Spike Lee appeared on a recent episode of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert to promote his new film, Chi-Raq, but the renowned director quickly found himself in hot water after suggesting that college women could prevent rape if they went on a "sex strike."
In response to his remarks, famed women's rights attorney Gloria Allred, who represents the alleged sexual assault victims of Bill Cosby, has written an open letter to Lee — read it exclusively on RadarOnline.com.
Dear Mr. Lee,
Recently you suggested that college women could avoid being raped by engaging in a sex strike. You stated "I think a sex strike could really work on college campuses where there's an abundance of sexual harassment or date rapes."
"Second semester it's going to happen. Once people coming back from Christmas and some stuff jumps off, there's going to be sex strikes in universities and college campuses across this country." (Spike Lee interview on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert November 24, 2015).
With all due respect, your suggestion that women can stop rapes and sexual assaults by going on a "sex strike" to avoid being raped is absurd.
What else would you have women do to stop rapes? Would you have them stop going to college or stop going out at night or stop living full and meaningful lives? Why don't you put the blame and the responsibility where it belongs and make suggestions to sexual predators regarding what they need to do to stop raping and sexually assaulting women on college campuses?
I agree that rape is a significant problem on college campuses and I have represented many courageous rape victims in their Title IX lawsuits and complaints against colleges and universities who have failed to afford them the rights and protections to which they are entitled under federal law.
I have also sued rapists and represented victims who wish to have rapists prosecuted in the criminal justice system.
When women take action such as suing, filing Title IX complaints with the Office of Civil Rights, and urging criminal prosecution of rapists, they are taking meaningful steps in seeking accountability against rapists and imposing consequences on institutions of higher learning which have a duty to provide equal educational opportunity without the interference of rape or sexual harassment.
In other words, women have a right to be safe and it is not the victim, but it is the college and the rapist who are responsible for making sure that her right to a safe environment is not violated.
Your suggestion of a "sex strike" as a way to stop rape confuses consensual sex with rape which is non-consensual gender violence. It carries an implicit suggestion that women can determine whether or not they are raped.
You are missing the point, Mr. Lee. The very definition of rape includes the element that the victim (usually, but not always a woman) has not consented to sex, but that the perpetrator of the rape has refused to acknowledge the victim's lack of consent and has proceeded to exercise his power and control to engage in an act of sexual intercourse or penetration over her objections or refusal. In some cases, in addition, the rapist will take advantage of the fact that she may be unable to consent because she is under the influence of alcohol or drugs or is a minor who is legally incapable of consenting.
Your proposal of a "sex strike" also appears to perpetuate dangerous myths about women and rape victims.
Your suggestion is similar to other rape myths such as women being able to prevent rape by wearing different clothing or that when women say "no" they really mean "yes", or that a woman cannot be raped by her husband or by a man with whom she has previously had a consensual sexual relationship.
What you are suggesting does not solve the problem and it is demeaning to women. It trivializes and invalidates a woman's experience and suggests that women are somehow in control in a rape situation. This is false.
Your suggestion confuses consensual sex or the withdrawal of it with rape which is non-consensual sexual violence. It suggests that women are to be blamed because men rape them and that women are the ones with the power and control rather than the sexual predators who prey on them. The message that you appear to be sending is that if women would withhold sex in a "sex strike" that men would stop raping them.
As a rape victim myself who was raped at gunpoint I can assure you that "sex strikes" by women would not have prevented what happened to me.
Mr. Lee, you have an opportunity to educate the public about what consent really means and that when a woman says "no" that a man should understand that "no" means "no" and that her right to physical safety must be respected. You owe rape victims an apology and we are looking forward to your response.