Log in

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Some thoughts on rape culture

A couple of days ago, someone on a (closed) Facebook group I belong to posted a link to a blog post about rape culture.

And, predictably, one of the first comments to that link was along the lines of "this is just another attempt to say that male sexuality is bad."

It doesn't even really matter where the linked blog post is (though if you're interested, it's here); the "you're just demonizing men" reaction comes up on any conversation I've ever seen about rape culture, as sure as night follows day. And it's annoying.

It seems to me that if that's your take-away from discussions about rape culture, you aren't paying attention.

Male sexuality is not inherently evil, and acknowledging that rape culture is a thing isn't the same as "demonizing male sexuality." This seems obvious to me, yet it's a persistent trope: saying that we have a culture that normalizes, trivializes, and to a large extent even excuses sexual violence is conflated with demonizing male sexuality, as if, I don't know, male sexuality were somehow inextricably tied to rape or something.

I personally have never met any women who believe that male sexuality is tied to rape, though I keep hearing from other men about that's what "feminists think".

When I see a trope become that deeply embedded in a conversation about something, I tend to wonder who it benefits. I definitely think there are men who benefit from this trope. There are some men who want to conflate "discussing the cultural component of sexual violence" with "demonizing all male sexuality." These men want you to read articles like the blog post that led to all this and respond with "you're saying men are evil! You're saying all men are rapists!" That's the interpretation they want you to have.

There are two kinds of men who want you to have that response: rapists, and men who want power over women.

Not all men are rapists.

There is, for some people, a knee-jerk response to any conversation about rape culture that goes "You just think all men are rapists!" That isn't what this (and articles like it) say. What they say is that women have to act like all men are potentially rapists, because rapists don't wear a special hat or have a special handshake or anything.

A strange man is probably not a rapist, but he might be. Since there's no telltale signal that lets you tell a rapist from a not-rapist, women have to assume that a stranger could potentially be a rapist, simply out of self-preservation. A common analogy here is that not every strange dog will bite you, but it's usually a good idea not to approach every strange dog you see with reckless abandon--because some of them might bite you, and you have no way of telling which.

Rapists and men who want power over women are quite pleased when people deflect conversations about rape culture with "you're just saying male sexuality is evil," because it shuts down conversation about the reality of rape culture...and that suits them just fine. It allows things to continue on exactly as they are--which is to say, allows society to continue blaming victims of rape for their own attacks ("did you see what she was wearing??!), allows rape victims who come forward to continue being disbelieved, allows the courts to continue under-prosecuting rape.

All of this serves the needs of men who rape and men who want to control women, and the only side effect (other than the fact that, y'know, women are marginalized) is that some men are treated like they might possibly be a rapist.

You're a guy, and you don't like it? You don't like the idea that women who don't know you might respond as though you are a potential rapist, even though that's something you would never, ever, do? Do something about it! Do something to make our society less welcoming to rapists. Don't trivialize rape. Don't whine "but what about false accusations?" when women talk about how claims of rape are rarely taken seriously. Don't treat tape as a punch line.

Look, this is not rocket science. If you're a guy, you have a disproportionate amount of power, even if you personally don't feel like it's true. It's not enough to say "Well, I'm not a rapist, and I don't trivialize rape, so I don't like it when women treat me like I might be a rapist!" You have to do more. You have to stand up to the people around you who do trivialize rape. You have to stand up to people who are rapists--yes, I'm talking to you, and yes, statistically, unless you live as a hermit in a one-room cabin in Montana you probably know at least one rapist in your social circle. Even if you don't know who he is.

You don't like the implications of discussing rape culture? Don't dismiss those discussions; that doesn't serve anyone except rapists. Do something about it.


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 22nd, 2013 03:15 am (UTC)
*wild applause* :D
Jul. 22nd, 2013 03:22 am (UTC)
All humans are potentially murderers, but that doesn't require me to go around assuming everyone I see might potentially kill me. I can choose to behave that way, but if I do it's *my choice*, along with the misery that goes with it.

Women have the choice of acting like all men are potentially rapists. The "have to" are your words, not theirs; no one requires them to and no aspect of reality forces this upon them. We (humans) always meet for the first time as strangers, and some getting-to-know-you process is necessary. I'm fine with some amount of suspicion; I'm a complex person and it takes a while to get to know what I carry around in this skull with me (*I'm* still exploring; why shouldn't you?). But if someone is so obsessed on whether I'm about to rape them (or kill them, from above example) that we can't get past that to more entertaining conversation, I'm going to get bored and wander off.

Idolizing rape is no better than trivializing it.
Jul. 22nd, 2013 05:46 am (UTC)
You are missing the point pretty spectacularly.
Jul. 22nd, 2013 06:05 am (UTC)
That totally makes sense, except for the fact that the homicide rate in the US is 4.8 people per 100,000 members of the population1, whereas the rate of sexual assault is 240 per 100,000 members of the population2. That is, you are about 50 times more likely to be raped than to be murdered, and that's not even accounting for the fact that rape is extremely underreported, possibly by as much as an order of magnitude3.

The rate of rape in the US is 1 for every 416 women in the population per year;; over an average lifetime, 1 in 5 women will be raped. If 1 in 5 people were murdered, hell yeah you'd see people treating every stranger as a potential murderer, and rightly so.

Incidence of crime affects response to crime.

Sources: 1 The National Archive of Criminal Justice Data, 2011; 2 US National Crime Victimization Survey; 3 United States Department of Justice Report on Violent Crime, 2007.
Jul. 22nd, 2013 10:14 am (UTC)
The real kicker of this, though, is that while your stats are good, the vast majority of those rapes will be committed by someone known to and trusted by the victim. So while every woman is brought up with the knowledge that rapists don't wear hats - so we still have to be wary every time we go out of the house, meet a new guy, all that shebang, but really the guys we need to be most wary of are probably already in our houses, in our families, charming us into believing that they're 'safe'... until the moment when they think they can get away with it.

I never quite called it 'rape', but the guy who coerced me into things that were outside my limits, and who eventually tried to kill me (twice :() well, let's say he wasn't a stranger.

How to respond to meeting new people, when someone you thought you knew well could do that to you? How to do *enough* due diligence to feel safe, while maintaining any ability to build relationships? Not easy. Taking things slow, slower, slowest, watching, listening, looking for red flags... paying attention to people who dismiss my concerns, because chances are they're not to be trusted. Being *extra* wary when in NRE, because I know that the warm pink fuzzies can lie like investment bankers.

Am I wary of men? Am I wary of HUMANS? You bet I am.

'Polydad', your attitude... your casual dismissal of the REALLY IMPORTANT CONCEPT that because rapists don't wear hats I can't tell that you aren't going to be dangerous to me... That makes me instantly on the alert against you. Perhaps, in dismissing the dangers you might present, you're doing so because there is something you don't want me to look at?

Curiously enough, I manage to have plenty of relationships despite my prior experiences. Even though five years on I still get the occasional flashback, most of my partners have been very good about handling that with me. I don't feel the need to make a big thing of it most of the time. It's not usually the first thing anyone learns about me. I have fun. But seriously, you're not doing yourself any favours.
Consent isn't 'boring'. It's the all-important fucking fundamental concept that underpins being a decent human being. And what consent requires is TRUST, which to be actually meaningful necessitates work on all sides to build it properly. Trusting someone from nothing, because four times in five you'll probably be okay... that's not 'entertaining', that's just dumb.

But you don't GET it, so I won't be going near you.
Jul. 22nd, 2013 07:04 pm (UTC)
Most murderers are likely known by their victims too, though.
Jul. 22nd, 2013 08:36 pm (UTC)
Um, hello? Did you read my comment or just skim it? What part of your brain thought telling a woman whose partner tried to kill her that most murderers are known to their victims was in any way fucking helpful? Thanks for the fucking panic attack.
Please don't reply directly. If I'm going to view a reply to this I want to control when I see it.
Jul. 22nd, 2013 01:05 pm (UTC)
"The "have to" are your words, not theirs; no one requires them to and no aspect of reality forces this upon them."

I call bull on that. Every little child is infused with the lines of "stranger danger". And every little girl is from birth up taught by their parents, their schools, their churches, etc. etc, etc. that they must act, dress, and be certain ways so that they don't tempt men. That is where rape culture starts. That's where it should be stopped. Our culture doesn't train us from birth to look at everyone as murderers. But our culture does train women to not invite rapists. I've even fallen into the trap and have tried to make sure my daughter doesn't fall into a rapists trap. Fortunately, she doesn't believe my fears are really that warranted and lives her life a bit more relaxed and freely. I pray that she continues to be right.
Jul. 22nd, 2013 07:41 pm (UTC)
"All humans are potentially murderers, but that doesn't require me to go around assuming everyone I see might potentially kill me."

How many people do you know who were murdered? I personally know 21 women who were raped or violently sexually assaulted. That kinda changes one perspective on the world, wouldn't you say?

"I can choose to behave that way, but if I do it's *my choice*, along with the misery that goes with it. "

our "choice" is severely limited by the fact that 1 in 5 of us will be raped and 1 in 3 sexually assaulted. If you can't escape it, can't avoid it, and can't live a life without knowing someone who has been affected, then how do you figure there is "choice" involved?

"Women have the choice of acting like all men are potentially rapists"

Years ago I told a boyfriend I very much loved that I was raped as a teen. Just a simple recounting of facts, just as we would usually reveal our past to intimate partners. He reacted to my mater of fact statement with anger; slapped me in the face and walked out the door. I had the choice to act like he was a normal, caring human being and put myself in "danger". Logic indicates that I should have been just fine telling him about my past. Evidence proved otherwise and ta-da I no longer have much "choice" but to believe that it's safer for me to be in another room when telling someone about being raped.

"choice" is what those with all the cards have, and you, polydad, have 'em and it's more than a little stomach churning to watch you flaunt that.

Edited at 2013-07-22 07:44 pm (UTC)
Ins Rhyne
Jul. 24th, 2013 04:47 am (UTC)
Disproportionate amount of power...key phrase
Jul. 22nd, 2013 05:28 am (UTC)
The problem I have with 99 percent of discussions about 'rape culture' is that they presume that all rape is men raping women, when women can rape men, men can rape men, and women can rape women.

It's very much like discussions about domestic violence that usually make the same kind of assumption.
Jul. 22nd, 2013 06:06 am (UTC)
The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics states that 91% of rape victims are female and 9% are male, and 99% of rapists are male.

(Deleted comment)
Jul. 22nd, 2013 07:44 pm (UTC)
In fairness I suspect female rape of men is under-reported, but it doesn't in any way invalidate the discussion because that too is a symptom of rape culture. When a minor is raped by an adult and people react with "boy, he got lucky" because the rapist is a woman, it is because we don't live in a consent culture. Ideally it should be obvious that you don't want to fuck anyone who doesn't consent enthusiastically (toys exist for a reason). And anyone who wants to play at non-consent at any stage should be expected to negotiate in advance. Of course this also absolutely requires the culture to stop shaming women for consenting...
Jul. 22nd, 2013 07:04 am (UTC)
It is quite simple: discussing rape culture and doing something about it is in the interest of any man who cares deeply for at least one woman in his life. You don't want rape to happen to any of your cherished ones, and it only makes sense that you would not want that to happen to anyone, ever.

Rape is a huge problem this day, and the one way to try to do something about it is to stop tolerating it, stop justifying it, stop dismissing it as something that doesn't affect you (because it does affect you), and start being indignant about it. Because rape culture diminishes and hinders the potential for healthy relationships, everyone should have an interest in eradicating it.

It is not a matter of women demonizing or accusing all men of being potential rapist. It is a boat all genders are on together, and they better realize it soon. When talking about rape, you (men) are not being accused: on the contrary, your help is being requested.

Do something about it.
Dusty Hu
Jul. 24th, 2013 10:59 am (UTC)
Exactly Anon, and this post reads more to me like the typical nonsense and pseudo reverse psychology that always lie underneath the tacit words. I am not even going to touch on (or grab the bait) in his statistics listed as the numbers are so far off from each other, obviously they are either not true of there is some major detail that franklin sees as minor, yet intentionally doesn't tell you.

From his awkward way of saying "...Rapists and men who want power over women..."
which is something he repeats several times and how it nothing more then minds games to take your focus off whatever the hell he is really trying to say, although it's clear just saying "rapists" is not good enough and tacit choice of words is just a confusing way to say "rapists and men who rape"

no shit frank, you think rapists might be men who rape? you should be a detective, seriously *shakes head to signify that I really mean no, no you should not*

you should quite being a dick about a very serious matter, and if you really care, try being clear, instead of taking a stab at someone through subtle, tacit words
Jul. 23rd, 2013 03:37 pm (UTC)

I'm sorry for my inconsiderate comment. Yes, I was distracted while reading, but that is no excuse. I have no excuse. I will try to be less thoughtless.
Jul. 28th, 2013 08:06 am (UTC)
While I'll agree wholeheartedly that it's not a valid response to questions of rape culture, one thing I'd like to argue is that people are all to quick to dismiss society's take on male sexuality.

You're right, male sexuality is not inherently evil, nor is it even inherently undesirable, but it is seen that way by society. Indeed, society seems to treat men as undesirable as a whole (except as carriers of assets). That dichotomy, of the universally desirable female and the universally undesirable male, seems to explain many things at least as well as traditional feminist ideas.

If women are supposed to be subservient to men, why wouldn't a woman who "serves" multiple men sexually be praised? Why then is the male virgin shamed? Most explanations of these two phenomena require multiple explanations for the matrix of male/female promiscuous/virginal. I propose that there's an underlying premise that men cannot be desirable, and that women inherently are. That makes whomever enjoys male sexuality deviant (the female slut), just like the person who doesn't enjoy female sexuality (the male virgin). Occam's Razor implies that if a single explanation can account for all four boxes that it's more likely than a paradigm that relies on multiple explanations.

On top of explaining why female virgins and male sluts are praised, and the reverse denounced, this could also have something to do with why male homosexuality is seen as more deviant than female (and bi males facing even more shit than bi females). It's almost as though society is less condemning of lesbians because while they're deviant, they're deviant in a way that follows society's "women are hot" narrative, as opposed to gay men being deviant in multiple ways, explicitly preferring the sexuality of the undesirable male.

It would also explain why a man being dismembered is considered the subject of comedy, if it's the amputation of the physical representation of something society has no respect for in the first place.

Now, if this thought is actually what's going on (which I believe, given how many of my so-called friends thought I should be happy to have some woman I didn't know and didn't like forcing my head into her chest, how nonchalantly they react to me complaining about random drunk [female] strangers flipping up my kilt), I wonder what other effects it's having.

Is it possible that this disparagement of male sexuality in fact contributes to rape culture, by creating a scenario under which rapists believe that is the only way that they can get this thing they're told they're supposed to define themselves in the pursuit of? Is it possible that it teaches these men, in the words of Sublime "if it wasn't for [...] rape [they'd] never get laid"?
Jul. 30th, 2013 07:58 pm (UTC)
Excellently put! This is why I as a woman, "victim" if you will, believe something really has to be done about rape culture:

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )