Savage Love Dec 6, 2018 at 11:45 am

Savage Love Letter of the Day



Wtf? This is not date-ish rape or acquaintance-ish rape. It's rape rape, as Whoopi Goldberg would call it.

And why is Dan advising her to confront the rapist? She needs to contact a crisis counselor and consider pressing charges.


@1 - Dan agrees with you that this is rape. It's helpful to remember that this letter is almost ten years old, and that there has been a seismic shift it cultural awareness in this area.


Yeah L-dub you were straight up raped. Get yourself to a rape counselor, figure out your options and decide how you want to proceed. I'm very sorry for you.

Also your ex (the rapist) and your current bf (who blames you for your rape), both sound like pieces of shit. Maybe not, but that's looking like a pattern. Gotta start thinking about who and what you are attracted to, why, and how to make changes.



Okay, I didn't check that today. But he still should have suggested seeing a counselor.


yep rape rape, no equivocating, even in 2009 that was rape


This poor excuse for a boyfriend needs to be gone. The last thing the letter wrote needs is to trying to soothe this guys feelings or making room for his needs. Being a young woman is really hard, and dealing with asshole like your ex, and minimizing harm and danger (ie stop protesting and just try it over with) is a brutal choice that many of us are forced to make. If your boyfriend thinks you owe him anything, hes an idiot, and if you think you owe him some I'll ng because you were raped... well sorry. Focus on your health and recovery, and get that garbage out of your life.


Sorry about all the spelling/grammar/ autocorrect errors. My point is... be strong, stand up for yourself, and your boyfriends feelings here, just dont count.


Jaymz @2: This letter really does show how far we've come as a society in the past ten years. There's no grey area here at all. I hope she's processed this in a way that was best for her -- whether that included confronting the rapist, which I hope Dan now sees is not always emotionally possible for victims. This one was 18, for chrissakes! And I hope this ex sobered up and realised what a horrible thing he did, and never did it again -- or if he did, that he's in jail now where he belongs. And I hope the boyfriend realised what a shit he was being, literally blaming the victim, and also learned something.


"Hell, tell him you still might (report the rapist)".

While it's very unlikely the ex will dispose of the witness/victim of this rape, it's more than a zero chance. If she were to confront the rapist (not her duty or responsibility), she should include the "fact", whether it's true or not, that she's given her account of events to several friends and the Women's Crisis Center. i.e. her disappearing would greatly INCREASE, not decrease the rapist's legal issues.


Dan got it fundamentally right in 2009, but I'd be interested in what he would write today.

Personally I would suggest "call a hotline". It's quick and a relatively low barrier compared to the hassle to search for a therapist and check them out and wait for an appointment. A lot of people will say oh I guess and then not get around to it. A hotline gets you moving and they can help get you with a therapist too.


The police will not help her and I’m glad she wasn’t advised to go to them. Women don’t have to like it, but they do have to accept that nobody in the public legal system cares if women are raped. Hell, nobody believes women or trusts our perspective of anything usually. As with most things in our society, “Because fuck women, is why.”

What victims can do is put him. No details, no drama. “He shouldn’t be here/he needs to leave/don’t bother with him/etc. He is a rapist.” Say it to your friends, his friends, people who throw events he attends, say it on social media, say it to him, say it as the matter-of-fact truth it is. No apologies, no qualifiers.


Out* him, not “put him”, oops.



If she calls him a rapist and there’s no criminal charges, he will sue her for slander and win. Period.

How do I know? I’m a lawyer who has tried to help women in this situation.

It’s the catch-22 of being raped. You can’t publicly call it that unless a man has been convicted without risking being sued yourself.

Women are essentially COMPLETELY SILENCED by the failure or our justice system.


Reads like a time capsule: "...raped under circumstances that would make bringing charges a futile exercise..."
Or @ 12 tells us, sadly maybe not.


@13 A colleague of mine had a client in her 80s. She divorced her husband. He stalked her. Then he raped her. She couldn’t get the cops to take it seriously. After all, he’s in his 80s.

She told the nuns at her old folks home. He found out. He sued her. He won.


I think it's important for people to remember that the negative socialization against drawing attention to yourself for something that might turn out to be embarrassing happens to all of us, not just women and girls. It's one of the reasons why people will ignore the signs of heart attack rather than go to the ER because they would be so mortified if it turns out they made a big deal about nothing (it's indigestion). It's why people who are choking in public try first to quietly deal with it instead of immediately drawing attention to themselves. It's why people don't stand up and defend others in public, even when they agree, and it's why we think it's so fucking wrong and uncivil to disturb someone's dinner by shouting at them even if those same people are destroying the lives of others. Now if you add some shame to that and also add to that some actual threats of repercussion (physical violence or social ostricization) then you end up with a recipe for why so many people have a story about it being easier to go through with unwanted sex than shout/fight it off. I like that the cultural conversation has shifted to put the responsibility on not pressuring for sex in the first place, but still I wonder how we can make it OK for people to loudly and clearly advocate for what they want / do not want. Like most women my age, I've gone through with sex with men that I did not want just because the other options were a) getting up and causing a big ass scene, or b) exhaustingly continuing to fend off escalation. Having sex just seemed easier than the other two. I don't think I was particularly traumatized from this- more like it just taught me how to navigate situations so that I did not end up in that position again. This is what the teenage and early adulthood years include for lots of women. Even my bolder self can't think of what I should've done instead other than prevent myself from being in those situations in the first place. Once you are in that moment, it still in retrospect seems easier to just go through with it than to cause a big scene that is likely to have repercussions across the social group for years. If things really are changing and this letter really does seem like a time capsule, that's a nice sliver of light in a dark time.


I would just like to add, having worked in criminal defense, were I on the other side I would definitely prosecute such a claim on the information given. I have also worked on the defense of cases brought by prosecutors on much less evidence then letter writer provides.

The downsides to being a claim are many for the victims, but it disturbs me that the beginning of the response is about the futility of bringing charges.


A knee to the balls , and gouging of eyes at the same time would have got this man hearing No.


I don't know about where the letter-writer lives, but where I was a cop, we absolutely would have accepted this as a rape report...Sexual Assault was the name of the charge. In fact, making the police report would be the easy part; the hard part comes with prosecution and any trial, but one step at a time.


Rape = rape = rape= rape= rape= rape= rape.

@17: I second it. Rock on, Lava!


19 comments and counting in and not one person (or Dan!) has actually even addressed the LW's question: How to get her boyfriend to believe her.

Here's my only idea, and I suspect it might be a bad one, but the odds of it working are greater than 0%: Text the ex. Say "we need to talk about what happened at that party" or something similar. Show the response to the boyfriend. The description from LW doesn't leave much room for misinterpretation, so unless the Ex has master level ESP with Trumpian disregard for reality, his response should reflect the tenor of what happened [sly hookup, or someone taking advantage?], which should in turn convince the BF

@15 I've had a similar experience, which I've detailed here before. One of the thoughts that I also had, is that when I decided to go through with the sex, it was because it was the least traumatizing option available.


Sport @20: the question is unaddressed because it's not the question or the problem, despite how the letter is framed. The issue wasn't getting her BF to believe her, it was getting her to believe herself. She said she's apologized over and over. That made me so sad and angry for her. She either believes that she has something to apologize for or that her trauma matters less than her BF's comfort. Once she really knows, down deep in her bones that it was rape and the sole responsibility for it lies with the rapist, BF's issues become irrelevant and (I hope), BF becomes nothing but a distant memory and an example of how not to be.

Get him to believe her? Fuck that.


@21 she doesn't seem to be under the impression that what happened was maybe kinda ok. Maybe 'getting her to believe herself' is something you'd do for a 8 year old, but she is, as they say, a grown-ass woman with a question about how to go forward, not about different ways to look backwards.


@22 From her writing style, she seems quite young/not all that aware. And she wrote this a mere two days after the event. Not really a lot of time to process what happened to her and to move forward.
Seems to me, though, that reporting the rape to the police would go a long way toward getting her current BF to understand that she was raped.
It doesn't seem like either of them have the tools or emotional maturity to deal with this, however.


Grizelda @19, yeah, wtf. girls need to learn self defence at school and be ready to bust these idiots balls.
Her concern is because the second fool male in this story is trying to blame her. Hope she dumped the bf and sorted confronting the first guy in some way.
There’s no second chances with this sort of situation Sportlandia, if the first etc responses suck, then they are gone. And she’s been apologising to him. Jesus.


As the nuns often told us good Catholic girls, you’ve got to be one step ahead of the boys.
I’m glad this is an old letter, cause I’d want to slap both those young men on the side of the head. And talk to their mothers. And fathers.
I hope this dear girl looked at the sort of male she attached herself too, after dealing with these two wrecks of decent manhood. And picked more wisely in her future.


Emma @15: "I think it's important for people to remember that the negative socialization against drawing attention to yourself for something that might turn out to be embarrassing happens to all of us, not just women and girls."

Excellent point. The figures for rape of men and boys are grossly underreported, potentially more so than they are with female victims, for exactly this reason. Women have been socialised to be agreeable, therefore they think rape is their fault somehow and they don't report it. Men have been socialised to be manly and virile at all times, so they don't report rapes by men (what if they're called gay) or by women (other men WILL say that they're lucky). Your experience of having sex you didn't really want as the path of least resistance resonates with me too. I am glad the #MeToo movement is sending a clear message to everyone that pushing for sex is wrong.

Lava @17: Seriously? This is her fault for not having said No the right way? That is NOT what victims need to hear. This is someone whom, up to that point, DREAD liked as a person. In the moment it is difficult to think clearly. If you've never been raped, you will have to trust me on this.

Sporty @20: Yes, because it was an irrelevant question. "A train is going 50mph toward New York, another train is travelling at 60mph toward Philadelphia, the question is what is the price of rice in China?" How does she get the boyfriend to believe her? By dumping his ass for not believing her. She is EIGHTEEN YEARS OLD, not even old enough to drink, possibly not even out of high school. How dare you hold her to "grown-ass woman" standards for being so confused after a traumatic experience she asked the wrong question?


I didn’t say she said No the wrong way Fan.
I said if she’d kneed him, he would have taken her No seriously. As it was he didn’t. Her verbal No didn’t stop him. What a strange interpretaion of my post.
Obviously it was a violation of this girl, my suggestion is to get more pro active and teach our girls self defence. Feeling outrage at what she and others have gone thru, is not enough. We have to think of ways for girls to learn to defend themselves. Physically as well as verbally. Stronger education for all about consent and what legal avenues are available to report these crimes.


Fan, don’t get your knickers in a knot. An eighteen yr old woman who is having sex, having boyfriends. Shouldn’t she be prepared for what the world of men can be like? If anything I was encouraging her to feel her rage at being treated so shabbily by two young men who professed to care about her enough to be her bf’s.


Dan missed the mark here: the clear solution is to cut the ex’s balls off. The ex will protest, but he secretly wants it.


Bit radical Centrists. Brings to mind the Brett Babies of the world. I hope this young woman found some way to gain justice.


We need a word for sex that is coerced only or primarily through making it exhausting, undignified, or "rude" to refuse.

The married ex football player who delivered furniture, dropped his pants, lay on the floor of my apartment, asked me to "hop on." I said no. I told him he was embarrassing himself. He said he wasn't leaving. I said I could wait, and what was he going to do, throw a temper tantrum? And...that's what he did. An impression of a toddler having a temper tantrum, interspersed with begging me to "just hop on it for a minute."

No threat to me or to my belongings (and I'd already told him I had all the time in the world). But he was between me and the door. I was new in town, no friends yet to call (and before cell phones, I'm not sure the phone was even working yet--it's hard to remember how it felt OK to be without a phone for a week or two, but that's how things were). His store (and long-suffering wife) were a block up the street. When I moved in, the lady downstairs said she worked nights / slept days and took pills to sleep, and that it was really bad if she woke up while on her pills--so I didn't want to wake her. I already knew from coworkers that it was a town where the cops incompetence was only matched by their viciousness and slow response times. My balcony and windows faced a brick wall without windows. I could have walked down the back stairs into the locked yard and yelled through the fence towards the parking garage--but then what? Leave him in my apartment to lock the deadbolts on me?

Have you ever heard a full-on "waaah, waaaah" put-on, voluntary temper tantrum from a set of grown-man lungs? It's mind-blanking, and completely disorienting. I walked into the bathroom intending to wait him out. But that noise--ugh. I came back and tried reasoning with him. I told hm he would hurt himself. I tried pulling his pants up. I tried pulling him across the floor. I told him he'd wake the lady downstairs (so of course, he got louder).

Finally I sighed, hopped on, hopped off 30 seconds later, feeling far sorrier for his wife than for myself, and told him to get the hell out.

This wasn't the only time I had unwanted sex after making it very clear I had zero interest in doing so--some of the others were clearly rape--but it's the only time with absolutely no actual or implied direct physical threat. It did me no particular harm (I don't mind sex as an activity, his tackle was tiny, and I'd engaged in occasional VOLUNTARY sympathy sex in the past).

It warned me I was now in a place where sharing information, being chatty and bubbly and "on" with people (as I'd been in the store) could and would be mis-characterized and used against me.

I have no interest in rounding the situation up to rape. Coercion is closer (and coerced sex certainly can be rape, thus the term "coerced consent") but it seems a bit too strong here--especially as I had to take the actual step (ok, squat) of "hopping on." (Also, no force, no threat of force. Just noise.) I imagine I could have waited another 10 or 20 minutes and his vocal cords would have gotten tired. He had no way of knowing how constrained my options were (and I wasn't going to tell him) nor how much I hate screaming babies.

But what's the correct name for it? "This-sucks-worse-than-sex-with-someone-who's-being-gross-and-demanding-and-I-have-no-interest-in-having-sex-with-them-sex" is too long. Who's got a word that captures the borderline between "a bit pushy" and "coercive"?

"Duress sex," maybe?

I'd love for the punishment for "duress sex" to be a mandatory course on consent (like traffic school for driving offenses). It seems like the most reparative, educational thing we could do.



I’m guessing you have very little experience with rape or rape victims if you think kneeing this guy would’ve stopped him. He knew she was saying no when he was raping her. He didn’t care. In every case I have ever seen where woman responded with violence to an acquaintance rape, she was beaten pretty damn severely for it. Once he was to the point where he decided he was not going to stop no matter what she said, he knew, her pushing back whatever only resulted in pretty severe physical injury to her.

I normally agree with your posts, but you are dead wrong on this one.

And women who take your advice might end up dead.


Also, people who have never experienced violent physical assault always think they’d fight back.

“Fight or flight” is a bullshit myth that needs to die.

The most common response of humans to trauma is to freeze.

We really, really need to change the narrative on this from “no means no” to “yes but be voluntarily, clearly, and enthusiastically given” because freezing and non-response is the default setting.

But that needs to be part of a cultural narrative in which sex is something two or more people do with each other instead of something that a man does to a woman.

I don’t know how many of you have ever seen the TV show “The Fall” but it is one of the very few shows that get this anywhere close to correct.

The current narrative around rape and even around sex is heterosexist and dominated by outdated and unnatural biases.



We need degrees of coerced sex varying from coerced consent to violent rape. But that would require a total rethinking of our patriarchal, cishet view of what constitutes sex.

I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

What happened to you may or may not have been “rape” legally where you lived, but it was certainly morally, ethically, and legally wrong. And he knew it.

We excuse men like this far too often.

He didn’t care if you wanted it. He didn’t even really care if he got off. He cared about making you do it.


@31 It's not rounding up. Sorry, you can call it what you want, deal with it how you want, and I understand that dealing with it as not-rape may be the thing that makes more sense to you and your situation, and I am not here to pass judgement on you or your life. For society, though, we need to call that straight up rape. If you take away a person's power to say no, it's rape, no further nuance or discussion needed.

I'm not interested in altering anyone's personal narrative, but I sincerely hope that if anyone hears this same kind of story from a friend searching for help or a prosecutor in court that we treat it with full seriousness and provide the victim the support they need to work through it and the perpetrator the punishment they and society need to make it clear that lack of direct violence does not mean lack of threat or lack of crime. Otherwise, we will continue to hand these people power they absolutely don't deserve, stand up strawmen for the self-righteous to use to pretend actual righteousness, and tell young men that the only real problem with rape is that it isn't suble enough.


Also, the only think I know of that has ever stopped a man like this was ONCE when a young woman said to him “I”ve said no twice now. Everything you are doing from here on out is rape. So are you just going to rape me then?” I don’t know if the man stopped because he suddenly realized she really meant ‘no” or if it was his fear of being arrested, but he stopped.

But generally, men who do this are going to do it no matter what the woman says or does in the moment.

We need to absolutely stop saying “if she says or does X, he will stop.” That might have been decent advice 20 years ago. But we now have enough data from survivors that we know it’s not true. Repeatedly saying “no” doesn’t stop them. Being passed out doesn’t stop them. Trying to fight them off doesn’t stop them. Kneeing them to the groin only slows them down and pisses them off.

Unless you have an amazingly clear shot, attempting to knee him in the groin when he has you pinned won’t dehabilitate him, only piss him off. From what LW describes, he had her pinned in such a way that a “kill shot” to the nuts wasn’t possible. So let’s please stop with that bullshit advice. It’s not helpful and is actively harmful.

The number of cases in which a woman could take out a would be rapist with a kill shot to the nads are less than one in a million. He’s not just standing there giving your a clear path. He has you pinned with his full weight on you.


Also, if you are one of the people who would say “a woman should do X to stop a rape in progress” realize that all you are doing is trying to make yourself feel better. At the expense of victims. Who are already spending enough time wondering “Had I only done this, he would have stopped.”

Far more experienced people than you have studied this an concluded that there’s no magic bullet to stop a rapist. Repeat: there is no magic bullet to stop a rapist.

Nothing in this woman’s description of the rapist leads me to believe she had any clue he would have done this to her. So she couldn’t have prevented it ahead of time because she had no way to know. And once he was on her and ignoring her “no’s” she had no chance.

I know of one 200+ pound male Marine who was down and raped by two fellow Marines. He was combat trained. He had killed people with his bare hands. He couldn’t get these men to stop or fight them off. What chance does a 120 pound 19 year old have?


I'm all for people learning self-defense as the discipline, the strength training and body mechanics is good for you and it builds confidence, etc. But reality is that most women are unlikely to be able to defend themselves against most men, and I hesitate to advice women to escalate a confrontation like this. Physically defending yourself someone who is trying to rape you might disable him. Or it might piss him off and he'll beat you to a bloody pulp. How to respond is a personal thing, informed by the situation, and I don't think it's helpful for any women (or men) not in that situation- especially not a bunch of nuns- to tell others what they should have done.

But in this case in particular it's irrelevant as it was a social setting with someone she knew, and already (in that emotional moment) she eventually became passive- either because she was overwhelmed/exhausted/confused/scared and/or she feared the social mortification/ humiliation of drawing attention to herself more than the rape itself so it's unlikely that someone who cannot bring herself to scream is going to muster up the energy to physically fight back by kicking in the balls.

Joy Says:
"We need a word for sex that is coerced only or primarily through making it exhausting, undignified, or "rude" to refuse."

The word for that is "rape". I'm glad for this development as it was not the word for it when I was young. When I was young, we called a situation like this (in which the girl does not want anything with the guy) "date rape". In the more common situation- in which the girl is actually into the guy but wants to make out and he keeps escalating to PIV and it becomes sort of a little struggle until the girl just gives up and puts out- "wearing down".

That you don't want to call it rape- let me guess (I'm maybe projecting here) that this is because it did not feel traumatizing to you on some deep level like it perhaps would if it was someone who attacked you, held you down, made you worry for your life, etc. I don't feel traumatized by having been "worn down" by guys when I was young- for one thing, it was considered a totally normal experience, all of my sexually active girlfriends experienced a similar thing. But it does take its toll - it affects how you view sex, how you experience gender relations and datings, what you consider to be normal, etc. That's not the same thing as trauma. OK long story short, whether or not you were traumatized by a thing doesn't mean it's not rape. Coercion to have sex you don't want IS rape. There's some gangs where I lived in India that would come to your house and threaten you if you didn't give them a certain amount of money any time you had a big life milestone like a wedding or buying a new car or opening a business. This was not traumatizing nor terrifying because it happened to everyone. You expect it and factor in that money ahead of time. If you don't give it to them, they will enter your house and start doing lewd things and steal your property, just walk out with it. If you try to argue or stop them, they will harass you on the street, disrupt you from being able to come and go as you please, etc. They enter your house with physical force and they refuse to leave until you give them money, and they make life hard for you if they dont and threaten to make it harder. So you give them the money b/c it's better than them disrupting your life or stealing/destroying your stuff. You are robbed. The fact that it's not traumatizing doesn't mean this gang didn't rob you. It's less scary than a burglar who might break into your house unexpected and threaten you with physical violence, but that doesn't mean it's not still robbery.


@27 So women and blacks and Jews and anyone who isn't a hetro straight male should just learn some self defence? "We, as a society, have learned that violence stops violence, so here is your gun and 'defence' training, go out and thin the population some!"

I'm not saying we shouldn't fight back against assholes, but the idea that the responsibility to fight back against every asshole lies with each individual is the antithesis of civilization. If our response to violence is in the moment, we are at most the sum of our parts, and probably less.

And PS, if you had ever actually taken a self defense course, you would know to go for the face. A person's genitals can take a fair bit of damage with no immediate stopping power, but it's hard to ignore a broken nose, or failing that, a poke in the eye (or, failing that, serious head trauma). I mean, hell, between my kids and my dogs, I probably get a pretty serious (but unintentional) whack to the testies a few times a month, and it's not like I suddenly get to put my life on pause. So yeah, if your response to violence is violence, then at least make it sincere. But society can and should do better.


SlowPokey, what do you recommend then instead? It's the norm now for people to talk of "flight, fight, freeze" especially in situations involving abuse- "the freeze response" is all the buzz right now. I think we just need a shorthand for "extreme response of the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system". A better word might be "arousal" or "stress response", especially since this response is not just limited to survival situations but anything that kicks in the sympathetic response but I rather like the fairly recent switch to "fight, flight, freeze" since it gives people better concrete images, and one they are familiar with since we all know about people and animals freezing up as a response to a threat. Of course, as with anything it risks being taken too literally- like you can say, hey she was moving her arm!, or people will picture someone basically in a catatonic state or whatever.


@26 she's old enough to understand what happened. I guess she's still under your aegis of things she's allowed to want? I say over and over, use your words. She's using her words, and guess what, apparently no one gives a fuck. You don't really give a fuck about anything about having something new to stroke your rage boner over, apparently. Your shit is bankrupt, but I guess as long as you get your fix it's all good?


@38 okay, you said it better. Thank you!

As a young man, I did not immediately reject the lie of male pursuit of female. Wearing a girl down was very much in the movies, in the discussions among peers, etc.

Looking back, knowing what I know now (that at least one of my friends was a rapist and more of my friends were rape victims), it's a little horrifying. And in case anyone thinks I'm talking about age old attitudes, I mean 2000 and before for me. For our society, we are clearly still in the thick of it, as evidenced by ideas like 'friend zones', much less our political discussions.


Here here to your 'reader email' clarification about reporting assault.


@32, 33, 36: SlowPokey, I wish I could reach through the sceen of my computer and give you a hug. I was too filled with rage last night reading the posts @ 17 and 21 to trust myself to write coherently and non-abusively. Thank you.

Indeed, the most common response is to freeze. And then get blamed for not acting like some sort of superhero.
Not to mention that this was the lw's former boyfriend and it's hard to treat someone you know well and love or used to love or like as the bad guy in a self-defense class. Part of me kept thinking, "but he's my friend. Surely he's not going to RAPE me." Was I going to gouge his eyes out? Come on! I couldn't have done it at 18, which is how old I was, just like the letter writer.

@17: Have you ever tried to gouge someone's eyes out? Do you know how easy or hard that would be, even if the guy was standing still and you had your wits about you and at age 18, could attack someone you had been in a relationship with with that level of force? I don't know much about eye-gouging, but I don't think it's easy, even at the purely physical level. I can only assume that anyone who blithely advises people to gouge eyes out has never been raped. And by the way, what do you think the response would be to an unsuccessful attempt to gouge out the eyes of someone who is already not valuing you as a person, who is already intent on doing you bodily harm?
I'm surprised you didn't scold the lw for whatever it was that she might have been wearing.


Also EmmaLiz and Phyzzi.


As to what the lw should do or say to make her current, judgmental boyfriend understand that she didn't have "a part in [her assault]," but was raped, well, this letter is almost 10 years old, so I hope to hell she DTMF a long time ago, but probably she kept trying and trying to reassure him that she wasn't at fault and I bet that every time they had a disagreement, he brought it up again and accused her again.

What should a young woman in those circumstances do? DTMFA. Anyone who blames you for your own assault is someone you don't want to be with. If you have to educate them, then try your best as a gesture on your way out the door, but you still don't want to be in a romantic relationship with them, because it shows that they
(a) don't trust you
(b) believe that acting in any way short of gouging an eye out means that you were complicit in your own attack--an attitude that will apply to all victims, everywhere, all the time
(c) don't have your best interest at heart.


Oh shut it nocute. My comment was s fantasy response, and it was relative to this question, where the girl knew the boy, not ever rape situation.


Sporty, there are two reasons. First, the letter is very old, so it seems a little pointless to respond to how this young woman talks to her current boyfriend when the situation has already passed. But if we take it at face value, second, and more importantly, it's because she's 18 - not in a long term committed relationship with someone that has their lives intertwined. The correct response isn't to convince her boyfriend to believe her, but rather to move on to someone who doesn't need to be convinced to believe her.

Most importantly, there are people who will never see things the way you do, and it's impossible to convince them to do so. This is a lesson young people especially need to learn- when to move on and when to take on the battle. If you have a partner who will not believe that you are raped, then this is not a battle you should fight. And your advice- that she should actually call up her rapist and use his words/actions or whatever to convince her current man that he should believe she was a victim- this is shit advice. For one thing, the ex probably doesn't see it as rape- you are assuming that there'd be something in his response that would lead the boyfriend to notice that the ex feels guilty. It's an extremely common place experience for men to wear women down for sex when both are young, and the men usually don't see it that way. As this has happened to you as well, I don't know if it was the same in your case, if the woman openly admitted she was wearing you down or not, but in most cases that is not how it goes down. Finally, it also plays into the stereotype that many guys only believe women when they hear of the experience from other guys- like if he does not trust his girlfriend's word but would trust it when he hears it from the dude, then he's really not worth convincing and the LW would be smart not to hang up her validation in that. Plus it's shifting an additional burden on to her which is bad enough, but could be even worse- what if the ex sees this as an invitation to continue engaging with her? What if the ex just responds as if it was a sly hookup and now the boyfriend has more evidence to shame the LW? Why does the rapist words matter at all?

If her boyfriend doesn't trust her, the response is that he should not be her boyfriend, and the answer to her question of how do I get him to believe me is that it's not possible nor worthwhile. And yes, her young age and relative inexperience with people is going to be a factor here.

And I want to compare your response here to BDF's. The only thing that could be considered even in the least harsh or personal that BDF said to you is this:
"How dare you hold her to "grown-ass woman" standards for being so confused after a traumatic experience she asked the wrong question?"

And considering that this is within the context of your advice that a teenager should contact her rapist to arrange a conversation that she can use as evidence to convince her current boyfriend who thinks she is lying about being raped that she's really telling the truth, I think the response was not harsh at all. But even if we agree that it was impolite, have a look at your response to that:

"You don't really give a fuck about anything about having something new to stroke your rage boner over, apparently. Your shit is bankrupt, but I guess as long as you get your fix it's all good?"


@47: Exactly. The girl knew the boy. So naturally she should be told that she should have gouged his eyes out.

As I'm sure you could have, at age 18, in a social setting, to your ex.
If you wanted to write fantasy responses, you should have made it clear that that's what you were doing. But it's much easier to blame the victim for not acting in a totally non-realistic way, and then say to another rape victim, "oh shut it."


And encouraging women to be ready to defend themselves, how is that a problem? For yrs nocute, nothing has changed with you. Putting me down is some sort of sport with you, and has been for yrs.


Just you honey, shut it.


@50: No one disputes the admirability of training women in self defense. Your post @17 and your subsequent followups were irresponsible, unsympathetic, and blame-y. A mature person would have said, "my response @17 was unrealistic and a fantasy," without the need to first double down and then tell someone to "shut it." If I have responded with irritation with you from time to time over the years, it's because of stuff like this.


@51: I am assuming that you have never been raped. Which is wonderful. Maybe you could try to not belittle those of us who have been.


Lava, it's a problem because A) it might put their lives in danger, and B) it retroactively blames them for being raped if they dont fight.

Both of which have been explained in detail above by several posters.

And sort of like the dispute between BDF and Sporty, I see the personal insults only going one way here.

Which... I guess I'll drop it with the meta bullshit now.


That was not my intention at all EmmaLiz, and in no way do I see a person who has been raped iresponsible for the rape. I was responding to this letter, this situation. They knew each other, he was her ex bf.
So being raped is an inevitability then, and a girl or woman should do nothing to protect herself. Learn no self defence arts or the like. In your country, learn to use a gun as well.
And I know I’ve tried to make peace with nocute, it just bounces back to her hitting me with a know it all mean girl nastiness.


No, as I said in my post above, there are a lot of advantages to learning self defense. You didn't ask that. You asked what's wrong with encouraging women to fight back. What's wrong with that is that in some cases, this could put the woman at risk of further violence or death. In other cases, it's impossible or futile. And despite your intentions, a person who was not there but who says what a woman should have done to prevent a rape DOES come across as blaming her.

You keep saying that you are referring to this specific situation, but in this specific situation A) the woman was too mortified to even draw attention to herself by screaming, so I don't see how saying she should've done something even more active is helpful, B) she was pinned up against a car and therefore unable to kick in the nuts anyway, and C) you have no idea if the boyfriend would've responded to being kicked the balls- he might've responded by beating her to a bloody pulp.


Weird slip. Responsible for the rape.
I can’t fathom this response to my comments. Suggesting to somehow defend oneself, in some situations, seems a way forward. It’s getting worse out there, girls and women raped and murdered, judges letting rapists off. People applaud wonderwoman as a role model for girls, a strong woman who defends herself. She had to learn that.
I read nothing in the letter which indicated this girl thought he’d get violent. You are all assuming and projecting and by that weakening girls and their abilities to read and respond to any given situation.


Lava, I think your intentions were in the right place but boy did it come across wrong. I think you once said that you were among the lucky minority who've never been raped. It's so easy to "fantasise" that if that were you, you'd fight back, but odds are you would not. Odds are you would be just as terrified, as confused, as helpless as any victim. If it were that easy we'd all fucking well do it, wouldn't we? Nocute isn't being nasty, your comments are uninformed and triggering to those of us who have experienced rape, and really not at all helpful, however well intentioned they may have been.


What in the letter made it sound like the guy could be violent? The fact that he raped her.



You clearly aren’t listening.

I have some expertise in this built on experience.

Self-defense classes do NOT in any way help in a rape situation.

What you aren’t hearing is that none of your proposed courses of action are protection from rape. Because there is no protection for rape.

Rape is not an inevitability. But once it starts, nothing you have learned will protect you.

You clearly don’t want to hear that for whatever reason.

I’m not telling this to be mean to your or because I need to “win” this argument. I’m telling you because l’ve been there far too often in the aftermath trying to help women, children, and men (yes, also some men).

You want an answer where somehow a victim could stop the rape. They can’t.

If you can’t accept that, fine. But you are wrong. And I hope you, or someone you know, doesn’t learn the hard way.

Everyone should learn self defense. Everyone. But self defense only helps against some forms of attack. It’s next to useless with respect to rape.

You say there’s no point in learning to protect oneself. There is. Just not as a rape prevention or rape stopping tool.

If you really want to listen, I will answer when I can. But I don’t think you want to.

I think, like many women, you are searching for something to make you feel like you could stop it were it ever to happen to you.

Please listen to me seriously now: you can’t stop rape once it’s begun. Outside intervention might. But victims - even those trained in self-defense, almost never physically get the rapist to stop.

Did you miss my comment about the Marine? Because that man is not alone.

Physically overpowering someone mugging you or someone in a bar fight is a possibility if you are well trained. In rape, it is not. The rapist always has an advantage. It is usually so overwhelming that you are toast.

I used to think like you did. That I’d physically fight back. That I’d find someone to stop it.

I might still - might - force the rapist to kill me. But after seeing hundreds of cases up close and personal. I know that fighting back won’t stop it.

You may have a history with other posters, but that doesn’t mean you are correct here. I have no history with you. I’m telling you that you are wrong and that your POV here actually hurts rape victims.

The answer isn’t to put our hands up. The answer isn’t on teaching women and victims what to do. The answer is punishing police for not taking rape seriously and teaching BOYS about consent from the moment they are old enough to learn.

The answer isn’t what we teach women. This will only stop when we make men behave differently.

(And yes, there are female rapists. But they are a lot rarer. If we address the issues with men and consent, all that will be left are the predators who do this because of a mental issue. Those you can’t fix or prevent, only punish).

PS I know how to shoot well enough to shoot an intruder in the dark. I can hit a target at 21 yards with my non-dominant hand with my eyes closed. I can hit moving targets with my dominant hand at quite a distance.

I’ve been trained in defense against knives. I’ve been trained in hand-to-hand combat.

I learned all this because I might need it some day.

But with all of that training, I know if an acquaintance of mine grabbed me, pinned me down, and raped me, I’d stand very little chance of stopping it.

You cant disbelieve me if you will, but a little googling on some scholarly websites shows every study that has been done on the subject by reputable scientists (not people with agendas) agrees with me.

The only way to stop a rape is to stop it before the rapist takes action. In this particular case, LW could not have don’t that because she had no idea this guy would do this.


@55: I think the best way to ensure that women aren't raped by their ex boyfriends or dates or friends (or in any situation that doesn't conform to the stranger with a knife jumping out of the dark alleyway), is to educate men not to fucking rape women--in other words, to teach affirmative consent--from a very young age. And make sure that the message gets through.

I don't think that being raped is or should be an inevitability or that women shouldn't do what they can to protect themselves. And, as I am emphatically anti-gun, you'll never catch me saying that women should arm themselves to protect against rape.

But I am all for offering REALISTIC advice, and having myself been raped--more than once--and having had both my daughters be the victims of different kinds of sexual assaults, ranging from violent rape and near-murder by a stranger, to the kind of coercive acts we've been talking about throughout this thread, I get extremely tired of people, particularly women--PARTICULARLY supposed feminists--blaming the victim for not having physically fought off her rapist under conditions in which it is virtually impossible to imagine anyone doing what you recommended @17/21.

I wasn't being a mean girl and I wasn't nasty to you, LavaGirl. I didn't, for instance, tell you--repeatedly--to "shut it." In fact, I refrained from commenting last night when your posts appeared precisely because I was afraid I would be unable to do so without resorting to insult and I didn't want to do that. I haven't insulted you or been nasty once in this thread--I have pointed out that your advice was absurd at best and dangerous at worst. I didn't expect you to admit to having misspoke, because I've yet to see you apologize or take responsibility for some of the hurtful or wrong things you've said. In fact, I rather expected you to insult me. And you didn't disappoint.

By the way, this has nothing to do with my feelings towards you (and you'd have to go back several years to find me saying something rude to you); I'd have responded the same way to anyone who said what you did @17 and 21. Even then, I wasn't mean or rude. You're projecting an awful lot onto me.

But I think it's telling that even after I identified myself as a rape victim who couldn't bring myself to gouge my rapist's eyes out (which crossed my mind) when I was 18, because he was my "friend" (@44), your response--to "only [me] honey" is to (again) double down on telling me to "shut it." Exactly who is being the mean girl and nasty here?


My apologies if my comments have offended anyone. This is an old letter, not someone writing today. And like I said originally, a good knee to the balls might have got this boy to hear better. Hopefully he was confronted by the LW or others for his disgusting behaviour. And over these last yrs this young woman has been able to heal this wound.


Oh, and Lava, I don’t know you or the other poster. But based on this thread alone, the other posters aren’t coming across as mean-spirited in any way. You are coming across as someone who is digging in their heels on a position when they don’t have the experience to back it up.

I am going to kindly suggest that you step back and just reread the posts from those of us with whom you do not have a negative history.

For whatever reason, your response to this is out of whack. Either it’s your history with another poster or it’s your need to have a magic bullet against rape. I don’t know. But it’s not going to help you form correct and accurate opinions on this case specifically or on rape in general.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to step back when we have said or done something that came across in a way that we did not intend. But it is necessary.

Your “shut up” wasn’t directed at me. But don’t think others don’t read that and form opinions about you that may or may not be warranted.


I guess I should add real quick that I do know a girl that prevented a serial rapist from abducting her by fighting back, and she lived about three days after the attack before dying from how hard he fought her before leaving her and getting away. The disgusting flip side of this are the number of people who praised her for this. She was from a very traditional Catholic family, and they made a big point about how she kept her honor. It makes me rage. I'd rather be raped and go about my life than die with honor, but I'd rather be beaten to death than abducted, and so on. It's not like in real life you actually get to make these choices, and a lot of the "defend yourself" stuff makes it sound like it is.

Wonder Woman is a shit role model. What's nice for women and girls about having a female star in a superhero movies is that it's more representative- we can see movies that star women as well as men. Just like Black Panther. And from the point of view of the industry, it's nice to expand opportunities to actors beyond white men in many genres. But in terms of real life role models, a comic book character is a shit role model, whether for men or women. If anyone is going around with Wonder Woman as an actual role model for female empowerment- physically or in any other way- then this is really sad and also contributes to the same problematic narratives in the first place. In real life, women cannot fight off most men, and in real life rape is not always about physical incapacity anyway. If a boy said Batman were his role model, we'd chuckle at the childish pleasure in imagining oneself as a comic book superhero- if a man said this we'd think he was out of touch with reality. Same for Wonder Woman and women and girls.



The latest peer-reviewed scientific study I could find:

⅔ of women victims of rape freeze and are physically unable to move
Almost half couldn’t even speak

So your strategy, even if it were effective against rape, wouldn’t be a viable to ⅔ of women victims. Half of victims probably can’t even get “no, stop” out of their mouths. At least LW managed that.

That’s not even getting into how the rapist might respond to violence.

I do know from spending too much time in court, that violence tends to be met by an equal level of violence. So you never want to be the one to escalate unless you can be absolutely sure that you can escalate enough and quickly enough to either escape completely or inacapacitate the other person(s).



Thanks for your contributions. This is a topic that I care about a great deal.

it makes me both sad and enraged to see that there are still women out there who think that there’s some magic words or self-defense move that could stop a rapist.

Particularly since these women sit on juries.

I’ll tell you an insider tip: a good prosecuting lawyer seating a jury in a rape case wants to have as few post-menopausal women on the jury as possible. Not becaus they slut-shame the victim. But because they have the magical “she could have stopped it if she wanted to” thinking. It is dangerous,both in terms of the rape and in terms of the consequences.

Who you want on juries: certain types of older men. They think of the man “well, I would never do what this man did, so he’s a rapist” and sometimes also have paternalistic attitudes towards younger woman that make them want to protect them.


I'll say this Lava. Though I have nothing against you personally and we sometimes agree and sometimes disagree and sometimes get on one another's nerves. You do have a general attitude about how women need to teach men lessons or women need to be willing and forgiving- it's a maternal thing I guess, but it's a pretty regular theme with some of your posts. My guess is you are approaching this more from the point of view of how this boy could be taught not to misbehave in the future, a swift kick to the balls, whatever. Then he'd learn, then he'd listen.

My guess is that the reason it seems weird to you that so many people take the point of view of victim blaming is that you are actually coming from the perspective not of what this particular person could do to prevent her own rape but rather mostly how this particular boy could learn not to be a rapist. And your answer is, a strong woman teaches him a lesson.

This is a different sort of myth, but an equally troubling one, though for different reasons. Please look at the situation:

He planned it ahead of time. He did the thing Ted Bundy used to do (let me walk you to your car). This is premeditated to take advantage of her- and acting as if he's being reliable and helpful. He was physically violent. He pushed her repeatedly even though she physically struggled to get away. He ignored her words. She said no and stop several times. He used force. He removed his dick and removed her pants despite her pushing him away, and when she pulled her pants back up, he removed them again. She eventually froze, to the point that she could not move or speak, and just waited for it to end.

You keep saying in this particular situation. OK, in this situation- she cannot move, he is physically violent, he overpowers her repeatedly, he ignores her repeatedly. Why would you think this is a guy who could learn to hear? Or that she could physically fight him off? Or that would not escalate more even though he escalated everytime she responded?

The best response I can think of to start preventing this sort of thing is to raise awareness about it, and make it something that a man will be shamed publicly with real-world consequences for doing. Teach men about sex and consent from a very young age. Get men to believe women and call out other men. AND get women - especially mothers of boys- to stop pretending that boys will be boys and girls need to enforce boundaries to keep them in line.


Slowpokey @59: "The only way to stop a rape is to stop it before the rapist takes action. In this particular case, LW could not have don’t that because she had no idea this guy would do this."

Yes, this. It happens very quickly. No one expects it. No one expects that the human being they were just talking to could possibly be capable of this. It's the element of surprise that allows rapists to get their way, almost every time. Read what happened to Joy @31 -- and yes, that was rape; "coerced sex" is the very definition of rape. She wasn't given a choice. She simply had no idea what to do in the situation. She had no idea how to stop it other than give him what he wanted. And that's what we all do. Because we don't have any other choice. Because then at least it will be over. And once it is, we are going, what the hell just happened? It can take far more than two days to process a violation like that.

This letter may be eight years old but in the meantime millions of young women have had experiences just like this. It is still relevant.

And this crap still happens, which goes some way to explain why the conviction rate remains so stubbornly low:
If even rape victims, such as Joy @31 (sorry to use you as an example) don't even think that they've been raped, how can all twelve members of a jury be expected to do so?

Thank you to Spizzi and Slowpokey for your well reasoned and sympathetic comments on this difficult topic.


Sorry for the extended URL.


Believe me when I say that I am genuinely glad you have never been raped, Lava. The thing is that so often the rape victim questions everything she did for hours beforehand and throughout the rape itself, constantly believing that if she had only done x differently or not done y or worn z, she would not have been raped. Frequently, she questions whether or not it was really rape. I blamed the fact that I hadn't been wearing a bra for my rape as an 18-year-old--when my friend walked me to my car and then got in it to listen to a song and then climbed on top of me and raped me over my protests: my saying "no" and "stop" and my wriggling away as best I could or slapping away his hands. I remember thinking I should try to break his nose or gouge his eyes out, and knowing that there was no way I could do that to a friend--or probably a stranger, either. Instead, I adopted the "get it over with" attitude and spent years emotionally kicking myself.

One of the ways that victims blame themselves is by believing that had they only fought back with exceptional force, they would not have been raped. If, as is so common, they froze and endured it, they can expect that society at large will also hold them responsible for their own assault, especially when the message they hear is, I bet a swift kick to the balls would have stopped him or she should have gouged his eyes out.

That advice may be well meant, but not only is it impractical and overwhelmingly frequently unhelpful, and potentially dangerous, but it becomes another way that a rape victim can hear that yes, indeed, she is to blame for her rape because she didn't act like Wonder Woman (who is a cartoon character). If you can't hear anything from me without hearing it as a put down, I hope you can hear with the other commenters are saying.

I agree with whoever it was above who suggested that women tell each other and themselves things like this because it's easier to believe that there's some rule that could be followed that keeps one safe ( don't dress that way / don't go out at night / don't ---; or, if attacked, kick him in the nuts / gouge his eyes out / etc.), rather than have to accept the depressing and scary fact that often nothing one does can prevent a rapist intent on rape from raping. It is indeed a scary reality. It's one of the reasons that women slut shame other women: because if they don't act like those women, who deserve whatever they get, they will be safe. The reality is that the world is a dangerous place.


Eh, I had the power to say no. Nothing was being damaged except my sense of composure. Nor was there ANY implied threat that he was going to do anything to me, or to my belongings, except make a loud noise, and make a fool of himself. I was not going to be evicted, or slut-shamed, or anything else. If I'd called the cops, they'd likely have brutalized him (if they ever got there) given some salient details I didn't include.

Much more vicious was the actual rape after I said yes to my boyfriend of many years, after coming back from months away. Yes, I was eager after not seeing him for months. Yes, we were in the habit of very vigorous sex. Yes, I still liked him, despite having a major passion for someone else close but entirely unavailable (which I said to him in as many words).

He pinned me, jammed my face in the couch, and pounded me as roughly as he could while I started in on an asthma attack. At the end, I wheezed, "what the hell was that? It was horrible." He said, "Well yeah, I just raped you." So I left.

Back then, even with his own statement, a best friend and my own mother didn't believe it could "really" be rape. Date rape was barely a concept. Withdrawn consent (worse, implied withdrawn consent, as I couldn't say a thing, with my face jammed in the couch) wouldn't be a concept in the popular mind for a couple more decades.

Then there was the boyfriend of a short-term housemate. Again in a "just moved to town" situation. He said that he knew we both needed sex (true). That he wanted to get back at his girlfriend he'd just broken up with (not verifiable and not admirable). That he was moving to Alaska before dawn to join a fishing crew, and that as I didn't know his last name, I would never see him again (unverifiable but believable). He then said that we were going to have sex, and I could either make it easy, or he could do it by force. He then proceeded to try to do various sexy moves for what must have been a half hour's worth of intercourse while I lay still, stone-faced, and occasionally said, "I don't enjoy this, I'm only doing this because you're twice my size and you threatened me, and I'm going to call the cops on you if I get the chance." Housemate refused to talk to me to give me his name, and moved out before I could find out where the police station was, and walk there. (Pre world wide web. Pre smart phones.)

I can keep going, if anyone likes. But I'm pretty clear on the experiential difference between "making a choice" and "not really having one." Someone else could have felt that they didn't really have a choice, with Mr Big Baby--I get that. But I wasn't at that level of powerless. I was at the level of irritation with the situation that I wanted it over soonest. They're not, actually, experientially at all the same.

A lot of rape rhetoric presumes that sex you don't want is always deeply disgusting and probably scarring. Often, it can be. But sometimes it's just low-level distasteful. Or the sex itself is as purely neutral as picking your nose or passing gas--it's everything else about the situation that feels off.

Mr. Big Baby was well washed, non-threatening, and interestingly, he didn't actually assume that I owed him sex (unlike a lot of random guys at bars, and just about every guy I'd been set up with on an official "date.") The situation was near-intolerable, but in ways that had everything to do with an overall sense of giant stupidity, embarrassment for someone else, sympathy for his wife, worries that I'd moved somewhere where apparently this might be a thing that could happen, my cat starting to charge around the apartment like a pinball, and the practical frustrations of being someone who likes to know the right answer for any situation, yet not knowing what one does to deal with a grown ass man making waaaah waaaah noises on one's rug.

If I'd had a strong general aversion to the mechanics of "tab A in slot B," I'm sure it would have been different! (And importantly, I feel I could have made a different choice. Grabbed the cat, gone back to the bathroom, latched the bathroom door, waited for him to get bored and let himself out.) But...I generally and broadly enjoy penises. In fact, I wish the people they're attached to always lived up to the better features of their organs. Being duressed into sex that particular time felt VERY much comparable to being duressed into making coffee or copies for people with the same job title, who see no harm in asking. Repeatedly. That is, something that you can refuse, and want to refuse, and often do refuse...but sometimes decide it's less of a burden, that particular day, to do.


P.S. For those who collect talking points:

yes, the long-term-BF-turned-rapist intended and managed to rape me WHILE I was actively trying to have sex with him. And then explained it to me. Because I spent the whole time thinking that he must have just been incredibly clueless about how badly pinned I was, and how little I could breathe, and the angle my arm was at, and that even when two people are ready to go at it, a bit of foreplay is helpful. Full-on incomprehension. I was sure enough angry by the time he let me up, and it was entirely a miserable experience (cat piss--the couch cushions reeked of cat piss, and my bad knee was wedged, and my neck was at a stupid angle, and both arms were trapped and I remember thinking that the thrusts could not have been less coordinated and well-aimed if he was trying to do it badly) but I still did not clue in to all of that being intentional until he told me.

If you're ever in an argument where anyone tries to confound rape (the power move) with sex...or doesn't understand how someone being raped would not take the opportunity to gouge someone's eyes out, if they had it...feel free to quote.


I do not want to cross-examine a LW who was raped, but I can easily see the revelation playing out as LW's starting by saying she "cheated" and BF's thinking she invented the force afterwards. I hope they broke up and both became wiser.



The actual words she uses is that she physically fought off the guy, repeatedly told him no, then submitted in a frozen state while internally she wanted to scream STOP GET THE FUCK OFF ME, and then she went home and immediately called her boyfriend and told him what happened, that she said no, and that she repeatedly tried to stop this man from removing her clothing.

From that description, your interpretation is that she started out by telling him she cheated.

I just don't know why this is so hard.

Also if you find yourself starting a sentence with "I don't want to cross-examine a person who was raped..." then you should probably just stop. Sort of like "I'm not racist but..." Just don't finish that sentence.

That's not what I came here to say though.


I'm not responding to the more horrific stories here shared by Joy and NoCute etc. Mostly because I don't know what to say other than "that really sucks" and "thanks for sharing".

But Joy, I do want to say something about the man baby story. Of course you were there and only you know what was really going down, but if he's blocking your exit, threatening your personal property, refusing to leave your home, and giving you only the option of locking yourself away in the bathroom for your own personal safety- those are in fact violent acts.

The lack of trauma does not change it from being rape - hence my robbery analogy. It's our reluctance to use the word rape that makes it seem sort of normal- guys who would never see themselves as rapists will pressure/coerce/wear down a girl until she puts out. I don't know if we need a different word. I think it's good that we are starting to use the word "rape" for these situations.

In my own case when I was younger, what I did was repeatedly say no- sometimes very clearly ("I don't want to have sex right now"), redirect, push away hands, and the guys (nice guys) complied each time - readjusted, we went back to kissing and making out, and within minutes they were right back to trying to either push the vaginal sex or push the head down. Again and again until the making out isn't even fun anymore because it's such a struggle, so then I just try to end it all ("that's enough for tonight") roll over and try to sleep, even get up and move to a different place when that was an option- guy keeps on being handsy and pushing while sleeping- literally hands in pants and boner at the back. So I try to sit up and chat, keep them at arms length, let's go out for a smoke. Works for a bit, then guy is all over you again. Eventually there's no other option except give in or get really loud and aggressive in your refusal- and I think it happened more as a teen as I was frequently in a situation that what are you going to do? Go outside alone and walk away at night? To where? So either you cause a giant scene or you just say fine, lay there and get fucked or jerk him off or whatever just so you can get some peace. Is this rape? I never thought so at the time because like you I was not traumatized or particularly disgusted. I'd say there was even less physical threat than in your case with the man baby (though similar social concerns). I'd still not say I was raped either. But I also certainly didn't consent. And while I was not traumatized or disgusted (just exhausted, doing something unpleasant), it didn't even feel odd as it was a common enough experience among most other girls I knew. Those experiences do add up and take their toll, and they shape our norms. I'd like to think that with younger women today, they are able to call out that behavior for what it is and that younger men today who would never use actual physical violence start to see the behavior for what it is as well.


BTW if that sounded flippant (why I'm not going to respond) I mean the opposite. It's profound.


The point re: women thinking they could control the situation as a sort of defensiveness against the reality of how scary things can be, I think this is why so many people try so hard to find a way to defend the police in all the shooting situations too. There's always someone saying "but if he had just X, he wouldn't have gotten shot" because the alternative- that the police can shoot you over any slight misunderstanding or misinterpretation or personal bias- means playing by the rules can't always keep you safe. Likewise with people who have weird antiscoience granola beliefs about cancer or good diets or vaccines- like you won't get sick if you drink your wheatgrass juice and antioxidants. People really want to believe that there are rules that, if followed, keep the bad things away.

Of course in truth there are things we can do to be safe a lot of the time, I don't mean to spiral out of control on the other end of gloom and doom, but it's hard to read this thread and not be upset by it.


"I'd suggest a bit more contact with your ex. You need to confront him"
Dan is out of his ever-loving mind. She should not confront the ex under any circumstances, but should immediately report the matter to the police and let them confront him. The ex may very well decide his best course of action is to make sure she can never report. The dead don't file police reports. The only place she should confront this guy is from the witness stand at his trial.


@69 BiDanFan: Is this an inopportune time to congratulate you on scoring another SLLOTD Lucky @69 Award? May a luscious abundance of riches be yours soon. (I figured we have the Lucky @69 Award in Savage Love--why not SLLOTD too)?

Rape is an inexcusably ugly crime, and those guilty of committing it must be held fully accountable--period. The sooner our corrupt society recognizes this and truly advocates justice for the victims, the sooner the victims can heal from such traumatic experiences.


Hey, slowpokey, EmmaLiz, nocutename and BiDanFan, thanks for this discussion. I can see how this might be a difficult thread to participate in.

I just wanted to say that this was super helpful for me (as a luckily unraped middle aged woman) to read, even with my default believe the victim position. We all grow up in the age we did with whatever messages there were. And while I like to think I'm a decent ally and I think I've managed to avoid victim blaming, I think I still had internalized a lot of 'there must be something you can do' messaging. I guess I'm saying it's really helpful to see written in clear language that there's nothing you can do once it's happening. That's definitely not a message I've ever absorbed. So thank you.

(And Lava, while it's a little counter intuitive, I'm going to thank you too. You've stepped in it a bit here, but the pushback you triggered with what are pretty common things for people to say and believe is part of what made this discussion so illuminating to me, fwiw.)

Thanks guys, slog commenters really are the best commenters.


@80: Luluisme, I am a woman in my 50s, and my understanding of what constitutes rape has undergone a change over my adult life, both for the culture around me and for me. Like EmmaLiz @70, and I suspect, a majority of women, I have had many experiences of pushy men who take "no" for an answer for a few moments and then continue to forge ahead. I might have experienced more of this or found it more of a hassle had I not been such a slut (I use "slut" as a neutral descriptor, not as a slur; I have been a pretty promiscuous person, and it has brought me both happiness and sadness), who was generally quite willing to move pretty quickly.

Also, I haven't experienced trauma from the coerced sex I had--though in the case of the one I described above, I distanced myself from that man as best I could afterward. We belonged to a largish friend group and I never again spoke directly to him, and made sure to never be alone with him or to interact with him. The friend group dissolved of its own accord as we grew older and moved away and began our adult lives. He has requested my friendship on Facebook, a request I have ignored. I'm sure if he were to be asked about it, he would say, "oh, yeah, we had sex once, in her car." I doubt he would consider it rape, as I myself did not at the time, because I had never heard the terms "date rape" or "acquaintance rape," and "rape" meant "stranger in a dark alley" to me then.

I was the survivor of another scary, more dangerous rape, though again, it would not have been prosecutable at the time, due to the societal understanding of what rape was. Today, it would be a different story. I always considered that rape, even though it wasn't committed in a dark alley, and it followed what had been consensual sex.

I think the #metoo movement and the Kavanaugh hearings really moved the cultural conversation. I read a ton of essays and opinion pieces at the time, so I can't remember the name or the author of one that I really liked, which called out the culture of 80s' movies like "Sixteen Candles," etc. I came of age around then, graduating high school in 1980, and I believe that I internalized a lot of expectations of how men just "are" and how things just "are." I think it's better now.

For me, the subject isn't difficult to talk about; I don't seem to have been traumatized, and I feel it's important to talk about with people who have lived it. But as I think BiDanFan said farther above, experiences like those, or even just the repeated experiences of saying no and moving men's hands away only to have them start almost immediately to try the same thing, shape a person's attitude towards men, towards sex. All the (straight or bi) men of my generation seem to have been taught to keep on trying and to wear down resistance. I think many still are. Everything in our culture reinforced that attitude, and I think that it's still a prevalent message in music, movies, etc., just as behavior that in life would be considered stalking is still often framed as perseverance is rewarded in movies by the guy getting the girl.

For thousands of years, sex was something men tried to "get" from women, and that women were told was something to deny men (outside of marriage or prostitution) at all costs. Of course, unmarried women had consensual sex, but they did so at their peril, and if they were caught out--generally via pregnancy--they were stigmatized. But there have always been factors that influence the concept of "consent." It was commonplace for rich men from higher social classes to "seduce" poor women; female servants were frequently preyed upon by the men in the families who employed them, and when the women got pregnant, they were usually dismissed because of their low morality. The concept of the seducer, the man who preyed upon the woman or wore her resistance down, would, I think, be seen and reframed differently today. Medieval Dubrovnik had an orphanage where the care of illegitimate children was paid for by the wealthy families--many of which had sons that had sired these children. It was not an act of altruism: when the children were old enough, they were taken out of the orphanage and put into the house where they were conceived . . . to become servants themselves and work off the "debt" of their infancy care!

I read recently that in the U.S., something like 40% of all babies are born now to unmarried parents. Times are changing, in myriad ways. For the better, mostly, in my opinion.


@12, I'm a lawyer in the real world in the United States. I don't know in which imaginary universe you practice law, but here in the real world, what you,ve said is BS. Truth is always a defense in a slander case, the rapist would have the burden of proof, he would have to testify about his version of events without saying anything provably false or risk a perjury conviction, nobody in their right mind stress people who don't have enough money to make it with the costs of suit, and nobody in their right mind sure after being accused of reading someone they did fuck because the Streisand effect is real.

For most of these reasons, lawsuits for slader on ANY basis are very rare.


nocutename @81 "called out the culture of 80s' movies like "Sixteen Candles," etc.

Maybe you're thinking of this New Yorker piece by Molly Ringwald?


@83: EricaP, I don't mean that one, though I really liked it, too. And it's particularly interesting to have Molly Ringwald's perspective. Her essay really explores nuance. Whereas the one I was thinking of really took a bigger and harsher look at the culture at large.

For what it's worth, even when the movie first came out, I was bothered by the Geek being passed Carolyn as if she's a toy to be given away and by what was, if not understood to be rape, clearly icky sex under false pretenses, since she was so drunk. But I wasn't bothered by the whole underpants-as-trophy thing at all.


I hate to be that guy, but while this was icky and something I'd consider non-consensual sex, it probably wouldn't be rape under the laws of California, which I believe to be fairly typical. The statute for non-spousal rape (don't worry: spousal rape is also illegal, but is covered by a different statute) is Penal Code Section 261, which defines seven circumstances under which sex can be rape. Paraphrasing very loosely, they are: 1. Mental incapacity of the victim, 2. Force, threat, or fear of immediate bodily harm, 3. Prevention of resistance by drugging (date rape drugs, not being normally drunk), 4. The victim's unawareness of the nature of the act (unconsciousness, intoxication so extreme that you are unaware that you're having sex, etc.), 5. Deceipt as to identity of the perpetrator (like an identical twin pretending to be his sister-in-law's husband), 6. Plausible threat of future physical retaliation, or 7. Threat to use official authority (like a cop demanding sex on threat of arrest).

The events described would only be rape if the sex were accomplished by force. It sounds to me like she stopped resisting well before penetration, so the sex probably wasn't rape. Some of his earlier efforts may have been something like sexual battery though.

California's law are not so limited because the state loves rape. Life would be simple if all sex were 100% unambiguously consensual or 100% unambiguously rape. Unfortunately, the sexual behavior of humans is not that simple and consent is not always explicit. Actually, even the sexual behavior of cats (housecats and lions that I've observed, but probably other felines) isn't that simple.

A black and white world may have appeal, but it's not the one we live in.


Interesting discussion, thank you all.
While we all seem to agree that things are changing, there is more awareness nowadays, we are still far from declaring the end of our rape culture.
Last presidential election wasn’t only about white folks worried they’re becoming a minority, nor abolishing EPA to let friends and family make more money.

The same people afraid of “immigrants” are also afraid of gender equality. DT’s misogynist comments did not come out of nowhere, and still resonate with many of his followers.
Being aware that women’s rights also lead to HGBTQT+ rights, the conservative narrative goes after women for a reason. Giving it a biblical pretext is mostly a cover up. “Who me? Couldn’t be. This is what the big G wants!”
Same goes for abortions, mostly for controlling women’s sexuality, babies are only the narrative.


dcp - honestly curious here, so unless the force and resistance to it is applied THROUGHOUT the entire rape, it's not rape (legally)?

Because the penal code you quoted says:

Force, threat, or fear of immediate bodily harm,

The letter we are reading has a shit ton of force and fear:

he pushed me against the car
I tried to push him away
I said, "No, I can't" several times
He kept trying to pull my pants down, and every time he did, I pulled them back up.
He took his dick out and tried again to pull down my pants.
I was afraid of a confrontation
I figured the easiest way to get out of this situation was to let him finish.
I wanted to cry the whole time
I wanted to scream, "Stop! Get the fuck off of me!"
at first I physically stopped my ex from taking my clothes off
I succumbed to force

Again, I just can't believe how hard this is. I get that some areas are nuanced or grey, like some of the encounters described above. But this isn't that. This is literally a person who was pushed down, had her clothes forcefully removed, clearly said no, and was forced into sex anyway. Literally, indisputably. Just at a certain point in the encounter, she stopped fighting.


@87 The fact she repeatedly said no does make it rape, despite what dcp claims. He also did use force, in both pushing her against the car and forcibly pushing down her pants, multiple times. This is very clearly rape, no grey area involved. Dcp is very, very unlikely to be a lawyer, so is interpreting the law incorrectly. On the off chance he is, well, being a lawyer doesn't mean you're right 100% of the time.

(This part isn't a reply.) I know not everyone is capable of it, nor would I recommend it for every victim, but confronting the rapist can actually help. This is so incredibly hard for me to talk about, but it matters. About 12 years ago, my mom and I landed in some really bad circumstances (too long a story, but it was not a situation of our own making) and ended up renting a very tiny little apartment in a small town. I was desperately ill with a then undiagnosed health issue and in an out of the hospital. We had very little income but the landlord let her do some cleaning and repairs for some of his other rental properties for a reduction in rent. If he hadn't done that, we would have been homeless. One night, my mom was doing repairs and the landlord dropped in. He found my 55 year old mom, wearing an oversized jeans and overalls, so unbearably sexy that he decided he MUST have her right then. Despite her saying no, repeatedly. She tried to physically move away but he followed and trapped her against a wall. She didn't physically fight back, though she never stopped saying no, because he had the power to toss us on the streets and she was terrified of angering him. Being homeless might very well have cost me my life and my mom wasn't willing to take that chance. (Why yes, I did end up being on the cusp of PTSD and suffer tremendous guilt to this day.) We later found out he had a nasty habit of hitting on vulnerable women he rented apartments to. After we got the hell out of there, my mom confronted him in a public place. He was legitimately shocked to hear the word rape- he seriously thought she was playing hard to get and just being "playful" when she was saying no. He hadn't used violence, after all. She MADE him say the word rape. (Apparently pinning her to the wall wasn't force, in his mind.) Dude actually started crying and profusely apologized. Whether or not he meant it (my mom thinks he did, but I remain skeptical), it helped my mom. Especially since she told him if she ever heard of him even hitting on a woman that wasn't his wife ever again, she WOULD go to the cops. As far as we know, he kept to his word... but he had a heart attack and croaked a year later anyway. That helped her even more. I don't have a really great way to wrap the story up, other than repeating confrontation can help- but it's not for everyone.

I know this is an old letter, but I hope the LW got some counseling and, more importantly, DTMF. Because she sure could do better than him.


@85: The law and and ethics don't always dovetail. Something can be legal and morally or ethically wrong. Something can be illegal and ethically benign.
It seems to me that it's the law that sees things in black and white; reality is rarely so starkly divided.

In the case of my rape by my friend, which I didn't see as rape at the time, I don't believe it meets the legal definition of rape--and in fact, I wasn't in physical danger: If I had managed to get the car door open and jump out, I'm positive he wouldn't have dragged me back in or chased me down; if I had screamed at the top of my lungs, he would likely have stopped, shocked. I'm 100% sure that both he and I saw his actions as "wearing me down," which was absolutely expected behavior between straight men and women--I had experienced it from other men; I just wasn't expecting it from a friend with whom I'd had no previous sexual interactions of any kind, who had shown no sexual interest in me in the year or so that we'd been part of a friendship group, and who had a girlfriend. I didn't fear for my safety; I decided to "get it over with" because ultimately, that was less of a fuss.

Dan frequently talks about women being socialized to defer to men, but I don't think the phrase adequately covers the way that a lot of women and girls (I think more so when we're younger) are socialized in deference. That socialization doesn't always or necessarily take the form of mothers telling their daughters that the man always comes first, that you must be deferential to him. It's far more subtle and diffuse than that. Girls are pleasers and peace-makers, collaborators and soothers of hurt feelings. Everything in our society teaches them that from toddlerhood on, and rarely explicitly.
Add to that the fact that the culture tells young women that their number one priority or expectation is that they be hot; they be sexy. And the common societal understanding that men are, in Dan's words, "hormone-soaked dick monsters."

You (universal, young-female "you") don't want to offend; you don't want to be confrontational; you don't want to make the situation uncomfortable; you don't want to embarrass him (or anyone). You don't want to make a scene. And then there's the "freezing" factor. I liken it to the way a prey animal reacts when caught by a predator: if you've ever seen it--a sort of physical resignation, and what looks like an absence of consciousness comes on.

I think a lot of coerced sex doesn't happen because the woman is afraid she'll be violently raped or beaten; it's more because it just seems like it's easier to submit, get it over with, and get on with your day/night/life. But of course, it leaves its marks on your psyche. And then there's the coerced sex women have because they are afraid that if they are forceful in their "no's," the man won't like them anymore--and they want to be liked.

There are a couple of really good podcasts about this on The Heart's miniseries called "No":

Radio Lab did an episode inspired by The Heart's "No" series, which also features a lot of excerpts of the original and adds the Radio Lab touch of science with some follow-up interviews and a deepish dive into the world of BDSM to see where it succeeds and where it fails regarding the issue of consent and "no.":

So a lot of this sex isn't rape, legally, and may not even be rape in that neither party, or at least the man, doesn't view it as rape. But that doesn't make it okay, either.


@84 nocutename: Wow. Yeah--I remember Sixteen Candles, too. Sad about what happened to Caroline---and to Jake's house! The rich, spoiled fellow partygoers weren't at all what I would have called good friends---especially in the scene involving their cutting Caroline's hair when a big lock got caught in a bedroom door and then laughing at her behind her back when she was all but passed out. Upon Google searching, I read that former actor / model Michael Shoeffling (Jake Ryan) now runs his family's furniture store in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.


emmaliz, your comment in 75 really resonates.

Thorny problem is, I and my gal friends sometimes did that to guys back then (the "try again," or the "it's OK to try when they're drunker") as much as (other) guys did that to us. It's not just guys who were taught, and who believed, that it was OK.

It's hard to explain the intersection of the lingering traces of 60's permissivity; the new 90's sex positivity / reclaiming of "queer" and "slut"; the 80's-mid 90's HIV (legitimate) fear and (additional free-form) panic; 80's born-again neo-puritanism and the backlash to it; the 80's "success for women = big shoulder pads and grabbing like the guys" messaging. But it's not only women who ended up feeling violated, and not only guys who did "rapey" things. (And not only hetero matches, of course, either.) I'd say it was like whiplash, except it wasn't sequential forces--many, all or none of them could be in play at any one time.

Presumptions around sex had been obliterated, and teaching kids (BEFORE they needed it!) that there's expectation of real communication about sex, before sex, was in its infancy. There was no internet to level the expectations and share the expected terms of discourse. (And even now, the dominant culture is super ready to assume that our terms and expectations--as we come into agreement on them--will magically permeate all pocket of society efficiently. IMHO, you can't demand people know what they have literally never been explicitly taught, by requiring osmosis.)

And FWIW, with Mr. Big Baby, I didn't feel that my belonging were under threat. He wasn't going to break the floor or the rug. He'd gone tubby-chubby like middle aged athletes do. He was immovable, but not scary. (I can't call it a "threat to property" every time something sets a cat into pinball mode.) I have a general aversion, not specific to that situation, of leaving myself on the wrong side of lockable doors--and even more generally I don't like leaving people in my space when I go out, if I don't know them well. Not unusual, but not universal. Constraints caused by the way I operate are not "on" other people.

Having a common language to talk through strange situations (not just sex-specific) is huge. "Return awkwardness to sender" has been such a help to me...fom BOTH ends of the equation, actually. Dan keeps telling us to Use Our Words. Captain Awkward works wonderfully through "what you might say / what would happen if you said" options. Ask A Manager's comment section really opens up (through the world of business norms) what parts of life we indeed have consensus on, and what issues are still incredibly regional, job-specific, socioeconomically-stratified, etc.

I have no problem labeling something as "completely unacceptable" or even, "this would be very rapey now," without doing revisionist history on it. A society where it's totally normal for a woman to slap a man hard across the face if he's too "pressing" CAN IN FACT WORK. A society where nobody ever slaps everybody, and people always ask before touching, also works. It's when the two societies intersect--as they do in the modern world--that we have problems. Not because men are pigs, but because all rules of interaction are social constructs.

Note: I am glad to now live in a society where most of us, and the legal system, have come to agree that "no means no." It's way easier to navigate than a society of choreographed responses, where you have to know the secret handshake of negation to politely extricate yourself from sex. I'm glad to live at a time when "Ask once and ask to be told if No ever changes to Yes" is becoming the standard for being non-harassing, rather than"Nice-guy-ism"--ditto nice-gal-ism--and "Trying Again for Yes." But I can't ask the entire world to evolve at exactly the same pace that I myself evolve at. Some got there before me, and I was the (relative) cretin. Some are still getting there, and they're the current cretins. But not all of them need to therefore be locked up as confirmed predators. They need to be brought up, and be brought on board, stat.

(Grammar note: "not all of them" doesn't mean, "none of them")


Is it victim blaming to help someone leave an abusive spouse? Does it mean you’re blaming those who are too scared to leave? Or is it possible to have complete sympathy for a victim AND want her to stay safe in the future?

Similarly, it’s not victim blaming to encourage women to take self defense designed FOR WOMEN. A lot of self defense was designed for hand to hand combat between men; that’s not always useful for a rape situation. A good self defense class can help overcome the freeze response, and help a woman project a “don’t mess with me” vibe. (See:

@ 38 EmmaLiz:
“Physically defending yourself someone who is trying to rape you might disable him. Or it might piss him off and he'll beat you to a bloody pulp. “

You know what? Leaving an abusive spouse might end the abuse. Or, it might piss him off and he’ll murder you. Yeah, that can happen. Does it mean no one should try to leave their abuser? No. It means use your best judgment, and get help when you need it.

Same thing with self defense. You have to use your best judgement. Sometimes submitting is the safest option. Doesn’t mean it should be your only option. If you have self defense skills, then you have a wider range of options. IMO, that’s always a good thing.


@86 CMD: And people wonder why I am so happily asexual, usually drink alone, and weep for my nieces' futures.

Please wait...

and remember to be decent to everyone
all of the time.

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