Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Rape Culture: Our Attitude To Sex Must Change

If a man can't control himself, he belongs in a flippin' zoo. Rapists don't care what you're wearing, they go after anyone who seems vulnerable, then make excuses for it afterwards.

That the excuses are often accepted in court is the problem; a woman's body is her own, however she chooses to display it. Respect for womens' personal physical autonomy, whatever she does for a living, needs to be the rule, not the exception, and that's what I'm going to discuss in this post.

Virgin-shaming must stop


Left-leaning liberals and I often argue over the details of the things we generally agree on; and our society's attitude to sex is one of them. As a Christian I was taught that sex is for marriage and is best enjoyed in a mutually supportive, respectful relationship. It's not uncommon to see marriage and sex within it mocked in left-liberal blogs and magazines while group sex, prostitution, and promiscuity are touted as tickets to feminine freedom. Oh, really?

For the women 


Many moons ago, when living in London, I went to the doctor about my knees and the subject of smear tests came up. I told her that since I wasn't sexually active I might not need one, not realising that it's best to have it done just to be on the safe side. You should have heard the slap of her lower jaw hitting the floor. "I don't want to be one of those women with three kids from three different fathers," I explained. "I'm waiting for the right man to come along." And she was like, "But that's normal..."

While the Sexual Revolution was supposed to create a social environment in which women would be given equal opportunities with men to pursue sexual encounters as a leisure activity, what it actually did was create an ever-expanding pool of sexually available women, many of whom feel that virginity is something shameful, to be lost as quickly as possible. They are taught by the media that their bodies are not appealing enough for men to enjoy; that they look wrong, smell wrong, feel wrong, are too damn big, too damn small, or must needs be tightened and reshaped, the better to pleasure men so they themselves can derive pleasure from pleasing men. So pandering is freedom, and we now have the freedom to pander. Oh, goodie!

For the men


Men don't get off lightly, particularly if they're not getting off. In every case I've ever heard about where more than one man was involved in a rape, the subject of his masculinity was raised at the time. Basically, someone said, if you don't join in, you're not a man. This is shown in films like Casualties of War and The Accused. It's a terrible excuse. The idea that anyone could live with himself afterwards by saying, "But they questioned my masculinity!" insults my intelligence. Wouldn't it have been more macho if he'd pulled his buddies off the victim and beaten them until they ran away? Men are supposed to protect us, damn it!

Well you'd think that having an ever-expanding pool of sexually available women who believe they have a duty to themselves to pander to men — for their own pleasure, of course! — that rape rates would drop if it was "only" a matter of proving one's masculinity or quenching the fires of one's lust by having sex with a willing partner. Which there is no shortage of. And if a good-time girl won't come across for you, hookers aren't exactly rare. So why does rape occur, then?

How virgin-shaming affects our view of rape and rapists


Rape is not about sex per se, it's about asserting your will over another person. It's not even predation. Rapists are parasites who take what they want and leave a rotten mess behind. Their actions don't just hurt the victim but their families and friends, too, who have to cope with the changes in the person they knew and loved as they struggle to recover from their ordeal.

Rapists have succeeded in convincing large segments of our society that their victims are responsible for their own suffering because they failed to exert their own wills sufficiently well to thwart their attackers, that they failed to take enough precautions to prevent themselves being raped. That being unable to control oneself is as valid an excuse as being under pressure to prove their masculinity. They have done this by convincing us that to be a male virgin is to be weak, weedy, and utterly lacking in virility and worth while being sexually active is a sign of masculinity, power, and strength. If you follow that "reasoning" down the rabbit hole — and I am not afraid to go there — rape is, whether we're willing to accept this or not, considered to be a masculine act. That is why it gets excused in our society. Boys will be boys, they can't help it. And, on some level, some of us seem to think that rape is a natural sexual situation that's just got out of hand, that's all. That's the problem.

This false reasoning quickly falls apart under scrutiny, though: there are plenty of willing partners around, why not go for them instead, and stay out of trouble? Because rapists are not interested in willing partners.

Since women are being pressured to be sexually active, they often find it hard to assert themselves and effectively say no to unwanted sexual contact, and by "effectively" I mean "tell him firmly that you don't want to, then move away to a safer place." This makes them vulnerable to abuse and rapists take advantage of it.

The one time I'd seen a woman react furiously to such treatment, everyone laughed at her and said how over the top she was and how unreasonable when he didn't mean anything by it... I didn't act like the unreasonable bitch everyone had laughed at when he first overstepped my boundaries, so it was my fault he raped me.  - Herbs and Hags: How I Became A Rape Victim

We have got to stop falling for this nonsense and we've got to stop virgin-shaming. It's okay to say no to sex whether you're a man or a woman, okay? You're not a freak if you enforce your personal boundaries and you should be supported when you do. Make that clear to everyone from birth onwards if you want to make a dent in rape culture.

Sex as a matter of honour


Hypocrites that we are, particularly in conservative circles, we still haven't shaken off the Madonna/Whore dichotomy that plays so well into rape culture. It's causing more problems than it was created to solve. Let's take a closer look at it.

The role of the Madonna and the Whore in patriarchal societies


The flip side of virgin-shaming is that virgins are prized as sexual conquests. To take a person's virginity is to "get there first" and therefore gain a pleasure denied to most, so hanging on to your virginity, while it might get you laughed at in some circles, creates an allure, the possibility of tasting forbidden fruit. You yourself are a scarcity and that makes you desirable. A challenge.

In a culture in which rape is excused as excessive masculinity, a lapse in self-control, our patriarchal culture has created a safety valve: the Whore. While the dutiful Madonna wears herself out bearing children and keeping house, being all respectable, etc., the fun-lovin' Whore is free to go where she will with whom she will for her role is to provide pleasure for herself and her lovers/patrons. There's a certain amount of envy that goes with the territory since this girl just wants to have fun while the Madonna works her fingers to the bone for little in the way of reward.

Sex work: perks and prejudices


This tends to arise when the subject of sex for money comes up for discussion. Who should pay for STI tests and how often should they be had? What about the consequences? Just when I'm (reluctantly) coming around to the idea of legalising prostitution, I find that there's a movement to resist safe sex practices, e.g. condom use, ban infected people from working as prostitutes, and to limit testing to those who want to be tested. What about this?

Condoms offer some protection (30-90%) against STIs passed in semen, urethral, vaginal or cervical secretions (such as HIV, gonorrhoea, chlamydia). They give little to no protection (0-30%) against diseases due to skin-to-skin contact such as genital herpes and genital warts. Transmissibility of STIs varies according to the sex of the exposed person and the sexual practice. Condom effectiveness against STIs also varies with gender, and experience and consistency of condom use. - Maintaining sexual health in commercial sex workers in Australia: condom effectiveness, screening, and management after acquiring sexually transmissible infections

You can't expect people who make a living from the trade to tell you the whole truth about it. The tweet I linked to in that post has been deleted; it seems they realised that I'd pretty much trolled them and they had made fools of themselves. The point is, if they suspect that other women are sometimes jealous of them, they're right. I mean, they get all sorts of perks and little in the way of responsibility, right? The Madonna drives the Humdrum-vee while the Whore sits in the front seat of the Fun-vee and doesn't even pay for the petrol. But there's a price to pay, nonetheless: they're not considered to be Respectable and they don't tend to get the same protections and privileges the Madonnas get.

How the dichotomy affects perceptions of rape


Since we're still struggling to persuade men (and society in general) to drop the whole Madonna/Whore thing and just think of us as women and other women, if a woman is raped, the powers that be pretty much sort her into either of the two Houses and she's got no control over this. If they decide she's an irresponsible Whore type, she's got no chance of getting a conviction and the rapist walks.

Feminists are the only ones working to make men take responsibility for their attitudes and behaviour. Conservative leaders aren't doing much, if anything, about it because they won't let go of the dichotomy. They can't. The dichotomy demands that if we really, truly, simply must have Madonnas, we need Whores so men can let their hair down now and again. That's right; sorting women into those two categories panders to them in the home and at play.

Needless to say, hypocrites and rape apologists sometimes make the excuse that rape "corrects" Whore behaviour by punishing her wanton ways. But then, we don't treat men with the same contempt for expressing their sexuality, do we? What I'm saying is, both Madonnas and Whores exist to pander to men in some way, shape, or form and it's completely and utterly wrong. It underpins rape culture by devaluing women as people in their own right and it's got to stop.

A new hope


If we're going to change the wrong attitudes to sex, gender, and societal expectations of men and women it will have to start with individuals and groups learning how to set, enforce, and respect healthy boundaries. People have a right to do whatever they want with their own bodies, whether we approve of their choices or not. People have the right to decide what happens to their bodies, whatever state they're in. Drunk, semi- or unconscious means no. Rape is a gross perversion and should be treated as such. It's not a laughing matter and should never be trivialised. The point of rape is to dominate, to use, and to reduce the victim to their component parts. That's why they end up feeling worthless afterwards. The blame for rape should always fall on the rapist alone; he makes the decision, he carries it out.

We've got to stop pressurising people into having sex as a rite of passage or as a social expectation. It doesn't prove your masculinity; the weediest wimp can get his end away. What does that prove? Adulthood is reached when you take responsibility for your actions, when the buck stops here. I live in a world in which responsibility, particularly personal responsibility, is a dirty word and self-control is frowned upon yet exercising those is what builds character. They built mine. Experience means nothing if you can't learn from it so you avoid repeating the same mistakes.

Can we please stop pressurising women into making themselves available to men to the point where they don't feel able to set and maintain healthy boundaries? The Sexual Revolution didn't break down the Madonna/Whore dichotomy, it upended it and cast the Madonna as a jealous cow who doesn't want to have fun and doesn't want anyone else to have fun either.

We need to get rid of the Madonna/Whore dichotomy. There's more to women than bodies as vehicles for work or play. Raising the status of women will do more to break down rape culture than every other measure. When was the last time you saw sex work being touted to men as a viable career option? Shouldn't we be doing more to promote careers in STEM or something? We women need to resist every effort to convince us to pander to men and men need to respect that. You can have a happy and fulfilling sex life without pandering; it's easy, just demand to be treated with respect at all times. True equality means we get treated the same way as men, with the same expectations — and the same responsibilities.

Finally, we need to stop making sexual pleasure the be all and end all. There's more to life than gettin' it on and it's okay if you don't. With less pressure on everyone to perform, it'll be easier to set and maintain healthy boundaries.

I honestly believe that if we put these principles into practice, it'll go a long way towards breaking up rape culture, creating a hostile environment for abusers in which rape is treated as perversion and victims are treated with compassion. This should then result in fewer rapes. Am I right?

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