Soon, Rape Won’t Exist At All—Not the Act, Mind You; Just the Word

Part Four in an Ongoing Series. Part One. Part Two. Part Three.

In West Palm Beach, two male teens have been jailed after allegedly forcing their way into a woman’s home, beating and raping the woman vaginally and anally, and forcing her 12-year-old son at gunpoint to rape her, then pouring cleaning solution into the boy’s eyes. A palm print and DNA evidence places the teens at the scene, but formal charges have not yet been filed.

The coverage of this horrific, stomach-turning crime is unique in that the two assailants are usually said to have raped (or gang-raped) the woman, but her son is inevitably described as having been “forced to have sex with” her. Well, no. Unless she gave her consent, he was forced to rape her.

But, Melissa, you may be thinking, he didn’t mean to do it, so it isn’t rape. Except, see, the thing is, rape isn’t defined by a rapist’s intent; it’s defined by a lack of consent, which is easy to forget because of exactly this kind of reporting.

In this case, by the way, I would argue that the poor son isn’t really the rapist at all; the guys who forced him to rape his mother at gunpoint are the rapists, and they raped him by forcing him to rape his mother, too—which is all the more reason we shouldn’t treat it with kid gloves by saying the two of them were merely forced to “have sex.”

[H/T Jennifer Pozner.]

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131 Comments

Filed under 01_shakespeares_sister

131 responses to “Soon, Rape Won’t Exist At All—Not the Act, Mind You; Just the Word

  1. You are correct, as usual.

  2. The disgusting thing is that this series could be endless. I fear that four parts is only the tip of the iceberg.

  3. The disgusting thing is that this series could be endless.

    It may very well be.

  4. But, Melissa, you may be thinking, he didn’t mean to do it, so it isn’t rape.

    No, it just hasn’t been proven and thus, we cannot say anything about the word “rape” because that would be discriminatory. Of course.

    Welcome to rape culture, all you people who thought you weren’t living in one. Assholes.

  5. The father of one of the rapists says his son had a good heart, so I guess it couldn’t have been rape.

    The father conceded that he doesn’t see his child on a regular basis and lamented not doing so. He and the teen’s mother are not together, he explained. The teen has two other pending cases in juvenile court as well as a prior misdemeanor trespass conviction, according to Gershman.

    This case is disturbing on thousands of levels, not the least of which is that it’s quite local to me. Lots of my students come from West Palm Beach,

  6. No, it just hasn’t been proven

    I don’t know that there’s any debate about whether it happened. According to news reports I’ve read, both mother and son have made statements that it did.

    Unless, of course, you just mean that he was forced to do it has not been proven, which is correct.

  7. The father of one of the rapists says his son had a good heart, so I guess it couldn’t have been rape.

    Uh-huh. From the first linked article in the post: “My son has a good heart,” the elder Walker said outside court. “I can’t believe my son would do something like this. I don’t teach my son violence so I don’t understand.”

    And I would bet every penny I had that he never took five minutes out that kid’s 16 years to talk to him about not raping women, either.

  8. Unless, of course, you just mean that he was forced to do it has not been proven, which is correct.

    I was snarking, poorly. Sorry about that. I don’t understand people who automatically want to say “but it hasn’t been proven, blah blah blah”. Sorry, Liss. I didn’t write that post as well as I should have.

  9. Do we no longer inquire into mens rea at all?

    I cannot call this child a rapist.

  10. She was raped, however.

  11. The rapists were the teens forcing the child.

  12. Am I just confused, Liss? I’m seriously trying to grok, without losing the notion that…I don’t even know what I’m defending here except maybe the rule of law.

  13. Both mother and son were raped.

    The boy wasn’t “forced to rape” his mother. He was used as an instrument to rape her.

    There is a big difference. The woman was indeed raped. However, her son IS NOT guilty of rape.

    If someone straps a bomb to your chest and tells you to rob a bank or he’ll blow you up, you aren’t guilty of bank robbery. The person who strapped the bomb to your chest is the bank robber. You are a VICTIM!

    So, you CANNOT say that the boy was forced to rape his mother.

    What you can say is:

    Both the mother and her son were sexually assaulted.

    I don’t think it is necessary to explain HOW they were assaulted. Both are victims — EQUAL victims.

    Saying that the boy raped his mother is just plain wrong. Saying he was forced to have sex with her isn’t accurate either. I doubt he was able to obtain an erection and penetrate her. That would be highly unlikely. They probably just forced him to lay on her while naked (still a sexual assault).

    Let’s have respect for both victims here and not stimatize the boy by labeling him a rapist.

  14. And I don’t even know how much I believe in that sometimes.

  15. NameChanged

    How disgusting. The fact that there is no discussion of the rape of the 12-year-old boy leads me to believe that that charge won’t be brought against the teens.

    I hate to know that this is happening, yet I hate even more knowing that so many people turn a blind eye.

  16. I hate that law is used as a weapon against innocent, peaceful people. I hate that cannabis is prohibited. I think cannabis would reduce the incidence of rape because I believe it reduces violent tendencies.

    I’m really confused when I try to figure out how to treat children put in situations like this.

  17. If someone straps a bomb to your chest and tells you to rob a bank or he’ll blow you up, you aren’t guilty of bank robbery.

    Absolutely right, but that is not an equivalent crime to rape. Again, rape is not defined by intent, but lack of consent. The boy absolutely was forced to rape his mother; that is the correct definition of what he was forced to do. It doesn’t make him a rapist, but that does not change the definition of the crime.

    The crime of rape is defined by the victim’s lack of consent.

  18. Am I just confused, Liss? I’m seriously trying to grok, without losing the notion that…I don’t even know what I’m defending here except maybe the rule of law.

    You’re failing to distinguish between the criminal and the crime. As I note in the post, the son is not a rapist, but he was forced to commit rape.

    Let’s have respect for both victims here and not stimatize the boy by labeling him a rapist.

    I didn’t label him a rapist. I quite plainly said: “I would argue that the poor son isn’t really the rapist at all; the guys who forced him to rape his mother at gunpoint are the rapists.”

  19. Fritz wrote:
    Both mother and son were raped.

    The boy wasn’t “forced to rape” his mother. He was used as an instrument to rape her.

    There is a big difference. The woman was indeed raped. However, her son IS NOT guilty of rape.

    I agree with this.

  20. Sending in a surrogate does not change the underlying nature of the crime. You’re trying to define the crime by the proxy (the son) instead of by the victim (the mother).

    Think of it from her perspective: If she did not give consent, then she was being raped.

    It matters whose body was being used in prosecuting the crime.

    It matters not whose body was being used in defining the crime.

  21. I didn’t label him a rapist.

    Liss, the press has in a way labeled him a rapist.

    My point is that it isn’t necessary to explain how a child was sexually assaulted. Both the privacy of the child and the mother should be protected.

    I’ve never understood why they have to report that someone was raped anally or vaginally — as if that’s any better than being forced to give someone oral sex or any other unwanted sex act.

    Rape often is used to describe penetration. That’s why I would prefer that the press stick to sexual assault as a general term in this case. There is an implication that the boy penetrated his mother. And, as i wrote previously, that isn’t very likely. He’s only 12 and was probably emotionally distraught.

    BTW: If you recall the serial murders and assaults committed by Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker, he often forced family members to engage in sex. These offenders are exhibiting similar pathologies to serial killers.

  22. NameChanged

    Well said Melissa. You are further proving your point that we are (as a society, not necessarily those here on this site) moving away from the existence of rape because of what the WORD does to the ACCUSED. We keep forgetting that the crime is in the ACT PERPETRATED against the VICTIM. Rape victims are assaulted through penatration without consent. It is not a question of intent, implied consent, time of day, type of dress, or any other factor.

    I am reminded of the scene in the movie Seven where the man in the brothel is forced at gunpoint to rape a prostitute to death. The rapist is the man who put the gun to his head. The prostitute and the john are both victims.

  23. Rape often is used to describe penetration. That’s why I would prefer that the press stick to sexual assault as a general term in this case.

    Not the point. The press accounts are that he was “forced to have sex with” his mother. “Having sex” without consent is rape by definition. And the point is that the crime should be called what it is.

    There is an implication that the boy penetrated his mother. And, as i wrote previously, that isn’t very likely.

    Based on the reports, it is, in fact, likely that he penetrated her–and it would be wise to bear in mind that rape doesn’t not require penile penetration. If someone puts any body part or object in one’s body without consent, that’s rape.

  24. I’m with Fritz here. Melissa, your wording makes me feel very itchy.

    You’re failing to distinguish between the criminal and the crime. As I note in the post, the son is not a rapist, but he was forced to commit rape.

    No. She was raped. He was assaulted. The rapists were those other sick fucks.

  25. No. She was raped. He was assaulted. The rapists were those other sick fucks.

    Saying that “he was forced to commit rape” is not the same as saying “he is a rapist.” Acknowledging the true nature of the crime shows respect for the victim of the crime who, we all seem to agree, was raped.

    When he is said to have “had sex with” her instead, it’s ignoring totally that she was a victim of rape.

  26. mustelid

    That poor mother and son…I don’t know if there’s enough therapy in the world for this. Is it wrong to wish that both rapists are each locked into a solitary cell and spend the rest of their life w/ a bare minimum of human contact? Not really caring much if it is.

  27. That headline, “Woman forced to have sex with son,” obviously is factually incorrect, but it also just *sounds* bizarre. The phrase “have sex” implies not only consent, but active participation on both sides, which doesn’t even make sense.

    What I’m trying to say is that newspaper editors are supposedly sticklers for precision in writing: they are language enthusiasts after all, always looking in reference books for shades of meaning. So why would they used a phrase that does not even convey what happened from a journalistic point of view?

    Is this making sense?

  28. Liss, what word would describe what was being done to the 12-year old? How is being “forced to rape” different from “being raped.” Still lack of consent.

  29. Both woman and son were being raped.

  30. Saying that “he was forced to commit rape” is not the same as saying “he is a rapist.” Acknowledging the true nature of the crime shows respect for the victim of the crime who, we all seem to agree, was raped.

    What is a person who commits rape but a rapist?

    There are two victims here, not just one.

  31. Do you think men can only be raped anally?

  32. It would be as much true to say that his mother was raping him as to say he was raping her. Neither was consenting.

  33. Thank you for this post, Liss, it’s important that we all learn how to talk about these things no matter how difficult.

  34. What is a person who commits rape but a rapist?

    This boy didn’t “commit” rape, but was forced to rape, which is an important distinction. Anyone who “commits” rape (which signals intent) is a rapist; he was forced, so he is not. But again, that doesn’t change the definition of the crime. We shouldn’t not use the legal word for the crime to describe what happened just because it’s a rare case in which someone was forced to do it.

    There are two victims here, not just one.

    Yeah, I noted that in my post.

  35. C’mon, sweetie, you know it’s not personal.

  36. C’mon, sweetie, you know it’s not personal.

    Did I say that it was?

  37. It would be as much true to say that his mother was raping him as to say he was raping her. Neither was consenting.

    Good point.

    Let’s use this wording:

    “The mother was then forced to commit statutory rape against her son.”

    Personally, I think the privacy of both mother and son have been unnecessarily violated.

    Saying the son was also sexually assaulted by the teens would have been enough information. We don’t need to know the details — especially in a case like this. These people are going to have to leave town and change their names in order to live anything close to a normal life.

  38. It would be as much true to say that his mother was raping him as to say he was raping her. Neither was consenting.

    Good point.

    It’s a good point if we know for certain that he was penetrating her with his penis. If he were forced to penetrate her with a foreign object, as is likely for the reasons you point out above, Fritz, it’s not just as much true to say that he was raped.

    Just saying.

  39. In your post you say the boy was raped.

    A few comments back, you said “the victim.” I am responding to your change of number.

  40. Not just as much true?

    It’s 100% true, Liss.

    He was raped. You can’t be a little bit raped.

  41. Not just as much true?

    It’s 100% true, Liss.

    He was raped. You can’t be a little bit raped.

    That is not what I was saying. If he were forced to rape someone with an object, that would still be a sexual assault against him, but he would not have been raped. And, yes, it is an important fucking distinction whether your body is actually violated or not.

  42. It is interesting, that it used to be that rape was such a heinous thing to do to a woman or to force a man to do that it was used (and is used) as a tool of the conquerer. The English, for example, forced Irish men to rape their daughters and sons to rape their mothers.

    The fact that a conquerer forced the conquered to commit such acts was a sign of barbarism on the conquerer’s part.

    Did it make any of the men who committed the rape of their female family members rapists? No. Did it make the female family members any less raped? No.

    I think this is the distinction that Melissa is drawing here. The horror at this crime has to do with the two males that committed it, to be appalled at their depravity, their willingness to rape.

    To call it less than it is, to say “forced to have sex with” makes invisible the fact that these two males (I don’t want to call them boys) forced a son to rape his mother, it is this act that is horrific and the culpability clearly lies with the perpetrators, not the son.

  43. Melissa,
    If he was forced to penetrate his mother with a part of his body other than his penis, was it sexual assault or rape upon him?

  44. To call it less than it is, to say “forced to have sex with” makes invisible the fact that these two males (I don’t want to call them boys) forced a son to rape his mother, it is this act that is horrific and the culpability clearly lies with the perpetrators, not the son.

    In this case, I believe the press was using softer language because the victim is only 12.

    Again, I think it would have been better to simply say the woman’s 12-year-old son was also sexually assaulted — without giving the details. The press used to protect the privacy of victims of rape — especially children. Now, readers want all the details no matter how horrific and they get them.

  45. Again, I think it would have been better to simply say the woman’s 12-year-old son was also sexually assaulted — without giving the details.

    I agree with you–but, again, that’s not the point. The point is that if the news reports are going to provide this particular detail, they need to correctly identify the crime, which is not “have sex” but “rape.”

    If he was forced to penetrate his mother with a part of his body other than his penis, was it sexual assault or rape upon him?

    I already answered that.

  46. Paul the Spud

    I think this conversation is devolving away from the original point of the post, which is the slight-of-hand with the words “rape” and “have sex.”

    “Have sex” should never be used in place of the word “rape.” Period. When rape occurs, it deends to be labeled as such, or it diminishes the crime.

    Stories like this just make me horribly sick to my stomach; I hate being reminded just how fucking depraved we humans can be.

  47. Rose

    “It’s a good point if we know for certain that he was penetrating her with his penis. If he were forced to penetrate her with a foreign object, as is likely for the reasons you point out above, Fritz, it’s not just as much true to say that he was raped.

    Just saying.”

    What’s this mean? If he penetrated her with his penis he’d be a “real” victim, but if he used a foreign object, not so much?

  48. Okay, I re-read. I’ll shut up now. 🙂

  49. What’s this mean? If he penetrated her with his penis he’d be a “real” victim, but if he used a foreign object, not so much?

    No, it means he’d be a rape victim. One can be a victim of sexual assault without being a victim of rape.

  50. Paul the Spud

    What’s this mean? If he penetrated her with his penis he’d be a “real” victim, but if he used a foreign object, not so much?

    That’s not what she’s saying at all, Rose. He’s a victim no matter what happened; the distinction is if he was raped.

    Which, again, wasn’t really what this is about.

  51. Rose

    Having looked at both articles, the suspects are described as taking part in a “gang rape” so who the heck is saying that rape didn’t take place? They weren’t described as being charged with a “gang having forced sex”

    And what the hell is the difference between “forced sex” and “rape”?

  52. The difference is that one continues to obscure the crime that make the crime invisible AND the word that actually makes the crime visible and calls it what it is, rape.

  53. Rose

    I guess we have different definitions of rape, which is the disagreement.

    I think that when a boy is forced at gunpoint to put either his penis or an object, into his mother’s vagina, that boy, as well as the mother, is a victim of rape.

    I also think when either a little girl or a little boy is asked to “kiss it” or “touch it” even if they are not either anally or vaginally penetrated, that child is the victim of rape.

    I’m not using legal definitions, I’m using moral definitions. I morally believe rape is making someone do anything sexual against their own will. You may not agree, but that’s where I’m coming from, and now I have something of a better idea of where you’re coming from.

  54. Winchell

    I don’t see what the point of this post and thread is, really. This is a horrible situation that occurred to both mother and son and to dilute that situation with talk of the son possibly committing rape against his mother is just more of an insult into these people’s very fresh wound. Did anyone think of attempting to support these people in any way? A letter of support, etc…? No, instead we sit here and attempt to define and categorize the semantics of the details of the horrible crimes that were committed against them.

    But since we are doing so, I have to say, I don’t buy the whole ‘son raped the mother’ argument. He did not rape her. I am willing to bet the mother would be the first to say he did not rape her. I agree with Fritz when he says that the son was used as an instrument of rape. If we are saying the son raped, then we have to call him a rapist by definition. If I drive, I am a driver. If I golf, I am a golfer. If someone forced me to drive I am still a driver at that point in time. If someone forced me to golf, I am still a golfer at that point in time. If someone forced me to rape, then I am a rapist at that point in time. Period. So, if the boy was forced to rape, that makes him a rapist and I personally am not willing to call him a rapist. That is why it is only proper to say that he was forced to have sex with his mother. As she was forced to have sex with him.

  55. I agree with Fritz when he says that the son was used as an instrument of rape.

    Then you agree with me, too, since I said that in my post.

    Listen, my whole point boils down to this: If the media is going to talk about someone who is “forced to have sex” with someone else, they need to use the correct term, which is rape, as defined exclusively by the lack of consent.

    But I guess it’s more fun to pretend that I said: “ZOMG, this kid is a total fucking rapist!” So carry on.

  56. Kate Harding

    Oh my god, I can’t believe these responses. It’s a bad day for reading comprehension at Shakesville, apparently.

    Melissa never said the boy was a rapist.

    She certainly never said he was not a victim.

    What she said is that the boy was forced to rape his mother, which by definition is having sex with someone without their consent. THE BOY IS ABSOLUTELY A VICTIM HERE. NO ONE QUESTIONS THAT.

    But Liss’s larger point — hence 4 parts in the series and counting — is that the press frequently uses “have sex with” when they mean “force sex upon.” When they mean “rape.”

    Rape is what happened to the boy’s mother, when it was the two other boys AND when it was her son.

    What happened to her son was utterly horrific. It was certainly a form of sexual assault, possibly rape.

    But what happened to his mother was not “sex with her son.” It. Was. Rape.

    Equating “rape” with “sex” is ignorant and dangerous, no matter the circumstances. The boy is not a rapist; he was the tool used by someone else to commit rape. But what happened to his mother was not sex, it was rape. To describe it in other words is to yet again muddy the distinction between sex and rape. That was the freakin’ point.

  57. Kathy Kattenburg

    That is why it is only proper to say that he was forced to have sex with his mother. As she was forced to have sex with him.

    Why is it “only proper” when it’s factually and logically inaccurate?

  58. Obviously, missing (or deliberately ignoring) the point of Melissa’s post and various other comments expanding on the point she is trying to make does not further the discussion about how the word rape is rapidly disappearing from a culture where one in four women are raped.

    But, you know, whatever, by all means keep obscuring the fact that our culture is simultaneously obsessed with the details of rape and wants to pretend it doesn’t happen.

    Sheesh.

  59. But, Melissa, you may be thinking, he didn’t mean to do it, so it isn’t rape. Except, see, the thing is, rape isn’t defined by a rapist’s intent; it’s defined by a lack of consent, which is easy to forget because of exactly this kind of reporting.

    That’s… a strong argument.

    From here:

    “The various definitions of rape range from the broad (coercing an individual to engage in any sexual act) to the specific (forcing a woman to submit to sexual intercourse). The United States Code includes the crime of rape under the more comprehensive term “sexual abuse.” Two types of sexual assault are defined in the code: sexual abuse and aggravated sexual abuse. Sexual abuse includes acts in which an individual is forced to engage in sexual activity by use of threats or other fear tactics, or instances in which an individual is physically unable to decline. Aggravated sexual abuse occurs when an individual is forced to submit to sexual acts by use of physical force; threats of death, injury, or kidnapping; or substances that render that individual unconscious or impaired.”

    I was going to say that I disagreed (“of course intent is crucial in any crime”), but the definition easily allows for both the son and mother to have been raped during this – by the sociopaths forcing them into sex.

    I think the problem here is that when people are talking about the son, describing him as “forced to rape her” makes them uneasy about the agency – the crime was disgusting at several levels, and both of them are victims.

  60. but the definition easily allows for both the son and mother to have been raped during this

    Which is precisely what I said in my post.

  61. These people are going to have to leave town and change their names in order to live anything close to a normal life.

    No. I doubt they’re going to have a normal life as long as they live with each other. It was more than “just” a double rape, it was also an act of cruelty aimed at the family bond.

  62. Well, I think any uneasiness can quickly be dispelled by reading what was actually written in the post and the subsequent comments.

    I am going to quote myself here:

    To call it less than it is, to say “forced to have sex with” makes invisible the fact that these two males (I don’t want to call them boys) forced a son to rape his mother, it is this act that is horrific and the culpability clearly lies with the perpetrators, not the son.

    Uneasiness with rape is what leads people to use these replacement phrases in the first damn place.

    “Forced to rape her” is what the perpetrators did, they forced her son to rape her. The fact that they did this does not make the son into a rapist. To describe the crime as less than it is, does no one a service here except the people who committed it –these two depraved males.

    As Kate said up there, rape is sex without consent, to conflate the words “sex” and “rape” dangerous.

  63. Kate217

    That made me lose my lunch. That poor family has suffered enough without having all the gory details in the paper, regardless of journalistic sleight-of hand.

    I’m trying to give the benefit of the doubt to the paper, assuming that it used the softer terminology in a ham-handed attempt to shield the boy from labeling himself a rapist, but given that they went into that much detail, and given parts one through three of this series, I’m losing the battle.

  64. Paul the Spud

    Well, I think any uneasiness can quickly be dispelled by reading what was actually written in the post and the subsequent comments.

    This is, apparently, a statement that’s going to have to be made, over and over, until this thread moves off the page.

    Sheesh. Step back, take a breath, read and comprehend, then make your comments. Good grief; no one is blaming the victim here.

  65. Winchell

    Melissa, you never came out and said that the son was a rapist. In fact, you have been very insistent that he is not a rapist. We have all read what you said. However, I feel you are necessarily calling him a rapist by default. Really, it boils down to the idea that you cannot have it both ways. If you are defining the boy’s actions as those of one who commits rape, then by default you are calling him a rapist. I think whomever wrote the story realized this and so thought it more appropriate to say that the boy was forced to have sex with the mother….Just as she was forced to have sex with him.

    So, either the boy committed rape and he is a rapist…which by the way, I agree with Whig in saying that by the same token you have to call the mother’s actions rape and also call her a rapist…or the alternative being, the mother and son were forced to have sex with each other – neither giving consent, and were therefore were both raped by the teenage rapists.

  66. Kate Harding

    If you are defining the boy’s actions as those of one who commits rape, then by default you are calling him a rapist. I think whomever wrote the story realized this and so thought it more appropriate to say that the boy was forced to have sex with the mother….Just as she was forced to have sex with him.

    Then by the logic you’re using, they thought it was “more appropriate” to call him the kind of kid who has sex with his mom. The point here is that his intentions do not change the nature of what happened to his mother.

  67. So, either the boy committed rape and he is a rapist…which by the way, I agree with Whig in saying that by the same token you have to call the mother’s actions rape and also call her a rapist…

    This is ridiculous. The son is not a rapist, but the mother was raped.

    or the alternative being, the mother and son were forced to have sex with each other – neither giving consent, and were therefore were both raped by the teenage rapists.

    This resembles sense, but coupled with the previous statement I am dubious.

  68. Winchell

    Then by the logic you’re using, they thought it was “more appropriate” to call him the kind of kid who has sex with his mom.

    No Kate, you blatantly left out the most obvious, most important part. He was a kid who was forced to have sex with his mom.

  69. akshelby

    I had to come out of lurking to reply to Winchell’s post that “I feel you are necessarily calling him a rapist by default.” No, I believe that near the top of this thread Fritz used the allegory of someone strapping a bomb to your chest and forcing you to rob a bank and it does not make you a bank robber. Nevertheless, the bank has still been robbed. (I am not comparing rape to bank robbery, though) Both mother and child were victims but it was still rape. Language matters.

  70. Kate Harding

    No Kate, you blatantly left out the most obvious, most important part. He was a kid who was forced to have sex with his mom.

    And Winchell, you’re blatantly leaving out the point of the post: he was a kid who was forced to rape his mom.

  71. Paul the Spud

    “Have sex” and “rape” are not interchangeable terms. Hence, this post.

    Okay? Geez!

  72. However, I feel you are necessarily calling him a rapist by default.

    Well, I’m not. And I’m done defending that.

  73. Thorn

    Okay, for all that it’s a terribly awkward analogy, let’s return to the person who is forced to rob a bank with a bomb strapped to their chest.

    The bank, no matter who did the robbing, is still robbed. The news does not refer to the crime as, “A 43-year-old man was forced to get a loan from the bank today.” Why? Because there was no loaning, the bank did not say, “Sure, have this money!” The money was stolen from the bank.

    And so we say that the person was “forced to rob a bank” because that’s what he did.

    However, no one thinks of that person as “a bank robber” because we know better than to hold him responsible for those actions. He was stripped of his agency the moment that hypothetical bomb was strapped to his hypothetical chest, in the same way that very real 12-year-old boy’s agency was stripped from him the moment those monsters held a gun to his very real head.

    The boy was forced to rape his mother. He too is a victim of this crime. There were two rapists, and two victims.

    However, I feel you are necessarily calling him a rapist by default. Really, it boils down to the idea that you cannot have it both ways.

    The point is, there’s a third way.

  74. Thorn

    Dammit, let me try this again, with quoting.

    Okay, for all that it’s a terribly awkward analogy, let’s return to the person who is forced to rob a bank with a bomb strapped to their chest.

    The bank, no matter who did the robbing, is still robbed. The news does not refer to the crime as, “A 43-year-old man was forced to get a loan from the bank today.” Why? Because there was no loaning, the bank did not say, “Sure, have this money!” The money was stolen from the bank.

    And so we say that the person was “forced to rob a bank” because that’s what he did.

    However, no one thinks of that person as “a bank robber” because we know better than to hold him responsible for those actions. He was stripped of his agency the moment that hypothetical bomb was strapped to his hypothetical chest, in the same way that very real 12-year-old boy’s agency was stripped from him the moment those monsters held a gun to his very real head.

    The boy was forced to rape his mother. He too is a victim of this crime. There were two rapists, and two victims.

    Winchell said:
    However, I feel you are necessarily calling him a rapist by default. Really, it boils down to the idea that you cannot have it both ways.

    The point is, there’s a third way.

  75. Thorn

    Fritz said:
    My point is that it isn’t necessary to explain how a child was sexually assaulted. Both the privacy of the child and the mother should be protected.

    I’ve never understood why they have to report that someone was raped anally or vaginally — as if that’s any better than being forced to give someone oral sex or any other unwanted sex act.

    You know, that’s a good question. And I think part of the desire on the part of the media to go into detail is because it’s titillating – get the words “anal sex” on the page and people are going to stop and read. It’s all about grabbing the readers.

    However, your comment makes me think that it’s pretty damn irresponsible of them, because titillating readers while reporting on horrific, violent crime only serves to continue the conflation of rape with sex in our culture, which makes it easy for a lot of people to brush rape off as “no big deal.”

  76. Kate Harding

    However, your comment makes me think that it’s pretty damn irresponsible of them, because titillating readers while reporting on horrific, violent crime only serves to continue the conflation of rape with sex in our culture, which makes it easy for a lot of people to brush rape off as “no big deal.”

    Sadly, I suspect they also include “anally” because that’s more likely to perk up the ears of some men who think good old vaginal rape is a big snooze.

  77. Anne

    These people are going to have to leave town and change their names in order to live anything close to a normal life.

    And that’s unspeakably sad, that people are so fucked up that this doesn’t surprise us, that we know immediately why they’ll have to leave town — because of the type of tormenting and treatment they’d be subjected to if they stayed around. That people would persecute them for having something so horrible happen to them.

    And Melissa, I get what you’re saying. Sex without consent = rape. Always, no matter what. And, as many people who work with male rape victims know, it is possible for a man/boy to have an erection while being raped — it doesn’t mean they’re turned on or that they like it, and it makes their shame at being raped even worse, because they feel like they must have wanted it, which of course a lot of other assholes are already telling them.

  78. Thorn

    Sadly, I suspect they also include “anally” because that’s more likely to perk up the ears of some men who think good old vaginal rape is a big snooze.

    I didn’t go into it, but I imagine media coverage of rape today being at the bottom of a pretty horrifyingly slippery slope, honestly.

    I think you’re right, but that we didn’t get there overnight. I imagine once upon a time it was enough to say a woman had been “assaulted”, then “sexually assaulted.” But then too many people said, “Wait, does that mean she was raped or what?” And so the news upped the ante, “Oh yes, she was raped.” And now, once that became too quaint and uninteresting, now they’ve started to go into detail regarding what sort of rape it was.

    I can only imagine rape coverage in the future will include all the details of a crime – what kind of weapon and where it was pointed, how the victim was raped and how many times, in what position, etc. etc., but never once will they use the word “rape.”

    Some days I really hate my imagination.

    I think I’m going to go throw up now.

  79. But Liss’s larger point — hence 4 parts in the series and counting — is that the press frequently uses “have sex with” when they mean “force sex upon.” When they mean “rape.”

    I don’t disagree with Liss’s point about using “have sex with” when a rape has been committed.

    But, I’ll repeat my hunch that this was done to spare the child the stigma of being called a rapist.

    The press made a mistake and I think BOTH Liss and I can be correct. Our points are different.

    I think most of us here at Shakesville would have taken some time and carefully considered what words to use in this unusual situation.

    I would written that the mother had been raped several times and that her 12-year-old son had been sexually assaulted. That’s all we really need to know.

    Where do we draw the line? Do we want to see color photos of the victim’s wounds? Are we going to rush over to Smoking Gun and look for the police report so we can read the victim’s statement?

  80. Part of the problem is that people are squeamish about using blunt language. If you described in detail the very acts the boy was forced to do, then you avoid the whole problem. You say, “The boy was forced to vaginally penetrate his mother,” then they aren’t “having sex”, which is not so much a specific set of actions as an event. Nor are you saying he raped his mother, which he didn’t really do, bless his heart.

  81. So my question is, will the 12-year-old boy be added to the sex offenders list and live a life of shame?

  82. Winchell

    The point is, there’s a third way.

    The bank robbery analogy

    If the person who was used to rob the bank was put on trial, any sane jury would come back with a not guilty verdict, right? So you could not say, “Well he/she is Not Guilty of robbing the bank, yet he/she did in fact rob the bank. No, that defies all logic. The person was used as an instrument to rob the bank, no more. Same with the mother and the boy…if either were put on trial for rape, obviously they would be found not guilty. So how can we say that neither is guilty, yet they did rape each other? No, the teenage rapists were the ones who committed the rape.

    Let’s suppose for a mintue that we could technically call it either way. Obviously there is much debate and let’s say that either side could be described as being both technically correct and technically incorrect. Really it does just come down to semantics. It’s very understandable how it could be described either way and how much emotion rides on either side of the debate. But either way, this is a giant step away from the original intent of this post which was to vilify anyone who worded what took place as forced sex and not rape.

  83. “but the definition easily allows for both the son and mother to have been raped during this”

    Which is precisely what I said in my post.

    The important bit was this: “I think the problem here is that when people are talking about the son, describing him as “forced to rape her” makes them uneasy about the agency”

    Describing it as “he was forced to rape her” is a little too close to ascribing the agency to him – “she was raped, therefore he was the rapist”. I believe that’s why it has been described as “forced to have sex with her”.

    I don’t think it’s a case of trivializing the event or denying it was rape at all.

  84. The news does not refer to the crime as, “A 43-year-old man was forced to get a loan from the bank today.”

    “The robbers strapped a bomb to his chest and forced him to take the money from the bank.”

    Whether or not the taking of the money was robbing the bank depends on the agent you’re associating with the act – the guy with the bomb isn’t a robber, and saying “he was forced to rob the bank” conflates the fact that a robbery occurred with the real question of who committed that robbery. I don’t wanna map the analogy to the actual event, ‘cos frankly revisiting that incident is really starting to grate on me.

    We’re arguing over a semantic point here with no actual disagreement over what happened.

  85. We’re arguing over a semantic point here with no actual disagreement over what happened.

    Amen.

  86. Winchell

    We’re arguing over a semantic point here with no actual disagreement over what happened.

    Amen.

    Double Amen.

  87. We’re arguing over a semantic point here with no actual disagreement over what happened.

    Yes, which might have also been the point of the original post by Melissa.

    Semantics = “In the main, semantics (from the Greek semantikos, or “significant meaning,” derived from sema, sign) is the study of meaning, in some sense of that term. It should not be confused with the general semantics of Alfred Korzybski, a somewhat different discipline. Semantics is often opposed to syntax, in which case the former pertains to what something means while the latter pertains to the formal structure/patterns in which something is expressed (for example written or spoken).” en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic

    I think the point of the posts and the others in the series is that the conflation the words “sex” and “rape” in modern usage distorts their meaning AND thus conflates the acts of “sex” and “rape” as the same act, when clearly, they are not the same act.

    The story was a jumping off place for that point to be discussed, the facts of the story were not the instructive point, but the language used in the article was meant to be.

  88. Kate217

    We’re arguing over a semantic point here with no actual disagreement over what happened.

    Doodz, the semantics are the entire point of the original post.

  89. Winchell

    Ok, so let’s say the fucking kid raped his mom then. Go tell him that! I dare you to! “Son, sorry but you unfortunately raped your mother and you’re going to have to live with that.”

    fucken christ! I’m tired of this bullshit

  90. Annie

    Aren’t there two different semantic arguments going on here? One has to do with the actual act that was committed against the woman — she didn’t “have sex,” she “was raped.” But I think other people are talking about the fact that in the sentence, there is both an object and a subject, and while people are (of course) comfortable with assigning rape to the object — saying “she was raped” in the passive voice — they’re not comfortable saying “he raped her” — not even with the qualifier that he was forced to do so. So isn’t that the basic issue: that in saying the mother was raped, we’re accurately describing what happened to her, but in saying that she was raped “by her son,” we’re not accurately describing what happened to him? That prescription is riling people up because it’s transfering agency from the rapists to the victims.

  91. Doodz, the semantics are the entire point of the original post.

    I don’t disagree. A-fuckin’-men.

  92. Winchell

    Ok, so let’s say the fucking kid raped his mom then. Go tell him that! I dare you to! “Son, sorry but you unfortunately raped your mother and you’re going to have to live with that.”

    fucken christ! I’m tired of this bullshit

    but just remember when you do this, you’re going to have to tell the mother that she raped her son too!

    hope that goes well for you

  93. Semamtics are the root of all evil.

  94. Jewel

    Winchell, there is a difference between “he raped her” and “he was FORCED to rape her”. The first places the responsibility on the son; the second, on the actual assailants. The first entails calling the son a rapist; the second does not. Saying that the son raped the mother is NOT THE SAME THING as saying that he was forced to rape her. It’s not that hard of a distinction to understand.

  95. Winchell

    Jewel, so then you will also say the mother was forced to rape the son right? Men and boys can be raped by women. So you will say they raped each other, right? (as much sense as that makes)

  96. Jewel, I can only speak for myself, and I realize you didn’t even address your comment to me, but YES, I understand you PRECISELY.

    Which is why I’m starting to laugh my ass off that we are on the verge of strangling each other in agreement. This hasn’t happened to me since I abandoned the Green Party in 1982.

  97. This thread will soon top 100 comments and in my humble opinion it’s turning into a White Stripes album.

    Every song is the same, and yet it rips your guts out.

    Why?

    That’s why we are up to 100+ comments.

  98. Pingback: Arguing semantics at Pandagon

  99. Back from the second job. Read all the comments. No one called Kate Harding on this condescending crap:

    Oh my god, I can’t believe these responses. It’s a bad day for reading comprehension at Shakesville, apparently.

    Despite the late accord, we are not in complete agreement. Stating a case clearly will not necessarily persuade people to see it your way. And disagreement is not caused by teh stupid.

  100. Winchell

    Often Kate Harding’s obtuse, insulting responses do not help to further the conversation. I have the urge to respond but I make myself ignore them and carry on with the conversation at hand.

  101. No one called Kate Harding on this condescending crap

    Perhaps that’s because it wasn’t “condescending crap,” but a legitimate point about my (and others) having to repeat the same things over and over, because I was being charged with saying things I hadn’t.

    Responding to things that aren’t there is patently different than having a disagreement, and a thusly appropriate reference to reading comprehension is ergo not implying “stupidity.”

    Legitimate disagreement is, after all, predicated on accurately representing the original argument being made.

  102. I’m crying as I write this. The whole subject is just a bit too close to home for me, I guess. I considered writing this in a private email to ‘Liss, but I’ve screwed up my courage to comment. This is a difficult comment for me to make.

    I was horribly abused as a child. Raped, beaten, burned, and tortured. Many times. But the worst things that ever happened to me where incidents when I was forced, often at gun or knife-point, and always at threat of my life, to participate in the abuse of another child.

    These are the scars that have been most difficult for me to heal. So, while I whole-heartedly agree with Melissa that avoidance of the word “rape” in courts and the media is a diminishment of the seriousness of this crime, and while I support her in pointing this out — at the personal level, I’m glad, for the sake of this child, that they didn’t use the phrase “forced to rape his mother” in the article.

    My abuse was silent, and unknown for decades. If I had had to face newspaper clippings that described me as having sexually assaulted another child, forced or not, I honestly do not know if I would have survived to enter the therapeutic process that enabled me to stay alive.

    It’s a very difficult issue for me. I don’t want rape to be excused, apologized-for, or diminished in any way. I also feel a protective banshee rising up in me that wants to wrap it’s arms around this child, and fend off the world to protect him from ever having to read or see the phrase “forced to rape his mother”.

    At age 5, I was forced to choose which kid got hurt — either it was them getting hurt, or me being dead. It’s an unthinkable choice, and that moment has haunted me for the rest of my life. If I had been the mother of this child, I can imagine myself saying to my child “Just do what they say.” How fucked up is that for this kid to live with?

    I’m still crying right now, and I’ve been through decades of therapy. Well, at least I’m feeling something.

  103. I think the point of the posts and the others in the series is that the conflation the words “sex” and “rape” in modern usage distorts their meaning AND thus conflates the acts of “sex” and “rape” as the same act, when clearly, they are not the same act.

    Okay, that’s valid.

    I’ll go with Annie’s comment. The distinction here is between one group dealing with rape as a act-in-itself, and rightfully getting annoyed at calling it “forced sex”, and the other group dealing with rape as a crime-between-parties, and rightfully being uneasy at associating it with the son.

    Does that seem like a fair summation?

    Legitimate disagreement is, after all, predicated on accurately representing the original argument being made.

    You’re assuming that it’s possible for one person to accurately represent another. If anything, this thread is demonstrating that people can differ not because they’re uncomprehending or deliberately misrepresenting a position, but because, with all goodwill, their mental maps simply differ.

  104. Kate Harding

    Oh, Portly Dyke, I’m so sorry to hear that.

    And as far as I’m concerned, maybe it’s time to give this thread a rest. We all agree that what both the boy and the mother went through is utterly horrific. And the semantic argument — which is really the only argument the post lends itself to — has been hashed out on both sides.

    Tata, I’m sorry you found what I said condescending. Winchell, I’m sorry you find my comments frequently disturbing. I came in here and saw a thread in which Liss’s points were being misrepresented again and again, no matter how many times she re-explained herself. I could feel her mounting frustration, and it made me sad for her. When people are accusing her of calling a 12-year-old boy who was horrifically assaulted a rapist… well, yeah, that’s a pretty big problem with reading comprehension.

    I feel terrible for both of the victims of this crime, and I don’t want to trivialize their experience by arguing semantics to the point of losing sight of their humanity. But Melissa stated her point very clearly in the original post, and yet people kept mangling her words and accusing her of saying things she neither said nor implied. I wasn’t okay with that. I’m still not.

    So I stand by everything I’ve said in this thread, and I stand by what Melissa’s said, but if this thread is making people I respect and admire cry, that’s enough. It’s not worth it.

  105. Winchell

    I’m sorry, P.D. for what you went through. And thankyou for bringing to life for us just a little of what that child went through and must have felt and what he must still be feeling.

  106. Sorry, Dyke – I didn’t see your post before doing mine. Otherwise I might have foregone it.

  107. I’m really terribly sorry, more than I can say, for that history, for those experiences, Portly. I’m choking back tears just thinking about it, and I was doing the same when I wrote this post this morning.

    Something I don’t talk about very much on the blog is that I wasn’t just raped once, but stalked and raped repeatedly over the course of three years. On some occasions, my rapist would bring me at gunpoint to his home, where his father would force me to make dinner for them, locked in a basement, and then, once he got his food, tell his son to “do whatever you want with her,” knowing full well what that meant.

    I was only 16 when it started. He was only 17. The more distance I get from that time, the more I realize how young he was, too, and what it must have meant to have his dad condone and sometimes overtly encourage what he was doing to me. There have been times I thought that perhaps his father was the bigger culprit, and there have been times I have thought that he was. It’s not like there’s any “real” answer, in the end.

    But I know most certainly that being raised by such a sadistic fuck surely fashioned him into a tool of devilry, and if his father wasn’t literally standing over his shoulder forcing him to do it, perhaps he might as well have been. Perhaps not. Again, I waver. And it’s partly just because I don’t believe, don’t want to believe, that monsters aren’t created, that they’re born.

    Anyway, I’m rambling. It wasn’t my intent to label the boy in this story a rapist; I don’t believe he is one. It was simply my intent to label what happened a rape–because I have had sex, and I have been raped, and they are not the same.

    Whatever. Just get over here and give me a (hug).

  108. ((Hugging Liss, and extending that hug to all who want it)) — No, Melissa, I never thought that you were labeling this boy. And I really do understand how important it is to name the crime of rape, and how important it is to be vigilant about that ever eroding edge as rape is named something different. I really do. I support you in that vigilance.

    I experienced an incredible maelstrom of emotions and thoughts as I read through this thread.

    I thank you for your courage in telling your story, too. As mouthy as I am, I really struggle with bringing mine forth, at times — I don’t want to sound “whiny” or play the “abuse-one-up” card. Still, when it touches me like this, I consider that this response is asking me to speak up.

    I also thank everyone who had the courage to post on this thread. I really believe that honest dialogue is an avenue to understanding and freedom, for all of us. It’s one of the reasons that I come here every day.

    I think I’ll go back to something I said a long time ago on this blog: “Ask someone you know what their experience with abuse, rape, or sexual assault is.” I believe the real stories carry a lot of power. That’s why I initially chose the url portlytruestories for my blogger address.

    I send my greatest of good energies out there to my shakesville compatriots, lurkers, to that kid and his mom, and to everyone who has survived, or supported a survivor of, rape, abuse, and oppression.

  109. I also feel a protective banshee rising up in me that wants to wrap it’s arms around this child, and fend off the world to protect him from ever having to read or see the phrase “forced to rape his mother”.

    PortlyDyke, I too have that “protective banshee” — but I don’t have the courage to share the horrors that created her. Thank you for your very valuable contribution to this debate.

    One last thing that I’d like to write is that this kind of discussion is what is needed in newsrooms across this country.

    The news media has become too automated and impersonal. Journalists work from home and rarely have discussions about semantics and journalistic standards.

    Bright, talented writers could have come up with a way to communicate the horror of this crime and preserve the privacy and dignity of the victims. I think we’re on the verge of accomplishing that here.

    Let’s not be afraid to disagree on topics like this — those in which we all have a personal point of view to share. That’s the only way to achieve a solution.

  110. PD, here’s a ((((((HUGE HUG)))))) for you, my twin sister of different parents, and an equally ((((((HUGE HUG)))))) for Melissa. The relating of your stories has re-awakened the Knight Protector in me and I wish I could deliver the hugs in person.

    Not to mention travel back in time….

  111. LM

    I’m sorry. I’m an avid reader of this website, it’s one of my favourites, to the point where I rarely comment because somebody else has usually articulated my thoughts already, but this is just wrong.

    This story is disgusting on so many levels, to even bring it up to talk about it, it seems to me you better have a really really good point to make in order for it to be worth it – and quibbling over the semantics of what those poor people have been through is not a good enough because do you know what it looks like to me? Cheap sensationalism. And I can’t believe I’m writing that about something you have written, Shakes, because you usually write so sensitively and make such relevant points, but you’re off the mark on this one.

    This story is so horrific any normal person feels sick to think of it, and I don’t see that the wording is such an egregious example of how our culture accepts or tolerates rape that it had to be used.

  112. balom

    The expression is very good actually. There is no disappearance of the word “rape”. It’s clearly used in regard to the perpetrators of the crime. In regard to the boy i think that for the news the use of forced sex is appropriate . It clearly can’t be called normal rape and I don’t think anyone will think because they saw the word sex instead of rape that the boy had a dandy time. Forced sex describes the situation appropriately and gives a clear enough idea of what happened without using a gazillion complicated words.

  113. OK, LM — I empathize with your statement “This story is so horrific any normal person feels sick to think of it, and I don’t see that the wording is such an egregious example of how our culture accepts or tolerates rape that it had to be used.”

    Still — I, for one, am glad that it was discussed, and precisely in the way it was discussed. Reading this thread, painful though it was for me, brought up and out emotions and thoughts that I can very easily bury. Society tells me to bury these feelings/thoughts, I want to bury these feelings/thoughts, — but, in truth, if Melissa had not had the courage to bring the issue forward in a venue where discussion and dispute was welcome, I doubt very much if the topic, with all its complexities, would have been discussed as it has been here. It would have been just another “horrible news item” that we could file in our “disgusting, awful, I-don’t-want-to-think-about-that” files (mine, too!), and I think we might have all missed an opportunity for education and connection if that were the case.

    One of the reasons that I return here again and again is that people actually talk about shit that we’re not supposed to talk about.

    And if one single person gets an education about the dangers of minimizing rape, or apologizing for rape, or filing off the razor-sharp edges of rape — a weapon that has maimed (and I do not use that word lightly) nearly 1 in 3 women (and who knows how many others) — then I am willing to be uncomfortable — I am willing to be brought to tears as I read — I am willing to summon up the courage to say what I think.

    I protest your claim of “Cheap sensationalism.” Even with my history, and all the triggers that went off for me on this post, I truly believe that Melissa was striving to point out something that we need to be aware of. It may be that we need new language to describe these crimes (which are not new) — but when I read your words: “to even bring it up to talk about it, it seems to me you better have a really really good point to make in order for it to be worth it”, and think of my own history — I think, well, the really, really good point is this — it’s been happening since 1956 (at least — that’s when my abuse started) — the “good enough point” is: At least we’re talking about it.

  114. Pingback: Friends

  115. LM

    I think what I meant by the “cheap sensationalism” comment was the way I feel sometimes about a tabloid news shows – like, yeah, lets bring up a really upsetting issue and now that we’ve got your attention, we’ll focus on a really trivial tangent as a justification. I’m quite sure that Melissa didn’t intend for that to be the case, but it’s a bit like hearing a sad story about a dead baby and then saying “you know, they shouldn’t have said cot death, seeing as how this baby was really found dead in it’s pram” you know?

    I was just reading the article, and the comments, and there was so much “well i don’t think it was really rape, because of this” and “well, technically it is rape because of yada yada” and and I thought, you know, I have a son, and I don’t even know how people would begin to recover from that sort of horror, it is so outside of anything we could prepare for, that the semantics of “what we call it” seemed something of a side issue and an indulgence to be considering.

    I guess I can understand your point of view, as someone who as suffered abuse, that to talk about it at all is a necessary, if painful thing to do. And on that note, from one stranger to another, reaching out through cyberspace, may I wish you the very best that life has to offer in the future because what you have had to endure in the past has been truly awful and you -and anyone who has suffered that sort of thing – deserve so much more.

  116. everstar

    Even though my initial reaction was one of, “What? He’s not –” but then I thought about it. He was forced to rape his mother. That does not make him a rapist.

    And I understand Shakes’s point too: referring to what happened to this poor boy as his being “forced to have sex” dilutes the horror of what happened to him and his mother. I don’t think using the proper word makes the story into a cheap sensationalistic one; I think it underscores, firmly, the fact that what happened was terrible. No punches were pulled in describing what happened to his mother. Punches shouldn’t be pulled in describing what happened to him.

  117. Sheelzebub

    They were both raped. I don’t see why the news stories couldn’t just say that they were raped and leave the gory details to the trial.

  118. Cheap sensationalism. And I can’t believe I’m writing that about something you have written, Shakes, because you usually write so sensitively and make such relevant points, but you’re off the mark on this one.

    Fair enough.

    Then again, perhaps if someone had been willing to engage in the cheap sensationalism of making sure that what was done to me was called rape, rather than “having sex,” it might have stopped when I tried to report it after the first time it happened, rather than going on three more years.

    And perhaps if someone had been willing to engage in the cheap sensationalism of making sure that what was done to my friend, who woke up after blacking out to find she was being fucked by someone she didn’t know, was called rape, rather than “having sex,” it might have meant she got justice instead of having her case dropped practically before it began.

    And perhaps if someone had been willing to engage in the cheap sensationalism of making sure that what was done to my friend, who was raped on a blind date by a guy who thought he was “owed” it, was called rape, rather than “having sex,” it might have meant she would have gone to the police instead of feeling ashamed of herself for being so “slutty.”

    And perhaps if someone had been willing to engage in the cheap sensationalism of making sure that what was done to my friend, who was raped on a first date by a guy who thought he was “too old to be a virgin” was called rape, rather than “having sex,” he might have gone to the police instead of fearing for far too long that that’s what gay sex was “like.”

    And for this friend, and that friend, and my sister, and my auntie, and on and on and on, so many people, hundreds of thousands whom I’ll never know, having heard from the police or from parents or from friends of from school counselors or from anyone turned to for help or from the media that what happened was merely “having sex” and not rape–and we all know that the former of those is not a crime.

    I considered that “a really really good point to make in order for it to be worth it.” And now I’m sobbing again, and I probably ought to just be done with this thread.

  119. and quibbling over the semantics of what those poor people have been through is not a good enough because do you know what it looks like to me? Cheap sensationalism. And I can’t believe I’m writing that about something you have written, Shakes, because you usually write so sensitively and make such relevant points, but you’re off the mark on this one.

    You know, I have a real hard time not being harsh with this, but hoenstly, I really don’t care … so maybe you should go the fuck back to shutting the hell up, because apparently when you do place your fingers on the keyboard, you’re a moron.

    Semantics DO matter, that’s what the other fucking 3 parts in this series were about. How we construct something linguistically not just says VOLUMES about how our society conceptualises something, it is also at the core of how we actively DO that construction.

    I personally lean more towards Melissa’s point on this, this child was forced into rape. he didn’t have sex with his mother, what was done by these two sick fucks was FORCED RAPE. I am, though, willing to talk with others about how they would see this differently, because it is HIGHLY important to name our violences as violences.

    I can’t emphasise this point strongly enough; how we talk about something constructs how the reality of that something to us. To talk about this specific disgusting act is EXACTLY the act we need to be talking about … what? Do you think we should wait for a ‘less horrific’ example of rape? Hmmm?

    Maybe we should wait till a woman who drank enough to pass our was raped by some guy? Because, you know, her rape is less horrific and so we can talk about that, because she was less innocent than this boy and his mother. That would work. /sarcasm

    Rape is rape is rape, and we NEED to be talking about horrific it is.

    “Quibbling”? I cannot fucking BELIEVE you said that.

  120. I think what I meant by the “cheap sensationalism” comment was the way I feel sometimes about a tabloid news shows

    If that’s what you got from the post, that speaks volumes about you. And none of it good.

  121. Kate217

    Liss and Portly, I am in jaws-agape awe at your courage, not only in surviving the horrors you have, but to be able to recount them anywhere, let alone in a public forum.

    There are things that happened to me as a child that emotionally deformed me that don’t come anywhere near what either of you has endured. I’ve more or less dealt with it now, but still don’t like to think about it. However, it did lead to my accepting really crappy treatment from men for most of my life. Now I’m basically solitary. I have only trusted one person in my life with that story, and fear that after he left me, he may have repeated it to his family. I have never even been able to talk to a therapist about it the shame is so intense.

    I can’t imagine the fortitude it takes to talk about what you’ve been through in public. I love and respect you both more than mere words could ever convey.

  122. CBrachyrhynchos

    I think both “forced to have sex” and “forced to rape” are really problematic. Partly because “forced to do it” is the language used by predators of children to avoid personal responsibility for their actions. While it is technically true that “forced to rape” can be read in such a way as to absolve the son of personal accountability, I think it’s ambiguous. Humans are not rational creatures, they are rationalizing creatures, so you can pretty much insure that the meaning “he raped his mother” will be pulled into semiotic web of interpretation.

    I would argue for just saying, “The perpetrators raped and sexually tortured mother and son.”

  123. Quisquose

    I just read this article :

    Fla. mother and son are attacked

    which reports the facts a bit differently than what I’ve read previously. The whole thing is just so sickening. I appreciated that this article attempted to put the crime into a bit clearer context. The statements of the neighboring residents were particularly telling.

  124. LM

    OK, I’m honestly not trying to troll, or whatever, I just felt I had the right to ONE right of reply after having been totally flamed overnight. You are acting as if I said it isn’t OK to talk about rape, or as if I am some sort of rape apologist. This isn’t true. My position is this: I thought what happened to those people was so horrifying that for you to read the story and the thing that occurs to you is “They should have said the son was forced to RAPE his mother” was kind of weird. I don’t, as it happens, think the paper wanted to paint the boy as a rapist and I don’t think there are really any terms that could be easily written into an article which describe what happened. I certainly don’t think “forced to have sex with ” is sugar-coating anything in this case.

    I don’t think this was a good enough example of the kind of rape culture you talk about – which I usually agree with, by the way. I just didn’t think you made one of your stronger points with this one, and I said so. In retrospect, I do regret the “cheap sensationalism” comment, it was too harsh. But silly name calling (total moron?) because somebody disagrees with a point made just makes this community look childish.

    Melissa, (I feel weird calling you by your first name when I don’t know you and we’re not even agreeing ! ) I am truly sorry for what happened to you, but I never said you shouldn’t talk about it and don’t try to pretend that I did.

  125. PD and Melissa: I cannot imagine going through such horrors as you went through and surviving it. I have so much respect for both of you as human beings, for all the savagely hard personal work you have surely had to do over the years to come to grips with what was done to you — not just to process it, but to learn how to live with it, and to make the choice that you *were* going to find a way to live with it. And I admire your courage in writing about it here.

    I also feel very strongly that this blog is a testament to your strength and your character, Melissa. You have helped so many people by creating this blog and making it the safe space that it is. I don’t think that PD and others who have found the courage to share such profoundly painful personal experiences could have brought themselves to do so if you had not worked so hard for these several years to make Shakespeare’s Sister, and now Shakesville, the warm, safe, nurturing, compassionate haven that it is.

  126. Kate217:

    {{{{HUGGGGG}}}}

  127. “I don’t think that PD and others who have found the courage to share such profoundly painful personal experiences could have brought themselves to do so if you had not worked so hard for these several years to make Shakespeare’s Sister, and now Shakesville, the warm, safe, nurturing, compassionate haven that it is.”

    Testify, Kathy!

    I totally agree.

  128. Paul the Spud

    LM, you’re pretending as if you didn’t come in here and basically accuse Melissa of having no reason whatsoever to write this post. And yes, you did say she “shouldn’t talk about it.” Maybe not in those exact words, but you basically said in your first comment “You’d better have a good reason to talk about this. You don’t, so you shouldn’t be talking about this.” You didn’t agree with the point she was making, and you got rude.

    And if you really regret your “cheap sensationalism” comment, you might want to, you know, apologize. That was really uncalled for.

  129. Kate217

    Thanks, Kathy. 🙂

  130. Okay, really, people. The press sensationalized the details to sell their paper. Yes, they used the wrong terms and this speaks volumes about the view of sexual assault in our society.

    Want to do something positive to make a difference? Support these victims, regardless of what acts the accused sociopaths forced them to participate in.

    DONATE: http://www.wpbf.com/news/13641496/detail.html

    Do it for humanity.
    Do it for community.
    Do it for the victim.
    Do it because we collectively spent dollars discussing this on this thread that could be directed to improve the lives of these victims.

    DONATE: http://www.wpbf.com/news/13641496/detail.html

    My two cents.

  131. Pingback: Soon, Rape Won’t Exist at All—Not the Act, Mind You; Just the Word at Shakesville

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