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Saturday, July 02, 2022

Cosmo wrongly defines rape, facilitates myths

Cosmopolitan Magazine enlightens its readership in the September issue with the article A New Kind of Date Rape."" In this article, written by Laura Session Stepp, Cosmo takes it upon itself to identify a ""new kind of rape.""  


There is one major problem: This article does nothing to educate or enlighten readers about rape; the article reinforces harmful rape myths and irresponsibly questions what constitutes rape. Posing as fact, this information is merely the ignorant opinion of one writer.  


In this article, Session Stepp asserts that ""gray rape"" is the new date-rape. She defines ""gray rape"" as a ""confusing form of sexual assault"" that ""falls somewhere between consent and denial."" There is an instant problem with the definition of her ""gray rape."" Consent is legally defined as a clear and freely given ""yes"" and not the absence of a ""no."" Unless there is clear consent, it is rape. Something that ""falls somewhere between consent and denial"" is rape.  

Even worse, there is nothing ""gray"" about her examples of ""gray rape.""  


Session Stepp uses the true story of a college girl ""Alicia"" who was making out with a guy and, ""told him flat out she didn't want it to proceed to sex."" He pushed her down and penetrated her anyway. She then said, ""No, stop,"" but he continued regardless of her protests. 


Yet according to Session Stepp, this event falls into the ""gray"" area because ""Alicia"" questioned whether she was forceful enough in making her objections known, and therefore felt she was perhaps to blame. Let's make it clear that there is nothing ""gray"" about this case. It was rape. It was a crime.  

The victim questioned if the guy ""officially"" raped her only because she internalized the victim-blaming attitudes that are so prevalent in our society and the Cosmopolitan article. 


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Session Stepp says that because of the growing hook-up culture, rape is blurrier - in other words, this article implies that because a woman may drink, flirt, make-out or want to hook-up, her rape should be downgraded to ""gray rape.""  


We as a society must understand that no one has the right to rape someone regardless of what state they are in. However, at UW-Madison, where partying plays a large role in the student culture, some people may be confused as to when it is or is not okay to have sex with someone. To avoid this confusion, both men and women must talk with a potential partner and receive free, clear consent before sexual activity has begun. If a potential partner is not in a clear frame of mind, for instance due to drugs or alcohol, abstinence is key because these substances can cloud answers. A common misconception is that all people drink in order to have a sexual encounter. Intoxication is not a sign of consent. Neither is flirting, making out, wearing provocative clothing or not objecting forcefully enough, as ""Alicia"" thought.  


If anyone has questions about rape or sexual assault, they should contact one of the resources on campus, such as the Rape Crisis Center or University Health Services.  


Anna Williams is a senior and member of Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment. Please send responses to

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