Oh Twitter, how much foolishness you bring in to my daily life. This past Friday, comedian/Twitter superstar Lil’ Duval started a Trending Topic: #itaintrape. Scum of all creeds and colors (and both genders) shared their despicable anecdotes about questionable sexual situations:

@CherRay1inamili #ItAintRape if you dont remember it happened” #drunksex

@SolidariusBass #itaintrape if you pay for it first…

@lilduval: #itaintrape if I fly u in

@DatGuyTiquan #itaintrape if I bout you popcorn and a drink… then u Didnt eat it

Most of the tweets I saw on the subject spoke of sex as a required payment for financial investments, though a lot had to do with intoxication. While a lot of people had the knee jerk “OMG! Rape is bad! Doesn’t Lil’ Duval have a daughter? Rape isn’t funny!” reaction (this Global Grind piece is a very well intentioned example), the notion of cash and drunkenness creating implied consent is one that must be explored in a broader context in order to prevent actual rapes, not merely quieting rape jokes.

One of my dear friends is a graduate of Morehouse College. I recall him telling me about a class his freshman year in which the students were given a talk about the importance of getting verbal consent from a young woman before having sex. Many of the boys in his class made jokes and remarked that if she came to the room, she knew what was going down. This attitude is not limited to college students, rappers or comedians.

This is symptomatic of the global rape culture, which the editors of the book “Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape” provide an excellent example of here:

Ben Roethlisberger is the Super-Bowl-winning QB of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Last summer he was in Lake Tahoe for a celebrity golf tournament. While there, he flirted up a female host at Harrahs, the casino hotel where he was staying. Whether or not she voluntarily flirted with him is unknowable – as a rich, high profile celebrity, he knew that it was her job to flirt with him, and so did she. That’s rape culture. When men make choices about what women do with their sexuality, that strengthens the idea that men can control women’s bodies.

The following night, he called her to say his TV wasn’t working – would she come take a look? She couldn’t find a tech person to do it, so she went herself, knowing that she had to do everything possible to keep her celeb guest happy. Once up there, she discovered a perfectly functioning TV. And then, allegedly, Roethlisberger blocked her exit and raped her. That’s rape.

When she reported the attack to Harrah’s security chief Guy Hyder, he declined to investigate and allegedly told her that she was “overreacting” and that “most girls would feel lucky to get to have sex with someone like Ben Roethlisberger.” He also told her to either keep it from their boss at Harrah’s, or to tell their boss they’d had sex voluntarily, in order to keep everybody happy. That’s rape culture. When people in power refuse to take women’s rape charges seriously, it means there are no consequences for rapists, which makes them more free to rape.

Far too many people think that rape is only a matter of knife-wielding thugs in dark alleys or extreme cases of sexual violence against children. However, there are a lot of men (and women) who don’t grasp the notion that a naked woman in their beds is not necessarily a willing participant in sex. A lot of people who think that a woman who sits and enjoys an expensive meal on a man’s dime has thus entered a non-verbal sexual contract. And others who may believe that consent for one sexual act implies consent for a different act (or even a repeat performance of an act that was already performed).

Rape jokes are merely a symptom of a greater problem. And while they trigger reactions in rape victims and desensitize others, to truly fight rape culture, we have to go beyond “Don’t joke about the bad stuff.” We must make it clear that accepting gifts, trips or meals from men does not entitle them to our bodies. We must make it understood that a few simple words- “Do you want to do this?” can be the difference between a case of “blue balls” and a date rape. It’s not enough not to laugh. We have to change the way we act if we want to stop rape from “trending” in real life.

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