(Trigger warning for discussion of consent)
You might have heard about the case in Steubenville, Ohio, in which two teenage boys were found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl. It’s tough for me to follow stories like this; reading too many of the details, as a woman in what’s supposed to be a modern world, makes me despair for humanity. So this post is less about the specifics of Steubenville and more about how much work we still have to do to prevent rape. And I’m not talking about telling women not to drink, wear short skirts or walk alone at night. (Here are a few other things that aren’t an invitation to rape.)
I’m talking about teaching boys and men how to respect women and not rape. It’s really simple.
If a woman doesn’t say “yes” to having sex, don’t have sex with her.
She doesn’t have to say “no.” You are not owed anything for buying her dinner, drinks or anything else. Her body is not your property. Unless she explicitly and enthusiastically consents, don’t have sex. If she is drunk, drugged or passed out, she can’t consent. Get her home safely. Don’t rape her.
If you see someone who is impaired and being preyed on, intervene. Even if you don’t know the woman in question, speak up. Call her a cab. If your friend is forcing his attention where it’s not wanted, interrupt and get him away from her. One of the depressing details in the Steubenville case is the dozens of witnesses to the attack who did nothing as a girl was assaulted.
Don’t be one of those people. Don’t walk away and pretend it’s not your problem. It is. Rape is found in nearly every culture in the world. That’s the bad news. The good news is, it’s not immutable. We can teach boys and men to respect the girls and women in their lives, but it starts with you. Don’t avoid the topic out of embarrassment or hope that they’ll learn the lessons they need somewhere else. They won’t. We’ll keep seeing more Steubenvilles until the message sinks in.