Rape culture: a male perspective

28 Feb

I watched a video today in which ‘Rape culture’ was discussed and I’d like to share it with you.

In the video, Clementine Ford discusses her thoughts on the subject of cultural acceptance of rape within society. Ms Ford refers to the socially accepted norms regarding rape as Rape Culture.

Rape Culture infographic

I don’t thinks she’s crazy, I just think she lacks perspective

First off, let me say that I don’t think that Ms Ford is crazy, nor a bitch. I don’t think she’s wrong but neither do I think she’s entirely right. I do think, however, that Ms Ford is lacking perspective. “WHOAH! WHOAH! WHOAH!”, I hear you say. I understand that I’m walking on thin ice as a man daring to attempt to discuss this topic, but please don’t break the pitch forks and torches out just yet.

When I suggest that Ms Ford is lacking perspective, I’m not suggesting her opinion is invalid, and I’m definitely not suggesting in any way that there’s not a huge societal issue in regards to the amount of unwanted sexual contact happening against women around the world. Sexual assault has impacted my family, so I’m no stranger to the damage it causes.

What I’m saying is that Ms Ford is looking at some undeniable evidence and coming up with sensible, but inaccurate, hypothesis because her analysis lacks an understanding of the other gender involved.

I’ll freely admit that there is a lot I don’t understand about women, but at least I’m aware of that and I’m not suggesting that all women are after the same things or driven by the same factors. From the video above, I’m not so sure that Ms Ford understands that different men have different reasons for their behaviour, or that the majority of us aren’t directly or indirectly continuing or encouraging ‘rape culture’.

Rape is really shit and shouldn’t happen

Rape is unconscionable. Rapists should go to jail. Nobody deserves to be raped and rape should not be accepted in any way by a modern, civilised society. There should be no question about any of this and anyone who believes rape of any form is justified in any way is misguided to the point of being a danger to society. Ms Ford and I both agree that society should move towards an ideal point at which every woman would be able to work anywhere she pleases, at any time, day or night, and not have to factor in the possibility of being raped.

If we were purely talking about the casual acceptance of rape within society, I don’t have anything to say against that sentiment. There’s definitely room for improvement as far as educating people about the horrible impact of unwanted sexual contact. The number of people, not only girls, who are sexually abused by immediate family members, extended family members, family friends, and peers, is truly a travesty. It’s a huge problem and a blight on otherwise progressive societies. It’s an issue that needs to be addressed and resolved as quickly as possible because lives are constantly being ruined by this insidious behaviour.

But that’s not what Ms Ford is talking about. Ms Ford is discussing the idea that a woman should be able to do whatever she wants, whenever, and wherever she wants, without any fear of potentially being sexually assaulted. Ms Ford is blaming society for casually accepting rape as the root cause for women not currently being able to enjoy her idealised utopic scenario.

Reality

I’m all for being an idealist and working towards that ideal, but we can’t just ignore reality.

The reality is that not only women and girls get raped. The reality is that a lot of rapes could have been avoided with better decision making. The reality is that blaming people who never have and never would rape anyone for the small number of people who do commit rape is not productive. The reality is that the term rape refers to a specific type of sexual assault and is not an appropriate term for all forms of sexual assault. The reality is that ‘rape culture’ is a massive oversimplification of an enourmously complex topic and it’s doing as much harm as good.

Statements like:

“I do think it’s an act of terrorism to raise girls to believe that the world is not safe for them”
Clementine Ford

are unnecessarily inflammatory. This sort of hyperbolic speech is not helpful, it is so exaggerated that it’s alienating. I personally find it very difficult to take someone seriously when they say things which are so over the top.

It is not an act of terrorism to teach a girl, or a boy, to be cautious about the company they keep and the situations in which they choose to engage. That’s called education. It’s important a child’s survival. We might all want the world to be a safe place, but it doesn’t matter how much we want it to be, the world is not a safe place. To teach children otherwise only makes them more likely to be impacted by the dangers which do exist in the world.

If I had a daughter and I chose not to teach her to be afraid to climb into the lion cage at the zoo, and then she climbs in and gets eaten, I did a bad job educating her to the dangers of the world. If I had a son and I didn’t teach him to be afraid of falling off cliffs, and he later tumbles to his death, I did a bad job of educating him to the dangers of the world.

It’s essential to educate everyone that not everyone they meet will have their best interests at heart. It is essential to educate people that some situations are dangerous, and best avoided. It’s essential to educate people to understand that becoming intoxicated makes them less capable of protecting themselves from those people who don’t have their best interests at heart.Sexual assault is not a gender issue

One of the things that really gets to me about the people who talk about rape culture is, they so often speak of it as if it’s a men versus women thing. Men suffer from this blight on society too. Men get raped, usually as children, but also as fully grown men. The rape of men within prison systems is a known, ignored and mocked part of our zeitgeist. Not only are men often victims of sexual assaults, men also have to help pick up the pieces after someone they love is sexually assaulted, and yet we constantly see quotes like:

Tell_men_not_to_rape

Don’t tell women what not to wear TELL MEN NOT TO RAPE

Hang on, let’s think about that for a second.

Does anyone really think most men don’t know they shouldn’t rape people? Honestly? Because I don’t find that when I’m out walking with my girlfriend that I spend the majority of my time fending off would be rapists and having to explain that they shouldn’t be trying to rape people. No, the people who don’t understand that are… wait for it… FUCKING RAPISTS.

And by the way, why are so many people assuming that only men commit sexual assaults? If the point is to do everything we, as a society, can to minimise sexual misconduct, why are we pointing the finger at half the population and assuming they’re all rapists based purely on their gender? Why are we assuming that the other half of the population has zero responsibility purely because of their gender?

That’s what’s fucked up about all this. That men are universally being labeled as rapist monsters who are just waiting to rape and that women are universally being labeled as victims in waiting. That is complete and utter bullshit! Sure, a higher percentage of sexual assaults are enacted by males than females, but does that reduce the impact on the male victims? Hell no.

So instead of making the issue of ‘rape’ a gender issue, how about we address as a problem that is actively ruining the lives of millions of people? How about not trying to point the finger at anyone with a cock and balls and instead just pointing the finger at rapists?

Remember how sexism is bad when it’s against women? It’s just as bad when it’s against men. It’s not reverse-sexism, it’s just sexism.

Consider your audience

‘And he often says to me, “Can we just make it through one dinner where you don’t talk about rape?”
To which I reply, “Can we just make it through one of the Earth’s rotations around the sun where i can walk on the street with as much right to safety as you, just because you have a penis?”

‘ – Clementine Ford, speaking about her boyfriend

You know what the absolute best way is to make someone lose any interest in, and compassion for, a subject? Bombard them with it incessantly until they couldn’t care any more even if they wanted to.

Ms Ford’s boyfriend is clearly going to be on her side about the whole ‘let’s not rape people’ thing, otherwise he wouldn’t be her boyfriend, right? So I’m going to assume he’s not raping her, is extremely unlikely to have raped anyone in the past, or to rape anyone in the future. So why won’t Ms Ford listen to her boyfriend’s request to make it through one dinner without talking about rape?I believe the answer is simple. Ms Ford is misunderstanding who her audience is. She is preaching to the choir, so to speak, but she’s doing it to the point that even the choir doesn’t want to hear about it anymore.Constantly reasserting the facets of our culture which contribute to casual acceptance of rape and a lack of empathy towards victims is, I believe, actually detrimental to the cause of raising awareness. This is because the only people who are actually listening in the first place are the ones who already have enough human decency to understand that rape is a problem. Barking the same lines at those decent human beings over and over will only lead to them running out of care factor.

That might be a horrible fact to acknowledge, but I absolutely believe it’s the truth. Think about it… people lose interest in international tragedies in which thousands of people have died, within weeks, if not days of the disasters. Why would the term Rape Culture not also become something that people begin to tune out?

Blame

One of the aspects of the rape culture movement that I think has been a benefit to society is the effort to identify victim blaming and to provide valid and indisputable counter arguments.

There is no excuse to rape someone and I hope that bringing that to the attention of people will help to reassure anyone who has been sexually assault to stop making allowances and/or excuses for their attackers and instead go and report them to the authorities. Anything that increases the legitimate prosecution of sexual predators is a good thing.

What’s not a good thing is confusing blame, with logic.

To point out that you’re less likely to get raped if you stay at home in your own bed completely sober, than going to a frat party and getting drunk out of your mind and using every drug you can find is not an effort towards blaming a victim, it’s stating a fact. There’s no denying that women do get raped in their beds at home, but the frequency with which that occurs is much lower than the incidences of sexual assaults at parties in which young women are consuming large quantities of alcohol and narcotics.

Pointing out a fact is not the same as blaming the victim.

To suggest that it’s a bad idea for an attractive young woman to go to a drug and alcohol fueled party being hosted by a group of young men who are used to getting away with everything, and then get drunk and use drugs there, is a bad idea… that’s not blaming the young woman, that’s just being rational.

To tell that same young girl the day after the party that she was raped by those young men would be far worse than telling her not to go in the first place.

Yes, there are people out there in the world who would say to that rape victim that she was “asking for it”, and that’s fucked up, but it’s also ridiculous to pretend that she couldn’t have made better decisions.

That image above stating “Don’t tell women what not to wear, Tell men not to rape” isn’t very helpful, and it’s an example of the black and white thinking which pollutes sensible thinking about how to reduce sexual assaults. For starters, teaching men not to rape does not preclude us from also teaching women what attire might draw unwanted attention.

No, I didn’t just say that if a woman should be raped if she is wearing the wrong clothes. What I did say was that some clothes draw the wrong attention. Walking through the wrong areas also increases the likelihood of receiving unwanted attention. Being overly flirtatious also increases the likelihood of receiving unwanted attention. Again, I’m not saying that any of that is ok, I’m just saying that’s what happens.

So, instead of assuming that I’m assigning blame, how about considering if there’s a potential benefit to avoiding unwanted attention?

I’m a guy who is 190cm (6’3″) tall, currently weighing in at 90kg (200lbs), and I try to avoid unwanted attention. I do so because, even though I know it’s illegal for someone to stab me, and even though I don’t like that society hasn’t completely eliminated stabbings, I’d still prefer to avoid situations in which I know I’m more likely to be stabbed. I’m not going to assume that anytime I walk through a neighbourhood renowned for gang violence late at night that I’m going to get stabbed, but I am going to assume that the chances of me being stabbed go up if I do choose to go there.

If I did get stabbed after wandering through a place known for gang violence, don’t you think that someone might just ask me what the fuck I was doing there? Would that be insensitive as all shit? OF COURSE! But does that make the question any less reasonable? Unfortunately, no.

We don’t have to like the truth. We don’t have to stop pushing towards the ideal world we all dream of, where we’ll all be safe all the time, but we do have to accept that there are certain things we can do to help protect ourselves from things we don’t want to happen to us.

None of this is excusing the actions of any sexual predator. I’d be in favour of castrating those pieces of shit who commit rape and other sexual crimes, but seeing your rapist punished is not nearly as good as avoiding being raped in the first place.

Focus

Like I said at the start, Ms Ford isn’t wrong, I just think she doesn’t understand the male side of the story. Pretending that rape is something that only happens to women and that every man is a rapist in waiting is so far from the truth that it’s offensive. It’s also offensive to pretend that women play no role in their own protection.

I don’t want women to live in fear, but I don’t think they should be so foolish as to pretend there aren’t dangerous people out in the world.

What people can do to massively impact the affect of rapists on society is to press charges against them, and I believe that is the most important thing to focus on. By reporting sexual assaults the perpetrator is more likely to be put in prison, and therefore more likely to be unable to assault anyone else.

I also think it’s essential to educate people about the situations in which sexual assaults occur, and how best to avoid being in those situations. I think it’s hugely important that people separate ‘blaming victims’ from analysing data and making useful suggestions based on the findings.

As for Ms Ford

I have no doubt Ms Ford is generating beneficial results already, even with a slightly askew take on things, I just hope she broadens her understanding of the issue of sexual assault. It’s obvious that Ms Ford’s heart is in the right place, and I believe that’s true of most women who are so vocal about ‘rape culture’.

Human being tip: If anyone has ever sexually assaulted you, it’s not your fault in any way. If you can handle the stress of reporting them, please do so.

ps: You might be interested in reading about how I dealt with an alcohol fueled, sexually charged situation, which I discuss in the Origins series.

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