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Five Ways You Might Be a Rape Apologist

With this recent rush of sexual assault allegations made against big Hollywood names, from Harvey Weinstein to Kevin Spacey to Roman Polanski, the topic of rape and molestation has been circulating heavily throughout social media and the non-digital world. Alas, as many of us know, when the discussion of this topic comes up, there are just as many people noting how disgusting this is as there are people making sense of it.

Excuses like these are called rape apologies  – an umbrella term for any arguments suggesting that rape is infrequent, misreported, over-reported, not that big a deal, or excusable in some circumstances, such as marital rape, corrective rape or if the victim was “provocatively dressed.” They are not uncommon and are often used in an effort to slut-shame and/or shift the blame off of the attackers.

And unfortunately, many of us, whether it was in the past or even currently, have probably done some sort of rape apologist behavior. So, if you’re curious about whether or not you are a rape apologist or at least have some characteristics of one that you wish to fix, read below:

  1. Slut-Shaming

One of the most talked about forms of rape apologist behavior is that of slut-shaming. For years, people, especially women, have been targeted by others after they’ve been assaulted if they wore something too “revealing” or are sexually expressive. Because of these false equivalences (meaning there are virtually no ties between what a victim is wearing and why they were assaulted—attackers attack due to their sense of “entitlement” and power. Anyone can be wearing anything at any time and be assaulted. It’s not about clothes, it’s about domination), many people have gotten away with sexually assaulting people on the grounds of “They were asking for it!”

  1. It was “consensual.”

What one must understand is that when a person is a minor and the person they have sexual relations with is an adult, that is still sexual assault. Admittedly, there are some gray areas when they ages are relatively close (18-17), however, when the age differences are clearly a problem, a child cannot consent to sexual relations. The adult in the matter is more than likely being manipulative, using messages that induce language from the minor that would be perceived as “consent.” “They said they wanted to!” is not an excuse to sexually manipulate a minor.

Also, this doesn’t have to involve just minors. Many will also use this excuse when a victim is under the influence and responded positively to having a sexual encounter with someone else, but had they been sober, the answer probably would’ve been “no.” Manipulators will use the excuse of it being “consensual” because a “yes” or similar sentiment was heard, and the fire is extinguished even more so when there are people behind the attacker agreeing with that.

  1. They were sending “mixed signals.”

The “traffic light” method has been used as a metaphor during teachings of consent. Green means it’s okay to go (it is okay to have sexual relations if both parties are sober and clearly state what they want), red means to stop (if one or both parties says “no” or any variations of that sentiment, that means it is not okay to go further), and yellow, which in theory, should mean to “slow down” and yet people think this means to “speed up,” both on the road and during sexual relations. It is not the opposite party’s job to help get the other person off—if they appear unsure, it’s always best to simply slow down and/or stop. But, as aforementioned, because this does not always happen, many people use the, “Well, if they had been clearer about what they wanted, they wouldn’t’ have been assaulted. If they were sending mixed signals, how was the other person supposed to know they didn’t want it?” It’s a lame excuse at best, but should stop being used as it is very easy to simply stop when you’re confused about whether or not the other party wants to enact sexually.

  1. They alleged victim didn’t report it, so it’s their fault they didn’t receive justice.

There are countless explanations as to why people don’t report their assaults, and most of it has zero to do with the fact they didn’t want any help. Many of the reasons include: they wouldn’t be believed if they were to report it to the police, the police/justice system would make it very difficult for them to make a case, the assaulter would come after them if they spoke up, and so on. By asserting that victims don’t want any justice by the fact they did not report the crime protects the assaulter as they, and society, will continuously believe that the victims’ silence acts as their affirmation.

  1. They’re married; that doesn’t count as rape

Even though today marital rape is seen as a form a rape and is illegal (throughout the United States, though there are still some ways around it), many people still believe it’s one’s betrothed duty to always please their partner sexually despite any opposition. Rape is rape, regardless of the circumstance. If one party does not consent and the other takes advantage anyway, it’s assault.


Rape apologists are almost as dangerous as the rapists themselves because together, they protect the violence and even assist in perpetuating the assaults further. Victims have already suffered through their experiences, so they don’t need society telling them that in some way, it was their fault.

If you’re guilty of making similar excuses, it’s not too late to change your ideologies. Together, unlearning these dangerous behaviors will help to slow down the amounts of assaults happening to people every single day. By switching one excuse to, “No, that was wrong. That was assault,” can make way for positive change in our society.

Photo: Richard Potts / Flickr

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