Acting with respect is a key to rape prevention. In fact, it may be the key to rape prevention.
Unfortunately, most abstinence-only sex education programs focus on, "Sex outside marriage bad, sex inside marriage good." Not much rape-prevention advice there.
Without respect from and for all involved, sex cannot be anything but negative and tainted. This is true even if it is committed within marriage. Everyone deserves to have all sexual contact be respectful contact.
This means that not even rapists deserve rape.
Once we start saying that there is anyone who deserves to be sexually abused or raped, we are saying that it's okay for some people to be sexual abusers and rapists. And that's something we should never do even by implication.
We must have a personal zero-tolerance policy for hurtful or disrespectful behavior. And the behavior of the person taking the sexual actions must be the focus rather than focusing on judging the moral innocence of the victim.
Many times people will say they want to have sex because of love, but without true respect -- for the other person and themselves -- that thing called love is a sham and can justify great harm. I'm far from the only person who was raped because the rapist wanted to express his "love."
"If you love me, you'll let me," should halt sexual interaction. This is blackmail that proves that claims of love are false. Love means never blackmailing or forcing yourself on the one you love.
Men who don't get why coercing someone sexually is disrespectful and criminal need to understand that they harm more than their victims. They taint themselves. Each act of sexual disrespect injects poison into their system. That poison is reactivated every time they see some aspect of themselves in a criminal defendant.
The reactivation will be a hunded times worse if they see an aspect of themselves when someone they genuinely love is violated or raped. I can't imagine how a father would feel if his daughter described the same actions he once inflicted on someone.
If someone looks at others as interchangable sexually or as living sex toys, they lack empathy and will have trouble when they find someone they want to cherish as a full human being. Without empathy, the other person's experience is often assumed to be a mirror experience, but other people aren't our mirrors.
And who can have a genuine relationship -- sexual or otherwise -- with a mirror? The answer is nobody.
Bad habits linger. A history of using others means not only unlearning destructive behavior patterns it means being clueless about constructive behavior patterns. It means being clueless about respect.
Respect should be learned and developed from the first touch. Unfortunately, there is plenty of pressure against this respect. To some being respectful seems unmanly since respectful sexual contact isn't about winning sex or scoring some sex. Being respectful means there will be times when we walk away from what we want even though we could have it by crossing the line.
For those who believe what they are doing sexually is wrong, disrespect may be a twisted way of minimizing that wrongness. "Yes, I did it, but I didn't fully embrace it." If people have internal conflicts about sex, they need to resolve those conflicts in ways that don't hurt other people.
If people don't require respect from others, that is not a green light to disrespect them. It's a sign that they have a history of being disrespected or abused. If they are treated disrespectfully, those doing so will be benefiting from sexual abusers and rapists.
Do you really want to owe your sexual activity to sexual abusers and rapists?
Ethically, we don't get a free pass because we are the second person or the one hundred and second person to exploit someone else's vulnerability.
We can't change our history related to sex and respect, but we can change our future by learning what it means to fully respect ourselves and others. Just know that change can be painful as we examine why respect has been absent.
Respect can be recognized if we know how to look for signs of its presence or absence.
If others won't give it to us, we have to learn how to grow our own and learn how to minimize the disrespect we receive.