An Open Letter to the Rapey Frat Brother and the “How to Get Laid” Generation

I published this piece over at the Good Men Project this week, and it’s been blowing up!  Since then, it’s been republished at the Huffington Post, and I have recorded a CNN iReport on the subject that’s had almost 40,000 views.  Plus, HLN’s Raising America asked me to record another video!

It’s incredibly exciting to see this message of consent and sex positive relationships getting so much positive attention.

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My brother,

I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt.

I’m not sure you deserve it, and a lot of people are going to give me hell for it, but I’m going to try. Because when you wrote the email “Luring your Rapebait” to your Georgia Tech fraternity brothers at ΦKT, you touched on something much bigger than yourself.

You touched on a problem we see in masculinity and party culture on every single college campus.

It’s ironic. In the email you expressed the exact cognitive dissonance that I see with college men I work with all over the United States: You explicitly said, “NO RAPING.” Yet everything you described encourages rape!

So it makes me wonder: Have we sent you that many messed up messages about sex, consent, rape, “blurred lines,” partying, and alcohol that you don’t actually know what is and isn’t rape?  

Have we, as the men in your life, taught you that many terrible messages about masculinity that you honestly think this is how men are supposed to act in order to get laid?

Have we sent you that many messed up messages about your own self worth and the personhood of women that you think it’s actually normal and acceptable to refer to women as rapebait (or any other terrible, objectifying term) when you think you’re only talking to your brothers?

If the answer to any of these questions could even possibly be a “yes”, then I have a responsibility as your brother to offer you some perspective.

Again, I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt, and despite what your letter tells me, I am going to assume that you don’t actually want to rape anyone – if not because you value the personhood and autonomy of your sexual partners then because you don’t want to be expelled, go to jail, and register as a sex offender for the rest of your life.

♦◊♦

So let me throw out an absolutely crazy idea: if you actually want to “get laid,” and you want your sex to be inany way better than a sloppy drunk encounter that may actually be sexually assault, forget about your 7 E’s of Hooking Up.

Instead, consider the 7 A’s of Hooking Up:

  1. Ask – See someone at the party that you’re interested in?  Ask her a bit about herself (or him about himself – no need for heteronormativity here, but I will use the female pronoun since your letter seemed pretty focused on female “rapebait”).  Get to know her a bit.  And do so genuinely.  I promise – should your night end with a hookup, your sex will be a hell of a lot better if you’ve talked and felt out the chemistry.
  2. Ask – Ask your newfound friend if they’d like to come with you to go get a drink.  Don’t offer to get a drink for her, as there are some really messed up people out there (of which you’re not one, right?) who would drop something in someone’s drink. If she doesn’t want a drink, no need for “aww, that’s no fun” – sometimes sober sex is the best sex.
  3. Ask – Ask her if she’d like to dance.  If she doesn’t, see if she’d like to play a game like bags or just hang out and talk some more. If she does want to dance, don’t do that creepy “rub your penis against their ass” b.s. that you described. I promise that showing off your ability to actually dance is going to a lot further in impressing her than grinding against her like a dog in heat. Then, if you want to grind a bit,ask!  A simple, “Is this alright?” can suffice.  Also, don’t just run your hands all over her body without her permission. Check in. I promise, asking is sexy.
  4. Ask – As the night progresses, if you have some chemistry and are getting along, ask her if she’d be interested in leaving with you. If she’s not, respect that. If she is, great! Just don’t assume that means you’re getting laid.
  5. Ask Ask where she’d like to go – her place? Your place? Out on a date another time when you’re both more sober and can appreciate each other’s company a bit more?
  6. Ask – If it looks like you might hook up, make sure you check in along the way. Ask if you can kiss her. Ask if you can remove your clothing or hers. Ask.  I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Consent doesn’t have to be plastic and boring. The single sexiest question someone can be asked is, “Tell me what you want.”  Not sure how to make asking sexy? Check out this article.
  7. Ask – So you’ve hooked up.  Maybe that means you just made out all night.  Maybe you had oral or you “went all the way” (whatever that means). Rather than being a creep (“Expunge, send them out of your room and on their way out when you are finished”), consider this: Sex gets better over time with every single partner. The more you know each other’s bodies, the more you and your partner will know what will make for mind-blowing pleasure. Ask what they’d like in the future. Be honest, and let her be honest. Not really feeling something long-term? Say so. Really like her and want to pursue a relationship or at least a date or two? Communicate that. And respect what she wants.

Follow the 7 A’s of Hooking Up, and I promise your sex will be better and you and your partner will have a much better night. Oh, and you won’t rape anyone.

One last thing. If you’re interested in throwing parties where every person has an amazing time, where those who want to hook up can meet someone, and where sexual violence is not the end result, let’s have a conversation about sex-positive party culture.

I want to see you and all of my brothers and sisters have the kind of amazing, mind-blowing, sex positive experiences that are possible if we leave behind this toxic, rapebait bullshit.

In Sex Positivity,

Jamie

Preventing Sexual Violence – Rethinking Lisak & Miller

My friend Dave and I have a unique connection. Both of us work with young men in the effort to build more inclusive, less violent understandings of masculinity.  As a former sexual assault survivor’s advocate and someone who travels the country to talk to young people about healthy sexuality (among other subjects), I value the opportunity to talk to men like Dave, who regularly works with middle school or high school boys and men to re-envision masculinity.  I was anxious to get Dave’s opinion about a controversial subject I’ve been mulling over for a while: the oft-cited Lisak & Miller 2002 study.

Me: “Do you think it’s possible that 96% of rape is committed by 4-8% of men?

Dave: “It just doesn’t seem possible! Nearly every single man is brought up in a culture where we are taught to objectify, speak disrespectfully about, and sexualize women.  I, like many young men, learned about sex from porn and locker room culture.  How can someone be conditioned in this way and not be a risk for committing sexual violence?  We are not taught how to have responsible, healthy sexual relationships!  When I was young, I literally couldn’t conceive of a respectful sexual encounter because I had never seen one.  Until I was mentored to understand a more non-violent masculinity, I very well could have hurt a woman in a way that we would describe as sexual violence, though no particular memory comes to mind.  Until we teach young men how to understand sex through the lens of communication and non-violence, we won’t stop the problem of rape.”

Much has been said about the Lisak & Miller 2002 study (and Predator Theory in general), particularly in the wake of the “Nice Guys Commit Rape Too” piece at Good Men Project and the subsequent criticism, most notably over at Feministe.  In particular, many have argued that it’s impossible for someone to commit rape without setting out or intending to do so because, in the words of David Lisak, “the vast majority of rapes are perpetrated by serial offenders who, on average, have six victims. So, this is who’s doing it.”  This has left me unsettled, so over the past few weeks, I have spent a lot of time reading and rereading the Lisak & Miller study and the work that uses it to extrapolate the number of men actually committing rape.

My conclusion? Lisak & Miller and all of the studies they cite (as well as the McWhorter study cited in the phenomenal piece by Thomas Macaulay Millar at Yes Means Yes) are vitally important for understanding and isolating the “undetected rapists” who are committing a tremendous number of rapes.  As Millar points out, “We need to revoke the rapists’ social license to operate.”  We must change the culture of our social spaces, our parties, our relationships (particularly men’s relationships with men) so that those committing the kinds of rape discussed in the scholarship of Lisak & Miller have the rug pulled out from under them.

end%20rape%20logo

In the words of my friend Sara, a former career sexual violence prevention specialist and survivor’s advocate, “It’s really important to think about the historical significance of Lisak’s work. He was doing this work back when ‘date rape’ was a new word and the common belief was that rapists were in the same category as psychopaths and murderers. The idea that a seemingly ‘normal’ man would prey upon women in social settings was a BIG deal for people that worked in victim services.  His study gave a voice to women who had been assaulted by men like the ones he interviewed and gave law enforcement a broader picture of who perpetrates rape. This was a big step in our understanding about the power and control dynamics of rape.”

That said, does the Lisak & Miller 2002 study (and similar research) describe all of sexual violence?  No.  Are there forms of sexual violence that are not and could not be captured by the study and the others that support its claims?  Definitely.  And to ignore this fact is tremendously dangerous, particularly if those who are adhering so closely to the findings of Lisak & Miller are the ones doing the daily, on-the-ground work to end sexual violence.

Limitations of Lisak & Miller 2002

“Several limitations of this study bear mention . . . Because of the nonrandom nature of the sampling procedures, the reported data cannot be interpreted as estimates of the prevalence of sexual or other acts of violence” (Lisak & Miller 2002).

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Listening is the Root of Justice

So . . . Keep an eye out for a video blog I’ll be posting later today, but in the mean time, someone asked me to repost a piece I had published in Good Men Project on Change From Within, so here ’tis:

Listening is the Root of Justice

Reflections on Listening, Privilege, and Twitter Conversations

Talking about identity, power, privilege, and oppression are hard enough when we have unlimited characters in which to conduct the discussion.  In turn, why so many (including myself) decide to have these tough conversations over Twitter is beyond me, but it happens.  Recently a highly-publicized conversation took place on Twitter between The Good Men Project founder Tom Matlack and some feminist and anti-racist women and men concerning the language and perspectives Tom had taken in some pieces here on GMP.

The majority of the conversation related to feminism, male privilege, and the concept of being a male ally, and the conversation inspired such controversy, that much publishing has been done in its wake (see here, here, here, and here as a place to start).  However, a small strain of the conversation related to a comparison Tom made between black men being overrepresented in prisons and a piece Hugo Schwyzer published explaining why it’s understandable for men to be “guilty until proven innocent” when it comes to rape.

Race scholar Sarah Jackson took issue with his comparison and tried to engage in a discussion with him about why the analogy is problematic.

If there’s anything we White folks are good at, it’s getting defensive when we think we’re being called racist, and we’re especially good at getting defensive when we’re told that we may, in fact, be benefitting from White Privilege.

In reading through the Twitter conversation, I had to stop here for a minute because this hit a little too close to home.  In my attempts to become an ally to Women, People of Color, LGBTQ folks, and other traditionally-marginalized identities, I’ve definitely messed up – A Lot.  One of the hardest things for me in attempting to build ally relationships, then, has been to hear that I’ve messed up and not simply get defensive and retreat into my privilege.

A professor of Color in college once told me, “The best thing you can learn to do if you want to be an ally is realize that you’re going to fuck up, and you’re going to do it a lot, so you will need to learn to apologize with honesty and a true desire to change.  Then don’t get hung up . . . move forward and do better.”

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CFW’s 2011 Year in Review

After spending a little time this morning going through my blog and looking back over some of what I had written this year, I thought it would be fun to do a little recap of my top posts from the year.

Thus, without further ado, here are

The Top Posts of 2011 from Change From Within

10. The tenth most visited post that I authored in 2011 was one I wrote after visiting the Sand Creek Massacre Memorial in southeastern Colorado – Cultural Amnesia: The Sand Creek Massacre.  Though it is perhaps easiest to forget that we live on the lands of a genocide, we must never forget what has happened in our own back yards.

9.  The 9th most popular publication that I wrote in 2011 was in response to the oh-so-common idea espoused among White folks that because of the election of Barack Obama, we now live in a post-racial society.  I posit, though, that Post Racial = More Covert in Our Racism.

8.  The 8th post popular post on my site was also the most popular post among our White Supremacist buddy over at Unamusement Park who decided to hijack the comments section for his White Supremacist ramblings. The blog, though, was a reposting of a profound piece by Ewuare Xola Osayande in a critique of Tim Wise (and other White Anti-Racist activists such as myself).  On White Anti-Racist Activists by Equare Xola Osayande

7.  Coming in at number 7 is one of my posts that was republished at the Good Men ProjectMy Take On Sex was a response to a young man who was interested to hear my perspective on sex and relationships, as he couldn’t find many perspectives outside of the Christian one he heard in his church community.  The comments section also turned into a rousing debate on abortion, a debate that is still continuing.  I would love to see some comments from more of my readers!

6.  Rounding out the latter half of the Top 10 is a piece that ruffled some feathers locally and got some national traction in the #Occupy movement.  Occupy Denver has a Race Problem criticized the local iteration of the #Occupy movement in its lack of responsiveness to the needs of communities of color.  It posited that if Occupy Denver doesn’t work to be more inclusive, it will quickly become irrelevant, something I fear is happening.

5.  The 5th most popular post on Change From Within in 2011 is one that still saddens me incredibly.  It was my last-minute plea to join in the multitude of voices trying to stop the execution of Troy Davis.  Injustice Anywhere: Stop the Murder of Troy Davis called on my readers to join in the activism that ultimately failed to save the life of a man who was convicted of a murder he very likely didn’t commit.

4.  The 4th most popular post was another repost blog from White Anti-Racist activist Tim Wise that I posted right before attending the White Privilege Conference in Minneapolis, MN.  Tim Wise and White Privilege reposted one of Wise’s pieces where he critiques the racism often present on the American Left.

3.  It’s notable that the 3rd most visited post I authored in 2011 was only written on the 1st of December, and it holds the record for the most single-day hits on Change From Within.  Profitable Objectification: The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show problematizes the perspective from which the “fashion show” is presented and how this can not only affect women’s body image but can drastically impact the way that men see women.

2.  The second most visited blog that was published on Change From Within in 2011 addressed the issue of immigration and the English-Only movement in the U.S..  Speak American” – Multilingualism and the English-Only Movement looked at the ways that English-Only as a mindset and policy is not only unconstitutional but actually works to the detriment of the United States and its citizens.

1.  Finally, the single most popular blog post of 2011 was authored January 26, 2011.  It’s Not Just Rap – Misogyny in Music looks at the way that violent misogyny is not a problem solely in rap music, as often asserted, but is actually simply a problem in MUSIC.  From Kanye West to Avenged Sevenfold, from NoFX to Trace Adkins, misogyny is rampant in our music culture, and it’s time for us to do something about that!

Thank you to all my readers for helping to make 2011 such an incredibly successful year at Change From Within.  I look forward to what 2012 will bring, but in the mean time, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Did your favorite post not make the list?  Feel free to post in the comments!