This weekend, the call for women (sic, originals post was problematically gendered) to post “me too” on their Facebook page to indicate they had been a victim of sexual harassment or rape. The idea behind this was to demonstrate how widespread these issues are. Fine. Lots of people posted “me too.” Even more people felt demoralized by the number of people they know who had experienced sexual harassment and assault.
The problem is, there was no clear call to actions to change this in the future. Without clear, coordinated, and concerted efforts to move from rape culture to consent culture, in ten years nothing will have changed because of this.
Here are 10 things you can do today to stop protecting rapists and people who sexually harass others:
Stop voting for politicians who brag about rape and sexual assault.
Read Ask: Building Consent Culture by Kitty, Queen and Penny. This book provides a great guide to how to create a consent culture.
Implement the steps in Ask.
Demand that consent be a mandatory part of sex education in your child’s school.
Demand that judges who promote rape be removed from the bench.
Believe people when they tell you they were raped or assaulted. Quit demanding they prove the validity of their statement by recounting their trauma in detail for you.
Demand that the processing of rape kits in your state receive adequate funding to do this in a timely manner.
Call out your buddies when they brag of assaulting or raping people.
Quit making rape jokes.
Demand we create a national safe word.
Stop electing people who brag about assault and rape. It is pretty simple to vote for the candidate who isn’t a rapist. They may not be your first choice, but putting someone who acknowledges they have assaulted or raped someone in power empowers more people to rape.
Read Ask: Building Consent Culture. We have needed a guide for creating consent culture. Now we have one. The link about takes you to the Amazon page for the book. Buy it. Read it.
Implement the suggestions for Ask. Once you read the book you will have the basic tools to make a difference in your workplace, schools, and politics. Use these tools. If you just read the book and post on social media, that isn’t enough. We need systematic change. We need everyone to do this lift together to make systematic change.
Demand that consent is taught in sex education. America’s sex education leaves so, so much to be desired (pun intended). A large majority of states do not require sex education in high school An even larger majority do not require that sex education be medically accurate. Only two states, CA and NY, require that the idea of affirmative consent is taught.
The laws in both NY and CA for teaching affirmative consent leave a lot to be desires. You can read my commentary on the CA law here. However, they do provide a structure for other state laws to build on and improve. Understanding consent starts early. Requiring children understand their bodies belong to them and they have the right to protect it has to begin at a young age. It does not require teaching kindergartners about sex. It just requires that we teach kids they have the right to protect their bodies and do not have the right to other people’s bodies.
Remove judges who promote rape be removed from the bench. The judiciary has been steadily moving toward legalizing rape. In several jurisdictions, forcing oral sex on an unconscious victim or someone too intoxicated to consent is now completely legal. Two district courts have made affirmed that it is legal to take “upskirt” without consent and post them on the internet without consent. Judges who think this is okay should be removed.
Fix this. Write your legislature and demand that posting upskirt photos, revenge porn, and videos of rapes without the victims consent be made illegal. This isn’t about “freedom of speech.” Laws that allow these things to be posted without consent and without punishments for violating consent foster rape.
Believe people when they tell you they were assaulted and raped. The most common response someone who has been assaulted or raped is, “Really? What really happened.” We require victims to relive their traumas in detail for our amusement and judgement. We assume that as an outsider we can “really” determine what happened. Just stop.
We also need to stop demanding to know if the person said “no” in a clear and unequivocal statement. So many people choose rape over other violence and that does not make rape okay. A coerced “yes” is not consent. Stop making victims justify their experience for your pleasure.
Demand rape kits be adequately funded. California is only one of 50 states that did not adequately fund the processing of rape kits. Until this was brought to light two years ago, the state had more than 35,000 unprocessed kits sitting in storage- some for as long as 10 years! Evidence doesn’t help anyone if it just sits on a shelf collecting dust.
Find out what your state’s funding is for processing rape kits. Find out how many kits are sitting around unprocessed. Demand that your legislature allot adequate funding to process the kits and help identify rapists.
Call out your buddies for assault and rape. This goes for all genders, not just the guys. If you have a friend bragging about taking “that really drunk chick home and givin’ it to her,” that is rape. If you see your friend catcalling a woman, following her, screaming at her to give you her number, step up and stop him.
Most men who do these things do not really care about the women they are harassing. They care about what their buddies think. It is your responsibility to stop them and call them on their behavior. Yeah, they may not like you. They may call you names. But look, it is a rapist or man who is sexually harassing someone who doesn’t like you. That is probably a good thing.
Quit making rape jokes. I am not against every single rape joke ever. I have seen three in my life that I think do a good job to calling out the absurdities of rape culture and highlighting the problems we have as a nation. I have seen thousands that make rape victims the butt of the joke.
Look, most comics aren’t skilled enough to craft a social commentary joke. I have been to enough open mics and comedy shows to know most comics lack this skill and nuance. If you really feel that a rape joke is necessary, run it by a bunch of women you know who will tell you it’s crap. If you get a resounding “Yeah, that is really funny and appropriate,” then you might have something. Short of that, move on to your other hack jokes.
Create a national safe word. Kink culture is much better about consent than the wider American culture (supported by academic research). We know what a safe word is and how to use it. See Red Stops Rape for all the details.
Millions of people just put “me too” on social media. Millions of us relived our rapes and assaults for your viewing pleasure. Let’s not make this more shouting into the void.