Purposive Rambling

the journey is the reward.

Get consent!

with 3 comments

These new sexual assault prevention tips from Feminist Law Professors are making the rounds in my Facebook network today. I was just about to hit the Like button, but I think there’s something missing. Here are the tips that are “guaranteed to work”:

  1. Don’t put drugs in people’s drinks in order to control their behavior.
  2. When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone!
  3. If you pull over to help someone with car problems, remember not to assault them!
  4. NEVER open an unlocked door or window uninvited.
  5. If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, DON’T ASSAULT THEM!
  6. Remember, people go to laundry to do their laundry, do not attempt to molest someone who is alone in a laundry room.
  7. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public.
  8. Always be honest with people! Don’t pretend to be a caring friend in order to gain the trust of someone you want to assault. Consider telling them you plan to assault them. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the other person may take that as a sign that you do not plan to rape them.
  9. Don’t forget: you can’t have sex with someone unless they are awake!
  10. Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone “on accident” you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can blow it if you do.

On the one hand, this is a definite step in the right direction. We tend to place blame on victims of sexual assault, and this really flips that on its head and places the blame where it belongs. So big thumbs up there.

What rubs me the wrong way about this list, though, is that it really seems to take as a given that perpetrators of sexual assault go out into the world with the intent of assaulting someone. I do not mean to suggest that that is never the case. I believe that people purposefully prey on others. But we know now that “acquaintance rapes” are much more common than “stranger rapes.” And often the context surrounding acquaintance rapes suggests that there is no premeditation. We often hear about “he said/she said” cases in which the person accused of assault does not even realize that what he (not always, of course) did was rape.

This list sends the message that people who rape are bad, scary, predators who are lurking around every corner waiting for the perfect opportunity to carry out their plans. As such, it shifts the discussion away from this more common type of assault.

I wholeheartedly believe that the key to preventing many acquaintance rapes is education about consent. No means no. It never means yes. Only yes means yes. And you should wait for a yes. Don’t make assumptions.

Again, this list is taking us in the right direction, but it’s missing at least one tip – Get consent!


Written by Lisa

October 9, 2009 at 2:38 pm

3 Responses

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  1. I’ve been looking around at this one and many commentators are adding similar caveats to yours, Lisa. I don’t think it means anything’s wrong with the (awesome) list though; prompting discussion and revaluation of attitudes through humour would have to be the lists goal (well, the goal of the author) so mission accomplished! I’d say it’d be hard to think of a way to phrase your (valid) concern in a humorous way… wait; I just did a search and found an alternative version of the list that features this closing statement:

    “And, ALWAYS REMEMBER: if you didn’t ask permission and then respect the answer the first time, you are committing a crime — no matter how “into it” others appear to be.”

    I’m not sure if that’s from the original or someone’s addendum. (That kind of think gets complicated on teh internets) but it (almost?) fixes the gap you identify.

    Also, hi and bye.



    October 12, 2009 at 11:32 pm

  2. correction:


    seems to be the original, and yep that last phrase is part of it. Looks like some of the early re-postings around the ‘book left it out.


    October 12, 2009 at 11:35 pm

  3. Yeah, I totally agree that the list with or without that last point makes a very positive contribution to our discussion on sexual assault. And thanks for sharing the original version of the list!


    October 13, 2009 at 12:42 pm

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