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Cosmo Magazine and the bullsh*t that is “Grey Rape”

August 28th, 2007     by Stacey May Fowles     Comments


This issue is currently a hot one out in blog-land so I thought I’d weigh in. Cosmopolitan magazine (a bastion of feminist values, I know) has an article this month called “A New Kind of Date Rape,” in which they define what they’re calling “Grey Rape,” an act that is “a kind of sex that falls somewhere between consent and denial.”

Via this article the author (Laura Session Stepp) makes the distinction between “gray rape cases” and “more clear-cut date rapes,” despite the fact that every woman cited in the article was clearly forced into sex (which is rape, duh!) This new definition of “sort-of-but-not-really-maybe-rape” is troubling because it further perpetuates a blaming of the victim and attempts to excuse a crime that is clearly a crime. In many ways, Cosmo is saying “it’s not rape if you agreed to make out,” “it’s not rape if you had a lot of alcohol,” or even better (worse,) “it’s not rape if you passed out.”

It’s not like I’m surpised Laura Session Stepp wrote this article, because she also wrote Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both, where she first used the term. I’m not surprised but I’m still disgusted. Feministing had this to say:

(The term Grey Rape) creates a new category that suggests it’s not-quite-rape if you say “no” while drunk, or you say “no” to intercourse after you’ve said “yes” to making out. To not straight-up call it rape diminishes it and excuses it. It goes from a crime to simply impolite or bad behavior.

Thankfully there’s this: The NYC Media Response Project Letter Writing Campaign, “There’s No Such Thing as Grey Rape.” They’re calling it “a Call to Action against misinformation about rape spread by Cosmopolitan magazine in their September issue in an article called, A New Kind of Date Rape.” Here’s why they think you should get involved:

If this term gets popularized, particularly by the same political segment that attacked the documentation of acquaintance rape in the eighties, victims will be even less likely to come forward or seek help.

And I agree. So call Cosmo on their bullsh*t and email them at

Tags: activist report, in my opinion..., media savvy

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