ETA: After a recent discussion with someone close to the person this letter was addressed to, I’m satisfied that the person in question has learned a valuable lesson and therefore does not need to be singled out by name any further. My entire intention in writing this letter was to try to educate, not to shame, so with that in mind, I am removing the person’s name.
Dear [Name Redacted],
Today, I saw the videos you posted where you “pranked” teenage girls by running up behind them, grabbing them around the waist, and then running away with them while they were trying to get into VidCon. I’m one of the people who was instantly upset and disgusted by your behavior, especially after a girl screamed at you to stop and you laughed at her and refused, and then even more when three girls stood up to you and told you that it was wrong to touch girls without their permission, and you argued with them.
I, along with many of my friends, began discussing your video on Twitter. None of us had difficulty understanding how your “prank” was wrong. Or why it was upsetting. You, on the other hand, posted this tweet:
People have no sense of humor these days… Or no when to shut their trap
Well, I not only refuse to shut my trap, I’m going to tell you why what you did isn’t funny. It’s called “rape culture,” and you’re perpetuating it.
1. What you did is illegal. It is ILLEGAL. It’s called battery. You can read an involved legal definition here, but the summary is this:
At common law, an intentional unpermitted act causing harmful or offensive contact with the “person” of another.
Battery is concerned with the right to have one’s body left alone by others.
Battery is both a tort and a crime. Its essential element, harmful or offensive contact, is the same in both areas of the law.
You did not ask those girls for their permission. Your actions were offensive. You committed battery, and when you were called on it, both by a girl you’d grabbed and by the three who calmly tried to explain to you that you couldn’t touch another person without their consent, you laughed it off and later claimed that the girls who weren’t okay with your unpermitted act upon their bodies had no sense of humor.
2. Let’s talk about having a sense of humor. Many of the girls you grabbed laughed. I’m sure you thought that meant everyone found your prank hilarious. Here’s something to think about. Psychologists have classified five different kinds of laughter. The one you heard when you grabbed strangers and ran with them is called nervous laughter. According to the article I linked to, nervous laughter is our body’s subconscious effort to calm down in stressful situations. Those girls weren’t thinking “Hey, how fun!! I’m being manhandled by a complete stranger who is running away with me while no one around me raises a finger to help! What a great time I’m having!”
They were subconsciously buying themselves time to try to calm down and figure out what was happening and how to handle it. It’s why victims of rape often laugh while telling the police what just happened to them. They don’t find it funny. They can’t control their reaction. They are at the mercy of their subconscious.
3. What about the girl who didn’t laugh? Who screamed “F*ck, f*ck, get off me!” while you ignored her obvious distress and continued to do as you pleased to her body? You acted as though she had no right to be upset. What that shows is a fundamental ignorance about what you are entitled to. I’ll spell it out for you. You are entitled to touch your own body in whatever way you please. You are allowed to touch the things that you own, either things that were given to you or that you purchased. You are entitled to touch other people’s bodies IF they consent to it first, and ONLY to the extent that they allow. Anything else is not only illegal, it is traumatic.
That girl was terrified and then angry. And it wasn’t because she lacked a sense of humor.
None of those girls “lacked a sense of humor.” Some may have been a victim of abuse or rape. One in three girls has, so odds are you actually traumatized several of the girls you grabbed. (Some heartbreaking statistics in case you’re interested.) Do you know what a trigger is? A trigger is something that reminds someone of a traumatic past event and brings up the same feelings of helplessness and fear all over again.
You had no right to be a trigger. You had no right to take what you were not entitled to take. You can claim that this was a prank and all in good fun, but let’s flip the parameters of the prank. What if you decided to pull a prank where you grabbed girl’s purses and ran off with them? Would you still defend yourself when the girls got angry that you’d taken their belongings without permission? Would you tell them they just had no sense of humor? Or would you clearly understand that taking someone’s belongings as if you’re trying to steal from them would cause anger and rightfully so? How is a girl’s body less valuable than her purse?
Or how about if we gender flip the prank? If you grabbed men around the waist and tried to run away with them and they punched you for it, would you argue that they simply had no sense of humor? I bet you wouldn’t try that prank on men in the first place. It would never occur to you to do so, because you could easily imagine the painful consequences to yourself if you did. It never occurred to you that young girls would put up a fight, and that’s why you thought this prank would be a good idea. The fact that you don’t even believe those girls had the RIGHT to put up a fight brings me to my last point.
4. I want you to understand what rape culture is and how you helped to perpetuate it. You can read more about it here, but the basic definition of rape culture is this:
Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.
I’ve already told you that statistically, one in three girls will be raped or will suffer sexual abuse. One in three. So yes, we live in an environment where rape is prevalent. As for living in a society where sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and pop culture, we need only to look at the rape victim in Stuebenville, Ohio who has been told everything from “you were drinking so you asked for it” to “you agreed to stay back alone so you asked for it” to “you were wearing a short skirt so you asked for it.” That sort of response is the NORM, not the oddity. Women are taught that when a man forces himself on our bodies, whether that means he sexually assaults us or whether that means he grabs us from behind and starts carrying us away from our friends, we are not supposed to get mad. We are not supposed to complain. We are supposed to take the joke. To show that we have a sense of humor. To look carefully at our own actions, at what we were wearing, at if we were drinking, because we are probably the cause, and even if we aren’t the cause, it’s really no big deal.
See the last part of the rape culture definition? The phrase that says rape culture creates a society that disregards women’s rights and safety?
That’s what you did.
You disregarded the rights and the safety of those girls. You decided you were entitled to touch them, and so you did. When confronted with anger, you brushed it aside and told them to take a joke. You marginalized a discussion of consent and permission and publicly stated that people need to either learn how to take a joke or learn how to keep their traps shut.
That behavior is unacceptable.
Girls are not here for you to touch and take and marginalize and terrorize and order around. You do not have that right. We do not need to learn how to take a joke. YOU need to learn to keep your hands and your body to yourself unless you have our permission. We do not need to keep our traps shut. When you act like a misogynistic douchebag, we have the right to tell you so. If you don’t like hearing our anger at your actions, then choose better actions.
Rape culture isn’t funny. Scaring girls, triggering panic, and brushing off their anger isn’t funny. I hope you grow from this. I hope you’re mature enough to take responsibility and say that you didn’t think your actions through, that there’s no defense (legal or otherwise), and that you intend to never behave like you’re entitled to touch another girl without her permission again.
And because I’m serious about you hearing this from me, I’ll be tweeting you a link to this letter.