Those Drugs Were for Rape, Not Sex

The bombshell news rocking social media on Monday afternoon was the revelation that Bill Cosby himself had admitted to drugging young women before sexually assaulting them. The news, unearthed in court documents from 2005, set off a loud cry of public condemnation. Putting aside the incredibly messed up fact that more than 40 women have accused him of just such attacks over the course of several decades and people still continued to defend him until today, even this collective outrage is stomach turning. Why? Check out these headlines:

fox variety independent wt TIME

Have you spotted the problem yet? No? Tell me – where do you see the word “rape” in any of those headlines?

As the story broke, news outlets pounced, each wanting to get a hot take up. In their haste, they relied on Cosby’s characterization of his intent: he wanted to have sex. But he didn’t have sex with those women. He drugged them, taking away their ability to enthusiastically consent. That’s not sex. That’s rape. Calling it by any other name is an insult to the courageous women who came forward with their stories, not to mention every other person out there who has endured a similar attack.

Language matters. It frames our understanding of the world around us. And as long as we allow ourselves to deride the significance of consent by referring to sexual violence as sex, we’re never going to get to a place where the crime is treated as it should be. We will provide cover to those who seek to find excuses for the inexcusable. We will allow for the shaming of survivors who were never to blame for what happened to them but are continuously forced to defend themselves against such disparagement. We will foster an environment where those who have been assaulted don’t feel safe seeking out justice.

This is rape culture. And most people won’t bat an eye.

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