The Sexist

Ask Amy to Reader: “How dare you call me a ‘rape apologist'”

Amy Dickinson, "Ask Amy" advice columnist for the Chicago Tribune, has declined to publicly respond to criticism of a column she wrote last month in response to advice-seeker "Victim? In Virgina." You know the one: The column informing a rape victim she was a "victim of your own awful judgment," calling the crime "sex" that "shouldn’t happen" instead of rape, and suggesting that the victim "involve the guy in question" in order to determine whether he raped her or not.

Dickinson has declined to print any of the letters criticizing her response to the rape question, but she has responded personally to one concerned reader. "Did you even read my column?" Dickinson shoots back, before criticizing the reader for not being "more educated, careful, respectful and circumspect" in her criticisms of Dickinson's advice. E-mail exchange after the jump.

Reader writes in:

From: [Redacted]
Sent: Saturday, November 28, 2009 2:33 PM
To: ctc-askamy
Subject: Please pass this on to the rape victim you attacked in your Nov. 27 column

Here is the Virginia code's definition of "Rape";

"A. If any person has sexual intercourse with a complaining witness who is not his or her spouse or causes a complaining witness, whether or not his or her spouse, to engage in sexual intercourse with any other person and such act is accomplished (i) against the complaining witness's will, by force, threat or intimidation of or against the complaining witness or another person, or (ii) through the use of the complaining witness's mental incapacity or physical helplessness, or (iii) with a child under age thirteen as the victim, he or she shall be guilty of rape."

If the lady who wrote to you asking for help never gave consent and thus had sex against her will (see 1) OR if she was too incapacitated by alcohol to legally consent (see 2), she most certainly was raped and she should know that the law is on her side, even if you aren't.

Oh, and you're being talked about here:

Couldn't happen to a nicer rape apologist.

Dickinson responds:

From: ctc-askamy []
Sent: Sat 11/28/2009 3:56 PM
To: [Redacted]
Subject: RE: Please pass this on to the rape victim you attacked in your Nov. 27 column

Did you even read my column? I quoted extensively from the Rape, Incest and Abuse Hotline's definition of rape and suggested that she check her state's laws? Where I said that if she says no at any point, it's rape? I don't know if you didn't bother to read my column or if perhaps it was edited heavily in your paper, but please . . . how dare you call me a "rape apologist."

I see you are a student or affiliated in some way with [law school]? I would expect someone from [law school] to be more educated, careful, respectful and circumspect. I'm not sure why I would expect that, but I'll adjust. Meanwhile, I don't pass inanities along to people who write in to my column. I figure this young person has suffered enough indignity.

Amy Dickinson

Photo via Smithsonian Institution

  • nick

    Ugh. I hate shit like this.

    I hope that "Redacted" asked Amy for permission to post her email. If not, she needs to learn to have some fucking manners, or at least have the decency to include her email address.

    In the effort to clarify the definition of "rape," you're trampling on the definition of "responded personally."

  • mindy

    @Nick, private persons are not required to provide their contact information as part of "manners", nor was the email received from Amy of "Ask Amy" a personal response. It was received from the column's email address and not a personal account. Without a statement in the signature stating that the communication is only intended for the recipient, there is nothing impolite or improper about posting this email.

  • Emily WK

    It's as though Amy has no idea what being a rape apologist means! SHOCKER.

  • whet moser

    In the effort to clarify the definition of “rape,” you’re trampling on the definition of “responded personally.”


  • Amanda Hess

    Someone needs to be schooled on "fucking manners"? Where is Ask Amy when we need her!

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    Yeah, school me on my "fucking manners" - said w/o a hint of irony. What Amy Dick wrote is public & it shows what an ass she is. First she cites a reference book, which is fine, but then she launches an ad hominem attack on the email's author.

    Amy's anti-lawyer screed is particularly peculiar - what's the point of that? Oh & mind my fucking manners - Amy's email was not privileged & if she thought it would remain private she's an imbecile.

    Amy should stick to giggling on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, & maybe do something less harmful, like juggling.

  • nick

    It's not a capital offense, but I beg to differ.

    All this Tiger Woods shit (and all of the similar stuff out there) is only the most current reminder of this notion that there's this perception that there are private people and public people. Private people have rights, public people give them up when they become rich and/or famous.

    I don't think it's too much to ask to treat people like people. Explain away whatever you want. It's not cool.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    oh & tell Amy that saying "no" is not a requirement for a rape conviction. if you get a women too drunk or too messed up on drugs to be capable of consent, it's rape.

    Amy really is out of touch with the real world. She needs to work in a diner for five years.

  • whet moser


    if amy didn't want her words quoted, she should have indicated that.

    what your formulation means, "treat people like people," amounts to "let people dictate the most positive possible spin on their actions."

    it's cute that you want to protect powerful people from themselves, but there's an ethical code to how one determines what's on and off the record, on and off background, etc. no one's "explaining away" anything.

  • whet moser


    I hope that “Redacted” asked Amy for permission to post her email.

    that's actually the opposite of how it works.

  • nick


    "let people dictate the most positive possible spin on their actions" is bullshit. I'm not trying to defend "Ask Amy" one bit. Two completely separate issues.

    It's cute that you're trying to assign labels like "powerful people" to objectify them into totems that are above our otherwise don't deserve our civility. Keep on feeding the mob what it wants, and hope and pray that you'll never ever be a powerful enough person to find yourself on the other side of the table.

  • nick

    one more thing... how does reprinting someone's email exchange fall under "what’s on and off the record?"

  • mindy

    Responding from the column's email address is what put it on the record. If the email address had been Amy's own personal account, unrelated to the Chicago Tribune, unrelated to Amy the advice columnist (which is her public persona), it wouldn't have been even remotely on the record.

    The blurring of private and public personas is problematic and is likely due to the fact that we're such a celebrity obsessed culture, but doesn't change the fact that the line of distinction still exists. Publishing communication from companies or public identities is not problematic because public personae are not (and should not be) afforded the same level of privacy as non-public individuals, in the same way that corporations should not be granted rights as though they were a private individual.

  • whet moser

    "hope and pray that you’ll never ever be a powerful enough person to find yourself on the other side of the table"

    i'm a journalist, nick. i know not to go off on strangers in e-mail conversations. but i appreciate your concern.

  • whet moser


    how does reprinting someone’s email exchange fall under “what’s on and off the record?”

    addressed and answered several times.

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  • caffeineadddict

    There is nothing I hate more than when you specifically point out to someone that you find something they have written or said offensive, and rather than changing their behaviour accordingly, that person spends all their time and energy defending their warped point of view.

    I am a law student, and I find her presumption that all law students would support rape apologist discourses highly insulting to say the least.

  • Alex

    I think some irresponsible journalists have really taken the ball and run with it on this issue. I don't know what their agenda is - I can only guess - but there is a great deal of outrage and anger caused by the handling of this issue and the misrepresenting of Amy's original letter.

    I read Amy's response to Victim?, and although I found it unfortunate that she STARTED with talking about frat parties being dangerous, I saw quite clearly that she was in no way excusing the offender or blaming the victim. 'Victim?' asked if it was rape. Amy answered that it was wrong for the man to continue after Victim? said no ("No means no"), and then went on to give one official definition of rape, and mentioning that the legal definition of rape varies from county to county.

    It is only possible to call Amy a "rape apologist" if you ignore what she wrote and instead believe the misguided interpretations we see splattered over the internet. I feel for Amy. All she did was answer a question in a way that I believe was intended to be helpful, and now her reputation is being messed around with by people who I don't think can be trusted to be responsible with it.