Women's Issues

The Issue of “Not Rape”


Over at Racialicious, a lively site that describes itself
as “a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture,” there is an essay that is very much worth reading about the issue of what author Latoya Peterson describes as “Not Rape.”

(The essay is excerpted from a new anthology published this month called Yes Means Yes.)

Peterson writes about incidents that she and many of girls she grew up with experienced as teenagers when they were on the receiving end of actions that were not rape per se, yet were in most of the instances she mentions, clearly assault, and in all of the cases, traumatizing to the girls involved.

Yet, also in nearly every case the girls felt they were somehow to blame, so never told an adult.

Peterson thinks back on a particular “not rape” that happened to her—and its unusually calamitous aftermath. She wonders if things would have played out differently if only she had felt confident enough to report the boy who was the perpetrator.

Here’s a short clip from her story:

My friends and I confided in each other, swapping stories, sharing out pain, while keeping it all hidden from the adults in our lives. After all, who could we tell? This wasn’t rape – it didn’t fit the definitions. This was Not rape. We should have known better. We were the ones who would take the blame. We would be punished, and no one wanted that. So, these actions went on, aided by a cloak of silence.

For me, Not rape came in the form of a guy from around the neighborhood. I remember that they called him Puffy because he looked like the rapper Sean “Puffy” Combs. He was friends with a guy I was friends with, T. I was home alone on hot summer day when I heard a knock on the patio door. I peeked through the blinds and recognized Puffy, so I opened the door a few inches…..

You’ll find the rest here.

These issues are not easy to talk about, but Peterson’s story is a reminder that, if we haven’t already, we need to have frank discussions of this nature with our daughters.

It’s important.

I say this from personal experience.


PS: Blogger Browne Molyneux who flagged Peterson’s essay for me points out that it calls creepily to mind the Orange County gang rape case that was back in the news last week at former OC Sheriff Mike Carona’s trial.


  • I’m surprised that this didn’t spark comments. Guys understand “noooo” with sly encouragement versus “NO!” meaning that’s it. There’s no mistaking the difference.

    I agree that moms and dads need to train their daughters about avoiding difficult situations and to raise their sons to respect women. However, it is difficult to teach girls to share their humiliating experiences, just as it was for former choir boys to discuss what happened to them. But, until more is said about this, the predators will keep trying and getting away with it.

  • I also think wood that lots of people don’t realize that something is wrong. I think everyone needs to be educated on what is or is not ok. It sounds silly, but if certain things happen over and over again then how would you know it was wrong.


Leave a Comment