the consequences of committing rape need to be a hundred times more serious, make rapists and people with rape fantasies feel uncomfortable and frightened to exist in society, marginalise them, not us.
For longer than I want to admit, I really didn’t “get” what I was convinced was a pervasive feminist fixation with rape, and its lesser known enabler; rape culture. I’d been lured into liking a few feminist pages cause of some indisputable realisations about the gender pay-gap and sexual politics. If only women weren’t subjected to bullshit sexist double standards and could earn like men, we’d all be on some empowered Beyonce shit.
Sadly for me, a handful of harmless facebook likes suddenly left me exposed to a part of the feminist narrative I had 0 time for, a depressing and uncomfortable narrative on rape. I distinctly remember vowing to myself I’d never end up one of the killjoy feminazis who seemed capable of turning anything, in any arena, into a sexual violence issue. As far as I was concerned, I’d paid my dues at Adversarial Avenue, especially as my late-teens had been characterised by me inevitably partypoopin while polarising about racism, Palestine and the War on Terror to unsuspecting party-goers at 2am. More than anything, I was actively intent on remaining comfortable in the default position of thinking rape was something that happened in distant and isolated spheres I didn’t have to inhabit. The slim imagined threat of rape, as I understood it then, was just another reason (beside 6 inch heel induced pain) to taxi home after dark, but not a reason to digress into diatribes.
Of course, it wasn’t as if the words culture and rape had never been acquainted in my lexicon. I’d comfortably told people accounts of being sexually assaulted in the Middle East, and this visibly reinforced a whole pre-existing set of notions about sexist patriarchal Arab society all my Western friends (me included) had no qualms about ascribing to culture.
But the whole ‘rape culture’ deal? What even was that? Around the same time as I was in the throes of working out how to avoid thinking too hard about the whole thing, I heard one of my mates had raped women in our community. I straight-up refused to admit it with apostolic conviction, even to myself. This was someone I had respected and learned a lot from, and my knee-jerk reaction was some next-level (and pretty textbook) rape apologist bullshit. All I could think about was the damage being done to his reputation. I offered a few empty platitudes about it being sad that people “felt” that way about him but ultimately, I identified with him, not his victims. He was a dude who liked a drink sure, but he’d never harmed me personally, so as far as I could reconcile it, this stuff had to being blown out of proportion by some people with some personal vendettas.
My victim-blaming was of course met with a fuck load of carefully articulated responses from various people explaining to me why my position wasn’t just bullshit, it was deplorable. And while I carefully negotiated my responses to try and sound conciliatory, my true position revealed itself at the end of every conjunction, where a victim blaming cliché glared. When I’m this brutally honest with myself about how I responded to the whole situation, the trivialising of peoples pain and making abused people feel like crap, I don’t feel convinced I’d want to even wanna associate with that person. ‘Regret’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.
I’d been so fucking saturated in a toxic rape-culture (a culture where rape is a punch line; normalised, celebrated, trivialised and is inherently the victims fault cause of what they wore, said, drank etc etc.) my entire life , that I was actively buying-into and participating in it without even thinking, and this exactly what so many of us do, and women are in no way immune. Thanks to some accumulative reflection and seriously patient friends though, I began to get it. A little while ago, I talked to a mate about why it’d taken us so long to accept that rape culture was a thing. There’s something pretty complex about recognising something which implicates you so deeply, in confounding and contradictory ways.
So I’d been implicated as a participant in rape culture, an apologist, a victim-blaming, slut-shaming person who had laughed at rape jokes and shrugged off stories of abuse.
But on the flipside, like nearly every other woman I know, and some men, who face the realisation that rape happens ‘cause our cultural attitudes condone it, I had to face some deeply internalised stuff about my own experiences. I mean, where had my derisive attitude to other women’s experiences emerged from?
Then I remembered being sexually assaulted at age 11 with the kind of clarity I haven’t willed for over a decade. I remember sitting there feeling pure terror and shame while the school bus drivers’ eyes met mine in his mirror, as he silently watched four boys pin me down by my wrists. He watched on, totally unperturbed, as one of them proceeded to tell everyone they all needed to have a “turn” touching me. I lived at the last stop on the school run, and I was the only girl. The group of guys who got off at the last stop would literally chase me home, on the daily. And for those of you who know me, I know the visual of me running fast, anywhere, is a joke, but I’ve never wanted my body to move so fast. ‘Cause I knew there were four of them, and I also knew in my very core they wouldn’t hesitate to drag me off the path and rape me. I dreaded the school journey, especially as the cunts had decided the groping, the rape-threats and the holding me down was going to be a regular wind-up on the school-day routine.
Sure in the knowledge that any day coming they’d follow through, I stayed up late hand-writing (yeh, it was the year 2000) a full page letter to my Dean about the whole thing, pleading them via pleasantries to protect me somehow. I feel like even then I was dubious these people could/ would do anything to stop these boys, so I showed the letter to my (girl) mates who, totally un-phased, told me to “chill-out, they’re just jokers, don’t take it so seriously”.
That wasn’t the first or last time something like that happened to me, in fact, I think it’s only now that I realise the sheer amount of times me and nearly every single woman I love has been hurt or affected by direct or indirect sexual violence.
So here’s where the culture thing needs to be laid out; let’s actually not talk about “cultures” of violence against women as distant and exotic realities. Cultural arguments are so unevenly distributed and sinisterly employed when it comes to this stuff. If there’s a “culture” we wanna talk about, it’s rape culture. We are totally comfortable with the idea that gang-rape in, say, the Arab world is inherently cultural, but we will deny till we are blue in the face that gang rape in Aotearoa, or cop-led victim-blaming are anything but freak anomalies. We have to honest with ourselves that our closeness has us tripping, especially if we think there’s something categorically different going on here. We need to forget about making cheap-shots at cultures we don’t understand to sustain our own ideas about how virtuoso and superior we are in terms of gender issues.
We can all decry rape at a distance, but the fact remains, we’re in a state of collective denial, all while the rape-culture (OUR culture) narrative is embedded deep and always a default when the issues are closest. It tells us to shut up, not make a fuss, not call it that, calm down, be rational, not wreck your rapists life, not cause a scandal. & it plays on, and on and on in a loop our whole lives, permeating our entire ways of understanding. It’s not just in words, but every time someone (like the bus driver) says and does nothing, and we parrot expectations of complacency and denial back at each other on repeat like dedicated disciples.
So no, we are anything but obsessed with rape.We’re the exact inverse. We’re obsessed with making sure no more of our friends have to be raped. But most of us recognise that rape culture will continue on unchecked and invisible if we don’t stop the distortions, denial and congratulatory cultural distancing.
If no little girl is too young to experience sexual predation from her peers (let’s be real this shit starts in pre-school if not sooner) no teenage boy is too young to be shamed/punished for bullying girls, consuming pornography, or committing sexual assault. Boys grow into men who think these norms of violence are acceptable at the expense of the girls blamed for their own victimhood. Girls have to grow up too quickly and boys never do.
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:
reblog for signal boost
Tagging so I can find it again if someone needs it
If women covering up their bodies worked, Afghanistan would have a lower rate of sexual assault than Polynesia. It doesn’t.
If not drinking alcohol worked, children would not be raped. They are.
If your advice to a woman to avoid rape is to be the most modestly dressed, soberest and first to go home, you may as well add “so the rapist will choose someone else”.
If your response to hearing a woman has been raped is “she didn’t have to go to that bar/nightclub/party” you are saying that you want bars, nightclubs and parties to have no women in them. Unless you want the women to show up, but wear kaftans and drink orange juice. Good luck selling either of those options to your friends.
Or you could just be honest and say that you don’t want less rape, you want (even) less prosecution of rapists."
Let’s go back to 1945…
Let’s not… Let’s play a game called “Context Matters!”
That picture on the left, so iconic and romantic? Yeah, that’s a sexual assault right there. That man was a stranger, a strong stranger who grabbed a random woman on the street, and “kissed” her. In her words:
Suddenly, I was grabbed by a sailor. It wasn’t that much of a kiss… “I felt that he was very strong. He was just holding me tight. I’m not sure about the kiss…it was just somebody celebrating. It wasn’t a romantic event.
That picture on the right, the one that looks like a man holding a woman down in the mists of a riot, her clothes disheveled as he kissed her hard? That man is her boyfriend. He’s comforting her. Her real attackers are the police. An eyewitness stated:
The girl who was knocked over landed head first on the pavement with her boyfriend landing partially on top of her. She was in visible pain, crying, but the two officers gave them a parting shove and moved on.
The left picture: an icon of sexism, male privilege, and female objectification.
The right: real love in the face of brutal state force.
I’ve got an issue with this. This post is misleading.
NO ONE is certain of who is in the photo from 1945. SEVERAL couples have come out over the years claiming to be the kissing duo.
I totally agree it’s not okay if this kiss was non-consensual. But, check your facts on this.
[TRIGGER WARNING: RAPE]
- Easy and very effective
- Requires nothing but your body
- Includes attack
Very useful to know, pass and share please.
I don’t mean to impose a personal favour on you guys, but I really would like to ask that everyone who follows me reblog this.
I don’t think I made it very clear but last month I was sexually assaulted by someone who I thought was my friend (I don’t want to talk about it don’t ask), and it’s… really fucked with my head.
Had I known this a month ago I would have been able to get away.
So, essentially, I’m really pleading with you to reblog this so everyone who follows you doesn’t get stuck in the same position I was with no way out.
I mean again I don’t want the point of this to be my sob story or whatever but if you could reblog this it would seriously mean a lot
this is very important. please watch this.
Useful but also possibly triggering. I wasn’t expecting to be put off by this, but towards the end… just a warning.
Below is the complaint by Wellington Rape Crisis staff to Stuff regarding this article on the horrific rape of a 15 year old girl in Hamilton.
Dear Belinda Feek and stuff.co.nz
I am writing on behalf of Wellington Rape Crisis to complain about your article ‘Rapist Pair Show No Remorse’ 10/5.
The ‘Tips on staying safe’ at the end of your article are unhelpful and should be removed. These sorts of tips put the responsibility for rape/sexual assault on the victim, not the perpetrator.
They also contribute to a victim-blaming culture, which is very harmful for survivors of rape and sexual abuse. The ‘tips’ you have listed perpetuate the message that if you don’t ‘travel in a pair’ or if you don’t let people know where you are then you are to blame, or at least partially responsible, for anything that happens to you.
This is a very harmful message and takes responsibility away from the perpetrator. These ‘tips’ also create a false sense of safety and suggest that people can ‘avoid’ being victimised if they follow certain behaviours in their everyday life.
This is not only a harmful message to be sending throughout the community, it is also deeply insensitive to the young women that were assaulted by the offenders that your story is based on. These two young women were travelling together: do you not see the irony that you are recommending people travel in pairs to keep safe?
Providing these ‘tips’ suggests that if you just do these things you will be safe and this is completely inaccurate. Furthermore, these ‘tips’ buy into the myth that rape is most often perpetrated by a stranger? Sexual violence is in fact most often perpetrated by someone known to the victim. One in three sexual assaults is committed by a current partner. Of our clients in the last year, sixty-four percent of offenders were known to the victim, while only nine percent were strangers.
Please consider removing these tips as they send a very unhelpful message to the community. We would welcome an opportunity to work with you on an article that focuses on the realities of sexual violence. It is very important that the correct messages are communicated rather than these inaccuracies.
We look forward to your response.
Natalie [Agency manager]
- A Rolex watch or a fancy car in a bad neighborhood. I am not the basis for a ridiculous victim-blaming metaphor based on theft. I am a person, not an object.
- Your sister or daughter or wife. I exist independently of my relationships with and importance to men. It is not wrong that I was sexually assaulted because I am someone’s daughter. It’s wrong because I am a human being.
- To blame. I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t want it. It doesn’t matter what I wore or if I was intoxicated or if I flirted. I never wanted this. No one ever would.
- A punchline. Rape is not a joke. Rape is not funny. If you think it is funny, it’s probably because you’re a rapist.
- Impure. I am not worthless or dirty or sullied. The person who did this to me is.
- An opportunity to play devil’s advocate. The devil has enough advocates. They’re called 90% of our society, and they’ve already said every single thing your puny, unimaginative brain could possibly think of.
- Going to be silenced. Not by my abuser, and not by you or anyone else.
The last petition we were pushing did not obtain enough votes, we will not stop until this is mandated. Please vote on the WHITEHOUSE.GOV website, it takes 2 seconds and they never send you emails.
I support this 100%
wow signal fucking boost
To me this is a blindingly obvious thing that should be taught, and it’s a crime that it isn’t. SIGN! And REBLOG! Signal Boost! Let’s make sure it gets enough votes this time.
A powerful New Zealand anti-rape campaign. whoareyou.co.nz
Erik Grant from Auckland University, New Zealand.