I have something to say about rape

So I've noticed in the news lately that there have been a lot of articles about rape and sexual harassment cases, whether it be rapists being acquitted easily or victims being blamed or important people trivializing rape. My aim in writing the below is to make people on polarized ends of the opinion scale when it comes to rape realize the complexity of the relationship between the law and society's opinions, both of which are legitimate in their own right. I'd like for people to consider both sides of these cases and try to reconcile them so that we are not over-virginizing or condemning victims in these situations, incite more discussion and create a potentially fairer (or at least less contested) way for such cases to be handled in the future.

I'm not talking about stranger-rape or assault-rape or roofie-ing which is generally agreed upon to be outright disgusting and wrong and power-motivated, but rather the fuzzy-lined acquaintance type rape which seems to be coming up in the media more frequently lately. I'm also not going to talk about stupid politicians saying brainless things because that's not worth my time and I'm pretty sure most educated people know when their politicians are being idiots.

There are some things I'd like for people to realize about the justice system:

1) Rape is not necessarily sex without 'consent' in the regular sense. If a drunk girl throws herself at you, it is obvious that she "wants the D" (as one twitter user so eloquently put it), but it is considered rape in the eyes of the law if you then have sex with her, because she is in no state to give proper consent. If she sobers up and is fine with what she did, then okay. But if she regrets her actions and feels you took advantage of her drunken state (which you did), then from a courtroom's perspective you are a rapist. Plain and simple.


[apologies for assuming rapist is male and victim is female, this was in response to a particular case I read, obviously also applies for all combinations of genders]


2) Similarly for underage partners, the issue of one person taking advantage of another is the one that the law punishes, not the actual act of sex itself. A 13 year old cannot be held accountable for their deluded idea of what they want because they aren't old or mature enough to rationalize those decisions yet (note this is the same line of logic which allows underage offenders to have lighter sentences and have their own juvenile prisons, so if you believe minors should have sexual freedom then you are also saying you want all minors to be tried as adults in court). Statutory rape is not rape in the sense of having sex with someone against their will but the act of taking advantage of someone who cannot make legal decisions for themselves (and as an older person one should take responsibility of the situation). A lot of people are irked by the idea that if they turn 18/16 half a year before their significant other they are somehow in violation of the law if they are having sex, but it honestly can't be helped if you think about it since it's the law's job to put concrete boundaries on things and there has to be a line somewhere (if you think it's creepy for a 65 year old man to have sex with a 15 year old then you have proven that point to yourself already).

3) If a girl is wearing provocative clothing, you can't just say she wasn't raped. Someone likened this to walking around the street waving hundred dollar bills around and expecting not to get robbed. Yes, obviously there is risk, but in that case as well, is the thief innocent? There is only risk because we live in a society where people do things like cheat and steal. In an ideal world (which is what the law aims to propel), people should be able to walk around with hundred dollar bills hanging off them without the fear of being mugged. That's just a baseline of trust. In the rape scenario, the act of wearing short skirts is not a green light for rapists. You should ask a dude if you can borrow a hundred bucks from him just like you should always make sure your partner is willing, even if they happen to be wearing provocative clothing.

4) Perhaps the most important point in that it's the counterpoint: The justice system is not perfect, and it certainly does not dish out all the judgment. Society itself judges: this is why rape cases are so complex and have had so much coverage lately, because of the polarized opinions surrounding each case. In response to the points above:

4-1) In terms of victim blaming: a lot of people believe that nobody should get drunk enough to lose control of their senses like this , so since they gave up that control when they decided to drink those 12 consecutive shots, they should be responsible for their actions. Being drunk is not an excuse -- when it comes to cheating on your significant other, when it comes to accidentally killing someone, and of course when creating disorder on the streets at 3am in the middle of the night, so why is it okay to let rape victims off the hook if they were drunk? People should be responsible for their own drinking and know their own limits.That's also a common perspective.

4-3) As clearly demonstrated, people are more likely to blame victims if they were wearing provocative clothing, and though the law protects the ideal world, it's obvious that we don't live in one. So, if you do choose to wear such short dresses, you are basically accepting the risk of backlash from the community if you do get raped, though you are protected by the law. Just like you risk getting robbed if you flash your money, though it doesn't mean the thief is innocent, and you will probably not be punished for it by a judge, people are still going to talk about your stupidity in throwing your money around even if that's not what you intended by it. After all, what are you trying to achieve by wearing such clothing? Obviously to be more attractive to potential mates, says society (however I'd like to reiterate the point that attracting potential mates does not mean attracting every mate -- obviously she should still have freedom of choice in who she decides to sleep with, right?).

Society has an amazing capacity to criticize people who get by the law but they whom see as at least partially accountable. This really needs to be taken into account when people decide to do the things they do and expect only to be judged by the law. After all, why do you think there are so many memes about rape and girls "asking for it" online? People want to stop rape culture and rape humor but the fact is it exists and we should probably question why rather than trying to just block it off without reviewing where it came from.

I honestly think that in a lot of rape cases, it is not a cut-and-dry and only the rapist is accountable. A series of events unfolded prior to the act where there was possibly miscommunication of some sort, or alcohol involved, or any variety of things -- the reason that people blame the victim is not because they are horrible people, but because it is true that victim could have decreased their chances of being taken advantage of in some cases.

Though it is never okay for someone to have sex with someone without their outright consent, the amount of rape and trauma could be decreased if both parties watched their actions and understood what was at risk before doing anything. People often blame society for teaching "don't get raped" instead of "don't rape", but it doesn't make much sense to simply flip it and only teach "don't rape" either --honestly if we taught both wouldn't the number of cases of rape decrease even more? People should watch their own safety and watch out for potentially bad situations as well as make sure they don't hurt anyone. We shouldn't have to live in fear, but it's unrealistic to believe naively that we can walk outside and there is no danger anywhere and we can do whatever we want without risk. Everyone has to pull their weight for a better world.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I disagree with regards to the drinking situation and the clothes you wear. Rapists do not just go for people who are wearing skimpy clothing at all. The clothes you wear basically have nothing to do with your likelihood of being raped. Rapists do not rape because someone is wearing skimpy clothing (though in some cases they may if it means the clothing will be easier to remove). Rape is about power and dominance over someone. As such the clothes you wear should really not come in to the equation. In any case, what clothes would be considered skimpy for a male? Is there any caveat for a man to not wear particular clothes to avoid being raped? (Obviously not really, as no one really warns men against being raped, despite the fact that they can be.) It seems like a double standard, and saying, for example, that a girl was wearing short shorts because it was a hot day and then saying that those shorts are to blame for her rape is pretty ridiculous.

I do agree that you do actually have to be careful about what you do and where you go, which is a sad fact of life. It probably never will change. That said the blame should never ever be on the victim in any way. maybe in cases of two people who are in a relationship and communication is unclear, but never in any other cases.

Also re: drinking too much and being raped as a result of that: people drink. it is a fact of life. No, you probably shouldn't get drunk to the point of passing out, but people are irresponsible and stupid and do it anyway. That doesn't mean that they are to blame for being raped because they should have been more responsible and not drunk so much. That in itself is just victim blaming. Of course people shouldn't drink so much, but people do, and it is no excuse to rape someone and one of the side effects of drinking too much should not ever be "you could get raped. so don't do it".

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this other than that victim blaming needs to stop being a thing full stop, and rapists need to be held fully accountable for their actions.

Winnie said...

Like I said, I wasn't talking about rape out of power. Rape today defines such things as having intercourse with a drunk person at a party, and these are the cases I was more concerned with. Obviously skimpy clothing has nothing to do with power-motivated rape, but when a girl goes to a party with a short dress and then gets taken advantage of, a lot of people will say she was 'asking for it' (obviously this is wrong and the perpetrator should still be held accountable but i'm pointing out that this is something that happens).

Also it's not good enough to just assume that "people drink" and "it's a fact of life". Of course they are not to blame for being raped, but that doesn't mean people shouldn't be more aware of their surroundings and potential safety hazards when they are drinking far too much at once. You said it yourself actually, they aren't to BLAME for it but people should still be more responsible.

Just because people drink doesn't mean we shouldn't try to improve the drinking culture, instead of just accepting it. That's the same as teaching people 'don't get raped' instead of 'don't rape' by using the logic that people shouldn't rape but they do anyway.

I agree that rapists should be held accountable for their actions, there is no contest there. I'm not victim blaming, just pointing out why it happens and questioning whether actions could be taken from the other side also to improve safety.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I guess I was uncertain of your position on the matter. And you're right that drinking culture is a problem too, of course. That said, people already do take actions to avoid rape- I think the problem is that many women live life in fear, constantly taking precautions. Of course you should be careful, but fear of rape can in some cases dominate over the things you decide to do. (What's sad is that even if you do take precautions, rape can still happen.) In that case I think that it is very important to encourage people to understand rape culture and to teach people not to rape. (People will probably still rape despite this, as people do indeed still commit crimes regardless of being taught not to. I think widespread understanding of rape culture would be more effective on some level.)
Thanks for clearing up my confusion on what you said! (and you made a good point about how saying that people drink and you can't help it is on some level the same as saying "don't get raped." I didn't even think of that, haha)