Dear Cosmopolitan magazine:
It was with some trepidation that I read an article on your website, A New Kind of Date Rape. My wariness, prior to reading, was based on the byline of the article: Casual hookups, mixed signals, and alcohol play a part in a confusing form of sexual assault. Here, everything you need to know about what some people call gray rape.
The idea of a ‘gray area’ when it comes to rape and sexual assault is a dangerous one. There is no undefined area between consensual and non-consensual sexual activity, and for you to publish that idea in such a widespread magazine is, amongst other things, grossly irresponsible. In a society that still has such widespread misogyny, on the back of a worldwide movement of SlutWalks that has brought the message “Yes means yes, no means no” to the forefront of the general public, to publish an article perpetuating the myth that there are ‘degrees’ of consent is, frankly, disturbing.
What especially horrified me, though, is that in the first story in this article, Alicia* clearly says “no” twice. The idea that someone who says no to sex—more than once—and is ignored could fall into a ‘gray area’ is indicative of the types of misconceptions around rape and sexual assault.
A magazine with such a wide readership as yours does have a responsibility to its readers. Perhaps instead of perpetuating some of the more dangerous parts of rape culture, you could try debunking a few? Write an article about active consent. Write an article about how police treat victims of sexual assault—quizzing them on their dress, their drink, their sexuality and sexual history; and how they only bother doing that much if it’s a woman assaulted by a man. Write an article, for once, on what sexual assault really is.
But please, please, no more articles about the ‘gray area’ between consensual sex and rape. That’s victim blaming. That’s rape culture. That’s damaging.