So you’re sitting around the table having a nice Friday night with your parents and adult siblings. Passing around the takeout containers, finding enough clean forks, and then, suddenly, the rape culture conversation starts.
A sister is discussing the community safety alerts that have been coming out recently at her college. Another asks what they’re for. Sister #1 says they’re pretty serious, robberies and rapes.
Sister #2: “Real rape or cry rape?”
*Ears perk up…what now?
Sister #1: No, it’s real rape. But we had someone cry rape one time last year.
Me: Well what exactly do you mean by that, that’s really uncommon…
Sister #1: Well she got drunk and woke up and didn’t want it anymore.
Me: Well that sounds like rape to me.
Adorable father: Well wait a minute. What if (sidenote: don’t you just love when you’re family starts playing the “What if” game with you?) someone consents, and then gets drunk and passes out and then changes they’re mind. They already consented! (he really thinks he solved this dilemma for everyone)
Mom: That’s still not very gentlemanly.
Sister #2: (Getting annoyed) Just stop already, don’t get her started.
Me: (Getting snippy) It is still rape. Someone can change they’re mind. Besides, if you’re that drunk you can’t give consent. If your partner can’t drive a car, they probably can’t decide to have sex with you.
Mom: (Beyond exasperated) Ok, don’t start a fight over this. Just eat.
Conversations like this one drive me crazy. These are my people. I love to be around them. We all had the same upbringing, by the same adorable parents. We hold many of the same notions, ideas, beliefs and values. Despite that, I find myself confronting rape myths and victim blaming at a Friday chat over Lo Mein.
No matter how many times I do it, I still feel like I haven’t quite figured out the right approach. I am not sure I’m changing minds, and more often than not they’re annoyed or exasperated with me. I’ve heard recommendations like deflect with humor, etc. but I’m just not that quick. These things come up fast and happen fast. All I can do is hope that something I say sticks.
I’ve very interested in hearing about dinner table conversations and beyond that have been successful for people. If you have such a story, consider sharing it with the Share Your Stories Project .