Forest of Stories

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[trigger warning: rape & assault]

Some challenge the reality of our rape culture; that is, a culture that enables and excuses rapists, blames the victims, and prevents or impedes prosecution and prevention. I wonder how they can when we’re constantly getting news stories like this one:

A bricklayer is convicted of raping an unconscious woman. The judge at sentencing seems reluctant to have to put him away for 5 years. Here are some quotes:

"I do not regard you as a classic rapist. I do not think you are a general danger to strangers. You are not the type who goes searching for a woman to rape. This was a case where you just lost control of normal restraint."

Pardon me a moment while I vomit.

Excuse me, your grace, does it matter to the victim if she is raped by a stranger? Could it even be worse, somehow, that she knew him? Trusted him enough that she and her friend stayed over at his house and slept on his couch? Perhaps you’re right and he’s not a danger to strangers. Is that supposed to make the women he knows feel any better? Does that lessen the horror for the woman he raped? “just lost control of normal restraint.” Yeah, just. Coulda happened to anybody, eh, judgey? Poor fella, just lost a little control and, bam, violently assaults an unconscious woman. Easy to do, like slipping on a banana peel or forgetting to turn off your car’s headlights or picking up a baseball bat and bludgeoning someone over the head.

Let’s get some more judgey gems:

"She was a pretty girl who you fancied. You simply could not resist. You had sex with her."

This doesn’t require any commentary, does it? We all recognize from these words, uttered to a convicted rapist by his judge, that rape culture is rampant and things are seriously, seriously screwed up?

"could not resist…" Poor men with no ability to control themselves. It must be so, so hard for them to live in a world where they just can’t resist committing violent crimes, no free will, no control of their own bodies whatsoever. Besides, if girls are pretty, they’re practically asking to be raped, right, judgey?

Also, can we please stop using the phrase “had sex with” when talking about rape? He raped her. It was assault. It was violence. He forced himself on an unconscious woman. He did not care about her. There was no possibility of mutual pleasure. This was not an expression of his “fancy,” a way of saying, “hey, you’re pretty and I like you!” Flowers would work for that. A text message perhaps. An invite out to tea. This was a selfish, violent, hurtful attack.

It’s no wonder so many young girls are confused about what sex is. That so many girls view sex as something that happens to them, not something they participate in, when a man can “have sex with” an unconscious woman. No wonder some men feel entitled to do whatever they want to a woman when even a judge talks about rape as though it were a natural consequence of a bloke fancying a lass.

And the thing is, the judge even recognized some of the terrible consequences that came of this otherwise delightful bloke temporarily unable to resist violently assaulting a pretty girl. He said of the victim, “She was clearly upset at the time. The consequences continued. She was unable to work for a while. She has had to take anti-depressants. She has lost her cheerfulness and outgoing spirit.”

Please, let’s talk about sex. About what it is. About what it isn’t. Let’s talk about women, the safety and respect they have a right to expect. Let’s talk about men, their obligation to educate themselves on what sex is and what it definitely is not. And let’s talk about rape. Let’s keep talking about it till there isn’t a judge, police officer, teacher, parent, friend in the world who doesn’t understand so this. Will. Finally. Stop.

Filed under social activism social issues

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A letter to our readers:

Amazon is involved in a commercial dispute with the book publisher Hachette, which owns Little Brown, Grand Central Publishing, and other familiar imprints. These sorts of disputes happen all the time between companies and they are usually resolved in a corporate back room.

But in this case, Amazon has done something unusual. It has directly targeted Hachette’s authors in an effort to force their publisher to agree to its terms.

For the past month, Amazon has been:

—Boycotting Hachette authors, refusing to accept pre-orders on Hachette’s authors’ books, claiming they are “unavailable.”

—Refusing to discount the prices of many of Hachette’s authors’ books.

—Slowing the delivery of thousands of Hachette’s authors’ books to Amazon customers, indicating that delivery will take as long as several weeks on most titles.

As writers—some but not all published by Hachette—we feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want. It is not right for Amazon to single out a group of authors, who are not involved in the dispute, for selective retaliation. Moreover, by inconveniencing and misleading its own customers with unfair pricing and delayed delivery, Amazon is contradicting its own written promise to be “Earth’s most customer-centric company.”

All of us supported Amazon from when it was a struggling start-up. We cheered Amazon on. Our books started Amazon on the road to selling everything and becoming one of the world’s largest corporations. We have made Amazon many millions of dollars and over the years have contributed so much, free of charge, to the company by way of cooperation, joint promotions, reviews and blogs. This is no way to treat a business partner. Nor is it the right way to treat your friends. Without taking sides on the contractual dispute between Hachette and Amazon, we encourage Amazon in the strongest possible terms to stop harming the livelihood of the authors on whom it has built its business. None of us, neither readers nor authors, benefit when books are taken hostage. (We’re not alone in our plea: the opinion pages of both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, which rarely agree on anything, have roundly condemned Amazon’s corporate behavior.)

We call on Amazon to resolve its dispute with Hachette without hurting authors and without blocking or otherwise delaying the sale of books to its customers.

We respectfully ask you, our loyal readers, to email Jeff Bezos, c.e.o and founder of Amazon, at, and tell him what you think. He says he genuinely welcomes hearing from his customers and claims to read all emails from this account. We hope that, writers and readers together, we will be able to change his mind.