Dr. Phil's Sexual Assault Tweet Is Everything That's Wrong With Our Rape Culture

On Tuesday night, Dr. Phil McGraw tweeted and then deleted an extremely controversial, offensive and triggering Twitter post in which he asked his followers: "If a girl is drunk, is it OK to have sex with her? Reply yes or no to @drphil #teensaccused." The tweet was almost immediately taken down, but not before a widespread Twitter outrage erupted, and rightfully so.

In classic, disgusting backtracking, a representative for Dr. Phil's show responded to a Buzzfeed tweet asking why the tweet was deleted: "This tweet was intended to evoke discussion leading into a very serious show topic. It was not intended to be taken lightly," the spokesperson said. "It’s based upon a recent news story, hence the #teensaccused label." Dr. Phil himself hasn't said anything regarding the deleted tweet, but has been posting other tweets since then. SUSPECT.

The fact that Dr. Phil could post such a question on Twitter with such candor is a total product of the rape culture we live in. There is no grey area with rape — no means no. Dr. Phil's tweet implies that there are two answers to his question, but it's clearly never okay to have sex with a woman when she's intoxicated and unable to provide consent. That's where the problem lies — why is Dr. Phil trying to start a discussion about a supposed "sliding scale" of consent?

Sure, maybe Dr. Phil's reps will argue that Dr. Phil is not of the opinion that there is a question about what constitutes rape, but any argument they make will be weak. How could he even be researching such a topic for his show? Even the hashtag "teensaccused" that's allegedly related to a recent news story definitely indicates that there's a level of victim blaming here. It seems that Dr. Phil was planning a show featuring "victims" who were accused of rape, rather than the survivors of rape, which is who the conversation should be focused on.

Carmen Rios agrees, and is not having it — she's the woman that started the Change.org petition asking Dr. Phil to issue a formal apology, and, beyond that, provide airtime for survivors of rape on his show to teach his wide audiences about the difference between consensual sex and rape. Rios writes in her petition:

Even though he took the tweet down, of course Dr. Phil should admit his error in judgement and apologize. But he needs to go a step further. I am asking Dr. Phil to produce a show that shines a light on survivors of rape and sexual assault and begin a national conversation about the specifics of consent — which includes not raping people while they are drunk or otherwise unable to consent.

The only way Dr. Phil could make good on his egregiously insensitive tweet would be to honor Rios' suggestion. There is a shocking lack of education on what rape actually is, and in the wake of the Steubenville rape trial, it's glaringly obvious that the lines of rape are blurred in our culture. The Steubenville case involved two teenage football players from Steubenville, Ohio, being tried for their rape of a 16-year-old girl from West Virginia. Just this past Friday, the two boys were convicted as sex offenders — NOT as rapists.

Dr. Phil's tweet only exacerbates the misconception that assailants suffer just as much as victims, and that attitude toward rape has to stop. He must provide an apology and a platform for survivors to speak, and he needs to highlight those whose stories are of survival and hope.