It seems that every time I go online lately, I see another article about rape. Whether it’s a story about a gang rape in India, a gang rape in Ohio or an editorial piece turning the lens on our rape culture, my stomach turns as I read accounts of what is an everyday occurrence in our world. In the U.S. alone, 1 in 5 women will be raped in their lifetime, and there is a rape reported every 6.2 minutes. Which means that we all know someone who is a rape survivor, and our chances of being attacked ourselves are high. So high, that women (consciously or not) alter the way we live in hopes to avoid a violent attack.
Thanks in part to all the politicians who have made some seriously vile, repulsive and truly stupid remarks about rape, it seems that this has made it to the top of the list of our current national hot topic conversations. I can’t say that I am grateful for the awful things that have been said, because as hard as it is to believe, I know that there are people out there who believe in what those politicians have said and who take it to heart. However, I do feel like the spotlight on rape in the media has opened up an opportunity for conversation, and hopefully given feminists an opportunity to do some re-education on the subject.
The categorizing of rape needs to stop. Forcible rape, legitimate rape, etc. all gives the impression that there is all this grey area and figuring out what is happening is much more complex than it really is.
The sanctimonious bullshit has got to go. Teens (and adults for that matter) deserve to have access to complete and accurate sex education. Boys and men need to understand that no means no, not take what you want despite my wishes (and a little empathy would do some good too). No means no, fighting back means no, being unconscious means no. You are never, under any circumstances entitled to a woman’s body; would you really want her to think she’s entitled to yours? Rape is not sex, it is violence. It is a form of warfare used to destabilize women.
I believe education must be a cornerstone in our fight to end sexual violence. How many rapist truly believe that they are innocent because they buy into the anti-victim culture we live in? Shouldn’t we be teaching men to respect women’s bodies and know that they can and should control their behavior. Rapists are not just creepy guys waiting in the dark bushes, in fact 73% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by a non-stranger, 38% are a friend or acquaintance, and 28% are intimate with the person they rape. The blame for a rape should lie solely with the perpetrator, because no one is “asking for it” no matter what their behavior, dress, location, etc. Unless a woman literally asks you to put your penis inside her, she is not asking for it. Like any of our cultures widespread problems, there is not one cure-all for ending rape. Some will blame porn, and historically the subject of porn has been quite fracturing in the feminist community. I will say that in our society there seems to be much more and easier access to porn than there is to comprehensive sex education. Yes, there is definitely a good deal of porn out there that encourages the idea that men should take what they want and that women secretly want it. I do believe that a heavy diet of that can be harmful to one’s sexual psyche, especially if one is getting their sexual education from porn.
The truth is that much of our society (not just porn) promotes the idea that men should take what they want and a woman should feel lucky to have his attention. Take this classic piece of Americana for example:
I will admit that until I saw this article, I had taken the photo at face value, the way we’ve been told to see it, as a celebratory kiss from a soldier back from war. Then came that awkward moment when I realized how deeply immersed in rape culture we really are.
Our legal system is failing us. For the first time since 1994, we do not have a Violence Against Women Act since Congress failed to pass it by the end of last year. We have a crazy amount of backlogged rape kits all over the U.S. We have judges who try to protect rapist and admonish victims, telling victims they didn’t fight “hard enough” or telling them they cannot say their rapists’ names. Just this week in New Mexico, a bill was introduced that would make it illegal for a rape victim who became pregnant from rape to have an abortion, on the grounds that she would be “destroying evidence.” This has become obscene, and clearly not about “evidence” or else they’d be making testing backlogged rape kits a priority, never mind the fact that an aborted fetus could give them any DNA evidence they needed. Is it any wonder then with all this backlash against victims that many choose not to report their rape or prosecute?
Trying to fight against rape culture is exhausting and can often make us feel powerless, but I believe that making our voices heard is still so important. Reading what has seemed like an onslaught of rape articles, and after watching the (there are no words for it) video of the Steubenville rapists laugh it up, I got a bad case of rape fatigue and just didn’t want to think about it. But closing my eyes and shouting “LALALA” with my fingers in my ears isn’t going to make anything better.
It is my hope that this blog will serve as a vehicle of feminist conversation. I encourage any and all thoughtful and respectful comments and would be very happy to have guest posts as well. If you have something you’d like to share with me privately, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.