Rape, and love.

I’ve been reading a lot about rape, as I try to finish my thesis, which deals with sexual violence as well as institutional violence. I’ve listened to and read a lot of survivors’ accounts of these types of violence. It’s too much at times, because this is how I spend my academic life, my intellectual life, but it’s also on the news all the time. It’s in songs, in movies, on TV, in teen fiction, in casual jokes and everyday conversation, in political discussions.

There was a time not so long ago (2008, 2009) where I would’ve been astounded and pleased to see nation-wide media discussions about sexual violence. So much changed in the time I was gone. It still blows my mind that we are including things like bystander intervention training in college freshman orientations, or that the FBI updated its definition of consent to condemn sexual acts against an unconscious or drugged person as rape. This seems like massive progressive. Seems like we’re headed in the right direction. Then why the fuck am I filled with anxiety, why am I drawn tight like a bowstring whenever sexual violence arises as a topic of conversation, a court case, a news story, a song lyric, a painted subject. Is it just because I’ve experienced it? Is it just PTSD, blah-dee-blah? Something tells me otherwise.

At certain times in the history of feminist theory and activism, some feminists have voiced the opinion that rape is a crime of violence, only, not a crime of sex. Susan Brownmiller has been cited as supporting a view of rape as a being about violence, not sex (see Cahill 2001, 16-28). While I was a SAC advocate and crisis counselor at the Listening Ear, I shared this view of rape. “It’s not about sex,” so the line goes, “it’s about power and domination.” Of course, this is coming from people who either cannot fathom an association between power, domination, violence, and sexual arousal, or who cannot admit to themselves that for many people, such a connection exists.

There are many people who associate violence, sex, and power. Sometimes this is enjoyable, and sometimes it is born of traumatic experience—undoubtedly sometimes it’s both. Many kinksters associate pain and pleasure and derive enjoyment and arousal from playing with power dynamics. However, kinky sex is not rape, due to the fact that communication, consent, and mutual enjoyment are central tenets of BDSM and fetish practices. Rape happens when genuine consent is absent, whether when a person says no, when a person is silent, or when a person feels that they cannot say no (e.g. because they are being coerced, threatened with the end of a relationship, etc.).

Something that strikes me is that among all these discussions of the relationship between violence, rape, and sex, something that never seems to come is the subject of love. Now, we know that the vast majority of rapes are perpetrated by people known to their victims. In fact, they are often the closest people to us. They are our friends, our parents, our pastors, our teachers, our siblings, our neighbors, our lovers, our partners. They are people for whom we often feel a great deal of trust…and love. This doesn’t strike me as coincidental. It is the people whom we love the most that can often get away with doing the worst kinds of things to us, because we cannot admit to ourselves, let alone anyone else (e.g. a court of law), that they would do something to us that contradicts our understanding of their love for us. This seems to cross boundaries of all kinds of love. The love felt between parents and children, teachers and students, spouses, siblings, and so on—these are all very different kinds of love. But it seems to me that all of these kinds of love (perhaps all kinds of love) are founded upon trust.

This is what makes rape so devastating. It is a violation of bodily autonomy, it is a violation of the mind, and it is a violation of trust and love. Even where trust is broke, even again and again, love remains… Maybe it gets chipped away, maybe it wears like beaches shaped by waves, maybe it erodes into nothing, over time. But when it comes to the people we love most, we will suffer the worst kinds of betrayals, even more than once. We tell ourselves whatever is necessary to endure this kind of abuse: we put the people we love before ourselves, that is what true love is; we keep faith in them even when they fuck up, because love conquers all, and through love they will change and improve; love doesn’t always come easy, sometimes it requires work, maybe it even requires sacrifice; we can’t betray love, even when the people we love betray us.

I feel compelled to say something that I have suspected before, that makes my stomach turn and that I know the thought of which makes many people feel ill. Rape and love are connected. I won’t claim to understand their relationship. Either rape and love are connected (hence why it is most often the people we love who perpetrate our rapes), or we do not yet understand rape, or love. Quite possibly I think it is both. I suspect that until we better understand both rape and love, sexual violence will always be a normative aspect of our culture. Even as we say, “Rape has nothing to do with sex, rape has nothing to do with love,” we lie to ourselves that our rapists—our parents, our pastors, our best friends, our partners—love us. Maybe it is not a lie… Maybe they do love us. Maybe we do love them. Then we’ve got it wrong… Rape and love have something to do with each other. It seems fucked up, it seems unimaginable. But we also say that rape, itself, seems unimaginable. We say bizarre things about rape: “I’d rather die than be raped”; “I’d kill anyone who raped you/me.” We say sensical things about rape: “I can’t believe that person committed rape”; “I don’t understand how that person could have rape their best friend/spouse/child/classmate.” All of these utterances seem to me to indicate a serious lack of understanding about rape, but also love.

Something that we fail to talk about and to really seek to understand are the motivations of rapists. We pass them off as deviants, as psychos, as one-offs, as aberrations, as monsters under the bed, as strangers in the shadows. When it’s the people we love who fit this description, it’s like they become unknown, unknowable to us. It stops making sense. Our relationship stops making sense. Love stops making sense. Our bodies stop making sense. Our will stops making sense. It’s unfathomable, it goes against everything our culture has taught us about love, it goes against everything we feel and understand about love, about relationships, about ourselves, about the people we love. This isn’t how it’s supposed to work, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s incoherent, it’s like living in a horrific faerieland where nothing makes sense, nothing ever coheres.

It makes no sense to me whatsoever that a person whom I love and trusted very much raped me repeatedly. They made me feel like I was wrong for refusing them. They made me feel that I was saying “I don’t love you” whenever I said no. They made me feel that I was hurting them by saying no. They made me feel that they had a right to my body—more than that, they had a right to my bodymind and they had a right to believe I enjoyed it. Eventually I ran away from them because I felt like I was going to die—on some level I believed that it was me, or the relationship. One of us was going to end. I had come to believe that it was my destiny to kill myself, and that I wasn’t deserving of love, and I believed everyone who made me feel that my partner was ‘putting up with me’ and that I was abusing them. Probably most of those people had no idea what my partner did to me for more than two years. Sure, a lot of them knew that that person had jerked me around and gone out on me, had manipulated me and lied to me and so on and so forth. All part of the game that is college relationships, I suppose. But they didn’t know that my partner would touch me against my wishes, even in public places, like work. My partner wasn’t afraid of consequences, I think; I suspect that they felt they were in the right. They made me afraid to be alone at work with them. They made me afraid to walk up the stairs first. Eventually I couldn’t let anyone walk up a flight upstairs behind me, because I’d start having a panic attack. Of course, I wouldn’t figure out for a long time that that’s what they were.

Despite all this, I loved my partner so much, I couldn’t imagine my life without them. They were so smart and considerate and creative and funny and good-looking, they were going places, they had a good head on their shoulders, they were kind, everyone said so. Many people said I was lucky to be with them. I believed this. But in order to keep my partner happy, I had to do what they asked. If that was holding hands, or kissing, or letting them touch me, or having sex, then that’s what had to happen. It took almost four years for me to figure out that all of that was wrong, was not my fault, and the sex we had wasn’t ‘sex’, it was rape.

The part that is now very difficult for me to get my head around is that that person thinks they didn’t do anything wrong. No, scratch that, I can get my head around that. We live in a culture that tells some groups of people they’re better than other groups, that they are entitled to things from groups which are beneath them. Shrug. I can understand that. I read books and shit. What I can’t understand is how that person can live with themself, because they work in a place that is directly involved in people’s sexual health. What makes them think that they have even a modicum of understanding about sexual health? They made me feel that there was something wrong with me, with my body, when I didn’t enjoy having sex with them. Having sex you don’t enjoy over and over again—this is the opposite of healthy.

Writing helps… I’m feeling a bit better for having written this. Writing is a Lens of Clarity in faerieland. Maybe now I can get back to my thesis…

Open Letter to My Rapist


My rapist.

It’s strange to use that possessive pronoun with a word like ‘rapist’, but that’s what you are. Perhaps you’re someone else’s rapist, too, but that doesn’t change the fact that I can still claim ownership over you– for something no one wants, which is still mine.

I listen to a cheerful song as I write this, so I don’t tear the skin off my lips in anxious anger (yet I still do). As I reflect on our relationship, which I have rarely done in the past three years, I realize there are really only two things which I will always hold against you. There are other things for which I hate you, but I imagine some day I’ll get over them. All things save two.

We had Spanish together my junior year, your senior year. It wasn’t planned, it just ended up like that. Inevitably at some point we were put in a group together for a project, which thrilled me at the time. I was also excited about the project, itself– creating a Spanish menu– because it involved creativity and the chance to draw, which you knew I liked. But when we distributed the workload, you alloted yourself nearly all the artwork. When I expressed that I wanted to draw, too, you told me I wasn’t as good as you, and because I foolishly worshiped you, a stone idol, I agreed. On the day we were to submit our projects, I felt a bit resentful; I saw your sketches of paella and tortilla de papas, and thought I could have done as well. I was always small to you. I was never as good as you.

Then came the day, not long after the Spanish project, that we were watching a movie in the basement of my house. My home. My parents were outside, in the barn or the garden, maybe. Giving us mistrustful privacy.

For months you had been telling me that we should have sex, because “people who love each other should give everything to each other” and, well, we were going to get married anyway, weren’t we? Yet I steadfastly resisted: my position was that sex was reserved for marriage, which at the time I was resolutely convinced was God’s Will– a god, as it turns out, who does not exist.

On this day you were going on about something like that, we should share everything with each other, don’t you love me, if you loved me you’d have sex with me, blah blah blah. I wasn’t really listening because I already knew what my answer was. I already felt a terrible anxiety about the state of my virginity (how much could you kiss someone before you lost your virginity? Did making out count as sex? What about hand jobs?), so it was easy, simple, for me to say “no”. I couldn’t believe you’d even consider it– weren’t you worried that we were already going to hell?

You said, then, that you wanted to know “what it feels like”, meaning my vagina. You said you wanted to touch it. I lost my patience. If we weren’t already fallen from God’s grace, we surely were now. Or at least you were. I got up to leave, exasperated.

I never could have guessed, would have allowed myself to believe, what you would do next.

You grabbed my arm, which didn’t immediately alarm me until I tried to pull away. When you didn’t let go, I felt a deep, primal urge to dig my nails into your face, your eyes, but I rationally resisted the impulse: why would I do such a thing to someone I loved? But you did not let go. Your hand was like a vice grip, likely the outcome of all that baseball you played, all that sculpting of clay you did. You pulled me down to the carpet and knelt on top of me in one smooth, swift movement, almost as if it was practiced. As I look back at myself then, I appear as a small animal, a young child, pathetically weak, with huge, round eyes brimming with the realizations of fear. My little animal brain hadn’t caught up to reality yet, not even as you forced your hand down the front of my jeans (How did you do that? I pondered vaguely; I had thought the waistband of my jeans would prevent such a thing from happening, it was much too tight, wasn’t it?), and your digits into my vagina. Strange pain. Blink, blink. It must have been less than ten seconds, but I remember thinking then that it had lasted much longer. I finally registered how strong you were and felt shocked that you’d used it against me, and how heavy your knees were as they pinned my arms down, like a straight jacket. Then you were talking about me, about my body, as you still had your fingers inside me, like a scientist describing matter-of-factly a newly discovered landscape (words like “soft” and an exclamation of “Wow!”, when remembered still make me want to throw up). You felt around in me as though I were an inanimate object, a garbage disposal into which something had fallen and caused a jam. I noticed how itchy the carpet was.

And then you got off me. I just laid there at first, my arms still at my sides. I felt nothing, I couldn’t describe how I felt. You noticed my blank face and suddenly all your joy was gone. You seemed instantly, intensely apologetic– “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I’ll never do that again”– but in retrospect I imagine you were terrified I’d tell someone. I got up and your I’m-sorry-so-sorrys followed me to the stairs where, one step ahead of you, I turned around and looked down at you and I said– I don’t fucking remember what I said, something like “You will never do that again,” something which I would not say now.

So let me tell you what I would say now.

What you did to me the State of Michigan defines as Criminal Sexual Misconduct of the First Degree according to Chapter 76 (Rape), Section 750.520b. Being that you used force, and that your actions resulted in physical pain and mental anguish, it was a felony.

But let’s face it. Even had I filed a police report, and even if that report had been examined by the DA and taken to court, you would have easily escaped punishment. Rich all-star travel team white Christian boys do not go to jail for sticking their hands where they don’t belong.

So what I’m left with is this.

That to you, I was a gutter clogged with rain-soggy, rotting leaves. A skinny, dirty glass in the sink, that you can’t quite reach the bottom of with a sponge. A pencil that has rolled off the table and under a couch, and now you’re on your knees reaching, reaching for it.

You talked about me in the third person. “Hello, I’M RIGHT FUCKING HERE. I can hear you,” I should have said. You talked about me in the fucking third person, like you were having a nice little chat with yourself. Let me try that for a moment:

“He is a despicable, abhorrent, perverse, loathesome creature.” “A violator, to be sure. A fascist, a betrayer of human rights.” “He must have turned out like his dad.”

Do I find it as satisfying as you did? You thought me cold all those years you tried to talk to me, and I wrote you back with words of venom. You forfeited your right to my kindness when you assumed your desires trumped my bodily autonomy.

You are a violator of space. You put your hands where they didn’t belong. You did things which you can’t take back. Maybe there are people in the world who love you and deeply care about you. That is entirely inconsequential to me, whom you betrayed, in my own home. My home. You will always be a selfish, pathetic 19 year old jerk, in my mind.

Understand this: I will never forget, and you best hope you never meet me on the street, for I will greet you loudly and clearly with your most enduring title:

“Hello, rapist.”

Take Back the Night 2012, Koh Kong!

Only two weeks in, and already June has been an eventful month. The first weekend was the national commune elections, and I was happy to see the political hubbub finally die down. But the very next weekend (after a week of my being sick) was the event which has been months in planning.

Click the link below to open up the full post and see photos of the event! ^_^

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Cultures of Silence: rethinking GBV prevention education

In the back of Thursday’s issue of the Cambodia Daily was an article headlining “Girl, 7, Raped, Murdered in Kompong Speu”. Kampong Speu is a province not far from Phnom Penh. Perhaps the age of the victim and the extremity of the violence used against her seem ghastly and unbelievable, but rapes and rape-murders of young children are frighteningly commonplace here. Many people blame a culture of impunity which overlooks and trivializes violent crimes in Cambodia. This culture of impunity would not be thriving as it is today were it not for an underlying and more prevalent culture of silence. Rape is possibly the most under-reported crime here– which, considering that in January alone there were 24 rapes, 11 of which were child rapes, shapes up to a very poor situation.

The article ends with a statement from a bureau director at the Ministry of Interior: “We found out that victims and perpetrators always tend to know each other.”

Statistics in the States say that between 75-90% of rapes are acquaintances rapes. According to available data, that also holds true in Cambodia. Oftentimes, victims are raped near their homes, often within shouting distance of neighbors. So how is it that so many perpetrators can rape and go unnoticed?

This is a multifaceted problem, but a major contributing factor is a culture of silence surrounding anything which relates to sex. Rape survivors have reported to police, village chiefs, and other authorities that they did not cry out for help or waited hours or days to report the crime because they were afraid of the consequences. That is, the survivors face consequences– whereas the perpetrators often walk away with reputation and civil liberties intact.

Another darker, more ominous reason is that people also look the other way. Even when they are aware of someone raping a child, especially if it is occurring within the family, to speak of it would be to bring shame upon the family. Moreover, to report it to the police would be to betray the family, and if Khmer culture promotes any kind of loyalty it is familial loyalty.

by MSLucy

This culture of silence also functions (though perhaps to a lesser degree) in the U.S.

Why do people remain silent after something horrible has happened to them? Self-blame. Denial. Fear that others won’t believe them, or will mock them or discourage them from speaking out. Fear of retaliation by the perpetrator. Fear of other consequences (related to work, family, school, etc.) Debilitating depression. There is rarely a single reason that inhibits a survivor from telling others what has happened to them, but all of these reasons are fueled by rape culture: if you are a woman, why didn’t you think twice before letting that guy come home with you? If you are a strong, independent woman, guess those self-defense classes didn’t pay off, huh? If you are a man– well, men just don’t get raped. If you are gay, rape is simply a pathology of the condition of gayness. If you are Black, rape is an integral part of Black culture– don’t you ever watch BET?! The “reasons” are numerous; the fact that they lack reason has no bearing on their prevalence. This is what rape culture looks like, and it functions to shut you up.

Lately I’ve been pondering the ineffectiveness of “sexual assault prevention education” back home. During college I attending a session or two of these, myself, often promoted by the university with all good intentions. Likewise, after college I attended a session which was conducted by a sorority and hosted by the university. These sessions provided very little statistical information on rape, and very little information about what to do after you or someone you know has been raped. The main focus was on advice-giving for how to not get raped, which tended to be “monitor your drinks,” “don’t go out alone, go with friends,” “never walk home alone; make sure your friends get home safely, too,” and “avoid going home with people you have just met.”

This advice, however, still functions on the principles that rapes are largely perpetrated by people we have never met before, often in unfamiliar places, and that ultimately the responsibility for not getting raped falls on the potential victim. All of these ideas are ultimately unhelpful and ignore significant facts: the majority of rapes (possibly a greater majority than we know, since acquaintance rape is even less likely to be reported than stranger rape, for a variety of reasons) are perpetrated by people familiar to the victim, they are often perpetrated in places we have been before (and perhaps even consider places of safety, including our homes), and finally and most importantly, the perpetrator is responsible for rape, not the victim. As in, 100% responsible. No, that dress you wore does not make you 5% accountable, or the fact that you invited the perpetrator into your home before he raped you doesn’t make you a little a fault. No. The rapist is responsible for the rape.

I’ve often wondered, how can one make rape prevention education more effective without denying reality, which is that even if you take every “precaution” you may still experience rape?

The first mistake may be giving people a false sense of security by suggesting that taking precaution will reduce their chances of being raped. Sure, we can suggest safety tips like “safety in numbers”, “monitor your alcohol consumption since it is the number one date rape drug”, etc. But they should not be administered as a solution. In that sense, it is better to promote the truth that rape is not the fault of the survivor, that fault lies completely with the perpetrator. Knowing this fact will empower many more people to come forward after they have experienced rape, as they will be less likely to place all blame on themselves and less fearful (if only marginally) of other people placing blame on them.

Does that mean that rape prevention should focus on the perpetrators, and not survivors? Of course not, they are equally important.

The major taboo of talking about rape is still well and alive in our “outspoken” American culture. In spite of slow progress being made by the anti-rape community to reduce the stigma and ill treatment which survivors endure, there is still a great deal of shame and self-blame that survivors must face. Any rape prevention education program should make a focal point of its curriculum the elimination of stigma. I think there are many ways to go about this, but one very powerful way to reduce stigma is to encourage people to speak out about their own rape, in a safe and supportive environment. I have experienced group dialogues wherein a safe space was provided; once one survivor had the courage to speak about their own rape, others poured out their stories in what often seemed to be a flood of relief: “Finally, someone is listening, and they care.”

In the same vein, people who trivialize or ignore rape are just as responsible for rape prevention. To say, “I don’t want to see it, hear about it, or talk about it,” while at the same time participating in a larger rape culture that promotes sexual violence in everything from magazine articles to music videos to pornographic movies, is to condone rape. No, rape is not a comfortable subject; if it was, maybe it wouldn’t be so prevalent. But breaking down the barriers of silence (while simultaneously halting our voyeuristic indulgence of rape culture) will be crucial to ending survivor stigma and achieving real justice, which is holding rapists accountable.

These are just the first steps. Achieving them will help us move into a culture wherein all sexual violence is identified as unacceptable, and that any form of education, commerce, entertainment, etc. which trivializes, ignores, exploits, or profits from is also unacceptable. There are many steps ahead of us, though, and many questions which first need to be openly discussed: What is sexual violence? How does it function in the context of relationships? In the context of society? What is love? What does it mean that love and sexual violence often occur in overlapping functional spheres? Until these questions become acceptable questions to ask, we will continue to live in a rape culture. To encourage discussion of these questions and related subjects should be a fundamental goal of rape prevention education.


[Potentially triggering material.] 

People are capable of committing crimes even when they’re not aware that what they’re doing is criminal. I think this is often the case with rape. Because our baseline for understanding rape as a crime starts with extremes (e.g. blood, violence, force, use of a weapon, threats of harm or even death), there is so much that falls into a so-called grey area of what Latoya Peterson calls “not-rape”.

“Not-rape was being pressured into losing your virginity in a swimming pool pump room to keep your older boyfriend happy.

Not rape was waking up in the middle of the night to find a trusted family friend in bed with you– and having nightmares about something that you can’t remember during daylight hours.

Not-rape was having your mother’s boyfriends ask you for sexual favors.” (from “The Not -Rape Epidemic”, as included in Yes Means Yes {2008}).

Which is probably why Brad Perry, whose essay in Yes Means Yes appears directly before Peterson’s, wasn’t able to label his own behavior as rape. I suspect that perhaps, in the course of studying feminism or rape theory or, at the very least, laws concerning sexual assault, he at some point came across some definition which revealed the illegal nature of his past behavior. Maybe that’s partially why he became an anti-rape activist, in the first place. Yet in spite of the fact that he educates young people on “healthy sexuality”, he trivializes the seriousness of his own behavior.

In “Hooking Up with Healthy Sexuality: The Lessons Boys Learn (and Don’t Learn) About Sexuality, and Why a Sex-Positive Rape Prevention Paradigm Can Benefit Everyone Involved”, he recounts an experience from when he was thirteen. A brief summary is as follows: he and a few other 13-year-old male friends wanted to “get some” (his ironical phrasing) from their female peers, and so invited three girls out to an empty construction site to drink beer. (“All rape is premeditated”…?) After “his girl”, Janice, had had three beers, Brad (on the advice of a friend’s older brother) decided this was the time to “make his move”, beginning by putting an arm around her. When she didn’t seem averse, he then touched her breast. Janice “sat up straight as soon as I did it, but kept talking with me as if everything was okay,” which he “interpreted…to mean, Go for it!” And he put his hand under the waistband of her pants and underwear.

Janice, evidently, was very averse and immediately took his hand out of her pants. When he tried to do it again, she removed his hand again. Finally Brad got the hint and stopped.

Now, 13-year-old Brad could have had no idea that (in my state and many others) you can go to jail for said behavior. Obviously for minors the sentencing is less severe, but the act is no less criminal. But the 30-something Brad who wrote this piece calls what he did “uninvited touching” and believes that “Janice didn’t seem to hold [it] against [him]”.

There are a couple of points that really stand out to me: the first and most obvious is that he minimizes his own actions as merely “uninvited touching” (recall my definition of rape, “Any unwanted sexual touch”, and you can start to see why I find this problematic). I can hear him, upon confrontation, defending himself, “Hey man, I was thirteen, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing.” That’s true, but your 30-year-old self has every clue as to what your past self did.

The next stand-out point is actually what’s missing: Janice’s interpretation of the experience. Of course, most girls (and not just boys like Brad) are socialized to believe that this kind of “uninvited touching” is normal and expected and you just have to giggle and take someone’s hand out of your pants (even if you are REALLY uncomfortable or even shocked and humiliated), but it’s in no way, shape, or form equated with rape. So perhaps Janice took this as a mundane part of the world she grew up in and put it out of her mind.

On the other hand, maybe this early sexual experience changed the way she was to look at boys and sex and touching and consent. Or maybe it warped her image of her own body or damaged her self-esteem. Maybe she would no longer be as trusting of all male friends in the future, even though not all of them were/are abusers. We really can’t know, because her tale is not told. Brad’s is.

And according to Brad, we can call him “badly-behaved”, “misguided”, “self-centered”, and even “a dick”, but we shouldn’t call him an abuser. Or a rapist, for that matter.

Can I blame him? Of course not. Who the hell wants to self-identify as a rapist? Or an abuser? Or even call something that they did, say, sexual harrassment? Even though most people have at some point done some behavior that was sexually abusive, harrassing, demeaning, coercive, or manipulative.

I can understand that. It is difficult. It has taken me a long time to acknowledge that I have used coercion and manipulation to “get” or try to “get some”. This has included pressuring (asking again and again), testing established boundaries (“I know you said no, but are you sure?”) and pouting (reacting coldly and distancing myself after being told no)… THAT SHIT IS FUCKED UP!

There’s another side to that coin, too, which is also wrong: when you are not the one trying to “get some”, but the one from whom another person is trying to “get some”. This could look like teasing– for instance, knowing when another person desires your sexual touch, and deliberately convincing them that you might give it to them but withholding it for the sake of obtaining and exercising power over them. It might also look like laughing at– humiliating– another person’s sexual desire. “Hah, you want me and I don’t want you, haha!” Also really really messed up.

So, I get it… Owning up to our own revolting, messed-up, sickening sexual behavior and past acts of violation is not easy. It’s hard, really really hard. But necessary. If we’re not honest with ourselves, we certainly can’t expect those people who view this behavior as normative and culturally-acceptable to change. Anti-rape activism and transforming the rape culture begins with activists and supporters, themselves.

It’s hard to blame a 13-year-old kid for the manifestations of culturally-engrained behaviors and attitudes. But it is a very different story when his 30-year-old self refuses to take on the full weight of those prior actions once it has become understood. In order for him to be the most effective anti-rape activist that he can be will require a change of mindset within himself before he tries to instill that change in others. Especially children.