The Sexist

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 Actually, it's a very respectful and constructive letter addressing Dickinson's outdated model of consent:

Dear Amy:

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 This is an outdated model of consent.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.

– D

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 askamy@tribune.com

  • Emily

    I have an advice column addiction. I love reading them. I don't know why. They are basically microcosms of the American experience -- just with a totally asinine bent (usually). When the hard-hitting stuff pops up, it's always interesting to see how different columnists (Ask Amy, Carolyn Hax, Dan Savage, Dear Prudence to name a few) respond.

    I will never again read Amy's column. (huge threat, I know, I know). As a campus anti-sexual assault activist, I was dismayed. Honestly, it made me sick.

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    I've got some advice for you, Amy - have a lobotomy. You're worse than Hax the Hack - didn't she meet her second husband at her first wedding? Sounds like my old flame Nina Burleigh, another fine journalist.

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  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    My advice: Tiger & Rhianna, you two should get together. Chris & Elin, you two likewise.

    Put the batterees together, & the batterers as well. Peace will reign.

    Aloha & mahalo. That'll be $100, you can pay the receptionist on the way out. Visa, Master Card, cash, or check accepted. If you've got a bank account, you've got a therapist.

  • S. White

    The identity of the mysterious Roissy in DC has been revealed! Guess what? He's just a 40-ish schmoe with a bad haircut. Astounding, I know.

    He got more dickish than usual and published pics of the child of one of his commenters, taken from her Myspace. Also posted stills from a porno, implying it was her. Let slip the dogs of blogwar.

    http://ladyraine.wordpress.com/2009/11/23/exposed-roissy-in-dc/

  • http://ladyraine.wordpress.com/ Lady Raine

    Lol.... "S. White" I wondered where all these new people came from to my blog! Thanks for linking me!

    Yes, Mr Jim Wiedmann waged war (apparently) against me about 6 months ago just because he didn't like my comments I'd left on his blog. He posted photos of my son, porn videos and said I was in them (and wasn't), and about 4 other posts dedicated to "Lady Raine".

    I finally got some anonymous emails from readers practically begging me to call him out once and for all. I'm happy to oblige because private investigation is my specialty!

    (And apparently it's Roissy's too because he's a "white collar crime investigator").

    His henchmen have contacted me several times this week asking me to take down the post and saying how "upset and apologetic" Roissy is for ALL the things he's posted about me. That's why he has been removing the posts about me. He thinks that taking them down (after 6 months of damage is done already) will "inspire" me to forgiveness and take MY post down.

    I don't recall making THAT arrangement, lol.

    Anyway....he needs to realize that you don't just go take photos of a random mom and her kid and slander her, her family, her name, and her life JUST for a few more blog reads per day.

    (His "henchmen" also mentioned that Roissy is aware that he used my name because it ups his blog stats significantly when I'm the starring villainness.)

    Anyway....I am far from done making sure he learns how to treat other humans, women, and anyone else he's "sleazed" in his lifetime the way that a person should.

    Needless to say, chauvinists are cowards by nature and at no point did Roissy himself contact me and even attempt apology (not that it would matter). Manning-up is half the battle and that's the problem with modern men (and some of our boys growing up in these times) they've lost their ability to be honorable, disciplined men.

    They've become manipulative, co-dependent trainwrecks like Roissy that live to ruin families, women, children, and weak-willed men who will follow him.

    It's a sad state of affairs and I'm not one to stand by and let it happen so easily!!!

    :)
    Lady Raine

  • Erica

    Lots of anti-Semitism in your blog post, Lady Raine.

    Sounds like he deserved the call-out, but why the bigotry to go along with it?

    Not cool.

  • http://ladyraine.wordpress.com/ Lady Raine

    Erica--

    Read a bit more of me. You'll see I mock every race, creed, and culture (including my own). Nothing antisemitic.....just made a better allegory using "Jimmy-the-Jew".

  • Jessica

    One thing that is troubling to me is that Amy's column is printed in over 100 papers across the country. As far as I can tell, Chicago is the only one that has received as much attention.

    Idaho Stateman: http://www.idahostatesman.com/life/story/987999.html

    Tulsa (with a very disturbing comment from a reader)
    http://www.tulsaworld.com/scene/article.aspx?subjectid=360&articleid=20091127_222_D4_Dampnr259745&rss_lnk=4

    Philly (with some of the worst comments I've seen)
    http://www.philly.com/inquirer/magazine/20091127_Ask_Amy__A_victim__yes__but_was_it_a_rape_.html

    Baltimore Sun
    http://www.baltimoresun.com/features/chi-1127-ask-amynov27,0,6579022,full.column

    Denver Post
    http://www.denverpost.com/askamy/ci_13869018

    More Info on Amy:
    http://www.tmsfeatures.com/bio/amy-dickinson/

    I find it interesting that Chicago received the most comments from enraged readers. I think your column helped get the message out. I do hope she addresses the comments. She was wrong and should apologize to the victim who wrote the letter, but also to all of the other rape victims that probably read her column. If she is in 100 newspapers, think of the number of victims that read this horrible advice. It makes me cringe.

  • http://chalicechick.com CC

    I wrote her personally. She didn't see anything wrong with what she had written. If you'd like a copy of what she sent to me, email me and I will send it to you.

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  • Darren

    Lady Raine is an anti-semite, pure and simple. http://ladyraine.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/stuff-thats-awesome-german-u-boats/

    "It’s not like they were given a choice. Hitler wasn’t a real Democratic guy and I’m soooo tired of the Nazi’s being painted as evil. They were not evil. They were only trying to protect their country and their culture and their people.

    The United States could take a lesson from them in doing the same…..protecting actual Americans instead of immigrants and other pieces of shit.

    ...
    A Nazi soldier is no more evil than your average American Citizen today."

  • http://ladyraine.wordpress.com/ Lady Raine

    Darren--

    You and I already discussed this over at my blog. I don't care about Jews one way or another. Unless one were to break into my home and kidnap my kid (otherwise they're no more offensive than anyone else)

    Yes Darren I said those things and much more, but I find it odd that you ended up commenting that my argument was "fair enough" over at MY blog, but then came here and said the opposite! For shame, Darren!

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