This is a response to Charles’s post on the same subject. I disagree with him on a fair number of points, so I’m going to talk here. You should probably read his post before you read mine.
I agree, absolutely, that media and culture teach us not to rape.
I think that they teach us not to stranger rape. They teach us not to violently rape, not to corner people in dark alleys or ambush them in the shower. They teach us not to molest kids, or to watch people while they’re changing, or to follow people through malls without their knowledge and then to their homes, breathing heavily all of the while.
I also think that media and culture don’t teach us not to rape.
They don’t teach us not to ply people with alcohol. They don’t teach us that playful kiss isn’t an acceptable response to “I don’t do goodnight kisses.” They don’t teach us not to say “if you loved me more, you’d have sex with me.” They don’t actually teach us that no really, truly, necessarily means no. In fact, as Charles says sometimes we actually are taught to ply people with alcohol, or to use coercive tactics on partners and potential partners. Every time I read an issue of Cosmo I shake my head because “just try this without asking” is something they suggest nigh constantly.
Not only are we sometimes taught rape, or nonconsensual behavior, but I also think that we’re not taught that friend, acquaintance, partner, and date rape are rape. At least not all of the time. This is to let completely alone coerced consent. To be fair, I think that, regardless of gender, people aren’t taught that these things are rape. The fact of the matter, though, is that these things are rape and they’re, in fact, the more common kind of rape, the kind of rape that we need to talk about more. The fact that, as Charles says, our media education makes it “possible to look at those rapes and declare that they are just a different kind of thing from getting your crush drunk so she’ll finally give in” is even the case renders, for me, the fact that we’re taught not to stranger rape almost irrelevant.