Blaming the Victim for Rape. Again


| January-February 2009


A recent cover of Cosmopolitan (Sept. 2007) inaugurated “a new kind of date rape you must know about.” Inside was a story about gray rape, defined as sex that “falls somewhere between consent and denial.” The anecdotal evidence for this phenomenon was a woman still worried that she uttered her second round of no “too softly” to her college-acquaintance assailant. The actual culprit behind this new “gray area,” Cosmo explains, is women’s increased sexual independence in today’s “equal-opportunity hookup culture.”

Lisa Jervis, cofounder of the feisty feminist rag Bitch, rails against this bogus idiom in Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power & a World Without Rape (Seal Press, 2009). It’s the same old oppressive line, Jervis says, wrapped in a slick magazine cover promising the latest in man-pleasing sex tips: “Your sexual desire is dangerous. You can stifle it or you can be a slut who lives in fear and gets what she deserves,” she writes.