So, what's this all about?...

The short answer: a curated collection of articles, comments, ads, and other pop-culture examples of the ways we perpetuate a climate of sexism, misogyny, and homophobia. In other words, yes, there is such a thing as rape culture.

The more in-depth answer:

the author presenting at TI in 2010 • Madison, WI

the author presenting at TI in 2010 • Madison, WI

"This is Water: the inconvenient truth about rape culture" is the title of a presentation that I first gave in 2010 as part of WCASA’s Training Institute. It is the umbrella title that I’ve begun using to refer to the way I contextualize examining and teaching about rape culture. It is a work in progress, continually expanding and evolving. I am building this site to help me build and structure the presentation.

The title, of course, is a conflation of two other titles. “This is Water” was the title given to the published text of the commencement speech given at Kenyon College in 2005 by the now late author David Foster Wallace. It’s a brilliant speech – one of my favorite of all time – and while it isn’t about rape culture specifically, I believe what he says is the perfect metaphor for the struggle we face in the violence prevention movement in terms of trying to get folks to pay attention to what’s right in front of them.

The other half comes from the title of the 2006 film by directed by Davis Guggenheim and featuring former Vice President Al Gore. The film was, and is, a major touchstone for the environmental movement. Not only have I wondered what lessons the violence prevention movement might learn from the environmental movement, but I believe when we talk about rape culture we are in effect talking about climate issues – albeit a more on-the-ground sort of climate.

"smoke" - one of three posters in the "Rise to the Challenge" series created for WCASA

"smoke" - one of three posters in the "Rise to the Challenge" series created for WCASA

“This is Water” is intended to move the conversation more into the territory of “An Inconvenient Truth” – that is to say, to speak about how collectively the stuff we are putting into the atmosphere on a daily basis is adding up to a hazardous climate that is poisoning us all.

Of course, this is a tricky thing. Sexual assault happens to individuals, and it is perpetrated by individuals, or groups of individuals who are responsible for their actions. Yet the actions of individual perpetrators are influenced by the culture that surrounds them. Further, while scientists have done diligent work tabulating the effects of global warming by virtue of collecting hard data, sexual assault is not as easy to capture. 

Yes, there are some numbers we can gather – such as the number of victims reporting – but these numbers are dubious; most survivors never come forward to report; most people do not recognize sexual assault behavior because the tenets of rape have become so normalized within the larger culture (and here I will end my comments on numbers, since I am neither a statistician nor a math wiz by any stretch of the imagination).

But what is the evidence? What are the markers, the examples of these tenets of sexual assault playing out right in front of us on a daily basis? How do we move towards prevention? This is the conversation we need to be having.

Meet Stephen...


Stephen Montagna is an actor, director, multi-media consultant, and anti-violence activist. A native of Massachusetts, Stephen moved to Madison, WI in 1991 to pursue his MFA in Acting (UW-Madison, ’94). Along the way, he encountered the men’s anti-violence organization Men Stopping Rape, Inc (MSR). Over the next two decades, he devoted countless hours to representing and maintaining MSR. 

A natural, inspiring, and inclusive facilitator, Stephen has presented hundreds of workshops at a variety of locations; assisted in Peer Educator Trainings; sat on planning committees for Sexual Assault Awareness Month and The DELTA Project; and had an essay published in the anthology “Just Sex: Students Rewrite the Rules on Sex, Violence, Activism, and Equality.” 

For seven years, Stephen worked as the Media Specialist at the UW Center for Women’s Health Research, one of twenty National Centers of Excellence in Women’s Health funded by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. From the fall of 2009 through May of 2013, Stephen brought his media and technology background and passion for violence prevention work together, working for the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault (WCASA) as Violence Prevention and Communications Coordinator. Following this, he briefly served on the Safety Net team as Technical Assistance & Training Specialist for the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

In 2015, as part of Aurora Health Care's Better Together Fund, Stephen became a Consultant with Women and Children's Horizons in Kenosha Co., helping to coordinate a three-year project to improve access to services for victims/survivors and increase capacity to prevent sexual violence on three regional college campuses.

In 2016, he returned to the learning communities at University of Wisconsin-Madison, and joined the staff of LCICE (Learning Communities for Institutional Change & Excellence) as Administrative Program Specialist.

He is a staunch promoter of progressive values, committed to social justice, and strives to be a vocal ally to women, people of color, and members of the LGBT community.

To see more of Stephen's work, visit: