Tuesday, January 07, 2014

On rape

A few weeks ago I caused a fuss on Facebook by sharing a post which suggested that the responsibility for women getting raped lies with the men who rape them. Some (male) readers disagreed with that statement, suggesting that women shared the responsibility for not being raped, and that they could avoid it by changing how they dressed or staying away from certain parts of the city. One reader said that women's duty of self-care should prohibit them going to certain areas of the city, just as blacks wishing to avoid harm should not attend KKK meetings.

Here's my response.

<tl,dr> Bullshit: women are raped because men rape them, not because of where they go. Women are raped because men rape them, not because of what they wear. To say anything else exonerates men from responsibility for their actions. </tl,dr>

And now, the long version:

I object to those statements, as did most (notably: all female) commenters, for several reasons. First and foremost, their words make rape an accepted facet of urban life — on a par with traffic accidents or dogshit on the pavement. Stating that rape can be avoided by not going downtown (or wherever) is a statement that women who do go downtown should expect to be raped there (as if the men in that area were exempt from moral and legal standards).

No part of any city should ever be off-bounds to any citizen. Anything less than that is an intolerable civic failure which must be corrected.

Furthermore, the KKK is a false analogy: city streets are not private places, and walking to one's car is different from attending a meeting behind closed doors. It would be very difficult for a black man accidentally to walk into a session of the KKK: there aren't many such sessions, and by and large they do not take place outdoors on city streets, and when they *do* in the form of a rally, the huge burning crosses are a pretty clear warning. Rapists don't carry warning signs with them.

It's also simply incorrect: rape is not about geography. Women are raped in parks and on riverbanks, in elevators, in shopping malls and in parking garages and in university libraries, in airports and on trains, in nice suburbs and in gentrified "artistic" neighbourhoods.

The second statement was that women who dress "provocatively" should expect to be raped. I'm sorry but I'll have to ask you to explain what that word means here. I know what provocation is, and I don't see how it applies. Did her short dress insult your mother? Does her sexy blouse belittle your golf score? Was her visible panty line rude about your wife's cooking? This too is nonsense, and men hearing it should feel insulted because it states that you are unable to control yourselves: one glimpse of a thigh and the inner barbarian *must* rage out to perform violence. Are you really that weak-willed, guys?

Here's an exercise for anyone who thinks that sexy clothes cause rape: Have you ever seen a woman who was dressed (in your opinion) in a way that was "sexy" or "provocative"? I'm willing to guess that the answer is yes. Question: did you rape her? I'm willing to guess that the answer is no. Why not? If a woman's clothing really does inevitably causes men to rape them, then why did *you* not rape her? Think about that.

It's also simply incorrect: dull clothing is no protection. Women are raped wearing sweatpants and t-shirts. Women are raped while wearing jogging outfits. Women are even raped while wearing head-to-toe burkas that reveal nothing but their eyes! Google "what I was wearing when I was raped" if you want to see some examples. Here's one to start with.

My neighbour was raped in her own bedroom by a man who scaled the scaffolding on the next house along, jumped onto her balcony and broke in.

Tell me, please, what should she have worn to avoid that? Which part of town should she have stayed away from?

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Blogger Zhoen said...

Women are responsible for their own rape, over which they have no power.

Criminal men who rape are powerful, but are helpless to resist the fact that another human is female, and therefore a thing, that must then be raped.


Women are responsible to themselves to take reasonable precautions to protect themselves from all kinds of threats, as is only sensible. That does not absolve the criminal from his actions in any way. The two are not related factors.

Marital rape is a reality. Date rape is real. Treating women as thing is at the core.

January 18, 2014 at 11:14:00 p.m. GMT+1  

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