Couple of thoughts on Rape Culture

Now I’ve given up gaming I spend most of my online goofing off time on a mommy blog called Mommyish.com. I have truly gone over to the darkside. But I like hanging out there. I feel like I’ve found my tribe. It’s laidback, feminist, liberal, funny, geeky and BTL is filled with people I feel like I would be happy hanging out with for a drink. We talk about everything from menstrual cups to cups of coffee, we laugh at Sanctimommies and hold our heads in despair at the stupidity of anti-vaxxer while trying to sneak in as many gifs of Hot British Men as we can to the comments.
Then last week something happened. A post on the site slipped into some twisted netherworld and a barbarian horde descended. The original post was a short 6 paragraph piece about a man caught raping an unconscious woman on a college campus. When disturbed he ran away. Two guys chased him down while another student called the police. The man has been charged with various sex crimes and has voluntarily withdrawn from the college. The College has stated he will not be allowed to re-enroll and is barred from college grounds. The original author of the piece concluded noting that other American Colleges could learn something about the way this college responded to this sexual assault.

The original BTL discussion from the regulars was mostly about the two guys interrupting and chasing down the rapist, not walking by and leaving responsibility with other people. People that step in to difficult situations because it’s the right thing to do are sadly rare beasts. There was some discussion about personal responsibility and drinking. Then the Mommyish Mob moved on to the other pressing topics of the day; which included Scientology creeping into schools masquerading as drug education, Yoonique baby names, the ongoing measles epidemic and the insanity of anti-vaxxers, breastmilk, the new female Ghostbusters, pregnant bodies, bigotry and general craziness in Texas and half a dozen other stories. While the Mommyish Mob was poodling along doing business as usual, a shit storm was exploding in the comments of that article.

The responses from lots these new commenters very quickly diverged from commenting on the actual story at hand to decrying feminists making up rape accusations to deliberately destroy men, a veritable number salad of statistics of claims and counterclaims on false rape allegations and under reporting of rape and an avalanche of posts saying if she didn’t want to get raped then she shouldn’t have been drinking/flirting/walking home on her own/irresponsible/at the party/owning a vagina (delete as appropriate). About half of these commenters fudged their opinions using phrases like “real rape” “legitimate rape” “actual rape” “genuine rape” professing sympathy with those victims who fitted their specific definition of rape while precluding any woman who does not do enough, in their opinion, to prevent rape. It was asserted over and over again that women who had been drinking are irresponsible and asking for it.
What I got from trawling through over 3500 comments, mostly from random internet commenters who were just using my internet home from home to score points in some cosmic game I don’t know the rules of and have no wish to participate in, is that rape culture is real. And it stems from ignorance about what rape and consent are, fear that it will happen close to home and denial that it does happen.

There are large numbers of men and women who think rape is only “real” “legitimate” “actual” “genuine” when it’s violent stranger rape. A masked man drags a terrified woman into a dark alleyway type scenario. I think women like to believe it because if that’s the case there are guarantees. If we are walked home by a friend, if we don’t drink too much, if we wear the right clothes, if we avoid certain places then we will be safe.  This thinking falls on its arse when you actually take a step back and look at it. There is no miraculous combination of dress and behavior that can protect you. Women are raped and men are raped. Nuns and prostitutes are raped. 6 month old babies and 90 year old grannys are raped. Sober people, drunk people. Women with short hair, women with long hair. Women in cocktail dresses, miniskirts, jeans, hoodies, pajamas, yoga pants, burkhas, hot pants, muu-muus. Women who went to self defense classes. Big people, little people, black people, brown people, white people, fat people, thin people, blondes, brunettes, redheads. Educated women and high school drop outs. People are raped in their homes, in parks, in carparks, in bars, in churches, in schools.
The sad fact is most people are raped by someone they know. Husband, boyfriend, ex-boyfriend, friend, friends husband, boss, dad, uncle, friends dad. The crime is compounded, the rape is even more confusing and horrible because it’s someone that you know and like. I think this is why certain men like to believe rape is only “real” “legitimate” “actual” “genuine” when done by a stranger in a ski-mask because it means that thing they did to that woman wasn’t rape. They can’t be rapists because they didn’t beat her up first. It’s not rape because they know that woman, they dated that woman, that woman was flirting with them, she was a slut anyway.

Using phrases like “real rape” “legitimate rape” “actual rape” “genuine rape” damages victims and harms the discussion about consent and sexual violence. Having sex with someone without their freely given, unequivocal consent IS rape whatever the circumstances. It doesn’t matter what happened before, it doesn’t matter if you’ve had consensual sex in the past, it doesn’t matter who it’s happening to. Most people who are raped are not engaging in “unsafe behaviors” or being reckless with their safety. Their “crime” is being alone with a man. That shouldn’t be a risky behavior and most of the time it isn’t. Sections of society keep finger pointing saying that victims are responsible for their own safety and while that is true in many aspects of life, the fact is a rapist makes the decision to rape.

I don’t think that society’s primary focus should be teaching girls how to avoid being raped, it doesn’t work. There is no perfect victim. Our focus should be teaching boys to NOT RAPE WOMEN. Teaching boys and girls the importance of consent. That using “rape” as a word for beating someone in a video game isn’t appropriate. T shirts with slogans like “I’m feeling Rapey” or “Keep Calm and Rape on” are not acceptable. That when a person gets drunk at a party, they aren’t to be taken advantage of. It doesn’t matter if she’s wearing a short skirt. It doesn’t matter if she has sex with lots of guys. If a woman goes on some dates with a guy and won’t put out, it’s not okay to coerce her. These are messages we should be focusing on. We should be teaching EVERYONE that the first question to ask upon hearing that a person got raped should be, “Is she okay?” and not, “How much did she have to drink?” Society should NOT be perpetuating the myth that women frequently make false rape accusations against men just to hurt them. We should also stop perpetuating the myth that when a rape gets reported, the victim usually gets justice. We need to stop, as a society, focusing on who the rapist was and what he’s losing by being a rapist and instead focusing on the victim and what kind of care she’s getting since being raped.
That’s what rape culture is. No one tells their boys that they should run out and rape girls. But a lot of people tell their children, “Well, girls like to lead boys on. No usually means yes with a little convincing” and everyone laughs even though that’s a really easy way to justify sexual assault.

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