Something has been irking me since last week. Here at GAB, we read other authors’ posts and dialogue among ourselves. We share new ideas and thoughts with each other just as we (hopefully) do with those who read our blog. Last week, fellow editor Jessica wrote a piece about Rape Culture titled “Notes on Rape Prevention, Responsibility, and Culture“. The article sparked some dialogue in the comments section, and several people expressed incredulous disbelief at the accusation of a rape culture. Sometimes it’s hard to admit that ugly, brutal things exist. Sometimes it feels that admitting their existence somehow points the finger of blame directly at you. Rape culture exists. We live in a world where rape is often viewed as the victim’s fault, or a crime that can’t really happen. (S/he must have been secretly asking for it, right?)
A friend of mine is serving on jury duty right now. The jury on which she sits recently heard a rape case in which an undocumented woman was raped by the wealthy man whose home she was cleaning. (Lest this sound too Hollywood, I assure you none of this is fabricated or exaggerated in the interest of proving my point.) After hearing the tearful testimony of the witness and listening to the testimony of the doctor who examined her, the jury deliberated. The first comment came from a young man who, at first glance, seemed like a normal, responsible, caring human being. “I think the sex was voluntary. She is so well endowed… it’s only natural.”
If this statement makes you mad, good! (To quote Ani, “If you’re not angry, then you’re just stupid and you don’t care.”) Does it anger you because you’re sick of victim blaming? Does it anger you because it seems like I’m inferring that all men are to blame? The above story exemplifies the denial of rape in our society. Sure, it’s possible this man is a deranged psychopath, but I doubt it. He undoubtedly has a mother, sister, girlfriend, friend, mentor, or daughter whom he loves and respects and would die if she were raped. He absolutely knows someone who has been raped, whether that person has told him or not. He would probably feel disgust towards a convicted sex offender. He does assume, however, that the victim is lying because she has large breasts.
Many commenters argued that women were not held responsible for rape; being aware of the threat of rape is a realistic expectation for someone interested in preserving his or her own safety. Most women are vividly aware of the threat of rape and take precautions to avoid it, but are nonetheless victimized due to circumstance. That these victims are still blamed for the crime committed against them because of their cup size, or the clothes they wore, or a look they gave, or the words they spoke- this is rape culture. This story is a coda to Jessica’s piece. For a more exhaustive definition of rape culture, read this awesome post on Shakesville.
If you’re still angry, then take action.
Volunteer to help victims.
Speak out against rape.