This post is continuing the discussion from the past three, and again, is intended for those 14 and up. If you are younger, please get parent/guardian permission before reading.
I have so many more thoughts and questions about this topic, but I want to step back now and highlight some of your voices before bringing this discussion to a close on my blog for now. I am so happy to hear how many of you are talking about this in your homes and classrooms. There were so many comments that impressed me and felt important and mini-conversations going on in the comments. Let me just pick a tiny few to repost.
Commentor Mary Lou Hart: "Consent really is an important part of the discussion and I don't think it is the murky grey area it is being made out to be. I am reminded of a story from a girl friend who in high school told a boy ''Yes" to having sex. Then as it got down to the last moments she was more scared then excited, he noticed asked a second time "Are you sure you wanna do this?" and she said No. His response was to say okay and take her home. Years later she told me "He could have continued on, I wouldn't have fought him and I wouldn't have felt I could claim rape because I had said yes in the beginning. But the fact that he respected me enough to listen and ask made a huge impact on me. I was no longer an object with which he wanted to interact for his own pleasure. My pleasure matter too." This is what we need to get to. Where either party can say no, at any point, and be listened to as a person and respected."
From Megan Whalen Turner: "You said...that people commit crimes because they think they can get away with them. I wanted to add that they commit crimes because they don't think they are *really* wrong. File sharing is a good example. People who would never, NEVER, steal a book out of a bookstore will steal an electronic copy with only a moment's hesitation and a little defensive rationalization. They don't really think it's wrong, just maybe a little illegal, but not for a good reason, therefore, it's actually okay.
"This is what rape culture tells rapists-- it's not *really* wrong.
"Sure, there are the rapists who jump out of bushes and violently assault women. Then there are the boys at Steubenville who talked about the rape, took pictures of the rape, joked about the rape and then were visibly stunned to be convicted of, you know, RAPE.
"It makes sense to be careful. It makes sense to teach our children to be careful to avoid being a victim of *any* crime. But I believe, really, really believe, that every time we publicly suggest how a woman or a girl can avoid getting raped what we do is reinforce the idea that if they *don't* do these things then it is not *really* wrong to rape them.
"I am sick of every single variation of "Yes, but that girl shouldn't have . . ."
"I understand people's good intentions when they say that women should take self-defense classes and that girls shouldn't get drunk at parties and that we shouldn't walk in the dark alone. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions. If you tell girls and women that this is "just the way it is," it means that you are making sure this is the way it will *always* be.
"It's time we made an effort to change our focus in these conversations. I think we need to make a deliberate effort to stop talking publicly about how women can avoid rape and start talking publicly about how men can stop being rapists. After all, we have already heard for several thousand years how women can avoid rape. I'm not worried about women not getting the message."
From a teacher who emailed me privately.
"It is difficult to not consider my own experiences when reading your thoughts on the subject. The abuse I suffered in my youth has been a relentless wound that has followed me well into my adult life. Funny how quiet, yet persistent it can be. I was in my 30's before I could fully understand my "history". I held onto shame and a sense of culpability for decades. I had assumed that the fact that I was not beaten or threatened made me an accomplice. While the adult mind might understand that shock and horror can be paralyzing, when you are raised in a culture that tells you that your body is a temple and you should go to your death fighting for its virtue, it is hard to reconcile any delay in one's response to its violation.
"It did not help that I was a child growing up in a HIGHLY conservative home. I was told it was not okay to "talk back" to grown ups. No one ever gave a scenario where it might be okay to say "no" to one. Sex was a taboo subject, outside of the "school maturation program". Funny how that taboo led to every single one of my sisters suffering from one form of abuse or another. I share this with you to say that if I had read a blog like yours when I was in my youth, I would have been given the language to see my situation a little differently. Instead, it took a lot of therapy, money and "letting go" to come to the conclusion you give your readers.
"As I have worked to come to terms with my own history, I have often looked into the eyes of young women in my class and found an all too familiar shame reflected back. Your conversation is necessary. It is vital to the health of the every 1 in 4 women out there who walk around carrying an unnecessary sense of responsibility for something in which they did no wrong."
I think it's vital that we listen to the stories of rape survivors (boys and girls, men and women). Until all of us understand how devastating rape can be on an entire life, we might not be motivated enough to enact our small part in helping to eliminate rape culture.
One commentor linked to this amazing post, a mother writing an open letter to her two sons about sex, consent, and rape. I think it's a wonderful model--this is how clear we need to be, both in the home and in schools. I want to add that for those parents who believe that sex is for marriage alone, that is easily added to this same discussion. I believe that any person who chooses to wait until marriage to have sex should still have the exact same understanding of what sex really is (and should be), and what rape and consent are.