Archive | March, 2014

Rape culture: It starts in private

3 Mar


This is an open letter to Bart Tremblay, Alexandre Giroux, Alex Larochelle, Pat Marquis and Michel Fournier-Simard, 5 student executives at the University of Ottawa, whose sexually aggressive Facebook conversation about Student Union President Anne-Marie Roy was made public.

In the “Pillows and Blankets” episode of Community, two of the main characters, Abed and Troy, have the following exchange about a degrading email the former wrote about the latter.

Abed: You weren’t supposed to see that.
Troy: You weren’t supposed to think those things.

The problem with what you said about Anne-Marie Roy is very similar: you shouldn’t have felt it was okay to say any of those things, even in private. Especially in private. That you did makes you complicit in rape culture.

Rape starts with private thoughts, and thoughts can turn to action; it’s not such an illogical leap. The rapist has to first think their victim is worthless and powerless in order to eventually rape them.

When a woman is intimidated by a man’s aggressive advances, for example, she’s very worried about what he’s thinking of doing to her because that’s what will lead to him doing it. Often, the man knows he’s creeping her out, and that’s the effect he’s going for since her fear gives him the upper hand in the situation.

We’ve all heard that rape is about power. That’s why it isn’t consensual. That’s why in your “private” fantasy, your allusion to “punishing” Anne-Marie Roy was so uncannily rapey.

If you’re so incensed that your private conversation was made public, I have to ask: why wouldn’t you have had this conversation in public?

Would you have had the same conversation if the Student Union President had been a man? Why not?

That you said those things is tragic enough, but you also weren’t supposed to think those things. Thinking those things means there’s a chance you believe them, and that would mean you don’t believe women are equal to you, or are worthy of a satisfying sexual life.

In saying those things, we have to infer that you don’t understand how scary it is to live in a world where people – even young folks from a purportedly more enlightened generation – still think it’s okay to entertain violent rape fantasies.

Rape is the end result of rape culture, but it’s fed by profoundly held beliefs. You demonstrated in your  conversation, and your defense of its privacy, just how deeply that thought process is entrenched.

That one of you represents the Criminology Student Association is a sad irony. That you, Alex Larochelle, did not recognize how rape is culturally borne means rape victims have reason to worry that it will be a long time before rapists are appropriately punished for their crime.


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