A Culture of Rape, and Control

by d

via Flickr user lizhenry

What does it mean to have a ‘rape culture’? Surely that’s exaggerating the situation, hm? It’s not as though rapes are occurring around every street corner.

Miranda at Where Is Your Line has an excellent description:

The “asking for it” myth is so deeply ingrained in our rape culture that it’s become second nature to most of us. Sexual violence is treated as an inevitable consequence of certain behaviors, and, when you think about it, that’s a pretty effective way of maintaining social control over women and other disenfranchised groups. We’re frequently asked to surrender our rights to even the most basic of human freedoms in order to avoid being victimized. Don’t live in that part of the city, you’ll get raped. Never walk alone at night, you’ll get raped. Don’t talk to strangers, wear revealing clothing, leave your doors or windows unlocked, take drugs, drink in excess, take public transportation, travel alone, or sleep around – because you will get raped. The list of don’ts goes on and on, each rule wildly impractical, blatantly inconsistent with actual statistics related to sexual assault, and specifically crafted to distract us from the culpability of rapists. Why do we have entire dossiers on How to Not Get Raped and no guidelines for How to Not Rape PeopleWe need a cultural revolution.

I can just imagine the headlines:

Police warn rapists against crime.

Campus leaders urge students to engage in consensual sex.

Why is that message so absent from discussions of sexual assault? Why focus so much time and energy on training women to avoid danger while men walk around with carte fucking blanche? In thousands of ways, our culture has conditioned us to anticipate rape as a natural consequence of violating social norms. Rape myths serve to keep women out of the public sphere, and rape culture wants you to believe that the only safe place for a woman is her kitchen.

That sounds like our culture, doesn’t it? Whether we are aware of it or not, we alter our behaviors in numerous ways, because we anticipate rape and assault. We accept its presence. To a certain extant, one must always accept that there is risk, and that certain behaviors enhance risk, like driving down the freeway at 100mph. But no one harps on you about driving at 100mph. No one tells you that at 60 or 70 mph you’re ‘asking for’ something bad to happen. People get away with drunk driving, and society bats only the weakest of eyelids.

Unless you’re Lindsey Lohan, and what were you wearing when you drove that fast? Did you do something slutty while drunk? Cuz that was totally putting herself in harm’s way, she’s the fool. The men around her who took advantage of her aren’t to blame, she put herself there!

I’m not saying that we, women, shouldn’t take personal responsibility. If we drive at 100mph and crash into a tree, we have to acknowledge that our speed was unsafe. You should drive at speeds you are comfortable with, speeds you can handle.

The trouble is, all the responsibility is put on women for their personal safety. Those who assault them are not. And society never accepts blame for its implied approval of such acts.

Women used to have protectors–fathers, husbands, uncles, brothers, sons. Always a man to look out for you. Because the men were taking ‘protect’ to mean ‘cosset and enshrine,’ women said, “Thanks, but we’re actually capable of more than that.” So, men and society at large said, “Ok, fine. But you know you’re gonna get raped, right?”

Rape culture insists that we are not capable of looking after ourselves. Rape culture swears up down and sideways that it doesn’t matter what you do, the risk remains. No matter how many self defense classes you take, you will get raped, because you’re on your own, you’re expressing yourself, you’re having fun. Men must be naturally violent creatures, since so many of them want to rape. They must lurk in dim parking garages on lazy afternoons, just waiting for a victim. The boogeyman is just waiting to get you.

So women change their behavior, to minimize the odds of getting raped. And society doesn’t actually do a damn thing to help women prevent rape. A bad neighborhood is a good place for someone to snatch a victim. The city won’t take action to improve the area, it will just sigh and tut when yet another woman needs a rape kit. She should have known better. The onus was on her to avoid it.

As women, we know that if we don’t change our behaviors, no one else is going to help us. Your rape is inevitable. We have to police our behavior because no one will police for us.

The Indian Housewife had her own additions to this topic. She wants to know why no one ever tries to education the rapists, teach them not rape. If you’ve ever had to read one of those twee informative pamphlets available in waiting rooms, you will enjoy the phrasing of this list.

Here’s a list of Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work.
1. Don’t put drugs in people’s drinks in order to control their behavior.

2. When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone!

3. If you pull over to help someone with car problems, remember not to assault them!

4. NEVER open an unlocked door or window uninvited.

5. If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, DON’T ASSAULT THEM!

6. Remember, people go to laundry to do their laundry, do not attempt to molest someone who is alone in a laundry room.

7. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public.

8. Always be honest with people! Don’t pretend to be a caring friend in order to gain the trust of someone you want to assault. Consider telling them you plan to assault them. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the other person may take that as a sign that you do not plan to rape them.

9. Don’t forget: you can’t have sex with someone unless they are awake!

10. Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone “on accident”you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can blow it if you do.

Gasp, that is too much common sense!! My brain–it’s overloading with reason! I can absolutely imagine a chirpy voiceover reading these tips while cartoon characters act them out. Remember to be polite and tell your intended victim that you want to rape them! Or give them a whistle.

I was laughing happily, until I got further down the page and saw this:

Lack of sex education could mean that a rapist may not be sure of what rape is. A lot of Indians learn about sex from rape scenes in Indian movies or from pornography, both can be misleading.

The idea that someone out there doesn’t really understand what rape is… But, in the US, we get messages about rape all the time. Schools and workplaces make sure everyone knows about their sexual harassment policies (because no one wants to get sued), and harassment often comes up on TV as a point of drama. The violent assault is rarely depicted, though, and it’s usually an attractive woman walking down a dark street who is attacked from nowhere.

Then again, if all I’d ever learned about sex came from romance novels of the 1980s, where the hero rapes the virgin heroine until she starts to enjoy it, I might have some fucked up ideas about sex and rape, too.

There is no excuse for assault, for taking control of another person and hurting them.

The Indian Housewife has created a Facebook group for this topic.

6 Comments to “A Culture of Rape, and Control”

  1. ‘Then again, if all I’d ever learned about sex came from romance novels of the 1980s, where the hero rapes the virgin heroine until she starts to enjoy it, I might have some fucked up ideas about sex and rape, too.’

    That’s how a lot of Indian movies used to be, although the trend is changing, the mindset will take a long time to change.

  2. Oh my, D, you’re using too much logic and common sense in this post! The anti-feminists and anti-woman activists will have a field day if they see this! :p

    I think that one thing was forgotten, though. Have you done any looking into the majority of punishments for rapists who get caught and convicted? And then looked at any statistics for how many of those rapists serve their full sentence? Its a total joke. Its nothing more than a slap on the wrist. And don’t think that goes unnoticed by women who have been assaulted and have to now make the decision of whether they want to report it or not. Many women are afraid of retribution from the rapist by way of something worse than rape or just being raped again. Not to mention nobody wants to relive their rape. I can think of (at the moment) very few instances where the victim ends up being put on trial, but that’s exactly what happens when a woman reports a rape and it goes to trial. She has to sit up there in front of strangers and friends and family, and her rapist, and relive every little detail for the court. Then she has to sit through cross-examination from the rapist’s attorney which is often designed to make her look like a slut or a liar or an idiot or all three.

    • You’re right, I did miss that. The job of the lawyer is to make the woman doubt herself, and make her testimony look faulty. And instead of censuring lawyers who hit below the belt, everyone assumes the woman is lying until proven truthful.

      What makes for believable rape testimony? If you’re too calm, you must be lying. If you cry too much, you’re trying to make everyone feel sorry for you. If you’re angry, you’re just a vengeful bitch. If you can’t remember (often a symptom of trauma) you must not understand what happened, or you’re just dumb.

      And lets not forget the women who cry rape in order to get attention, or revenge. The real victims face such an uphill battle, they can’t afford one more example of a woman lying about rape.

  3. I’m glad you made a special mention of the Indian Homemaker and her incredible work in combating stereotypes behind the rape culture. I definitely think India needs that kind of kick in the ass. I’ve worked and lived there and it’s a place that needs all the education about women that it can get.

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