When Will “Ask Amy” Answer to Rape Advice?
Amy Dickinson, the Chicago Tribune's advice columnist behind "Ask Amy," is accustomed to spouting off opinions about anything from avoiding discussing serious issues with women who are menstruating to outing gays. On one issue, however, Dickinson has been conspicuously silent. On Nov. 27, Dickinson published a column advising a rape victim to figure out whether she was truly sexually assaulted by consulting her rapist. The advice was received . . . poorly.
Since then, Dickinson has published five more columns. In each one, Dickinson has printed letters from readers taking issue with the columnist's opinions on people who are late, people who drink wine while babysitting, and people who five funny Christmas gifts. So why hasn't she published any of the letters penned about her rape column?
I don't know how many letters Dickinson has received over the column. I do know this: So far, the column has received 122 comments on the Tribune site alone. It's been critiqued across the Web, from Shakesville to Think Progress. Dickinson's Twitter account, @askingamy, has received a flood of tweets requesting a follow-up on the column.
But perhaps Dickinson is a traditionalist. Thankfully, at least one of Amy's critics phrased her dismay over the column in a good old fashioned letter-to-the-columnist. Jenny Knopinski published what she called an "angry letter" she wrote to Dickinson on her blog. Actually, it's a very respectful and constructive letter addressing Dickinson's outdated model of consent:
In your response to the young woman who was raped at a frat party you repeated the old saying, “No means no.” This is an outdated model of consent. Women do not exist in a state of perpetual consent to sex, which they must cancel out by saying “no” in order to prevent a man from having sex with them. Consent means an enthusiastic “yes” from both parties, not just a lack a “no.” I hope you will use your column to remind people that yes, and only yes, means yes. Victim made it clear she didn’t want to have sex, and she certainly did not enthusiastically consent to sex. Regardless of the perpetrator’s criminal liability, she is a victim of sexual assault and should seek help for dealing with that trauma.
Dickinson has neglected to publish this letter, or any other letter offering a constructive critique of Dickinson's advice. Meanwhile, Dickinson devotes precious column space to readers like this one, who feel the need to share their perspectives on tardiness with the world:
Dear Amy: I'm responding to letters in your column about people who are late.
I was a person who was always late to family functions and plans with friends. Eventually someone told me that chronic lateness is a sign of aggression.
I realized that this is a way of telling people that you really don't care enough about them to make the effort to be on time.
I love my family and friends, and I haven't been late in a long time.
So, when are we going to hear from readers who care about other stuff—like rape? I have an e-mail 0ut to Dickinson asking her if and when she plans to respond to the criticism. You can write to Dickinson directly at firstname.lastname@example.org