Most of you, by now, have probably heard about the disgusting Cosmo article about “gray rape” that was published in this month’s issue. For those of you who haven’t, the term is one made up by anti-feminist (though she would probably deny the descriptor) author Laura Session Stepp, who thinks that some rapes fall into a “gray” area where it’s impossible to tell if a woman consented or not. First of all, that’s bullshit, because if you didn’t see or hear her consent, she didn’t. Secondly, Sessions Stepp blames these types of rapes on the female victims, for being too sexually forward or drinking too heavily. What’s more, all of the women in the article in Cosmo, clearly said no. The fact that the women were drinking in no way makes that no any less valid.
My letter and Cosmo‘s response after the jump.
When it comes to “gray rape,” there is no such thing. There is only rape. Date rape is rape. Rape when the woman is drunk is rape. Rape when the woman cannot remember everything is rape. No means no. A lack of a clear “yes” means no. The inability to consent, due to severe intoxication or unconsciousness means no. All of these things are rape, even if you sleep around, or go to parties, or drink a lot. Rape is rape.
Acting as though rape is a blurry line is not only offensive, but highly irresponsible. How many women who have been raped under these circumstances opened up your magazine to see you blaming them for what was done? How many pressed charges, only to see an article saying that they shouldn’t have? How many rapists have ruined good lives and walked free, only to be excused as decent guys who don’t deserve to be called the rapists they are by a women’s magazine? I am disgusted, and you should be, too.
You not only need to print a letter like mine. You also need to publish a strong worded apology and retraction. To [sic] many rapes occur in this country already. Too many men are rapists. Too many rape victims blame themselves. Stop adding to the problem and setting women’s rights back decades.
We received your letter of concern regarding our September story “A New Kind of Date Rape” and want to address what seems to be a misunderstanding. Cosmopolitan did not invent the term gray rape. The phrase emerged when the author of our article, Laura Sessions Stepp, was researching a book on today’s hookup culture.
In fact, the words were used by women who were left confused after a sexual encounter they were not one hundred percent sure they had consented to and by women who had known friends who were similarly confused. The confusion, many of these women admitted, was the result of having been under the influence of alcohol at the time of the encounter. Our article endeavored to help victims in these situations make sense of their ordeal, explain their avenues of recourse, and offer advice on how women can prevent so-called gray rapes from happening.
Cosmopolitan has a long history of covering the topic of sexual assault and, more important, of being an advocate for victims. Linda Fairstein, a former Manhattan sex-crimes prosecutor of 25 years, is a regular contributor to our pages. She and other rape experts applaud Cosmopolitan’s efforts to keep our readers educated about such difficult issues as sexual assault.
The Editors of Cosmopolitan
Here’s the thing. I’m impressed by the fact that I received any response at all. I write letters like this one all of the time, and 19 out of 20 times, I get nothing in return (except for maybe an automatic receipt). It took them a week, but they got back to me.
But I’m really fucking insulted that someone actually took the time to read my letter and then respond to it with this insulting tripe. I mean, seriously, if you’re going to be an asshole, just ignore the letter completely. Please.
I also love the condescension of assuming that it’s a “misunderstanding.” No, you fuckers, actually, I know that you didn’t make up the term, but the fact that you printed a whole damn article about it without any form of criticism means that you promoted it, and you are ultimately responsible for what’s in your magazine. I don’t care if that’s what the women called it. If women are going around saying “it was kind of rape,” we should be doing a better job of educating women, not printing their sadly uninformed statements as truth.
I plan on emailing them back to tell them as much. I know that mine is far from the only letter that they’ve received. There’s a whole campaign going, and I encourage you to participate if you haven’t already. I think that this flippant response gives us every right to go no holds barred on their asses. And if there are any further developments, rest assured that I will let you know.