Category Archives: Rape Culture

Why telling someone “don’t get raped” only adds to the problem.

I grew up with the constant feeling of hyper vigilance and fear of being attacked. Not because I lived in a crime filled area, or because I was in a war zone, but because of what I was taught as a young child and young adult.

Women and trans men are raised with the notion that it is up to them to prevent their sexual assaults.

We’re told that men will attack us and rape us if we’re not careful, so we have to take extra precautions and always be on the look out for the evil rapist in the shadows. Unfortunately, we’re more likely to be sexually assaulted by someone we know and are close to than the evil stranger waiting in a dark alley. Not that that stops people from putting a gigantic grocery list of things we’re expected to do at all times, even if some of those things are contradictory to one another.

We’re essentially conditioned to believe that we are the only ones who can prevent our rapes, and that it is our fault if we were raped because we just weren’t vigilant enough. We’re told that teaching people to not rape won’t work, and that rapists will always be rapists, so it’s up to us to prevent our rapes.

I was raped in 2002, and when I went forward to report it, I was told I was lying because I didn’t match the proper victim profile. Even family members have told me that I’m lying because I’m willing to speak up and speak out about my rape.

Please note, this article is not saying that you shouldn’t be aware of your surroundings and take steps to remain safe. This article points out that time and time again, it is the VICTIM who is required to take all the steps to prevent their sexual assault, and if they don’t take every step, they are blamed in some way for their assault.

What we are telling cis women, trans women, trans men, and in some ways cis men, is to basically be just slightly less rapeable than the person next to them.

So what I am doing today, is providing you with just a fraction of the things women and trans men are told from a young age in regards to rape. See how many of them you’ve heard, or have said/believed yourself.

-Never have your hands full

-Always carry something in your hand that can be used as a weapon (keys, “self defense” device, pencil, etc)

-If you are getting into your car, don’t put your stuff in first and then get in, get in and pull your stuff in with you.

-If you are alone, don’t do anything that can distract you from your surroundings

-If you’re out and about, don’t listen to music with headphones or keep one ear off

-Don’t wear clothing that can provide “easy access”

-Certain types of clothing send the “wrong impression” (Halter tops, tube tops, belly shirts, spaghetti straps, short skirts/shorts, tight pants)

-Don’t wear shoes that you can’t run in safely (wear sensible shoes!)

-Don’t travel alone at night

-If you HAVE to travel alone at night, stay away from the buildings, walk in the street if you have to

-Lock your car doors the MOMENT you get in the car

-Do not do anything in your car such as making phone calls/checking items after you get in, this leaves the opportunity to be attacked

-Take self defense classes

-Shout “FIRE!” instead of “Rape” or “Help”

-Don’t fully face an unknown man if he approaches you and starts talking (keep your body positioned to “escape”), if you fully face him, you cut off some escape routes if he turns aggressive

-Don’t make eye contact with men you don’t know, this may be an invitation for them

-Travel in groups if you can

-If you can, travel with a man if you are going somewhere

-Don’t “look” like a target

-Don’t accept help from strangers, especially regarding cars or anything that could result in a kidnapping/rape (same with accepting help carrying groceries)

-Lock all your doors and windows, do not leave them open unless you have them blocked in some way (dowel, window locks)

-Install a security system

-Always let people know were you are at all times

-Don’t live alone

If you DO get assaulted: (These still make me sick)

-Try to resist, but if you can’t escape right away, become passive

-Do not resist if he has a weapon, be passive. When he is distracted with raping you, get the weapon away from him (he will probably discard it to have both hands on you) and then attempt to get away. Do not use the weapon on him.

-If you cannot do any of the above, and shouting for help won’t do anything LET HIM RAPE YOU and then when he is done, try to escape. (We were told our lives were more important, and that we could live through a rape)

For those who could drink:

-Don’t go out drinking, or if you do, do not leave your drink unattended

-Cover your drink with your hand when you’re not drinking

-Be the designated driver

-Go to clubs where it’s only women

-Don’t go clubbing

-Don’t drink more than one drink

-Don’t drink at all if you don’t know your alcohol limits

From my daughters:

-Don’t bathe regularly, if you are smelly they won’t want you

-Make yourself look ugly

-Be “slutty”, men don’t want to rape “used” women (holy fuck did this take years to deprogram)

-“I want to be a man, if I’m a man I can’t get hurt anymore”

On the topic of rape jokes and DV jokes

CW: Discussion of rape jokes, rape, domestic violence, and DV jokes.

Please note, this is being written by a survivor of both domestic violence and rape. This is not a blanket statement for ALL survivors, this is specifically speaking from the point of a survivor using dark/gallows humor to heal from traumatic events. 

EDIT: Yes, this can be viewed as a way of upholding rape culture, and can cause issues, but at the same time we need to focus on how people heal and how they overcome situations, not blanket responses to everything.

When I was first recovering from the horrors that my rapist put me through, I would have readily agreed with anyone who said that rape jokes aren’t funny. Just the word ‘rape’ was enough to send me into a panic. Hearing someone talking about sexual assault could leave me catatonic. I would even verbally attack people for using the word rape. It wasn’t until I chose to take control and take power over the words and concepts surrounding my rape that I began to heal. I had no real support, my family didn’t believe I was raped when I started becoming vocal about it, and people accused me of just making it up. All because I could talk about what happened to me. So what did I do? Did I shut up? Did I go silent, like people said a “real” rape victim would actually act like?


I started speaking out even more, I started working towards bringing attention to what happens to victims who were unable to successfully prove their rapes. I voiced my disdain for the authorities that believed they knew what a real rape victim would look and act like. I voiced my anger at their dismissal of my claims, I voiced my anger at those who shamed me and tormented me over the repeated sexual assaults I went through. I also started telling rape jokes. Yes, you heard me right. I started telling rape jokes. I also started using the word when I was gaming, talking about how the guy I just beat into the ground was raped by my sword. It was a way for me to heal and to distance myself from the trauma I had endured.

If you are someone who has gone through a traumatic event, and are looking for a way to heal that is a little less…drastic, I would suggest checking out the book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk M.D.

Now then, where were we? Ah yes, the rape jokes.

Before you go and clutch at your pearls in horror, let me explain something. I don’t just run out there and belt out rape jokes. I understand the concept of context. If I’m around people who I know won’t be comfortable with the jokes, I keep them to myself. I’m not going to walk into a support group for survivors and shout, “Who wants to play the rape game?” Do you know how many people I would have to dry hump if I did that? All of them would either shout “NO!” or freak out on me, and then I would have to play with all of them!

You see what I did there? Yes, I slipped a rape joke into my writing. I’m assuming that my audience would be able to understand that rape jokes would either appear or be talked about in this article due to the title! CONTEXT! As weird as it sounds, the jokes and taking over the word for my own usage helped me heal much faster and more effectively than the years and years of therapy that I went through. Perhaps it has to do with the chemicals my brain released when I made a joke that allowed me to stop viewing the topic with fear, and began being able to put little steps between myself and those events. I honestly don’t know.

I have used humor to heal many different times, and each time I’ve healed much faster than when I tried to keep a somber attitude. When I was trying to overcome the abuse I went through with my ex-husband and with a later ex-boyfriend, I joked about what happened; I put a humorous spin on the events.

“Well honey if you wanted the phone so badly you didn’t have to grab me by the hair and throw me to the ground, you could have just asked! Use your words, you’re a big boy!”

“Sure I’ll clean the house, take care of the newborn, cook dinner, and tend to my surgery site while you sit there and play video games , would you like me to slip into a little maid outfit with frilly panties as well?”

Granted, the humor was very sarcastic, but you can see how I started twisting events so that I could look at them with humor instead of pain and horror. But again, I’m not going to just go into a battered women’s shelter and start making these jokes, I look for the context of what is going on and who I’m dealing with. Sure, I could say fuck them and do what I want, but there are some things that I do like to be polite about….sometimes.

Ask them if they’ve ever laughed at an inappropriate joke.

So when someone tells you that rape jokes or jokes about domestic violence are never funny, no matter what the context, ask them why they feel that way. More than likely they will tell you something like how it spits on the victims of those crimes, how it belittles survivors. You know what you can ask them then? Ask them how many survivors they have discussed it with. Ask them if they’ve ever laughed at an inappropriate joke.

If they say they are a survivor and they don’t find them funny, then just leave it be, obviously they aren’t ready to distance themselves from the blanket of pain that they have wrapped themselves in. I can guarantee you though, that they have at some time laughed at what would be considered an inappropriate joke. If they say they never have, they are either lying or have been living under a rock their whole life.

Just because they don’t like the jokes that I tell, doesn’t mean that I should silence myself and stifle my way of healing. That is why I will continue to make the jokes, and why I will continue to use the terms and own them. It’s also why I will tell people who are complete assholes to bite the pillow, because baby, I’m going in dry tonight.


What can we do?

I wish that I could say that there is a simple solution to rape culture and the problem of rape and sexual assault on college campuses. I wish I could say that by simply telling people to respect others and to listen when someone says they’re not interested would fix the problem. I wish that simply holding athletes and those in power responsible for their actions and not letting them off the hook because they make the college money would fix the problem.

But wishing won’t get us anywhere.

With the rise of the Me Too hashtag on Twitter, and the push for survivors and victims to speak up about their sexual assaults, we are slowly seeing a change in the narrative surrounding sexual assault. Slowly the old myths and the usual push back from those who refuse to acknowledge the culture we live in are being undone by the sheer number of cases and people coming forward to speak up. While many of the people who committed the acts will never see a day in jail for their crimes, people are slowly learning that one day, it will all catch up to them.

So what do we do to fix the problem so we don’t have to play catch up when it comes to sexual assault?

The solution is two fold, we must work on educating and enforcing the laws and articles such as Title IX in schools, and we must begin education on consent and respect at an early age. While we are seeing tiny baby steps with working with adults, such as the formation of The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, which was formed in 2013, and students actively petitioning and protesting against sexual assaults on campus, it won’t fix the problem on its own.

So hear me out on this.

Most parents balk at the thought of teaching a child sex education, but the truth is that we begin teaching them the moment we start talking about their bodies. If we as parents and educators were to insist on using proper terminology for body parts while the child was a toddler, and we continue to reinforce the belief that if something doesn’t belong to you that you don’t touch it, we will begin to see progress in boundary respect and in how people interact with others.

When we’re little we’re told that if something isn’t ours, we aren’t to touch it without permission, correct?

When we’re little we’re told to keep our hands to ourselves when it comes to touching others, correct?

So what changes between the time we’re little to when we become adults? What happened to “if it’s not yours, don’t touch?”

What happened was that we taught our boys that it was ok to grab a girl’s hair, or to push her.. We taught girls that if a boy was mean to them or pulled their hair that the boy liked them. We began justifying bad behavior that we’d previously told them was wrong. We actively undo the rules that we set in place for our children and then wonder why they don’t follow the rules when they become adults. We teach boys that it’s ok to ignore a person who says “no” so long as the adults around them think it’s cute.

Yet then we turn around when they become of age and tell them what they’re doing is wrong!

Look at it from their point of view, they went from being treated like what they were doing was perfectly fine, but then the moment they turned 18 it became wrong again. How would you personally deal with that if you’d grown up that way? I bet you’d feel confused, possibly even like you’d been set up to be punished by some imaginary force (the Patriarchy!™) or by the evil feminists out there who are only out to punish men for some imaginary reason. They begin to buy into the belief that women only claim rape to ruin people’s lives, or as revenge. They gravitate towards the various “men’s rights” groups out there that tell them they’re not the ones to blame for their actions, they can’t help it that they want to do whatever they want to others or that they’ve been punished for things outside of their control.

If parents and the other adults around them simply kept consistent in their rules and in enforcing boundaries, many of the problems we’re seeing would most likely not exist. It would also remove many of the so-called “grey areas” surrounding sexual assault and rape. There are hundreds of different sites online that offer ways to teach children about sex and about bodily autonomy from a young age (as early as two in some cases), some of which I will list at the bottom for further reading, but every single one holds the same message:

Teach your children about their bodies, about privacy (boundaries included), touching, and age appropriate talk about sex.

The one thing that they all seem to ignore though, is the consistency needed to keep those lessons fresh and in place. As parents, we need to continue stressing the points we have taught, and to not fall back on harmful thoughts such as “if he hits you he likes you” or “boys will be boys”. As parents, we need to make sure that all children understand that they need to be respectful of others and to not assume that because they said yes once, that it will always be a yes.

We also as parents, need to respect our own children’s wishes. If a child doesn’t want to hug someone, then we shouldn’t force them, because that teaches them that their word of “no” means less than someone else’s. It makes us contradict ourselves, and teaches the children than no doesn’t always mean no (which then can lead to “they secretly wanted it!” excuses during a sexual assault case).

So, here’s what I propose:

  • We start teaching children early on about their bodies using proper terms (no “pee-pee” or “wee-wee” type words, but actual penis and vagina).

  • We teach and enforce the rule that if something doesn’t belong to you, you don’t touch it without permission.

  • We teach and enforce the rule that if you don’t want to be touched or to touch someone else, that you can say no and that it will be respected.

  • We teach children that if something does happen, that they can come forward and safely speak up about it to a trusted adult.

  • We STOP using excuses such as “boys will be boys” or excuses for assault such as “he doesn’t know how to show he likes you so he hits you”. There are no acceptable excuses for assault.

  • We make sure that adults receive “refresher” courses on consent and bodily autonomy.

  • We make it so that those who have been assaulted or harmed can come forward safely, regardless of sex, gender, orientation, race, or ethnicity. No more police judging them and turning them away at the door.

  • We make sure that those who need help can get help, through counseling, support services, etc, even if they never report their assault to authorities.

  • We actively work to ensure that male victims and survivors can come forward safely by breaking down the patriarchal lies about male rape victims.

While it will take a lot of work, we can turn things around and make things safer for students of all walks of life. Yes, crimes will still happen, but if we implement my proposed actions, we will not only see less of them, but the victims will be able to get the help they need instead of having to hide it from others and let it fester until it destroys them.

For further reading:

Sex Education:

Sex Education for Preschoolers

Age-by-age guide to talking to kids about sex

Toddlers and Sex Education

Sex education and talking about sex to children: 0-8 years

Sex education: Talking to toddlers and preschoolers about sex

Sexual Assault and Men:

Male Victims Of Campus Sexual Assault Speak Out ‘We’re Up Against A System That’s Not Designed To Help Us’

Male Survivors of Sexual Assault Bravely Share Their Stories In Project Unbreakable

Jason’s Story

For Male Survivors of Sexual Assault

Man tells his quite rare story of being raped by a woman

I Know Men Can Be Rape Victims Too

This story of a male rape survivor will shock you

Men and Rape

Captives recount boy rape in Sudan

Male Sexual Assault And Rape Survivors Reveal Why So Few Victims Come Forward

Matt – Because not all rape victims are females

The CDC’s Rape Numbers Are Misleading

What Happens After Men Get Raped in America

When Men Are Raped

A Male Survivor’s Story of Sexual Assault


Statistics about Sexual Violence

Victimes of Sexual Violence: Statistics

Prevalence, Incidence, andConsequences of Violence AgainstWomen: Findings From the NationalViolence Against Women Survey

Rape statistics

When Rape Culture Meets Reality:

An Unbelievable Story of Rape

Resources for Survivors:


Sexual Assault Victim Advocate Center

Safe Horizon

Those Standing in the Wings

While the focus when it comes to sexual violence both on and off campus has been predominantly on cisgendered women (and it has every reason to be, as they are the largest group targeted), far too often people forget that there are others out there. People often forget that transgender people are targeted at almost the same rates as cisgender women, with transgender men often being lumped in with cisgender women when it comes to statistics due to their assigned sex at birth. It is stated that approximately 25% of transgender people have been assaulted sexually after the age of 13, and many of these people are included within the one in five statistic of college sexual violence. What is more concerning however, is that within the LGBTQIA+ community, we see that gay and bisexual men are over ten times more likely to be the victims of sexual assault than their heterosexual counterparts.

If we look at that fact, coupled with the information stated in Kate Harding’s book, Asking For It on page 75 where nearly 2% of men in the US have reported being raped, and 20% report being the victim of some other sort of sexual violence, it leads us to question how many victims are simply staying silent out of fear or the stigma of being a victim of rape. The push for masculinity and to always be in power means that those men are forced to struggle between the perception that they are less of a man, or the stigma that they were too weak to be a “real man” and therefore they deserved the sexual assault.

For transgender men, it is even harder. We are forced to deal with constantly proving we’re men to those around us, and if we come forward to speak up about a rape, it only adds to the attacks against us.

“If you were a real man you wouldn’t have been raped.”

“A real man would have been able to fight off his attacker.”

“Perhaps you’re secretly wanting to still be a woman, that’s why you let him rape you.”

“If you look like a chick and you have a vag [sic] then you’re just asking for it hanging around all those guys!”

I wish I could say that these are all made up quotes, that they haven’t been said to myself or my friends. I wish I could say that transgender men are treated with dignity and respect among their peers. Yet unfortunately those are very real statements, and many of us who are survivors of sexual assault are forced to hide what has happened to us if for no other reason than to keep yet another piece of ammunition away from those who would wish to keep us “in our place” under them.

While the percentage of transgender, genderqueer, and nonconforming students is far lower than that of cisgender women or cisgender men, there is a frightening fact lurking just below the surface. The statement of one in five is often touted when it comes to sexual violence against cisgender (and as I stated, lumped in are often transgender men) women, and this statistic in and of itself is horrifying when we look at the success rates for prosecuting the victim’s rapists, but what is even more frightening is the percentage of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) students. According to RAINN, 21% of them have come forward to report having been sexually assaulted. As we already know from looking at other figures, this number is most likely lower than it actually is, due to many people either being afraid to report, unable to prove their sexual assault beyond a reasonable doubt, or in my case, not looking enough like what a victim should look like to even warrant an investigation.

So the question we are left with is this:

What do we do to not only help prevent or at least lessen the prevalence of sexual assault on cisgender women, but what more can we do to raise awareness for victims of sexual assault within the LGBTQIA+ community, especially those within the TGQN community?

What steps do we need to take so that victims can safely come forward and not just report their assault, but get the help that they need (counseling, medical services, etc) to help them heal after the event?

How can we work towards dismantling the stigma against both cisgender and transgender men that often prevents them from coming forward about their assaults?

I Shouldn’t Be Afraid, But I Am

My hands sweat as I readjust my keys, making sure they stick out between my fingers. I’ve done this since I started driving, the constant reminder of my parents that I could be attacked on my way to the car ringing in my ears. I don’t carry a purse, and my back pack is held in my hand instead of strapped to my back. I can feel my heart race as the light near my car flickers, I really should have parked in a better place, but I was in a hurry to get to class. It’s only after I open the door to my car, scurry inside, and lock the doors that I breathe a sigh of relief and feel myself begin to calm down.

It’s my first term here, and before I’d even completed my orientation I and the other new students had been given information on how to protect ourselves against sexual assault. Tips like traveling in groups, making sure people knew where you were at all times, taking some form of self defense training, things I’ve been told since I’d hit puberty. There was nothing new, except who to call should something happen. Some of the men around me, who don’t know I’m one of them due to my feminine body, scoffed and made jokes at the information, saying things like real men can’t get raped, or how if a man lets another man rape him, he’s secretly wanting it. They ignore the fact that almost 3 million men have been the victim of attempted or completed rape. Because the percentage of men who have come forward as victims of rape is so low, only around 3%, they don’t believe it could possibly happen to them.

When it comes to rape, people often focus on blaming the victim, even if they don’t mean to. If it’s a woman, she must have done something to deserve it. She didn’t take enough precautions (some of which I list herefor reference), she must have given her rapist mixed signals, or she just was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The other women around her were just more prepared than she was, and that was why she was assaulted.

If only she’d been more careful.

Men on the other hand, their rapes are often brushed off as “hazing”, or that they secretly wanted it. How else would that person have been able to rape them? If it was a woman who raped them, it must mean that they’re gay if they didn’t enjoy the sex. It couldn’t possibly be that they didn’t want to have sex and she forced him to do so against his will because men are stronger than women and he could have easily fought her off if he didn’t secretly enjoy it…right? Besides, women can’t rape men! They don’t have a penis to use! Rape only happens if you’re penetrated by a penis!

Yeah, that’s not how rape or sexual assault works, thankfully.

 In 2013 a new definition for rape was adopted by the FBI, replacing their old UCR definition, removing the requirement that rape only be possible if the victim was a female, and only via sex. The new definition stated, “Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” allowing for a much broader interpretation and allowance for men to be included as victims and survivors of rape. The problem though, is that very few men actually come forward after their assaults, due mostly to the belief that doing so means they’re weak and, like women have been taught their whole lives, they must have done something to deserve it. It was their fault after all, they should have been able to fight them off.

While rape is the most well known thing to be considered sexual violence, I can’t help but think back to the times when I’ve been groped, had people grab me without my consent, or grind against me to simulate having sex with me to show me how they “liked me.” I’m not the only one to deal with this, as most of us have been conditioned to brush off these events instead of coming forward. “Oh, he pulled your hair because he likes you!” rings through my ears when I think about how I was trained to believe sexual and physical assault meant affection and love. A man grinding against he means he likes me, and he wants to know me better. Someone grabbing my rear end means they think I’m cute. Having my breasts groped means I’m attractive, and if I fight back, I’m just some prude who (and I wish I was joking when I said this) “just needs a good dicking to fix” my problem. Apparently if I just didn’t fight back and allowed them to have sex with me, all my problems would be solved.

It turns out, being a man doesn’t remove the fears and paranoia I’ve been conditioned to feel.

Even though I am now out, and I dress and act like a man, even though my voice has dropped two octaves since starting hormones, I’m still constantly on edge as I travel about. I’m afraid that my dirty little secret will be discovered, that my private parts are still those associated with a woman.

If the men who have accepted me as a guy find out…will I become yet another victim? I’m still smaller than them, and even though I’ve taken self defense classes, and I refuse to drink alcohol or any form of drink offered to me, what if they drug me? What if it’s put in the food? What if more than one of them decides to join in?

All of these fears and more course through my mind whenever I’m out. I’m hyper vigilant, afraid of my own shadow when traveling in places with low light. I see others around me strolling along, and yet I am here just waiting for a bogeyman I know is statistically improbable to jump from the shadows and drag me off, just like I’d been taught would happen if I didn’t take every precaution possible.

I was taught to make sure I was less rapeable than the person next to me…