Friday, January 11

Arguing with Myself: Rape Prevention

Lately rape has been in the news quite a bit . . . 
Congress voted down the Violence Against Women Act.
Jyoti Singh Pandey, the 23 year old med student was brutally gang raped and beaten, days later dying from the event.
Notre Dame University chose not to bench 2 football players after separate allegations of sexual assault and rape, leading to the suicide of one victim.
Two members of Steubenville, Ohio’s high school football team were videoed bragging about taking a girl who had passed out at a party, stripping her, digitally penetrating her (fingering her), and taking her, unconscious,  to three other parties where they exposed her body to others, urinated on her and humiliated her.
 The boys still got to play . . . . 

I think the underlying reason that so many people are willing to use this as an excuse to ‘slut shame(she was drinking, out at night, wearing X style of clothing, was dancing, wasn’t a virgin and had it coming) or ‘victim blame’ (she fought back, didn’t fight back, should have done X to avoid the situation) is because rape isn’t generally understood.
Most people believe the fallacy that rape is an issue of impulse control.
That rapists can’t control their sexual urges.
That rape is about sex . . .

Rape is about power and control, not sex.
Rape is about taking the power to consent away from the victim, about proving the rapist has more power because they can make you submit to them.
That the rapist is entitled to the victim’s body, to sex,
even to the victim’s life.

I have been lucky. I am 31 years old and have not been the victim of sexual assault or rape. But there is a very real chance that at some point in my life I will be, simply because I’m a woman. My sister and three other friends over the course of my life have been. My daughters, my sons (men are as vulnerable to rape as women but very, very few report it), my wife (she’s at higher risk because she’s transgender), everyone I love has the potential to be a headline.
Or, far more likely, not make the headline.  
Prevention isn’t about the victim avoiding being victimized. That hasn’t worked in the past, and isn’t working now.
Rape prevention is about people, men as well as women, working to change the conversation. Parents teaching their sons and daughters that only yes means yes. That being drunk doesn’t equal consent. That no does not mean try harder.
Custador, a fellow blogger who writes at Unreasonable Faith ), has made this pledge in order to help do just that . . .
I will never condone rape or support rape culture in any way. I will object, loudly, when a rape joke is told. I will not tolerate objectification of women, amongst my male friends or amongst anybody else. I will do my best to be aware of my male (and white, and straight, and middle class) privilege, and to not take advantage of it. If and when I have children, I will try to educate them to critically appraise the media to which they are exposed and be aware of the gender messages within it. I will not spend money on any product, company or media which I am aware of having promoted rape culture or gender disparity, regardless of whether they have done so deliberately.


I think most of us, men and women, can get on board with that.


  1. Very well said! I too have been lucky so far that the only unwanted sexual contact I've experienced has been a grope on a bus by a fragile very old man. This is an important message that needs the maximum possible diffusion.

  2. Yes. And I believe that "changing the conversation" is not happening enough because it is so difficult. For me personally it means responding to my own friends and family when they say something that is inadvertently victim-blaming, or making excuses for misogynistic behavior. It means standing up in everyday conversations, not laughing along with people when they crack a joke that really isn't funny. It's definitely not something that pleases people. Also, no one likes to be reminded that possibly their college friend, or uncle, or nephew, or idolized celebrity or athlete, could have committed rape. That in our society, "nice guys"(not really) DO rape and they are excused and sometimes even cheered on for it. And that yes, even though people of any gender commit rape, it's mostly guys doing it, and it's a big problem. Changing the conversation is absolutely what we have to do, and THANKS, dragon lady:) for writing about it. I admire all the writers out there who are doing it-it's something that I have considered but haven't yet been brave enough to do-because I know that for as many supporters there would also be haters and I don't know if I could deal with it-because for me it's really really personal-it hurts. So thanks again for putting yourself out there, helping to change the conversation. It pisses people off, makes them lash out-it's brave.-a reader of Love, Joy, Feminism by Libbey Anne-now following you too.