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.


Comments of an abusive nature will not be posted. Got something xenophobic and misogynistic to say? Say it somewhere else.

9 Responses to “Rape culture: It starts in private”

  1. Shelly Colette March 3, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

    Rape culture doesn’t just begin in silence; it often ends there, too.

    “If you tell anyone, I’ll kill you.”
    “Nobody will believe you.”
    “They’ll all just think you’re a slut.”

    Or in this case: “We’ll take legal action against you.”

    Silence is the alpha and the omega of violence against women.

  2. n.p March 3, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

    It doesn’t help that Roy essentially blackmailed the students. It was confirmed that she said their names would be released unless they stopped running for SFUO positions.

    The Scrawn: Let’s be clear about this, Anne-Marie Roy is not at fault. What she did was self-defense; not blackmail. The representative of Criminology, who participated in the conversation, does not deserve to be in student government. If these men can’t stand by what they said, they shouldn’t have said it at all. That it was said in private is not a defense, it actually makes it more worrisome.

    • n.p March 3, 2014 at 6:15 pm #

      I’m not saying anyone is at fault, just that releasing names in the matter wasn’t exactly the correct course of action; they ended up getting messages telling them to commit suicide.

      The Scrawn: The flaw in that logic is that it perpetuates the biggest problem when it comes to rape culture, which is silence. Those guys have to face the consequences of their actions, and this was one way to do that. How people react to her releasing their names is not her fault. There was a very simple way for those guys to avoid the hate mail that ensued after their unacceptable actions: don’t do anything unacceptable. You might not think hers was the best course of action, but I believe what those guys did was much, much worse.

      • n.p March 3, 2014 at 6:27 pm #

        Of course silence is the wrong way to go about it, but simply saying “five individuals have been involved and resigned” would have sufficed, no?

        The Scrawn: They wouldn’t have resigned unless it went public. So no, it wouldn’t have sufficed. If people in positions of power behave that irresponsibly, a public punishment is completely acceptable. Especially since the University of Ottawa has so far not indicated that those men will be disciplined.

      • n.p March 3, 2014 at 6:35 pm #

        No one could really have known if they would have if it had been kept between concerned parties, truth be told.

        The Scrawn: That’s not really true, since we saw what happened, and we know how it came about. In any case, there comes a point when it becomes clear that two people will never agree. I haven’t persuaded you and you haven’t persuaded me, and that’s fine. But continuing to disagree is no longer constructive. So let’s call it a day.

  3. Rosie March 3, 2014 at 8:12 pm #

    Reblogged this on FEMBORG.

    • Emily March 3, 2014 at 10:31 pm #

      Don’t act like anyone who has an inappropriate thought is going to eventually act on them. That’s complete bullshit. I talk about men like that all the time. Am I a rapist? No. Am I a threat to all men whom I find attractive? No.

      Obviously they knew their comments were inappropriate, that’s why they weren’t shouting them from the rooftop. However in no way or form was this an actual threat or a plan that they were going to execute.

      Everyone needs to stop judging them based on a fraction of a conversation over Facebook chat. Suddenly everyone’s forgotten of all the good things these men have done for the student body, all the hours they’ve sacrificed to organize events and raise money for charities, etc.

      I am not defending the content of the conversation, but their INTENTIONS.

      The Scrawn: Hi Emily. Thank you for your comment. The blog post doesn’t purport to know what the intentions of these young men were, although, based on the “fraction of a conversation” we were privy to, we can assess that their intention was at the very least to objectify Anne-Marie Roy. That, in itself, is not acceptable, especially since she’s a peer, most importantly because she’s another human being. The point of the blog post is simply this: they shouldn’t have said those things, because whether or not they like it, those things are a precursor to more serious things. I’m not saying that these men are rapists; I’m saying that rapists think and say things like what those men said. It’s a fine line, and in 2014, in Canada, young men of that age really should know better. And it’s precisely because of these men’s positions that they should have behaved more responsibly and respectfully. In the end, it’s not a big ask: be a decent person, even when you’re around other people who are being indecent. Not one of the 5 men participating in this conversation tried to put a stop to it. That kind of apathy is almost just as frightening.

      • Shelly March 5, 2014 at 11:15 am #

        Apathy and silence are terrifying. The acceptance of that kind of language is exactly the kind of mentality that leads to an entire hockey team getting suspended under allegations of sexual assault. Because nobody stopped to say, “that’s wrong.”

        And guess what? It was wrong. It’s wrong to joke about raping someone as punishment (punishment for what, after all? for being a woman in power? because they didn’t like her?) Those “jokes” made working conditions intolerable for that young woman. Can you imagine trying to work alongside someone who had joked about anal raping you on a colleague’s desk? Sit with that for a second. Imagine reading that about yourself, and then having to work in close quarters with these men. She should be commended for her bravery, not criticized for making the poor little boys feel badly.

        I will continue to judge these men, in the same way that I judge *anyone* who threatens sexual violence against another person. That is absolutely, unequivocally unacceptable. There is never, ever, a justification for that kind of behaviour.


  1. Rape Culture at UofO: Come at Me, Bros | Make Me a Sammich - March 3, 2014

    […] Rape Culture: It starts in private (The Scrawn) […]

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