Let’s Talk About Rape (Part One)

(Trigger warning: This post is about rape and sexual violence)

 No, seriously. Let’s talk about this. We live in a rape culture. That is an undeniable fact; people who try to deny it usually don’t understand what rape culture is. Part of my studies at university have been gender studies courses and psychology courses, and also I do a lot of research on my own because gender studies is something I am passionate about.

Rape culture is a term used to describe a culture in which rape and sexual violence are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, and media normalize, excuse, tolerate, and even condone sexual violence.

That sounds a little textbook-y, so let’s break it down a little bit more.

What are the components of a rape culture? Like I said above, rape is often condoned, or at least normalized. In our culture, statistically, one in every four women will experience sexual violence in her lifetime. In my town, it’s closer to one out of every two. Let’s think about that for a second. There is a 50% chance that I will be raped in my lifetime.

So what else makes our culture a rape culture, besides that terrifying factoid? Well, if “my rape” happens, there is an 80% chance that I know the rapist. There is about a 2% chance that he or she will receive even one single day in prison.

I want to point that out again. There is only a TWO PERCENT CHANCE that if I am raped, my rapist will go to prison for even one day. That means that 98% of rapists walk free. Scarier still, most rapists go on to rape again. This information alone points to a rape culture. Our legal system is flawed, and it is flawed in such a way that rapists walk free while rape victims take the blame.

I want you to go into your brain-box and think about all the times you’ve heard someone say any of the following things or anything similar:

            “She was asking for it.”

            “She shouldn’t have worn that if…”

            “She shouldn’t have been alone.”

            “She shouldn’t have been drinking.”

            “Well, she’s a slut, she must have wanted it.”

            “She should have been more careful.”

            “It wasn’t really rape.”

            “Some girls rape easy.”

            “She was drunk/passed out, so she couldn’t say no.”

Victim-blaming is rampant, and it is a critical component to defining a rape culture.

In our society, it is far more likely that a woman will be blamed for her own rape rather than her rapist. Our society also has a conflated idea of false rape reports. Well, let me spit some hot fire of truth at you, my sweet angel faces.

            Only 2% of sexual assault reports have been found to be false.

            TWO. PERCENT.

So, 98% of reported rapes ACTUALLY DO OCCUR…and yet 98% of rapists walk free.

Let me also add that the 2% of false reports falls in line with all other false crime reports- and yet you never hear someone question the legitimacy of a mugging or a theft! Furthermore, recanted stories count as “false” reports. (A recanted story is what happens when a victim chooses to drop charges after deciding the risk for their own mental/emotional health or safety is not worth continuing to press charges).

I want to make something excruciatingly clear here: IT IS NEVER THE VICTIM’S FAULT.

I don’t care what I’m wearing, who I’m with, how much I’m drinking, what I’ve consented to in past relationships, it is never okay for someone to violate my body against my will. I could be passed out naked and it would still not be okay. I could have had sex with you a billion times and if I say no one time, that means no. My body exists for me, not for someone else’s sexual pleasure or need for power and control.

A rapist’s choice to rape is a decision they made, and it has nothing to do with the victim. Blaming a victim would be like blaming me if I drove my car down the highway and a drunk driver came across the median and slammed into me. The drunk driver’s shitty decision had nothing to do with me. Just because I’m in my car and driving does not mean it’s an open invitation for a car accident; and just because I’m walking down the street and you can see that I’m a woman does not mean there is an open invitation for you to violate my body.

We live in a rape culture, but we don’t have to. It’s time to end this.

I’m going to stop for now, but consider this Part One.

On Humanism; or, I’m Tired of Being Angry All the Time

My head hurts from all of the sexism, misogyny, misunderstanding, misuse of feminism, etc etc etc that I have seen lately. I’m tired of being upset, offended, or angry all the time.

I’m tired of being afraid to be alone at night. I’m tired of being undervalued because I am a woman. I’m tired of hearing about women blamed for their own rapes. I’m tired of people trying to blame the patriarchy on women. I’m tired of hearing people say that women are the reason some men are violent. I’m tired of being told the way I dress is wrong. I’m tired of being expected to have children. I’m tired of being told what I can and cannot do with my own damn body. I’m tired of the sexual double standard. I’m tired of the men I know being called “pussies” if they- GASP- display emotion. I’m tired of MRAs complaining about feminism. I’m tired of feminism complaining about MRAs. I’m tired of being so dang tired of all of this.

We NEED to start fighting oppression EVERYWHERE. We NEED HUMANISM.

This is the simplest way I can think of to express the change we desperately need.

Men are not superior to women. Women are not superior to men.

Gender and anatomical sex are not necessarily the same thing.

Gender roles aren’t necessarily bad, but they are bad when we begin imposing them as The Only Way.

A woman can do what she wants with her life. A man can do what he wants with his life.

A woman should be free to walk alone at night. A man should not be feared just because he is a man.

Sexuality shaming against anyone is wrong.

Abuse against anyone is wrong.

Oppression against anyone is wrong.

We’re all people. I’m not superior to you; you aren’t superior to me.

NO ONE will be truly free until EVERYONE is truly free.

On Privilege; or, What It’s Like Being a Woman

I recently had a conversation about what it’s like to be a woman, or, perhaps more accurately, what it’s like to be me, an anatomical female who also identifies as a woman. (I believe sex and gender are NOT inextricably linked, but that’s a post for another time). This conversation was about the ways in which I am not privileged.

 

I am not privileged in that I cannot walk alone at night and feel safe at the same time; no, not even in my tiny Midwestern town.

I am not privileged in that I make less money than a man who has the exact same job.

I am not privileged in that I am constantly evaluated on my appearance instead of my ability.

I am not privileged in that there is at least a 25% chance that I will be raped someday, and about a 3% chance that my rapist will go to prison. In other words, out of every 100 rapes, ninety -seven rapists go free.

I am not privileged in that if I am assaulted, people will ask what I was wearing, if I was drinking, or if I really wanted it. Nobody asks to get raped, you callous assholes.

I am not privileged in that when I speak out in the same way a man does, I am called a bitch.

I am not privileged in that if I don’t laugh at a rape joke, I am branded a bitch, asked what my problem is, or told to lighten up. Rape isn’t funny. Stop making jokes about it.

I am not privileged in that strangers- men who I don’t even know- believe they have a right to my body. I was maybe twelve the first time a boy smacked my ass. I was livid then and I’m still livid when it happens today. And I am not privileged in that if I respond to these violations of my body, there’s a good chance I’ll get called a bitch, a slut, a whore- or worse, that I’ll be at greater risk for further assault.

I am not privileged in that I can’t even go to the damn grocery store without some creep trying to make a pass.

I am not privileged in that the government won’t get out of my uterus, and thinks I am slut for wanting birth control to be accessible…yet Viagra was funded by the government for years.

I am not privileged in that if I have a male friend who is nice to me, my friendship is not enough for him. Apparently the reward for common human decency is supposed to be sex. The friendzone does not fucking exist and my friendship is not a damn consolation prize.

I am not privileged in that I still have to fight to be treated like a human being and not just a walking pair of breasts.

I am not privileged in that I even have to explain the plethora of ways in which I am not privileged.

Believe me, this is barely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There are so many other things that happen on a daily basis because of my gender that piss me off to no end that I could talk about, but I’ll stop for now.

And, oh yeah- the person I had this conversation with? He sounded appalled and surprised at the same time. Someone did that to you? Yes. This is constant. This happens all the damn time. And this is why I need a change in our society.

On Sexuality, Part Two; or, an Open Letter to Kaitlyn Hunt

If you haven’t heard about this yet, a Florida teenager is facing criminal charges over her relationship with her girlfriend after she turned eighteen. This is my open letter for her.

Dear Kaitlyn,

I don’t know you, and the possibility that we will ever meet is paper-thin. I am standing with you anyway. I am sorry, Kaitlyn, that you are facing this discrimination. I am sorry that there are people telling you that you are wrong, that the way you feel is wrong, that you deserve criminal punishment. You do not. The only thing that changed was the turning of the day, from seventeen to eighteen. It isn’t fair, and you don’t deserve it. There are people out there saying terrible things. There are people out there saying it isn’t an act of homophobia, but it is. And I am sorry that even in 2013, something like this can happen. I hope that you can feel the support around the country for you right now. I hope you can take that support and use it to drown out the negativity being forced upon you. I hope that there will be justice for you, that you will be victorious. I hope you can teach people about their bigotry. I hope there will be a change in our society.

But either way, Kaitlyn, I am here, and I am standing with you.

Take care,

Elizabeth

 

A consensual, high-school relationship is not the same thing as a thirty-year-old predator abusing a fifteen-year-old. When I was in high school, there were dozens of relationships between kids who had turned/were turning eighteen and  younger students. This is not predatory, this is not sexual misconduct, this is not child abuse if the relationship is consensual between both parties. And it seems that Kaitlyn’s relationship with her girlfriend was consensual and that Kaitlyn did not pressure her girlfriend. This is a case not about age difference, not about “lewd and lascivious battery,” but rather a case of parents who were angry about their daughter being in a homosexual relationship, and instead of voicing their concern in an appropriate way, waited until their daughter’s girlfriend turned eighteen and then pressed charges. This is about parents who are so bigoted, homophobic, and immature that instead of talk to their daughter or Kaitlyn or Kaitlyn’s parents, they chose to press criminal charges and potentially ruin another girl’s life.

I am sickened by the blatant homophobia in this case, and in the hundreds of other instances of things like this I see day in and day out living in the supposed “land of the free.” And it is my sincere hope that someday, we will be able to move beyond this kind of bigotry (and douchebagery). In the meantime, I’m choosing to stand with Kaitlyn.

Thoughts?

Men and Feminism

This is an amazing post that says many things I wish I could say but she already said them better. Bravo, bravo, bravo.

The Belle Jar

I’ve been doing a bunch of thinking lately. I mean, most of it has been about, like, cat videos and comic books, but over the past week a significant part of my brain has been occupied by the following question:

What place do men have in the feminist movement?

First of all, let me straight up say that I think that they for sure have a place, and an important one at that. I like dudes, I think they are super great and that many of them have important, valuable things to say about feminism. And I don’t think that we have a hope in hell of achieving equality if only self-identified women are welcome in the feminist movement.

But.

BUT.

I don’t think that men have any place as leaders in the movement. I don’t think that they should ever, ever lecture women on how to be feminists. And…

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On Masculinity; or, You Can’t Have One without the Other

Strap in, ladies and gentlemen, because this is gonna be a long one (but well worth it, I think!). Let’s call it Part One, as I’m still working through what I think. Also, please note that this is from my perspective, and I don’t pretend to understand it all or have all the answers. This post is just me sorting out some basic things I’ve been thinking about for the past few days.

Anyway.

A few days ago, we discussed masculinity in my gender studies class; I have to admit, it was pretty eye opening. I have a tendency to rage about women’s rights and the problems with the way our society pressures women, but I don’t often considered the problems men face as well. Granted, it’s clear that men are more privileged, and although men are not better than women, the pervading ideology is that it is better to be a man…but I digress. Not the point of this post.

Even Dr. House follows Guy Code.

I’m sure everyone has heard some version of “Guy Code,” “Bro Code,” et cetera, in regards to how men ought to behave. Well, for my class we read an article called “Bros Before Hos: The Guy Code” by Michael Kimmel. It’s actually a chapter from a book Kimmel wrote called “Guyland.” Anyway, Kimmel discusses the expectations our society has for men, and what it means to be masculine. Essentially, he found four basic ideologies about being a man, which he outlined as:

1.     “No sissy stuff”- To be masculine is to repudiate everything considered feminine. To be a man, you cannot be perceived as “weak, effeminate, or gay.”

2.     “Be a Big Wheel”- Masculinity is measured by wealth, power, and status.

3.     “Be a Sturdy Oak”- “What makes a man is that he is reliable in a crisis.” This is not responding appropriately in a situation, but rather the absence of responding (emotionally, etc)- he should be a rock, a pillar. Essentially inanimate.

4.     “Give ‘Em Hell”- Daring and aggression. Take risks. Fight for what you want. Don’t pay attention to what others say/think/believe/want from you.

Kimmel goes on to talk about where these ideas and pressures come from, and what he found was that this kind of gender policing came from other men. From a young age, many (if not most) boys are taught to be masculine- or to reject anything that may be considered feminine. Think about it. How many times have you heard guys throwing around phrases like, “Dude, that’s so gay,” or “Don’t be such a girl/sissy/pussy.” Kimmel said that even the slightest hint of something feminine can take away a man’s masculinity. Why is that? A gay man is still a man- but our society raises men to believe anything feminine is wrong, and therefore to be a man you cannot be feminine. This is a pretty big contributing factor to the oppression homosexual men face at the hands of their peers; because some gay men (not all) display more feminine traits, they are seen by others as not being a man or, not being man enough.

This brings me to what I see as Problem Number One with the way we presently perceive masculinity. Men, like women, are expected to behave in a certain way, and if they don’t, there are strong negative consequences. And yet, there is nothing wrong with conventional masculinity; there is also nothing wrong with not being conventionally masculine. We need to learn to accept the multitude of masculinities in the world (like with femininities, every man will have his own unique masculinity, and we ought to be able to accept him as is, regardless of how conventional or not he may be).

Moving on, I feel like Kimmel’s second and third points can be grouped with what I said above. Take for example the “be a sturdy oak” rule; for example, men aren’t supposed to cry. Why not? Who cares? Everyone cries. If a man has feelings and wants to cry, let him.

The last thing I want to talk about in this post is the idea that “boys will be boys,” meaning boys will be aggressive, daring, physical, and even violent. Kimmel talks about how aggression is expected from boys and men; it is even looked at sometimes as an appropriate avenue for men to express themselves. Violence can re-assert masculinity, deny weakness, restore status- all things vital to the conventional sense of masculinity. However, this ultimately can contribute to the problems in our society with domestic abuse, rape culture, and other kinds of violence. Big problem.

“Guy code” also gives birth to what Kimmel calls “cultures,” three of them”

1.     A culture of entitlement

2.     A culture of  silence

3.     A culture of protection

I won’t take the time to discuss all three cultures separately, but taken along with the aggression I just talked about, basically these three cultures add up to continue perpetuating the problems our society has with domestic abuse and rape culture. Boys and men learn that they are entitled to a certain dominance or power because they are male. Likewise, they learn cultures of silence and protections. For example, Kimmel discussed an incident of rape wherein there were other men present who said nothing to stop the act, despite feeling uncomfortable. He theorized this could have come from the cultures of silence and protection, wherein the witnesses remained silent to save their own masculinity and avoid mockery or abuse from their peers.

Take for another example the recent rape case in Steubenville. The culture of protection in regards to males has resulted in a lot of sympathy for the rapists and a lot of condemnation for the victim, which seems so backward to me. Instead of blaming the rapists for raping (HELLO???), some news sources (here’s looking at you, CNN) have seemed to almost side with the rapists, blaming the victim while lamenting the perpetrators’ futures. Like WHAT? THEY’RE RAPISTS. DON’T FEEL BAD FOR THEM, THEY RAPED A GIRL.

 I’m digressing a little again, so let me back up and clarify. These themes of masculinity I’m discussing by no means indicate that every man is a would-be rapist or would keep silent about a rape, or domestic violence, or anything like that. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these themes, just like there’s nothing inherently wrong with conventional femininities. What I am saying is that the expectations our society has about men and masculinity can contribute to these kinds of problems when men feel they must conform in order to be men. If men were taught that it was okay not to be aggressive, not to be silent, not to protect each other no matter who else it hurts, then perhaps someone would have taken a stand in Steubenville, and told the rapists to stop, or called the police, or done something differently. Perhaps if men were taught to view women as people of equal value instead of objects for their use, things would be different. Kimmel says that in our society, bullies and predators are empowered and encouraged while good guys are silenced. Men, like women, are faced with pressures to conform to an overarching standard of masculinity; and like the myth of femininity, these pressures can lead to dangerous social norms or ideas and contribute negatively to our culture. The struggle to be one’s own self amidst a barrage of expectations, roles, and norms is universal, not limited only to females.

Granted, men still have more privilege in our culture than women, but they face undue, unfair pressures just the same, and we cannot fix one without looking to the other. In order to achieve true gender equity, we must overcome problems for all genders. We need to learn to accept people as they are, not what we want them to be. I’m not sure what kind of change that would take, but one thing is clear to me: We need change, and we need it now.

Thoughts?