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Emilie Townes, Dean of the Divinity School at Vanderbilt writes “Enough” in Feminist Studies in Religion, about trial of the four young men accused of raping an unconscious woman coed:

The first trial of the four young men accused of raping an unconscious woman coed has ended here in Nashville.  Two of the four were on trial.  The decision was guilty on all sixteen counts the two now 21-year olds were charged with.  I was like many feminists, womanists, and other concerned folks on our campus and I suspect across the country—holding my breath, often unconsciously, and praying that this trial would not turn into an ugly toga-fest of blaming the victim.  Well, it did turn ugly, but not in the way I feared. …

…in this case, the prosecution decided that it needed to send the message that sexual violence would be prosecuted and all of the resources of the district attorney’s office would be used to do so.  Support services were and continue to be present for the young woman and she sat in that courtroom, facing two of her attackers (one of whom, the orchestrator of the rape, was her boyfriend at the time), for the twelve days of the trial.  It is sobering that she had to be told that she was raped because she was unconscious after a night of alcohol consumption.  I can’t imagine what it must be like to be told that this violence act happened to you but being brave enough to choose to look at the photographic evidence to confirm what the police are telling you.  She took the witness stand and identified herself in the photographic evidence presented.  She released her only public statement thus far after the verdict was announced and concluded it by saying to other victims of sexual violence “You are not alone.  You are not to blame.”  Exactly.

I hope that this message is heard loud and clear not only in Nashville, but also globally.  It will take time to change the culture of dominance and denial, fear and disregard for the integrity of our bodies but many folks have been trying and I am hoping that more will join us to do so.

Read the rest of the article here.

posted by Ann Fontaine

Image from the article


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Joanna Staten

Maybe someone who has been raped needs to step in and tell Mark that it’s true – rape has nothing to do with sex. It’s about power and control and dominance – who has it and who doesn’t.

I am a rape survivor. I can assure you it’s not about the sex.

If it hasn’t happened to you, then you really have less than – LESS THAN – no clue what it’s like.

David Streever

Joanna, thank you for sharing your experience and giving a powerful testimony to this. I’m not sure why Mark is policing/moderating the tone or the information that women who have actually been raped are sharing with him. It seems to me that it is our job to be quiet and listen respectfully when people who have experienced something share their stories.

Elouise Weaver

Dear Fathers, it’s your job to protect your daughters. And it’s your job to teach your sons integrity & modesty. Will you?

Elizabeth Kaeton

A term coined by Alice Walker, Womanism is a social theory deeply rooted in the racial and gender oppression of black women. Walker said, ” “Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender” .

Womanist theology is a religious conceptual framework which reconsiders and revises the traditions, practices, scriptures, and biblical interpretation with a special lens to empower and liberate African American women in America.

There is also Latina and Mujerista theology, Asian feminist and post-colonialist theology (Read Kwok Pui Lan’s “Off the menu”), Feminist Liberation Theology/Queer Theolgoy (read Patrick Cheng’s “Radical Love”), and others. But, I’ll let you explore that for yourself. You’ll remember it better if you do your own work.

I thought we had made progress on getting the message out but apparently, we still have a great deal of work to do. So, once more, with feeling:

Rape is not sex.

To begin to understand this, a good place to start is by reading “Love Does No Harm: Sexual Ethics for the Rest of Us,” by Marie Fortune.

Or, “Refiner’s Fire: A Religious Engagement with Violence” by Cheryl A. Kirk-Duggan.

There are many, many others, but that’s a good start.

Rape is not sex.

Rape is violence.

Rape – of women and men – is a weapon of war and a vehicle of submission.

Rape is not sex.

Philip B. Spivey

Elizabeth: Thank you for this illuminating overview of womanist origins. When they were marginalized during the early years of feminism, Black and other woman of color were forced to look to their own needs. I am glad these woman did and do.

Ann Fontaine
Ann Fontaine

Rape is not about sex Mark. It is about violence.

Mark E. Mason

He/She who controls the definitions controls the argument. We had a twelve year/one month GIRL bring her eight month old child in for WIC. I’ll leave the math to you. Was she raped? Under federal law a 10 year old can buy EC over the counter no questions asked. Any meaningful definition of what rape is must account for this. We can’t say 10 year old sex is rape by definition and still say early sexual activity doesn’t lead to rape.

JC Fisher

I’m reminded of that horrifying case some years ago, where a rape defendant claimed his attack was consensual sex, because his victim asked him to put on a condom.

Attempting to minimize harm is NOT consent.

Elizabeth Kaeton

Mark – “Underage sex” IS rape. “Underage sex” does not “lead” to rape. “Underage sex” IS rape.

Rape is NOT an “obscure” term. It is very, very clear and easy to understand if you are paying attention. So, here goes:

If, for whatever reason, a male or female can not (because they are impaired mentally or physically or because they are under the age of consent) or do not give their consent, then what happens next is …. ready?…. RAPE.

Nothing “leads” to rape. Not the way a woman is dressed. Not “underage sexual activity” which is, by definition, rape.

No one “asks” to be raped. Not the flirty behavior of men or women. Non consensual sex between husband and wife is rape.

Under age means no consent.

No consent means rape.

No means no.

Rape IS rape.


Got it?

Mark E. Mason

Ann said; “Early sexual activity does not lead to rape.”

Elizabeth said; “Sex without consent is rape. Rape is not sex. Sex is a consensual act of genital intimacy between two adults. If a child – male or female – is “under the age of consent” and engages in sexual activity, that is rape. It has to do with “consent”. A child can not legally give consent. That is an act of violence. That is rape. ”

So underage sex does not lead to rape although it is by definition rape. The title here was “Rape is Rape.” In but a few short comments we have come to ‘That which meets the legal definition of rape does not lead to rape.” My point is that the “term” rape is obscure. I think this thread has illustrated that. But then maybe that is just me 🙂

Elizabeth Kaeton

Mark – I don’t want you to think that I don’t hear your concern and alarm about 10 or 12 year old girls having babies. It is a huge concern, one that I share with you.

And yes, she was raped. The ready availability of over the counter EC to 10 year olds is not a message to children to be sexually active; rather it is a recognition of the severity and wide spread horror of the rape of girl children and the means to provide her with some basic way to protect herself from unwanted pregnancy – especially if she has no parental protection against being raped: for example, the rapist is a family member or friend.

That does not mean that the child was “promiscuous” at age 10-12. It means some male raped her. That is, had sex with someone “under the age of consent”. Which is illegal. Because it is not sex. Which involves consent. Which a 10-12 year old can not provide. It is, therefore, rape.

I wouldn’t want to deny that child of the ability to feed herself and her infant with food stamps / WIC. That would be ‘blaming the victim’ – even if it is somehow thought that a 10-12 year old is capable of making the cogent decision to be willingly sexually active and get pregnant.

What I don’t understand is why your state is not doing what other states do in terms of putting energy into obtaining a DNA test to determine paternity and charging the man with rape.

Coupled with that is my utter lack of comprehension as to why men and women of faith are not doing everything they can to change the culture of rape and teach young children and young adults about human sexuality and the difference between sex and rape in general and the respect and dignity of females in particular.

I don’t understand why TEC and other denominations are not using “Our Whole Lives” – developed by the UCC/UUA – as a standard curriculum in church/ “Sunday” school. I used it as part of the 18 month Confirmation Class, which goes way beyond “basic plumbing” and discusses gender differences, date rape, rape, contraception, etc.

You have clearly named some of the dire consequences of “babies having babies” and the rape of young girls. I’ve never heard a clearer call to ministry than this issue.

Elizabeth Kaeton

If a child – male or female – is “under the age of consent” and engages in sexual activity, that is rape. It has to do with “consent”. A child can not legally give consent. That is an act of violence. That is rape.

I neither wish to be in control of the definition of rape nor this conversation. I am working with legal definitions of rape which have to do with the infringement of personal liberty and choice and consent. If there is no consent – no matter the age, but especially if the rape victim is under the age of consent – that is rape.

Mark E. Mason

Rape isn’t about sex Ann? You can have sex without rape, rape without violence and violence without sex or rape. Which one does the State tell kids that it is OK to engage in without parental knowledge or consent? Does one lead to another?

“I want to be an Airborne Ranger, live the life of sex and danger. Airborne Ranger, Sex and Danger!”

Elizabeth Kaeton

Well, Mark, you’ve clearly got an agenda here, which seems to be about two kids having sex and the young girl gets pregnant and she is getting food stamps and can have access to contraception without parental knowledge or consent. And, you really seem to have issues with those . . . issues.

Which is fine. But, that’s another issue.

The issue here is about RAPE. And rape is about (1) non consensual (2) abuse of power (3) violence. Rape is not about sex.

Rape is serious business. The gang rape of the woman in the article above by people she knew was horrific and monstrous. Having to endure the trial where her integrity was also placed on trial – as many victims of rape often have to endure – was heinous. I hope it never happens to you or someone you know and love. It leaves deep emotional and psychological scars which sometimes never heal completely.

It’s not that your agenda about young kids having sex and getting pregnant is not important. It is. It’s that it is not part of either the article about rape or this conversation.

Which is about RAPE. Which is NOT about sex. Nothing “leads” a person to be raped. Nothing. Rape is never a person’s “fault”.

To engage in word play about rape just to get to your agenda is highly disrespectful to those women and men who have been raped and deeply insulting to those of us who care for and about them.

Mark E. Mason

I must be the only one that sees the conflict. The thing is though next week, like every other week, these KIDS will walk in and sit in the chair across from me. My hope in engaging in discussions like these is certainly not to prove a point, rather it is that there will be less of them or even if they are a little older when they do it is a worthwhile thing.

[Mark: 2 underage persons can engage in sexual activity without it being rape. The difference is the power differential with adults and children. The key is “consensual”]

[“Under age means no consent. No consent means rape.”]

Mark E. Mason

Nope, can’t say that I’ve got it yet.

“Under age means no consent. No consent means rape.”

OK so how can it not lead to rape when it is already rape? I called it rape and you called it rape. Rape is a crime. We teach young persons under the age of consent that they can engage in sex without parental knowledge or consent. I have to tell a 13 year old that they can’t get a copy of their shot record because they aren’t old enough but we can hook them up with birth control without their parents or guardians knowing about it so they can go out and engage in behavior that Mark and Elizabeth agree is by definition rape.

I’d say we both made an attempt at communication here even if it hasn’t worked out all the klar.

Ann Fontaine

Mark: 2 underage persons can engage in sexual activity without it being rape. The difference is the power differential with adults and children. The key is “consensual”

Elizabeth Kaeton

Mark – I’m certain I don’t know what being an Airborne Ranger has to do with this discussion, except there’s apparently a lot of promiscuity and danger attached to it. Promiscuity is one thing. Rape is quite another.

Whether or not “physical force” is employed (in the example the victim of rape being drugged or intoxicated), sex without consent is rape. One can not give consent if one is unconscious. That is rape.

Sex without consent is an act of violence, being an act done against someone’s will because they did not give/could not have given their consent. Sex without consent is rape. Rape is not sex. Sex is a consensual act of genital intimacy between two adults.

Rape is not sex. Rape is an act of violence.

Ann Fontaine

Rape is no more about sex than a fist to the face is the same as a handshake. The primary purpose of rape is abuse and control. There is no relationship between sex acts and rape other than the body parts. Early sexual activity does not lead to rape. The need to control others leads to rape.

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