In its focus on rape culture, contemporary feminism has encouraged victims of rape or sexual assault to share their stories. These stories aim to reveal that rape does not always have to be violent or predatory, that perpetrators are often people we are familiar with, and that rape occurs more often than we’d like to think. This week, a Reddit user reoriented the discussion of rape culture by posting a thread asking rapists to share their stories. The thread was titled: “Reddit’s had a few threads about sexual assault victims, but are there any redditors from the other side of the story? What were your motivations? Do you regret it?”.
This thread began a slew of comments and commentary that questioned the effects of allowing rapists to anonymously share their stories of committing rape and sexual assault. The thread itself is very disturbing, including comments from people who begin their stories with, “I don’t think this was rape but…”. Many posters expressed feelings of remorse or confusion about what they did wrong. Others explained clear stories of rape or assault surrounded by justifications of why it was okay. There were stories from intentional, serial rapists, and stories from those just now realizing that they may have sexually assaulted someone.
Internet users have had mixed reactions to the thread and its usefulness as a resource for change. Many feel that the anonymity afforded by Reddit is too much of a kindness to self-admitting rapists, and that it is disrespectful to their victims to share the story of their assault for the whole world to see. Others feel that the only use for the thread would be to track down the identities of these users and make sure they are prosecuted for their actions.
The above concerns are valid. Victims should be morally, socially, and legally considered above their attackers. It makes me rather uncomfortable that many of these posters continue to live their lives, walk the streets, and work in our communities after knowing they have committed such a crime. However, Jezebel thinks that there are reasons to listen to rapists, and I agree. Here are the most important things that I learned from Reddit’s stories from rapists:
1. Sexual Education needs to stress consent, consent, consent.
The number of Reddit posters who had created their own definitions of rape, assault, and consent was astounding. The number of commenters who told posters: “That isn’t really rape,” was offensive. All of this vague language regarding sex and consent could easily be solved by early, comprehensive, and sex-positive sexual education. People need to understand that just because someone has not said “no,” does not mean they have given consent. Consent is active, enthusiastic, and positive. Not neutral, not passive, not “not fighting back”.
2. Alcohol and drugs make consent more complicated.
This is not to say, “Don’t ever mix drugs/alcohol with sex,” because that is both unrealistic and pretty much impossible. It is only to say that getting consent while drunk/high is a whole different level– for consent experts only. Many of Reddit’s rapists’ stories included hazy cases of consent where the victim and/or rapist were intoxicated . For more information about alcohol/drugs and sex, see the below video by YouTuber Laci Green.
3. Speaking up about rape and sexual assault is important– from both sides.
Rape only happens because somebody decides to rape somebody else. Whether or not that decision is made by someone who is informed about what rape means is up to us. As I stated above, consent must be stressed above all else in our sexual education. Rapists must be held accountable legally, morally, and socially. I will leave you with this comment from Redditor mrrrrrow:
I would just like to post a plea to the people here who have expressed remorse – even if you don’t feel like you can apologise to your victim, you can still do a lot of good. Please speak to the next generation. There are young people and teenagers growing up right now who will make the same mistakes. We have the most appalling attitude towards sex education in general, but boys and girls need to know that ‘stranger rape’ is not the most common form of rape. They need to know that these situations do happen.
Tell the young men1 in your life your story (sanitised as much as seems necessary). Tell them how your situation arose, why you kept going without consent, what it meant to you afterwards, how you’ve come to your position of remorse. Ask them how they would feel if that was their sister, friend, mother, and to remember that every girl2 is someone’s sister, friend, daughter.
If you can, go into schools and colleges and tell your story. Contact self-defence and sexual assault prevention groups for help on outreach.
Although some of the posts in this thread are beyond what I can bring myself to read, I do think that the conversation needs to happen. The only way to truly prevent rape is to teach people not to rape.
1 I acknowledge that not all rapists are men, but they overwhelmingly are. And obviously not all men are rapists.
2 Ditto not all victims are women
Author’s Note: I apologize for the lack of updates; I have taken the past week to get acclimated to my new position as a Social Media/Publicity Intern for an awesome website called A Mighty Girl. If you follow A Mighty Girl’s Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest, you’ll be seeing lots of my behind-the-scenes work!