Teaching kids how not to rape

Photo courtesy of Beard.

Photo courtesy of Beard.

This is an excerpt from an essay by Abby Norman.

Yesterday… someone in the back shot their hand up and did not wait for me to call on them. “Ms. Norman, this poem is about rape.” It wasn’t a question. It is rare for a fifteen-year-old to speak about anything with this kind of authority, let alone poetry. A few kids chimed in to agree with the first student and I admitted that I often read the poem that way, even if you don’t have to. I was about to launch into an explanation of other ways this poem could be read.

“Ms. Norman” another kid called, “Have you heard about that rape case in Ohio? Those guys got convicted. They have to go to jail. They are going to lose their scholarships. They were going to D-1 schools!”

“Well…”I responded, feeling the heat crawl up my neck, “maybe they are going to jail for rape because THEY ARE RAPISTS!”  [keep reading]

Abby Norman is a feminist and devout Christian. She runs the blog Accidental Devotional. I was really stunned by this article and by the way that she directed the conversation with her students. 

I hope you will read the rest and share your thoughts. 


11 thoughts on “Teaching kids how not to rape

  1. A very good read.

    There are times when I feel that Canada and the USA are virtually the same and others when I feel that they’re worlds apart. This is one of those times, rape type jokes are never accepted anywhere. People are really put down for even hinting at such jokes, even in college – “not cool man”.

    That such a thing is common talk, like many racist jokes (really discouraged here too) I hear of in the USA or from new visa workers from the USA, how it is laughed at and shrugged off would be, and is, quite appalling to the vast majority of Canadians. Had a friend who went to the university “across the ditch” on the USA side and shared a great many “bad jokes” with us as an expression of what it is like on “the other side”. I really get the impression that taking sexual advantage of women is seen as essentially acceptable with the way it is casually spoken. Don’t even get me started on how weird it is for ‘us Canadians’ to hear the views of guns from USA citizens. It all comes across as a more violent and paranoid place overall, even though most know a great many non-violent and sane people from the USA. The USA is noted for its rape and gun culture by its neighbour, something that is hoped to be more rumor than true. Sadly many Canadians working and learning across the border say that is something you’ll notice. Seeing it addressed like it was in this blog is so refreshing and hopeful. It answers the question of what is needed to bring this change – talking about it openly with young teens and educating on what consent means. This should be part of the phys-ed curriculum nation wide. It is in Canada and it shows.

    • I had no idea it was so different in Canada (on the issue of rape culture – I was aware of the different views on guns and other issues). I’m glad it’s improving somewhere.

      • Apparently I spoke too soon. This unfortunate story came up recently from the East Coast, Rehtaeh Parsons was gang raped, victim blamed in school, and committed suicide.

        The public reaction is steamed as expected, but the school and police authorities are accused of not doing anything when they should have and there are students that were perpetuating the rape culture. This culture of victim blaming and acceptance (which includes standing by and being silent even though you don’t agree) in the communities where these incidents happen appears to be spreading. Yet, like I was saying in my previous post, here there is no sympathy for the accused, there was righteous vehemence toward the piss poor job of the authorities and those involved in the attacks (the rape and following taunting). Which led Rehtaeh Parsons to committing suicide, followed by a knife attach apparently from the accused on those who were friends of Rehtaeh. Tensions have escalated, Nova Scotia’s government is conducting an independent review of both the police and prosecutors’ actions in the Rehtaeh Parsons case and even anonymous got involved.

        • Terrible.

          I’m not sure I agree that a culture of silence and victim blaming is spreading. I think we are more aware of it now. What I thought in my head when you first posted about lower rape culture in Canada – and I didn’t say it, not wanting to be jaded about a country I know little about – is that maybe it is just as strong there but everyone pretends it doesn’t happen.

          I don’t consider this story proof of that, it is a single incident only. But I do believe we are exposing silent rape culture more and more and there are many people/cultures who thought they were “not like that” who are going to see that in fact it is still latent all around them.

          • Aye, here is a quote from a blog that expresses the Canadian reaction well, “Like the rest of the world, the folks in my small Canadian community watched the court proceedings of the two boys charged with raping a classmate in Steubenville, Ohio with shocked dismay and horror. It was easy to look at those boys in Steubenville and say, “Oh, they’re different from us. They were small town football heroes, protected by their community.”…“I am so glad I am not raising kids in the states,” some said. “Thank God those things don’t happen here.” Then today’s paper arrived and smacked that smug look right off our faces.”

            I’m not sure its spreading either, it just feels that way. Especially with the growing popularity of mainstream rap (money, guns and women=being successful type lyrics) and people emulating that. *gag*

            Most of the world’s media comes from the USA, with Movies, Music and Big Merchandise Chains perpetuating the objectivity of the human body. Where men have also expressed the problems of living up to media standards of what it is to be ‘manly’ in which all these manly images involve being in ripped bodies in a possessive or dominant position with barely clad women. I don’t think clothing has anything to do with it, but the body language and the way the poses are placed. Like the Hawkeye Initiative I think this sort of stuff adds up.

            The article linked in this blog post attests to that.

            I do believe that talking about these things is more embraced. It wasn’t that long ago that pregnant teens would suddenly be gone to a ‘different/private school’ for a time and come back – where the resulting children would have been taken by the church and given to adoptive parents. Just to not let it get public. All shaming the young mothers in the process for letting this happen to them.

            I still stand by my previous post about the type of joking, shaming, and remarks that others experienced. That is still not something we hear and is socially shot down hard. I only recall someone calling another slutty once, and was told off by those around i.e. “so what if they want to dress like that” “get over it, its not you. Dress how you like and others dress how they like” type of responses. Highschool and college didn’t really have any of that in my and my friend’s experience. To be saying stuff like that was to lose friends. I have read others saying the same thing in response to this tragedy too. Its not accepted to shame people – we’re kind of known for being polite.

            • I’m glad your friends responded in that responsible way to the “slutty” comment.

              On the broader picture, though, here’s my question: is the rape humor an effect of rape culture being exposed and recognized? People tend to joke about things that make them uncomfortable, and it’s a very uncomfortable subject once everyone is talking about it.

              • It may be so. Yet, there was always the “locker room” and before that “the gentlemen’s parlor”. So I feel that as equality rose, these kinds of views became less segregated and more open. While at the same time that kind of behavior pushed in the corner. It likely is, in my view, a remnant of this perspective of possession over women. The fact that these jokes and remarks are still around suggests that such behavior is attempting to be justified. That is how I see it. I am not against jokes involving sex, by all means I have shared a great many myself. Its all in how it is presented, is it a ridiculous circumstance the partner’s find themselves in? Or is it a fine ass that’s good for the taking? There is a line there that should be known and not crossed. I think this line should be talked about with the youth as they come of age, and everyone else. I think sex needs to become a more comfortable topic in places of authority, especially in the education system. I had a number of great physical education teachers who were open to any topic and these things were talked about. I think they weren’t much of a topic in the places where these horrible acts we’re referring to happen. It somehow was okay and justified in these perpetrator’s minds, the acceptance of such jokes and remarks does this justification. Swift, harsh words need to respond to them as a means to disallow any form of public justification, regardless of how infinitesimal they seem. Any form of justification is too much. Even if done as a response to discomfort, its no excuse.

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