Social Experiment Proves Rape Culture Point

I decided to run an informal social experiment last Friday.  I wrote a post about locker room talk and excusing rape culture on my blog as a way to discuss the difference between sex talk and assault talk and how we as a society are contributing to the prevalence of rape culture when we don’t understand the difference.  I have been very public about my rape both in public speaking, my activism, and in my memoir, Mountain to Mountain, in which I describe in graphic detail the night I was violently raped and nearly killed walking home from work in Minneapolis at age 18.

What I haven’t talked about is all the micro-agressions that I have lived with as a woman, essentially starting in high school.  My accounting teacher got my number and started calling me after graduation, telling me how great my ass looked in my leggings, and how he wished I was sitting in front of him so he could “play with my titties”.  I was 18, he was in his 40’s.  When I was in my 20’s, I cannot count the number of times that strangers tried to slide their hands up my skirt or down my pants in crowded public spaces, or the countless times someone grabbed my ass as I leaned over the bar to shout my drink order to a bartender.

I’m a strong woman, I have worked in male dominated arenas my entire adult life; initially starting out in the outdoor industry as a guide, then a decade as a sports conditioning specialist with predominately male athletes like rugby and soccer players, and the ultimate of male dominated societies, nearly a decade of working in Afghanistan.  I know the difference between sex talk and assault talk.  Do you?

My point is and always has been consent is the backbone of the discussion and that if you excuse talk about harassment and assault, you are condoning it.  You, my friend, are intentionally or unintentionally part of our rape culture.

Here’s the problem.  Maybe you simply don’t understand what rape culture is? Let’s look at this pyramid for more clarity.


The obvious understanding of rape culture is the top of the pyramid: explicit violence in the form of rape, incest, murder, and battery. I’d like to think this is generally understood  and that we consider rape and assault what it is – a crime.  But the most recent of several high profile rape cases is Stanford swimmer golden boy, Brock Turner, who was caught sexually assaulting an unconscious fellow college student in the street. He was caught in the act so there is no ambiguity of the he said/she said argument often used in rape cases. Yet even though Turner admitted guilt facing up to 14 years in prison, the judge reduced his sentence so that Turner only served 3 months in prison because Judge Perskey believed a tougher penalty would have a “severe impact” on Turner.  For assaulting an unconscious girl.  This is sadly, not unusual.  Ninety percent of the time rapists get away with rape.  Too often the victims in the United States are treated no better than the victims of rape I meet in Afghanistan, and for the same reason, the men’s lives must not be destroyed by one ‘mistake’, or as Brock Turner’s dad stated in court, “20 minutes of action”.  That’s 20 minutes of taking an active part in a violent felony crime.  You don’t get to walk that back.  Because the victim?  Her life is forever changed by your actions.  All of us who have survived are irrevocably changed but few of us are as eloquent and powerful as Turner’s victim whose open letter to him went viral.

It’s the bottom of this pyramid that bothers me most.  This is where things get confusing it seems.  Although for most women, this is our daily reality.  The fact is rape culture STARTS with victimization; “boys will be boys”, rape jokes, non-consensual photography, homophobia and transphobia, victim blaming.  See that last one?  Victim blaming.  THIS IS WHY WOMEN DON’T REPORT.  Every time we do, the media tears the victims apart; Why did these women wait so long to come out?  They must be lying. If he really did it they would have come forward.   The public automatically assumes that if a woman accuses a man of rape there is an implicit nod of deception, because rape isn’t a ‘real’ crime.  It’s too ambiguous.  Want proof? The three most popular excuses for rape are:

She’s lying.  Even police officers too often take it for granted that the woman is lying about being raped.  Yet the irony is that 80% of women never come forward about their assault.  False rape claims are proven to be between 2 and 10% the same as false claims about all other serious crimes.

She was wearing something provocative.  Right, because women wearing baggy jeans and sweatshirts don’t get raped?

She was drinking too much. Being drunk isn’t a open invitation to have sex. Neither is being unconscious.  Remember that pesky little word, consent?  Hard to give consent if you’re unconscious.

Which leads us to Bill Cosby and the victim blame game. Bill Cosby raped over 30 women, consent was never an issue because he systematically drugged them first.  It took decades before the women came forward, and when they did, as expected the first ones were vilified in the media. Liars. Golddiggers. Opportunists.  Once that number climbed into double digits, everyone paused; Maybe they’re telling the truth?  Now that that number is over 30 it is generally accepted that Bill Cosby is a serial rapist.  It shouldn’t take 30 women to prove that. It shouldn’t take two.

Let’s get back to the bottom two rungs of the pyramid.  Because the theme of my prior blog was that words matter.  Donald Trump told Howard Stern when he was a guest on his radio show that it was okay for him to call his daughter Ivanka Trump a “piece of ass.”  Is that a crime? No. It’s on the bottom two rungs of the pyramid, it’s ‘just words’.  I cannot imagine my father calling me a hot piece of ass, much less condoning another man to do so on a popular radio program.

The tape of Trump talking about his right to kiss women without consent and that being a celebrity means he can just ‘grab them by the pussy’ outraged many, but not enough to condemn him for contributing to rape culture.  Because that is what his words are.  When I heard that tape, I felt every man that grabbed my ass, my pussy, my breasts in a public setting without consent, the men who think it’s okay to dry hump up against me in a crowded bar, and the man who raped me  at knifepoint get a free pass.  Because their actions started with the normalization of the bottom two rungs of the pyramid.  That is rape culture.  That is why words matter.

I know many kind, respectful, fabulous men who would never engage in that language, or that behavior.  They are my family members, they are my friends, they are my colleagues.  My male friends and colleagues are diverse in geographic location, nationality, color, faith, sexuality, and income.   They are the ones that need to recognize if they don’t already, that the everyday assaults that the women they love, work with, and are friends with go through is systemic and all too normal.

As members of my own family and extended social media community excuse Trump’s words and behavior as unimportant to this election, I find that the main argument isn’t that it’s right, it’s just that “Hilary and Bill are worse”.  Thereby ignoring the issue I’m talking about, the importance of recognizing rape culture when we hear it and when we see it.  At a time where my social media feed is filling up with twitter hashtags like #WhyWomenDontReport and women coming out about their own sexual assaults through blog posts and social media in an effort to illustrate how many women go through this.  1 in 3.  Somehow that doesn’t sink in that this means out of your own friends and family, that the 1 in 3 rate applies.  Look around your office or coffeeshop right now, count how many women there are and divide by 3.

I was curious how people who had no connection to me would respond to my blog post, so I reposted it to my public page and then I paid Facebook to sponsor the post.  Anyone can do this if they choose to.  I was simply curious how that works and would that expose the conversation to people outside of my circle that care about the issue like I do?  I clicked on the blue bottom “BOOST POST” underneath my post, and paid $25 for three days of promotion. Boom!  I sponsored my post as a Facebook ad and waited to see where the post went.

Here’s what I posted.


The responses that came in were incredible.  People commented directly on the Facebook post, some sent me their thoughts in direct messages, and others hit on my actual blog comment section.   I expected to reach people that like me, wanted to discuss the distinction between locker room talk and rape culture.  Instead I got hate, insults, threats, and off topic political rants.  I believe that people forget that when they are commenting, or trolling in this case, that they are commenting in the public sphere to real people.  Perhaps they think that  their mudslinging isn’t visible.  So let’s look at what a few of them had to say and let’s not let them hide behind their words.  Here are a few of the folks that commented not the worst of the bunch, but certainly the most vocal with multiple posts and responses. The full assortment is in the comments underneath my Facebook post.  Feel free to find them on Facebook, their name and profile photo are attached to every comment they made, and feel free to message them your thoughts as they so freely gave me theirs.



Then of course, it got political because I was talking about Trump, so therefore we must make this political and point fingers rather than simply acknowledging that what Trump has said, or done, is rape culture.  I believe my original post if you read it was thoughtful, respectful, and so were my comments to the few posts I engaged back with.  Yet out of the gates, it’s immediate insults, hateful commentary, the worst of which I have not included.  Needless to say it involves several iterations of filling my stupid mouth with numerous dicks to shut me up.

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“Women are not angels”  Thank you Patricia Rothenbucher for that insight.  I am getting my ‘women in line’ so that we can start ‘behaving in a ladylike manner.”  Case in point, an upcoming series of protests we’re organizing with the theme of Pussy Grabs Back.  New York City on October 29th for those of you that want to join.  I hope that’s ladylike enough for you.

You’re right, I’m am very sheltered, having lived and worked nearly half of my life abroad, working nearly 10 years of it in a war zone.  I have spoken at the Italian Parliament, in three TED talks, at the Harvard Club, on panels at universities and summits, and numerous other places about my work and gender violence.  I have worked with US and European survivors and with Afghan women who are in jail for the crime of ‘adultery’ as an excuse for rape.  But that shouldn’t matter.  Even if I was sheltered, that doesn’t make my call for better awareness and accountability of rape culture any less true.  You don’t get to write off a woman or man who lives in their hometown and has perhaps never traveled outside of their home state as irrelevant to this discussion.

You see, making this into a political argument or pointing fingers at the other candidates, rap music, and Islam (all of which my ‘thoughtful’ commentators did, you can see the post and all the commentary on my public Facebook page, minus a few of the violent threatening comments that I deleted) and calling the women that are accusing Trump of assault and harassment liars because they didn’t come forward before, simply proves my point.  Rape culture is so prevalent we are desensitized to it. When you ignore it, brush it off, or excuse it, you are complicit.  You are condoning behavior when you excuse the words about the behavior.

So everyone, repeat after me:


Pussy Grabs Back

Ladies, its time to wear your words.


Donald Trump and his supporters think that words don’t matter.  That words are just words and can be easily forgotten.  That bragging sex talk is the same as sexual assault talk.  That women can just be ‘grabbed by their pussies’.

It’s time to fight back.  I am choosing to write about it, tweet, and engage my family members that support Trump.  But words do matter and so do actions. Trumps are appalling,  but when we talk action Pence is a quiet offender which is even worse, than Trump.  Because me and my pussy need Planned Parenthood, and birth control, and the Constitution ensures my right to choose what to do with my own body. Pence has been on a one-man crusade to defund Planned Parenthood, roll back access to abortions, and has even said he would consider jail for women that have had abortions.  The 2nd amendment is untouchable for the gun owners petrified Clinton is coming for their guns, but the 14th isn’t?  So says Pence every time he lobbies, votes, and legislates against women.

My pussy also deserves equal pay for equal work by men.  Pence has voted AGAINST equal pay measures THREE times.

Now we see Trump supporters calling for a recall of the 19th amendment that gives women equality and the right to vote?  This is beyond incredible.  What country am I living in?  What country is my daughter going to inherit?  I guess its 1920 and I have to march in the streets to fight for my equality?

So Pussy is fighting back.  I just ordered this t-shirt from the incredible team at Female Collective and plan to wear it every goddamn day till Nov. 9th.

So ladies, words matter.  No one is grabbing my pussy without my consent.  I’m fighting back every day in little ways.  I ordered the tshirt, so can you. Wear it every goddamn day. And on November 8th, I’m voting with my pussy. Vote with yours.



Sexual Assault Isn’t Locker Room Talk

Enough already.

My heart hurts.  My soul hurts.

Several weeks have gone by now, and I’ve been listening to the media and even close family members excuse away Trump’s behavior on a number of issues that blow my mind. But now we have a new phrase; the ‘locker room’ excuse, in response to his words on a leaked tape. Grabbing pussy and forcing himself on women? Classy, just the sort of talk I know I want to hear from the future leader of my country.

This is just one more excuse in a long line of a very public and systemic attack against women that goes back decades.  Whether it’s judging women’s appearance either by insisting that we aren’t beautiful enough for his high standards, or we have gotten too fat, or by simply lying about non existent sex tapes to humiliate a woman he’s previously insulted via an uncontrollable 3am twitter rant.  Trump has a nasty habit of publicly calling women “pigs, slobs, and dogs”.  He insulted and bullied journalist Megyn Kelly after the debate she moderated for having the audacity to ask him to defend his own words.  His lowest low, he used menstruation as an insult to a woman that was doing her job.

This isn’t new.  He has spent his life, much of it public and on record, objectifying and debasing women, including one my favorite lines, “Women, you have to treat ‘em like shit.” Yeah, we love that.

Here’s the thing though, this isn’t ‘locker room’ talk.  This isn’t dirty talk between guys and this isn’t talking about sex. This isn’t the way normal guys talk about women, or dating, or sex. Just look at the number of professional athletes who hang out in locker rooms fairly regularly who have bashed the media calling this locker room talk.  Men are appalled by Trump’s words.  Appalled that their daughters would be talked to like that.  This kind of talk that Trump is shrugging off, and the media and many of you are letting him shrug off, is talk about sexual assault.  Forcing yourself upon women unasked.  This is lack of consent.



When you explain this away as a non-issue in the media and public discourse, you need to remember that our sons and daughters are watching.  At a time where college and high school sexual assault is off the chart, nearing an epidemic on our campus.  In a country where one in three women are sexually assaulted.  This isn’t something we can be making excuses for ever.  Those of us who have been raped, sexually assaulted, or sexually harassed are fighting tooth and nail to discuss consent in real ways with young men BEFORE they assault women.  1 in 3 women – that means you know at least one woman who has endured the crime of sexual assault.  Who has not given consent.  Who has lain there wondering, “why me?” as your life is ripped apart by a man who felt it was his right to take what he wanted.  If you’re in my family you know at least two.  Probably more.

You cannot excuse this away.  His entire campaign, his entire life, he has shown his true colors.  You just don’t seem to care.  Why? As Maya Angelou said so succinctly, “When someone shows you who they really are, believe them.

Why don’t we believe him when he says what he says over and over and over again, in public, on tape, on tv, in debates, on twitter?  Is it the same reason that when over thirty women accused Bill Cosby of rape that you didn’t believe them. Because Bill Cosby was on our tv and we thought we knew him like a real family member? The only difference is, Bill Cosby hid his predatory history.  Trump’s is front and center and bragging on tape.

And he still has your vote?

Abusive language, predatory talk, do not automatically make a man a rapist.  Just a misogynist that has no right to hold public office of any kind.

This is a man whose own wife accused him of rape under oath.  There are multiple cases filed against him for sexual assault harassment.  MULTIPLE. Google it, its all there, recently reported on and fact checked.  I’m not going to waste my time delving into it all, you can easily find out all you need to.  It pains me to tell you to dig into other victim’s lives in order to prove to you that Trump is a predator, a misogynist, and wholly unqualified to be a leader.  I shouldn’t have to.  His own words should be enough prove.

No woman should be talked about the way Trump talks about women.  It’s vile, grotesque, and cannot be allowed to go unchecked.  It’s misogyny. It’s rape culture.
Thank you for the men that speak out against him and other men like him.  Thank you for the women that are coming forward to give a face and a story to show Americans what the ramifications of rape culture actually are.  Thank you for shows like The Daily Show that don’t allow ‘locker room talk’ to be an excuse for predatory behavior.

Does Rape Culture Need a Ribbon?

This Wednesday, May 13, The Hunting Ground will screen in my home of Breckenridge, Colorado thanks to students at the high school and one parent working to the bring the film here to educate and build awareness of campus rape in America.

I’ve seen the film, and I just finished reading Jon Krakauer’s book, Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in College Town, which delves into campus rape at Missoula as an example of one town that unfortunately represents our nation’s epidemic.  The book focuses a great deal on acquaintance rape, the culture rape,  how much victim blaming still exists, and the way that universities and police fail victims. It is meticulously researched and even I was shocked at the statistics and how few view rape as a crime in the same way we view other violent crimes.

I am a victim of a violent, random rape when I was 18 and walking home from work one night in downtown Minneapolis.  My only sister was a victim of a campus rape at Alamosa State University in southern Colorado.  Neither of us had good experiences with the police.  Neither of us went to a hospital for a rape kit. Neither of us had advice on what to do next.  We both are strong, independent, women that refused to be viewed as victims, and neither of us are.

But I decided to start talking about it in 2009, after I ‘came out’ on Dateline NBC while speaking about my work in Afghanistan with women and girls.  I realized then that it was at the core of my motivations, and it was still at the core of my being.  We are all made up of our experiences, our relationships, and our interactions with the world, to lead an authentic life that means we have to own our lives.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.  More importantly, for me, I see the stats.  Globally, 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime.

Breast cancer will affect 1 in 5 women.  But rape survivors don’t have pink ribbons, or 3 day walk-a-thons, or survivor badges.  People don’t run races in honor of their mother who survived rape.  Yet many more women will be sexually assaulted.  Violated.  Stripped of her dignity through no fault of her own.  Yet the stigma of rape is one that not only means that few women speak up about their experience, the few that do often wish they hadn’t.  As Krakauer states in his book, “Rape is the most under-reported serious crime in the nation. Carefully conducted studies consistently indicate that at least 80 percent of rapes are never disclosed to law enforcement agencies.”

Rape is not treated like other violent crimes.  Rape is considered ambiguous, fraught with he said/she said, even when there is evidence of physical violence, victims are often blamed for their attack.  She was drinking, she was dressed like a slut, she flirted too much, she didn’t fight back, she was in the wrong place, wrong time.  Stabbing victims aren’t blamed for getting stabbed.  Murder victims aren’t blamed for being murdered.

Women are raped because someone raped them.

The questions we  should be asking are not; was she drinking, what was she wearing, did she fight back?  It should be, did she consent?  Yes or no answer.  If the answer is no.  It is rape.

Amy Schumer covered the culture of rape with football players brilliantly in a recent skit, as only she could.  When the coach tells the players that things are going to change this season, starting with ‘no raping’.  the blowback from the players is hilarious, and heartbreaking. “What if I am just the one holding the camera?  What if my mother is the DA and she won’t prosecute? Can we rape at away games?  What if she thinks its rape but I don’t?”  and anon…

The skit is brilliant because it encompasses the major issue we have in this country, at high schools, on college campuses, and beyond, that rape really isn’t seen as a crime.  Until it is, no woman is safe, and few will find justice.

My daughter deserves better.  So did my sister. So did I.

If you are in Breckenridge, you can attend the screening at the CMC and the panel discussion afterwards – all the information is here

What’s Blonde Got to Do With It?

According to Gateway Pundit, Jim Hoft, “Lara Logan is lucky she’s alive. Her liberal belief system almost got her killed on Friday. This talented reporter will never be the same.”

I almost spilled my coffee when I read this on Media Matters this morning. Thinking it must be a mistake, I read on:

Why did this attractive blonde female reporter wander into Tahrir Square last Friday? Why would she think this was a good idea? Did she not see the violence in the square the last three weeks? Did she not see the rock throwing? Did she miss the camels? What was she thinking?

Well, Jim, here’s a newsflash: this is sexist BS, pure and simple. Lara Logan didn’t wander. She wasn’t in Tahrir Square because she took a wrong turn. She knew exactly where she was and why. Lara Logan was in the square on purpose, covering the revolution in Egypt because IT’S HER JOB. What in the world does attractive and blonde have to do with it? Are you suggesting that she was inviting rape because she is an attractive blonde? Did anyone suggest that Anderson Cooper was attacked repeatedly in Cairo because he is handsome or that Google executive, Wael Ghonim, was kidnapped because he is young and “cute”?

I am tall, blonde and the hardworking founder of Mountain2Mountain, a nonprofit organization working to advance gender equity in Afghanistan and create opportunity for woman and girls. Some may say that I am attractive.

I read most of the online commentary and media coverage about my work in Afghanistan and the comment “tall and blonde” is a frequent lead to stories about me. I get it. I’m tall and blonde, and I stand out in Afghanistan. Does this make me, or Lara Logan, ineffective at what we do? Does it mean we shouldn’t go about our work because of how we look? Judge us on the work we do, not on what we look like.

Even more despicable is your use of a woman’s attractiveness as an excuse for sexual assault. My own rape and assault was a long time ago, very few people knew about it, and I wasn’t a public figure like Lara. Luckily for me, years later, when I did talk about it publicly, it was not front-page news. You should not castigate Lara Logan because she’s an “attractive blonde female reporter.” She is a reporter who, while heroically covering one of the most important events of the decade, was the victim of a terrible crime. Period.

The other thing that disturbs me about the coverage is pinning the attack on culture. The Daily Beast articlestates: “Logan faced an ugly side of Egypt that Egyptian and foreign women here are all too familiar–and fed up–with.” I can only imagine how the Fox News coverage will spin this into the Islamaphobia-sphere.

Women all over the world are facing the “ugly side” of culture, and we are fed up with it. Congolese women are raped as weapons of war and as a means to frighten and control them. Afghan women are jailed or ostracized for being raped and brutalized and, to add insult to injury, often victimized and assaulted inside the prison by male guards. Women are raped systematically in war zones and developing countries for a variety of reasons that dehumanize them.

But let’s not forget what happens right here at home.

My own rape was in Minnesota. My sister’s was in Colorado. Every two minutes, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted. That’s 1 in 6 women. While rape victims are not routinely jailed as they are in some countries, neither are their attackers. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) estimates that only 6% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail.

News came out this week that Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates are being sued over their failure to deal with the cases of rape and sexual assault in our own military. A group of American servicemen and women accuse the two of failing “to take reasonable steps to prevent plaintiffs from being repeatedly raped, sexually assaulted and sexually harassed by federal military personnel.”

Sexual assault is not a problem that belongs only to the Middle East, the developing world and war zones. This is a systemic problem that spans the globe, including our own backyard. It is rooted in how we value women. How do you change perceptions of value and respect? Things will never change until violence against women moves from a women’s right issue to a human rights issue that EVERYONE gets behind. Using World Bank data for 2008, there were 2,982,865,203 women of all ages; approximately 44.3% of the total world population. Nearly 3 billion mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends.

Recently, Ben Affleck said, “As long as violence against women, sexually or otherwise, remains exclusively a women’s issue, it will always be an issue. We men must own this and we must recognize it as vital to our own survival. And we must help our brothers see it as such.”

Rape is a weapon of control and of power. Until we all stand up and take a hard look at the realities of perception, accusation, and systematic dehumanization that occur all around us, this “problem” will never be resolved.

Jim. You owe Lara Logan an apology. And another three billion for every women in the world.


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