Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Teaching men and women how not to uphold rape culture

That title is overly complicated. I'll tell you how I got here.

A week ago I posted about things that don't help combat sexual assault, most of which put the responsibility on the targets. Sometimes on that topic people will argue that rather than teaching women how to avoid being raped, we need to teach men not to rape.

While I agree that the responsibility needs to focus on the rapists rather than the victims, where I felt contradictory was my belief that rapists know not to rape; the violation of someone else is their motivation, not a byproduct.

So when discussions on consent become about establishing immunity from rape accusations, I find that to be a very frustrating way of missing the point. That is why yesterday's post was about including bodily autonomy rights in consent discussions. Sexual assaults aren't accidents (because rape is more about power than sex).

Then I read this article:

It is about a group of women who have been working to weaken guidelines on campus sexual assault after their sons have been accused of rape. Fun parts include the justifications that even though their sons were not "falsely accused", they were still "wrongly accused" , and that in their generation it wasn't considered assault but just the girl getting stupid and embarrassed.

(Just a note, most women would not consider going through reporting an assault as a good way to fix embarrassment.)

Still, I think the part that stuck out most was the woman who said that her husband and their two sons were "super respectful" of women and concluded "We don't really need to teach our sons not to rape."

Yeah, I think you might need to.

Then there was finding out about Elie Wiesel groping a 19-year old girl's butt, and former president George H. W. Bush's butt-groping count moving up to five, and Oregon Senate president Peter Courtney having to reprimand Jeff Kruse for repeatedly touching women at the Capitol.

First, for anyone who wants to make the point that ass grabbing is not a big deal, I will give you that the vast majority of women would rather be groped than raped. I am still not going to minimize it.

It wouldn't be good on its own. It's disrespectful, objectifying, and it is embarrassing. You can tell yourself that their behavior is not personal -- they are treating you this way because you are a women and that makes you a good opportunity to assert their dominance. We remind each other of that all the time; I have done this yesterday and this morning with different women. We have to because it is the easiest thing in the world to think it's you. Somehow there must be something wrong or weak or despicable about you, for them to treat you like that.

Getting grabbed is not a compliment. It can be fun for the person doing it, but given how negative an experience it is for the one receiving it, no decent person should find that an acceptable way of having fun. And that's just for the groping, because women never know where it will stop. Some are satisfied with a quick feel, but there are others who are pressing boundaries, calculating how far they can go. Some of them really enjoy feeling the fear, but then there are others who will be annoyed with your fear, because obviously it was all in good fun.

There is fear in pushing back against it too. There aren't many visual cues behind which pushy guy will just swear at you once, which will find ways to up that to frequent verbal abuse, which will slap you or which will shoot you. I wish I were exaggerating.

So I think sometimes the reason we have a hard time moving past rape culture is there are so many people who - without being predators or prey - don't understand that there are predators or how difficult being prey can be.

Many of these are men who would never rape a woman who still feel free to critique her clothing choices or demand that she smile or slap her butt. There are also men who will say they would never rape, but then admit to having done things that fit the legal definition of rape without calling it that. And there are women who will support them, especially if it's family.

So okay, maybe we do need to teach people not to rape, or harass, or assault, or assert their dominance over someone else's body, because they don't have a right to that person's body. See, it's that bodily autonomy again.

But here's a way where focusing on obtaining consent can be helpful, beyond avoiding legal charges. When you want to do something to another person, imagine asking for permission: how do you sound?

The good news is that if it turns out that you sound like an ass, perhaps you will enjoy grabbing yourself.

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