The Wednesday Weigh-In: Reddit rape thread edition

*Trigger warning*

So let’s talk about that Reddit thread. If you haven’t waded into what is sure to be a highly triggering space, I don’t blame you. But, if you can stomach it, you can check out a condensed summary over at Jezebel.

I agree with Katie that it can be useful to hear directly from people who’ve committed sexual assaults about their motivations. As we know, rapists do not usually come in the “scary strangers hiding in the bushes” variety. While most men are not rapists, most rapists are men we know and, maybe, love. As Katie writes, “We have to acknowledge that the people telling these stories and making these decisions are the men (and women) next door, not necessarily inhuman savages.”

Over at Feministe, Amanda notes that since this thread features rapists who are willing to talk about their experiences, it likely over-represents those who feel like they can justify their actions by saying they just got drunk and misread the signals and maybe felt bad about it later. Amanda worries that this reinforces the myth that consent is tricky, because, in fact, most rapes are committed by serial rapists–guys who, as this chilling account shows, are pretty unapologetic.

But I actually think one of the striking things about the thread is while many guys echoed the usual excuses about how they were “extremely horny” or she had this “sexual way of carrying herself” or blahblahblah, they mostly knew what they were doing. It’s not that they misunderstood consent–because, really, it is not a difficult thing for most people–it’s that they’re well-aware of the ready-made excuses they’ll be handed if they just ignore the fact that “she wasn’t really into it.” (Of course, some of them are now getting the message back from their fellow Redditors that what they did was totally A-ok, which is terrifying.) As Melissa notes, “If there is one thing that the Reddit thread makes clear, it’s that no one is more intimately familiar with the rape culture, and how to exploit it to his advantage, than a rapist.”

For me, this thread is a urgent reminder that we need a sea-change in how we we teach people about sex. Megan Carpentier nicely summarizes: “The people who need to be educated about rape are our men and boys. They need to learn that sex isn’t a zero-sum game, it’s not keep-away or capture-the-flag, it’s not a thing they do with their genitals to the genitals of another person at whom they don’t look, let alone see. It is something they can engage in and share with another person and, if the other person – the whole of other person – isn’t sharing in the sexual act, for whatever reason, at whatever moment, then it’s not sex.”

What do you all think of the thread? Do you know anyone who has sexually assaulted someone? If you’ve been sexually assaulted, do these stories ring true to you? How do you think we change the culture? Discuss.

Atlanta, GA

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. Maya has previously worked at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health and was a fellow at Mother Jones magazine. She graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. A Minnesota native, she currently lives, writes, edits, and bakes bread in Atlanta, Georgia.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

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