Posts tagged rape culture.
Resources for Male Survivors
[tw: sexual assault, rape]
I posted last week asking people if they knew of some good resources for male victims of sexual assault. Here is the list people came up with:
…It is a strange thing about looking into the face of a 15-year-old, to really see who they are. You still see the small child that their mother sees. You see the man or woman they will be before they graduate. They are babies whose innocence you want desperately to protect. They are old enough to know better, even if no one has taught them.
I realized then that some of my kids were genuinely confused. “How can she be raped?” they asked, “She wasn’t awake to say no.” These words out of a full fledged adult would have made me furious. I did get a good few minutes in response on victim blaming and why it is so terrible. But out of the face of a kid who still has baby fat, those words just made me sick. My students are still young enough, that mostly they just spout what they have learned, and they have learned that absent a no, the yes is implied.
It is uncomfortable to think that some of the students you still call babies have the potential to be rapists. It is sickening, it is terrifying, but it is true. It is a reality we have to face. My students have lived in a world for fifteen years where the joke “she probably wanted it” isn’t really a joke, they need to unlearn some lessons that no one will admit to teaching them.
Standing in front of my classroom and stating that a woman’s clothing choice is never permission to rape her should not be a radical act. But only a few heads nodded in agreement. Most were stunned, like this was a completely new thought. The follow up questions were terrifying in their earnestness. “Ms. Norman, you mean a woman walking down the street naked is not her inviting sex? How will I know she wants to have sex?” A surprisingly bold voice came out of a girl in the back “You’ll know when she says, you want to have sex?!”
If you want to keep teens from being rapists, you can no longer assume that they know how. You HAVE to talk about it. There is no longer a choice. It is no longer enough to talk to our kids about the mechanics of sex, it probably never was. We have to talk about consent, what it means, and how you are sure you have it. We have to teach clearly and boldly that consent is (in the words of Dianna E. Anderson) an enthusiastic, unequivocal YES!
What came next, when the idea of a clear yes came up, is the reason I will always choose to teach freshmen. They are still young enough to want to entertain new ideas. When we reversed the conversation from, “well she didn’t say no,” to “she has to say YES!” many of them lit up. “Ms. Norman,” they said, “that does make a lot more sense.” “Ms. Norman,” they exclaimed, “that way leaves a lot less confusion.” When one of the boys asked, well what do you want me to do, get a napkin and make her sign it, about four girls from the back yelled, YEAH!…
Thanks to my friend Ivy for sharing this with me on Facebook. All of these things, these conversations I did not properly have until I was well into college. Like a lot of people, none of my schools ever properly talked about healthy and respectful sexual encounters and what sexual assault really was. I really wish we’d had conversations like this, though…
watch that little motherfucker who asked about the napkin though…
Now to teach them that after you get a “yes” she’s allowed to change her mind and say “no.” Even if she signed a napkin. Some fuckshit athlete in my freshman year thought of that brilliant “loophole” and went around (half)jokingly asking a bunch of us to sign a paper saying “yes” so he’d have written consent in advance.
So, yeah, teach them to beware that ‘napkin’ kid…
And after THAT teach them that even an enthusiastic “yes!” doesn’t count if she’s under the influence, underage, or you otherwise have a huge degree of power over her life and choices.
And these lessons would all go a lot smoother if, before all this, we taught them that they have an ethical responsibility not to cause someone harm. That it’s really kinda fucked up to approach sex thinking, “what can I get away with?” rather than the sincere desire to not hurt another human being. That you should decline someone’s “yes” if you think having sex with that person, at that time, could cause harm.
As a culture, we still refuse collectively to accept that most rapes are committed by ordinary men, men who have friends and families, men who may even have done great or admirable things with their lives. We refuse to accept that nice guys rape, and they do it often. Part of the reason we haven’t accepted it is that it’s a painful thing to contemplate – far easier to keep on believing that only evil men rape, only violent, psychotic men lurking in alleyways with pantomime-villain mustaches and knives, than to consider that rape might be something that ordinary men do. Men who might be our friends or colleagues or people we look up to. We don’t want that to be the case. Hell, I don’t want that to be the case. So, we all pretend it isn’t. Justice, see?
Actually, rape is very common. Ninety thousand people reported rape in the United States in 2008 alone, and it is estimated that over half of rape victims never go to the police, making the true figure close to 200,000. Between 10 and 20 per cent of women have experienced rape or sexual assault. It’s so common that – sorry if this hurts to hear – there’s a good chance you know somebody who might have raped someone else. And there’s more than a small chance he doesn’t even think he did anything wrong, that he believes that what he did wasn’t rape, couldn’t be rape, because, after all, he’s not a bad guy.
What I do want to tell you is that you need to stop using the “wives, sisters, daughters” argument when you are talking to people defending the Steubenville rapists. Or any rapists. Or anyone who commits any kind of crime, violent or otherwise, against a woman.
In case you’re unfamiliar with this line of rhetoric, it’s the one that goes like this:
You should stop defending the rapists and start caring about the victim. Imagine if she was your sister, or your daughter, or your wife. Imagine how badly you would feel if this happened to a woman that you cared about.
Framing the issue this way for rape apologists can seem useful. I totally get that. It feels like you’re humanizing the victim and making the event more relatable, more sympathetic to the person you’re arguing with.
You know what, though? Saying these things is not helpful; in fact, it’s not even helping to humanize the victim. What you are actually doing is perpetuating rape culture by advancing the idea that a woman is only valuable in so much as she is loved or valued by a man.
The Steubenville rape victim was certainly someone’s daughter. She may have been someone’s sister. Someday she might even be someone’s wife. But these are not the reasons why raping her was wrong. This rape, and any rape, was wrong because women are people. Women are people, rape is wrong, and no one should ever be raped. End of story.
Here’s the thing - when you argue that it’s impossible to teach men not to rape, you are saying that rape is natural for men. That this is just something men do. Well I’m sorry, but I think more highly of men than that. (And if you are a man who is making this argument, you’ll forgive me if I don’t ever want to be in a room alone with you.)
And when you insist that the only way to prevent rape is for women change their behavior - whether it’s recommending that they carry a weapon or not wear certain kinds of clothing - you are not only giving out false information, you are arguing that misogyny is a given. That the world will continue to be a dangerous and unfair place for women and we should just get used to the fact. It’s a pessimistic and frankly, lazy, view on life. Because when you argue that this is “just the way things are,” what you are really saying is - I don’t care enough to do anything about it.
— Rape Is Not Inevitable: On Zerlina Maxwell, Men and Hope, my latest at The Nation (via jessicavalenti)
— “Do we need a consent culture?” (via tabularasae)