No Means No, Regardless of the Forum

I want to address sexual assault. But not the kind of sexual assault that we normally think of when we hear the words “sexual assault.” We usually think of sexual assault as something physical. But there are other kinds of sexual assault, too.

Many bloggers, particularly female sex bloggers, deal with unwanted online advances, mostly from men. These advances often cross the line from unwanted to downright unacceptable. I’ve written a few posts about people crossing the line when it comes to online chat, and many other bloggers have written about it, too. Epiphora talked about it, Carnivalesq recently posted about it, as did Nadia West. Lilly’s written about it, AAG has too, and so has Margaret. The sheer number of posts by other bloggers that I was able to find in less than 5 minutes of searching should tell you something about the prevalence of this behavior.

However, it wasn’t until this week that something clicked for me, and I began to view this behavior as more than just creepy and inappropriate. I started to see it as a form of sexual assault.

When I say that I do not want to chat, and you continue to message me with sexual statements and questions, you are not hearing my no. That is sexual assault. When I tell you to stop, and you do not, that is sexual assault. When I tell you that I will not chat with you, and you change the wording of the questions to try and get me to answer, that is coercion and manipulation, which are both forms of sexual assault.

Just because you are not physically holding me down does not mean that you are not forcing yourself on me. You are continuing to make sexual advances, despite my protests and my lack of consent. I have not only not given my consent in any way, I’ve flat out told you to stop. If we were physically in the same room and you did not stop forcing sexual advances on me, it would be a clear cut case of rape. So how is you forcing yourself on me in this way any different? It’s not. It’s still unacceptable. It’s still rape, just in a different form.

Just because I blog about sex, or have open and frank talks about sex does not mean that I’m inviting you to ask me sexual questions. It does not mean that I will cyber chat with you. It does not mean that I will send you naked pictures. And assuming that these things are true is the same thing as saying that a rape victim was “leading you on,” “flirting with you,” “wearing a short skirt,” “asking for it,” or “a slut, so what did she expect.” It’s victim-blaming, and places responsibility for your inappropriate and violating behavior on us. No, talking about sex is NOT asking for sexual harassment, nor is it an invitation to treat me like I’m your whore. My blog and frank sex talk in no way excuses your aggressive and unwanted behavior, just like a girl’s short skirt or “slutty” reputation in no way excuses her being raped.

When someone says no, regardless of the forum, listen. When someone ignores every sexual comment you make, stop making them. When someone tries to change the subject, don’t bring it back to the sex talk that they weren’t having in the first place. What kind of person would want to have cyber conversations with someone that is unwilling to reciprocate the talk? Hm… maybe the same kind of person that would want to have sex with someone that has not consented to the act.

Just because you didn’t physically hold someone down and force yourself on them doesn’t mean that you didn’t sexually violate them. And by continuing to force these intrusive and unwelcome questions and statements on non-consenting and unwilling recipients, you’ve violated them just the same. You’ve forced yourself on someone that was non-consenting, which makes you a sexual predator, in any forum.

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  1. ElitzaNo Gravatar
    Posted April 18, 2010 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    HEAR, HEAR. Great post.

  2. Nell GwynneNo Gravatar
    Posted April 18, 2010 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    I won’t lie, one of the main reasons why I don’t blog/tweet/tumble/formspring more specifically about my sexuality is the fear of harassment.
    Which is sad, because people should be able to express themselves without the fear of harassment and threats.

  3. EpiphoraNo Gravatar
    Posted April 18, 2010 at 8:43 pm | Permalink



  4. minaNo Gravatar
    Posted April 18, 2010 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    I agree with everything you have said. One of the greatest tools I use to make people go away is the “block” / “ignore” button. Unfortunately, it’s only great at making people go away on IM or twitter. But, it’s still nice to know I have something to fight back with. *smiles*

  5. GhouldilocksNo Gravatar
    Posted April 19, 2010 at 12:54 am | Permalink


  6. EisnachtNo Gravatar
    Posted April 19, 2010 at 2:54 am | Permalink

    While I think you are right, I would advise against using the term “rape” to describe such behavior. It’s not good to inflate the use of “rape”, but better to keep it for cases of actual, physical rape. This is, I believe, one of the lessons from rape culture: inflation dampens impact. And despite structural similarities, online sexual harassment is not the same as rape. And it seems to me that the reaction of those who experience either are also evidence that the experiences are rather different.

    Calling something that is abusive but less bad than physical rape, “rape” is in a way the same as calling getting a parking ticket rape: It banalizes the terrible, by inflated use of its name in case that are (sometimes quite a lot) less bad.

    • Britni TheVadgeWigNo Gravatar
      Posted April 19, 2010 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      Who are you to say what’s “less bad” than physical rape? Because the thing is, when this shit happens to me, it triggers me. And it’s traumatizing. And I’ve had flashbacks. So, no, it’s not “less bad.” And me telling someone that their unwanted advances are rape-y is NOT the same thing as calling getting a parking ticket rape.

      • dmfNo Gravatar
        Posted April 19, 2010 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

        again we must be subjected to Eisnacht’s fascistic view on language…

  7. CarnivalesqNo Gravatar
    Posted April 19, 2010 at 5:12 am | Permalink

    This is getting ridiculous.

    It’s so prevalent. :(

  8. EveNo Gravatar
    Posted April 19, 2010 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    Oh, I’d never thought of it that way before! I agree with what you said. I had to deal with that once in the form of a guy who wouldn’t stop texting me sexually explicit things and trying to convince me to sleep with him until I had repeated 50 dozen times that, “I have a boyfriend now, we’re monogamous, I’m not interested, and you’re bothering me!”

  9. BobFNo Gravatar
    Posted April 19, 2010 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Since I began online dating many years ago, I’ve had some interesting experiences. But none that come close to the stories I hear of what women must endure from idiotic men. When I read some of the IM’s some of you get, I wonder about the mental capacity and lack of human feeling that must be going on in their pea-sized brains. But then I wonder why it is that such messages happen. Do they work?

    As I have written on Twitter and my site, Internet dating for an older man such as myself is work. The problem I face as an older man is that I can write the most intelligent and thoughtful opening message I can come up with; I can weave my words to show that I have read and relate to her profile description; that I can show that I am a decent sort of man and that, yes, I am interested in knowing more and exploring the possibility of sexual discourse. But these thoughtful, well written messages go out into the cyberspace … and they are gone forever. No reply is almost without question the most likely result. None. Not a single acknowledgment that I have spent up to a half hour working on the message sent.

    So I do wonder if the better approach is not the shotgun, as opposed to the highly targeted rifle I usually work with. The fact that so many women are barraged with senseless, crude invitations makes me think that the guys sending those messages must be getting something they want. I’m not sure what that may be, but we all hear (not saying I believe it) how women want the “bad boy” and not the ‘nice guy” for their sexual exploration.

    That is not who I am however. I am a decent man who has a desire to expand his sexual experiences. I probably “give up” too easily. I hear a hint of a “no” and I am gone or at least pull back from the sexual banter. IRL this means that I tend to have a lot of woman friends and few lovers. Online, it means I seldom get to the DM’s on Twitter or to hot IM sessions. I have been there, but it is more often the exception rather than the rule.

  10. PixieNo Gravatar
    Posted April 19, 2010 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    This, so much.

  11. Ms.InconspicuousNo Gravatar
    Posted April 19, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Yes. This.

    Every time I consider returning to blogging, I remind myself of all the dreck I used to get and I reconsider. (Oh, and the generally rude, inconsiderate and sometimes hateful comments and emails too. Sheesh.)

    I can understand the erroneous-but-prevalent thought that the way to relate to a blogger talking about sex is with sex, but the come-ons and assumptions are just… strange. One gets pigeonholed by the reader–and they think that all you are is sex, and that you’re available because that’s what you write about. It’s insulting and tiresome, and it makes one incredibly wary.

  12. alanaNo Gravatar
    Posted April 20, 2010 at 1:37 am | Permalink

    I’m not gonna lie, my first reaction was in line with Eisnacht’s (though I wouldn’t have said it in quite the same way). Honestly, I had a visceral reaction against the idea that someone harassing you was the same as our physical rapes.

    But then I started to wonder why I felt that way. Is it because I genuinely believe that sexual harassment is somehow less traumatizing than rape? No I don’t and I DO believe that sexual harassment is a form of sexual assault. So do I believe that sexual assault is more acceptable than rape? No of course not. So what was it? I consider emotional abuse as bad as physical abuse so why is it my instinct to disagree with what you said? Well, considering the fact we’re bombarded with messages that women secretly love being harassed and that women are the gate keepers of sex, I’m gonna go with rape culture on this one. How many times has the rape of a child been reduced to the term “sexual assault” or sexual harassment been considered part of the working woman’s experience? While I do think being gang-raped is worse than online sexual harassment, this isn’t an all or nothing tally board where only the worst offenses are counted as truly considered being called rape. They are both wrong. And both reduce women to empty shells of people where the only thing that matters is their ability to be docile and please men.

    Just another lesson that rape culture is as prevalent as we know it to be and even the best of us can not even notice it.

    • alanaNo Gravatar
      Posted April 20, 2010 at 1:39 am | Permalink

      Oh and by “best of us” I meant myself (just in case that wasn’t clear lol).

    • Britni TheVadgeWigNo Gravatar
      Posted April 20, 2010 at 1:50 am | Permalink

      It wasn’t something I had even considered until recently, as I said in my post. Like, how many times do I have to say no? I should only have to say it once. And when I open my email to a picture of some dude’s cock that I didn’t ask for or want to see, how is that really any different than some guy exposing himself to me on the subway? It really isn’t.

      • PrettyPrettyPrincessNo Gravatar
        Posted April 20, 2010 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

        You’re right, it isn’t different from getting flashed. Unsolicited cock pix (or TEXTS, on my IPHONE, where it flashes on the screen and my coworkers can see it) are really jarring.

  13. SarahbearNo Gravatar
    Posted April 20, 2010 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    I agree with this.

    I understand how people could think that online interactions wouldn’t have as much of an impact as physical ones. It’s the same line of thinking that goes along with online relationships not being taken seriously and such. People like to think of the internet as less ‘real’. But it is very real. So real that online harassment has caused people to hurt or even kill themselves. I don’t think it’s fair at all to suggest that sexual harassment online can’t be equated to the kind that’s done in person. Harassment is harassment is harassment. It’s all damaging and uncalled for, no matter what forum.

    Excellent post.

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  1. By Rape-apology and fame privilege « Pussy Goes Grrr on April 19, 2010 at 1:16 am

    [...] sexuality). I’ve been called a whore and a slut for my sexuality. I experience these things and so do countless other women. It is [...]

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