Rape, Regret and Responsibility

Originally published December 2014

If nothing else, Lena Dunham is a conversation starter.

Full disclosure—”Not That Kind of Girl” remains on the bucket list. I just haven’t had the time to devote to it yet, but I would like to read it. I think Dunham is an insightful, if not polarizing voice, and offers spectacular commentary on the generation that feels sandwiched between that of mine and my 13-year-old daughter.

I have, however, read some of the released excerpts about a sexual experience-gone-south in college which she now describes as an assault. And it’s in the news again, as her perp, “Barry” was misidentified by amateur sleuths and the media, set to out the purported douchebag and hold court in the press. Subsequently, “Barry #1” has supposedly lawyered up and future printings of Dunham’s memoir will spell out that “Barry” is a psuedonym.

This, on top of critics wanking on the most recent episode of “The Newsroom” which also deals with college rape and the—God Forbid—notion that someone is innocent until proven guilty. In this fictional setting, a news producer asks an alleged rape victim to turn down his request to appear on air because he isn’t in favor of her anonymous website allowing victims to speak out, in fear it will be used to falsely accuse someone.

Back in the day, rape controversy-slash-discussion was kickstarted by the “The Accused,” a Jodie Foster movie based on a real gang rape in a bar. The premise was the victim asked for it because she was scantily-clad. And when I went to college? Freshman females were brainwashed into never walking alone in the dark. So much so, I still get creeped out walking in the neighborhood park across the street. And trust me, no one was giving that speech to the guys.

But in that same day and age, there was NO discussion about assault in cases where the victim is friendly with the aggressor. No. In our 18- and 19-year-old minds, rape was limited to being jumped walking home from the library at night—a man jumping out of the bushes and putting a knife to our throat. Rape was never the guy who sweet-talked you in the bar until you agreed to go home with him, only to commit acts you really didn’t want to do, but did because, you know, this guy may really call you the next day. You did them, because, well, you did dance with him and drink with him and he walked you back to your dorm room, so it’s only polite, right?

So what of my daughter, now coming of age? Do I freak her out? Do I tell her that what she wears sends a signal? Do I damage her trust in men before she’s even been kissed by a boy?

Of course not. But here’s what I will tell her:

  • Unwanted attention is just that—unwanted. Never be afraid to tell a guy to fuck off.
  • Your self-esteem is in no way connected to men. It’s about you. And only you.
  • No one has the right to touch you without your explicit permission.
  • There is a difference between rape and regret. Just because you went home with a guy after a night at the bar and had crappy sex does not give you license to call it an assault. In some cases, it really just is regrettable sex. The silver lining is that regrettable sex makes it easier to recognize really good sex. Just be safe, damnit.
  • Should you be able to walk across campus in your underwear and not get touched? Of course. Is that a responsible decision? Probably not. The old business adage about dressing for the job you want, not the one you have, applies here too. If you want to be noticed for your brain and not your breasts, then consider how much your tatas are hanging out when you head out.
  • Make smart choices. Assault is always unacceptable, but that doesn’t mean you should be careless with your actions. Party with friends. Don’t let a guy you don’t know handle your drink. Never take a pill. Stranger danger isn’t just a kindergarten rule. Let a friend or a roomie know where you are at all times.
  • You are in charge of your own destiny. Don’t give a guy the power to determine your self-worth. You, my daughter, are the most amazing young lady I know. Own it. The man, men … whatever …you choose to be intimate with should earn your respect and be humbled to be with you, not the other way around.

I usually blather about books. Like to read? Need a good suggestion? Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s