It’s Not That Difficult: Blame the Rapist, Not the Survivor

At this point, I should really know better than to expect something different from a bunch of anonymous online message board posters postulating on rape. Especially with the ongoing problems with the media and public’s handling of the UM rape scandal. But the people writing on’s thread “No Way JJ Can Be Convicted” have managed to surprise me. I’m going to skip over the predictable Monica Lewinsky and victim blaming rabble and focus on a comment that made this writer want to vomit up her Wheaties.

montanaguy posted on August 10th:

All I can say is: Dads – teach your daughters well…. love them and teach them what true love and respect/self-respect is so that they don’t fall into this godawful situation. Same with your sons, actually.

What the f***, montanaguy? This is a felony trial in a court of justice, not a juicy piece of gossip free for your perusal. Back off. Blaming the survivor’s lack of self respect (which he notes is the result of a poor upbringing) smacks of sexism, classism, and a complete ignorance of the factors that go into rape and sexual assault. I would argue that it is the survivor’s incredible self-respect that leads her to press charges in an environment that clearly is not receptive to her right for justice.

Just to clear the record, rapists and the survivors of rape come from every social strata, educational background, and family situation. It is never EVER the survivor’s fault when she or he is raped.

montanaguy’s belated address to the fathers of sons at the end of his post reads as an afterthought, as if mostly the problem is with women who clearly have no self-respect and are just asking to be raped. Oh right, talk to your sons so they don’t become rapists. Which would be a “godawful situation” for them to fall into. Poor dears.

The last sentence of montanaguy’s comment with its casual “Same with your sons” seems to also say that the same factors (namely, the lack of a male parent to teach them love and respect) that go into making rape survivors also churn out rapists. While I do agree that no self-respecting person would commit rape, your comment ignores the complex power dynamics and symptoms of male privilege that are behind so many rapes.

I’d also like to mention that montanaguy’s comment (unsurprisingly) is highly heteronormative and fails to recognize that rapists and survivors can be of any gender.

Despite the ignorance and wrong-mindedness behind montanaguy’s comment, I think there’s a good message there: talk to your kids. Yes, by all means, teach your kids not to be rapists. But also teach them to recognize and reject rhetoric that builds a culture of sexual violence.

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About the author

Ellie Newell

Born and raised in Helena, Ellie recently completed her bachelors degree in English Literature at Whitman College where she was co-president of Feminists Advocating Change & Empowerment. She lives in Bozeman.


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  • I think the big question is – how do we raise boys not to be rapist? It’s pretty clear (to me) that we can’t simply raise women not to accept being sexually assaulted or abused, as that’s by definition not something they can choose to refuse. There needs to be some change in the attitudes women have about men – there are all too many women who also rush to blame the victims of rape. But the much bigger issue is raising boys not to accept it, either.

    As far as I can tell, and I’m curious what you would say, Ellie, we need to change boys views on sex (and the males in this case are surely boys, not men, in their sexual maturity). The root of the problem of rape, in a college setting anyway, is the trivialization of one’s sex partners. The first step to ignoring a woman saying ‘no’ is not conceptualizing of her as a person. That the most common excuse is ‘she just regretted it afterwards, she didn’t say no at the time’. That may be true in rare occasions, but the mindset is still wrong: sure, it may not technically rape if a woman doesn’t voice her displeasure with the situation until you’ve finished, or she sobers up, or you never call her again because you have a girlfriend, but you’re still an ass, and more than that, you’ve proven that you don’t care about her more than as the means to an orgasm. As long as we, as a society (and especially the males in the society) continuing to tolerate this underlying mindset, rape, especially date rape, will continue.

    • @Polish Wolf, I would agree with with you to a point, but I do not think that the trivialization of sex causes people to rape others; I think it is lack of respect and a heavy sense of entitlement. Many participate in consensual casual sex and never sexually assault or rape another person. However, moving from casual sex to entitled sex changes the tone to one of dominance and demand that can lead to compromising situations. I do agree with you in the sense that our culture is one of instant gratification regardless of the effects on other people, and rape is another symptom of the disease. But, many other cultures do not rely as heavily on instant gratification and still struggle with sexual assault as a pervasive societal issue.

      @Nick Cohea, I appreciate the acquaintance rape culture that you mentioned, mostly because I also consider this is the most frightening dynamic, too. But, like Ellie said, I hesitate to say “men need more training”, because men and women both can be perpetrators and victims of rape and sexual violence.

      • I agree, in that it’s not the trivialization of sex, but of one’s sex partner. Take the act seriously or not, but when people let their desire for sex diminish the respect they hold for their partner, that’s a big problem. And I think you’re right – entitlement is a huge, huge part of it, and it’s much easier to be entitled when you don’t perceive the source of your entitlement as a human being of equal importance and complexity as yourself.

        • I don’t think it would be out of line at this point to consider that ‘a sense of entitlement’ implies control of the object, ownership. It’s a property valuation. It is very difficult to break that sense of entitlement regarding other people when the majority of our societal institutions are predicated on ownership, including the most valued of relationships, marriage. It isn’t just enough to teach boys that ‘you don’t own that’ if you are also teaching them ‘but if you find a legal (or illegal) means to take it, it’s yours’.

          Though I believe that rape will sadly always be a horrid flaw in our societal condition, there are heartening signs that as a culture we are moving away from the idea of people as somehow property. The increasing acceptance of GBLT marriage rights is a heartening sign, because it reverses the traditional view of property as a biased relationship. It truly sets the idea of relationships being a form of property exchange on it’s head. There are other hopeful signs of cultural change as well, but if I allowed myself, I would drone on about such for an hour. You can all thank me that I won’t.

    • Thanks all for the thoughtful discussion. I’m a big fan of the Yes Means Yes enthusiastic consent model. I think a lot of our problems with sexual violence and boundaries come from the lack of education about what constitutes legal safe sex. Until we’re more open to talk about what healthy sexual interactions should look like (especially in childhood with age-appropriate information), people just won’t see rape as rape, or identify potentially dangerous situations as such. By no means am I giving rapists a free pass because they aren’t properly educated, but I’m all about prevention, and to me, that means education.

      I don’t have any brilliant ideas about how to change the objectification of women and male privilege which certainly have a huge role in this picture. I’m open to suggestions!

  • Mostly, men need the training. We have a difficulty understanding the training we already get, whether its from advertisements, the undeserved attention we get, and so on, that we are on top, and women exist for our pleasure. We have to combat a culture of entitlement to sex. Another thing we need to look at is what the rape culture actually is. And the central myth that rape is something that happens at night in a dark alley is stupid: hardly anyone is ever raped that way. It’s more like in your own home by your partner or an acquaintance. Part of what I think is so scary about the rape culture is that it’s so ingrained that we sometimes fail to recognize rape. (Of course, far be it from me to label other people’s experiences. I am just saying that I have heard some things that have happened to women which they thought were merely “creepy” that sounded to me more like sexual assault.) A more meaningful conversation around consent is required for this, but it has to begin with “anything other than yes means no,” and “I am not entitled to anything.”

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