The Day I Taught How Not to Rape

Yesterday, the news invaded my classroom. I think the kids aren’t paying attention. I think the kids only care about the news as it relates to Justin Bieber. I think they aren’t listening or capable of advanced thought. Every single time I think one of those things, I sell out the ninth-graders that come traipsing through my room every day.

It started when I picked this poem to go over different ways to look at poetry:


Martha Collins

If she says something now he’ll say
it’s not true if he says it’s not true
they’ll think it’s not true if they think
it’s not true it will be nothing new
but for her it will be a weightier
thing it will fill up the space where
he isn’t allowed it will open the door
of the room where she’s put him
away he will fill up her mind he will fill
up her plate and her glass he will fill up
her shoes and her clothes she will never
forget him he says if she says
something now if she says something ever
he never will let her forget and it’s true
for a week for a month but the more
she says true and the more he says not
the smaller he seems he may fill up
his shoes he may fill up his clothes
the usual spaces he fills but something
is missing whatever they say whatever
they think he is not what he was
and the room in her mind is open she
walks in and out as she pleases she says
what she pleases she says what she means.

It is ambiguous. I suppose that is the point. The best literature for me to teach is the kind that gives the kids enough to be interested in, but they still don’t have a clear idea of what is going on. We spend the day looking at the poem from every angle we can find, or at least that is the plan.

Yesterday, pretty immediately, 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!” I yelled those last three words at my kids and watched as some of them blinked in surprise. Apparently, the thought had never occurred to them that these athletes who were convicted of rape, were in fact rapists.

It is a strange thing about looking into the face of a 15-year-old, to really see who they are. You still see the small child that their mother sees. You see the man or woman they will be before they graduate. They are babies whose innocence you want desperately to protect. They are old enough to know better, even if no one has taught them.

I realized then that some of my kids were genuinely confused. “How can she be raped?” they asked, “She wasn’t awake to say no.” These words out of a full fledged adult would have made me furious. I did get a good few minutes in response on victim blaming and why it is so terrible. But out of the face of a kid who still has baby fat, those words just made me sick. My students are still young enough, that mostly they just spout what they have learned, and they have learned that absent a no, the yes is implied.

It is uncomfortable to think that some of the students you still call babies have the potential to be rapists. It is sickening, it is terrifying, but it is true.  It is a reality we have to face. My students have lived in a world for fifteen years where the joke “she probably wanted it” isn’t really a joke, they need to unlearn some lessons that no one will admit to teaching them.

Standing in front of my classroom and stating that a woman’s clothing choice is never permission to rape her should not be a radical act. But only a few heads nodded in agreement. Most were stunned, like this was a completely new thought. The follow up questions were terrifying in their earnestness. “Ms. Norman, you mean a woman walking down the street naked is not her inviting sex? How will I know she wants to have sex?”  A surprisingly bold voice came out of a girl in the back “You’ll know when she says, you want to have sex?!”

If you want to keep teens from being rapists, you can no longer assume that they know how. You HAVE to talk about it. There is no longer a choice. It is no longer enough to talk to our kids about the mechanics of sex, it probably never was. We have to talk about consent, what it means, and how you are sure you have it. We have to teach clearly and boldly that consent is (in the words of Dianna E. Anderson) an enthusiastic, unequivocal YES!

What came next, when the idea of a clear yes came up, is the reason I will always choose to teach freshmen. They are still young enough to want to entertain new ideas. When we reversed the conversation from, “well she didn’t say no,” to “she has to say YES!” many of them lit up. “Ms. Norman,” they said, “that does make a lot more sense.” “Ms. Norman,” they exclaimed, “that way leaves a lot less confusion.” When one of the boys asked, well what do you want me to do, get a napkin and make her sign it, about four girls from the back yelled, YEAH!

What happened in Steubenville makes me sick, but we are kidding ourselves if we think that it is not representative of what is happening in basement parties after the homecoming game all across America. Our kids want to talk about it. They need to talk about it. We need to have conversations about consent that are not centered around what should have been done, but are instead centered on what will be done in the future. Our teens can handle it, I promise they can.

A strong understanding of consent as an enthusiastic and unequivocal yes is essential to reversing the culture that our teens have grown up in. The amazing thing is the way my students responded to the conversation. Our students want a better way, it is our responsibility to show it to them, even if it is scary, especially when it might make us uncomfortable.

Our students are paying attention. They do care about what is going on in the world. They do listen and are capable of advanced thought. I am done selling out the ninth-graders that traipse through my room every day. The news will no longer invade my classroom, instead I will invite it.

727 thoughts on “The Day I Taught How Not to Rape

      • Thank god that god, like you, is a mother, teacher, wife,
        speaker and writer. Is she not? I’m not sure anyone can prove she’s not.

      • Don’t you think the high correlation between circumcision and rape would want women to push for outlawing infant circumcision?

    • Ms. Norman,
      I can’t tell you how relived I am that there are still teachers out there, willing to risk their jobs to record over the bad tapes inserted in our kids’ heads by a society that has blamed the victim for generations and generations.

      Keep a record of your conversation, and cover your butt. You are too important to lose.

      • I agree! I’m a high school teacher too and talk to all my students (from grade 6 to 10) about bullying and all its components. I LOVED reading this blog post! Thank you Ms. Norman!

    • Ms. Norman you do rock and in a world full of political correct garbage, we need to speak honestly about the terrible things that happen. Kudos to you and your brave students.

    • Is is worth noting that the young people involved in this incident were nearly the same age as your students?
      I am glad y’all are talking about it, I hope it happens in high schools across the country because there appears to be a culture of confusion here (not surprising, as our adult culture is pretty confused as well). Our young people get a lot of mixed messages that as adults we just learn to cope with. I think we take for granted that young folks understand oppression, sexism and exploitation—but how will they learn to identify it when they see it in movies, on TV, in song lyrics, etc if there isn’t someone along the way to point it out? It just becomes the norm. A norm that needs changing.

      Thanks for your work.

  1. I’m so glad they traipse through your door! I’m reading “Teaching in the Terrordome” by Heather Kirn Lanier and she has many stories about 9th grade kids as well. It really has me thinking, since I live very close to where the Terrordome once stood. In fact, it would probably have been our zoned high school. Seeing what you bring to your classroom with God in your heart is wonderful.

      • I live in Southwest Baltimore and it was a school that was basically….I guess kind of a last resort for most kids. We are zoned – whatever zone you live in is the school you go to, unless you get into a magnet program or go to a private school or find some way around it. This author taught there for two years with Teach for America and she delves into the whys of the broken school system and the broken culture. I am absolutely fascinated since she is talking about the city where I live. I want to understand what these kids are up against! Reading your stories about your kids brings redemption in. I’m so thankful for teachers like you.

      • I’m sorry that amazon link is so huge – please feel free to take it out! My word, it’s way too big. I just wanted you to see what I was referring to.

      • Beth, for future reference: you can make large links smaller with this website –
        It’s perfect for exactly what you just experienced. 🙂

    • What does god have to do with this? This was a great teacher helping kids to think. Why do you religious folk always have to stuff your religion into everything?

      • as a non-religious person myself, why do you non-religious individuals have to assume that she doesn’t? Please be considerate, this is hardly relevant.

      • I think she was refering to the fact that the author of the blog is a Christian. She actually says it in her author bio at the bottom under the post itself. I don’t think she meant it as a ‘this was a God thing’ so much as one Christian to another being thankful for the author’s guidance with the kids, especially on such a charged and intimidating topic. It wasn’t meant to ‘stuff [her] religion into everything’, just an observation.

        At least, that’s how I read it? Maybe it’s just me. It’s all good, though.

      • Why do you irreligious folk have to get all huffy whenever the word god appears anywhere? Is it not good enough that she’s challenging sexist, patriarchal beliefs? She has to believe like you do too?

      • “Why do you irreligious folk have to get all huffy whenever the word god appears anywhere?”

        We don’t. That’s a false accusation.

        “Is it not good enough that she’s challenging sexist, patriarchal beliefs? ”

        It is. That really is good enough.

        “She has to believe like you do too?”

        Who said so? No one. Another false accusation.

        But if you read through you will find that all that has been challenged here are the horrible assumptions theists make, when they attempt appropriate morality to themselves. Now that…we will challenge. The author impressively left god(s) right out of it. They were brought in through the comments section by sheltered theists who are offensive because they are unchallenged in their nasty assumptions. Please don’t misunderstand me. They have every right to be offensive. That’s fine. But likewise, when they are so arrogant and sheltered they cannot see what they are doing, then they can expect a response. Because these days we can provide one without fear.

        This is very far from demanding that theists think the same as someone else. It is a demand for theists to understand that the days are gone when they can make outrageous claims and go unchallenged – at least in some places. Please remember, that many of the most outspoken irreligious are ex-religious. That’s why they know what they are talking about. That doesn’t always makes us very pleasant: I accept and acknowledge it. But getting a change in this, where offensive religious presumption can be challenged freely is a massive step forward – and important to us. We can freely challenge religion! Happy days.

        It is a shame it came into the thread at all. It was completely unnecessary.

        But in the same way that we might remind people when they are sexist, we will also remind religious folks when they make false assumptions, claims and moral appropriations – which happens so very regularly. You might be shocked if you attuned yourself to see them.

        Always amusing to be accused of attempted conversion by the religious! Drowning here in the deluging flood of irony!

      • “What does god have to do with this?”

        It has to do with becoming aware.

      • Jane, that was rude. The author did NOT bring god into it. Her lesson was awesome in a completely humanitarian, instructive, thought-provoking manner. (Full disclosure: I am not a Christian.)

      • Because we have a right too. Just like you have a right to not be religious, religious people have a right to see good things as a blessing from God

      • I’d like to answer that question, but beg your patience and attention in the process. I I believe that your full question would be “Why do these people mention God (god, as you would write it) in the comment section of a bloggers posting that , itself , makes no mention of any deity?” If that is, indeed, the question you would like addressed, here I go: This blogger, who is obviously proactively for human rights, is a Deist of some sort. That can clearly be seen in her Blog title and blurb. “Accidental Devotional God shows up when you invite Him..Sometimes even when you don’t.” Many if not most of her followers are probably deists, following her because of her insightful expostulations about being an active follower of a being she calls God. From a cursory glance at other titles, she is probably Christian. Much of what she writes is about making connections between her Faith, her actions, and the difficult world we all need to navigate.When they are responding to her writing, they are coming to her page thinking about how to live their faith, they may even be coming here as a kind of meditation or daily religious practice, and they are responding from that place. Your question and your response, as if they had walked into YOUR space, or a courtroom, or a classroom, and started spouting off about God, is a bit skewed. I came her from a page on Feminist issues, and did not expect it to be a page about Christianity in the world, but once I realized it was, I changed my expectations of her audience because of the context. In that context it is as if you are walking into a women’s bible study because you heard they address issues you are interested in, and then bugged when they said the name “Jesus”.

      • yes but what was meant by “stuff your religion into everything” was that why do religious people always seem to think that teaching kids moral thinking and behavior, the difference between right and wrong is something that only Christians do? Or that only Christians understand? It feels like Christians seem to believe that all the evils of the world are the result of people who are not Christian. Which is hardly the case. There are good Christians, there are evil Christians (i.e. child molesting priests) but there are also good non Christians and evil non Christians. I believe that is more or less what they were saying.

      • You matter today because you had the conversation the other day. Now those kids know there is an adult who will talk to them in a no nonsense way about consensual sex and rape if they should be confused in the future. Now the kids in your class have been told by someone in authority that it’s okay to say no to sex they don’t want and that if they don’t say yes any sexual advances towards them following their silence or hesitation or whatever means their would be partner is in the wrong. Now those kids know how passionately their peers feel about consent, which will hopefully provide them with a source of “peer pressure” other than the societal victim blaming b.s. line that says boys should have sex by the end of high school and girls shouldn’t and boys are to be applauded for losing their virginity while girls are to be shamed.

  2. Abby, this is amazing….you are so right….keep up the good work….if you only got thru to one child/young adult, you made a difference….Love you….

  3. Oh, Abby. Thank you for this. For leading the discussion, for opening some eyes and hearts. It needs to happen over and over and over again. Yes, it does.

      • It’s like I stated in my facebook post, Adults need to give more weight to the things kids do. Because what they do now where adults go “Ah well kids will be kids” that becomes the stuff they do as adults, and then it carries much heavier consquences. Alot of adults want to waive away the stuff kids do because they have trouble taking any of it seriously, but they don’t realize that what they are seeing is the training ground for what kind of adults they become. Thank you Madam, for what you have done. Thank you for helping them become a better next generation then what’s out there now. Thank you.

  4. Great article and it does need to be taught. I’m curious how you feel about the following because I see the criminals being called rapists by a lot of people, but most people don’t realize that they “penetrated the victim’s vagina with his fingers, an act that constitutes rape under Ohio” (CNN) ( which does not even constitute rape in many states. It is a lesser charge of molestation usually. Did you know that? Does it change your opinion at all? I’m not defending them or anything. I just think a lot of people don’t realize that.

    • There was far more going on that what you have noted here – and that act, in and of itself, done on an unconscious female, is rape. There is no other word for it, period. I urge you to read this news article about this atrocious set of circumstances and the ignorance and arrogance that allowed it to happen, because the entire event is a tragedy on every side imaginable. And what Abby is addressing here is at the heart of it – sexual ethics must be talked about, definitions must be crystal clear and expectations for right behavior must be demanded of every one, even (and maybe most especially?) star athletes.–steubenville-high-school-football-players-found-guilty-of-raping-16-year-old-girl-164129528.html

      • i am NOT apologizing for those boys at all. (no, MRAs i am not on your side) but, i think the demigod status of star athletes leads to this in two ways – the most obvious being that they think they can do whatever they want. but also, these “star athletes” are, at the heart of it, boys – boys who are being told every day that their worth as humans begins and ends with what they can do on the field. they know if they broke a leg tomorrow they would cease to matter – perhaps even to their own families. you can not ask respect from someone who doesn’t know what it looks like.

    • JK – I don’t know you at all, obviously, but I hope you don’t mind me replying to your comment – this is all so delicate and personal. The detail you mentioned – of the penetration being with fingers and not a penis – is something that I did think about as I learned the story. But, if I am honest, having someone push any part of their body into my vagina without my consent… that is raping me. It might not get me pregnant, but it would violate my body and my spirit. When I think about of this – about rape and control and power, it’s the dehumanizing and the abuse of another human’s body that is the issue. Fingers, penis, another inanimate object even – it would be rape because rape is (whether legally or not) a human to human violation. It goes against respect, dignity, love, value.

      So, while I am sure it was confusing to the guys that fingers rather than penis was still rape. We each know full well when we are taking advantage of another human being – when we are using someone to get what we want (be it power, pleasure, control, amusement).

      And I’ll finish with this – that going inside a woman’s vagina, whether we like to admit it or not and act like sex is no big deal sometimes, will affect her soul. She can’t help it. It’s like some portal to her insides – both physical and spiritual. This raises the stakes and makes action and communication on the issue so much more important.

      ***This is a great blog post. It gave me hope. It gave me courage to bring it up when necessary within my spheres of influence. Thank you!!!

      • Yes, exactly what Nicole said. I don’t care what they stick into my vagina, it is rape. And we had to cover that in my class. I had to explain that. Because somewhere along the way these kids learned it wasn’t….

      • That constitutes rape in Washington. For exactly the reasons that Nicole so eloquently expressed.

      • Also I would say, that’s what they were convicted of..we all know law isn’t justice these days, and what went on was deplorable, She should have been cared for, and at the very least been taken home, if not the hospital…I might have gone for reckless endangerment of human life..

      • Rape isn’t only committed by men against women either. I urge you to consider how you would feel if a rapist only got a molestation charge instead of a rape charge for raping a man with their fingers or some object instead of a penis. Rape is rape when any member or either sex touches another person’s private parts without consent.

    • Gee it’s unfortunate that they live in a state where rape is so broadly defined. You know what is even more unfortunate? The fact that they put their hands into the vagina of a girl who wasn’t conscious, and that they took pictures and videos of the incident and posted them on social media for all to see. If it was your daughter, I’m sure you wouldn’t be questioning the definition of rape.

    • JK, you might want to reread that story … it is in no way saying that was *all* that they did; that’s just what happened *while someone was taping*. Which does not make that incident any less of a rape than everything else they did to her that night. The FBI’s standard of rape is penetration without consent.

      • Actually, the FBI definition of rape says that rape is ANY penetration of the vagina or anus by ANY object.

    • Did you read the twitter messages? That isn’t all they did to her, it is just all they seem to have photographic proof of. It appears that there was anal penetration, with a penis, hitting her in the face with a penis and peeing on her.

    • JK, I am sure that if someone spoke to the rapists in question, and asked them if they minded if someone put his fingers up their anuses, instead of his penis, would they still feel violated and raped, & would they still want the rapist to be labelled a rapist rather than molester, I guarantee you the message/point/truth would finally be borne in on them, & anyone else who has the same question.

    • Touching the genitals of someone who has passed out is wrong, and a sexualized kind of wrong, regardless of the specific language of the statute, regardless of whether that specific act is explicitly covered by a law rather than being subsumed in “battery,” regardless of what term the law applies to it. I’m pretty comfortable calling sexualized wrong “rape.”

      • For good measure, if I were discussing this with kids, I’d make sure they knew that doing *anything* to an unconscious person, touching any part of them even in a non-sexualised way other than for the specific purpose of checking their condition and making sure they’re in the recovery position in a safe, warm place, is wrong. They should know that when someone falls unconscious, regardless of how commonplace it sadly is in drinking culture, it is a *medical emergency,* not an opportunity to perform pranks and take embarassing pictures, to say nothing of the horrific things that were done in Steubenville.

    • I teach sexual assault prevention in Washington and that would constitute rape here because there was “penetration” regardless of what it was with. I believe that is the defining characteristic of rape in many states. Regardless, a sexual violation of any type is never appropriate and should never be considered lesser than any others. The loss of control and the use of the victim as an object is just as much a factor in molestation as it is rape. The young men in Stubenville commited a rape by violating a compromised girl for their own gratification and they should be called rapists.

    • The coverage I saw of the case quoted the FBI for the definition of “rape” and THAT one includes “penetration of the vagina or anus with anything” along with forced oral sex. So that would mean that it is rape in every state if there’s penetration. Molestation would be if the external nethers were the only thing touched.

    • The (new, as of last year) official FBI definition of rape is: “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

      It applies to any object, and either (all) sexes. So, yes. It was rape by the “standard” definition.

    • that is why many places are changing their laws regarding “rape” to “sexual assault” because there is a lot of ambiguity about what constitutes rape; in some places it is penetration with the penis, in others it is any forced sexual act. there needs to be a universal definition. Personally, I am in favour of the latter being the set definition, as any sort of unwanted sexual experience causes lasting psychological harm, which may not be immediately evident.

      • the problem I see first with the law being any sexual misconduct is rape, is that according to the laws in many places sexual misconduct is in the eye of the offended. anything can be seen as sexual misconduct, including but not limited to, the way you look at someone. there are many cases on the books of people being charged with sexual misconduct and losing their life, not dieing but being shunned, because some woman said the guy looked at her in that way. and all it take is the accusation to ruin your life, it doesn’t matter that in the end they found out that the girl lied about it. by that time it is to late. and what about the girl, and I know of a guy personally that this happened to, has sex and is all good, then the next day regrets it and tells people that she said no, so, is that rape? all I’m saying is girls lie too, to automatically take their word as fact isn’t the way to go either.

      • Actually the laws are very specific as to what constitutes rape. The statutes have become more so as they have been refined over the years. I can’t testify to states other than Washington since I have not read those statutes but I have read Washington’s and there are very strict delineations and rape charges are brought only in those cases that qualify. Oversights have been corrected. (for example in a couple of states only a woman could be raped.)

        In the Steubenville case, the clincher was penetration and lack of consent.

  5. Sexual ethics must be taught~must be talked about~I agree. i find it ASTOUNDING, however that 9th grade student/stidents are unable to ‘think’ well enough to go from the specfific~finger penetration~to the general~ANY touching ANY place WITHOUT clear cut permission~is WRONG! Just WHEN/where/why/how did kids lose this ability? 9th graders can ‘figure out’ ANY electronic thing-a-ma-jig in 30 seconds but can’t figure out what constitutes ‘rape’? Astounding, absolutely ASTOUNDING!

    • Well, they are taught by our society that they are SUPPOSED to in some ways. They boys want to be seen as men and one of the ways to do that is to get as far as you can with a girl. So if she isn’t saying no then BE A MAN! Which is why the flip to only when yes is so important.

      • exactly! i know it’s an unpopular thing to say but we really need to start having some compassion for these boys as well- they are receiving completely conflicting messages.

    • It’s not a lack of brain power or some crazy new thing that didn’t exist when you were younger. Teenagers are still in that middle ground between child and adult, and are taught by parents, media, etc…what is acceptable and how things work- and over time and experience they learn how to process and understand, or “figure out” answers that we as adults (some of us) see so clearly. It’s a developmental thing, and it isn’t anything new with this crop of 9th graders.

      • What I found horrifying is imagining what these kids heard at home that led them to repeat some of these things and consider them to be normal ways of thinking.

    • When I was in high school, boys thought it was absolutely trivial to put their hands on my rear end without permission in the hallway without even so much as a by your leave. One boy thought it was okay for him to run his hand up my leg “because I was wearing nylons”.

      The teachers I told said I should just ignore it. You know what? FUCK THAT.

      But as to kids “losing” the ability… you assume they ever had it. What we’re seeing is an awakening, a sudden awareness that, you know, people have a right not to be touched without their permission. Not a “Oh my god kids these days.” The things that were done to me in my childhood, junior high, high school and college were common, ubiquitous, and completely wrong. A man touched my crotch when I was 9… I was picking plums in an alley behind my house. He seemed indignant when I screamed and ran. In college, I was sleeping in a friend’s room during a party and she and a guy came back and were making out…and he reached out and grabbed my breast even though I wasnt’ even the one he was making out with, and could not understand why I was outraged.

      A man I was dating, we were having sex, it started to hurt, I told him to stop. He did… but a few minutes later held me down and raped me. I was so shocked I couldn’t find my voice to tell him to stop again. I was in pain for days. He did, eventually, figure out what he’d done wrong and apologized profoundly and profusely and changed how he interacted with people. I even forgave him.

      I was raised to believe that my body was my own, that I had a right to determine who touched me and when. The impression I got growing up was not that my experience with boundary violations was so rare, that it was so unusual for people to treat me so badly… but that it was unusual for me to perceive it as wrong, that it was unusual for me to speak up, to say no, to leave, to tell.

      The man I married is the one man in my life that always took me at my word 100%. Who respected my boundaries. Who never treated me like a “game” to “level up on”. Who never assumed anything other than that my body was mine and mine alone to do with as I chose. And I chose him.

      • In the early 1980’s our daughter was a cheerleader. Yes she had on her cheerleading outfit & a guy thought he would slap her on the butt while she was getting a drink of water. She whirled around & decked him. Once he got up off the hallway floor he apologized. Word got around. He was a tall basketball player.

  6. I have enjoyed ur poem and comment. for ur knowledge I am a muslim and have learned all these things but in a religious pattern.Learning these are not a wall to not think about them,but the more u r religious the more u accept them.So we all need to go back to the religion to teach these.thanks a lot,

    • I think the poem and the article are excellent, and i agree that we need to teach kids of all ages (and adults!) about these issues, and my heart breaks and my anger rises when i learn again about the lack of education in our society and the horrible things done to women (of all ages) by men (of all ages) who think abuse is OK. BUT, i don’t think religion is the point. I’m an atheist and do not believe in God or gods or goddesses or anything supernatural and i think education can be done without religion, that morality can be shared without religion. I don’t think there’s something necessarily destructive about religion, i just don’t think religion is the necessary component to a healthy society.

      • Lukas, as an educator, I WISH parents practiced and taught their children ethics by both precept and example.
        Government does not teach Morality except perhaps by giving us BAD examples. Educators are handcuffed in their attempts to teach morality though many–seeing the lack–would like to. One Ethics course every decade or so in a student’s life is not enough to make a difference in individuals or to our society.
        Organized religion is only place, currently, where attempts to teach Morality are consistent, on-going and fruitful.
        While I deeply respect your right to your opinion, I concur with Reda.

      • Lukas Benjamin Thiessen you are on the right path…so-o wish it was not so lightly traveled! All this pretend humankind made religious dependency has got to stop soon! It’s as if the ‘religious’ think they have some sort of patent on goodness! Teach your young that they are ONE with ALL & they will care for ALL, it’s so simple!

      • Yeah, JLambyG, all those churches teaching people to go out and vote against abortion, against same-sex marriage…. so moral. /spit

        Fuck religion.

    • concepts like justice and mercy are appealing and rational on their own. if we only convince people to be fair and kind to others by saying “god wills it”, we are inviting trouble. what happens if they decide god doesn’t exist?

    • Could I respectfully ask you to reconsider what you’ve written there? Research from around the world shows that those who self-identify as godless are more moral than those who identify as having faith. It’s not a big differential mostly, but the suggestion that we need god in any format to be good is really quite offensive to those of us who strive to live good and fruitful lives to our families and wider communities, having actively, deliberately, robustly, completely and in full knowledge of the (lack of) personal consequences – rejected all gods.

      Please can you stop confounding morality with religion – because there is absolutely no correlation (the inverse is true in fact) – and ensure we teach children a strong base that includes respecting people and not doing harm: with no invocation to non-existent beings of any flavour. J Lamby: your statement is just factually completely wrong. There are many people and organisations with no gods who consistently try to teach strong morality to young people. It is profoundly ignorant or dishonest to state otherwise – however good it might make you feel to believe it.

      What happened here was wonderful, inspirational and truly fantastic. We don’t need to bring faith into it – as the author (who is a person of faith) chose not to.

  7. I used to teach the same age group, in the South Bronx, and I can totally imagine having this conversation with them. Thank you for not shying away from the issue. This is what teaching is all about, and one of the reasons why being an English teacher is so awesome… we really get to open the door to so many questions and answers about how to function in a society.

  8. For me the key statement was ‘It is no longer enough to talk to our kids about the mechanics of sex, it probably never was’. Absolutely spot on. Sleep rapes like the one you referred to are nothing new, and it’s about time the education system caught up with reality. You are awesome for handling your class in the way you did. Can you now please photocopy yourself and distribute the copies to every school in the world?

    • It is only recently that I have been able to talk about it, because I needed to gain the language. That piece I linked to has altered the way I talk about consent because now I have AWESOME language for it. It has even changed the way I talk to my toddlers. A lot of teachers would be empowered to talk about a lot more things if they had the language.

  9. I cannot begin to thank you enough for teaching your students in this manner. I pray that more and more teachers would be brave enough to have these kinds of conversations with their students. I pray that more and more parents would begin having this dialogue with their sons and daughters and not wait until it’s too late to do so. Yes these conversations can be hard and uncomfortable to have but we need to be having them regardless. Reading this made my day. Thank you for caring enough to have these hard uncomfortable conversations with your students.

  10. Often I think of the boys. The peer expectations – get as much as you can. The confusion – what is consent. And the feelings – I thought she liked me. I am the mother of 3 girls and the grandmother of all girls; I can only wonder how to parent boys.

    • YES! The girls were totally empowered, and it was awesome. The genuine confusion of the boys just broke my heart. They really latched onto the idea that consent is a clear YES because it was not confusing for them. It keeps them safe too!

      • Those two things are, for me, the beauty of the thing that happened in your classr0om that day. The girls were empowered and the boys got it.

        One other point of amazing beauty that day: I work with sexual abuse survivors. If somebody gives them the right to yell, to scream it out loud, it is healing.

        When you wrote that you yelled it out loud, it brought me to tears, real tears. I wish I could have yelled when I was 5 and 6 and 7. Maybe then I wouldn’t have had to wish I could yell when I was 8-9-10-11 and 12.

        Again, thank you.

    • There are other boys in schools, too – the quiet, shy ones who do not see those other boys in any way as their peers. There are boys who’ve stood up to other kids taking advantage of one another, and boys who don’t feel any less masculine for not being terrible people. They may be quiet, though, and might not speak up without being called on, and maybe there aren’t any in a particular classroom, but they are out there.

      • Yes there are Tom, my two boys fit that image. I think for every boy who does not understand that it is never wrong to demean another human being there is at least one more whose parent(s) have already taught them the basic principal of kindness and respect for others. With that said, It is clear to me that our public schools should have more required ethical studies because to many kids are not getting this at home.

      • I agree with Tom, both here & in his (or is there another Tom?) previous post! Excellent posts! & Excellant article… We have probably all expirenced some dimension of this…

    • Reality check: When you are laughing about the unconscious woman you just penetrated in the rear end, then Twittered and laughed about how she was DEAD, you are not confused.
      When you pee on the unconscious woman you just anally penetrated while asleep, you are not confused.

      The word is depraved.

      • “mom” was speaking about boys at large; and i agree with her. i have two boys and a girl so i don’t have the luxury of just passing boys off as good or evil – i have to figure out how to teach all of my children to respect themselves and other people.

        putting aside the two stuebenville boys for a minute – if you read other people on this thread you’ll see a lot of “he was shocked when i told him he raped me.” and then look at all those onlookers that had no idea what was going on was rape – male AND female.

        it’s comfortable and comforting to dismiss people who do evil things but it doesn’t change the greater outcome. forgetting about respect for others for a minute – if those boys had respect for themselves they would never have acted so heinously.

        if you think i just said that they should be excused for what they did – i didn’t, so please don’t rail in that direction.

      • or, you are seriously drunk. it seems like people tend to forget that pretty much everyone involved was some form of drunk or high

    • I have a boy, and here is what you do: tell him that the only consent is an enthusiastic yes. Tell him that he has no right nor permission to touch anyone else ever without their explicit permission. Tell him that no one has the right nor permission to touch him without his explicit permission.

      By the way, it’s the same thing I tell my daughter.

      • And you need to teach that the yes can turn into no at any point along the way. Once one party says no or stop, then no matter how enthusiastic the previous yes was, it has become a no. And no matter how hard it is, you must stop.

    • I am a mother of 8 children, 4 boys and 4 girls. I am grandmother to 4 1/2. Two girls and 2 boys. I have been inappropriately touched or raped during my lifetime, so I know how to approach the subject with all my children. Having been born during the 50s and raised during the sexual revolution, we had to muddle our way through all of the sexual crap. That is why the Gender Equality Acts are all important. They give power to women and LGBTs to stand up and say NO! They force others to treat us the way we should be treated. It is shameful that in our society, anyone would NEED to be forced to treat others with respect and dignity. Thank you for teaching these young people how to be mature, thinking adults.
      To the others who want to introduce God into this equation: Most of the people who mistreated me sexually were either Pastors or their family. Please keep God out of the conversation. I believe in God, but he did nothing to save me from those who were supposed to respect me. I just choose not to participate in organized religion anymore
      To those who think this is anything new: sexual misconduct has been going on since the beginning of time. It is done by people who want power over others, and no one else. Like Samuel L. Jackson said on the gun control issue: It isn’t a gun issue, it is a respect for life issue” . We use to teach our children to respect all other living things. What are they taught now>
      Thank you for being an awesome teacher! I have seen parents berate teachers because their child is not doing well in school. I think the responsibility for that doesn’t belong to the teacher, but to the parent.

  11. This is really powerful! I can’t imagine being in your shoes, I would have been so frustrated and so sad at the same time. Bravo to you for carrying on the conversation instead of shying away from the hard stuff. We need more teachers like you!

  12. I found this quote by the victim’s mother rather ironic after reading your blog: “Human compassion is not taught by a teacher, a coach or a parent. It is a God-given gift instilled in all of us,” the victim’s mother said after court was adjourned. “You displayed not only a lack of this compassion, but a lack of any moral code.”

    I think part of the problem is that people think everyone is born with compassion and a moral code and that our society nurtures those just because we are supposed to be “a Christian nation.” It’s not happening and kids learn far more about morality and behavior from the media than from “teachers, coaches and parents.” Thank God for teachers (and parents and coaches) like you who are willing not only to discuss such issues, but challenge kids even by yelling “maybe they are going to jail for rape because THEY ARE RAPISTS!”

      • yes it can! people aren’t inherently good or bad, but most people have an inherent desire to adapt to the social environment and be liked by others. hell, even a sociopath has an intellectual understanding that they will benefit from adapting and being liked, even if they don’t feel anything. so if we can define and value consent adequately, clearly that will greatly reduce the incidence of rape. but of course, you realize this. thats why you took charge of your little piece of the social environment to deliver a positive message. more like you please!

    • I teach 6th grade and one thing I say all the time is that you have to teach children how to behave. Proper behavior is not an intrinsic thing that kids are born with. You literally have to teach it to them. Don’t assume that kids know the difference between right and wrong…because they don’t unless they are taught it. While parents should be the ones to teach morals, sometimes it just doesn’t happen. Impressive lesson!

    • Of course compassion is taught! It’s part of socialization. (As the mother of a preschooler, I’ve often joked — especially when my son was a toddler — that all children come out as adorable little psychopaths. They have no understanding of empathy and are extremely self-centered. It’s our job, as parents or coaches or teachers, to teach them how to be caring human beings.

      • Up to this point in reading this whole article that is the one thing that I agree with the most. Compassion is taught and learned from the parents mostly because they are the ones that the kids are around the most. The Teachers, Coaches, School Personnel, Religions, and The Parents of the world are sorely lacking in the teachings of this particular subject and the ramifications and consequences of the act of rape or even the act of sex. There is information about sexual harassment and it’s reporting of it, but not any that I have found on the subject of what exactly is RAPE. I applaud the fact that Accidental devotional is teaching this to 9th graders because I feel that is a perfect time for this type of discussion to happen. Maybe even as early as the 6th grade. What Mrs./miss Triplett says “that all children come out as adorable little psychopaths” is a more accurate description than ANY that I have heard. We ( the above mentioned groups) have to start somewhere and the scared straight method just might be the last resort if we as a society don’t start somewhere.

    • The fact that humans have an inborn moral code is one of the great fallacies of modern parenting. There is no such thing. Children are instilled with a moral code by their parents, by their schools, by their society, and by the media they consume. When people assume that the moral code is there, then, they often fail to do their duty as parents.

      However, anything can be changed.

    • Babies are born figuring they are entitled to all the boob they want when they want it right now. Nursing toddlers can get aggressive and upset when access is limited. But you know what? Teaching a nursing toddler to respect the mother’s breast is the start of teaching children about consent. My 14 month old gets confused and irate when I won’t let him just rip my clothes up so he can have boob whenever he wants. I do nurse him most of the time when he wants to nurse, but there are times when it is not convenient or not something I’m willing to do right then… and his reaction reminds me much of a teenaged boy who feels he’s “owed” something. And I wonder if they were never taught boundaries as toddlers.

      Babies are not born understanding consent. Babies are not even born really comprehending that there is a difference between them and the people around them. Babies will often pull hair or hit, and because it does not hurt them they do not understand that it is painful. These things MUST be learned, and are learned by most in early childhood. Empathy develops in stages. Ethics develop in stages.

      And ever time a child hits a new developmental leap, they lose some of their boundaries and understanding of limits they knew before. The baby who crawls will not, once they’ve been crawling for a while, crawl off a high surface. But once they start walking, they’ll walk right off it when they’re first learning. Boundaries must be relearned all the time, and teenagers are going through developmental leaps almost as fast as they did when they were young children… and unlearning and relearning those boundaries constantly through that time.

      The problem is when parents assume a lesson learned once is learned forever. In reality, a lesson learned once in one situation is often only learned… in that situation. Boundaries must be reestablished and reinforced constantly through childhood and the teenaged years.

      Of course morality and ethics can be taught. One simply has to bother doing it sufficiently for it to stick over the long term.

    • The overall fallacy is that anyone has the belief, in this country, that the US is a Christian Nation. This is a detrimental belief, in and of itself. This is why people don’t believe they should have to teach their children morals, because they believe their kids are led by their religious moral beliefs, whether they are or are not taught. The Bible is a good source of demoralizing women’s status in the world. We should never be promoting the idea that this is a Christian Nation. The forefathers were intelligent enough to ensure that was not the case. They knew this country would need to have changes made to the laws, in the future, they knew that by having the country following one ideology would be dangerous.
      This is not and has never been a Christian Nation and will hopefully never be. We need to teach morality, true morality, free of any religious bias. I do believe there is innate morality, to a point. But it’s from things we’ve learned outside of our own religious beliefs. If this wasn’t the case, we’d not have seen the right to vote for women occur, we’d have never seen the end of slavery, civil rights, the civil rights act, and more recently, states passing same sex marriage laws. This took common sense and a true understanding of morals to understand that all people are to be treated equally, regardless of religious beliefs, sexual orientation, color of ones skin, or gender. (None of the big three religions teach this)

      • Your anti-religious bias is causing you to deny history. History tells us that the end of slavery in both England and the United States was driven overwhelmingly by Christians who were very explicitly acting on their religious beliefs (and were opposed by people who thought that religious beliefs should be kept out of public life). The same was true of the civil rights movement (Rev. Dr. King’s group was called the Southern CHRISTIAN Leadership Conference for a reason).

        The U.S. is not a “Christian Nation,” in the sense of having a state-established, state-supported religious system. (And the experience of Europe tells us that such ties are at least as damaging to the church as to the state.) Yet it is nonetheless true that an overwhelming majority of Americans, from 1776 to the present, have identified as Christians (whether or not their actions are consistent with such a claim). The government was designed on a specifically Christian understanding of human nature, though to be sure not all the Founders were Christians (Franklin was famously Deist, for one). And they doubted that the governmental system would survive without a religious foundation to society.

        And to get back to the main issue of this posting, if the kids in Steubenville had been operating by Christian morality, there would have been no problem, since both drunkenness and premarital sexual activity are forbidden. Of course, we can’t teach that in the public schools.

      • I’m not quite sure what you mean here: “they knew that by having the country following one ideology would be dangerous.” The constitution was set up to prevent the government from establishing a state religion not to prevent the government from behaving in a moral manner or even legislating morality.

        Consider this from a speech in 1798 by John Adams:
        “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Note that Adams did not specify Christianity. But much of what is known as Common Law is Bible-based.

        And, even if we were a “Christian nation,” I believe we’ve left that far behind. I would offer that we are not even a religious people and maybe not even a moral people. What then of our Constitution? Is it no longer capable of contending with unbridled human passions? As I watch the judiciary at all levels establishing law with impunity, I wonder.

        I think that the Christian teachings by Jesus’ examples exemplify treating all people equally. He honored women, touched lepers, class status was unimportant (he interrupted a critical life-saving mission with a high official to heal a bleeding woman).

        Regardless of all of this, the actions of the boys who raped and the approval and distribution of photos by the rest was morally repugnant and there should be more of them in jail.

    • Given the behavior of the typical (loudly) self-identified xtian out there, this is exactly how people of a xtian nation behave.

      • “Typical” because they are loud? Perhaps that’s why there is a severe distortion of people’s understanding of Christianity. They only listen to the loud-mouths and don’t dig to see the thousands upon thousands who are working to be like Christ.

        I would suggest that the ones you label typical are not representative of most Christians at all.

  13. I think that age is where kids can take a wrong turn very quickly and get so far down the road they don’t know how they got there or how to turn around. Thank you for guiding these students down the road of what’s right and how to make good choices. It’s amazing how one conversation can change someones future (or a whole classrooms of futures). It’s positive changes like these that we must continue. Even if the conversation is awkward and difficult we must have it and keep having it. You seem like an amazing teacher and wonderful person. Thank you for sharing that with all of us and our young impressionable children.

  14. This was a great read. I am teaching In Honduras and my students read Speak. There was a lot of confusion because the main character was drunk and didn’t fight “hard enough.” They really don’t know and they have to be taught. We had a lot of good discussion and I hope they get it now. I use to teach in Sandy Springs, GA before God sent me to Honduras. Your students are very lucky to have you!

  15. Abby, you are doing amazing work. I taught at Fulton and Dekalb Community Schools while I lived in Atlanta. I was the Creative Writing teacher so students had a lot of leeway in discussing issues that came up and of course sex, rape, molestation, violence was always at the top of their lists. We know so little about what these young people’s lives are like, what they endure at home, among their peers, at school and traveling back and forth. One of my students had been gang raped at 14 on her way home from school, another at 11 had been shot in a drive-by while standing on his front porch. The lack of response to the trauma and violence they encountered was unconscionable and led to further problems down the line for them. You are correct that the messages we are teaching our children are confusing.

    These discussions that educators, ministers, parents and aunts and uncles are having or should be having will save the lives of not only the victims, but the would-be perpetrators of violence. We shouldn’t have to teach our children to say, “Stop or NO!” Whatever happened to, “Keep your hands to yourself?”

    Just think, if one of those kids in Ohio, just one had that conversation you had with your class, maybe he would have stood up for her and said, “We can’t do this. It is rape,” how different this outcome could have been.

  16. This brought me to tears, but I think in a good way.

    I had the “Unless she (or he) says “Yes”, you DO NOT TOUCH HER except to offer assistance” conversation with my 11-year-old son after watching the news this weekend. Some might think that 11 is too young, but I’d rather err on the side of caution and make sure he knows better before he ever finds himself in that situation.

    Kudos to you.

    • 11 isn’t too young. I used to tea pre-K, and we had the ‘no always means no’ talk, (though not in a sexual context) and conversations about how a person’s body belongs to them and it’s their choice what happens to it. It’s a mindset that can be instilled at any age, though I figure if you start them so young it’s probably easier to build on that framework as they mature into sexual beings.

    • 11 isn’t too young. When my 10-year-old asked me why I was so upset after the media did such an upsetting and terrible portrayal of what happened, we had a discussion about it. We have a rule in our house that you don’t touch someone without their permission. Now he has some understanding of why.

  17. Indeed, when someone puts a finger into a vagina, without her consent, it is indeed rape. No matter if its a penis or finger, or some object!You’re not allowed to touch! Breasts are the same, this doesnt mean “Oh so its just about the vagina, then i can touch her elsewhere” Touch her breasts against her will ,and it is rape!
    Some girls are forced to touch a guys penis, and put it into their mouths, something that isn’t talked as much about, since it seems more voluntarely. But that can indeed also be forced onto the girl. Just because she doesn’t ‘vocalize’ “no”, doesn’t mean its “yes”.

    Her whole body is sacred, and you’re not allowed to touch it against her will. So if you touch any part, even her arm, it is rape. Her body is hers, not yours. There are no boundaries between ‘okay-to-touch-against-her-will” zones and ‘not-okay’ zones. Its all “not-okay”.
    Kiss her without asking, rape! Touch her hand against her will, rape. Show her your penis without asking first, rape., Women are fragile and will be marked for life if you dont follow these rules.
    Remember this guys, if you do anything to her without her consent, it is rape and you will go to prison.

    • While I would agree with much of what you said, and the spirit of it, I feel compelled to express that there IS a difference, in both kind and magnitude, between touching someone’s arm or hand, and committing sexual violence (rape). I might define an unwanted touch on the arm or hand as harassment, or violence if force is used, but not rape.

      • Hi lea – it’s nice to have yet another man turn up to tell women when they have and haven/’t been raped. I’m sure they’re thrilled to have the wisdom of someone who, by their own admission, posted dishonestly to get a reaction – and wants to tell us all – but women specifically I think, that rape does not always equal rape.

        “I had a problem with this article and how fixated it was on suggesting that a woman is so fragile and only women can be raped, and if you do anything to her, you’re a rapist. I then made sick exagurated claims, to see if people would wake up. But only few did.”

        Have you thought about actually listening to what women have to say about rape? Have you thought about educating yourself on the relative size of the problem of rape of men versus rape of women? Both are horrendous. One is pretty rare. The other is pretty common. The guaranteed fixation of mens rights activitists (because that’s what you are, right?) on rape of men and the culpability of women in their own rape, in every discussion of it is tiresome.
        But also, as it happens with such total certainty we can at least spot the MRAs instantly. And there have been plenty through this thread. And you are just another one.

    • While I will agree with the” Her body is hers, not yours” statement I have to say something about the whole article. The thing about RAPE is simple. It is a VIOLATION OF THE FEMALE/MALE BODY and that if no consent is given it could POTENTIALLY be prison time. ” Women are fragile and will be marked for life if you don’t follow these rules” this is a faulty statement in that some human beings are stronger than they appear to be. Look through your history and you will find what I am talking about if not then you are ignorant of Historic Events. And also remember that this goes for both the MALES and FEMALES. NO MEANS NO. “okay-to-touch-against-her-will” zones and “not-okay” zones. Its all “NOT-OKAY”. Coming from someone who was raised by my Grandparents mostly, I feel the way you do about ” you will go to prison”, It should be “if you do anything to them without their consent, it is rape and you could go to prison” We just have to remember what times we live in NOW. With the advent of the internet and the way social media is so easy to influence our young people that the potential for wrong doing is always an issue with the anybody. This is just my my thoughts on what you wrote. Not a lot of people I work/live with feel the same as me.

    • Women are fragile and will be marked for life if you don’t follow these rules.Read your Historic Events and also remember that this goes both for the females and the males of the world. You should also remember that it is COULD go to prison. Even though it is SHOULD

      • Women are not fragile, women are strong, women need to be supported, need to have the law on their side, men are also victims of sexual assault and rape, who also need to have support, it is not as rare as everyone thinks it is, but there is even more pressure on a man to not report it,

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  19. Eshet chayil, Abby! You are a woman of valor. I’m grateful for your bold willingness to have this conversation with your students. I hope more teachers will do the same. It is sad and shameful we have to teach kids how not to rape but this issue is not going away.

  20. I love this. I’ve found that bringing the news into the classroom often elicits the most authentic discussions because the kids relate to it. And if they can’t relate to it, it’s still a reality, so they are more interested.

  21. Your article is very inspirational. I hope more teachers are like you! I hope you had this discussion with every class you taught!

    I think that what you wrote here would be perfect for TEDS Talk. You should submit this to go and give a lecture about this.

  22. I taught my son and daughter that their body belongs to them and other peoples bodies belong to the other people and touch is a matter of something requiring permission in that no means no, from a very early age. I do not understand why all parents do not do the same.
    I live in NZ where we have a worse rape rate than the US.
    I was discussing this at work the other night (I’m a bus driver) and a lot of the men were asking why so many young women dress “with it all hanging out” and asking “what are they selling?”
    Evidently this is a problem men do not know how to think appropriately about.

  23. Accessible text that allows for interpretation is best for encouraging conversations in the classroom. In American Lit, I’ve taught “Hills Like White Elephants” by Hemingway, and it has had a similar effect. For ninth grade, I recommend the poem “Barbie Doll” by Marge Piercy. It’s beautiful, accessible, and important; the students will have passionate opinions on the content.
    Check it out!

  24. Abby you are fully amazing and I’m standing on my chair shouting “oh captain, my captain.”

    I would also love to know what you think about this as a teacher:

    As a parent, I groan when the politicians say we need more sex education in schools. Because I know what ‘morals’ the teachers teach. When I was growing up, they literally just talked about the physics of sex and told us not to do it until we were sixteen. And then people decided that wasn’t such a great idea, because kids were going to have sex anyway. So then sex education became the teacher saying, ‘hey – I know you kids are just going to do it anyway, so be safe.’ Suddenly the message had turned from ‘wait’ (till yiu’re legally allowed to) to ‘you’re gonna do it anyway’. This carries another implicit message: everyone wants sex all the time, you’re unnatural to say no or wait, and you just have to decide when it’s right for you (but really it’s so much fun everyone should be doing it).

    Is this not unwittingly feeding into the rape culture that we assume that everyone wants it, all the time – cos why wouldn’t they when even our teacher is saying this?

    • Tanya, I’m not Abby, but your comment made me wonder what state you’re in and if you’ve actually audited any of the sex ed classes that your schools offer or spoken with any of the teachers about the curriculum and teaching methods?

      Here in Georgia I’ve had two children go through sex ed (a son and a daughter). They took these classes after I’d already begun having these discussions with them (I start around 10 with age appropriate conversations and continue to have them… my oldest is 16). Anyway, the kids were in no way encouraged by their teachers to HAVE sex… they were taught the basic mechanics of the process. So I wonder if it’s possible that you’re extrapolating this idea from hearsay versus the actual experience of finding out what is taught?

      The reality is, our kids are bombarded daily with images in movies, television, books, and media in regular life that encourage them to believe “everyone is doing it, it’s great and fun, and if YOU aren’t doing it, something is wrong with you.” And it’s not the school’s responsibility to teach morality to our kids… it’s the parents’ responsibility! Sex education of any type only has to happen in schools because there are so many parents who are not fulfilling their own responsibility… so it seems to me, that it might be more useful to rant and/or advocate that more parents learn how to teach their children appropriately about sex (and their moral views about it) than to accuse teachers of encouraging children to have sex.

      • Tanya and I live in the uk, and although your point about sex education being a parent’s responsibility certainly holds true, there has definitely been a move towards a very permissive attitude in the teaching about sex and relationships here. For fear of seeming “out of date” or “behind the times” the syllabus has been focused more towards “how not to get pregnant or catch anything nasty” than towards a mature and adult understanding of sex within a relationship.

      • Sex-ed in my high school included biology, contraceptives, and a demonstration (who shook hands with who?-style) of why you should severely limit who you fool around with.

      • AMEN It is the Parents responsibility, with a back up from the teaches with the right curriculum.

    • Yes, I definately see what you are saying. I think the conversation needs to be centered around “how to make good choices about sex.” I will teach in my home, and do give my students that my opinion that God designed sex for marriage and it is best to honor that design. I think that is why I love centering consent like this. “When will you be ready to give your yes?” That way can honor sex as special.

      • Thank you for putting this out here for us to discuss. I think that is why I love centering consent like this. “When will you be ready to give your yes?” That way they can honor sex as special. This is the best I have heard anybody put that statement. That poem is one I have never heard of but wish I had a lot sooner than now.

      • From these comments I suspect that your situation is different in the US. My strong (and informed) impression in from talking with pupils and teachers (and Ann’s comment backs me up on this) is that in the UK, the teachers focus on ‘safe sex’ only, wanting to teach this at an earlier and earlier age (e.g. from eight onwards) with an assumption that everyone will be having sex, and without any mention of why it’s good to wait.

    • I wouldn’t exactly call saying “just wait til you’re 16” responsible either. Being 16 doesn’t make you ready. “Wait til you know it’s the right person and you’re really comfortable and you could not have any regrets about it and if the contraceptives fail, you’ll still be ok,” would make way more sense to me.

      • “Could not have any regrets about it”????? And when might that occur?
        Can we please start telling kids at some point, clearly and definitively, that sex is good? Really good. A wonderful thing. Is it more important to you to stop them having sex, than to ensure they know sex can be fantastic? Or do you assume that they will find that out, despite the totally negative connotations which come through so very loud and clear from the abstinence message?
        We might tell them some other stuff too, but this very important message appears to be completely missing here! I realise that conservative Christians don’t want anyone to know that…but it is 2013 so perhaps we could move on? (And yup – I’ve got a 14 year old daughter)

      • You might also regret it if you get pregnant or HIV.

        Oh, and by the way Mason, I was told *in Catholic school* that sex is fun, but no matter how much you want to, don’t do it til you’re married. I nearly laughed out loud at the idea that sex was fun. I was aghast at the idea that anyone would want to have sex. I still don’t understand people who experience sexual attraction. I don’t understand people who regard their libido as anything other than a boring, extremely annoying, chore to be dealt with annually or so. But I realize I am outnumbered here. Asexuals only make up 1% of the population.

    • Better than “abstinence only” education in which kids are scared shitless out of experimenting with sex.

  25. I am very touched by your blog post regarding rape. Our society teaches many unintended lessons that have led us to where we are today including that “no” means “convince me.” That is certainly the lessons I learned growing up in the 60’s and 70’s.

    To lighten things up a bit I have a sarcastic question that addresses the state of public education. How did your lesson(s) on this prepare your students to do better on your state assessment tests that I am sure are part of your state’s graduation requirements?

    I am inceasingly frustrated that the accountability movement influences to stay away from important learning opportunities and to instead focus on rote learning of skills that have a high probability of being tested. The way we address students who do not easily learn those rote skills is even more frustrating. Somehow we have to figure out a way to instill a moral learning component into public education. I am so glad that you are willing to go off lesson and areas that are more important than any “high stakes test” will ever lead.

    • Excellent point about the state assessment accountability issues. A perfect reminder that some of the most “valuable” lessons cannot be assessed on a high stakes exam.

    • Just remember that most teachers are not fond of the content restrictions put on them by all the high stakes testing. I would love to really teach my students more life skills, but they aren’t tested….but I fit it in where I can!

  26. May I pin this on Pinterest? I’d use your blog header picture or I could upload another picture of my own if you prefer. Please let me know.

  27. This piece was referred to me by @giynlith on Twitter and I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate you sharing your experience. It boggled my mind, initially, to think that there are boys/men/people who need to be taught exactly what rape is… I thought it was a facetious suggestion initially, but your piece made me realize exactly how necessary this conversation is. Bravo to you for having the courage to have it with your students!

    I’m in the Sandy Springs area so I’m keeping my fingers crossed my younger kids might have the chance to meet you when they get to the high school. 🙂

  28. Wow. Amazing and eye-opening. Thank goodness for teachers like you. It’s a bit scary to think of a 15-year-old’s “understanding” of rape expressed this way: “How can she be raped? She wasn’t awake to say no.” Something needs to change, and I’m glad you’re doing your part.

  29. I am very grateful that teachers like you are able to have these open conversations with students instead of shielding them. The more that we share with them, the more we can prevent things like this from happening.

  30. Pingback: Adria Richards, Tech Conferences, and Steubenville | Kerry Skemp

  31. As a man with my own fair share of consensual regrets, I would like to add a layer to this discussion that I hope isn’t being repetitive.
    First, I really enjoyed your post. Second, I really liked the way you tackled the issue head on and were clear and challenging. What I’d like to add to the discussion is in regards to boundaries. Growing up, I was raised to fully understand that “without a clear yes, it was no.” There was so much emphasis on that, actually, that I was never really brought up to understand that I could or should say no myself. My understanding of a gentlemen, was a guy who never went further than the girl wanted to. I’ve realized as I’ve gotten older that I was taught under the presumption that I should want to go as far as she’ll let me, which if I want to be a gentleman, isn’t necessarily true. I thought setting boundaries was her job and respecting them was my job, and that mentality unfortunately led to a lot of regrets. As we educate future generations, I think it is vital to not only challenge the false presumption that silence is consent, but also to challenge the presumption that just because she says you can, means you should. I could go on and on, but once again, way to challenge your kids. We teach math, science, english, and so many others, and yet so often, we never teach relationships. Good work not falling into that trap.

    • Thank you for bringing this up. When I was growing up, it was generally accepted that boys would try for what they could get, and girls would stop them from getting too far. Even at the time it seemed to be to be horribly unfair to both boys and girls.

    • Thank you so much for adding your very important point. You are right on! Young men need to be encouraged to value their bodies and spirit as well. They need to feel empowered to say “No” also and still see themselves as real men…men of character. It would be a real disservice to young men and young women to keep the conversation one-sided.

  32. I like to think there is a slow change happening. Here in the UK anti rape adverts used to say, “Girls, watch your drinks, stay together, don’t go home in unmarked taxis.” Now they say, “Guys, no means no.”

    I think it’s so important not to teach women not to get raped, but rather to teach men not to rape.

    • Now there’s the bit I was waiting for. Definitively teach the boys how not to rape but by the same token, teach the girls that also. I have heard of a couple of incidents of the girl raping the guy because of fraternity hazings and other reasons. Just remember that it goes both ways

    • I think the UK ads are based off an old Australian campaign with the tagline ‘violence against women – Australia says no’ (I’d look it up on YouTube and link it but YouTube comments are a cesspit of misogyny on anything related to this). It basically had the typical excuses around physical and sexual assault, then responded with ‘that’s sexual assault’ or ‘you are [a guy who beats women]’, etc. It tried to dispel the ‘it wasn’t so bad’ arguments that are so insidious.

  33. So many people claim to be Christian nowadays and are of course the opposite.

    You have shown compassion and helped children, two things Jesus really emphasized.

    Let’s hope these kids go forth and spread the truth you helped them find.

    • Here’s the thing… it’s the “implied consent” that makes things murky. It’s my opinion that we do a disservice to both genders when we make it taboo for girls to confidently and straightforwardly say “yes.” Part of the reason (again, in my opinion), that boys/men (and women!) have a hard time completely understanding what actions are defined as rape is because we have this general cultural idea that good girls don’t actively pursue a sexual encounter and, therefore, it’s the guy’s job to elicit sexual desire from her. Which is why to many guys, “no doesn’t necessarily mean no.”

      I would imagine, if we could have a frank discussion with men who didn’t have to worry about being denigrated as sexist or misogynistic for sharing their true experiences, we’d hear a lot of stories about how rare it is to actually experience a completely unqualified, enthusiastic “yes!”… and how much they would probably appreciate if they could experience that more often. In the meanwhile, they often fall back to the culturally accepted/promoted idea that a woman must be pursued… which includes persistently encouraged to engage farther in sexual activities than she may initially say she wants to.

      (And, in case this needs to be said… I’m saying this with the understanding that I’m not defending anyone who forces a woman to have sex… I believe no means no and I’ve taught my kids that if a person says no, it’s not their responsibility to seduce or persuade them into saying “yes.” If you have to talk a girl/boy into being intimate, then that’s the same as NO in my book. And unconscious or semi-conscious people who aren’t able capable of making a reasoned decision automatically fall in the NO camp.)

  34. You rock! I wish all teachers were like you. “A teachable moment”–many years ago, when the movie came out with Demi Moore and Robert Redford wherein she was persuaded to spend the night with a man for a million dollars, even though she was married to another (I don’t remember the name of the movie) but the point is that my kids were in high school. When I picked them up from school that day, they had a bunch of friends with them and they all had participated in a discussion about that movie in class at school. They were still engaged in the conversation and it continued at our house. We went around the room with everyone giving their opinion about whether or not they would engage in such a relationship and many said that they would because that was a lot of money. When it came around to me, they all wanted to know where I stood on this question and I suggested that they think about the situation from another perspective. If the price were less, would they still say yes? I suggested that if a thing is wrong, it is wrong at any price. If it is right, what’s the issue? Therefore, is a person willing to prostitute himself or herself for a million dollars–or for a hundred dollars–or not at all under any circumstances? It seemed to plant a seed in their fertile minds.

  35. I am a retired United Methodist pastor AND a second career teacher. I taught ninth grade English during my first year of teaching. I deeply appreciate this story, and I am sharing it with United Methodist youth leaders I know on Twitter. GREAT POST. Thank you.

  36. I wanted to thank you for stepping up to the plate and doing what at least thirty sets of parents clearly haven’t done. We need more teachers with the guts and courage to explain this to our nation’s children, because they’re not going to learn it anywhere else.

    Thank you, you’re so very awesome.

  37. Pingback: Rape and education | Thoughts, rants and random babbles

  38. This is an awesome post and an even more awesome teaching lesson with your students. Thank you for having the courage to have that conversation with your kids. And thank you for writing this so I can share it!

  39. Reblogged this on Indescribably Average and commented:
    I can’t even begin to explain how amazing this post is. After reading this, I am able to breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that the teachers who will one day teach my children are finally understanding that they CAN affect change.
    This is beautiful to read. Keep the conversation going.

  40. I completely agree with everything said, by you and by the commenters. My concern/worry….I teach 6-8 grade, which is where this conversation should begin, but I worry about my job security dare I discuss this subject. Sometimes Freshman are too old for this conversation, they need to learn these valuable lessons earlier in life. Too much?? Too Real?? You should be proud of yourself.

  41. As a victim of rape, I can definitely agree that not everyone knows what rape IS. I’m pretty sure that the rapist in my case does not think what he did was rape.

    I do hope your students learned something, but I fear that the message will soon be forgotten. It should be reinforced, not just by you, but by every adult in their lives. I have read many articles and posts about the “rape culture” we have, but I’m not the one who needs to be receiving the message.

  42. Thank you for speaking up when many people won’t. You are the type of teacher I can only hope my kids end up with. I will keep you in my prayers–keep walking the walk!

  43. This post has traveled far — I found it on a link on Tamora Pierce’s facebook page — and I hope it continues to go farther. This is a true message that we as teachers don’t just teach content. We can teach kids to be better people.

  44. We need more teachers like you.

    Additionally, something else that should be taught is the emotional impact rape leaves on the life of the victim. The victim had to live out a life sentence of constant reminders, triggers, feelings of being powerless or worthless, depression, PTSD. It’s seldom talked about in depth! Everyone has their plans of what they’re going to do if someone tries to rape them, but no one opens up about what it’s like to experience it, and then have to live with the fact this happened to them. Everything from constant fear of leaving the house, paranoia that they’ve come back whenever an unfamiliar creak sounds through the house at 2am. It’s terrifying, truly terrifying..

  45. Whilst I commend teaching a mixed class of 15yr old kids about this topic, it really is too little, too late & you’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the topic at hand & will do your students an injustice by not fully covering the subject matter.

    Not only does it come down to giving consent, also need to drill home the age at which a person can legally give consent, statutory rape, rape committed by females against males, male on male, female on female, psychological impact on the victim. Also the fact that rape, more over sex itself, is addictive.

    • Is all of this solely the teacher’s obligation? That seems very unfair, especially to call it an injustice! That’s quite rude and unwarranted imo. Although there is of course always more to learn, this teacher did a radical and wonderful thing already, and it seems to me that you’re not giving credit where credit is due.

    • While we did cover much of this (I explicictly covered that rape can be any gender on any gender) I wish I did have the time to cover more. But I think that centering on let YES be YES on its own is important enough to cover. Consent was what the kids were confused and asking about. So we started there.

      • I think 99.99% of those reading this think you did a truly amazing, and inspirational thing here…Consent is exactly what so many are confused about (here in the UK too)…just fantastically clear what you have put up here.

    • No offense Sir but you’ve got to start somewhere and I think that she did an excellent job of getting the ball rolling in the right direction for the kids. At this point the kids should go to their parents to ask the rest of those questions. For the parents to show them the compassion and intellect to talk about the facts to their questions.

  46. I posted a link to this on my Facebook page, because this resonates with a lot that I had been seriously thinking of ever since this Steubenville tragedy caught everyone’s attention. I tremble to think of how many tragedies you might have just headed off. Thank G-d – &, of course, thank YOU!

  47. Pingback: Jim C. Hines » How Old Should My Child Be Before I Start Teaching Him/Her About Rape?

  48. I was thinking about this: maybe what we should say is that a guy should just… ask? Just tell the guys: If things are heating up and you’re getting more physical with a girl, ask, “Do you want me?” Because if she does, then that’s a really sexy thing to ask; and if she responds passionately, “Yes, I want you”, then you not only have pretty clear green light, but you’ve heated things up. But if she hesitates — if she says “um” or doesn’t seem to be that enthusiastic, slam on the brakes. “Hey, wait a minute — are you sure you want to do this? Because I want you, but I want to make sure this is something you’re ready for.” And that’s sexy too, even if it means no sex tonight (or maybe with this person ever).

    Really, I think you’re right — I went through Sex Ed classes every year from 6th through 9th grade, but I don’t think we covered really basic stuff like this, and it should be covered.

      • This, exactly! As a college student, I had gone through several relationships where things heated up much faster than I expected and though I never said no, I always felt guilty and wrong afterward. I, of course, wasn’t speaking up and I am in no way blaming the guys for pushing me into anything, but I felt such relief when a guy I was dating went to take off my shirt, stopped and said, “Is this ok?”. It gave me pause enough to realize that I wasn’t ready to go that far with him AND it gave me the perfect opportunity to say “no”.

  49. Re the consent thing: You might compare it to theft: So if I come to your home when you’re away, is it OK for me to take your stereo or your TV, because you weren’t there to say no? Of course not — your stuff is your stuff, and the rule is not “I can take your stuff unless you say no”, but “I can’t take your stuff unless you say yes.” It’s the same with sex — your body is your body, and the rule is not, “I can do what I want with your body unless you say ‘No'”, but “I can’t do anything with your body unless you say ‘Yes’.”

  50. If you want good language for sexuality, consent, power, identity, and relationship building (another part often not taught and kids are expected to just ‘figure it out’), look into the OWL program. It’s an integrated sexuality curriculum developed jointly by the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist church. No religion in the core sections, specifically, though you can buy a separate section that includes religion and sexuality. The curriculum is set up for different ages, too.

    • So if you’re an atheist, the rape doesn’t hurt you as much? Or, are you saying that you can’t recover from it without converting? Either interpretation is problematic in a secular society.

    • A truly offensive, thoughtless, sheltered, privileged, thing to write. The fact that this little platitudinous saying seems cute to you, doesn’t make it so. The un-thought out implications are a bit horrible actually – and have no place here, in the comments section of a truly inspiration piece about a great bit of teaching.

      • I am disturbed by your curious and unbecoming hypothesis. You appear to be laboring under a painful misconception about the significance of a loss of dignity.

      • Well hey ho Barry…we can both be disturbed by the other. What precisely was my ‘hypothesis’ here? And to have a person of faith lecturing me about “laboring under a misconception” ought to be funny, only somehow I’m not laughing.

      • S Mason, you have hypothesized a Theory of Mind featuring a number of elements regarding my cognitive-emotive state in framing my comment to the author of this blog.

        The first element of the Theory of Mind that you posit is that the framing of my comment to the author of this blog was unencumbered by the thought process. What is your evidence, analysis, and reasoning to support that element of your hypothesis? More to the point, what steps did you undertake to falsify that part of your hypothesis before adopting, articulating, and reacting pejoratively to it?

        The second element of your hypothesized Theory of Mind was that the comment I posted “seemed cute to me.” What is your evidence, analysis, and reasoning to support your thesis that my comment seems “cute” to me, rather than one that I considered to be insightful, sober, sincere, heartfelt, or empathetic to the author of this blog (to whom it was addressed). Did you mean to suggest that my comment to the author of this blog seemed “cute” to you?

        The next feature of your hypothesis is that you characterize my comment to the author of this blog as “platitudinous,” meaning “trite, meaningless, biased, or prosaic.” Now it can’t have been meaningless, since you wouldn’t have taken umbrage or offense at a meaningless string of words, so I conclude (hopefully without error) that you found my comment to be trite, biased, or prosaic. Now “trite” means commonplace or oft-repeated, and not original. But I am quite sure I have never articulated that particular thought before, and (to the best of my knowledge) neither has anyone else. But if you can find multiple instances of it (say by a Google search), I would be happy to concede that it’s a commonplace, trite, and oft-repeated sentiment. Perhaps you meant that my comment was somehow biased toward those to whom I was expressing empathy. Is that what you meant? If so, to whom do you adjudge it to be biased against?

        Now I would like to turn to your most recent message, in which you express disdain for being lectured to by a “person of faith.” I note that the author of this blog is a person who adopts the moniker, “Accidental Devotional,” and whose abbreviated profile reads, “I am trying hard to follow God as a mother, teacher, wife, speaker and writer.” Moreover, the banner for this blog carries the additional message, “God shows up when you invite Him… Sometimes even when you don’t.” I am unclear as to why anyone who takes exception to a belief in God would, on the one hand praise an author who celebrates the role of God in her life while simultaneously objecting to being instructed by a “person of faith.” Can you help me resolve that cognitive dissonance?

        I would appreciate reading your thoughtful observations, explanations and sentiments.

    • Quoting only PART of a word’s definition is not scholarly or impressive, it’s cowardly and tiresome. Platitude: a trite, meaningless, biased, or prosaic statement, often presented as if it were significant and original. Pay attention to the entire definition, do not twist or edit it to suit your argument, and it is clearly relevant.
      This considered conversation about rape is a completely offensive place for you to troll your pseudo-religous and pseudo-intellectual garbage.

      • Isn’t it up to Abby Norman to make that call? After all, this is her blog, and she openly declares at the banner at the top of the page her Christian religious perspective.

        On her Facebook page, Abby and I chatted amiably, and she expressed to me the hope that participants here would “remain respectful and grace filled.”

  51. As a teacher, I love having opportunities like this. Kudos to you for diving into this topic. I’m always impressed with teenagers and their ability to engage in serious conversations and, like you mentioned, challenge the status quo style thinking. They tend to believe what they’ve heard or been told–until put into a situation where they really evaluate their own beliefs and how they see they world.

    As a teacher and a parent I thank you for having this incredibly important conversation with your students.

  52. Pingback: If I say no, what does that mean to you? | Words of Ms. Irocky

  53. I agree, Ms. Norman – you rock! I thank you for caring enough about your students (our children) to have this converstaion. I truely wish we had more teachers who care this much. As parents we do not want to see our children as sexual beings, but it is inevitable. As parents we should have this conversation, but we are just as scared as the kids. I hope this case causes more dialog between parents and their developing teens. I know I will have this conversation with my two teenage boys this weekend. Great job, and thank you.

  54. Wonderful story! I will share with my friends and family. Our society has never respected females. When our European ancestors invaded this continent, they called the inhabitants “savages”. Most, if not all
    Native cultures have a deep respect for their women AND children. That’s not to say that rape does not happen with them. But if they follow their traditional culture, it is rare and not tolerated. There is no “good ole boy” system or “boys will be boys” thinking. There is so much we can learn from our Native peoples.

  55. Whenever I’ve had an inkling for a lesson – or, really, to just share thoughts (because how would you write a lesson plan for this, really?) – like this at school, I have a nagging voice in the back of my head that says “but what will the parents say when the kids get home and say we talked about [taboo topic]? I could get in trouble!” It’s terrible that there’s a justifiable fear that parents/community members could lash out against this sort of thing. You don’t have to look far to see the type and volume of support that the Steubenville rapists got ( comes to mind), and the coach who tried to “make it all go away” (last I heard) somehow still has the same job he had before the incidents.

    • That is some disgusting thinking going on at that sight! I saw people trying hard to get them to think correctly, but the ‘stooopid’ is strong there. That blog is a perfect example of why there has to be an overhaul of education regarding consent, rape, the whole 9 yards. They don’t even know the laws they’re arguing against. The misogyny is, also, strong in the arguments for the apologists. They are too blinded by their hate for women that they don’t realize the laws protect men and young children, too. The saying regarding the King in the Land of the blind would be the one person with the eye is too true. People like to parrot other people’s beliefs/agendas rather than find out for themselves the realities of the world. Research isn’t a difficult thing, but unless it fits their worldview, they can’t partake in reading/learning it. Sad, sad, sad.

  56. Bravo, good teacher! Bravo! I am currently readying myself for a second career in English education. Just last night after my son’s high school track meet, one of his freshman teammates engaged me in a conversation about their principal and some of his boundaries concerning a recent school dance. In the context of the conversation, she shared with me (freely, I might add) that she “goes both ways.” Wow. I almost ran screaming for the hills. This encourages me, and I intend to share this with my Young Adult Literature professor. You are very brave and I thank God for you.

  57. J+M+J

    Can’t we talk about “consent” AND simultaneously talk to teens about irresponsible behavior – including why it’s so dangerous to place yourself in a situation vulnerable to the evil which other might do? The young men in Steubenville are completely and utterly in the wrong, but I don’t think this young girl behaved in an exemplary fashion either. Did she deserve to be victimized by such a crime? No, certainly not. But it is undeniable that her lack of discretion placed at risk. We need to instill personal responsibility and integrity in ALL young people (and adults, for that matter).

    • We do, but it very much sends the wrong message, in this instance, to focus on pointing out what the victim “did wrong.” There’s an imbalance in assigning blame that needs to be corrected, so it makes sense to me to leave the victim out of it in this particular conversation.

    • The “make good choices” conversation is one we have at a minimum, every Friday. I think consent can be a part of that conversation, “making sure you have consent is always a good choice” without implying that someones one bad choice led to them being raped.

      • Yes! I mean, if I leave my keys in my car and the door unlocked and someone steals it, that was maybe not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. But the person who drives off in it is still a car thief, and no one would argue that they not be prosecuted because it was somehow reasonable to assume I wanted them to take it.

    • People that lead with this are what’s wrong with the current society’s way of thinking. Take the blame off of the victims. It doesn’t matter if the victim is sitting in the middle of the floor completely naked, fully aware of her surroundings, playing with herself, and any other thing that makes sick in the head, rapist and rape apologist people think they have the right to violate someone else, the person ‘putting on the show’ does NOT deserve to be raped. If she does not give consent she doesn’t deserve to be touched or penetrated in any manner, shape or form. There is such a thing as personal space, still, isn’t there? We need to place the stigma onto the perpetrators NOT onto the victims. Teaching personal responsibility does not stop a rapist from raping someone. What can help is to teach a future possible perpetrator that something they didn’t know was a crime truly is. This could stop an average person from becoming a criminal. So you’re implying we should we teach women/young girls that they can’t have fun, should just sit in their homes doing nothing, just because some boys out there whom are allowed to have fun, might be rapists in the making? What happens when she’s attacked just going shopping, dressed fully covered from head to toe, then? She’s going to blame herself from having left the safety of her home, that’s what. She won’t blame the perpetrator, and society will still ask, ‘what was she wearing’, ‘was she flirting’, ‘did she have a provocative walk’, all the many auto-victim blaming questions that immediately arise when there’s a sexual assault involved. Do you blame homeowners when their houses are broken into and robbed? Do question them as to whether or not they had a security alarm system, do you question them whether or not they had their doors and windows locked? Do you ask them why they have such a nice exterior to their homes? Do you ask them why they have such nice ‘goods’ to be stolen? Do you tell them they should live without flash, so they don’t get robbed again? Is this how everyone should live? Not having nice things, so they can avoid home invasions?

      • Really? If both boys and girls treated themselves with dignity and modesty, avoiding underage drinking, hook-ups and the like, the incidences of rape like in this case would necessarily decrease. That is just a fact.

        It’s ridiculous to only focus on the rapists, without a larger conversation about reasonable behavior and how it will protect you from all sorts of danger

  58. I wonder if you even read the details of this case?
    1. During the night of the incident the girl was drinking heavily and flirting intensely with the perpetrators of the crime.
    2. There was no intercourse, The boys fondled her while she was unconscious (according to the law ASSAULT and not RAPE)

    I don’t care if they were athletes or whatever, they were wrong in what they did and should be punished. I just think the fact that people like you, who are responsible for the future of children have such a distorted, biased and morally bereft view of the situation.

    I am sure you will not allow this to be published or will delete this as your character on these blogs I have read shows you are not open to criticism.

    Dr. Morris Desoto, MD

    • And furthermore.. what do you teach?! Philosophy? Theology? English?
      Do your job and quit pushing your opinions on children. What is next? Tell them who to vote for when they grow up?

      • ah, the good doctor is a rape apologist! drinking, flirting, and being unconscious *are not consent for sex,* and rape is any penetration that not consensual. that’s not opinion–it’s law, basic human decency, and honoring the bodily autonomy of others. who’s morally bereft again, doc?

    • So it’s “morally bereft” to talk to your students about consent, but you’re fine with arguing for the rapists (yes, rapists) whose guilt has already been legally determined?

      I’m so glad it’s not my job to disabuse you of your horrifying ignorance. I can only hope the damage you inflict on society will be minimized by people reasonable enough to reject your false teachings. “Doctor.”

    • 1. yeah, she was drunk, which is why it was 100% impossible for her to give consent.

      2. It was penetration, not external fondling. Under the FBI’s definition, ANY penetration is rape, period, end of story. So yes, it absolutely was rape.

    • Oh well, they just assaulted her – which is of course morally and legally acceptable Of course more to the point you’re wrong – the FBI and Ohio’s legal definition includes digital penetration.

    • Well you’re certainly not the sort of doctor I’d want to go to. Do you mock your female patients if they tell you about any assault they’ve suffered?
      So she drank. So what? So she flirted. So. Freaking. What!? She did not give consent for those boys to put their fingers in her vagina (which fits the legal definition of rape, and as a medical doctor, you probably should know that), nor did she give consent to be filmed, urinated on, ejaculated on, or in any way treated as something less than a person. None of this is ‘bias’, it is fact. It is law.
      As for morally bereft, on the one hand we have a discussion about consent and making sure the other party wants to engage in any sexual activity, on the other, we have a doctor who doesn’t even know the legal definition of rape and seeks to blame the victim because she dared to drink. I think it’s pretty clear which side is morally bereft, but you seem a little slow, so I’ll give you a hint – it’s you.

    • Dr – by the way: you owe an apology. Your angry and horrible rant has been published. I wonder if you will apologise? Hmmm…. hmmmm…. hmmmmmm….

  59. with tears in my eyes and the hair standing up all over my body I say an unequivocal thank you, thank you, thank you. Brilliant.

    • to the teacher, not to Dr. Desoto. If a child gets drunk, and flirts, and then passes out, it is not acceptable for anyone, ever, to fondle her, strip her naked, post photos of her, or cover it up. It’s wrong. Teachers are in a position to educate children, and Ms. Norman is perfectly within her rights as a teacher of English or Language Arts to bring Current Events into her curriculum.

  60. I disagree with your opinion about a teachers ‘rights’ to politically motivate or brainwash children to believe or behave ideologically in line with the teachers.

    *Edited to help protect the specific students involved in this conversation*
    She teachers literature. Not politics. Not theology. Not law. Do your damn job. Teach kids and leave your opinions at the door.

    • all people have the right not to be touched, penetrated, stripped, or photographed without their consent. this is neither opinion nor ideology but justice and fact, (and sometimes literature and classroom learning actually apply to real life!). if this is unclear even to a supposed medical doctor and grown man, you are part of the problem.

      • I wonder if the TSA (Transportation Services Administration) is aware of this unalienable right to be secure in our persons.

    • Well Dr – you are the problem in our rape apology society…
      Folks – according to Google, the good doctor is a Christian with a strong “family values” bent.
      Ms Norman: please ignore the angry Dr. What you did is fantastic – as so many here can testify. Please keep doing what you did and ignore the rape apologists.

  61. I am a psychologist and hold seminars Thursdays and Fridays at a University near where I live.
    I do not lecture students about cooking or fishing.

    • They asked me about it. They asked me about consent. They pulled a piece of information from the news and applied it to the poem and asked me what it meant. That is a strong pedagogical practice. I don’t think of telling someone that they need a clear yes to touch someone sexually as forcing my views on someone. I think of that as protecting my students from making bad decisions, and I stand by it.

    • Teaching English or any language’s literature is by its very nature, a field that touches on ethics and what it means to be human and have a place in a society. The only way an English teacher could avoid all discussions of this sort would be to confine one’s discussions of literature to analyzing how perfectly an author used punctuation or spelling, or specific rules of grammar. Really. We study English because it makes us think about how people have thought about these things and how they affect us and our society. Therefore, making connections to real life is an integral part of this education.

    • Since you are a psychology teacher who does not teach fishing or cooking, perhaps you could also refrain from teaching a qualified English teacher how to teach her subject.

      I remember an English class as a teenager where we read a poem and none of us understood it. We were all white. The poem was about racism. Sometimes it’s necessary for a teacher to explain and explore the issues in a poem to do justice to the work. We did that in the context of debate and discussion, which was also part of English literature training and assessment.

      Seems to me like Abby is doing her job extremely well.

    • You lecture in psychology?! Frankly, that’s even more terrifying than thinking you were a GP. It also makes me even more concerned for any patients of yours who have been sexually assaulted, because frankly, your comments tend to suggest that you’d blame your patients for their assaults.

    • What was done here was not a lecture but a conversation. An avenue where most learning occurs rather that being lectured to. I also know a degree does not really qualify a person to teach; especially about the tough issues of life.

  62. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU. Thank you for writing this, thank you for openly sharing, thank you for teaching this invaluable lesson. I am a mother to three young boys, and while there is a bit of time before this topic arises for our family, it weighs on me constantly to think of my little ones’ futures and who they will be based on the choices they make. I am scared to death of this kind of situation, whether it is my sons, or their friends that I have watched grow up with my sons. I fear the sense of entitlement that accompanies being a male around a female under the influence. I am grateful to have a guiding and *CLEAR* message to raise these boys with, that without a firm “yes,” the answer is always “no.”

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  64. Did you touch on personal responsibility, for both the males and females involved in the recent news coverage? Like not getting drunk and passing out in the first place.
    I see you did cover not touching or having sex with someone else if they have not given you express consent.

    So it seems you are being one sided in your “warnings”.

    • I did cover those things. See comment responses above from people who had genuine questions. I think EVERYONE should make sure EVERYONE is consenting to touching and other sexual behavior. I re-read what I wrote and feel like that is implied, but know that I yelled that loudly at my students.

    • You are derailing.
      This was one conversation with students, which clearly will not be a stand-alone event. Sure, there is more to be said about personal responsibility; absolutely that topic should have some further and more specific focus. Just because there is more to be said on the subject does not mean that the original conversation was one-sided.

      Or you’re a rape apologist, or deeply under-educated, and actually believe that someone being drunk is on par with being a rapist. These things are not two halves of a whole.

  65. Congratulations on your important discussion with your class. You are right, 9th graders are capable of putting aside the ill-formed ideas they have been handed, at least for awhile, to see another side.
    Years ago – in the early 80’s – I also taught 9th graders and a topic of conversation that borrowed from the headlines one day concerned SDI – the Strategic Defense Initiative, or Star Wars as it was known. We were talking about it from a technology perspective as well as a social one – was it an inherently destabilizing thing to build, assuming it could ever work?
    Suddenly, one of my students asked, deadly serious, why don’t we simply nuke them first, after all, they were our enemies? I almost passed out that this privileged little girl could blithely speak of the death of millions of people without a care. Which prompted a discussion about Russian girls in their schools at that exact same moment and how similar their hopes and fears and dreams likely were to hers. A concept which I can fairly say she had never considered.
    Teachers do need to raise difficult subjects and students need to be challenged in their thinking. How else can they ever mature?

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  67. I’m really glad this came up in your classroom and that you handled it so well. I agree that it’s upsetting how poorly people (and not just young people) understand the idea of consent. As you implied, our society is not teaching people how to handle their sexuality in positive, loving, communicative ways. And since there is a vacuum when it comes to positive models of sexuality, people are falling back on the very negative model of pornography. Pornography has become disturbingly mainstream, and for many people, it is the only model of sexuality that they see. And in pornography (and pornography-inspired ads, music videos, blockbuster movies, etc.), women appear to be ALWAYS available for ANYTHING. (A current car commercial in which a high school boy grabs the prom queen and forcibly kisses her, leaving her dazed and smiling, is an example.) If we as a society are not discussing sex and how it should involve love and respect, or AT LEAST communication, people will fall back on their only other model of what sex should look like: pornography. Thanks for the post!

  68. Thank you. Your students are lucky to have you for their teacher. I pray you don’t get any flak about this from parents or administration. it is exactly what our young people need to hear!

  69. This was uplifting and depressing at the same time. I thought we were at a point where we could unteach boys to think of themselves as wanting sex all the time with anyone. But if we are still at “miniskirt doesn’t equal consent”. But I’m glad that you could get them there.

  70. Thank you for being the kind of teacher I would have wanted as a 15 year old. You rock and your students are lucky to have you.

  71. I am so glad there are people trying to get this message out. However had it may be to hear, it is true. As a society, we need to cope with that.


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  73. Thank you.
    When I have my moments of prayer about my child’s education it is always “Please let her teachers be the ones that step outside the boxes they’ve been shoved into to give her what she needs”.

  74. I am glad that you know that one person makes a difference. I hope this inspires more people to understand that as well. We are all “only one person”, and we all make a difference. You made it count for something awesome. Thank you so much.

  75. It’s admirable that you’re teaching lessons about consent. I understand that your blog post is essentially a summary and that you may have discussed things during the lesson that weren’t mentioned in your blog post. As such, my question shouldn’t be construed as an “attack” because I am already well aware that I wasn’t in the room and that you didn’t record every detail in your blog.

    That said, I wonder if you have a boy in your class who has been molested or raped? I ask because in all of the dialogue you posted from your class session, you reference only females needing to give verbal consent. Students need to hear that silence is not consent. But wouldn’t it have been a much more teachable moment to point out that male silence isn’t consent, either? If your goal is to break down stereotypes, it would have been helpful to address the myth that a man is always ready, always turned on, and always consenting by default.

    The boy in your classroom who has been keeping a terrible secret would have been very grateful to hear those words. Did you take the time to say them?

    • Such a good question, because if I didn’t cover that I would need to on Monday. I did get to cover that and that was well responded to too. Thank you for asking this. I can tell you did it for the benefit of my students.

  76. I wasn’t now going to a school with about 25 students instead my old one with a few thousand I would want to read this in any class I could. I would love to give it to my health teacher but I don’t think in my Kansas school that teaches abstinence only sex ed would dare speak in depth of something as ‘radical’ as the definition of rape.

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  78. The world needs more teachers like you. I don’t even remember when I properly learned about rape or consent, and I grew up with a mentality that contributed to rape culture due to all the information fed to me (from teachers, students, TV, everything) about how I should “protect” myself from boys. I’m glad you were able to hold a discussion and make your students see the truth. We’re all role models and we should all fight this messed up way of thinking.

  79. I enjoyed reading your post. I am also a teacher; I teach a mix of ages, no ninth graders, but some Middle School classes. It’s good to be reminded sometimes that what we do is so very important, even if some days it doesn’t feel like it.

  80. This conversation is so important because if we are not teaching this to our kids, who will? (The perverse will). It is as equally important to discuss the consequences to sexual activity. I am 31 years old, got married at 23 and stayed a virgen until my wedding night. Going through college, all my friends where hooking up with others but I chose to abstain from sex. It wasn’t easy because the temptation to do it was all around me, however this value was so important to me that I decided it was worth the wait. When some of my friends where dealing with the drama of feeling used by a man who only wanted sex instead of a relationship, or unwanted pregnancies, or disease, I had the security of knowing I married a man who loved me for me, not for my body, and we both had the commitment to prove it. Hollywood would tell us we need several sexual partners, but I have only had one and will only have one the rest of my life as we have married for life. This is my ninth year of marriage and we are happily married. For me, it was worth the wait.

  81. Sometimes re-framing the incident can help shed light on it. If someone is unconscious and you take his wallet, is it still stealing? Of course. If someone is unconscious, and you stick a knife in her heart, is it still murder? Of course. This is why what they did to her is rape. Children need to learn to protect those who are unable to protect themselves, be they young or old, rather than to see them as an easy target for their fun. This goes for bullying and every other form of using and hurting others for fun.

  82. Thank you for this. I wish I had had a teacher like you when I was in High school. I was one of the girls that was an avid “no sex till marriage” but I drank and smoked. My sophomore year I started dating a guy when he pushed the sex issue I flat out told him my stance. Needless to say I dumped him quick. Two weeks after my 16th birthday, I snuck out of the house to a small party at a friends apartment, said “ex” was not there when I showed up and no one knew I had dumped him. I got drunk and past out on the living room floor. When I woke up he was there next to me. Without going into more detail, I knew I had been raped. But because I had snuck out and had gotten drunk and past out, I didn’t tell anyone, after all it was all my fault, right? After that, I figured I had lost the only special thing I had to offer my future husband, why bother staying celibate? WRONG!!! I, of course, eventually came to the realization that it was NOT my fault and BECAUSE of my Christian faith I was able to forgive him and move on with my life and speak about it without any anger, pain, depression etc.

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  84. may i transfer my son to your school? none of the schools in my area teach common sense and personal responsibility…

    keep on doing what you’re doing. people notice. and we’re thankful.

  85. I love this and will spread it far and wide.

    But I do have a comment on the comments on the topic of family/school/religion responsibility. I believe that families and schools should teach what rape/assault legally is, the legal and biological implications of rape/assault, and the consequences of those. Those are true for every student. the information for safe sex is important because teens will not always follow what their families or religious institutions say; and when you have sex should be a conversation had between families based on their personal and religious beliefs. A student should not have to find out what rape is in a court room or because it happened to them; and you can’t always trust parents to tell them- obviously some aren’t.

  86. I agree this is an important thing to discuss, but I feel (and I could be wrong) you are tackling the wrong angle.

    By saying that men should “get a signed letter” from a woman before they have sex is still perpetuating the idea that men always want sex, and if a man buys a woman dinner, and chocolates, and goes to a movie, and eventually gets her into a bedroom, and then applies some “smooth moves”, then he might persuade her to “give him” sex.

    I think this attitude, than sex is something men earn, and women give after enough persuasion, is part of the problem. “No means no and yes means yes” is something that should be taught to both boys and girls.

    Of course, I would hope I don’t have to say (but unfortunately I possibly do), that this is not a rape apology, and no woman is who raped deserves it. But perhaps, the whole of society has warped the gender roles in sex enough, that it is partly society at large’s fault.

    • Yes! I wsa speaking in generalities for the sake of my students identities (there were a few exceptions to the boy girl, but mostly), but I was sure to use gender inclusive language. Plus, the cold reality is that likely some of my boys have been raped as children and I didn’t want them to get the impression that it was thier fault because they are boys.

    • Unfortunately, I think a lot of well-meaning people overemphasize “no means no” at the expense of stressing that “yes means yes” or “consent should be enthusiastically given”. This gives the impression that consent is a default state that must be explicitly revoked, when we really need to be teaching is that consent does not exist until it is clearly given. Too much emphasis on “no means no” leaves the door open to thinking it’s okay as long as she doesn’t say no, even if she’s unable to say no.

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  88. I’m an English teacher too, and find being able to talk about the real world one of the great things about teaching English. I remember once talking with a young man who was confused because he was with a young woman and she said, ‘stop’, he did and then she yelled at him and told him he wasn’t being a ‘real man.’ I was so glad he told me because it gave me the opportunity to tell him he was absolutely right and sent him off with the phrase to say if it happened again, ‘If you can’t be honest about what you want, then I don’t need to be with you.’ But because we send a message to girls that to want sex means you are a slut, then some play games.

    I must admit, I use this now to talk to students. I now teach at a girls school and we discuss this when we learn about the media and do a unit on sexualisation of women. But I make sure they know that if they say ‘no’ and don’t mean it, for whatever reason, it endangers every girl in the room. I joke around with them about game playing, and I worry about what ’50 Shades of Gray’ has sent out into the ether, but we have to make giving and getting consent sexy.

    Thanks for being honest with the kids. They know when we care.

    • “‘If you can’t be honest about what you want, then I don’t need to be with you.’ . . . But I make sure they know that if they say ‘no’ and don’t mean it, for whatever reason, it endangers every girl in the room.”

      This. This is why “slut-shaming” has to be discussed right along with discussing consent. How can you really say “no” if you aren’t allowed to really say “yes”?

  89. Very powerful post. I just wish it would change things. There are so many deeply uneducated people in your land and in mine that it makes King Canute’s job seem like a sinecure. I have less and less faith in humanity each day. Pessimistic, I know, but I’m talking realpolitik. I think it’s wonderful how you are communicating with your class and how they appear to understanding and reacting. Vinceremos.

    • Fully agreed! Have read every comment – agreed with some, strongly disagreed with others. But then I was born in the lucky generation: There were ‘nice girls’ and ‘fast girls’, and you had to choose twixt ‘necking’ and ‘petting’ if you did even that – and if you went too far to the right, the ‘nice guys’ did not marry you! If you touched a girl you could end up in the tabloids and lose your reputation and your career . . . . I WAS born in the lucky generation: THANK GOD, my two daughters following me still had their ‘druthers . . .

  90. I arrived at your blog purely by chance and I loved your entry. I am from Spain, I hadn’t heard about this before, I knew nothing. I’ve been reading some of the comments though, and I’m simply scared at the thought that you could have your job compromised by discussing this in your class? Maybe I didn’t understand well…

  91. Great story. I now have a you g daughter and the teen years do worry me a bit. One strong note you could give the boys: would it be okay for a person (man) to have sex with you if you are too asleep to say no? Watch how repulsed they would become being put in the shoes of the victim.

  92. Thanks for sharing this story and for responding so clearly and completely to your students’ questions. Unfortunately school education about sexuality is often limited to the parts of the body and how they work, which isn’t enough to help young people or adults live a responsible, respectful life. There is a petition circulating with the simple request that teaching about consent should be a required part of sex ed in public schools. If enough people sign it, the White House has to take a look at it:

    • I came to post the same link.

      Thank you, Abby, for having this conversation with your students! Would you consider adding a link for the petition to the bottom of your post? In my experience, many adults — and teachers and coaches — are confused about the concept of consent. I hope that a coordinated, national curriculum would help.

  93. I’m a date rape victim. I have a seizure condition and one night when I was on a date with a guy I had a seizure when we were kissing on the couch. It was dark and he didn’t realize I was having a seizure (I don’t have the jerking kind) and helped himself to me. He figured since I didn’t say no that I was okay with it. It was a few minutes until I snapped out of it and told him to stop. He did, but when I told him what happened and that I didn’t want to. He was shocked that I considered it rape. He thought he did nothing wrong. I had to practically shake it into him that he in fact RAPED ME! He finally came to his senses. I didn’t file charges and he apologized profusely, but the fact that he thought he could have sex without a verbal yes consent was very disturbing. This article reminded me of that experience. Young men definitely should be educated with consent I’m glad you took the time to educate your students on a touchy subject.

  94. Just shared this – I hope more teachers pick this up. I think coaches should discuss this with their teams. This world needs to wake up already.

  95. Wow. I never would have guessed, that boys would not “get” this, even as I myself has experienced similar. I just thought it was “him”, not everyone. I am so glad you are bold enough, and in a position to influence these kids!


    When I was 14, my best friend and I got drunk with a group of 17-21-year-old guys that she knew. They were acquaintances and we didn’t stop to think that we were putting ourselves in a bad situation, we just knew that they’d offered to get us alcohol and we wanted to act like we were so mature.. They picked us up in the van that one of them owned and they were sober, but they cheered us on as we chugged the bottles of cheap wine they had gotten us. We had never been drunk before, and we both went from sober to nearly comatose in, what seemed like, minutes. My friend was raped, and my last memory, before passing out, was a guy lifting my head by my hair to try to make me perform oral sex on him. I vomited on him instead- my saving grace. My friend said they left me alone after that. When they were done with her, they drove past her house and dumped us out into the street while the van was still rolling. She dragged me to her porch and screamed for her parents. I woke up in the hospital, along with her. The guys all said she’d been willing and no charges were ever pressed. She wasn’t a virgin and even her parents decided to just drop it. Even my step-mom said we had it coming because we were drunk. No, what we did wasn’t smart, it was very foolish, but we were just kids and we didn’t realize the danger we were putting ourselves in. To blame us for what they did? There are no words for how horrible it was. Like I said, I was not raped, but knowing that I almost was, that I was lying there unconscious and powerless, while my best friend was raped? Waking up and finding that out was horrifying. Waking up to a rape kit being done on me in the hospital? That alone made me feel like I had been violated. I had nightmares for years and the guilt of knowing that I didn’t help my best friend, that I wasn’t able to save her. And the boys who did it? They got off scott-free, no guilt, no stigma, no consequences. Please, teach your teens what consent is.

  97. Thank you,Mrs. Norman. Thank you. thank you. Thank you. First, for your courage in the classroom, Secondly, for acknowledging that high schoolers are still babes in the woods and furthermore,, for your courage in sharing this stance with the world.
    I was first raped in high school, by a high school boy. I am now raising both a teen son and teen daughter of my own. While these are subjects that we take head on in *our* home- it is no small matter to me to know that our teachers and community leaders do so as well.
    God bless you!

  98. this may be the best “analysis” of the heart of the issues surrounding the steubenville case that I have seen yet. I am a 33-year-old mother of a 14-month old boy, and I am also a rape survivor. I have been following this case since the NYT first touched on it, and I have cried over it. a lot. over the memories it brings back for me and over the fear I feel of raising a little boy in a world like this. I hope and pray every day I can teach him the opposite of whatever boys are learning nowadays that made these boys in steubenville think these actions were acceptable. sometimes I feel as though I have no guidance – I assume the parents of the steubenville boys didn’t teach them at home that rape was okay – so where is it coming from? and if it’s coming from society, how do we combat that from home?! there’s no roadmap for this but you touched on one of the biggest and best ways to teach personal accountability when it comes to sex – the importance of consent – and you are right, it is something that is sorely lacking in our social/educational model of sex ed in this country. we may, as adults, think it is common sense – but for a young person surrounded by so much sexist media junk, maybe it’s not. thank you for having the integrity to speak truthfully on this topic with your students, and thank you for writing this blog post.

    • No, their parent’s probably didn’t teach them that rape was okay, but they probably didn’t teach them that it wasn’t okay either, or what consent means. The way we combat this from home is easy, we talk to our kids about it, start young teaching them about boundaries and respect, and teaching them to have empathy for people that aren’t themselves. As a parent of a 9yr old boy I can assure you that kids are very receptive to these kinds of these ideas if they’re presented to them. You absolutely have guidance.

      • I think it’s partly that children don’t seem to get lessons on boundaries. Full stop. It’s not even about directly giving them those lessons (which should be necessary), but it’s also about not having seen those lessons in action. Kids are incredibly receptive, even to things indirectly taught; they pick things up that you sometimes don’t even realise. This was probably the most amazing thing I saw when I was teaching; they’re sponges, and sometimes that can be a truly horrible thing (while in others, it can be truly wonderful).

        I can’t remember ever getting direct lessons about boundaries; I learned from what I saw, but I always saw my mother being respectful of people. Today, I can say that I paid attention to her cues and saw how she interacted with people. The only direct lesson she ever gave me was “treat people as you want to be treated,” and that’s really where we left it. It applies to so much, including those boundaries.

        But even though, when I have children, I plan to teach them those lessons? I want to know that we have teachers willing to talk about it, too. Not because they should be the only people teaching those lessons (they shouldn’t — everyone should be participating), but I also know that sometimes they are the person who children trust more than their parents; they’re some of the adults who kids can be most candid with and not fear the repercussions and consequences, and they are the people who they can trust without fear when they need family-related advice or support.

      • I definitely agree that these are things teachers should talk about (consent should be a mandatory topic in sex-ed). But I’m also a strong believer that parents should be more proactive than reactive, and directly talk about things instead of generalizing or expecting our kids to just know right from wrong. I think even parents who are good at telling kids WHAT things are wrong forget to tell them WHY they’re wrong, that’s always the most important part I discuss with my kid, and I believe that’s the thing they absorb the most, because if they know why something is wrong, they won’t need to see a lesson in action, they’ll be able to spot wrong when they see it. I don’t know how many times my kid has watched a movie with me, or overheard somebody say something, and commented to me that it was sexist or unfair or just wrong. We have really complex discussions about stuff like that, on a near daily basis. I think the reason why kids often turn to teachers or trust them more is because their parents don’t REALLY talk to them, not openly on a regular basis. So yeah, I applaud teacher’s like Ms. Norman, schools need more of them, because sadly a lot of parents need to learn this kinda stuff too.

    • “how do we combat that from home?”
      I’d say one of the ways it HAS to start is allowing our children the option to say “NO!” when it comes to unwanted touching. I’m not talking about when the kid is covered in spaghetti and doesn’t want a bath. I’m talking about a nervous and overtired preschooler standing in the living room of a relative they only see every once in a blue moon. Their parents say “Now you give your auntie/uncle a HUG!”

      The last thing the poor child wants is the physical intimacy of a hug with this person, but the parents become more and more insistent. “Now you stop being rude and HUG them!”

      And the child has just been taught that “being a good child” and “being polite” are more important than their consent to be touched.

      I was the uncomfortable relative who was trying desperately to reassure the kid I didn’t want or need a hug if they weren’t ok with it. The whole thing was deeply upsetting. I have tried very hard since then to not pressure my own kids to “Hug grandpa” or “Kiss great-aunt murgatroyd” if they don’t want to.

      I’d much rather they learn to respect their own boundaries and those of others than give in out of a misguided sense of what constitutes “polite.” How about adults model being polite by treating the kids as capable of choosing who they hug and kiss, and capable of interacting politely without getting physical if they don’t want to? And nobody who has met my kids describes them as rude or anti-social, they’re extremely outgoing! All the more reason if they suddenly feel a reason to be reserved with someone, respect that. They may be picking up on non-verbal signals that make them uncomfortable, and not acting on those uncomfortable feelings is not safe.

  99. As a high school freshman, this article isn’t surprising to me. sadly. I know what fourteen-year-olds think about rape and they think their opinion is right and obvious. No one has ever taught them consent, because it may be embarrassing or sex ed may not be available or necessary. But thank you so much. The world needs more of women like you.

  100. I had a teacher like you in HS back in the 70’s, Mr. Williams. He would talk to us on many different topics. It was the only HS class where I actually saw guys, that normally could care less about anything in school, actively participate in discussion. After all these years, he still stands out in my memory as someone who cared, the first adult who talked to us as if we could understand “adult issues” and the best teacher I ever had. A great teacher can engage their class on any topic that is pertinent and of interest to them. Which is more important to learn, a true life lesson or the capitol of Wisconsin? Thank you for being a real teacher!

  101. This was a great read, and very inspirational. You’re a hero Ms. Norman. I strongly believe that rape/consent should be taught in every sex-ed class, and more importantly PARENTS should be teaching their kids about rape and consent. I’m a man raising a 9yr old boy, and while he’s not old enough to even understand what sex is yet, let alone rape, we have had discussions about boundaries and respecting when a girl (or boy for that matter) says no, or stop, or demonstrates in any way that they don’t want you to do something to them. I’ve also talked to him about feminism and women’s rights, and he thinks that kind of stuff is cool. He’s so receptive to this kind of stuff and I’ll often hear him speaking up on behalf of girls and saying really progressive things that even some adults don’t think about, like “I don’t like how some times cartoons only have one girl character.” it makes me really proud that he thinks of others and equality. Consent and rape is definitely a discussion we’re going to have in the future, and I have full confidence in him to understand it readily. I’m not trying to pat myself on the back by saying this, just trying to illustrate that it’s never too soon to start teaching your kids empathy and respect, teaching them that is laying the foundation to teach them about things like consent. We can’t afford to just not explicitly talk about this stuff with our kids and hope they just get it on their own. As parents we’re the first line of defense so to speak, it all has to start with us.

  102. As a father of 2 young boys and a baby girl, I am glad I read this to remind me of another reason to raise gentlemen and instill respect for women. I don’t recall having such discussions with my parents, as I would like to think that I “just got it” in regards to how to treat the opposite sex. It begs to ask the question though, what have we been teaching our youth where being an athlete trumps criminal behavior, and a 15 year old never knew that rape could be committed if a person was unconscious. Thank you for sharing this experience and I hope those kids truly get the message!

  103. Ms. Norman, I saw this on Facebook a moment ago and clicked. I was so glad to read it. I’m student teaching a class of sophomores, juniors, and seniors. They’re a mature group as high school classes go. So I figured they could handle a discussion on this.
    They’re reading the Kite Runner and just read the rape scene for Friday. We discussed the cultural reason for the rape (Entitlement of the higher class of tribe to treat the lower how they wish). My cooperating teacher set up my next step by telling about other atrocities around the world such as female circumcision in Africa, the Pakistani girl shot for going to school, and I believe she mentioned the Taliban in general.
    I grabbed my ipad and said dramatically, “But we don’t have to go to Africa or Pakistan to find this type of horror and entitlement.” When I asked, only 4 out of 16 students had heard of the Steubenville case so I read them an article. I quickly followed it up with the sound bites from CNN reporters after the conviction and asked them, “Who’s missing?” To my surprise and thrill it was the boys who answered first that the victim was missing.
    Our conversation didn’t focus on consent, but on the underlying culture that allow our society to mourn the loss of the rapists’ lives yet think nothing of the young woman. It was a charged, but positive atmosphere that exemplified my reason for getting into teaching.
    Thank you for sharing your classroom story.

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  105. There is something seriously degraded in a person if they feel the need to pee on an unconscious girl. It’s not something that a little talk can fix. These “boys” were crying for themselves at the end of the trial, not as an acknowledgement of wrongdoing. The fact is they got off far too lightly. I’m a guy, so perhaps I’m much less willing to countenance the b.s. that they didn’t know better. They did, and didn’t care.

  106. As a mother, I would actually be very uncomfortable with a teacher having this discussion with my kids without my prior consent. I don’t know, maybe because I believe that it is my job to teach my kids right from wrong, and discussions on sex should come from the parents unless otherwise permitted. Absolutely I will teach my sons that it is never ok to touch their partner without express consent (at 3 and 1, they are still a bit young for that conversation, but it’s coming) and my daughter to not be afraid to speak up if she is ever touched without her consent. But that is my job to do, not a teacher’s. It makes me so sad that so few parents see this as their responsibility that a teacher even feels the need to have such a conversation in her classroom. But I honestly would be upset if this situation occurred in one of my childrens’ classrooms.

    • If in fact we could trust parents to have this conversation, there would be no need for teachers to do so. But obviously many parents aren’t, which is why we are in the situation we are in. You shouldn’t be upset, you should be grateful that your son’s and daughter’s classmates got the benefit of this conversation that you are already having with your own children. Don’t you want your children to be surrounded by other children who have also received the message loud and clear that yes means yes and no means no?

      • I think I absolutely have the right to be upset that another adult is discussing sexual topics with my kids without my consent. In our school district, the parents have to sigh a form for a kid to be able to participate in sex ed classes. We are given a curriculum for the class so that we may decide if we want our child in the class, and can even choose for them to be excluded from certain topics. And I think this is how it should be. If this topic came up in a class like this, where I had already given permission for my child to be in the class discussing that topic, that would be a different subject. Because let’s be serious: Schools do not always present a sex topic the way a parent would prefer their child be taught. For example, too many schools teach abstinence only. I prefer to teach my kids that they SHOULD wait til marriage, but if they are going to be active, I want them to know their options for birth control. If their sex -ed class wasn’t going to present anti-rape discussions in an absolute no means no manner, then I would exclude my kid from that days’ discussion and do it myself. I shouldn’t have to have the topic thrust on my kids just because other parents don’t/won’t have the discussion. If other parents want to leave that part of their kids’ upbringing to the school, that’s their business. I don’t think it’s an appropriate discussion for a teacher to have with a student without the consent of the parent, and yes, I would raise my concerns with it with the school.

      • JR, as the mother of a 13 year old… By the time they get to be the age of Ms. Norman’s class, they are already surrounded by sexual conversations. They are surrounded by their peers, by the Cosmo magazines and celebrity scandal rags in the supermarket, by what they hear adults talking about when they think the kid’s not listening. It’s everywhere. Indeed, in this case, the kids brought up the concept of rape, in the context of the meaning of a poem. (I was thinking emotional abuse, m’self, when I read it.)

        A parent who has already communicated firm values to their child, and been willing to be open about discussing the topic and the reasoning behind these values… Will have a child who will come home and say, “Hey, guess what? We had this interesting talk about consent in the school!”

        My daughter had to deal with a (male) friend who wanted to be her boyfriend, and went from being a little pushy about it, to grabbing her hand painfully so the bones made popping sensations, and trying to put his hands on her bottom. When she was 12.

        They know. The kids who’ve had these conversations at home will be sitting calmly — or speaking out boldly — and be secure in their family’s values. The kids who haven’t had these conversations… Will be going, “Requiring a YES is a lot less confusing!” because it’s an epiphany.

        That said, if I disagreed with the way the teacher handled such a discussion, you bet I’d be at the school the very next day. I’m obnoxious like that! But it’s having the conversations with my kid, in the first place, that would let her be willing to talk to me about what went down in English.

        I wonder how many of these kids went home and said, “Hey, mom/dad! Guess what? We had an awesome discussion in English today!”

      • Are you freaking kidding me? Rape is sex, that is what makes it so horrible, is that it is forcing another person to share something that is very personal and intimate. Sex is sex, whether consent is involved or not. Sex is power, some people get off on that power. When the other person has not consented to hand over that power, it becomes rape.

        @A.Beth: (I can’t seem to reply to you directly) Believe me, I know they’re already hearing it. My 10 year old daughter comes home from school or hanging out with her friends with some of the craziest stuff in her head. Thank the gods she is comfortable talking to me and questioning stuff that she’s unsure of, so we can have those discussions. I just think that a better way the author of this blog could have handled the situation is sent notification home to the parents basically saying hey, this came up in class today, I plan to do a full discussion on it tomorrow, please let me now if you would rather have your child excluded from the conversation. That lets the parents know a discussion needs to be had, and gets consent from the parents for the teacher to talk about it. And yeah, a majority of parents would just sign the form, probably not even looking at it, and let the school continue raising their kid. It would give me the opportunity to call/email the teacher, find out how it would be approached, have my own discussion with my kid, and decide for myself if what the teacher plans to teach is in line with what I want my kid taught, and decide from there if I want mine there for the school conversation.

      • @JR – sex is power? wow.

        when i say rape isn’t sex the point is that i am making a distinction between sex as something that we have opinions on what defines healthy/good etc (abstinence, protection) and that which is simply *wrong* rape is an attack; an assault; an expression of violence. we don’t have people complaining that the school told their kid murder or stealing was wrong because we all agree. similarly we should all agree sex without consent is wrong.

        if the poem brought up questions of murder would you want the school to let you know that they were discussing murder that day. or more succinctly put; what topics is the school allowed to discuss without your knowledge?

      • (I can’t reply directly either. Sorry.)

        As a woman who was once a 15 year old… Why should my parents be involved in a discussion that might possibly tinge on current events? Yes, legally, they would still have certain controls over me for 3 more years. But only 3.

        And, further, the people who needed to hear that talk? Are probably people whose parents would say “No way!” Plus it would be all awkward, instead of a spur-of-the-moment thing, that they steered. (Teaching kids how to be adults is so tricky; grabbing onto a thread of conversation they started, and taking it to a learning moment. Sweet stars, that’s hard!)

        It does depend on each kid, when it’s time to start letting them flap their way out of the nest. Some of us have kids who have some form of delayed development that makes it even harder to know when it’s the right time to start letting go — to run behind the bike with one’s hands out, rather than insist on leaving the training wheels on. But there’s got to be a time, and it’s got to be before 18, because… the world is having these conversations about sex already.

        I don’t think 15 is too young to hear “consent means YES, not just a lack of no.” (I’m telling my kid that from the moment she was old enough to understand.) If you’ve got a 15-year-old… Have that talk if you haven’t yet! If the kid comes home and says there was a classroom discussion that didn’t go the way you wanted, talk to the school! Stars know, if I heard that some discussion had gone into victim-blaming and all the “don’t do this, don’t do that” which usually goes on… Yeah, I’d be all up in some poor teacher’s face about how that was an issue.

        But the discussion that happened wasn’t about sex. It wasn’t even about “rape-prevention,” except tangentially. It was about consent. And it gave a bunch of kids — probably especially the boys — a peer-and-adult-approved guideline: consent is only present when someone is saying “YES.” No guessing, no “is this a real ‘no’ or a ‘convince me more’?” No “well, if she couldn’t say ‘no’ because she was passed out, that makes it okay, right?” It’s a simple guideline: Did she say YES?

        For all the kids who needed to hear that conversation… I can’t agree that it should have had notes and time to become awkward and embarrassing. The teenagers started it; the environment was safe enough that they reportedly kept engaging in the topic, rather than laughing at it or blowing it off; they trusted the teacher to be an authority in the good way. Honor those teenagers and their agency. They were ready for that conversation.

        (Scale it back a few more years, with 11 and 12 year olds, and yeah, a letter might well have been more appropriate. 15? People start learning how to safely drive around in giant metal vehicles around then, in many places. If we can start trusting them with cars, can’t we start trusting them with mere discussions?)

    • lucky for you, rape isn’t sex or about sex. the thought that you’d be upset that a teacher taught your child such a valuable lesson because of some puritanical control issue is astounding. how could you ever be upset about this?

      • If actually being a parent and raising my own kids rather than letting the school do it is having puritanical control issues, then I’m flattered to be considered as having such a quality. I am floored that people think rape isn’t about sex, see my comment above. This is what is wrong with rape culture these days, and why people turn such a blind eye to it. Disgusting.

      • You liberals just can’t stand it that parents are still allowed to parent their own children. My kids are mine. Period. Your opinions about how I teach them sex, morals and values does not count. And the schools have no right to supersede my decisions.

      • @lesley demond- if you want to teach your children that they don’t have to have another’s consent to have sex; or in short, if you want to teach your children to rape then yes, society’s opinions do count. including the opinion that said children should be taken away from you.

        if you, on the other hand, want to teach your children that they may not force themselves on another then you haven’t been “superseded” . . . easy peasy

      • @Lesley, would you have preferred the teacher sat back and let the kids say she wasn’t raped because she wasn’t awake? Or that she deserved it?
        If so, that’s horrific.
        It has nothing to do with ‘liberals’ and I wish America (conservatives in particular) would stop making these issues about one political side versus the other (I’m not even American). This is about RIGHT and WRONG. There should be no grey area when it comes to rape!

    • JR – Why don’t you think of it this way? If the above conversation had happened in your 15-year-old daughter’s class and some of her male classmates had never been taught what Ms. Norman taught them that day by *their* parents, wouldn’t you want your daughter to have a few less uninformed male classmates that might have previously raped her? Because *their* parents had never bothered to teach them that not only does “no mean no” but you need a clear, verbal “YES!” A horrible example, but you can’t seem to get the real point through your head. Now, because of Ms. Norman, there’s about a half a class full of teenage boys who understand about clear consent and that rape isn’t just intercourse. Half a class full of teenage boys whose parents didn’t teach them these things. Half a class full of teenage boys who will be less of a threat to every girl in their school, and every girl and woman they encounter the rest of their lives. I think that’s a whole lot more important than parents being informed of every detail of what their students happen to talk about in class every day. It was a current event that came up. Get over it.

  107. Thank you for taking the time to teach your students about this–and for cutting through the bullshit and being direct. I wish the teachers in my school had done the same thing. You are wonderful, and I hope they never forget this lesson.

  108. Thank you for sharing this. I am new to your blog, a friend shared this on FB. I am a teacher (sort-of, I sub) I’m wondering if every class period where you repeated this lesson had a similar productive discussion.
    Also, I have 14 year old twin daughters. I’m thinking about taking them through my FB page and showing them my friends, there are far too many, who told me they had been date-raped. It seems like something that happens to “other people.” I want to show them that it happens to real people. “Nice girls.” Too bad I feel the need to have such a conversation.

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  110. As a teacher, a mother of teenage/young adult boys, and a rape survivor, I can’t even begin to thank you for what you did that day. I love how bold and empowered your girls seem to be!

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  112. This was a very good article. Thank you for your time to help these children. The only other thing that could be addressed is teaching the teens it is not okay to engage in sexual activities when intoxicated, either. In may states, including Ohio, under the law a person whom is intoxicated (whether under the influence of alcohol or drugs) cannot legally provide consent. So even if the person says yes, it doesn’t always mean yes, because they are not within the correct mindset to make such decisions. Many people only say yes because they are somewhat fearful of the ‘backlash’ of saying no in those situations. Other times they are just too tired to ‘fight back’ and think it’s just better to ‘get it over with’ so the person will stop pawing them. It’s still rape in the eyes of many states. This is where we get the ‘regret sex’ arguments from the person whom took advantage, when the victim comes out and states he/she didn’t want to do it, but gave in because they were too intoxicated to do anything else. Again, in many states this is legally defined as rape. It’s important to teach that we should stay away from any sexual encounters where either person is under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. I know people do have consensual sex under the influence, but it’s best to leave that to adults and teach teens the opposite. Teens already aren’t thinking with adult mindsets, as it is, they definitely aren’t when under the influence of alcohol. Teaching this, will help to teach people from becoming future victims or future perpetrators, hopefully, or at the very least to know that they truly were victimized or the person that is out to victimize. Teaching this and what you’ve so eloquently covered, will, also, teach society as a whole to start placing the stigma onto the perpetrators and not onto the victims, if all parents, teachers, the media, all started re-educating ourselves and by committing to educating our children, this way.

  113. This whole blog has talked about the terrible wrongs committed, and there is no question that there was. I haven’t seen any discussion about alcohol consumption. I wonder if this would have taken place at all, if the participants were sober. Your discussion with your students was remarkable. I think we need to teach the dangers of overindulging to a point that our moral values become subject to the crowds.

  114. Your honesty and your conversation with your students is something they will never forget. Thank you for being one of those teachers in the classroom. We need more of those. I can only hope to inspire my students in that way.

  115. I could never, ever, ever be a teacher.

    Kid: “How could she have been raped? She wasn’t awake to say no.”

    Me: “Would you like me to demonstrate that principle on you. Hmm, no? Why not?”

  116. are you serious???? if you would have been honest with yourself and your students about the real world, instead of hiding in your cave you would realize that by the 3rd grade kids understand this garbage of our shared society that WE perpetuate, and that by the 6th grade they are allready pissed at you teachers for ignoring them and the real world…. finally by high school when they are in the middle of it all you get into it???? education is to prepare….. obviously your school district and teachers have done nothing to prepare these kids, as you are shocked to now finally deal with the honesty and intelligence of your students….. i could go on but you do not need to share your “pat on the back”, your “proud to be a teacher” moment when you have failed you7r students for how many years??? this is what has allways pissed off kids about teachers, and adults for that matter for a mellenia… people hiding the truth and then being shocked that the students are more open and knowledgble than the teachers…. because we have to deal with this stuff at home, from our brothers, sisters, aunts uncles, parents and grandparents…….. PLEASE…TEACHERS,,,, stop hiding from reality with your students….. if they are brave enough to ask you need to brave enough to answer any and all questions!!!!! (IF YOU ARE UNCOMFORTABLE GET HELP, don’t blame students age for your insecurities!!!!!!! kids should be reading the newspaper and talking about current events from preschool on…. bacon and blessings to all that exist (and i still talk to a lot of my teachers and have cared about everyone i ever had… esspecially the teachers that wern’t at scvhool… which is where we learn 90% of everything we really need to know!!!!

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  118. Amazing. As adults, it’s easy to think that this material is too tough for kids. But when I was 15-16, we read the book Speak, which is about a girl who loses her voice when she is raped as a freshman and doesn’t know what to do about it. No one knows why she changes so much (not even the readers) until the story slowly evolves. It was tough, and I have memories of being very uncomfortable, but we handled it.

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  121. What ISN”T discussed here is that the girl could have, might have said yes, but she was too drunk to say yes in a meaningful way. Kids need to understand that consent means more than just a word, it means knowing intent. Taking advantage of someone when they are physically incapable of making a sound decision is wrong regardless of what they might be saying. THAT is what my juniors had problems processing. My kids kept saying, “She might have said yes. She chose to get drunk.” Well, yes, both of those are true, but that doesn’t negate a condition of rape. She was no more capable of making a sound decision than my dog is on a good day, and those boys treated her less then they would have treated their own pets. And my kids don’t get that.

    • The law in all states is clear: inability to give consent due to incapacitation is a clear NO. Further, age alone disqualifies consent in many cases — regardless of how much a given persons wants the contact. Any violation without legal consent is rape.

  122. Way to go, Ms. Norman! I’d sign my boy up for your class any day. One of the biggest issues I have with society today is we act like it is taboo to teach our kids whats right anymore – especially in a school.

    • Yes! And train the teachers (and doctors and dentists, and …).

      I’ve been a volunteer at the local sexual assault agency for more than 20 years, taking crisis calls and going to the hospital when a rape victim comes in. My role now is training new advocates, as we call the crisis volunteers.

      People tend to avoid this subject.

      As an example, when I helped at our booth at a fair dedicated to family resources, I was sadly surprised to see people coming down the line where our booth was located. Most gave us a wide berth–walking around ours in a semi-circle from the booth on one side of us to the one on the other side.

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  124. This made me so happy! I’m a senior in high school and I have had one or two teachers similar to you when it comes to this issue, but knowing that more teachers like this exist makes me so thrilled! Thank you, not only for teaching them this, but for putting this online for others to become informed! This is so important and crucial, and I’m glad that those kids have learned about this. They are lucky to have a teacher like you.

  125. This not just a religious thing. Regardless of what religion or no religion it is about respecting other people. Anyone has a right to be asked and to say yes or no, before anything is done with them. Rape takes something that can be one f the most beautiful meaningful things in a humans life as to connecting with another person and letting all the barrier down turn into a nightmare that may close that person off from people forever, especially sexually.there is no condition where rape is correct, no matter what the person does, how they dress or don’t dress even if both of you are in bed, there always remains the right to change one’s mind and say NO. I have had that happen and I understood it was the other person’s right and left. Yes boys have to be taught they have no right to sex with any person unless that person agrees without pressure.

  126. Of course rape is wrong. Of course children might get the wrong idea from the media- BUT I’ll be honest, I don’t think it’s your place, as an english teacher, to educate kids on this subject. Kinda belongs in a sex ed. or ethics or gender studies class, don’t you think? I mean, the whole ‘Dead Poets Society’- English is life! English is everything! -thing is a cute way to make bored kids read Shakespeare, but it doesn’t entitle you to teach other subjects that you’re not being paid for/qualified to teach. I shudder to think of what other liberties you might be taking with these kid’s general educations.

    • How do you delineate what can and can’t be taught in English, then? Is it restricted to spelling, grammar, metaphors, and similes? Because when you discuss a text, you discuss more than what the physical words are – you discuss meanings. What you dismiss as the ‘Dead Poets Society’ approach IS what English is about.
      Comparmentalising subjects is just silly. They’re all interrelated – English, history, sex ed, geography, economics, art, music, etc.

      • Ridiculous. I wouldn’t go to my home ec. teacher for advice on my calculus homework- nor should she give it. I dunno how schools work on your planet, but here on earth an English teacher in English class is not usually empowered by the teaching body to expose students of this age to this kind of material. They have a separate class for that kind of thing. So unless she wants to teach cooking and calculus as well- this seems improper.

    • It is the teacher’s responsibility to delve into the meaning of the texts they teach. The students took this one in the unexpected and proper direction and the teacher handled it extremely well.

      As a woman who lives in a rape culture, she is eminently qualified to teach this subject. Doing otherwise in the situation that arose out of the poetry (immediately, unprompted by the instructor) would have been an abandonment of her responsibility and a betrayal of the rape and abuse survivors (and future rape and abuse survivors) in her classroom. (30%+ of girls and 15-20% of boys by age 18 physical contact sexual abuse)

      So, I guess you can claim that I disagree with your position…

      • The teacher also chooses the texts and leads class discussions. She knew where she was taking this, and it was an improper direction for her field of study- English: the use of the language to express and understand expression- APPROPRIATE TO MATURITY OF STUDENTS. At university you can write your thesis on hardcore pornography if you want, but 15 year olds? There’s some things that aren’t appropriate to be handled in English class. Separate classes run by qualified counsellors exist for those topics.

        If you’re going to quote percentages, please cite the sources of your statistics, as well as an explanation of how you’ve projected crime rates into the future of these students who’s demographic you don’t even know?

      • Scratch that, I don’t really care. I’ve expressed myself clearly, and no constructive purpose can be served by further discussion here. Thankyou for sharing your opinion.

      • undercoverdojang: Even though you decline to look at the sources, here they are (the ones cited here can be found in some form on

        National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey. 1998.

        U.S. Department of Justice. 2003 National Crime Victimization Survey. 2003.

        U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sex Offenses and Offenders. 1997.

        1998 Commonwealth Fund Survey of the Health of Adolescent Girls. 1998.

        U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. 1995 Child Maltreatment Survey. 1995.

        U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. 2000 Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement. 2000.

        World Health Organization. 2002.

        U.S. Department of Justice. 2005 National Crime Victimization Survey. 2005.

        Dianna Russel, Study 1983 (38% of women were sexually abused -physical contact- by age 18)

        And, yes, I have read these studies and reports.

        U.S. Department of Justice. 2003 National Crime Victimization Survey. 2003.
        12% of adult women will be raped, 683,000 rapes per year in the US, less than 10% ever reported

        It isn’t difficult to project that there are a number of potential future victims in her class. And that is particularly true with the increasing willingness of teen boys to assume consent when none is given or even can be given.

    • Actually, I taught this poem all day and this conversation only came up once in 5 classes. In my 2nd period they decided it was about the mob, so we talked about that. In 4th period we talked about lying and how people use words to manuplate relationships. It is only when the kids brought consent and Steubenville up that I talked about it…..because they brought it up.

      • Ridiculous. This wasn’t some organic situation that you managed to handle well- YOU pick the poems. You knew this was a reading that the kids could definitely take to.

      • Funny…undercoverdojang…you really are going a long way here. Shall we start with whether the message given was a good one first? And move form there to whether an English teacher should be giving it? Coz your attitude and tone make me wonder what your real motives are…

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  128. Thank you. I am a male rape survivor. It started at age 5 and went through about age 13. There were four different perpetrators. I was particularly touched by how your wisdom came out in a shout, “THEY ARE RAPISTS.” Sometimes I wanted to shout but it was dangerous to raise my voice. I still (50 years later) don’t like to raise my voice.

    Critical: It must be a clear, unequivocal, “Yes” as some of your students and others posting on this blog have stated. The pedophiles made me say yes, but it wasn’t really yes…

    The YouTube segment by Samantha Stendal called “A Needed Response” is wonderful. ( Real men (and boys) treat women with respect.

    And, regardless of the “yes,” a minor cannot give consent under any circumstances.

  129. When I was 6 years old I lost my innocence to three boys about the age of your students, most likely a few years younger. This past year God has taken me down a path of healing and He is constantly revealing to me how He has created/is creating something beautiful out of the pain brought into my world that day. I’m happy your students have someone in their lives bold enough to speak to them in truth and love.

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  132. good replies, and glad you are patient with kids. another way to make guys understand (and this may border on homophobia so deal with it carefully and sensitively) is to ask a guy: if you were passed out and not conscious can gay men have sex with you? if you were drunk were you inviting it? sometimes people have to think of the lowest common denominator before they understand the suffering of someone other than themselves.

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  134. there should be more teachers like you instead of parrots that spout the book word for word and dont understand it themselves

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  137. As a teenager, fifteen… It amazes and horrifies me, that there are people my age who aren’t aware of how consent works. And at the same time, isn’t news to me at all. I wish it were.

  138. Sexual education is so important, I really feel for the students who go through elementary and middle school without learning things like consent, contraceptives, etc. It’s weird to that that ten years ago was almost a modest age, kids saying ‘ew!’ when you showed them a diagram of a penis or vagina. No one is facilitating discussion for younger individuals, and it could lead to events such as steubenville.

  139. As a man, I find it baffling that such a simple concept is so hard to grasp. Unless the woman says yes…then assume it means no. Why do men need to be told this? I get genuinely mad that a bloke believes that unless a woman specifically says no, they can assume they’re okay to just go ahead and invade her body.
    But then assuming that because I figured it out on my own everyone else will too is part of the problem. Good on you for showing those boys that it is not okay to force themselves on a girl/woman. I hope your example will spread and the future generation can eliminate this ‘blame the victim’ culture.

    • And to add…it’s a shame that it took you to teach that to them and their parents did not. I have two sons and a daughter. They will know what is acceptable and what is not. If my boys were to ever do something so bad, I would personally have them arrested and encourage their victim to press charges against them. I love my children with everything that I am but I will not allow them to be victims or abusers.

  140. What were the parent reactions to what you did? I seriously hope you didn’t get in trouble for doing something other people should have done a long time ago. My mom and sister are both teachers, and they’ve both been through plenty of experiences where the exact words of what they said in class were critical, since it could be misinterpreted or misrepresented to a parent later that evening over the dinner table.

    Thank you for sharing this poem, by the way; it is both an excellent literary tool for studying different forms of poetry (as you intended it to be in your lesson) and a spring board for informative conversation with young people on how to behave towards other humans.

  141. Hi Nicole,

    My name is Lauren, and I had the pleasure of teaching at CWHS (your alma mater!) for three years as a freshman English teacher; I resonated deeply with what you wrote, especially this paragraph: “It is a strange thing about looking into the face of a 15-year-old, to really see who they are.” I know that experience well…seeing them as babies all the while seeing them as the men and women they are growing up to be. I had never articulated in that way, but you hit the nail on the head, here and in so many places in this post.

    Reading your final paragraph, I couldn’t agree more. It brought to mind the lyrics from “Children Will Listen” by Stephen Sondheim: “Careful the things you say, children will listen. Careful the things you do, children will see and learn. Children may not obey, but children will listen. Children will look to you for which way to turn, to learn what to be. Careful before you say “Listen to me,” children will listen.” Your story really drives this point home. And it’s a reminder to me of the great responsibility we have as teachers to not only teach the curriculum, but to teach our students how to be people of character. It’s a noble calling and a vocation I feel privileged to be a part of.

    And thanks to my friend and colleague, Linda Knicely, for passing along this link to your post. I’m eager to explore more of your blog, Nicole! What a gifted writer you are! (And clearly a gifted teacher.)


    • Hi Nicole,
      You’re probably really confused right now…”wait, I didn’t teach at CWHS?” And that’s all my fault! One of my former students (the one who IS a CW alum) had linked your post to HER blog (she is a missionary in Grenada and also an incredibly talented writer and reflective, insightful human being) and THEN I shared it with Lauren (who is also both of the above) because I knew it would resonate with her as the former freshman English teacher that she is (and who/whom/with whom? I was privileged to work at CWHS).

      Anyhow, I left Lauren a message to the same effect and apologize for being unclear. I also, as a retired school counselor, echo Lauren’s comments and appreciated your blog post. Blessings to you on your current and future journey impacting tomorrow’s thought leaders!

  142. If I got blackout drunk and passed out in an alley and someone stole my wallet, he/she is most certainly a thief. But he/she is a different kind of thief than one that held me up at gunpoint for the same wallet.

    • You may have not noticed, but here you’re comparing a human being to a wallet, you’re comparing a human being to an object, a rape which is a life-long trauma to a robbery which isn’t.

      No one expects consent when it comes to taking a wallet (still, an OBEJCT) but you SHOULD receive consent before having sex WITH someone, and this is where your very poor comparison ends. It goes to show that like Ms. Norman’s students you DO NOT understand the idea of consent, you DO NOT understand what a free choice is and you DO NOT understand what is rape

      • You are marginalizing the victims of robberies. Being a victim of any crime is “life-long”, as are all life-experiences.

        Rape isn’t a magical category of victimhood that is especially more traumatizing than having your wallet stolen. Both are very upsetting things, especially in certain contexts.

        We are not comparing humans with wallets. It is not the ‘human’ that is raped, it is their body, and bodies ARE objects. We are our minds, not our vaginas.

        When someone is raped or has their wallet stolen, their privacy and personhood is violated in both cases. Both can be very traumatizing things. Some may be more affected by one or the other, also depending on severity and context.

    • This is true. If you rape someone who is unconscious through no action of your own you are guilty of rape. If you rape someone who is conscious and you presumably use physical force or threats to keep them still, then you are guilty of rape AND assault. It’s not that raping an unconscious person is better, it’s that raping and also otherwise hurting someone is worse.
      The best solution is to not rape.

      • “to not rape” is not a solution to the problem of the rape at all. The reason for that is because it can’t exist on its own: you must know what rape is, and you must value consensual sex over rape.

    • Bryan I believe you have distinguished between violent theft and non-violent theft. Both are upsetting but indeed different. If only people were logical enough to recognize that the same exists with rape as well.

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  147. Hi Ms. Norman,

    Thank you so much! Just to add:

    If we are going to teach, as we absolutely should, that consent means an unequivocal yes, then we need to teach girls/women that it is okay to have desire and to say yes. And we need to teach others not to shame them for doing so. Otherwise we are teaching people to ask for consent, without giving women permission or teaching them how to give it.

    AND it starts so much earlier than 15 years old (as I’m sure you know). I’ve noticed that very very few people respect my 2.5 year old daughter’s physical and emotional boundaries. Women and men, strangers and people who know her, regularly try to get her to hug, kiss, smile etc. when she doesn’t want to or without knowing if she wants to. Adults, and strange adults, assume the right to touch her and try to make her reciprocate. And this happens to kids all the time. That teaches them that their bodies and emotions are not their own and, by implication, that it’s okay for them to do the same thing to other people. She is a happy, cuddly, out-going, friendly girl but no one wants to hug all the time and certainly not with strangers. This is just one more place where we need to start teaching about consent!

    Thank you so much and all good things to everyone here,

  148. Can we share this on other websites? This post is great! As a prevention education “teacher”, I too am happy that there are others spreading the message of boundaries, respect, and consent.

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  150. What an excellent story about an amazing teaching moment. Kids learn so much by merely absorbing it, and we often miss the candid and assertive conversations it takes to undo this. The fault is on the side of the ‘teachers’ (by that I mean those in a position to teach, which is all of us and not just school teachers) because we can assume that change is unlikely or impossible. Good for you for having faith in their ability to engage and to learn.

  151. Excellent story, I’m really glad you have the courage to discuss this with your students. I just wanted to point out that the title should be “The Day I Taught How to Not Rape.” “How not to rape” sounds like a lesson in things one should avoid if committing rape.

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  153. You’re a hero. I bet you prevented at least one rape. Thanks for speaking out.

    From a guy who is also sick of rape culture.

  154. I hope that in all situations, the definition of consent is thought of as being an unequivocal “yes”, and that any reticence at all is seen as a “no”. This should be true for both sexes.

    As the father of a 19-year old girl, this whole issue is thought provoking….

    One point to be considered is that most young people (and many older folks too) are conflicted about sex. The point is that no-one should feel pressured to consent if there is any conflict within them. There is no harm in waiting…. While this issue seems not germane to the rape trial in Ohio (the athletes were clearly guilty of raping the unconscious girl), it is often present in many situations where sex occurs. I think it is also a point that needs discussion in the open.

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  159. Thanks for doing this, and thanks for writing about it. If only more people were willing to have this conversation with children, we might actually get rid of rape culture one of these days. So again, thank you.

  160. A teacher in Connecticut decided to carefully explain rape to her students in a way that both would understand what exactly was going on, both from the man’s perspective and from the woman’s perspective.

    She had all the kids in her Middle School class rub their hands together like their fingers were cold, then she gave each of them a piece of candy. For the next week, they did that. Any time a kid wanted a candy bar, they could rub their hands together and she’d give toss them a candy.

    The next week, the kids would get candy if they played hand catch with each other–and the candy bars were larger. They could also still rub their hands together and get a smaller candy bar.

    At the beginning of the third week, seemingly completely off topic, she brought out a discussion about the nose. She had a blockhead come in and demonstrate that you could–if you knew what you were doing–insert drills and stuff into the nose, but you had to do it slowly and carefully.

    The kids were thrilled. They thought it was hilarious. She also gave the blockhead a really big candy bar and nobody thought anything of it.

    A few hours later, she explained the whole experiment.

    To a male body, and (mostly!) a female body, masturbating is like rubbing your fingers together and getting a candy bite at the end of it.

    To a male body, sex with other people is like playing hand catch with each other and getting a bigger candy bar for it.

    To a female body, sex is like being a block head and getting a really big candy bar from it.

    That being said, jamming your finger up anybody’s nose without going slow and consensual about it is really, really, really painful!

    This kind of mentality is why stereotypical “fat, old, Republicans” say it’s “her fault” and “she must have enjoyed it”. They don’t understand the blockhead bit. They think that if you rub your fingers together, you get a candy bar, if you play hand catch with somebody, you get a candy bar, and therefore, women must also get a candy bar, so what are they complaining about.

    When they say it’s “her fault”, they don’t mean necessarily that it’s her fault she got raped. They mean it’s her fault she’s complaining about it. From their mentality, they gave her a candy bar, what’s her problem? From her perspective, she has a very bloody nose.

    • It is seriously unfortunate that you choose to limit the “mentality” to “fat, old,…” It is not a left or right issue, a republican or democrat issue. It is a male issue: 95% of all rapes are committed by men. Men who are upstanding citizens, dirtbags, stepfathers, the guy next door, brothers, engineers, police, pastors, predators, boyfriends.

      It is an issue about how men are increasingly unable to see women as worthy of respect and honor, not just a thing to satisfy their imaginations.

  161. “Well…”I responded, feeling the heat crawl up my neck, “maybe they are going to jail for rape because THEY ARE RAPISTS!” I yelled those last three words at my kids

    Christ, there are far more sane ways to get the point across.

    • Personally, I think that was the most sane thing to do.
      Rape is not trivial.
      Rape is not casual.
      Rape is violence.
      And the complacency that allows the attitudes those boys were displaying needed a shock to wake them to the reality.

      More of us need to be yelling.

      • Violence: “extreme force” .. “action intended to cause destruction, pain, or suffering.”

        Rape fits neither of the definitions I found on wiktionary. Just how inclusive do you have to make ‘violence’ to make it include all kinds of rape.

        Many kinds of rape are violent, but while it is an intrusive and wrong act, no, it isn’t always violent.

        I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

      • That word means exactly what I think it means.

        Rape causes “destruction, pain, and suffering,” often for decades. Every sexual abuse/rape victim I’ve ever known (hundreds of them) has waited decades to open up. And the pain of just telling their story often puts them on the ground, literally.

        I hope you have never known the real meaning of what it means to be violated like that. “Intrusive” is nowhere near sufficient.

        Violence does not necessarily include physical damage or harm. I know a man who would leave his wife shaking in terror on the floor, fearing for her life, without ever touching her.

        Rape is always violent. If it is not physically violent, it is emotionally and mentally violent.


  162. I find very little in this article to object to. It goes without saying that sex should always occur between consenting parties.

    Of course, it is difficult to know who consented, or didn’t consent, when there are no witnesses present. That’s the nub of the problem right there.

    The article also seems to imply that there is such a thing as “rape culture”, although that phrase itself does not occur. My own observation has been that the majority of Americans are vehemently opposed to rape, and at times almost rabidly so.

    • The term “Rape Culture” refers to the increasingly cavalier attitude toward rape among our younger population. Look at various sites where young people share photos and tags like “there will be rape” or “In Japan, rape is like saying hello” are considered comical. Other more disgusting terms are applied. Further the confusion voiced by the boys in the class about what constitutes rape (she was passed out, she could have meant yes therefore it wasn’t rape) speaks to that culture. The number of people who stood around and did nothing and even photographed it illustrates that rape culture.

      The elevation of pimps to sainthood (pimp my ride and the like) further degrade women and promote the rape culture. Read the real story: “Renting Lacy” by Linda Smith.

      I’ve worked as a volunteer advocate at our local sexual assault agency for more than 20 years. The attitudes toward rape have changed in those 20 years. And not for the better.

      “It was only oral sex so it wasn’t rape” is one line. The fact that somebody had to tell those boys that even a hesitation was a “no” illustrates the culture. “She’s done it before…” “She got him heated up…” “She was dressed for it… ” “She’s had several other guys…” “She got wasted and knew it might happen…” You might be shocked at the variety of excuses being offered by the boys (and even some girls).

      If rape is vehemently opposed by most Americans, why do an estimated 683,000 rapes occur in the country each year (US Dept of Justice report, 1983)? Why is there enough demand to fuel the abduction of 100,000 to 300,000 US citizen children into the sex trade each year (Study “Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking,” 2009-2011)?

      It isn’t all negative: See “A needed response” by Samantha Stendal on Youtube ( It’s only 26 seconds (over 1,800,000 views so far).

      Yes. There is a rape culture.

      • The definition of rape culture also changes, I have noticed.

        But yes, my observation has been that most people (in the mainstream of society) are fiercely anti-rape. This has been the norm for as long as I can remember, and there are plenty of people out there who will use their fists first and ask questions later when somebody is *suspected* of having committed a rape. So that ought to provide a ray of hope….yes?

      • I do not find “using fists first” a ray of hope. If somebody had called the cops when it began or had actually stepped in to stop it and recorded it in order to turn it in as evidence, I would find that a ray of hope.

      • “there are plenty of people out there who will use their fists first and ask questions later when somebody is *suspected* of having committed a rape. So that ought to provide a ray of hope…”

        That people hold this attitude is utterly frightening. How on earth is it a ray of hope that people turn into a violent mob that lynch potentially innocent people based on a mere accusation or suspicion?

        I would rather live in a society where everyone is free to rape one another with impunity than I would one where it is acceptable to beat people to death on mere suspicion of what they might have done.

      • ” the increasingly cavalier attitude toward rape among our younger population. ”

        You clearly don’t understand the context here. “Rape is like saying hello” jokes refer to the massive presence of rape-related fictional media in Japan.

        Things like rape jokes occur mostly as a reaction to the excessive amount of reaction and empathy rape gets compared to other crimes (such as murder). It’s a backlash. If other crimes got a fairer amount of coverage and people were less beatifying, it wouldn’t be happening.

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  165. I’ve just forwarded to our Director of education in Sierra Leone ( to ask how our students would do on this question. Your article is fantastic! I can’t wait to hear the response…

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  168. (I’m dyslexic, so apologise if there are any errors here.) Trigger Warning (not really sure if this is needed, but just making sure). I had a “strange” sexual experience when I was 19 (I’m 32 now). I met this lassie about my age in a pub and we went back to her flat and had sex. Afterwards we talked for a bit, then about 11 o’clock I asked if I could use her phone to let my mum know I wouldn’t be home. The lassie said she didn’t have a phone and I told her I had to leave because my mum would be worried. The lassie freaked out, crying and begging me to stay. I told her I would stay and she calmed down, then went to give me oral. I told her no, it’s okay, but she continued. Then I said seriously, it’s cool and patted the side of her head. She looked at me like she was about to cry again and I said nothing else. She got on top of me and I lay there confused, not knowing what to do, because I didn’t want her to get upset again. To top it off the next morning she told me she could phone me a taxi, with her phone!

    Anyways, for the past couple of months I’ve been reading feminist blogs and such (slowly – ha!) and have been thinking about this. This is the first time I’ve mentioned it to anyone.

    • Sounds like you got raped, you didn’t seem to be consenting to that oral sex after the sex, when you wanted to leave.

      Just like Rocky Balboa prevented Adrian from leaving and raped her 😦

  169. I find it sickening that not once did it ever come up in this post that you need to get consent from a man too. I’m sure its perfectly fine that the default sex of a rapist is male. But then in legal terms anything other than penetration isn’t technically rape now is it? You might have a talk about how an erection isn’t consent next time or maybe not default to the male aggressor stereotype. I applaud you for your work to inform your students but how about protecting the other half of the class room huh?!

    • Hi just another statistic… so – there are many comments so perhaps you missed it, but actually this was clearly reported as having been addressed by the author.
      But it is also important to note that rape of men is not equivalent to rape of women. But it is telling that every time efforts are made – and that is every time – to address the problem of rape among rapist men, there are people who jump out and say – well, men are victims too.
      It is absolutely true. But it is also absolutely true that it is a tiny problem relative to the problem of men raping women and the automatic elevation of the much smaller problem denies the much bigger one its true prominence. Which is part of the problem here.

      • “But it is also absolutely true that it is a tiny problem relative to the problem of men raping women”
        The definition of rape, depending on the country you’re in varies from “Rape is when a women is forced to have sex” to the quite liberal view in america where its roughly “rape is penetration of the mouth, vagina, or anus by a penis finger or other object”. You can see how this would tend to skew the numbers to the point that male victims essentially don’t exist, female aggressors almost virtually don’t exist, and rape is overwhelmingly a gendered crime. When you allow for the possibility of things like rape by envelopment the picture changes a whole lot. Have you ever considered that the fact that so many men come out of the wood work to say “hey i’ve been hurt this way and no one even thinks its a problem” maybe means that oh, i don’t know, ITS A BIG PROBLEM… What it comes off as when you say things like this is that it really counts for more when women are hurt, which is a-ok because in real life men are disposable.

      • just another statistic…rape of men is horrible. Equally horrible as rape of women. And potentially the incidence is much higher than reported and understood: I’d be surprised if not. It is with women, after all.
        If you interpret me as saying otherwise, perhaps I have now been clear?
        What comes over loud and very clear though in rape discussions, is that a load of MRAs always turn up to make the problem about men, when pretty definitively actually, the much bigger problem in terms of numbers is rape of women by men. Why is this?
        If you are challenging the statistics that support this, you need to produce some high quality scientific research to back your claim, or we will reasonably assume again that this is just an MRA chatting – with the usual dislike of inconvenient facts (like – overwhelmingly, rapists are male and overwhelmingly they rape women).
        So no I don’t think that real life men are disposable. But I do note that all discussion of rape of women gets polluted by men trying to turn the discussion over, yet again, to them.
        Actually: when I read this article I didn’t think it applied only to rape of women. Just that the boys in the class were a lot less clear about what constitutes consent than the girls were. Those boys could of course go on to be rapists of men or women.
        In terms of female aggressors, you really do need to produce some very good science to suggest we should divert a thread about the massive problem of rape of women by men to that topic. You think that the problem of “envelopment” rape is worthy of discussion here? Can you point us to some links that support your assertion that this is a real world problem requiring attention – rather than a spectacularly rare event for a tiny number of men?

      • Click to access NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf

        While it is in fact a survey, the rest of the world is perfectly happy to use the old 1 in 4 rape survey so I’ll expect equal weight given to it. If you look at figures for the last 12 months on Page 19 table 2.2, made to penetrate total estimated victims 1,267,000. Go up a page to 18 table 2.1 and look at total rape victims on the other side 1,270,000. Further if you do the math, 79.2% of men made to penetrate reported female aggressors. You really think I or any other MRA is arguing that its a bigger problem? We want people to acknowledge that its an EQUAL problem. There are EQUAL numbers. The only inequality I see is the over abundance of people trying to tell the world that the problem is tiny, that its miniscule, that it barely even exists. What is the motivation I wonder in trying to sweep this under the rug? Until you and the rest of society stop trying to make issues like these disappear so that men who are assaulted can actually be counted as assaulted, you will have to live with the fact that men indeed are treated as disposable. And you are part of the problem.

      • So I read your CDC report jas…and guess what? It absolutely does not say what you say it says (no shock there I suppose – we are dealing with a self confessed MRA here). But perhaps more importantly, your sneaky little insistence that ‘made to penetrate’ is equal (equal!!!!) to being penetrated is less than persuasive and speaks more to your determination to follow your agenda at any cost.
        Also why do you say it is being swept under the rug? I pointed out that any discussion of rape is always – that is always – invaded by MRAs who want to talk about men. When the problem remains overwhelmingly one where women are violated. Therefore having men divert the nature of the problem away from themselves is part of the tactic of detoxifying the brand.

        I’ll start then by rejecting your assertion that ‘made to penetrate’ is the same as being penetrated. Taking that as given…

        You say:
        “Until you and the rest of society stop trying to make issues like these disappear so that men who are assaulted can actually be counted as assaulted, you will have to live with the fact that men indeed are treated as disposable. And you are part of the problem.”

        Who is trying to make anything disappear? Not at all: just trying to maintain reality in the demand for equivalence where it does not exist. It’s a tiring, wearing down kind of argument…that diminishes the violence that men perpetrate.

        Are men victims too? Yes – though much less so when it comes to the extreme (and psychologically catastrophic) end of the spectrum. So this isn’t sweeping under the carpet. It’s addressing a pernicious argument, always brought up, by a group with a dishonest agenda.

        I’ll move into the statistics.

        Read your executive summary.
        “Nearly 1 in 5 women (18.3%) and 1 in 71 men (1.4%) in the United States have been raped at some time in their lives, including completed forced penetration, attempted forced penetration, or alcohol/drug facilitated completed penetration. ”

        So straight there we have the statistic: women are 13.1 times more likely to be victims in this than men. This is from your source. But – does that matter? So long as the issue about men raping women is not obscured, no it doesn’t. The statistics of men being victims of rape is shockingly high – and needs addressing, Just not at the expense of highlighting that nearly 1 in 5 US women will experience rape in their lifetime… And let’s make sure that no dishonest MRAs are left unchallenged when they suggest that there is equality between genders of those who rape – or any of the other arguments introduced to reduce the impact of those statistics.

        So equal, as you insist? No. Not equal.

        So where the female aggressor pieces comes in – which you insist is equal – is in one category of sexual violence of forced to penetrate. And you want to insist on equality between the genders on this issue because of this. The authors of your report (that’s your report) however are at pains to make sure we understand differently.

        “Most perpetrators of all forms of sexual violence against women were male. ”

        “For female rape victims, 98.1% reported only male perpetrators. Additionally, 92.5% of female victims of sexual violence other than rape reported only male perpetrators. ”

        “For male victims, the sex of the perpetrator varied by the type of sexual violence experienced. ”
        That’s where your made to penetrate comes in. But this is the relevant statistic to the discussion:

        “The majority of male rape victims (93.3%) reported only male perpetrators. ”

        I find your presentation of selected statistics to be dishonest (you have clearly not read the report – I did – but just quote mined it. Did you get a reference to that report from an MRA website?). And I find your equivalence to be false. I find it to be part of a regularly rehearsed set of arguments by MRAs who want to reduce the perception of sexual violence committed by men.

        Going right back to the beginning of this story, we have a teacher who discovered in her own class that the concept of consent was badly lacking among her male students in particular – which is where it mostly matters because they are the ones who are most likely to commit rape (by more than an order of magnitude).

        On the back of the teacher reporting this, we have MRAs popping up – as they always do – to insist that the problem of sexual violence committed by women is equal to that committed by men.

        It isn’t – by a massive amount, nor is it recognised to be by the professionals who work in this field. The only group I know of who want to claim equality of sexual violence perpetration between the genders are MRAs whose agenda is pretty clear (and dishonest).

        Does it matter? Yes it does. This is part of the culture where rape is a regular topic of comedy, where rape is under reported (men and women victims), where the victim is routinely blamed (and massively so by MRAs), where rapists can confidently expect to get off without conviction, where a lifetime of being a women is much more dangerous than a lifetime of being a man. Until we address the issue at a gender level, presumably this will continue. Which is why the story reported here is so inspiring: it dismissed no one; it enabled those most likely to commit sexual violence to think about the key issue of consent at a relatively early age.

      • “rape of men is not equivalent to rape of women.”

        No two rapes are ever equivalent… not sure what you’re saying here.

        “it is telling that every time efforts are made – and that is every time – to address the problem of rape among rapist men, there are people who jump out and say – well, men are victims too.”

        Telling… telling what, exactly?

        “it is a tiny problem relative to the problem of men raping women”

        You base this statement on what? The awesome “rape statistics” that we’re expected to put utter faith in? The ones compiled in a society where men are more often than women shamed away from reporting rape? Where we lack your support systems? Where it’s very unlikely that female rapists will be convicted successfully compared to males?

        “the automatic elevation of the much smaller problem denies the much bigger one its true prominence.”

        Right, well, expect that to continue to happen until you’ve actually proven one problem is bigger than the other, because nobody has successfully done that. People continue to present convictions or accusations or self-reports as “actual number and composition of rapes” which simply isn’t the case.

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  171. Just for some general information:

    9 out of 10 rape victims are female: 17.7 million women in the US and about 2.78 million men. (1. National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey. 1998.) Some more recent studies indicate the number of male victims may be much higher and the percentage of men who experienced rape higher (remember that this includes all ages).

    “44 % of female rape victims are under 18.” (U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sex Offenses and Offenders. 1997.)

    “3% of boys grades 5-8 and 5% of boys in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused.” (4. 1998 Commonwealth Fund Survey of the Health of Adolescent Girls. 1998) And in my personal experience working with sexual abuse survivors, men never tell.

    “Only 16% of the rapes (approximately one out of every six) had ever been reported to the police.” (Rape in America: A Report to the Nation, National Victim Center, 1992)

    “In 1994-1995, only 251,560 rapes and sexual assaults were reported to law enforcement officials.” (National Crime Victimization Survey, Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, 1996.) [By the way, if 251,560 is 16% of the actual total, the real number is over 1.5 million rapes.]

    The National Violence Against Women Survey indicated that “78% of the victims of rape and sexual assault are women and 22% are men.” (National Violence Against Women Survey (1998), available at

    From that same survey: “Among acts of sexual violence committed against women since the age of 18, 100% of rapes, 92% of physical assaults, and 97% of stalking acts were perpetrated by men.”

    If you have read down this far, you may be feeling a little sick at the magnitude of the problem. And, as I’ve said before, it is a men’s problem and it will take men to change it.

    I give Abby full credit for shocking some members of her class out of their ignorance.

    Just for a local look at it: In our area (200,000 in the wider area), there are over 740 registered sex offenders (ones that have been caught, convicted and sentenced–only about 3% of offenders reach this milestone.). The sexual assault agency where I volunteer sees a very small percentage of the sexual abuse and rape victims but even in that small sample, there were 18 offenders under the age of 12 last year.

    Here is one of the local illustrations: “Sarah” Babcock (Richland, Level III offender [most likely to re-offend]). Babcock is actually a man (John Babcock). He has 7 known victims and claims to be trans-gendered. Two victims were his biological daughters, one familial male and four of his daughters’ friends. Probation Conditions: None. Babcock is not under Department of Corrections supervision. As a transient sex offender, he must check in with the sheriff’s office weekly and provide a list of addresses and/or locations he has stayed during the previous week.

    So here is a man who has offended both male and female children, both family and others. Yet he is only requirement is that he reports where he’s been. He is not restricted from being in a school or playground or anywhere else children live and play. Are mothers going be even slightly cautious as this “woman” is around their kids?

    His last known address is about three blocks from my house. We home school our granddaughter.

    Last night, my car’s windows were marked with a phallus and words like “C_nt,” “Bitch,” and more. (it was a fairly wide-spread attack by some boys who thought those words are funny.

    Those are the kinds of attitudes that need to be addressed.

    And we are way behind the curve.

    • “9 out of 10 rape victims are female”

      There is no evidence to support that, as we do not have accurate statistics on all cases of rape.

      This is a misrepresentation of other statistics, assuming it is based on real numbers. It may for example represent the proportion of plaintiffs who get successful convictions against the accused, or the proportion of those who press charges.

      ““44 % of female rape victims are under 18.”

      Again, this is not supported. Anything which claims to give us clear statistics on “rape victims” is flawed. Under-reporting (for both sexes, probably moreso for men) will always mean we don’t have reliable representations of absolute numbers or of proportions, when it comes to the crimes themselves.

      If we are parrot statistics, we should do so accurate, based on their source. If it means convictions, please say convictions, not rapes. If it’s for ‘people convicted of rape’, say that, not rapists. If it’s alleged or successfully prosecuting alleged victims, we say that, not victims.

      Only with accuracy in terminology will you be believable to those who think critically.

      • All part of the usual agenda and approach Tyciol. One MRA comes in with some dishonestly quote-mined statistics (“just another statistic”, above). So we blow them out of the water. And then another comes in to question the validity of using statistics.

        You couldn’t make it up!

        Tell us: how would you deal with the problem of sexual violence?

      • I’m afraid your stance nullifies all research. The research done on this subject is no less thorough than any other subject. These numbers are, in fact, supported by valid and peer-reviewed methodologies. Many of these studies have interviewed those who did not report.

        The only caveat I would offer is that we cannot combine statistics from different studies. For example, we cannot use the total number of reported rapes from the US DoJ and deducing that another study’s percentages of ages of the rape victims apply. You would have to use the DoJ’s age breakdown.

        The studies that use surveys that include the under-reported population show a much higher percentage of women under 18 since those crimes are under-reported at a higher rate than those acts committed against adult women.

        If you want to read the survey and study constructions as well as the detailed results, I’ve provided the references. If you’d rather not look at those statistics, that’s your choice.

        Unfortunately, I work in this milieu. I see the numbers personally. I have been doing this for 22 years. I know about male sexual assault and abuse. I am one of those survivors.

        I know that there were at least 15 child molesters in the city I grew up in (25,000 people). I’ve spoken with victims of those 15 men.

        I stand by my post and the studies I have quoted.

  172. Two anecdotal looks into how women see men:

    I was in a coffee shop a couple months ago and saw a sweatshirt with the saying: “Romance and Misery” on it.

    My cartoon of the day from the New Yorker magazine for March 26th:
    Two women talking. One says, “Some men aren’t deceitful. Some men are dead.”

    Guys, we gotta step it up. (Somewhat tongue-in-cheek…)

    • Naturally the impetus is on US to step it up, because we should naturally embrace the idea that we are all inherently deceitful? Both genders engage in deceit.

    • and what do men think in general of women? they don’t have cute shirts about it because men are taught that to be hurt in anyway is a sign of weakness. look, i’m not MRA but the fact is that i believe at least part of why steubenville happened is that those boys were also being treated as less than human by the adults in their lives. if either of them had busted a knee do you think the town would have sought to protect them. further, they have been taught that women want stars and money makers and so they believed the idea that this girl would count herself lucky. one of them texted her and said as much – that he had done her a favor.

      am i excusing him/them – hell no – a million times no. but really we can continue to pretend men have no feelings and then expect them to be empathetic and caring. if a man wore a shirt calling women liars we would call his ass out on it not say “so ladies let’s step it up”

      men are responsible for the majority of sexual attacks no matter how much the men’s movement wants to pretend otherwise but the majority of men are not sexual attackers

      i actually was looking for a different post of yours because i wanted to ask a question but i can’t find it so i hope you’ll indulge me asking here. and i’m asking you because i’ve seen you say you work with survivors.

      how is it that all impairment is nonconsent. i’ve had sex plenty of times under the influence. i meant to and i did it. was i “raped” all those times? secondly, if the man is impaired can he really be said to rape a woman who is also impaired? these are sincere questions – not meant for provocation.

      • Many professionals who work with survivors state that any impairment is non-consent. However, legally, only a level of intoxication that rises to the level of being “substantially incapacitated” is sufficient to make a person incapable of consent. And, when a person is “substantially incapacitated,” it’s not just sex they cannot consent to – they are also incapable of giving consent to medical procedures. (That’s where the concept originated from – criminal law just borrowed it.) A patient who is substantially incapacitated can be forcibly administered medication against their will and can be denied or required to undergo treatment against their will. The key is – if you’re still cognizant enough to call the shots medically, you are still cognizant enough to consent to sex. We don’t like it – it’s often ugly. People that are that drunk often act irrationally and irresponsibly. In that state they do things they wouldn’t do when sober and they sometimes “black out” and don’t remember having done it. Those people feel no less violated, however, and so I can understand the desire of those who work with survivors to validate their experience. But, it doesn’t change the fact that the ability to give legal consent doesn’t stop at the moment you pour some alcohol down your throat.

      • Hi, Cassandra…

        I have no way of knowing why these boys were able to do the things they did without some sense that they were violating her or what they thought about how the girl would feel about it (“doing her a favor”?). I do expect that they were missing some sense of compassion and empathy. I would be guessing if I tried to name a source.

        Yes, men need to be able to be real and to own and express our feelings and to be authentic. Our culture seems to want something different than authenticity from both genders.

        However, I still say that men need to take a more active role (what I would call “stepping it up”) in countering the culture that promotes denigrating and objectifying women. And, for me, that means, being authentic ourselves, honoring authenticity in other men and “calling out” other men who perpetuate the negative attitudes and actions.

        I think some of Dr. Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability and shame addresses some of these things. Youtube: look up her name and Vulnerability and also Shame, a couple of great videos on the subject and how it impacts men and women and the relations between the genders. She has written three books on the subjects also (I Thought It Was Just Me, The Gifts of Imperfection, and Daring Greatly).

        True: Men make up the majority of sexual attackers. True: most men are not perpetrators. But there is something about the male culture that trivializes sex and objectifies women as well as perpetuating the ideal of suppressing feelings. And men are the ones who need to start changing that.

        I do not intend to imply that all impairment is non-consent. I do know that a lot of the survivors I work with will tell me stories of being “impaired” but not meeting any legal definition and then doing things they now regret. But that is another subject.

        The problem is that, in the presence of impairment, it is the one who is being asked to give consent who gets to define the level of impairment not the one initiating the contact. That should give great pause to anybody initiating sex with a person who is visibly impaired even if it doesn’t seem to meet the legal standards. Some of those standards apply even if there is no impairment at all, Including age of consent laws, statutory rape laws and (less clearly) a person in a position of authority over the other.

        As a matter of opinion, if a person is trying to determine whether the level of impairment meets the legal definition, the answer is always, “Don’t even think about it.” That there is a question should be sufficient evidence to make the choice to back off very clear.

        I assume that there are some cases where the initiator is the woman and the one giving consent is the man. But that seems to be very rare, at least in terms of a claim of rape with legal impairment.

        As to a man who is impaired having sex with a woman who is also impaired: The issue, like it or not, is still with the one giving consent. The legal system may choose to drop the charge of rape (should one be made). But in some of the cases I know about, the penalty was lessened rather than refraining from prosecution, perhaps a lesser charge.

      • thanks for the response tedd. (and thank you too isaac!) it all is more or less what i thought but having heard a lot about impairment in absolutist terms i really didn’t know if i had missed something.

        again, i don’t disagree – i’m not a patriarchy denier by any stretch and having grown up being told all the time ” don’t GET raped ” it’s refreshing to have the conversation change to ” don’t rape ”

        i agree those boys lacked compassion and moral integrity – generally people who lack a quality have never been shown it. and again that doesn’t by any stretch excuse them or make it any less heinous but it does caution us to how we treat boys. girls and women are definitely objectified (been working in a male field for almost twenty years myself) at the same time boys and men are told that they want sex all the time, from anyone – that turning down any chance, that not pushing for it all the time makes you less of a man. and girls and women are still told there is something wrong or at least ‘naughty’ with ever wanting sex. and all this is on the background of a highly sexually charged culture at large. pretty much the perfect storm of horrid conditions.

        the only real objection i’d take with everything you said is – perhaps men don’t report being raped under impairment because no one would believe such a thing. even here you have assumed that if the two are both impaired he was the one seeking consent. why? for me, this is a feminist perspective; to assume that a man’s under the influence consent is always consent and a woman’s is coerced . . . ?

      • I don’t want to assume anything about any given instance of both parties being impaired. But the statistics are almost too lopsided to fathom. The US Dept of Justice study indicated that every single reported rape of an adult woman was perpetrated by a male–100%. I was astonished by that figure. Just as I was quite surprised by the one that said that 78% of rape victims were female, leaving 22% as male. Again, here we have to note that this includes all ages and most of the reported rapes were as younger children.

        It is entirely possible (probable?) that “under the influence” situations that don’t get reported could include a female aggressor. The male culture wants a man in that situation to feel like he was “lucky” even if it was uncomfortable or unwanted.

        The usual explanation for men not reporting has to do with the idea of seeming weak or being a victim. And that would lend itself to the lopsided numbers. I do know men who were molested or raped by women. Each of them experienced that as a child. My four perpetrators included one woman. Again, as a child. One man I know describes it this way: “I had sex with my mother, grandmother and great grandmother” rather than, “I was molested by those three women.” He was a young child.

        While I find that almost all rape/molestation victims tend to deny the severity and impact of their experiences, I think men are more fearful of admitting the truth than women.

        Your observation about women being told “don’t get raped” vs the shift to “don’t rape” is right on target. I’ve been active in the fight against sexual assault for over 20 years in one form or another. I hope we are seeing some progress but I’m not sure we are getting there very fast.

        While women are told “don’t get raped,” men are told, “you weren’t raped.” We’ve got a lot of work to do on that one.

  173. There is a more important lesson here for the men.

    I have been trained to do 12-week groups for abuse survivors. By design, we welcome any survivor of any kind of abuse. But it is almost universally women who come and sexual abuse is the vast majority of the experiences.

    The thing that saddens me most (and helps keep me clean in my relationship to my wife and other women) is the comment I hear most often. The comment runs like, “I didn’t think there were any men I could trust, that would show me compassion over what I’ve been through. Now I know there is at least one.” It makes me incredibly intent on NOT hearing, “I used to think there was one man who…”

    As another illustration: I’ve been to the training for these groups three times now (in Michigan). They hold it twice a year. There are usually 150 or so people there, about 75-80% women. We meet in a group for training and then break into groups of 6-8 to get actual experience.

    I wish I could have been there on this occasion. There was a contingent of First Nations men from Alaska at this one training. During one of the large sessions, one of those men got up and told all the men in the room to form a circle around the room’s perimeter, surrounding the women.

    He then said to the women, “Look around you. We are your brothers. We will protect you.” I’m told that pretty much all the women broke down sobbing.

    Until you live into the private lives of women, you have no idea of the dangers they’ve experienced and how much men have contributed to that.

    We need to change that and not make the women do our work.

    • Until you live into the private lives of men, you have no idea of the dangers they’ve experienced and how much women have contributed to that.

      • I live in both worlds and men are generally clueless about what women face. Men are abused. And it is men who abuse men.

        Women are capable of offending against men but it is far less an issue. Men’s dangers are of a different variety. Both men and women need to be respected and honored.

        What dangers do you face and how have women contributed to that?

      • PS: One of my sexual abusers was a woman. One man I am working with was sexually abused by his mother, grandmother, and two cousing…just for perspective.

  174. “When one of the boys asked, well what do you want me to do, get a napkin and make her sign it, about four girls from the back yelled, YEAH!”

    Of course, women wouldn’t need a signed napkin from a man to prove his consent, now would they?

    • If they misunderstand the nature of consent then yes they would.

      Do they? Do you think overall, or even in small proportion female 9th graders in the US misunderstand consent such that they might commit serious sexual violence? Or does the story told by the author suggest that the problem lies with the boys here? That the girls absolutely got it doesn’t tell you anything?

      Your agenda though is clear and apparent. Let’s make this about men again. Those poor down trodden men. This is not about dismissing men or the problems men experience. Its about challenging the environment which means that the extreme sexual violence perpetrated by men gets the airplay required to stop it. If you want to deal with the problems of violence committed by women – well: fair enough. It is a problem and it needs dealing with. But it is so far from equivalent, that those who make that demand stand out a mile. We see them and note their agenda.

      Having MRAs pollute every discussion about consent or rape by false demands for equality (its not equality they want after all, given that the problem is understood by no one but them to be equal) means this is an uphill struggle.

  175. I ran accross this a year or so ago. I’ve been trying to find the author but with no success. If anybody on this site knows who wrote it, would you please let me know?

    We Need to Teach Our Daughters

    We need to teach our daughters
    to distinguish between:

    a man who flatters her
    and a man who compliments her,

    a man who spends money on her
    and a man who invests in her,

    a man who views her as property
    and a man who views her properly,

    a man who lusts after her
    and a man who loves her,

    a man who believes he’s a gift to women
    and a man who believes she’s a gift to him.

    And then we need to teach our sons
    To be that second kind of man.

    • I agree with this so entirely. And I would add that I feel the best way to teach my daughter to distinguish between the first and second man is to, as her father, be that second man myself. In this, like many things, I think children learn by observing the behavior of their role models.

  176. A few years ago I was an assistant manager in a fast food establishment. One of the requirements of employment there was to have to watch a DVD on Sexual Harassment. Every guy there passed the test required on the first try. The problem came from the women: NOT ONE SINGLE ONE OF THEM WERE ABLE TO PASS THE TEST WITHOUT MY HELP!!!! This is ridiculous. The guys knew what they were supposed to do or not do, even though, by their actions at work they sure could have fooled you. The gals, sorry, but if they don’t know how they are to be treated, it is a terrible shame. Both sexes need training and it should have been long before they were of employment age.

  177. Reading this triggered me, and made me cry. Though I didn’t cry for that reason. I find you amazing and brave. Talking about this sort of thing would make many teachers blanch, especially in the way you did. Thank you so much, you may have changed many lives. You may have prevented future rapes. Thank you again.

  178. This blog reminds me of when Chris Brown hit Rhianna. I had a small class of 7th grade girls (one boy). The girls said Rhianna had it coming. They also asserted that they would never have made Chris mad like that. I was in absolute shock. I had to explain that no matter what Rhianna said or did, she didn’t deserve to be beaten. We do have to talk with our students and/or children about what’s going on in the world. We have to do it.

  179. I will be starting teachers college next year and I can only hope to be half the teacher that you are. you are an inspiration. thank you.

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  182. You are a wonderful and gifted teacher, Ms. Norman.

    Your students might be interested in participating in the Speak4RAINN campaign that’s going on this month. Details here:

    RAINN helps victims of sexual assault become survivors. It is the best place I know of for information about sexual assault and is an amazing resource for anyone who has been assaulted. My publisher (I wrote SPEAK) is matching donations right now – if anyone has $10 to spare, this is a great way to help!

    Thanks for making the world a better place!

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  184. what if they were shocked and stunned because you yelled at them? your actions were closer to abuse than actual teaching

    • How you could POSSIBLY apply that label to this experience defies the laws of logic. Did you read the entire article? Did you see how much she loves these students? Did you see that she immediately saw their confusion, and the truth that at their age, they have had abusive behavior taught and modeled in their everyday life and that sometimes they need a raised voice to even hear what is being said, much less understand it? To label this as abusive is confusing in the best of circumstances and downright offensive in the worst. I really don’t want to believe the worst here, but man, this is just off base in the extreme.

      • there are galaxies of difference between ” a raised voice ” and “yelling”. excuse me if look at the whole picture before stating my opinion on things. and my opinion is this: she makes it out to be that only males are capable of rape and that they need to be taught to obtain an engraved invitation before engaging in anything sexual that can be near immediately written off as forged and that there are a bunch of different ways she could’ve gone about informing the boys in her class that consent must be obtained beforehand always, and if consent can’t be obtained, that they should keep their distance. i also see no mention her even coming close to the notion that the young women in her class could also be rapists, even with a broad definition of rape. if your only course of action is to yell at them about rape, you are not dealing with freshman, you are dealing with mentally unstable, violent, people that would be better served being somewhere near an asylum. and how have they had abusive behavior taught and modeled in their everyday life? where is she living, war-torn Africa?

  185. Great comments: RAPE occurred to my daughter at age 15; good news was she was not pregnant and only got one STD; point is at the moment I got the call from her mom (divorced her and I ) I felt like I didn’t protect her. As the years have gone by, other than the week she spent in the hospital and victims’ counseling , we have never brought it up. 15 years later as her two girl are 13 and 14; I brought it up and ask: WOULD YOU TELL YOUR DAUGHTERS YOU WERE RAPED? the answer was no. I don’t have the right to question that but……curious what other survivors have done. Lastly; neither “man” received a conviction (one no charges; other deferred adjudication).

    • Many times survivors never tell anybody.

      I told my daughter when she was 21. I don’t know if I would have told her even then but she overheard something and I had to make sure she had the truth.

      Most of what i told her was apologizing for the effects the rapes had in our relationship, for letting those things interfere. It was an amazing and painful encounter.

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  187. Remember that part of the problem is that talking about sex “ruins the moment.” He can’t stop and ask in a serious voice if she gives her consent or not because he’s terrified of blowing his opportunity. You really think she’d want to sign a napkin? There’s the problem of girls thinking that giving explicit consent makes them immoral somehow. They think they have to offer some resistance as part of the ritual so that they can tell themselves they weren’t just giving in to their carnal desires, but of course that’s a whole other can of worms.

    I guess the point is that girls can help by undoing the stigma around talking about sex.

  188. A friend linked me to this. Thank you for writing this. More importantly, thank you for teaching your class about rape. The more children who learn what rape IS and that it’s wrong (which seems like should be obvious, but clearly it isn’t) and that it is THE RAPIST’S RESPONSIBILITY NOT TO RAPE, the fewer rapes there will be.

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  190. As a practitioner of self defense. The first line of defense is yourself. To act like its a mere act of teaching that changes a mind of a sicko in hopes he will have the “compassion” to not act out is a fairy tale at best. We call homosexuality something your born with, but yet rape is a choice, just like someone who is a serial killer just decided not to practice his sickness today? Please do not insult good young men and throwing them in the lot with the sickos, whats the common denominator? a penis? Yes I am a woman, with 5 grand boys, who frankly am sick of this kind of “blame the man-any man” attitude. The girl is surely not the victim, but your broad brush strokes make me a little sick. If I had a daughter, she would be told and taught to defend herself and this means taking your environment into consideration. Rape prevention 101 teaches a woman to be aware when running thru the park(ie. no headphones, no texting etc.) But being drunk off your ass is not something we should tell our young daughters? No its not their fault, but to NOT talk to our young women about being careful and being empowered through prevention is stupid. This is my speech I give to the class because I want them to live and getting out of a real situation safe, not to be politically correct. Unlike the fairy tales that are espoused of what is right(yeah I have a right to leave my doors unlocked too) I know the bogey man exists and will fight to end to defend myself. But if I can avoid it, that is the road I prefer to take.

    • as a martial arts instructor myself it is true that i taught my classes “don’t be there” as the first line of defense. both sexes. however, if a young man is beat up because he got drunk and was in the wrong place at the wrong time – it would never occur to me to tell him that it was therefore his fault. and i don’t see this teacher suggesting that girls and women shouldn’t be proactive in their own safety.

      but we’ve been telling women for years not to “GET raped” and we never tell men “GET consent.”

      i am also the mother of sons and you are missing the nuance here. there is more than one kind of rape and young men are given conflicting views. she just finished telling you that the kids in her class (boys and girls) didn’t know that being drunk and passed out wasn’t equal to consent.

      50 shades of grey is at the height of popularity – so are they to believe that secretly women want to “be taken?” popular culture shows men pushing themselves on women and women loving it. they are told that a boy whose teacher rapes him is “lucky.” they are told men don’t get raped. and they are not ever ever told what “healthy sex” is – health ed only covers how the pieces go together and how not to get pregnant or an std and popular culture is filled almost entirely with unhealthy messages.

      everything this teacher did was helpful for both boys and girls.

      • however, if a young man is beat up because he got drunk and was in the wrong place at the wrong time – it would never occur to me to tell him that it was therefore his fault.
        -I wouldn’t say it was his fault, there is no blame to be doled out here. But would you have a talk about alcohol? and being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Its about learning and being real.

        and i don’t see this teacher suggesting that girls and women shouldn’t be proactive in their own safety.
        -No she didn’t, but she didn’t mention it at all either. My point is that the subject of personal responsibility and being your own body guard was completely left out, not even an after thought. Sorry, this is not blaming anyone, that’s for the law to decide after the crime has been committed and someone is either hurt or dead(which I never intend to be either). We certainly know how our legal system is a revolving door of clowns. Kids should be able to play outside, but you teach them about “Stranger Danger” Do you not tell them about staying together, what happens if they get lost, what kinds of people they should seek should they need help. Once again, not about fault, but you give them the tools to be safe,,

      • @vivian – i understand your point and kids should be talked to about getting drunk for a number of reasons; it’s actually been scientifically proven to do some nasty things to the adolescent brain above and beyond what it does to the adult brain.

        i don’t know whether she mentioned it or not. if she didn’t – my take on it was because that has been covered. growing up i “knew” that if i got raped the first things i should consider were: how i was dressed, if i was drunk, if i led him on etc etc – so while those things may not be blame in and of themselves those points have been covered – tirelessly. those boys were drunk – if another boy had raped them would we have this conversation with him? “well son, you shouldn’t get drunk; that’s what happens” i just don’t see that happening.

        it’s interesting you mention stranger danger which has actually been shown in many ways to put children at a greater risk; /

        in both cases not defining our terms can be harmful. telling a child that only a stranger will harm them when the stats show it is more likely a relative or friend or priest or teacher will harm them and a stranger might help or telling a teen that rape is only committed by “some sicko who beats, uses a knife, uses a gun etc”

        to use the steubenville case – all those kids around and not a one of them thought something bad enough was happening that they stopped it. (and speaking of the drinking – none of those adults knew? there were adults home at some of these houses) but there is something they did all know – she shouldn’t have gotten drunk. you read the kid’s reactions and they all say she shouldn’t have gotten drunk. so it isn’t that you don’t have a point it’s that kids already know that.

    • “The girl is surely not the victim”

      What do you mean the girl is not the victim? When a girl gets raped, who else could the victim be?

    • Hey Vivian, the ‘broad brush strokes’ might make you feel a little sick, but then your rape apology leaves me feeling pretty noxious too. You equate homosexuality with the choice to rape or being a serial killer? Yup. More nausea. Loads of it. Did you think about your comparatives here at all?

      At what point did the author suggest we should not teach about the dangers for women of being unguarded around men? At no point.

      But – ignoring what happened in this classroom and the message of consent which the boys absolutely did not understand, you foisted your rape apology all over us.

      Yup. Really noxious now.

      Your pretty single track view has, I think, caused you to miss any other story than your own here.

  191. Thank you for this! More middle- and high-school teachers need to be more bold about the subjects of consent and sexual assault. “Just Say No” isn’t enough–we need to teach students that a clear “Yes” is needed.

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  193. I read things like this and I am grateful that teachers like this exist. As a nation, we leave far too much for children to discover on their own. When a fifteen year old does not know what rape is, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate how we educate our children about sex. Sex should not be a taboo topic of conversation. I knew what rape was as a child. Good touch, bad touch. Saying no means no.

    Now it’s assumed that as long as the victim didn’t say ‘no’ he or she was agreeing to be violated.
    “How can she be raped?” they asked, “She wasn’t awake to say no.”

    Really? Have we failed our children so badly that they do not know right from wrong? Wake up people. If we as parents do not teach our children, they may never learn until they are being arrested for doing something they did not know was wrong!

    • I think even more worrying is that there is a family doctor who posted aggressively above telling the author she was wrong to be teaching the students these things and to ‘do her damn job’.

      I looked up his practice: it all looks innocuous enough – Christian values, service oriented. And yet he is capable of that level of comment? Now that – truly – that is a problem. Someone with a position of responsibility whose personal ideology makes him see the monster in some kind of benevolent eyes, or…? Who knows. But I find him much more worrying than the students – who can be engaged directly and clearly and encouraged to think this through.

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  195. There’s really only one thing to be said. Thank you. Thank you for your courage to teach and your courage to share. This is really important. Thank you.

  196. Wow, what a long comment section 🙂 Brill post.

    Here in Iceland we had the whole issue addressed really well, here‘s a video. The title means: Get a Yes. Really needs to be translated to English but I’m sure you’ll get the gist of it anyway.

  197. I’m a 15 year old student myself so I feel compelled to say that these guys don’t seem that bright, I didn’t understand the poem posted at all (I’m in year 10 by the way) But the ‘yes is never implied’ seems obvious to me. Anyway you seem like a great teacher and they’re lucky to have you.

  198. You are amazing. In a time when we “don’t” need to be taught not to rape because “we’re not that stupid”, you are just amazing. I count myself lucky that rape and consent were explained to me right along with sex; I know this is skimmed over for most and I am glad your students have you.

  199. I am really glad you took the time to boldly challenge their wrong teachings and really give them a solid answer instead of being wishy-washy to not step on toes. I don’t know if you’ve gotten any backlash of WHY DID YOU TALK ABOUT THIS TO MY PRECIOUS BABY from hover-copter parents, but if you have, just know that you have my support and I hope you keep taking the chance to set the record absolutely straight in the future. I’m sick of a lot of my COLLEGE professors sort of awkwardly shrugging their shoulders when “difficult” topics are brought up because they really, really do not want to get into complicated talks with their students and I just remember how much more so my grade-school teachers did that.

    Teach them on behalf of all of us that you should never make assumptions!

      • Recovering from emotional abuse, either by a parent or a boyfriend/lover/spouse, is what came to mind for me. (See the Wikipedia entry on “gaslighting” and

      • Physical abuse that does not include rape, such as severe beatings, suffocations, holding weapons to a child, that sort of thing.

  200. Reblogged this on Transformed as Clay and commented:
    More people, more parents, teachers, brothers, sisters, mentors and friends need to be having this conversation with our kids. If they can handle learning about every other grown up thing in the world, they can handle having a conversation about consent and respect too!

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  202. Thank you for posting this Ms. Norman. As a teacher from Ontario, Canada, I admire your proverbial ‘balls’ to do something that many of us are afraid to do. Keep being awesome.

  203. Pingback: It’s Time for Respect Culture | Revitalizing Me

  204. The cases of sexual harrasment are increasing day by day.Women are mostly on the receiving end.Small children also commit crimes and get free because they are juvenile and in very few cases men also get raped but no one speaks up.

    • The local sexual assault agency sees a small percentage of the offenders. Even so, there were 12 sex offenders last year under the age of 12.

      Women are the large majority of the victims of sexual harassment. True.

      One study indicated that females make up 78% of the rape victims. That leaves 22% for the males. I use female and male here because most of the rapes (and molestations) happen to children. There are some indications that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men have experienced sexual abuse, assault or rape in their lifetime.

      For women, most never tell: only about 16%. For men, the percentage who tell is almost nonexistent.

      Take it from one sexual abase/rape survivor who is male and works with abuse survivors to try to bring healing. Men just won’t talk.

  205. Thank you. I have been so sad about recent stories and you are the first one to show me a possible way out. God bless you.

  206. Excellent. Love this. I find that kids understand it better when you change the sex of the person being raped from a girl to a boy. If a boy dresses up for a party, then gets drunk or passes out, is it acceptable for another boy to finger him or have sex with him without a clear “Yes”? If he doesn’t clearly say “No,” is it still OK? What if the drunk boy is really, really hot? What if he took his shirt off during the party? Is it OK then?
    When it’s a boy, there is no question in their minds this isn’t OK. How come it’s different for a girl?

  207. Pingback: Teaching kids how not to rape |   Rogue Priest

  208. The next lesson should seek to conquer the much harder (and arguably more relevant) question of whether an enthusiastic “YES!” counts if the alleged victim is so drunk they won’t remember having said it. Steubenville was a clear rape, committed against someone unconscious and therefore unable to consent. Most drunk sex cases don’t involve an unconscious victim.

    • The legal issue is consent. A person in any way cannot give consent. Drugs, alcohol, mental ability, sleep, age: Numerous things impair, and therefore render consent impossible.

      • A person who is impaired certainly can give legal consent. Only a person who is so impaired as to be “substantially incapacitated” is incapable of consent. “Substantially incapacitated” is a level of impairment so extreme that not only can the victim not agree to sexual activity, but the victim could have medical care imposed upon them against their will without the medical provider facing assault charges. That’s the level of impairment that is required before we will presume that the victim was incapable of consent. Basically, even if you’re very drunk, if you still have enough sense about you to make the call regarding medical care, then, legally, you still have enough sense about you to make the call regarding sexual activity.

      • Isaac, yes: a person who is impaired may (not can) give legal consent–under some circumstances. “Substantially” or “sufficiently” are a proper modifiers.

        However, there are situations where, no matter how much a person is mentally, emotionally or otherwise desiring the sexual conduct, they cannot legally give consent. The most direct versions of this are the statutory rape laws.

        From my study of the law in Washington State, the medical consent and legal consent to sex are not easily comparable.

        However, the critical point in this discussion is that the person initiating the sexual conduct is NOT the one who gets to decide whether the intended “target” is able to give consent or not. That power rests with the one giving consent (or the state law concerning age of consent and the like) and the subsequent court decisions, if it comes to that.

        There are more stringent controls or restrictions (in my opinion) if we move the “consent” issue to a moral rather than legal grounding.

      • Tedd: I agree that we should encourage people not to have sex with drunk people. Heck, I think we should stigmatize getting drunk in the first place for both the accused and the complaining witness. But, in this particular conversation you did not seek to talk about moral standards – you sought a discussion on the legal issue of consent. In fact, you actually began this discussion with the sentence: “The legal issue is consent.” Since we’re talking about legal standards: the accused is presumed to be innocent in a court of law and therefore is presumed to have had consent. The government alone has the burden of proving, beyond all reasonable doubt, first, that the complaining witness either did not consent or was incapable of consent due to being under the age of consent, was unconscious, was substantially incapacitated, was incompetent due to a mental defect, or some other theory of incompetence. Then, the government must prove not only the lack of consent or capacity, but also that the accused reasonably should have known of that lack of consent or capacity. Therefore, when it comes to legal consent, you are wrong that “the power rests with the one giving consent.” It is not enough for the victim to merely not consent – the accused must also know it in order for there to be a crime.

      • Hello, again, Isaac.

        I agree with what you say to a large degree. The law here in Washington has a couple caveats that put the burden on the initiator.

        In some situations, the person who has sex with an under-age person must clearly demonstrate that s/he had good evidence that the person was of age. This comes into play particularly with under-age prostitutes (but also is implicit in some sexual abuse and similar situations).

        In stating that the “power” of deciding incapacitation rests with the one giving consent, I was intending to indicate that the perception of the one initiating the contact does not determine that the person is legally impaired.

        Should the person who is asked to give consent decide later to press charges–or even take it to civil court, the person who initiated the action is going to have their life changed, regardless of the truth of the matter.

        The ultimate “power” is in the hands of the courts, prosecutors, and juries. But the initiator should know that his/her perception of the matter is not the best means of making the choice to proceed,

        To add to another’s idea, I’d recommend a signature … with a copy of their ID, two witnesses, and a blood test. Then I’d go home and sleep on it.

    • Tedd, in the jurisdiction where I practice none of the burden is placed on the accused, even in a “statutory rape” case. The government must prove the minority of the child and if the child is under 13 years of age, that is all the government must prove on the issue of consent. The belief of the accused is irrelevant. However, if the child is over 13 years of age then the government must prove that the accused knew or reasonably should have known of the child’s minority. We don’t wait for the accused to raise a “mistake of fact” defense and place the burden on the government to disprove that possibility in every case. The crux of why it is done that way is because many jurisdictions have tended to add a corollary to the traditional description of the government’s burden in a criminal trial – (in order to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt) the government must disprove every reasonable alternative other than guilt of the charged offense that explains the evidence presented.

      I concur wholeheartedly with your conclusion that the initiator of the sexual contact should not be so naive to think that their impression of whether there is consent will be controlling. As you said, ultimately, the court’s impression is what is controlling. The reason I take issue with your assertion that the “target” of the sexual contact gets to decide whether he or she was capable of giving consent is that it is setting that complaining witness up for disappointment. I believe we do our complaining witnesses the most service when we are completely honest with them. We must tell them that if because they were drunk their account of whether they consented is not going to be given the same deference by the jury as it would otherwise have received. Every court, in every case, including sexual assault, is going to take into account the fact that, generally speaking, people who were drunk at the time of the crime are less reliable fact witnesses. If facts are in question, such as whether there was consent or not, and if the only evidence of the offense is a drunk complaining witness, that may in and of itself give jurors reasonable doubt as to what actually occurred. If they have doubts as to the facts of the case, that may require them to have doubt as to guilt as well.

      Regarding charging lesser offenses if these sorts of complications come up: there’s nothing a lesser charge can do to cure an unreliable (I intentionally did not say “untruthful”) complaining witness. Ultimately, offenders in these sorts of cases will often not suffer punishment purely because the evidence is insufficient – especially if the only piece of evidence is a drunk complaining witness. This situation is incredibly frustrating for me as a prosecutor trying to do justice. However, I sometimes remind myself that the system we are asked to work within has courts of law, not courts of justice. Courts of justice are mythological fanciful things that are blessed with evidence and witnesses as sturdy, unemotional, and reliable as your cast iron frying pan, judges who have been given the wisdom of Solomon, and jurors who have borrowed the Maker’s omniscience.

      • What you say concerning the burden of proof and reliability of testimony are true in this state as well. The new law concerning buying sex with an underage prostitute is a move away from that typical burden of proof. It also requires that the prostitute is handled via the human services system not the courts as a crime.

        Insufficient evidence: some studies indicate that only 3/1,000 rapists are ever convicted, even if brought to trial. We have no way of knowing what is justice. I see the results of the acts in the work I do. But I also know that there are many perpetrators whose lives are what they are because of the choices of others, particularly in their childhoods. (I have to add, however, that the perpetrators’ choices of what to do with their wounds is still their responsibility. Nobody forces a person to become a perpetrator.)

        There is a convicted sex offender living four blocks away from me (last report). Level III, most likely to re-offend. 7 known child victims, male/female, family/friends. No supervision by the Department of Corrections. No restrictions on his activities except reporting to the police his location each week (he is transient). John dresses and looks like a woman, goes by the name of Sarah and claims to be transgendered. I wonder about Justice…

        I have had experiences of being responsible for reporting sexual abuse cases to the CPS folks, knowing that I didn’t have sufficient information to trigger an investigation and that the victim was too scared to provide more. And in some cases, even with sufficient information, there aren’t enough investigators to cover the territory. So the severity of the situation or the amount of the information available places the case on a lower priority than others.

        I do tend to wish that justice could be done. And the magnitude of the issue of sexual assault and abuse is horrible. I do very much appreciate your statement that we have “courts of law, not courts of justice.”

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  210. I can’t believe how naive I am… I would have thought that the concept that you can’t have sex with passed-out people would be beyond debate. I’m still not convinced that it is me that is naive. I’m more inclined to believe that if someone has to be told not to have sex with people that are passed out that there is something hopelessly broken about that person to begin with. I think it may be naive to assume that some sort of “pep talk” deterrence/education speech is going to be effective for such a person. I suspect that a person who sees nothing inherently wrong with having sex with a passed out person is broken in such a way that an infinite number of cautionary lectures still would fail to prevent them from growing up to be rapists. We just need to do all we can to ensure that when they do offend we have the evidence to convict and punish them accordingly.

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  212. It makes me enraged at how the young people are acting so non-nonchalantly about rape! “How will I know if she wants sex?” What? Obviously you can’t be an ass to a 15 year old ad you turned the whole situation into a GREAT teaching moment, but its shocking to hear that this is really how they think! Great job, really, it takes practiced patience to handle teenagers, let alone on a topic like this.

  213. Pingback: Something to Talk About: Rape Culture | Cursory Moments

  214. What better message can you send to boys that they’re all default rapists and need to be taught how “Not to Rape”, because after all, it’s happening “all across America”. One wonders why these boy animals are even allowed out of their houses. Good thing they happened upon your class, otherwise you’d have a small army of rapists loose in your school.
    What’s more is you did not even hint that the behaviour and choices women make could help protect them in a bad situation. I hate to burst you bubble but no blog posting or English class lecture is going to convince a rapist not to rape. They do bad things because they’re bad people, not because they’re confused. If someone were to tell a girl DON’T get blackout drunk in a house full of strangers would that be completely unreasonable? If so, then you may as well leave your purse on the front yard and expect it to be there the next day. As long as you have a class where you “Teach how not to steal”, everything should be fine.

      • I think Jon’s point is salient. Rapists aren’t rapists because they haven’t been taught not to be rapists. They’re rapists because they are criminals. A decent person doesn’t have to be told to not have sex with someone who is passed out. “No one ever told I couldn’t do that” is not going to be a valid defense. Basic humanity tells you that you can’t rape. Some things can be solved by education – this isn’t one of them. Jon’s point regarding not getting piss drunk is also salient. We shouldn’t imply that it is morally acceptable to get drunk. It is morally deviant. Drunk people do bad things that they wouldn’t otherwise do, and bad things happen to them that otherwise wouldn’t. If you’re not teaching your child that, you’re setting them up for failure. I disagree, however, that teaching your child not to get drunk is equatable to teaching them not to leave their purse on the lawn. The former is morally wrong, the latter is not. They should not feel ashamed for leaving their purse on the lawn, they should feel ashamed about getting drunk. It’s inherently stupid.

      • I can only disagree. I work with kids in W Africa where rape is endemic. Education has worked wonders for our students on this issue. It’s k

      • Why are so many here – mostly men- so quick to assume that girls are not being taught anything about morality or consequences?

        Why are you assuming that?

        Why do they always, and that’s always, introduce arguments of equivalence (even as they say they aren’t) between rapists and drunk raped girl?

      • To be clear, S Mason, I am not merely assuming that *girls* are not being taught that getting drunk is immoral and idiotic. I am convinced that all of our children – boys and girls alike – are being taught the exact opposite. We use every means of mass communication available to us to bombard out children with the glorification of party culture. While some adults may individually teach their kids otherwise, collectively we all revel in the irresponsibility of drunkenness and promiscuity. And, I do not equate drunkenness by the victim with the rape of the rapist. I believe they both should considered deviants and they both should face the possibility of criminal prosecution. (The degree to which we as a society cringe at the thought of holding a drunkard criminally liable for their offense is a sign of how little we care in the modern era about truly teaching our children about morality. You punish things that are wrong – if you’re not willing to punish it, then you must not think it was wrong.) However, only the rapist should be guaranteed jail time, only the rapist should be classified as a felon, and only the rapist have to register with authorities after release from confinement. I am in favor of aggressive punishment of sex offenders, but that does not mean I see a drunk victim as being innocent of any wrongdoing. I don’t blame him or her for being raped. However, their drunkenness is offensive to decency in and of itself. I also think a drunk rapist should be charged with drunkenness as well as his or her sexual offense.

      • i disagree isaac. knowing that forcing yourself on someone fighting you? everyone knows that is wrong. but we are surrounded by media that says that women want a man who is just going to “take charge.” and women themselves may buy into that – see “50 shades of grey” see “twilight.” and boys are not taught that they should ever give thought to saying no themselves – unless she’s hideous of course and then you should still say yes but never admit it. there is an opening to prevent some rapes here. and for girls to understand consent too. i know growing up a lot of my girlfriends thought that because they “led him on” or wore a certain thing or “had done it before” that they couldn’t really say no. so they would say no but if he insisted they would stop fighting. i haven’t a clue if that has changed but if it did it was from people talking about it.

      • I could benefit from taking her class, but only insofar as she teaches English. English is a valuable and interesting subject, I wonder if it has ever comes up in one of her classes.

    • Curiously enough, it was standard practice, some 3000 years ago to teach:

      Don’t steal.

      Don’t tell fibs.

      Don’t lust after your neighbor’s young women.

      Why not? Because these are unbecoming practices, unworthy of a decent human being.

      We still need to demonstrate to young people how to become decent human beings.

    • So we should then conclude the two boys in the court case were criminals (rapists) looking for an opportunity.

      Everything I saw of the case points to the fact the two boys were shocked that their actions constituted legal rape. It was ignorance not a criminal mind that led to their lives being destroyed.

      And the shocked reactions of the boys in her class indicated precisely the same misunderstanding. And the boys’ surprised reactions to what the girls had to say further demonstrates the need for just such education.

      It is just plain silly to conclude that educating the class (girls included) about the legal definition of rape is to assume that all boys are default rapists.

      Yes, an “English class lecture” apparently convinced a few potential rapists (of the same kind as Steubenville) to reconsider their actions in light of reality rather than their uninformed notions of what is permissible sexual conduct.

      And, yes, there is an “army” of potential rapists. Here are some figures from Vassar College:

      Incidence facts:
      One in four college women surveyed are victims of rape or attempted rape
      One in seven college men surveyed are victims of sexual assault
      85% of rapes on campus are acquaintance rapes
      One in six female college students reported having been a victim of
      rape or attempted rape during the preceding year
      27% of women have experienced a rape or attempted rape since age 14
      The majority of reported victims and offenders are college age, with the
      rape victimization highest among 16-19 year olds

      Women’s responses to assault facts:
      Only 27% of the women whose sexual assault met the legal definition
      of rape thought of themselves as rape victims
      42% of college women who are raped tell no one about their assault
      42% of the women who were raped said they had sex again with the
      men who assaulted them
      42% of raped women said they expect to be raped again

      Men’s responses to rape facts:
      84% of college men who committed rape said that what they
      did was definitely not rape
      55% of the men who raped said they had sex again with their victims
      One in fifteen male students reported committing a rape or
      attempting to commit rape during the preceding year
      Nearly one third of college men said they were likely to have sex
      with an unwilling partner if they thought they could get away with it

      Reporting facts:

      5% of college women who are raped report the rape to the police
      5% of college women who are raped seek help at a rape crisis center


      “Nearly one third of college men said they were likely to have sex
      with an unwilling partner if they thought they could get away with it”
      “One in fifteen male students reported committing a rape or
      attempting to commit rape during the preceding year’

      In the 2009-2010 school year, there were around 8,800,000 men attending colleges in the US. 1/15 means around 589,000 men raped or attempted rape on college campuses in the previous year. 1/3 who are willing to means a little less than 3,000,000 men willing to if not caught. (Populations from

      That sounds like an army to me.

      • Those statistics are pure madness. I invite everyone to read them repeatedly and think REALLY hard about what is being said here.
        “Only 27% of the women whose sexual assault met the legal definition of rape thought of themselves as rape victims”. and “42% of the women who were raped said they had sex again with the men who assaulted them”
        This defies all common sense, for these and many of the other statistics to be true the “Legal definition of rape” has to be SO BROAD that indeed there are armies of rapists. In fact every one reading this is a rapist. Every wife has been raped by their husband, and every husband by their wife. In fact I’m pretty sure I raped myself a couple times.
        Rape accusations are very serious and effect the accused lives forever, for the guilty parties this is how it should be, not so for the wrongly accused. Moreover this kind of nonsense is an insult to rape victims. I happen to know a women who was raped, a man grabbed her as she walked down the street, pulled her behind a building, and told her that if she yelled out he’d kill her. I wouldn’t define rape as narrowly as this, but I promise you, she wasn’t confused as to weather or not she was raped, and sure as hell she wasn’t planning on having sex with the rapist again.

      • You’ll have to take up your complaint with Vassar. That is the college that did the study. It’s not necessary to exaggerate the numbers as you have done just because the statistics are so daunting.

      • Jon Novak: how about listening to what the very large majority of women think reasonable definitions of rape include…? You could listen for a bit?

      • I’m not sure how I can exaggerate the numbers when I’ve copied them right out of your reply. Anyway my argument isn’t only with Vassar, it’s with people who speak about Rapists the same way Mccarthy spoke about Communists. Capitalizing on peoples fears (of a real problem) to vilify an entire group of people.
        Assuming that all boys are default rapists creates a toxic environment for boys in her class. It’s no wonder that boys comprise the vast majority of dropouts, and it’s no wonder that boys comprise the vast minority of University graduates. Boys are simply not wanted. But maybe that’s the whole idea, once there are 0 boys in school only then will the evil rape culture be destroyed and equality between the sexes will finally be achieved.

      • If you have to just invent rubbish like this haven’t you just kind of admitted that you don’t really have an argument?

        You do know that there is just about no one who believes the stuff you’ve accused your opponents of or your clsims about boys presumably so what does this tell you about yourself?

      • Tedd, the statistics aren’t quite as daunting as you might think when you take into account that it’s counting people as rapists that you would never think of as any sort of dangerous assailant. Say a guy and a girl are in a relationship and they know that they both have considerable sexual appetites. She gets drunk on her 21st birthday and they follow it up with birthday sex. Neither of them are confused about the nature of consent, but they know each other well enough to know that sex wouldn’t suddenly become unwanted just because one of them is drunk. Those statistics count the guy as a rapist.

    • Perhaps you never read this topic at reddit where men talk about how they committed rape and how they felt about it later. In between the truly chilling predator accounts were some by men who didn’t know when they were younger what legally constituted rape. It is those men we would hope to equip with full knowledge because they DIDN’T want to be rapists. Sure you can’t change the predators and of course not all men are rapists. But shouldn’t we be educating all of our young people about all of the laws they are expected to follow? We all know ignorance of the law is no defense.

      As for teaching girls what not to do, I can assure you all women are bombarded with such information (some of it useful, some of it faulty). That girls are warned not to drink too much at parties from their teenage years on and still do it means we have a problem with alcohol in our culture that peer pressure to drink overwhelms caution. Also girls trust boys they feel they know because we women don’t automatically see all men as monsters (even if you think so). We are often too trusting. We don’t want to offend. That can be our downfall.

  215. At least a little, I blame a “no means no” mentality.

    Of course “no means no”, but “no response” also means no, “maybe” means no, “I’m not sure” means no, and “if *you* want to” means no.

    Only yes means yes.

  216. Thank you so much for this. I’ve been feeling so run-down and broken lately, reading about horrid cases of rape where perpetrators are excused and victims blamed. I’m so glad that as a teacher you’re taking this on, it is so, so necessary. Reading this gave me a little bit of hope, something I’ve been lacking for a while.

  217. Thank you for sharing your story. This is important perspective to provide in our ongoing national debates about how to best raise our children and limit rape. I recommend submitting this post as an Op-Ed for a major newspaper.
    The SF Bay Area is going through a similar debate right now due to the arrest of some young men who raped an unconscious 15 year old girl. She committed suicide a week later in the wake of the rape and subsequent bullying she endured. See:

  218. I thank God that you are in these children’s lives. It makes me proud that you are in an Atlanta area and able to impart this knowledge to these kids. I wish that I would have had this experience in high school.

  219. Shocking hearing that so many students were unclear on how sex should be a consentual act. Glad that you shared your story. Hopefully it will empower parents to speak with their children, teachers to speak with thier pupils ad pastors to speak to their congregations about honoring and respecting our bodies and those of others. Bless you!

  220. And now yet another case in the news, this one in Canada, with a bit of a twist.

    “Anonymous to the Rescue in Canada Rape Case”

    After Rehtaeh Parsons was raped and cyberbullied, Canadian police dropped the case. Then she killed herself. Now the underground hacker collective, Anonymous, is demanding justice.

    Journalist, Winston Ross, talks to the hacker in chief.

  221. I do not live in America but I am 14, 15 in a week. If this is really how students respond in America I am disgusted. Are they that easily manipulated by the media that they can just think those things. How can they think that if there isn’t a clear no that it must be a yes. I am really surprised and shocked. I am also saddened that this is how people think of 9th graders, so naive, unknowing of the world around them. Or maybe, ninth graders in America are that naive, if that is the case, I am very scared for the future of the most powerful country on the earth.

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    • What I took from the Paly piece you shared is a reaffirmation that the source of much of this evil is a societal acceptance of party culture. We should not be accepting of anyone, child or otherwise, amusing themselves via getting piss drunk. Many in society actually laugh at it, and write songs about it, completely ignoring the clear link that sort of behavior has with all sorts of societal ills – from sexual assault to DUI. Even when those things occur, we try to relieve ourselves of any responsibility for encouraging that irresponsible behavior and instead we hang all the blame on the perpetrator alone. I’m fine prosecuting the perp – it is often well-deserved. But, we shouldn’t pretend as if we, as an entire society, did not condone the circumstances that surrounded and facilitated the crime.

      • @Isaac, I agree, the party culture and alcohol play major roles in these rapes. But as the original blog post and Paly articles/essays discussed, that is not the sole reason why these rapes continue to occur nor for the reaction by others after-the-fact. As with most things in life, this isn’t simply black and white with a simple solution. It takes us all working together to change our society and its values to limit these occurrences. One of those values is that we should always respect alcohol. A second is that only an non-intoxicated “yes” -with informed consent – means yes. Yet a third value is that we speak up to enforce the rights of those who can’t. And a fourth is that prosecution of rapists is always well deserved – the blame does lie solely with rapist(s), since only they committed the act of rape (i.e. rape is never permissible, regardless of the circumstances under which it occurred).

      • I concur with everything you said other than, possibly, “only an unintoxicated ‘yes’ … means ‘yes'”. Whether I concur or not depends on what you mean by “unintoxicated.” If you mean that my wife (who doesn’t drink) committed rape every time she successfully made a sexual advance towards me when i was buzzed on liquor, then, no, I dont concur. I assure you that each and every time I was fully aware of the sexual conduct at issue, and therefore entirely capable of consenting. Anyone else in the same condition who consents, likewise, has not been raped merely by virtue of the fact that they regret having done something that they fully understood at the time but now regret due to the revival of their inhibitions.

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  226. I am the mother of a teenage boy. I KNOW his head would explode if classmates of his made some of the comments your students made … because I actually speak to him. When he’s watching tv I watch with him. And when there’s a situation where a character is on a date we talk about what is appropriate and what is not. We talk about how he should behave should he ever encounter a similar situation. We never sat down and had “the talk”. Rather it’s been an on-going conversation from the time he was old enough to talk.

    It makes me sad that some parents are so completely dropping the ball. But it give me hope that there’s someone like you trying to undo the damage that this kind of parental neglect is causing.

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  228. Awhile back someone (possibly more than one) wondered how a woman could not know she was raped. Easy–if she doesn’t know what constitutes the legal definition. For instance, like some men I didn’t know that forced digital penetration counted as rape. I say forced not because it was horribly violent but because I was clearly and loudly saying NO and STOP after I was suddenly pinned in the seat of a car. I knew I had been sexually assaulted or molested or something in that general category but I didn’t think it was rape unless I was penetrated by his penis. He was very drunk, I thankfully was not, and I continued saying NO while I tried to get up my nerve to maybe gouge his eyes with my one free hand. Just as I was about to, he seemed to finally get it that I was saying NO and STOP and DON’T and let me up. He had the nerve to call me for another date the following week. I said, “I’m not up to another wrestling match.” He finally seemed to realize that he had done something objectionable and apologized and I hung up.

    I had always thought I would be one to report a rape–but I didn’t realize it was so I didn’t report this. It would have been my word against his anyway and cases like that are so rarely prosecuted. Who knows how many other women he raped and if he maybe didn’t stop in those cases. I’ll never know.

    I went home that night and sobbed in the shower for an hour, feeling like I would never get clean.

    I had previously been groped in a sexual way but there is something about having an orifice of your body penetrated that is so much worse, whether you are male or female. For someone to be inside your body without your consent–there are no words.

    As to how a woman could be with her rapist again–in the context of an ongoing relationship where you’re told that what happened was fine or your objections are discounted, it is much like remaining in a battering relationship (which I also experienced for seven years). You make excuses “he didn’t understand I was saying no” “he’s really sorry” “he won’t do it again.”

    I also didn’t know, as a teenage bride, that my first husband didn’t have the legal right to just climb on top of me when I was asleep. I would wake up as he penetrated me and it felt creepy but he was my husband and it was confusing. This went on until the time I just started sobbing uncontrollably. It hadn’t occurred to him that I might object, apparently, but he never did it again after that.

    This is why issues of consent need to be taught to boys and girls both.

    Last, I will never understand why we can not have a single conversation about rape or domestic violence without men showing up to tell us we don’t have it that bad and they are equal victims and so on and so forth and if we bring it up we are vilifying all men everywhere. If you want to talk about violence against men (yes I know it happens–I knew a victim) or men who are raped (again yes I know it happens too) by all means start a blog and do so–and I won’t come there and demand you talk about violence against women.

    • Beautifully put, tapati.

      And thank you for bringing up one of the things men don’t understand with regard to sex in general, let alone sexual assault: I think men vaguely perceive it (sex with a woman) as something they do WITH their body, that is if they consider it at all.

      It is a huge perspective shift that is hard to understand: “with” becomes “in.” It is something that happens inside a woman’s body. Somehow, it is thereby so much more invasive and intimate in the worst way.

      Those of us men who have been penetrated know a little of the difference. Until recently, I hated to use the word “penetrate” in any context.

      As to definitions, that is, understanding that one has been raped: It wasn’t until I read the legal definition of rape while i was training to be an advocate for sexual assault victims that I realized that I hadn’t been molested by those two men. Both of them had committed 1st Degree Rape of a Child. (I was violated by two others who met the “molesting” definition.)

      Like you, I understood that I had been molested (or something like that) and, as is normal for pedophiles’ tactics, I thought I was to blame. I remember sitting there in the class reeling from shock as I looked at the law in black and white before me. I was actually fairly comfortable saying I’d been molested. There is a vagueness and even a softness in a way about the word “molest.” It is still a violation but doesn’t carry the intimacy of rape.

      But “rape” also seems to carry a sense of horribly intimate violence, violence to the emotions and heart–the core of our being–if not also to the body. Some of the survivors I’ve worked with won’t even write the word down–and, if they do, it is spelled: r*p*.

      I love words.

      The word “rape” is derived from a Latin word meaning “to carry off by force.” In every rape, something is stolen. Every person who commits rape is also an armed robber.

      • Oh yes, it was a shock to adjust to the idea that I’d been raped, not just molested. Same act, same memories, but the perspective shifted. As I remembered that night and my sense that I would never feel clean again, I certainly agreed that penetration should be considered rape. I just hadn’t thought the law recognized it that way.

        To see, in this topic, the ridiculous notion that having your wallet stolen could be equally traumatic is like a slap in the face. I would lose a hundred wallets stuffed with money and credit cards before I would go through that again. Yes being robbed feels like another type of violation, a violation of your sense of safety and well-being. Not disputing that at all. But losing your wallet doesn’t bring the shame, the attack to the very core of your identity, doesn’t turn you into an object in the same way that a sexual assault or rape does. Unless a loved one DIED in the process of having your wallet stolen, shot in front of you, don’t say it’s JUST LIKE rape. My car was vandalized and burglarized but it didn’t alter my identity or sense of self one bit.

        Tedd, I’ve appreciated your contributions to this topic and your expertise.

      • Thank you. I recognize the feeling of never being clean again. It took me 38 years to find that sense of clean again. Even now, those four perpetrators and 8 years of abuse have had a lingering impact.

        Yes, the comparisons between theft of a personal item and rape are absurd. Unless the person I’m speaking to knows from first-hand experience what it is to have your core being, identity drenched in the filth, it is hard to convey how rape damages so much of who you are.

      • Tedd, Tapati, given your conversation here, I’m curious as to your take on a charging decision I recently helped make. Facts are that the accused allegedly digitally penetrated victim’s vagina with “unlawful force” and then digitally penetrated her mouth with “unlawful force.” In my jurisdiction those are both “sexual acts” since that term is defined as “the penetration, however slight, of the vulva or anus or mouth of another by any part of the body or with any object, with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, or degrade any person or to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.” Rape in my jurisdiction is defined as a “sexual act” plus “unlawful force” . The unlawful force element can be satisfied by the fact that the sexual act itself was non-consensual (as opposed to requiring some act of force in addition to the sexual act itself). I advised charging two counts of Rape – one for digital penetration of vulva and one for digital penetration of mouth. Do you think it appropriate to charge the digital penetration of the mouth as being a crime equal to that of the vaginal digital penetration? What if it were two separate victims as opposed to the same victim – would it be appropriate to charge both offenses as Rape then? Do you think I advised overcharging? If I had recommended charging the oral penetration as a lesser offense, say as sexual assault or as an abusive sexual contact or even as a regular ole assault consummated by a battery, would that have been advising to undercharge?

      • I’ve never heard of such an act before. I try to picture what the victim experienced and I would find it just as violating as the first act, perhaps even worse since is it so bizarre. As tapati said, I would think the fear of the perpetrator escalating it to something more would be reasonable. Since the oral penetration followed the vaginal penetration, it would seem clear that there was sexual intent.

        I don’t know if one could establish sexual intent if there was only the oral penetration without any additional indication. I would probably move to an assault charge, in that case. If it could be established that this was some sort of fetish (previous patterns of assault), that would go a long ways to demonstrating a sexual intent.

        But there is something so strange about digital oral penetration. It certainly merits some sort of charge.

        I hope the victim has been given competent mental health resources.

  229. In trying to think of a way to explain why it is annoying and inappropriate to interrupt conversations about rape to insist on arguing about who gets raped more or equally or by whom, men or women, let’s consider the following examples. I ask the men to imagine:

    You’re on a men’s blog trying to talk about how difficult it is to ask a lady out, to get up your nerve, how to do it respectfully, where to meet women, and so on, and women invade your blog to discuss street harassment and how awful it is to have men come up to them all the time. It’s a valid topic–just not in the middle of the discussion you were trying to have. [Dislaimer: I doubt this happens but if it does it’s not cool.]

    People of color are having a conversation about racism, things like being followed through the store as if you are a thief, frequent police stops, being told you shouldn’t be walking in your own neighborhood because they think you don’t belong there, job discrimination and so on. You’re having a good and productive discussion about strategies to deal with that and then there are replies demanding that you acknowledge that working class white people have it hard too. Now this is true, and there are places to discuss that–it just shouldn’t be done in your thread or on your blog. The most that would be appropriate is to respectfully post a reference to a blog trying to bring working class people of all races together. [I have seen such a conversation derailed by white people insisting that classism is serious too. I’m working class, and yes it is, but that was not the time and place to discuss it or to try to educate others about it.]

    It’s not that women don’t think violence against men and boys is important to discuss anywhere, ever. It’s that we don’t think our conversation about the rape of women ought to get constantly derailed even though we acknowledged early on that the boys in the class have the right to have their consent or lack thereof respected, too, and that it is a problem.

    Making assumptions that we all view all men as monsters is insulting and disrespectful. As I said before, quite the opposite is true. Young women, especially, are very trusting of young men they feel they know. They are taught more about the danger of the violent stranger in the alley way than of the men they know who might behave in ways they can’t remotely imagine. All we are trying to do is to make sure that the good young men who DON’T want to break the law and have their lives ruined fully understand the laws regarding rape so they know how best to ascertain consent–and likewise for young women. Why would anyone advocate sending them out into the world without the information they need to comply with the law? Why would teaching them about the law seem like an automatic accusation of wanting to be a rapist? When we tell kids not to steal are we saying they are all would-be thieves? When we teach them the rules of the road are we assuming they want to commit vehicular manslaughter?

    Teaching men not to accidentally break the law with regard to rape is common sense, and in this class both genders were taught side by side as the discussion unfolded. Boys and girls were both taught about consent and its importance. They were given a language with which to discuss it and check in with their partner. If there is something wrong with that in your mind, I can only assume you want them to just muddle through and perhaps make heart-rending mistakes as reflected on that reddit topic I linked to where boys later realized they hadn’t received consent and felt just horrible. We can’t reach the predators but we can help prevent a situation that harms both parties out of sheer ignorance. When we fail to, we’ve let them both down and share the responsibility for mistakes made later on.

    • Great to read your post, though I find it more than irritating when MRAs turn up en-masse to any discussion about rape, to whine “what about us”? It’s more than irritating because it is a decided policy to do this: it is part of an agenda. It’s the same agenda that accuses those who insist we must focus on this appalling issue of saying that all men are rapists. Or potential rapists (whatever that might be).

      And I strongly believe it is part of the rape apology culture which facilitates rape by diminishing the experience of the victim, by claiming false equalities, by quote mining. All of which we have seen in spades on this thread.

  230. Isaac, I’ve never had anyone digitally penetrate my mouth with a sexual intent (I’ll let my dentist off the hook) and other than having read my state laws I am not a legal expert but since this guy did BOTH to one person I am comfortable with your choice which should net more time. [There’s a fruitful discussion to be had at another time about keeping sexual and violent criminals locked up longer and decriminalizing pot so we can free up prison space.] If someone were digitally penetrating my mouth I would be terrified that it was going to escalate and I suspect that was the intent from what you describe. It also effectively silences the victim since you can’t talk with someone’s fingers in your mouth.

    By the way, I think one should not graduate high school without having a review of the laws they are expected to follow in general, perhaps in civics/social studies class, and resources to find out other states’ laws if they choose to move or go to college out of state. I remember a tragic story involving mandatory sentencing where a boy who’d just turned 18 was angry at a boy who’d stolen his girlfriend (in his mind) and went to confront him. They argued at the doorstep and the boy took one step into the home to punch the other boy. The blow to the head killed him (another thing that should be covered in health class–brain injury) and mandatory sentencing condemned the 18 year old to live in prison because he’d committed the manslaughter after stepping into the home. Tragic for all concerned. He had no idea the legal risk he was taking when he stepped across the threshold. Other kids have faced stiff penalties for riding in cars with others who, unknown to them, were carrying drugs. Kids aren’t going to research law on their own and often parents aren’t well informed either. At the least we should tell them where to look for them and why it’s important to know.

    • Tapati, I share your concerns about mandatory minimum sentencing. I also share your concerns about educating our kids on the law. Unfortunately, the law is not simple and straight forward. Even offenses that on first glance may seem simple are not – take sexual assault for an excellent example. It is easy to say sexual assault is a sexual act without consent. But, the issue of consent is not at all a yes or no proposition – it is complex even among sober participants, and is made even more complex if the victim has been drinking or is otherwise intoxicated. We have some that argue that intoxication should always result in lack of capacity to consent – but the law does not adopt that standard, and such a standard would in effect be contrary to reality since drunk people, in fact, can engage in volitional activity despite their intoxication. Ultimately, we send folks to law school for three years not to come out and know where the lines are between legal and illegal conduct, but instead they go to law school to learn just how blurry and indefinite those lines are. Sometimes it is a valid question whether there even is a line as opposed to a an almost imperceptible gradient change. Given that you can’t give concrete rules even after 3 years of full-time legal study, I am dubious that it could be taught in a meaningful way to high school students. The best you can do to help a child not break the law, I think, is to teach them to have empathy for others, to think and care about how their actions impact others, to question authority and common beliefs (especially when others are emotionally vested in those beliefs), to practice self-reflection after success and failure, to practice and view self-deprivation as a virtue, to avoid frivolity and see it as a character flaw, and to believe that engaging in the behaviors I listed and holding those sorts of beliefs makes them better than the vast majority of other people – who do not believe/behave in the same way (i.e. to have self-esteem). I think a child who thinks and does these things will naturally be disinclined to behave stupidly in general, and thereby will avoid criminality as well.

  231. I don’t disagree with you. I worked on teaching my children empathy and respect for others. I agree, intoxication is a gray area and other than unconsciousness it is difficult to know when someone is TOO intoxicated to give consent. I would urge my grandsons to err on the side of caution and even when NOT drinking it is good to check in, “Are you comfortable with this? Let me know if you aren’t at any time.”

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  233. Ms. Norman,
    I would love to have been there to witness this discussion. And pound some heads if need be.

    I would add that, “YES” is not enough. A drunk girl can say “YES.” A drugged girl can say “YES.” Kids need to have explicit conversations on these areas, too. They need to know that slipping a rufie into a drink and having sex is rape. They need to know that getting a girl (or boy, as the case may be) drunk deliberately and having sex is rape. They need to know that finding an inebriated young person and having sex even with an almost “YES” is quite likely legally rape (I’m not a lawyer), but is most definitely cruel and unethical.

    The short and long is, kids need to be taught to respect their peers and to be compassionate instead of selfish. *shrug* Best way to teach that is by example, but actual conversations should certainly help. I’m really glad you had this conversation. Hopefully your class will be able to influence their friends, too.

    • Matt, having sex with an inebriated person is not very likely to be legally rape. Those are the majority of the sex offense cases we try in the jurisdiction where I practice. The conviction rate is very low. The reason it is so low is that the law recognizes that a person doesn’t lose their right to self-determination merely by consuming a drop of alcohol. That right can only be lost when the amount of alcohol consumed has rendered the person “substantially incapacitated.” That term, “substantially incapacitated” means that the person is so drunk that they are not capable of understanding the nature of the sexual conduct at issue or not physically able to express consent (or lack thereof). If a person is “substantially incapacitated” the the law recognizes that are not competent to make decisions for themselves – but that lack of competence is not limited to only questions about sex, it extends to denying them the right to make medical care decisions for themselves… they can be forced to undergo treatment without their consent. It is a high burden, and one that juries are not able to find is met in most cases. All it takes is for one witness to say that it appeared the victim understood what was going on and that may give rise to reasonable doubt. We will not find “justice” for drunk victims in a court of law.

      • Thanks for the clarification. How does that work when a victims is being pressured or tricked into drinking? Teenagers can be quite cruel.

        Obviously if you have to pick up a girl to get her in the car, she couldn’t be considered capable of understanding what’s going on.

        It’s a shame that society has come to this, but we do need to educate our children on these subjects more aggressively. I’m not an ardent abstinence advocate, but the kids really need the knowledge and tools to be able to make better decisions.

      • Matt, a victim who is tricked or pressured into drinking is still capable of consenting to sexual contact so long as he or she is not so drunk that they are “substantially incapacitated.” Tricking someone into drinking against their will might constitute an assault consummated by a battery, though. Merely “pressuring” someone to drink, without a threat of force or the like, is stupid and immoral, but not a crime.

  234. I would love to have been there to witness this discussion. And pound some heads if need be.


    More to the point, pounding on the body parts of someone who is in a state of obliviousness may sound like a fantastic narrative, but it’s only “fantastic” in the sense of a fantasy that departs from ethical best practice to the point of being demonic “bad medicine” (if not downright illegal). I use the term “bad medicine” as a colloquial term for what modern medical or psychiatric practice would call an iatrogenic treatment — a treatment that not only fails to cure the disease, it actually exacerbates it and spreads it more widely to others not previously infected.

    Why is it, in systems of justice (whether “street justice” or justice under the color of law), do we commit the unpardonable sin of imagining treatments that science and psychology reveal to be iatrogenic, meaning it spreads the cancer farther and wider, rather than arresting and attenuating it?

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