Rape literacy: words and ideas you should know

By Rosemary McClure ‘13Editor-in-Chief

TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual assault



Sexual assault: Any sexual act committed without consent. Includes, but is not limited to: rape or attempted rape, sexual violence, unwanted touching, verbal harassment, someone watching or photographing you in sexual situations, someone exposing him/herself to you.

Consent: Voluntary agreement to an action based on knowledge of what that action involves. Person consenting must have the option of saying no. Consent can be withdrawn at any point. Note: intoxicated, underage, and certain mentally disabled individuals cannot give meaningful consent.

Enthusiastic consent: “Yes means yes” rather than “no means no.” The idea that consent should be given to each piece of sexual activity. Consent to one activity (such as vaginal penetration) does not indicate consent to another (such as vaginal penetration without a condom). An unsure or hesitant “yes” is not consent. The absence of “no” is not consent.

Rape culture: A culture that normalizes, excuses, condones, tolerates, or trivializes sexual violence. Leads to the belief that sexual assault is inevitable. Includes jokes, media, images, laws, jargon, advertisements, and practices that foster contempt for victims and their well-being. Example: deterministic evolutionary biology arguments that explain away rape as an “adaptation” for men who would not be able to spread their seed consensually. Barf.

Victim blaming: Suggesting that victims of sexual assault can provoke rape, especially by “tempting” rapists. Perpetuates rape culture. Common tactic used by rape apologists to promote the myth that victims, not rapists, are responsible for rape and rape prevention. Example: “How was he supposed to know? Did you see what she was wearing?”

Slut shaming: Degrading or mocking a woman who engages in sexual activity that violates patriarchal gender expectations. This activity includes: having sex, enjoying sex, acknowledging or acting on sexual feelings, having one or more sexual partners, or being rumored to engage in any of these activities. The classic double standard.

Domestic violence/Patriarchal home violence: Violence in the home based on the belief that it is acceptable for more powerful individuals to control others through the use of force. Includes hetero- and homosexual intimate partner violence as well as adult/parental violence against children.

Rape kit: A set of tools used by medical personnel to collect evidence (such as DNA) that can be later used in court—if the victim chooses to report.

Internalized sexism: The involuntary internalization by women of the sexist messages present in patriarchal culture. The way in which women reinforce sexism by utilizing and relaying sexist messages that have been internalized. Leads to: self-loathing, self-alienation, irrational competition with other women, blaming oneself or one’s group members for one’s oppression.

Sexual objectification: Representing or treating a person as an object (a non-thinking thing that can be used however one likes) that serves another’s sexual pleasure.