Like me, you’ve been watching the Jodi Arias trial with one single thought on your mind: What a terribly sad awful shame. That’s what you’ve been thinking. That poor, poor woman, (you’re thinking). If guilty of the crime she has thrown her life away. It’s tragic, you’re thinking, whilst shaking your head sorrowfully. How could anyone have anything but sympathy for her!
Oh, have I presumed too much? You don’t have sympathy? I guess there’s a difference between an alleged murderer and a convicted rapist then?
CNN thinks so because CNN loves rapists! It feels really sad when they misbehave and do something naughty like raping – but you know, boys will be boys! But then the nasty old judge has to treat it as if it’s like, you know, something serious, and the poor, poor rapists have their lives ruined!
Imagine that. Having your life ruined just because you did some raping. Not only are they going to prison but their names will also be on a sex offender register! Isn’t that terrible! How can handsome young men who play sports well possibly be on a sex register?
“My life is over” said one of the rapists. Doesn’t it make your heart break? The “victim”, whoever she is, probably felt that way too, but CNN didn’t waste time on her. If only she’d kept quiet about it, those two handsome athletic rapists could be running around a sports field right now!
The Steubenville rape trial. Sympathy for the rapists, death threats toward the victim. Blaming the victim, dismissive attitude of rape by those in authority. The boys’ ignorance in what constitutes rape and their pride in treating a girl as nothing more than a vagina.
Too much! Too much!
I wanted to write about Steubenville, but it’s just too big. And too sad.
I hope, I really do, that it’ll be a famous case in the future, 100 years from now. People will look at it the way we look at witch trials, I hope. Why didn’t people understand what rape was? People will say. Why did they hate women so much? People back then were really really dumb!
But it’ll only happen if people make it so. When teachers at a school dismiss rape as less important than the performance of a football team, we have fucked up. When a 16 year old girl is blamed for being raped instead of the 2 boys who, you know, did the raping, something is very wrong. And when a national network news channel spends five minutes over how sad it is to see convicted rapists being sentenced, we all should be afraid.
Rape is a choice of the rapist.
“Being responsible has nothing to do with being raped. Women don’t get raped because they were drinking or took drugs. Women do not get raped because they weren’t careful enough. Women get raped because someone raped them.”
~ Jessica Valenti ~
(TRIGGER warning: discussion of sex and rape).
When I was about 13 years old I read a story in a newspaper about a trial. A woman claimed she had been raped by her husband, and I – appallingly – furrowed my brow. How, I thought to myself, can a woman be raped by her husband?
It amazes me now that I thought that way. I don’t believe I hated women and I didn’t fully understand sex, but on some level I had developed an idea of women as secondary to men.
And I don’t think I got this from my parents. I picked it up from everywhere.
At 13 I didn’t know what rape was. And no-one ever told me, I had to work it out for myself. At the end of my teens I was still under the impression that rape was something done by monsters hiding in bushes. I probably thought it was something women didn’t need to worry about, as long as they took precautions. Their problem, not mine.
No-one ever taught me about sex either. I went to a Catholic school. Sex education took up one term of one year, a period of 3 months when I was 14. The syllabus included the dangers of drugs, alcohol, smoking and – bizarrely – road safety. The only thing I recall was watching a video of some naked babies running around. Some of them had penis’es and some of them had vaginas. The difference in sexual organs was based entirely on their gender.
Sex education came from my classmates, fervent, breathless chats with other boys about what they’d like to do to such-and-such girl.
Do to, not with.
I remember crowding around a porn magazine that someone had brought to the playground, aged perhaps 13. A woman, in ridiculously uncomfortable pose, peeling open her vagina. I remember feeling queasy, repulsed.
And young boys today have all of the internet, full of characterless women, playing the part of objects, existing solely for the pleasure of men. Ready to be used and degraded. Women, of course, are always degraded by sex.
I read a blog about the novel “Crimson Petal and the White”. A brilliant novel, whose central character is a Victorian era prostitute. A man left a comment, “I wonder if it would be so interesting from a male perspective”.
Because reading about a female lead character, understanding a woman’s motivations, feelings, thoughts, could that possibly be of interest to a man?
Women are inferior. Sex is something you do to them. Whatever they think doesn’t matter.
These are not ideas I’ve actively sought, but ideas I have actively had to reject. The world around me has done it’s absolute best to try to make me a misogynist.
And I don’t intend this as any sort of defense, but how is a boy meant to learn what a woman is or what it’s like to be a woman, or that it is even worth trying to find out?
Everyday Sexism is an important website. Every post should be put into a hat, and shaken, and 500 should be pulled out at random. Next, the 500 would all be put together at a big publishing house and made into a big book with a shiny cover. The book would be sent out to every school in the Country, to be read by every girl and boy.
If it happened, they would read things like this:
“I know an awful lot of my female friends have been raped, or nearly raped, and I know that an awful lot of my male friends find that terribly hard to believe.”
“I’m 16 and have been receiving sexist comments …since I was 13. Boys (in school) shout “rape!” if they see a girl in the corridor, loudly rate girls out of 10 while we walk past, look at Page 3 and compare girls to it…happens literally every day…”
“My little sister (15) asserted that if somebody claimed they had been raped they were “probably doing it for attention”, that if a girl wants to avoid being raped she shouldn’t go out in ‘slaggy’ clothes. I don’t know where she got this mentality from but that a 15-year-old girl is so ill-informed of the facts is a massive failure of our society.”
And some people would say: This is unsuitable for children. And I would say: Yes! Yes, it is. So lets make this the last generation that has to experience it.
I’ve read heartbreaking posts about women’s experience of rape and sexual assault. No-one ever talks about these things, except to warn women to moderate their behaviour to avoid it because it’s your problem, not ours.
I read these words from a woman who had been raped:
“During the ensuing 15 years, I sometimes referred to the event in my head as “semi-consensual sex.” It wasn’t rape because I hadn’t screamed, I believed. It wasn’t rape because I hadn’t told anyone, ever.”
By being so afraid to talk about sex and to talk about rape and to talk about what rape is, we have allowed, as a society, rape to happen. Rape is not a woman’s problem. We have a duty to educate both sexes about what rape is, and a duty – to women, to children, to everyone – to tell boys this:
“This is rape. Do not rape”.
Thank you to the following blogs for educating me:
(Trigger warnings for all).
“Shame is the lie someone told you about yourself.”
Not so long ago I got into a debate on a wrestling forum – no, don’t go, honestly – and it all centered around a rape joke.
It was live TV on a show watched primarily by young men and children. Two men were in a ring, wrestling. A man playing the part of manager was on commentary, promoting the young man under his charge. So far, so wrestling.
Then the manager said:
“Titus is as unstoppable as Kobe Bryant in a Colorado hotel room”
He sought to promote his man by comparing him favourably with a rapist. He likened physically dominant traits – power, machismo, strength – with a rapist. He made a joke about rape on live TV.
I left a comment on a blog questioning whether he ought to lose his job. I made a cup of tea, bumbled about in my usual way and came back to check on any responses.
There were some responses.
There were 33.
And none of them even remotely agreed with me.
So I asked everyone, politely, this question:
If Kobe Bryant had raped a 7 year old girl, and the manager had made the same comment, would it still be funny?
The overwhelming response was:
That would be sick, too far, you shouldn’t make jokes about kids like that. I’m obviously inclined to agree. But why, exactly, is it fine to laugh about a woman being raped?
So I asked why.
There were some responses. There were 3.
Apparently, I didn’t have a sense of humour.
Also, a 7 year old would be blameless because she wouldn’t know how to ‘dress slutty’. And one more person who got a bit befuddled and attacked me for trying to make a sick joke.
Making jokes about rape to impressionable minds makes it seem like rape isn’t such a big deal. And when the onus is on women to avoid rape rather than on men not to rape, blame and excuses can be heaped upon the victims.
I think the best response to a rape joke is this:
I don’t get it.
Persist until they explain, explanations always being the death of any joke, funny or otherwise. Persist until they reach the point where they have to say “she got/gets raped”.
And nod, slowly, looking a little confused.
“Beauty provokes harassment, the law says, but it looks through men’s eyes when deciding what provokes it.”