There’s No Sex in Your Violence.

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Part of me feels like since I’ve never been raped, I somehow don’t have the right to address this.

But I don’t have to have experienced rape to know that there’s a world of difference between pleasurable, consensual sex and being tortured while you are passed out.

Here’s the thing, with all the discussion about Steubenville and the insanity of both the media responses and the internet commenting, we seem to have forgotten one key point.

This is not about sex.

Maybe that bears repeating:

This is not about sex.

This is not about anyone’s sexual choices, not even the boys in question. This is not a situation where a couple had too much to drink and had regrets about their sexual choices afterward. This is not something that happened because the boys were crushing on this girl and wanted to be with her.

This is about violence. This is about power over someone weaker or unable to fight back.

These actions come from the same well of depravity that fuels childhood bullies and adult sociopaths.

What horrifies me more than the choices these boys made is the reactions far and wide in the media as well as all over social media. In a particularly stomach-turning roundup, Buzzfeed shared the following reactions from Facebook and Twitter:

And if the pack mentality reactions of strangers isn’t bad enough, let’s not forget all of the witnesses who were present and did nothing. If we wanted to truly make a difference here, for this community and for our society, we would hold these people accountable.

When we, as a society, look at this and see just another news story, we are accountable.

When parents and schools teach children to prize success over empathy, they are accountable.

When we breed a generation of sociopaths by not teaching our children to value and protect vulnerability instead of attacking it, we are accountable.

When we refuse to teach our children about sexuality in a loving, healthy way, but allow them to be immersed in violent media, we are accountable.

This is not about a girl being a slut, unless while I wasn’t looking unconsciousness somehow became a hallmark of sluttiness. This isn’t even solely about a few boys who did the unthinkable. This is about us. This is about the fact that “We live in a world where we have to hide to make love, while violence is practiced in broad daylight.” This is about the fact that we teach our boys (and girls) that weakness is the biggest flaw they can have, so when they see it—they attack it.

We look at the gang rape on the bus in India and are horrified, but when it happens in our country, the girl was “clearly a slut.”

Part of me didn’t want to write about this. I’m tired of thinking about it. It angers and saddens me. The public reactions anger and sadden me even more. But until we are angry enough and sad enough about this to change the cultural perception of rape, we need to keep talking about it.

This isn’t someone else’s problem; this is our problem.

{Infographic Courtesy of Ultra Violet}

It’s time to change the conversation.

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

~ Edmund Burke


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anonymous Mar 24, 2013 9:32pm

The fact that this is even a dispute over whether it is 'wrong" or not is horrifying. There is no circumstance what so ever that it would EVER be o.k. for someone to deserve this sort of treatment. Our men and boys are deeply screwed up and it is time to step forward and make them be held accountable for their actions, but more importantly to set the bar higher in the first place.

anonymous Mar 23, 2013 8:07am

I have seen way too many girls exhibit this kind of behavior….out of control , into the 'getting wasted' mentality and obviously never taught anything different. This woman was not an innocent victim and she, her parents, and other parents like hers should be taken to task. I almost feel as if the girl wielded the same kind of stomach-churning arrogance and "power" the next day when she threatened the boys for what she now suspected they had done. But the boys get crucified and the girl is just about made into a heroine. something is wrong with this picture. I am NOT condoning rape! I am just saying lets really look at responsibility and consequences before we start calling the wrong people sociopaths.

    Kate Bartolotta Mar 23, 2013 9:48pm

    None of us are innocent, but none of us deserve to be raped.

    She made some poor choices that put her in an unsafe situation. I'm glad for her sake she was able to summon some type of inner strength to confront her attackers.That she was able to do that will probably go a long way towards helping her heal.

    I don't think she's been made out to be a heroine anywhere in the press—but a victim, yes. The boys get "crucified"? Well, they sexually assaulted a woman who was passed out. There really isn't another way to look at that. They took pictures of it. Laughed about it. Tweeted about her seeming like she was dead.

    From all accounts, she was also drugged (roofied) not just wasted of her own accord, but even if she was, being unconscious is not ever an invitation or a free pass to be raped or assaulted.

anonymous Mar 21, 2013 10:46pm

i heard she'd been roofied: drugged unconscious, rather than drinking herself unconscious. whatever the cause of the unconsciousness, this should NEVER have happened. may her trust in human nature somehow be restored. i wish for her a community of those able to provide steadfast love and compassion, and i wish that she can somehow reestablish a sense of safety in her life. goddammit, what a mess

    Kate Bartolotta Mar 22, 2013 4:38am

    Yes, I heard that as well. I'm not sure which was true, but either way!! No one deserves that.

anonymous Mar 21, 2013 6:17pm

Thank you for this.

anonymous Mar 21, 2013 5:39pm

I wonder if part of the problem is not having the language to separate "consequence" from "deserves" (that is, not wearing a seatbelt does not mean someone "deserves" to get in an accident any more than driving a car or walking by a road would). I don't know (and clearly most media doesn't know) the language to express "protect yourself" while at the same time showing contempt for the rapist and not the victim.

I also wonder about the motivation behind slut-shaming; I have used it to excuse wanting "the slut" (and the power over "the slut" I'd have (the term implies not only an intent but a power-dynamic), and to try to control the situation after it happened, but I think more is there for culture generally (beyond just fear of sex and women).

    Kate Bartolotta Mar 21, 2013 7:38pm

    Yes, I hear that Paul. And I would completely agree that we all (men and women) have the responsibility to behave mindfully and use reasonable precautions to keep ourselves safe. Getting blackout drunk isn't a safe way to behave, but it also doesn't mean someone deserves to be raped.

anonymous Mar 21, 2013 5:13pm

Sex certainly is a component of rape and to declare otherwise is ludicrous and off target. Rape is the misuse of sexuality and sexual body parts in addition to violence, control, anger etc. It's a hate crime, and a sex crime. These boys (and most) would probably never ever do such activities to other boys/men. They didn't just beat her up and toss her around. They didn't just try to make her eat aw onions against her will. Rape is a sex crime. It involves a specific gender and sex and often an attempt to degrade ones sex and sexuality. It's criminal to lump all rapes into having "nothing to do with sex". An utterly mindless statement. In this headline case in particular. It was an absolute defiling of a female gender, and sexuality and sex, acted out sexually. Anal sex, oral sex, hand jobs and masturbation were all included in the acts that night. I'm not even sure anyone even punched or choked or hit her (aside from dragging)- which would be pure violence/anger/control. The boys did none of the sexual acts on each other- but only to her. If it wasn't about sex, why rape? If it's purely about control, well, umm she was passed out…and they didn't just tie her up or beat her up (in fact they didn't even do that). They effed her up sexually. Sex takes on many forms from love to violence to power and everything in between. It IS a component in rape. At times, a very HUGE component. Do everyone a favor and stop using this trendy declaration. This is a very poor, trite article.

    Kate Bartolotta Mar 21, 2013 7:35pm

    Sorry you find it to be a poor, trite article.

    If you look at the conversation in the media on this, as well as many other highly publicized rapes, you often see people try to turn it into a relational issue, as the twitter comments would indicate. The victim is a "slut" or somehow involved in the commission of the crime against her.

    Rape is not an expression of sexuality—perhaps that would be a more precise statement. If you look at any psychological or sociological studies on rapists or any information from rape crisis and prevention centers, this is a key distinction. Men don't rape because they are aroused. They rape because they find dominating and humiliating another human being gratifying.

    And yes, many men are raped every year as well—and not just in prison, and typically not by men that self-identify as gay. Women of every age, race, ethnicity and background are raped. It isn't something that happens because women are attractive or promiscuous.

    While the acts committed are "sexual acts" this is not a trendy declaration by any means, and it certainly isn't mindless. If we are going to mindfully address this, we need to look at the underlying causes here. It's well accepted within the psychological community that rapists do not rape because they are aroused or were led on or any other societal stereotypes, but it is the act domination (and often violence) that stimulate them. Rape is violence that results in sexual gratification for the perpetrators.

    Whether you are beating someone with your fists or anally raping them, both are violent acts. They did not have to "punch or choke" her in order for this to be violent. This is not about a group of teens experimenting sexually. To quote one of the sites I listed above:

    Rape is not a form of sex, it’s a form of violence. Rape is no more a form of sex than beating someone with a baseball bat is a form of sport.

      anonymous Mar 23, 2013 11:33pm

      Kate thanks for replying.
      There are countless websites that readily show up to support rape is all about violence and control. They prop up like how diet can't do anything for tumors or cancer….but if you dig a little past the surface and popular thought, you often find broader research and contributions (as I am sure you know too).
      Blanket statements like "rape has nothing to do with sex" has become quite the leading thought to cover date rape, gang rape, male on male rape, etc. While this may be applicable, it isn't always, or always that simple or accurate. (and there are bottomless trends in psychology).

      "Men don't rape because they are aroused." "Women of every age, race, ethnicity and background are raped. It isn't something that happens because women are attractive or promiscuous."

      Men with a deviant sexual mindset mixed with misplaced anger or control issues can rape. This is why at times it is sex that is used as the weapon. That is also why masturbation isn't satisfying. "Aroused" doesn't inherently imply in love or attraction. So- it means nothing if she's freshly showered, young, old, ethnicity etc as you state (although some rapist may differ, actually). The root of all rape is not inherently just violence or control. There may be at times, a sexual component. Not the way sexuality is for maybe you and me, or our friends. Sex (obviously) is biological, hormonal, complex, chemical, emotional, and does not need to involve care, love or attraction to occur. In normal society we project what we think is needed, like love, care, respect for ourselves and therefor make the distinction for rape. But on a basic level, sex doesn't need these things to simply occur. Hence the rape. And hence the sexual component.

      There is a little bit of psychology that is revisiting the various forms of rape and why men feel compelled to rape beyond the current reduction of control or power. And that does not mean this has anything to do with thinking she's a slut, or reverting back to it's because she's too attractive.

      So to lump date rape, gang rape, stranger rape, incest, drug rape etc. as having the same psychological patterns and roots simply isn't accurate. We need to be sensitive and aware with the word "rape" and what rape means in the given context, and making such generalizations about it.

    anonymous Mar 22, 2013 11:36am

    Do you really believe that men do not get raped? By straight men?

    Rape is about control and dominance, particularly of the non-consensual kind (which is where the violence part comes in). Sexual acts are merely the vehicle by which that control and dominance are established. Are you really suggesting that what happened to her wasn't "violent" because you're "not even sure anyone even punched or choked or hit her"?

    Saying rape isn't about sex isn't trendy. It's psychology.

    Here's some (more) literature that might help you acknowledge this point of view:

    "Rape is not about sex." a%2…..
    "Myth: Rape is sex."

      anonymous Mar 23, 2013 11:47pm

      Did you read what I actually wrote, or what you wanted to read? "Rape is the misuse of sexuality and sexual body parts in addition to violence, control, anger etc." Guess ya missed that sentence. She's wasn't choked, or punched. But there was plenty of violence. Sexual violence. Raging teenage hormonal sexual violence paired with uncontrolled ignorance, blatant chauvinism and skewed sense of power. As Gosling suggests, our culture has an extremely messed up view with gender/sexuality/love/anger/violence (I believe that was cited in this very article…suggesting that sex has nothing to do with this….but…then she used Goslings example…..). I understand rape may serve as the baseball bat for a violent act. Maybe. In some rapes. But we cannot lump or reduce all rape like this. It's complex, and we are all responsible for how we view all aspects of gender and sexual relations. And as you mentioned, men get raped too. There isn't just one kind of rape with just a couple of reasons to do it.

anonymous Mar 21, 2013 2:27pm

I was appalled at a conversation I was having at work about this; my co-worker states that the victim holds some accountability because she let herself become so drunk that she was unconscious. I countered that NO ONE has the right what so ever to molest, attack or rape *anyone* in any circumstance. I struggle with this idea however- More than likely your adolescent is going to become inebriated at some point and most certainly when you aren't there… Do we need to instill more power into a buddy system? Is this how we have to raise our children? That you are never safe? Believe me, I'm terrified of the idea of what my kids will do when they are growing in teenage years and experimenting with alcohol and maybe drugs… I remember I had put myself in a position of very high vulnerability once or twice while growing up, and thank my lucky stars that the boys I had been around weren't scumbags.

anonymous Mar 21, 2013 2:08pm

Thx for writing these truths.

anonymous Mar 21, 2013 1:46pm

Awesome Kate! Thank you for writing this. It's a conversation that has been overlooked one too many times.

anonymous Mar 21, 2013 1:40pm

Thank you for writing this. The fact that this had to even be addressed saddens me so deeply. As a woman who has been degraded by rape in similar circumstances to this young woman from Steubenville, I hope that she is able to move forward, regain her trust in humanity, and keep her faith in love.

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Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is a wellness cheerleader, yogini storyteller, and self-care maven.
She also writes for Huffington Post, Yoga International, Mantra Yoga+ Health, a beauty full mind, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds.
Kate’s books are now available on and Barnes &

She is passionate about helping people fall in love with their lives.

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