Lately, I feel like all I hear is about rape. Maybe it’s because XOjane.com features a lot of rape victims’ stories. Maybe it’s India, or California or Steubenville, all who are in the news for different facets of disgustingness regarding rape.
Or maybe it’s because women are standing up and saying, “I don’t care that I was drunk. You still raped me and it’s wrong.” They’re standing up and saying, “My short skirt doesn’t mean I want you to forcibly penetrate me.” And they are saying, “Just because I enjoy sex, doesn’t mean I enjoy sex with that stranger who roofied me.”
I’m lucky that I’ve never been raped. Not really. I mean, a little, but what happened is actually legal in 49 states, so I let it go and chalked it up to stupidity on his part and probably watching too much porn that promotes the idea that all women have a rape fantasy. (Let’s not even get into that.)
But I attribute my avoidance of legally-defined rape as pure luck. As in “My friend got me home before I passed out from being roofied.” As in, “Thank God I wasn’t a target of one of those frat guys.” And, “I’ve been blessed with a strong personality that abusive men normally steer clear of.” (NOT THAT THAT MAKES QUIETER WOMEN WILLING TARGETS. It’s an advantage that I imagine is similar to being taller and being able to bench 200 pounds would be in guarding against rape. Not morally superior, just a helpful trait.)
I just … I really … I’m just sick of it. I had a conversation a few nights ago with a guy that said he thinks a lot of girls make rape up. You know, because they were acting “slutty” and didn’t want anyone to think they were sluts. But really, what is a slut? Is it a girl who has father issues because her dad left when she was little, and tries to fill that hole by easily consenting to have sex with short term boyfriends? Or is a slut someone who enjoys sex and doesn’t want to play games to get there–you know, the same way many men “hate games?” Is a slut someone who wears a low cut top? How about someone who isn’t wearing a burka or shows her ankle? “Slut” has many definitions, and every time we call a woman a slut, we tell her that sex is something to be hidden away and denied. We make her feel like she needs to say she didn’t want to have sex, because why would a good person want to have sex?
What I’m getting at is that rape culture is a deeply murky and messy thing. It’s perpetrated sometimes on purpose, but often by accident. It means that rape victims don’t come forward because they know they will suffer again at the hands of slut shamers and victim blamers after they have already been violated. Life is not a Law & Order episode, unfortunately. Olivia Benson is a fictional character who won’t coach you through the part of the trial where you are asked whether you were flirting with the defendant before he locked you in the bathroom at the party. “No sir, when I sat on his lap I wasn’t hoping he would cause me internal injury, but thank you for asking.”
So here are some suggestions, and I caveat this by saying I know only what I’ve read second-hand about rape. Please feel free to chime in with corrections or additions:
- Men: If you are afraid of “accidentally” being accused of rape, don’t have sex with a blackout drunk girl.
- Men: If it’s a woman’s fault for getting drunk that she got raped, then logic states it’s now your fault too for drinking too much and losing control of your penis.
- Women: If someone says they were raped, don’t ask her what she was wearing or why she didn’t fight back.
- Women: Stop calling women sluts. Call her a bad person for choosing to sleep with your boyfriend when she knew he had a girlfriend (and then break up with the jerk). Say she has terrible fashion sense for choosing a tiny skirt. But don’t use the word “slut.” Because you’ve probably been called a slut too, unless you’re a 25-year-old virgin living in New York City who is not a Hasidic jew.
- Women: If your friend tells you she thinks she was raped, take her to the hospital and stay with her, and support her. Don’t ask questions, except if she wants you to grab her a smoothie or chai latte.
- Men: If a woman says no, stop and say, “When you say no, I’m going to take that seriously. So if you’re being coy, tell me clearly that you actually do want to do this. Because I’m going to stop now.” Don’t resume until she says, “Actually, I would like you to xyz.” If she says nothing, tuck her into bed, turn on the TV, discuss your lives, leave, do anything else except what you were planning on doing. And be nice about it.
- Everyone: If you see a very drunk girl, help her get home and in bed.
I have faith that things will change. It will take time. It might take 50 years. But I think we can change this. The dialogue has been started, and as long as we are clear that rape is no one’s fault except the rapist’s, then we can walk toward a place where women feel a little bit safer. Short skirts be damned.
And if you want to pin this on your Pinterest board, please, I encourage you to.