be shared, talked about and taught. Have started talking about this with my boys. But sometimes hard to introduce such a topic with younger ones. For the little guys we talk about not having to hug or kiss someone if they don't want to. Soooo sad when having this conversation.

Linda W

I wish everyone would read this post. So true!


I believe that Jennifer hit on something very important in this discussion, rape is difficult to define because depending upon how the people involved perceived the event it might or might not be rape. What is consent anyway? Female soldiers agreed to have sex with their commanding officers but it was considered rape by some because they felt like they didn't have another option. The same case can be made when a 15 year old consents to having sex with a 18 year old, in that case society/parents might be the only ones calling it rape.

In any case I believe the problem has its roots in how we value other people. A woman should be considered fully human and valuable whether she is 2 or 102 whether she is wearing a Burka or a bikini and whether she is a president or a prostitute. The same should go for men that whether they are "successful" or not or whatever other standard they could be measured by. Even if you don't agree with them or want to spend time with them or be their friend what an incredible world we would live in if everyone saw everyone as one of us, as a part of the whole, as equal to myself and yourself and themselves. If we valued other people like this then victims of any wrong would find a place to heal and find justice and those that wronged others could find the support to change and grow and seek reconciliation. In a world, in a culture were we see everyone as a part of the human family we would see that everyone needs protection sometimes and that none of us can handle life on our own. If we considered others as important to our own stories as we consider ourselves then we would try and stop hurting and injustice we would reach out to victims and attackers and say we will not let you go this way, we will not let you do this thing because you are important, what you do matters, you are a part of our society and we will not let our society be a place where these things happen.

Your ideas are important because you have them, they may not be right but they are important and so I will read them. Thank you for taking the time to read my ideas even if you find them distasteful.


Well said Shannon!


I think both Jennifer and Maren are under a mistaken impression that rape is somehow 'new' or more common now. As long as there have been people, there has been rape. You can't blame it on media or the fact that people are more open about sex (the reverse is true). Conservative cultures have been some of the worst perpetrators of rape (though of course, they often did not call it that). Legal prostitution, on the other hand, decreases rape. Now, the idea that women have rights and have a choice *IS* a new(-ish) idea, and we will have to keep pushing for it and pushing for people to understand what that means. We have to move the shame from the victim to the victimizer. We have to educate our children, apparently (thank you mary lou), on what consent is. This conversation is one step of the millions we will have to take, and will. Women used to be nothing but property; girls used to be married before their teens; widows were given to their husband's brother; in some countries rapists are still encouraged to marry their victims (who have little choice in the matter). We have come a long way, but we still have a ways to go.


Your post is very timely and worth discussing.

I've read through all the comments and see no one mention about the use of the word 'rape' among adolescents and college age men. I think the word itself has lost its power among them.

This is my anecdotal experience, so take it for what it's worth. I used to game online, and the majority of gamers are boys/college-age men, and they throw around the word 'rape' like it means nothing. They type it, yell it--repeatedly--in the course of a game, often as a threat, other times to describe their prowess. Repeatedly. To them it's a general word for a violent act they will perpetuate against their enemies. It makes me sick inside to know they throw the word out there constantly without any thought. This is a part of the 'culture' you're talking about.

I'm not a victim of rape, but it must be a scary and life-changing event, and just hearing that word jolts me. Does it jolt these young men? No.


I think rape--like war, famine, and disease--will always be around. However, I also believe that things can get better, but not so long as pop culture and society continue to glorify sexual exploits, both by men and women. When sex is considered a recreational activity and one-night stands and casual "hook-ups" are looked upon as acceptable and sought after, it results in a lack of respect between partners and is conducive to a rape.


I'm usually a silent lurker here, but reading over the comments, one particular thing really struck out to me: legalizing prostitution decreases rape. I guess anything that decreases rape can be considered a good thing, but I just find this fact, if it is true, terribly sad. I'm actually really shocked to hear it. Do men really have such poor self-control that they have the right to demand, "Give us prostitutes or we'll rape!" I just find it an extreme form of the 'if I can't buy it, then I'll steal it' mentality. Rape should never be a consequence for anything, whether that be drinking, wearing revealing clothing, hanging out by yourself, or even sexual frustration. And not to mention it doesn't even really solve the problem that women are still objectified by men; in my opinion, it just gives more reason for men to treat women like a commodity.


This is such a hard topic to think about. Something that bothers me is a fantasy reader and action movie lover is how the genres have taken a turn for the "gritty". This means that there is not only graphic violence but also graphic sexuality. In the effort to be "realistic" this scenes are disturbing in the extreme when it comes to women. When so little of what fantasy/action does is realistic, why are we borrowing from supposed trauma of the past?


Thank you so much, Shannon. No one has mentioned this, but I was flabbergasted during election season last fall at how many politicians or wanna-be politicians said horrible off-the-cuff things about rape and how it's largely the woman's fault. One said his father told him to be careful who he slept with because "some girls rape easy" (meaning they lie if they get embarrassed about having slept with you), the more widely quoted one said that raped women have a special way to prohibit the rape from resulting in pregnancy (therefore women seeking abortions following rape should be denied because if they're pregnant, it was consensual). I couldn't believe any of it. This goes soooooo beyond your views on abortion, sex outside of marriage, modesty, whatever. People who want to be leaders of our country think they can make these remarks and degrade women who have been victims of violent crimes. Are we so shocked that boys who are young, stupid, and drunk behave the way they do if their fathers' peers voice such ludicrous opinions?

Thank you especially for your comments about rape within marriage. I have friends who have been sexually abused/raped by male romantic partners (and one case of a friend whose former husband abused her in so many other ways I wouldn't be surprised if he also abused her sexually). They didn't sign their bodies and souls away by saying they would go out with, sleep with, or marry a man who turned out to be a manipulative jerk. So many people agree with that statement, yet still question whether rape within a relationship could occur. Why? Makes me so sad, mad, and frustrated, especially when these dear women feel silenced until too long after the fact for justice to be served. Not fair at all.


I really liked that Shannon brought up "Rape culture praises a woman's appearance and sexual attractiveness above any other quality." So true. This reminds me of a paper I just finished on the early sexualization of girls. Its just sad when little girls are pushed into being sexy so early.


I'm sorry if my writing was contrary to your opinion. I know very well that rape is not a new thing. All I meant when writing about the media was that when ideas, such as rape, are splayed across Televisions, theaters, radios, books, and pictures, it has the tendency to engrain itself in the minds of those who see or hear it. The fallacy you claim to have seen in my opinion, is merely your own opinion. Of course, I know that rape is not a new thing. Of course I know that it is not the medias fault. Of course I know that it is not simply cultures that are un-conservative that are subject to rape. You seem to have taken my comment as saying that it was entirely the media's fault that rape and other such things occur. Also, many of the ideas presented in media do prevent proper values from being provided, perhaps not due to not having been taught, but to things such as peer pressure. I do not mean to say that rape is or should be acceptable. But when peoples find it morally correct to engage in sexual activity whenever they desire, then it would simply lead them to (even subconsciously, if they were in a drunken state of mind) see rape as morally acceptable. Of course, if they were in a drunken state of mind, they may not even realize that they were participating in a rape.


Thank you for writing about this, which so needs to be talked about.


Somewhat along the lines of what others have said, I wonder how much of this rape culture comes from how we have come to view sex as a society. We teach that sex is a recreational activity that should be participated in whenever desired among consenting adult--without consequences. We teach that it is not a serious, life-altering thing. It's a fun fling-of-a-thing that we can do whenever (though you should always remember to do it with protection!). In such a culture, is it any surprise that some young men may not understand the ENORMITY of the wrong they are doing when they take advantage of a girl (drunk, passed out, or in whatever state)? If it's just a recreational activity, then they certainly know that forcing someone to do it is wrong--but how wrong can it be? The answer is, of course, they should FEEL that it is wrong and know it, as most men do. But really, how fair is it to teach them it's something you can do for fun--like going for a bike ride (only be sure you wear a helmet!)--BUT if you force someone to do it you should understand what a horrible, shattering, awful crime that is. I still think they should know that, but is that fair as a society?


Awesome post, Shannon. I struggled to find any kind of solace after hearing about the atrocities in Steubenville (which can just be added to the pile) and this post is empowering. Thank you for being such an upstanding, inspirational, and thoughtful person, a person interested in real change. I owe a lot to you.


Thanks for writing this. More people need to be aware that there is a problem. I wanted to add that there is a petition on Change.org started by a friend of Rehtaeh Parson's family demanding an independent investigation in the case since the RCMP bungled the job. If anyone wants to add their voice saying that they feel like there is something deeply wrong with this incident, please go here: http://www.change.org/petitions/justice-for-rehtaeh-demand-an-independent-inquiry-into-the-police-investigation#

Greg Fisher

Brilliant assessment.


It's funny--I'm teaching Romeo and Juliet in Freshman English right now, and we keep coming back to the idea of women as property. Just today, we were talking about the idea that, in Shakespeare's day, such an idea as "marital rape" did not exist, and about how far women have come in 400 years. But oh, how far our ideas about women have yet to go!


You are, sadly, bypassing the "Lohan Kardashian" pop-culture that tell young girls to become sex objects.

You can blame young males, but unfortunately, the sickness in embedded in the image media thrust upon young women. You can deny it, but young women willing;y and seek to engage in unprotected casual sex.

Ani Brooke

Bif, I think the POINT is that rampant sexuality is a separate issue from rampant disregard of a woman's consent and choice in the matter. We don't say that a person is asking to be mugged if they freely spend money. We recognize that there is a difference between people choosing to spend money and deserving being stolen from. We recognize that you do not have the right to take a person's wallet because they have used it, because they fail to actively conceal it, because they fail to actively and assertively say "no". The greater problem with the media is not that it teaches girls to be sexual, but that it teaches both girls and boys that girls are sexual objects and little more.

Marcus Aurelius

People who know me probably know that I'm not much of a guy to talk about sex. I'm a little prudish, and easily embarrassed. I believe very strongly that sex is something that should be approached as something that is serious and sacred.

As much as I agree with the standard Judeo-Christian view on sexual mores, and can cast a grandfatherly mien with the best of them, clucking my tongue at the promiscuity of today's youth and the like, I don't think sex is responsible for rape. I don't think rape is a product of one's views on sex, but rather, it's a product of one's views of one's fellow human beings.

And Ani, you couldn't see it, but I stood up and applauded your analogy. Very well said.


Thank you, Marcus and Ani. I completely agree. Rape is a violent crime, not the result of a casual attitude about sex. As Shannon's post said, it's often conservative cultures that encourage extreme modesty that have huge issues with rape. Saying rape is a by-product of promiscuity sounds like a step or two away from victim-blaming to me.


My thoughts keep returning to this post and the events that inspired it. I've decided that my next YW's lesson is going to be on rape culture. Or, ahem, chastity and choice and accountability. My girls need to hear this. They need to understand that rape is not their fault if it happens to them and they need to know how to treat rape victims in a loving and supportive way.


Heather, thank you, thank you, thank you for addressing rape culture in a church setting. Your girls will be well served by it. So often in the church we're absolutely silent about rape, but all young people (and people in general) need to hear the things you mentioned in your comment.


Well Tessa, don't thank me yet. Unfortunately, I mentioned my ideas to my friend the YW's president. My plan was to talk about this using the YW's theme as a framework, continually remind them that they are daughters of God, that they have individual worth, we are each accountable for our own choices, etc. She kaboshed my ideas. "No, if we talk about these things we might scare them. Stick to the manual." And this is how rape culture lives on. Perhaps I should have just kept my mouth shut. I don't want to make her upset by being totally defiant, I may just have to save my thoughts on this for whenever the girls were actually scheduled to have a lesson on chastity.

Christy G

Oh Shannon!!!! I've been HOPING and HOPING that you would jump on this topic!! I'm thrilled! I volunteer with women who are greatly affected by rape culture and this topic has been driving me crazy in recent months. Thank you for so eloquently discussing something that I couldn't express through the written word. I'm sharing this on Facebook for sure!! Hugs to you and thanks for tackling the hard stuff...you're one of my heroes!

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