TRIGGER WARNING: more hypothetical examples of rape to illustrate points.
Yesterday, I posted some facetious thoughts on the Don’t Rape Her meme. Today I’m going to explain what I really think. It boils down to this:
Do you want a world in which women trust men, or not? That’s the only question here. You can’t expect us to trust you and be emotionally available to you and bear the burden of sorting out which ones of you intend to rape us now or five years from now. Don’t kid yourself about karate classes and a woman’s ability to recognize a “bad” guy. Do you have any idea how many of the people you know are rapists? Statistically it must be a few… and yet I’m betting you don’t think you know any rapists.
If you don’t know them, why the hell do you expect us to?
Besides, many rapists have very good impulse control and can:
- Pretend very convincingly to be nice guys who support women’s rights until they’ve got a victim where they want her.
- Rapists can pull a gun on you the instant you get into their car for your third date, even though you know karate, don’t drink and were cleverly able to recognize that guy your sister dated last year as an abusive personality.
- Seemingly nice boyfriends can suddenly reveal themselves to be rapists (or killers) when you attempt to break up with them.
- Rapists can hit you over the head and render you unconscious, which makes your karate, tea-totaling and rapist-recognizing skills a moot point (and also the gun I talked about in the earlier post)
You think, “Yes, yes, but these are rare cases. It would prevent all the other rapes, which is most of them!” I disagree. The reason why most women who get raped are raped by a man they know is not because women are stupid or incautious. It’s because rapists are frequently not stupid. They know the rules; they circumvent them. They mimic Nice Folks to pass themselves off as Nice Folks. That’s what criminals do.
And even our legal system doesn’t get it. We are stuck with precedents that conflate lust with the urge to rape, consensual sex with non-consensual. Lust does not cause rape. Period. It may or may not be present in a rapists’ mind, but it’s a sense of entitlement, a need to punish, etc. that actually causes someone to rape.
Do I think women need to change their behaviors? No – we need to learn new behaviors. But even that’s not going to work until some of the rest of society’s on board with our absolute entitlement to live an entire lifetime without being raped. To correct an imbalanced society, everyone has to get some retraining. Not drinking and learning karate are way insufficient.
Here are some things I think need to happen to prevent rape. The list is US-centric in places, due to my lack of knowledge about rape and the law in other countries, but feel free to chime in with your examples. The list also sticks just to adult male-on-female rapes because in other types of rape the power dynamics are different – some of these solutions could help prevent any form of rape, others not so much.
- Parents and society need to entitle girls to say no, to negotiate assertively (like we teach boys), to come at interpersonal relationships from a position of authority. Not domination or even necessarily control – just authority and autonomy.
- Parents and society need to stop thinking of women who are assertive (not aggressive, just assertive) as “bitches” when they don’t think of men that way. Yes, this still goes on – just trust me. When you get punished for showing that you will not take shit from anyone, it’s a catch-22. Take shit, and we become targets, and it’s our fault when someone hurts us. Don’t take shit, and we make enemies, and it’s our fault when someone hurts us.
- Girls need to learn from early on that “having a man” is not important. You heard me. It can be wonderful and all that, but being paired off romantically is just absolutely non-essential to life (for men, too). So no girl should ever take a chance on a guy she gets a bad feeling about just because she’s not attracting a lot of other guys to choose from and is terrified this will be her last opportunity for sex/a boyfriend/to find a husband.
- Representatives of religion need to stop teaching that wives have no right to deny their husbands sex even if they’ve just given birth and are half-dead from complications. Yeah, call it state interfering with church all you want, but we also have rules against child beating that some religious folk claimed flew in the face of “spare the rod, spoil the child”.
- Marital rape needs to carry the same penalties as other forms of rape. It should not be a freakin’ misdemeanor, but in many states it is. And it is so much more common than you think.
- Women need to be taught that looking unlike Barbie won’t protect you from rape – I’ve talked to and read accounts of women who thought because they were “fat” or somehow “ugly” they were safe from rape. And believe me, that’s the message we get loud and clear, so this is not a case of women being “stupid”. Elderly women are raped on a regular basis here in the States, and you know how, like, totally grossed out we Americans feel about anyone who looks older than twelve.
- Rapists need to be convicted and put in jail for length of time sufficient enough to really annoy them. It’s estimated that only between 1 and 11% of all rapists are actually brought to trial and convicted. Not much of a deterrent.
- Men (and women) need to turn in their rapist buddies. If it’s too late for the law to address a particular rape incident, then men can at least warn the women they know.
- Manufacturers of potential date rape drugs should put dyes in them that will alter the look of a drink they’ve been added to. I heard something about this the other day, so it may already be happening.
- Boys need to be educated on what constitutes consent and what doesn’t. So do girls, actually.
- I may be missing some bad ramifications of the following proposition, but it seems to me since rape is such a tough crime to prove, relying so much on the claims of those involved, prosecutors should be given more free rein to introduce prior rape accusations, accusations of sexual harassment or other behaviors that indicate the accused has a tendency to abuse women. For the victim, the only prior behavior that should ever be introduced is that which indicates a serious problem with her credibility. Being an “immoral tart” does not mean she’s a liar, contrary to what some jurors seem to think. Committing adultery does not make her any less credible than about 60+ percent of Americans. Borrowing money from boyfriends then accusing them of beating her up to get out of payment does present a credibility issue which the jury should hear.
- Maybe rape should be declared a hate crime. This needs more research, but I think we need a serious debate on the possibility.