Friday, November 8, 2013

An open letter to female rape apologists

Loaded topic for a Friday, I know, but my friends do love to call me Buzzkill Katie.

I was actually inspired to write this post after reading one Helene, at Helene in Between, wrote on Wednesday after she was angered by an editorial in her alma mater's newspaper. The gist of the article was that women hold partial responsibility for their own rapes when they choose to get drunk. 

I don't want to reiterate what Helene already said (seriously, check out her post), but I do want to discuss something that I find to be so disheartening, and that is that these articles are so often written by women. 

It seems like at least once a semester similar editorials come out in my own school's newspaper and they are always written by young women and the gist is always women are at least somewhat at fault for their own mistreatment. I can't count the number of editorials I read while in college that suggested women should wear more modest clothing to avoid being harassed.

And, so, because apparently this is the thing to do now (or is it already passé?), I would like to present an open letter to women I will refer to as female rape apologists.

Dear apologists,

I know you won't like being called a rape apologist, because you probably think that you're totally against rape/assault/harassment against women and that your suggestions to take precautions (like don't get drunk, don't dress slutty, etc, etc) are the height of logic. 

But let me define what being a rape apologist is. At its most basic meaning (and, of course, I didn't coin the phrase), it's someone who makes excuses for rapists. It's someone who shifts the blame from being entirely on the rapist to being on the victim as well. 

You don't think you do that? Well, by suggesting that a girl shouldn't have gotten so drunk, or worn something so skimpy or slept with so many people, then what do you think you're doing? 

The problem when discussing rape for so many people is that your perception of rape is this violent, shadowy stranger in a dark alley, when the reality is acquaintance rape is far more common, but because those rapes don't fit the stranger mold, they are taken less seriously.

Rapists could be the seemingly nice guy you sit near in Lit class, they could be a star athlete, they could be your boyfriend. Okay, no, I'm not calling your boyfriend a rapist. I just mean it could be someone you'd least expect. 

And the thing is, I don't think there is anything wrong with being cautious. We enter into every situation in our lives with our gained knowledge of how the world works. I don't see a problem with a mother telling her college-aged daughter, "Be careful at the party, hun. Don't drink too much and go with some friends." But there is a world of difference between "be careful" and "be careful or you asked for it." 

But I get it--when you make the women who are assaulted at parties an "other" (i.e. sluts, unlike your pristine ass), it's easy to convince yourself that you will never be victimized in the same way because you're not like that. That only happens to trashy girls, right? 


Calling another woman a slut for how she dresses won't protect you from rape.

Laughing with your male friend about the "sluts" he bangs won't protect you from rape.

Saying a woman was asking to get groped because of her short skirt won't protect you from rape.

Never partying won't protect you from rape.

You know why?

Because it's not about you. It's never about you, or what you're wearing, or what you're doing. It's about rapists believing they are entitled to your body. YOU are the not the problem. THEY are.

We shouldn't have to party within our own home with only our closest friends because there is a chance we might be victimized.

Women, like men, like to go out with friends, meet new people and flirt with strangers and if a rapist chooses to target a woman, that is on the rapist, not her. We can't be expected to stop living our lives--and let's face it, for young people a large part of their social lives involves drinking--because there is a chance we could become a victim.

We don't stop driving our cars because there's a chance we could die in a crash, we don't stay in our houses because we might get robbed on the street and we don't lock ourselves in a safe room because murderers exist.

But what's that you said? We still take precautions for these crimes? You lock up your laptop out of sight when you leave it in your car?

Well guess what, even if your laptop is stolen from your front seat where it's sitting in plain sight with your damn door unlocked--it's still theft.

Being vulnerable does not make someone less of a victim, and suggesting that it does kind of just makes you an asshole.



  1. Thank you.

    All I can think about when I see rape apologism is something someone wrote in an article once - by telling women they shouldn't dress skimpily, sleep with this or that number of people, go out alone, etc, you're not stopping rape from happening. You're basically telling them, "make sure he rapes the other girl."

  2. so well said. i'm still so mad I just can't believe it. love the quote at the end. and you said it perfectly, it's not about what you do or don't do, it's about a rapist violating your body. end of story.

  3. Love the quote at the end. It's so terrible when women don't support other women. Slut-shaming, the good/bad girl mentality, objectification, responsibility or lack thereof. . .these are serious problems with socialization.

    I'm including a link to a Huffpost article that I think you'll like - the author writes about a playground anecdote, the preschool equivalent of "don't get raped."

  4. . . .and your friends really call you Buzzkill Katie? Haha. Aww. They Britta-ed you. I love loaded topics, so keep them coming :)

  5. Thank you for writing this post, Katie! I hope it serves as an eye-opener for people who seem to think that it's possible for rape to be the victim's fault. I was so angered after reading Helene's post the other sad that instead of women empowering other women, we're pushing each other down.

  6. YES. Thank you for this. It is probably the best post I've read on this topic as well. It has always bothered me that the articles putting partial blame on the victims are usually written by women. It is NEVER the victims fault, whether that victim is female or male (we often seem to forget that guys can be raped too!). Thank you for this!

  7. i'm seriously almost in tears here. this letter is so perfectly written. well done.

  8. I read recently, on facebook of all places, a really good quote "If you would talk to your daughter about safety, talk to your son about consent". I have a son, a 7 year old boy, and I will be teaching him about consent. To many people believe that if we cover up, both ourselves and that it happens then it won't happen. But to paraphrase criminal minds "the littlest thing could set them off, a smile as you passed in the bank could make them think you have a connection." Instead of judging the girl in the mini skirt, who's drunk, and walking home alone, walk her drunk ass home and then be judgy when you're tucked safe in your locked house.


    Fashion and Happy Things

  9. This letter is very powerful. I am so impressed, you are a fantastic writer. It makes me so sad when I read people making excuses for such horrible behavior.


  10. Kudos for this. For personal reasons, I've been keeping mum on this topic, but I just want to reach out, hug you, and say a HUGE thank you. Really, this just makes my heart light. Thank you for sharing such an engaging piece on this subject.


  11. Yes, exactly. I know not everyone identifies as a feminist, but at least on the topic of rape (considering just the basic statistics that most rapists are men and most victims are women), I feel like there should be a united front. It boggles my mind that for so many people those simple statistics mean absolutely nothing.

  12. I know, those articles make me SO angry. It's so clearly women just trying to differentiate themselves from the "type" of women who are date-raped and they feed into all these bullshit myths. This topic is definitely one of the reasons I identify as a feminist.

  13. You're right, that's a good article. The mentalities rapists have, have to start early. Most rapists aren't strangers, and it seems so often the accused is that charismatic person with plenty of friends who thinks he can just take whatever he wants, whenever he wants. (And you know, I hate to say "he" but let's face it, rapists are primarily men)

  14. Haha, you had me at the Community reference. A couple of male coworkers (it's okay, we were friends) liked to call me that, so, hah, not ALL my friends.

  15. It really is sad. I think if I became a feminist activist, I would definitely want to focus on educating young women. It really upsets me that so many women have internalized that THEY are the problems, that their bodies are the problems. And that men can't help being "men." Honestly I don't know how the horrible stereotypes about men that rape myths are based on doesn't piss more non-feminist men off.

  16. Thank you, Sky. And I really just think it's women wanting to believe that there are wrong things you can do that will result in rape, but if you don't do those things you'll be fine. And it just feeds into horrible rape myths.

    And we should definitely remember that men can be raped as well and it's no less a concern. I didn't mention it in this post, because I wanted to specifically focus on women responding to other women.

  17. I'm glad you appreciated it, Codi! That means a lot.

  18. Yes, definitely look out for other women. And that quote really is a scary thought. You really have no idea of anyone's intentions, but that doesn't mean anyone should stop living their lives. I think it's so important to educate boys about consent. So often this conversation revolves around what women need to do to prevent rape as opposed to, well, going to the source. I think the world needs more mother's like you!

  19. Thank you, Sarah! It definitely makes me sad too. Rapists rape for their own sick reasons and victims hold absolutely none of the blame. But it's easier to say, "oh no it's the victim's fault" because the other alternative might actually require some social change.

  20. Thank you, Kate! I really appreciate your comment.

  21. That quote is so perfect, and this blog post is perfect.

  22. Thanks, Kate. And isn't that quote great? I've loved it since I first read it.

  23. I love Madeline Albright and even more so now after seeing that quote. As for the rest of your post, AMEN and SING IT SISTER.

  24. I'm sorry I missed this on Friday, but I'm standing and applauding you! I was so pissed off after reading Helene's post and I couldn't put anything into words that probably wouldn't be a rehash of what she said. You did it beautifully.

  25. Thank you, Gila! I've wanted to write on the topic for awhile and Helene's post was the perfect chance.