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Rape Culture?

The following lengthy discussion of the term "rape culture"--what it means,
where it originated, whether it is an appropriate term--took place on WMST-L
in March 2000.  Because the discussion was so extensive, it has been divided
into four parts.  For additional WMST-L files available on the Web, see the
WMST-L File Collection.

Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2000 01:41:34 -0500
From: Maacah Marah <mam39 @ CORNELL.EDU>
Subject: term "rape culture"
can anyone help on two things:

1) the general and understood use of the term "rape culture" as it
applies to U.S. society
2) where this term comes from i.e. who coined it, who uses it, and who
explains it. References to articles where the term is discussed would be

One of my students wants to use it in a paper, and though I am vaguely
familiar with it, I need some more information to give her.


Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2000 02:48:31 -0400
From: nbenokraitis @ UBMAIL.UBALT.EDU
Subject: Re: term "rape culture"
You might look at Dianne F. Herman, "The Rape Culture," in _Women: A
Feminist Perspective_, 3d ed., ed. Jo Freeman (Mountain View, CA:
Mayfield, 1984).

Nijole (Niki) Benokraitis, Professor of Sociology
University of Baltimore, 1420 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21201
Fax: 410-837-6051; Voicemail: 410-837-5294; nbenokraitis  @  ubmail.ubalt.edu
Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2000 09:57:21 -0500
From: Martha Charlene Ball <wsimcb @ PANTHER.GSU.EDU>
Subject: Re: term "rape culture"
Paula Gunn Allen has an essay, "Father God and Rape Culture" in *Off the
Reservation:  Reflections on Boundary-Busting, Border-Crossing Loose
Canons* (Beacon:  Boston, 1998).

M. Charlene Ball, Administrative Coordinator
Women's Studies Institute
Georgia State University
Atlanta, Georgia  30303-3083
404/651-1398 fax
wsimcb  @  panther.gsu.edu
Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2000 11:49:45 -0500
From: Helen Wishart <hawishar @ EARTHLINK.NET>
Subject: Re: term "rape culture"
"Transforming a Rape Culture" edited by Emilie Buchwald, Pamela R.
Fletcher, Martha Roth

This is a collection of over thirty essays written in the last twenty years
from a variety of perspectives but all focused on how attitudes toward sex,
race and power in the United States promote acceptance of sexual violence.
Contributers include  Andrea Dworkin, Gloria Steinem, Michael Kimmel, bell
hooks, Myriam Miedzian, Naomi Wolf
It also includes suggestions for further readings.
Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2000 13:24:28 -0600
From: Maria Bevacqua <maria.bevacqua @ MANKATO.MSUS.EDU>
Subject: Re: term "rape culture"
Maacah Marah and others:

This is a very good question, as the term has been circulating for some
years now.  I use the concept of rape culture in my teaching (in Intro
to WS and a course on Violence Prevention), defined as follows. Note
that I borrow from Martha McCaughey's discussion of the term in a guest
lecture she gave at Emory University.  I would like to know how others
use this term in teaching and research.

A rape culture is one in which

1.  rape and other forms of violence against women are common;

2.  rape and other forms of violence against women are tolerated (in
that prevalence is high while arrest, prosecution, and conviction rates
for the crime are low);

3.  victim-blaming and racist myths of rape and other forms of violence
against women are commonplace;

4.  images of rape and other forms of violence against women abound;

5.  images of sex and violence are intertwined; and

6.  women do not enjoy full legal, economic, and social equality with

I like this conceptualization because it opens the door for a
multifaceted discussion of violence against women: we can talk about
incidence and prevalence studies and their limits, rape myths, rape and
racism, representations of violence in the media and popular culture,
and the bigger picture of gender inequality.  I do understand the
limits of the concept also: some may argue that to describe our society
as a rape culture is just so much wallowing in women's victimhood.  I
see it as useful nonetheless, especially when paired with discussion or
exercises on empowerment.


Maria Bevacqua
Assistant Professor
Department of Women's Studies
Minnesota State University
Mankato, Minn.  56001
ph (507) 389-5024
fax (507) 389-6377
maria.bevacqua  @  Mankato.MSUS.EDU
Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2000 17:19:26 -0800
From: Max Dashu <maxdashu @ LANMINDS.COM>
Subject: Re: term "rape culture"
I'd warn against deciding any one person coined this term. Document its
first instances in writing to your heart's content, but I think it emerged
simultaneously in many places in the women's movement of the early 70s.

>1) the general and understood use of the term "rape culture" as it
>applies to U.S. society
>2) where this term comes from i.e. who coined it, who uses it, and who
>explains it. References to articles where the term is discussed would be

Max Dashu    Suppressed Histories Archives
30 Years of International Women's Studies 1970-2000
 <maxdashu  @  lanminds.com>
Date: Fri, 10 Mar 2000 11:47:45 -0600
From: "Langley, Pat" <Langley.Pat @ UIS.EDU>
Subject: rape culture
In addition to Dianne Herman's article, my students have found this website
to be helpful in thinking about rape culture.

An excellent article that situates violence against women in a cultural
framework of sexual terrorism is "Sexual Terrorism" by Carole J. Sheffield
in Women: A Feminist Perspective, 5th ed., ed. Jo Freeman (Mountain View,
CA:Mayfield, 1995).

Pat Langley
langley  @  uis.edu
Women's Studies
University of Illinois at Springfield
Date: Fri, 10 Mar 2000 14:35:01 EST
From: Lenore Kuo <LKuo333 @ AOL.COM>
Subject: "Rape culture"
The first time I came across the term was as the title to a late 70s /early
80s documentary which was available through Cambridge Films. It was a very
powerful (though now dated) discussion of the concept.

Lenore Kuo
Research Associate                                        Visiting Scholar
                          City University of New York Graduate Center
Rutgers University
Center for the Study of Women and Society       Institute for Research on
Date: Sat, 11 Mar 2000 16:31:12 -0500
From: Daphne Patai <daphne.patai @ SPANPORT.UMASS.EDU>
Subject: Re: rape culture
Thanks, Joan, for providing the correct URL.  I have looked up the site
[http://pubweb.ucdavis.edu/Documents/RPEP/culture.htm] and
am hoping most teachers will not rely on it for accurate and thoughtful
presentation of the problem of rape.  The background sketch describes a
society that few would recognize as modern-day America, a society in which
women are thoroughly subservient and indoctrinated into passive behavior,
while men are nothing but aggressors. These are outmoded stereotypes. The
data provided by M. Koss has repeatedly been critiqued for her extremely
expansive definition of rape, which leads to the 'scare statistics' quoted
and to the "detail" that the majority of people she considers victims of
rape did *not* consider themselves to have been raped. Why is women's own
authority to identify their experiences suddenly dismissed in this
particular instance? Is it in order to come up with such astounding
statistics?  And why would responsible feminists want to do that?  What
stake do they have in scaring the hell out of women?
     It seems to me that giving young women such wildly exaggerated ideas
about the world in which they live and the virtual inevitability of
becoming victims of sexual violence is to do them a very serious
Daphne Patai
daphne.patai  @  spanport.umass.edu
Date: Sat, 11 Mar 2000 17:44:05 -0500
From: Molly Dragiewicz <mdragiew @ GMU.EDU>
Subject: Re: rape culture
Koss's study used legal definitions of rape and sexual assault.

 Many women don't call it rape when someone forces them to have sex because
a) it's someone they know b) they were drinking and so blame themselves for
getting into the situation where they were raped c) they think rape is what
happens at night , outdoors in a dark alley, d) he didn't have a weapon.
Many women who are sexually assaulted and believe it is their fault use
phrases like "he forced me to have sex" instead of using the word rape.
This doesn't mean sexual assault has not occurred, just as many women who
are in violent relationships don't recognize their experience as domestic
violence because they think that means the man is always violent and never
sweet and contrite etc.

The "scare" statistic of 1 in 7 women being victims of sexual assault has
been corroborated by lots of other studies.

People often misread Koss's 1 in 4 estimate for attempted sexual assault as
1 in 4 complete rapes.

The women are not denied the authority to name their experiences, their
experiences are merely compared to the legal definitions of sexual assault.

That many women don't call forced sex rape has more to do with women's not
having the authority to refuse or consent to sex regardless of their
relationship to the perpetrator than with a study trying to "scare" women
into fearing rape.

In fact, Koss's study demonstrates that some of the most common rape fears,
such as those experienced by women walking to their cars alone at night, are
misplaced in light of the fact that most rapes are perpetrated by people
known to the victim in his or her residence.  The results of the study, then
can be used to decrease women's fear of rape and let them know how to
protect themselves.

Molly Dragiewicz
Women's Studies and Cultural Studies
George Mason University

mdragiew  @  gmu.edu
Date: Sat, 11 Mar 2000 23:01:17 -0500
From: Rebecca Whisnant <rsw @ EMAIL.UNC.EDU>
Subject: Re: still dating one's rapist
> Koss's study found that nearly half the "victims" stated they had continued
> to date their "rapists."  This didn't dissuade Koss from her definition of
> these women's experience.

As well it shouldn't have.  Consider: many women who are battered by their
husbands or boyfriends continue to stay in relationships with these men
(for a whole variety of reasons).  Furthermore, many of these women might
deny (especially while still in the relationship) that what's going on is
abuse or battering.  ("It's just a bad fight," "he's under a lot of
stress," etc.)  Should we conclude that it can't *really* be a case of
battering because if it were, surely the woman would (a) recognize and
name it as such, and (b) immediately discontinue contact with the
perpetrator? . . . The parallel argument in the case of rape is, in my
estimation, equally flawed and dangerous.

Rebecca Whisnant
UNC-Chapel Hill
Dept. of Philosophy
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2000 01:32:19 EST
From: Glorandbil @ AOL.COM
Subject: Re: rape culture
In Riverside, California, a medium size community, rape crisis advocates are
being called to the hospital for an average of one - two rapes a day, most of
whom are young women...and this is off-season.  Daphne, since you don't trust
statistics, perhaps you should volunteer for a rape crisis clinic for awhile.
 Gloria Cowan
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2000 08:38:20 +0100
From: Jutta Zalud <jutta.zalud @ NEXTRA.AT>
Subject: Re: rape culture
Glorandbil  @  AOL.COM wrote:
> In Riverside, California, a medium size community, rape crisis advocates are
> being called to the hospital for an average of one - two rapes a day, most of
> whom are young women...and this is off-season.

Is threre a season for rape?

Jutta Zalud

Jutta Zalud           Phone/Fax (home): ++43-1-272 99 02
Deublergasse 48/5     Phone (office):   ++43-1-712 10 01 ext. 76
A-1210 Vienna         Fax:              ++43-1-713 74 40
Austria               email:            a7400819  @  unet.univie.ac.at
                                        jutta.zalud  @  nextra.at
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2000 09:16:49 -0500
From: Molly Dragiewicz <mdragiew @ GMU.EDU>
Subject: Re: still dating one's rapist
It's common for young women to date men who have sexually assaulted them
again if it was someone they know, especially if it was someone they were
dating.  It's also common for married women to stay married to husbands that
rape them.

If dating, they use the additional dates to try to re-define the situation
and show themselves they can be in control of their bodies.

If married, they are often raped in the context of other abuse and stay for
all of the reasons abused women stay.

This has to do with women trying to fit a sexual assault experience into
their worldview in a way that they can live with.

It also has to do with the way that women aren't told unequivocally that
they have a right to refuse sex.  Despite "No means no", women and men still
hear "No can mean yes", "No can mean maybe" and you can't say no to someone
you have already slept with .

Again, this is about rape definitions being still largely based on context,
as your post demonstrates, rather than acknowledging women's right to refuse
or consent to sexual activity regardless of who  the person is and where the
event occurs.

Molly Dragiewicz
Women's Studies and Cultural Studies
George Mason University

mdragiew  @  gmu.edu
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2000 09:52:30 -0500
From: Daphne Patai <daphne.patai @ SPANPORT.UMASS.EDU>
Subject: Re: rape culture
Gloria wrote:
 Daphne, since you don't trust
statistics, perhaps you should volunteer for a rape crisis clinic for

Daphne responds:
It's not a question of "not trusting statistics," but of careful appraisal
of how those statistics are gathered.  There are many and highly divergent
statistics about rape, as well as highly divergent definitions of it and
opinions about its causes.  I would like to see some of these divergences
discussed in women's studies classes, without demonization of critics or
the preconception that one particular feminist interpretation and the
studies that support it is the only proper view.  Christina Sommers--among
many other people -- has a very good discussion of the problems with Koss's
work and of the whole issue. .  Sommers cites the work of many other
researchers, women as well as men, who challenge the feminist view
reiterated by the responses to my earlier message. It's not an adequate
response (though it's been the common one among feminists) to dismiss her
as an enemy
     The responses to the list thus far seem to believe that all the facts
and evidence are in and that there is a correct line on this complicated
issue.  I very much doubt that and consider it particularly unfortunate
when this is the view conveyed as absolute Truth to young women in women's
studies courses.
daphne.patai  @  spanport.umass.edu
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2000 09:46:06 -0500
From: Yvonne Klein <ymklein @ TOTAL.NET>
Subject: Re: rape culture
Dear Gloria:

Somehow, I doubt that someone who has just been raped would benefit from
Daphne's contrarian presence.  "My dear, are you sure you just didn't
misunderstand?  After all, you had a coffee with the bloke, didn't you?"

Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2000 11:15:15 -0500
From: Sara Murphy <sem2 @ IS4.NYU.EDU>
Subject: Re: still dating one's rapist
On Sat, 11 Mar 2000, Daphne Patai wrote:

> Koss's study found that nearly half the "victims" stated they had continued
> to date their "rapists."  This didn't dissuade Koss from her definition of
> these women's experience.

Why should it necessarily? Daphne, in your earlier post to the list, you
were saying that Koss' research is undermined by the extent to which it is
implicitly and explicitly informed by her assumptions about women, men,
and what constitutes violence. But here, you seem pretty caught up in
your own assumptions.

I would be far from denying that a lot of the discourse around rape that
was directly and indirectly derived from Koss' research and especially
prevalent in the early nineties needed and continues to need
refinement. But how can we reconcile the fact that many women still do not
identify as rape/sexual assault experiences that meet the legal
definition[s] of those acts? If we say, as you seem to wish, that a woman
who does not identiify such an experience as rape, aren't we in danger of
lapsing into a hopelessly subjective standard, one that invalidates any
attempt to apply the rule of law to sexual violence? On the other hand,
you're right that there could be a danger here of usurping women's
authority to define their own experience--or more particularly some women
usurping other women's authority in this regard--and we don't have to look
too far to see what kind of a history that problem has had in the last
thirty or so years of feminism.

But it seems that the options are far from this narrow. I think one of the
aspects of Koss' findings is to  suggest how gray the areas are when we
focus on sexual violence especially betweeen people who have some sort of
social and/or familial relationship.

To return then to your comment above:
we know that some women remain with men who are violent toward them. this
isn't news. we know also that there are lots of reasons that they do
so. Some perhaps have naturalized the violence, some have been so
psychically destroyed that they think they 'deserve it.' Other women
simply do not have the economic possibility of leaving a man who batters,
whatever form that battery make take. some women are afraid for the safety
of minor children. ETc. And i think we could go so far as to say that the
understanding of what a male's relationship to the body of the woman he is
involved with is subject to considerable variance, dependent on all kinds
of things, culture among them. None of these possibilities lead us to
assert that staying in a particular circumstance/relationship is an
indicator by itself of a lack of violence or destruction in that

Sara Murphy
sem2  @  is4.nyu.edu
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2000 11:48:58 -0500
From: Rhea Cote <Rhea_Cote @ UMIT.MAINE.EDU>
Subject: Re: still dating one's rapist
And oftentimes, the men [who rape them] are their fathers in these
women's/girl's lives.  These are the girls who grow up to be the women
assaulted who often repeat the pattern of being assaulted.  Of the
women I work with in the prison system, many have been assaulted by
their fathers.  And step-fathers.  Friends of the father.  Traded,
bought, sold...
Rhea Cote Robbins

Rhea Cote Robbins
Franco-American Women's Institute
641 South Main St.
Brewer, Maine 04412-2516
Telephone: 207-989-7059
Fax:  207-989-2453
Rhea_Cote  @  umit.maine.edu
RJCR  @  aol.com
Web Site:
Franco-American Women's Institute
Author of Wednesday's Child, winner of the Maine Chapbook Award for
Creative Nonfiction:
The Initiative, online ezine:
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2000 12:56:18 -0500
From: millerg @ cc.denison.edu
Subject: Re: still dating one's rapist
I support Molly Draggiewicz's analysis with one important addition.
If "continuing to date" while married (a category that is missing in your
analysis), some women use the additional dates to try to re-define the
situation... as you say.  This *does* have to do with world view in this
if I am a feminist of whatever-persuasion, and
if I know I have the right to be in control of my own body, and
if I am not violently affronted and overpowered by a stranger,
then I believe I have let myself down by allowing myself to be
raped, in spite of protestations at the time.

Somehow, my feminism has led me to believe that the educated-me should be
too smart/knowledgeable to find myself in this situation.  Yet, since it
occurred, the initial event itself (the initial sexual experience)
challenged my sense of self-as-educated.

The better choice for me was to continue "dating" (seeing this man and
occasionally sleeping with him), working with him, attempting to get him
to understand he need not rape me while getting myself to understand I
need not be frightened of him (and therefore other men) at a deep
internalized level.  The truth is, I was less successful with him and
more successful with me.  I became unafraid of him.  That does not mean I
was not raped, nor does it mean I was denying that I was raped.

I felt it as entering my own therapy, with myself and with him and
subsequently with both my husband and another man I later dated, bringing
forward over many years (10 or so) a sense of resolving the issue.

I'm sorry it took so long.  I am not sorry it now feels completely
resolved, a feeling I don't believe I could have experienced without
involving the perpetrator.

For years I was not willing to call it rape for all the reasons feminist
theories have stated--the most important four: 1) I knew him, although
only marginally; 2) I was married at the time; 3) I thought I "knew
better;" 4) some part of me wanted to be wanted sexually with such
virosity.  But there is another reason often overlooked by feminist
theorists:  I was not willing to have my sense of personal power be
overshadowed by either guilt or pity, depending on what the community
around me might find more palatable.  That meant to me that I could not
make public that it was, in fact, rape until I personally had a handle on
it.  I believed I would experience others around me, in an effort to
resolve this issue for themselves, either shunning me or rushing in to
offer ways to "feel better/fix the problem."  (I have decided the
"shunning" is a way of distancing people who have had this experience from
those who have not in order to believe the "still pures" can count on
continuing not having the experience.  The "feeling better/fix the
problem" is really for the benefit of the therapist, too, whether that be
a professional or a close friend.  None of the language that states
"it wasn't my fault" made me "feel better."  It was off the mark for what
I needed to resolve.)  Neither seemed appropriate.

So, yes, you are quite right, continuing to have a relationship with the
man can, in some cases, be a viable option.  One we seldon analysis as
a positive.  But it is still rape.
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2000 14:56:19 -0600
From: Dorothy Miller <dcmiller @ TWSUVM.UC.TWSU.EDU>
Subject: Fwd: Rape Culture
                The issue of how one defines one's own experience is a
tricky one and gets more complicated every day. I think that TV talk
shows and made-for-TV movies encourage U.S. audiences to individualize
all experiences, as if we all had total control and choice about
everything. The result is that social and cultural influences are ignored
and denied.

        One of the things that we, as Women's Studies educators, are
trying to get all of our students to do is to examine and then trust
their own reality. We know that the way society and culture frame and
define experiences has a tremendous influence on how individuals define
their own experiences. Thus, many women believed Freud's pronouncements
on female orgasm until Masters and Johnson "discovered" the truth in the
laboratory. All the while, of course, women knew in their hearts, from
their own physical experiences, about female orgasms.

        I once had a woman student who was raped by a male friend after
she passed out from drinking too much. She didn't want to call it rape
because she felt it was her fault. I asked her if she would consider a
friend's incapacity as an opportunity to do some bodily harm or perhaps
to rob the friend. When such an assault is male-to-female and involves
sex, often our definitions and expectations divert from what should be
common sense. This is what we need to ask students to examine.

        I think that we have an obligation to examine what is going on
when one person forces or attempts to force sex on another, and when
non-consensual sex takes place, whether either party refers to this
action as rape or attempted rape or not. It is the meaning of the
experience, not the label, that is important.

        Many statistics are questionable, both with regard to rape and
other phenomenon. That's why people do replication studies and try
different ways of collecting data. It certainly is our obligation to
examine how data were obtained and apply scholarly methods of analysis of
these data. But there are many ways to look at a phenomenon.  Using
statistics is just one of them. Surely the issue of rape and sexual
assault needs to be addressed in Women's Studies classes in the context
of the relationships between men and women.

        Our students already know a great deal and one thing they already
know is that not all men are rapists. Why would any Women's Studies
professor try to get them to believe otherwise? Most of us have many
loving, kind men in our lives. Yet rape exists and we have an obligation
to present it as a legitimate issue to be addressed in Women's Studies.
Rape and the suggestion of rape (or sexual assault, if one prefers) are
used every day to sell products and titillate audiences. Sexual assault
is an important component of the pornography industry, which involves
billions of dollars. It is a cultural phenomenon that influences how we
think about it and its victims, even when we are the victims and the
experience is very personal.

        The bottom line for teaching is, of course, that we help students
use critical thinking to examine society and culture and they must reach
their own conclusions. So, what is the problem?

Dorothy Miller
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2000 16:30:46 -0500
From: Sara Murphy <sem2 @ IS4.NYU.EDU>
Subject: Calling it rape
All these posts point to how incredibly complicated it is to call a
particular encounter 'rape' when it has to do as so often it does with
an acquaintance of some sort, whether boyfriend, family member, husband,
or the fellow next door who seemed so nice at the pta meeting last
week.  i think this is something that needs to be thought about when
weighing research like that of Koss [and yes, indeed, this is an ongoing
project and her work does not have to define the issue or the field]. In
the1960s and '70s, when a lot of feminist thought and activism organized
around the issue of rape, calling what had previously been silenced, or
blamed on women 'rape' may have seemed unambivalently empowering, the
'click,' the moment of politicisation. But it can be an utterly
devastating step for some women to put that name, especially when it is
the right name,
on an act or series of acts. And this for lots of reasons:  it says that
someone whom they know and perhaps even love is a criminal. It can be
understood as putting a burden on the them to go to the police or
other authorities, which is not without extraordinary
implications,especially in those cases where it is a father or other male
family member.
It also names the woman as a victim, and as it does so--yes,yes, I know, we
love this term 'survivor', but...--it emphasizes a state of powerlessness
the recognition of which may have in some sense been deferred and is
perhaps the real trauma, the real devastation of sexual violence. this
especially in the cases where the woman or girl is in very real ways
socially and economically powerless. And when we know that a significant
majority of rape/incest victims are very young, this is underlined even

sara murphy
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2000 13:28:41 -0400
From: Deborah Louis <louis @ UMBC.EDU>
Subject: Re: still dating one's rapist
would like to add some mention, from a developmental/behavioral
perspective, that because violently coerced sex (i.e."rape") is such an
ingrained part of the culture (as, norm), many women grow up believing
that's simply how the world is, what men are like, accept it as they do
the host of other brutalities suffered every day as (they believe) part
of the "human condition" and adapt accordingly, finding what "happiness"
they can wherever they can--even if that only happens in "kinder"
moments with the person(s) abusing them...

i was startled many years ago in the middle of a "stop child abuse"
campaign in the rutgers married student housing complex, when parents at
a community meeting were saying things like:

"i don't hold with abusing kids--those people need to be strung up--when
mine start acting up i just lock them in a closet til they settle down,
even if that takes all night..."

and (i have also heard this in many venues since): "if you raise 'em
right you don't EVER have to get violent with kids--i keep my daddy's
belt on a hook in the kitchen, and whup 'em good when they get outta
line--same belt my daddy used on us!"

just as these parents don't perceive what they do to their kids as
"violence" or "abuse," a lot of women perceive forcable sex as just
another "natural pitfall" of the gender, like periods, pregnancy, lewd
remarks and noises when they walk down the street, employers grabbing
thweir breasts, etc...  as someone noted in this thread, they are also
likely to perceive "rape" as being attacked by a stranger in a public
setting (a perception that is frequently expressed by the "familiar" men
who rape them on a regular basis)...

debbie <louis  @  umbc.edu>
Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2000 10:24:53 -0800
From: pamela kemner <kemnerpj @ EMAIL.UC.EDU>
Subject: Discussing rape in classrooms/community responses
To answer Daphne --

Definitions of rape ARE being critically discussed in women's studies

Clermont College has a police academy within it; women's studies teachers,
community assault services providers and police academy instructors are
beginning to work together to provide students a full and careful picture
of different defintions of/community responses to violence. It's tough but
fascinating work, and makes use of postmodernist multi-versions of reality
better than anything I've seen in action since.  Every part of the
community has a piece of the picture . . .

In one class,  we looked at the adequacy/inadequacy of law to
address/interpret people's experiences with coersion/violence by looking at
many different victim narratives, then at what laws might be applied in
which cases, and then at what might be successfully PROSECUTED in which
cases -- And then ask WHY.

One male student, who worked at the local juvenille detention center,
addressed the harshness and difficulty of dealing with juveille sex
offenders who perpetrate other minors -- apparently it's difficult to get
that prosecuted as anything other than "reckless sexual endagerment," even
in cases of physical damage.  That's a whole other can of worms . . .

I know Daphne has long-standing and well-known angst about women's studies
classrooms turning into clubbish hysterical man-are-bad-women-are-good
sobfests, particularly regarding victimization... But give some of us a
little more credit, would you? The majority of us work out here in the real
world, and we can't afford to be careless about stats and their
interpretation -- and NONE of us can afford to exclude larger communities
of knowledge from the discussions.

Pamela Kemner
Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2000 17:03:54 -1000
From: Theresa Conefrey <conefrey @ HAWAII.EDU>
Subject: Discourse and rape
Regarding societal definitions of rape, I'd like to recommend
Susan Ehrlich (1998) _The discursive reconstruction of sexual
consent_.  This paper discusses the university disciplinary hearing
of a male student accused of two instances of date rape.  Ehrlich
shows how the defendant is able to latch onto the popular  "men
are from mars women are from venus" discourse to contend that
even though the women expressed their resistance, there was
"miscommunication."  Buying the miscommunication defense, and
the fact that one of the women had gone to a bar with the defendant
the night after the rape, the tribunal concluded that although the
defendant demonstrated indifference to the women's wishes, he was
not a threat to the university community.

Another relevant paper is Celia Kitzinger and Hannah Frith (1999)
_Just say no?  The use of conversation analysis in developing a feminist

perspective on sexual refusal._  Kitzinger and Frith provide a
account of why teaching women to "just say no" is not necessarily as
helpful as it sounds.  Just saying "no" is artificial because it is not
the way
most refusals are typically done.  Requiring that women to say "no" can
invalidate other ways that people typically signal refusals; not having
said "no" can be used against women.

And another question about definitions:  In a long-term relationship,
such as between a couple who had been married for many years,
is it considered rape where the husband wants intercourse but the wife
does not, although she finally gives in and goes along with it?  Here
I'm thinking of the old "lie back and think of England" attitude.  In such
situations, I'm assuming that most women would not label this experience

Theresa Conefrey
conefrey  @  hawaii.edu

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