Friday, April 5, 2013

A Good Point

A good point was recently made about my post Guns, Rape and Culture in which I state: "The idea that women should own guns to stop rape, or wear covering clothing, or not wear ponytails or have long hair, or not drink or never walk alone or always park under a streetlight or any of the other ridiculous things we're told we have to do to not get raped is part of what is called "rape culture". "

It was pointed out that although it is ideal that people simply not rape other people (or anything really), the world is in the state in which it is, and protecting oneself is not in fact "bullshit" as it seemed I said it was.

This is a fair point and one that deserves discussion.  After all, it's natural that we protect ourselves from pterodactyls, raging rhinos and trans fatty acids.  All of these things will harm humans and to not protect ourselves is shortsighted.  Of course, all of those things are easy to see as harmful.  When it comes to other humans, what happens when our first reaction is fear of harm?  (Actually, I can tell you.  This happens as a result of PTSD and it's a crummy way to live.)

So, let me expand on what I actually mean is bullshit.

There are a lot of messages out there about what women and girls need to do to avoid rape (please note that I also mean sexual assault).  These messages are in advertising campaigns, parents repeat them, they're learned in school, repeated in media, etc.  I see almost no messages designed to keep people from committing rape.

It might be that I just don't see them.  I have seen one campaign about consent in which the posters show a heterosexual couple and the wording shows the male talking about how he asked when he wasn't sure, or something similar.  It's awesome.  It's the only campaign I've seen.  Period.

So, my fear is that while we might be giving accurate information on ways that people (okay, it really targets women) can protect themselves, the emphasis is almost entirely on that.  As my mother would say, "that puts the emPHAsis on the wrong sylLABle".  The emphasis ought to be on people not attacking other people.  I don't yet see that happening enough.

It is easy for people also to take ideas about advice on not getting raped and think of them as absolute.  If it's an onlooker, that person might end up blaming the victim because "the rules say you were supposed to carry an umbrella, and if you had, this wouldn't have happened".  Likewise, the person who was attacked might blame themselves for not taking every precaution.  Also, no precaution has the power to entirely stop rape from happening.  It's as if people think if they follow "the rules", they are invincible.  This is like when you thought that getting a college education would guarantee you a good job and you still ended up working in a burger joint.  (No offense meant to burger joint workers.  We need you!)

Rape, among other things, removes, in a significant and terrifying way, a person's sense of having complete control over themselves.  Have you ever found out that something you believe is completely untrue and then your world is turned upside down?  It's a little like that, only it's also like you ate a cement block with a burning fish in the middle.

Anyway, the problem with giving advice about not getting raped is that it's coercive.  That thing where rape takes away the sense of power and control in your life?  These ideas about protecting yourself do that too!  They limit freedom.  The advice not to drink, or not have long hair, or not walk alone at night or early in the morning... these aren't realistic.  I get with the idea that anyone might curtail certain behavior to protect themselves; it might be appropriate, but it is bullshit to suggest limiting the activities of women (anyone) and not the activities of rapists.

What would work better is to make the information available and then let everyone decide what kind of precautions they want to take.  It would go something like this:

"It's been happening that people have been drugging the drinks of other people, especially at parties and then raping them.  It might help if you always watch your drink being poured at a party to make sure nothing but the drink goes into it."

In what other ways is a list of precautions a useful thing or a tool of rape culture?

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