The takedown of Emily Yoffe’s garbage festival of a Slate column — which trotted out the GROUNDBREAKING argument that maybe if all those dum dum college women stopped getting so fucking wasted on Smirnoff Ices, they wouldn’t “end up getting raped” — was mercifully swift.
Reading Yoffe’s piece — which was hard to do since all the blood vessels in my eyes simultaneously erupted from rage — I was reminded of The Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente’s recent BOYS WILL BE BOYS HO HO HO rape culture-denying column that contained this abomination of a paragraph:
But don’t expect the notion of ‘rape culture’ to die down any time soon. Too many people have too much invested in it. Every campus has at least one sexual-assault centre, as well as a hefty apparatus to deal with violence, harassment, discrimination and all the rest.
(At least one? WELL THEN.)
My response to both pieces, which I’m choosing not to link to, was outrage, yes, but also utter exhaustion.
Yup. I’m exhausted, guys.
I put off writing this post for days because the idea of writing the sentence, HOW ABOUT TEACHING BOYS NOT TO RAPE, again, for what feels like the thousandth time, made me want to punch stuff and then hibernate. People are still Not. Fucking. Getting. It. And. It’s. Starting. To. Hurt. My. Soul.
Here are some other things that exhaust me. I’m tired of anti-rape efforts targeting women instead of targeting RAPISTS — the leading cause of rape, so I’m told. I’m tired of the constant victim-blaming. I’m tired of pundits going on the news and saying, ‘Well, what did she expect?’ (I think it a very reasonable expectation to go out and even — gasp! — have some drinks and not get raped).
I’m tired of commenters likening sexual assault to stolen property (UM SORRY, I CAN’T LEAVE MY VAGINA AT HOME). I’m tired of people saying, “I’m not blaming the victim, but …” (Oh, so you ARE blaming the victim). I’m tired of people wringing their hands over the “promising futures” of rapists who also happen to be star football players.
While tempting, it’s dangerous to write off columns like Yoffe and Wente’s as linkbait. Because they aren’t just linkbait. They’re real opinions — popular opinions, in fact — that people continue to have.
Jessica Valenti wrote this great piece for The Nation, in which she posits that the “incredible work being done by feminists — work that’s made progress changing policy and shifting the culture — is consistently stymied by an ignorant, even if well-meaning, majority.”
The problem, as Valenti correctly points out, is that an overwhelming number of people, particularly young people, don’t really understand what rape, and rape culture, is.
In Steubenville, a student who had learned that drunk driving was wrong — he took car keys away from an inebriated friend — looked on while an unconscious girl was penetrated because ‘it wasn’t violent … I thought [rape] was forcing yourself on someone.’
It might seem like an oversimplification to tell boys not to rape girls and that rape is wrong — but it’s not, really, when you consider the scenario above. And when you consider that Yoffe, according to her column, would tell her hypothetical son “that it’s in his self-interest not to be the drunken frat boy who finds himself accused of raping a drunken classmate.” As opposed to, you know, telling him not to be the boy that takes advantage of an intoxicated classmate.
We need to teach kids that rape doesn’t always “look like rape.” (That is, like the rapes we see on TV shows and in movies.) We need to teach boys to respect girls. We need to stop making girls feel ashamed when someone commits a crime against them, or worse, feel responsible for these crimes. We need to properly educate and talk to our kids about sexuality instead of leaving that job to ill-informed classmates, or worse, porn. We need to stop sending the message, through adversting and other media, that women are objects, because objects don’t have sexual agency, nor are objects respected.
We have a lot of work to do.
To do that work, we need to stop blaming victims. As Valenti writes, “when we make victims’ choices the focus of rape prevention, we make the world a safer place for rapists.”
When we have columnists referring to rape culture in scare quotes, we make the world a safer place for rapists. When we place the responsibility for preventing rape solely on girls/women, we make the world a safer place for rapists. When we tell rape jokes, or use the word rape to mean anything but rape, we make the world safer place for rapists.
When we accept rape as an inevitability and act as though men are animals that have no control over themselves (which is also pretty fucking offensive), we make the world a safer place for rapists.
And when we refuse to accept the existence of rape culture and apologize for rapists, like Yoffe and Wente have chosen to do, we continue to make the world a dangerous place for women.
Photo by Omid Tavalli on Flickr under a Creative Commons License