I am submitting this letter to refute one of the main arguments that David Hookstead made in his recent op-ed, “’Rape culture’ does not exist.” I applaud the Herald for posting his letter. Although it has spawned many emotional responses, the best way for us to learn what is right is to debate these ideas.
David Hookstead made a few valid points in his article. Although his tone is misogynistic, he is right in saying that women should not use the word “rape” to describe a consensual sexual encounter they regret. This is indeed an injustice to someone who has experienced sexual assault. He is also correct in saying that men are sometimes raped, although this does very little to refute the idea that rape culture exists. Hookstead’s thesis that rape culture does not exist is propagated by an argument that we already properly educate our society on rape. Hookstead has a very limited idea on what education about rape culture should be, as evidenced by this line in his article: “Anybody who’s ever watched the news knows that rape is illegal, and yet the above paints the picture that our society is failing to educate young men on rape.”
I believe the main flaw of this argument is a fundamental misunderstanding of what we are trying to educate young people about. Of course rape is illegal, but education about any crime does not mean simply stating its illegality. It has become apparent that some people of our generation clearly do not understand what rape is. Rape includes committing sexual acts when a person is too drunk to consent — not just the infamous sexual assault in a ‘dark alley’ that Hookstead has previously written could be prevented with concealed carry permits. And yes, rape also means demanding sex after someone has said no. Many of us here at the University of Wisconsin are knowledgeable about these subjects, and therefore take this information for granted. But these are lessons we need to teach the next generation and our classmates, because to some people, taking advantage of a friend is not as perceptibly wrong as the morally repugnant act of grabbing someone in a dark alley and sexually assaulting them. And this is only a small portion of rape that actually occurs.
According to the US Department of Justice, approximately two-thirds of all rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. Most of us have heard this statistic and by now are desensitized by it. But we must look at this number and ask ourselves, what can we do to help? This statistic means that not only do we need to be more careful walking home at night — as David has correctly highlighted in a previous letter. We also need to educate society on what it means to be a good friend. This means watching out for the people around you and making sure that they don’t go home with someone when they don’t want to. This means stepping in and taking care of someone when they are too intoxicated to assert themselves. We do have a society where the perception is that dating gets easier when you “get the other person drunk.” This is where rape culture gets its fuel. We must take some responsibility in perpetuating this culture when we congratulate each other on a sexual encounter fueled by excessive, one-sided alcohol intake.
Hookstead does not believe that education about rape can prevent sexual assault. He writes, “We teach kids not to murder and rob, but people still do it …. You can’t always stop criminals.” True, David, education that says, “Do not rape” will not solve our problem. We need comprehensive instruction that says what rape means and when it is the right time to have sex and when it is not. But he is right; education alone will not solve our problem. This is where being a good friend is so important. Watch out for your fellow Badgers — it is our shared responsibility to make sure that our friends stay safe.
Sam Gilbertson ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in political science.