Recently there was a shooting in which two women and four men were killed and a few handfuls of others were injured. The cause of the shooting was supposedly because a 22 year old man was exacting revenge on women for not going out with him. I have seen many mixed responses to the story; some responses say that he was justified, while others are made to express shock and sadness at the state of our culture. So here is my response to all of these responses and to the societal entitlement of men.
It seems these days, with the ever important role of over sexualized media in our society and women aspiring to fill less traditional roles, that it can be hard to tell if a woman wants you to rape her or not. The matter is only further complicated by the blurred lines of everyday life. You may notice a woman wearing a knee-baring skirt, drinking alcohol, or walking alone.
Are these invitations for sex? Sometimes it can be difficult to tell.
Luckily, there is a simple answer that applies to any situation you could possibly imagine!
The only time a woman is ever asking for sex is when she is literally asking you to have sex with her. In all other circumstances it should be assumed that she is not asking for sex or sexual advances.
It doesn’t matter if the woman in question is drinking, is smoking, is alone, is with her friends, is with her partner, lacks intelligence, has mental problems, has had sex before, has had sex before and liked it, has had sex with multiple partners, has had sex with multiple partners at the same time, has had sex with you before, looks like she could use it, is attractive, is unattractive; heck, it doesn’t even matter where you both happen to be or what she is wearing. It is never okay to assume you have the right to have sex with someone or make sexual advances towards them.
If this is not clear, there is one other way to tell if it is okay to have sex with a woman: politely begin a conversation and ask if they are interested in you. If they are, you can begin a more intimate conversation. If they are not interested in you, it is important that you show them respect and leave them be. This is not the end of the world for you, there is surely someone else out there that is interested in the same activities as you in an entirely consensual manner.
What is rape culture?
Rape culture is a concept which links rape and sexual violence to the culture of a society, and in which prevalent attitudes and practises normalize, excuse, tolerate, and even condone rape.
Why is rape culture so persistent?
Rape culture seems to, in my opinion, mainly be perpetuated by an attitude that rape and sexual crimes, or even non-sexual violent crimes are the fault of the woman. As a society we are quick to brush of the cause of rape as the clothing she was wearing, the fact the she was drinking, whether she has had past sexual partners, if she was not taking anti-rape precautions, if she had been in any way friendly towards the man that attacked her. In our culture we teach women how to avoid rape, though even in this manner we accept that it cannot be altogether prevented, rather than teaching men that rape is not okay. We teach women that they must be very vigilant when shopping for clothing, as anything too sexy will inspire sexual violence. We teach them that if they are drinking they must do so cautiously and never leave a drink unattended, least they get drugged as they would have then deserved. And what if a woman drinks too much at a party and go lay down? At that point unwanted sex is fair game and they should have known better. We teach women to stay in groups because if they leave work and walk through a parking lot alone at night rape is a very real possibility. We teach them that they must be more cautious of the things they would because their actions speak more to their character than the actions of a man do to him.
I will share an example from my personal experience. If a teenager and her friends run into an old baby sitter of one of her friends and they all share a joint, hang out, and the adult male carries a young girl away and rapes her it will not hold up in court because the fact that she had been high at the time speaks badly to her character. The fact that the man was an adult and was also high doesn’t mean anything. The child should have known better than the adult in this situation. Firstly, she should have known that smoking marijuana would leave her open to the possibility of rape and secondly she should have known that an adult that had been a family friend to her best friend could not be trusted.
I clearly should have known better and therefore I got what I deserved.
Placing blame on women is detrimental, not only because it has proven to corrupt the justice system, but because it perpetuates a cycle of sexual harassment, sexual violence, and violent crimes against women. When you assume blame belongs on the female, regardless of the circumstance, you are immediately excusing men from any wrong doing. You are not only suggesting, you are directly saying, that their behaviour is okay. You are outlining situations that make it okay to take advantage of another human being. You are forgoing basic human rights to say that rape and crimes against women have a time and a place as loosely dictated by the woman (unknowingly to her). In dismissal of one human being you raise the other above them. Every time this happens it sets an awful example of all other men, for women, and for children as to how men should treat women and how women should expect to be treated.
Another massive problem that perpetuates this cycle is women’s fear of coming forward. There have been so many cases where women are privately or publicly dismissed for crimes committed against them. The attitude that it is the fault of the women is so deeply seeded that even friends or family dismiss these women. In a situation like this support is very important, if women cannot get the proper support to deal with a trauma like this how can they find the courage to come forward? Many times when they do come forward they face the same attitudes from law enforcement and little or nothing is done. Women are put on a trail of character rather than finding help. And once again a predator is free to walk among us and find another victim.
Another issue is the general root cause of crime against women. The way our society is structured around this issue makes it difficult not only for women to come forward, but also for men. There is a combination of lack of education on rape and violent crimes against women as well there is a lack of support for those suffering with mental health issues. Now I am no expert, or even novice, when it comes to men and the mental health issues that lead to rape and violent crime but I feel if this was a subject we could openly talk about we could find solutions. Instead of simply teaching women how to avoid being raped or making rape prevention garments we need to talk to men. We need to start when they are children. We need to teach them how to treat others with respect, including how to treat women and how to handle rejection. We need to teach them what to do when they have such strong negative feelings. Where can men go to get help without feeing the shame they otherwise force on to their victims? Surely women grow up dealing with some of the same problems as men and some of the same feelings. Why don’t women act as readily with violence as men do? I believe this problem is another product of a rape culture perpetuating society. We teach women to be victims and men to be strong and aggressive. Women are supposed to be submissive sexual creatures while men are supposed to be strong and emotionally reserved. We live in a society where if men come forward with mental issues it is not accepted.
Following this view, a cycle is created wherein a man makes an initial judgement based on the physical desirability of a woman, creating this perceived need for women to constantly present an attractive appearance. While on the same front women are judged to be deserving of sexual assault if their attempts to visually woo men were successful. This perception allows the cycle to worsen. Women feel obligated to be appealing. Men, to varying degrees of course, view the attractiveness of their partner as some sort of status symbol to brag to their friends about. This whole view stifles women. It makes us seem as though we are not capable of making our own decisions. We are not people. We are sex objects. It produces a sense of entitlement, that we are a sexual conquest. If we are to reject a man it must either be because we are already in a relationship, we do not really mean it, or because we are crazy.
I wonder how many relationships end only to have the man list the reason as because “she is crazy” or something to that effect. It is a convenient way to dismiss a woman and any negligence the man is responsible for in the relationship. It has become all too acceptable of an excuse. If a woman is not interested in you it is not because the two of you are not compatible or because you personally displayed some sort of issue, no, it is because she was surely crazy. If a woman stands up for herself she is crazy. The crazy copout is so invasive even other women, even your friends, will say it. “He has a great job and your turned him down? You must be crazy!” As though one factor is enough to determine compatibility and happiness in a relationship. If a man walks up to you and touches you inappropriately it is okay because either you wanted it or you are crazy, and if you complain it is incredibly unlikely that he will be removed from whatever establishment you both are in, it is best for you to leave if it bothers you so much. But be careful not to get raped on the way home because you are seemingly a magnet for sexual assault right now.
How are women contributing to the problem?
Dating is hard enough. If you are not interested just say so. If you are interested but don’t feel the timing is right or something like that just be transparent. Although many things are worse than rejection, an immediate stand out for me is being led on. I am sure some men badger women because they genuinely think it will change their minds. If women say no when they mean yes or try to be polite and brush of their disinterest as something else it makes this whole thing worse. Just be upfront and stand your ground. You don’t need to feel bad or make excuses as to why you aren’t interested in someone else.
I think women have become so used to this idea that a significant portion of our purpose in life is to be sexually appealing and pleasing others that most of us have just succumb to it. It is so ingrained in our society through media and the treatment we receive from others. Ladies, we need to separate ourselves from that. We don’t owe beauty to anyone. We have ambitions, flaws, and struggles just as men do. Aspire towards your ambitions. Embrace your flaws. Conquer your struggles. If you dress up, do it for you. Don’t do anything because you think it will make you sexually appealing to a potential mate. That is garbage.
What is the bottom line?
Our society actively condones rape culture. Cat calling is supposed to be viewed as a compliment. Women are paid less than men who are in the same position and provide the same quality of work. Rape jokes are supposed to be funny. Women that get raped aren’t supposed to talk about because it was probably their fault, it says a lot about them as a person but nothing about the man that did it.
If all is lost and there is no hope for changing my generation or the generations before me, the least we can do is educate children, they are the future after all.
We can teach our children that rape and violence against women is not okay. We can teach boys to respect women and we can teach girls that they are worthy of respect. We can teach them that there is help out there if they are struggling because of rejection or because someone is making them feel uncomfortable or acting inappropriately towards them.
However, I am an optimist and I believe we can all have a part in moving forward.
We need to speak up. As women we need to come forward and humanize the situation. So many women are affected that I would be shocked to find that a family has gone unaffected by rape culture. If more of us talked about it people would start to realize that we are friends, mothers, daughters, partners, teachers, doctors.. so many of us from all walks of life; that have been the targets of crime against women.
Everyone should speak up. The more, the better. We need to stop accepting the behaviour of our friends when they joke about rape or treating women as sex objects so we can change the whole climate. We can look past appearances and treat each other as human beings. We can look out for each other. We can make sure everyone gets home safely each night. We can make sure rapists know we won’t support their behaviour anymore or even tolerate it. We can change rape from this unfortunate thing that women bring upon themselves to a real crime, as it should be, that gets offenders off the streets.
We can all work together to demystify rape and the circumstances surrounding it. We can let everyone know that these things are happening unbiasedly to their friends, family members, mothers, daughters, partners; no one is unaffected. No one asked for it.
The line is invisible but it shouldn’t be hard to understand – if it wasn’t asked for don’t do it. No means no. If they aren’t in a position to say no (such is the case when you are shouting sexual remarks at someone, you touch someone without invitation to do so, or a person is not conscious), the answer is automatically no. This only changes once you have had the chance to politely speak with that person and your intentions have been made clear and accepted.
We can all say no to rape culture.
I would like to add a note, I do know a lot of men that do not engage in or tolerate rape culture and not only would I like to draw attention to those wonderful men to thank them for having genuine human decency, I would like to use them to make a point that if not all men rape regardless of what “temptations” they are exposed to through everyday dealings with women, how is rape possibly the woman’s fault?