I wrote this post over a week ago.
I meant to publish it then, but life has been busy and it got away from me.
Then another rape story hit the news cycle, and another round of hand-wringing and victim blaming – complete with literally burning the victim’s house to the ground – made the rounds. Lot’s of things have been said like, “What did she expect at 1am?“
Another woman took the time to write a piece saying that if we want to end rape, we’ll just teach women not to drink.
Lots of people jumped all over that, as they should – because female sobriety doesn’t stop rape.
Then someone I generally respect tweeted out:
“Sooo interesting: Is it supporting “rape culture” to remind young women not to binge drink & leave selves vulnerable? http://bit.ly/15MCDxy“
Here’s the thing – WE ALREADY KNOW THAT!!!
Women are told on the daily how to not get raped. We are taught not to drink, not to wear revealing clothing, not to walk alone at night – or in the day, especially in “bad” neighborhoods. We are taught not to smile at men, but also to not be stand-offish because that too might provoke them. We are taught to guard our beverages if there are men around, whether those beverages are alcoholic or not, because we might be roofied. We are taught that we trust men at our own peril – not only strangers, but also men we know.
We are taught that any time we go out in public, the price we might pay is rape – and that we should expect that and accept it if we want to have a social life.
I for one am sick of it.
What this does is give the impression that all men are rapists. What this does is tell men – and women – that men can’t help themselves. And that is insulting to the many, many, many great men I know.
What the “don’t get raped” and “don’t be so rapeable” conversation also does is convince victims that they are ultimately responsible for their own rapes, because they broke one of the “don’t get raped” rules. It teaches victims to not blame the rapist – after all, they couldn’t help themselves. It encourages victims to not report their rapes, to not get the help they need, to deny the seriousness of the crime.
It also empowers people to look for ways to blame the victim and scapegoat the rapist if a victim does come forward.
The conversation has to change.
Rape should NOT be the price women have to pay for social freedom. Potential victims should not be responsible for preventing their own victimhood.
Which brings me to the original trigger for this post. It was a man who said that letting women who go to parties, get drunk and wake up raped prosecute their rapists allows the women to abdicate personal responsibility for the choices they made that put them in that predicament.
WHAT ABOUT THE CHOICES THE MAN MADE? WHY DOESN’T HE HAVE TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY?
So – the post. (Written in an angry rage late at night on my phone.)
If getting raped is an “acceptable” consequence for women who drink, then going to jail for being a rapist should be an acceptable consequence for men who rape.
Why is it that some people think that calling rapists rapists is letting women avoid responsibility for their choices?
The man made a choice too. He chose to have sex with someone who did not consent.
If rape is her punishment for being drunk in public, what is his punishment for taking advantage of her? If she should learn from her mistakes, shouldn’t he?
This is one of the ways rape culture supports the status quo, by convincing us that we aren’t victim blaming when we say things like yeah, she was raped a little, but what did she expect? Or, yeah she was raped, but if he goes to jail, what are we teaching HER?
We need to change the conversation.
We need to change the definition of consent.
“No means no” clearly isn’t enough, there are too many ways to prevent someone from saying no that still aren’t them saying yes.
We need to teach everyone what a positive model of consent looks, and feels, like. We need to teach people that sex isn’t about conquest, it’s about pleasure FOR EVERYONE INVOLVED.
I don’t want to raise girls in a world where they are seen as “rapebait” by any of their peers.
I don’t want to raise them in a world where I have to tell them that they can have the same social freedoms as men. But only if they are willing to accept a little rape as the price of admission.
That’s not okay.
It’s not okay that women are expected to carry the burden, not only of their own sexuality, but also that of every male they encounter. It’s not okay that people rush to defend boys behaving badly as. “In my day, that was a hot date.” While simultaneously condemning the girls who were out trying to have the same good time for being stupid and therefore deserving of rape and abuse.
If we are going to hold women to this high standard of conduct wherein she is expected to be responsible not only for her own actions – getting drunk, wearing clothing (or not), dancing with boys, maybe even kissing some, as well as holding her responsible for other people’s reactions to her – getting aroused, acting on that arousal without her consent… Then why shouldn’t we be holding boys and men to the same standards?
I keep hearing that if I get drunk at a party I need to accept the consequences of that and take responsibility for my choices.
What about the men at that party?
When do they have to step up and take responsibility?
They were drinking too.
They got flirty.
They took off their shirts, and pants.
They passed out.
So, if I bend them over and peg them, is that okay?
Is that what they should expect and accept as the natural consequence of having fun in mixed company?
Because violence isn’t the price of admission. Because I don’t have the right to violate their body just because they’re drunk and having fun. Because getting wasted and passing out naked IS NOT CONSENTING TO SEX.
It’s the same lesson we need to be teaching our boys.
One of the other pieces that we need to re-examine is the “rape isn’t about sex, it’s about power” narrative.
Certainly, on many levels rape is about power. It IS an act of violence. But it IS also a sexual act. Sex is one of the motivators for rape.
The rape as power narrative eliminates many of the “date rape” scenarios where a person (often a male) feels entitled to get physical pleasure from another person’s body regardless of their consent. These people will use coercion, threats, force, alcohol, date rape drugs – anything they need to – to get sex from this other person. For them consent is irrelevant. They want sex, and they’re going to get it. In their minds, their actions don’t constitute rape. It’s just sex, that the other person didn’t want…
Until the definition of what is and isn’t rape matches up in the minds of both the perpetrators and the victims, we can’t win. We can’t even nudge the needle.
We have to start teaching EVERYONE what rape is, what it looks like, what it does – and what the consequences are. We have to start taking rape seriously.
And we have to start teaching EVERYONE a positive model of consent. We have to teach people what YES! looks like – and that without it, sex is off the table, it’s not an option.
No one has the right to use another person’s body without that person’s explicit, enthusiastic consent. Period.
If women have to take responsibility for having a social life, then men need to take responsibility for crossing the line.
Not sure where the line is? Step back and ask. If that doesn’t clarify it – walk away.