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The Atheist Academic VI: Where You Should Put Your Penis

Originally posted on School of Doubt — you can read The Atheist Academic columns on Saturday mornings, usually. 

Back in college, I was a volunteer rape crisis counselor. I had months of training, and I was on call for a few days a month. Basically, if a person (almost always a woman)  was sexually assaulted and went to the hospital, I went with her. If that person needed a legal advocate, I would go to court with her. Sometimes I would just talk on the phone with someone, letting them talk through their feelings. Once or twice, I arranged self-defense courses for people who needed to feel like they had more control of their lives.

This was ten years ago, and I remember being horrified at the culture in college where it was OKAY to rape someone. Think about that, for a minute. That it was fine for a guy to grab a girl and throw her down in the ground and put his penis in her. That it was unfortunate, but no huge deal, to take advantage of a drunk girl. I remember telling my grandpa – who I loved dearly – about what I was doing. He said, “Well, those college girls with their short skirts, they ask for it.”

People really think that way.

So, a lot has changed in the past ten years. I’m not around a college campus, so I don’t see weekly examples of sexual assault. But I DO write for a kick-ass website that’s part of a series of websites which empower women, and we send each other articles that may spark a discussion. And that’s how, just this past week, I came across two different articles which prove to me that rape culture is alive and well in our world.

First of all, there’s some serious shit going down in Canada. (<— I never thought I’d get to use that line!!!) There is a campaign from the Vancouver Police Department which urges men to not rape, and there are posters up around the city that have slogans such as, “Just because you help her home… doesn’t mean that you get to help yourself — Don’t be THAT guy” and “Just because she isn’t saying no… doesn’t mean that she’s saying yes”. They’re done really well, as you can see in this article. However, a group, Mens Rights Edmonton, has launched a counter-campaign, with phrases such as, “Just because you regret a one-night stand doesn’t make it consensual — Don’t be THAT girl”. Has my grandfather come back from the grave?

The whole situation is annoying. What is the point of these posters? Is it to promote victim-blaming? Is it to give more loopholes to the already tenuous trail of evidence to convict in rape cases? And, really, how many women actually LIE about being raped just because they regret the sex?

If you REALLY want to be mad, check out the comments section. People are assholes.

The other article I read that made me rethink my rose-colored glasses belief that everything is just fine in men/women relations was this brochure by the U.S. Air Force. The Air Force decided to tell women that if they were being raped, “it may be advisable to submit [rather] than resist”.

It also never instructs military personnel to NOT rape in the first place.

Again, what are people thinking? I don’t believe that there are many people who would actually say, “It’s okay to rape” or “Women should just let men have that they want.” HOWEVER. Our culture, in little ways, teaches boys that there are situations in which they are in charge, and that it’s okay to let their bodies take over.

Luckily, there is something that we, as educators, can do to minimize sexual assault. I would love to see more awareness in schools about how to NOT be a perpetrator of sexual assault and how to minimize the risk of being a victim. Secondary schools tend to ignore the fact that their students are having sex, which means that students aren’t getting direct instruction on how to have safe sex and why NO means NO. Young women — and men, for that matter — aren’t told about dating violence, and when to leave a relationship and ask for help. And why is that? I believe that it’s because we have too many religious protesters who apparently would rather see young people’s lives ruined by bad choices than see their innocent little 16-year old hear the word “sex”.

So, what do we do? Let’s teach the kids! Teach them that they can use their minds and not their hormones. Teach them that they should keep an eye on friends in group situations. Teach them that there’s no shame in saying “no”. Teach them that a short skirt doesn’t mean an invitation. Isn’t that the teachers’ jobs? Isn’t this just as important as the “Just Say No” drugs campaign? It’s time to teach real-life skills — and what a better place to start than with our bodies?

What do your schools do about teaching sex education? If you’re a parent, what do you think about that? If you’re a teacher, what is your view? How much does religion play a part in what is actually taught? And what can schools do better?


Tori Parker

Tori is a high school English teacher from Ohio (insert cheerleader kick here)! She is emphatic! She is skeptical! She is nifty! Her boyfriend says that they can get a potbellied pig someday and name him Bacon. She has a little boy whose pseudonym is SC, although he has recently asked that his name be changed to Henry. When asked for a comment to add on this bio, he asked, "Why do we sound like a bad '70's cop show?" So there's that.

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  1. I really do think that it is appalling that men have to be educated not to rape, not to grope, not to take advantage of a woman because she is drunk; but that is where we are as a society. Telling women to cover, to submit, to hide, to not flirt, to not go to bars by themselves, etc really hasn’t done much to correct the situation, has it? So, yes, we need to work on teaching young kids that they should respect others’ persons as much as they are taught to respect property.

  2. Practically, one of the things I think kids should be taught is how to advocate effectively for yourself if you are a victim of rape or for others who have been raped. One of the saddest things about rape is that people who take to the authorities are often slut shamed and marginalized by police, courts, and organizations within which the rape took place (say, corporations, government institutions, universities, etc.).

    I think if sex ed could include a week on rape victim advocation, it could really victims to speak up and for supporters to help them speak up & support them.

    1. And yes, teaching men NOT to rape is good, but I think it needs more than a few days of telling teenage boys in class that they’re not supposed to. It should really be an extended curriculum that really drills it in which includes things like victim help & advocacy and familiarization with the trauma of rape.

  3. And for the “what about the mens” types … really, learning how to respect others (or say “no”, or etc.) will also help men. Because it’s not as if men never get in situations where other men take advantage of the fact that they’re stronger, better connected, or whatever, to bully them, and even assault them – just because they can. (And for that matter, it’s also not restricted to men, it’s just more popular there, and in corporal conflicts the statistics are on their side.)

    This kind of thinking is poisonous all over. Rape is just (just?!) one consequence of many, though probably the most extreme of them. We should work to stop it long before it gets that far. The trick, of course, is first, figuring out what works, and then, convincing society to apply that all over. I think of it as “applying the scientific method to social problems” (as opposed to traditions, preconceptions, and superstitions).

    It’s not going to be easy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

  4. A couple of years ago my then 13 year old daughter came home upset about how sex ed was taught. The issue? Girls were told it was ok to say “no”, but they had to say it the right way. They were given examples of girls being pestered by an over-eager boy. One girl said no in a mean way, and that hurt his feelings. One girl was too passive and didn’t say no firmly enough, so it was her fault that he didn’t understand. And so on, except for perfect girl who said no just the right way. There was nothing presented to the boys on understanding and accepting “no”. There was nothing presented to either sex about the fact that girls might sometimes want to say yes, and that doesn’t make it ok to abuse them. Nothing but “just say no” and by the way, say it the right way or anything that happens is your fault, not his. And definitely nothing on what to do if your interests aren’t heterosexual. We live in a liberal town, and none of the other parents saw a problem with this.

  5. The most important thing one can do to teach men and boys not to rape is for parents to stop tickling or roughhousing at once when their toddlers or preschoolers stay “no” or “stop,” and then follow that up with enforcement of a No Means No/Stop Means Stop rule for children roughhousing together.

    My 14 year old asked me, spontaneously, whether this had been in part anti-rape education. When I said yes, he said “Wow, that was smart. Too bad [friend] didn’t get anything like that, cause I’ve had to talk to him about why consent matters and he doesn’t get it.”

  6. Ugh… Whole list of problems, all of them part of a stupid mix is post-puritanism, sex fear/hate, body image problems, fear of nudity, and just plain stupidity about dealing with members of the opposite sex. The same morons that go, “What about the men”, wouldn’t make it five minutes in, say, a nudity community, from what I have seen about them. Why? Because they wouldn’t be able to help themselves doing something stupid, and two minutes after they got their ass kicked out (and probably without their clothing), every place in the country would know not to let them in. If you can’t have it, some people will take it, if you are not supposed to give it up, then.. some idiots will think they need to take it, if you think nude = sex, then its not that far from, “dressed in something that doesn’t cover enough” = sex too. And, on, and on, and on.

    Every time this crap comes up I am reminded of a post on one of the nudist sites, about a bachelor party. The two women performers showed up, did their thing, along with all the hooting and hollering, then.. no one tried to fuck them, no one asked one of them to go home with them, no one grabbed their asses, or otherwise harassed them. No, they just finished, and got invited to stay, talk, share the food, and leave when ever they wanted, without being so much as propositioned.

    Try, even at a relatively “sane” party, never mind bachelor party, in the “real world”, and you would be lucky, in some places, to get out still clothed, and not covered in something, even if you showed up in a bloody suit of armor, and the man whose party it was happened to be your own brother. The contrast between the way most of society thinks of this BS, and the way people that don’t fear sex, don’t fear nudity, don’t see taking clothing off, or dressing the wrong way, as provocation, its just insane. And that there are people, including some self claimed “evolutionary psychologists”, who are making excesses for this being “normal” for humans, its just… gah!!!

    Anti-rape education? Maybe the bloody problem that needs to be addressed is how, where, and why they are getting pro-rape education?

  7. Maybe it’s because I’ve always had female friends, but I never thought about women as objects. Perhaps dividing kids activists up into boys and girls makes it easier for many boys (and men) to think of women as strange and incomprehensible. I think (a surprise to many) above has a great idea about toddlers and playing too rough being a gateway to non means no
    One reason I think religious people have women’s rights issues is that the bible was written in and about a very male dominated time. Rape is never forbidden, and even God’s chosen people rape the women of defeated armies. Life would be a lot easier if Jesus had mentioned that women are people just like men and should have all the same rights.

  8. Good job, lady! I totally agree – this idea that kids should learn about dating and sex from television and other teenagers is a recipe for bad decision making.

  9. Regarding the AF pamphlet, I am going to use a banana analogy to highlight the absurdity. Let us say you have a problem with individuals leaving banana peels on the floor, get this *at work*. A good manager would probably not consider putting out a pamphlet suggesting how best to step around them. They would probably get after the monkey dumping peels on the floor and fire them because unless you are at the zoo that is completely uncalled for behavior! Enter the military, replace banana peels with raping people and well there you go. Hey military leaders, dismiss the monkeys and send them to the zoo. I can’t even believe this has to be a conversation.

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