Cosmo renames rape – as not rape

// 29 August 2007

If anyone needed further proof that women’s glossy magazines are part of the problem see Cosmo’s renaming of “date rape” (a problematic enough term because people presume meanings not meant by the term) to “grey rape”. Yes that’s right, get raped by someone you know in a situation which doesn’t show you in the best light (which would of course be wearing a chastity belt and nun’s habit whilst praying and shouting “NO STOP RAPING ME” as loudly as possible) and it’s now, argues Cosmo, to be deemed a “grey” event.

Cosmo, which often portrays itself as a sexually empowered read for the modern woman who can remember what “yes” and “no” mean and use them appropriately, is now pushing the definition of “grey rape” as:

a situation in which they [a woman] never intended to have sex, but wound up forced into it because until that point, they’d been a willing participant. From

Now forgive me if I got something wrong here but any situation of penetration (the law’s marker of rape) without consent, irrespective of the situation surrounding it and where consent has been clearly withheld (althought the new UK laws do put the onus on the man gaining active consent, but sadly judges haven’t implimented this yet) is, well rape. Adding a colour to it does nothing other than suggest it isn’t rape. Which it is.

We even now have a definition of consent (thanks to the Sexual Offences Act 2003) which states:

“A person consents if s/he agrees by choice and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice.” SOA, section 74. From CWASU

Cosmo really seems to have missed the point here, not only does “no mean no” but also “rape is rape” however you want to dress it up. It seems to me Cosm have decided they are going to take on the defences of multiple rapists and argue that sometimes rape isn’t rape it’s a kind of grey area. Which it isn’t. Sadly other “women’s” websites have jumped to the defence of Cosmo, including Jezebel (see here and here for previous coverage of Jezebel which claimed it was being ironic – sorry unless I truly miss the point I can’t see how either of their articles on “grey rape” (here and here) are being ironic) which argues:

it evokes the notion of “shades of gray,” which is to say, the nuance without which empathy would not be possible. I forgave my gray rapist or date rapist or whatever a long time ago, much longer ago than I would have if I had felt myself that night to be in the presence of the OMG PURE EVIL that would be required to commit the sorts of things I’d been used to calling rape in the past. From Jezebel

According to this stream of thought, if we can’t somehow critique the woman (by denigrating her experience as “grey”) then we can’t have empathy. Such poor logic doesn’t even bear reasoning with I’m afraid other than to say it hangs together more poorly than most other logic I’ve seen. It also presupposes that having been raped you are a vengeful bitch for the rest of your life, except we have all seen and known women who have come to peace, if not forgiveness, for things done o them without their consent.

Thankfully Feministing has also covered and critiqued the same story. Comments include pointing out the passivity implicit (and I guess enforced) by this description of “grey rape” – that a woman cannot say no at the point at which she’s uncomfortable if she has previously said yes.

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