Saturday, March 29, 2008

To Clarify

I am very frustrated with many of the comments on my blog posts at this site. And as I have been reading through my responses, I realize that because of this frustration I have not always been able to clearly make my point, so I just wanted to post an opinion post to clarify some facts and explain how I feel.

I have never been raped; however, I have grown up as a woman and experienced all that this entails: catcalls, sexual harassment, inappropriate gestures and innuendos from a very young age. I have had unpleasant encounters with men three times my age and felt violated more than once. And I am only eighteen.

It has been widely reported that nearly 1 in 4 women are raped during their lifetimes. And most rapes don’t occur in an empty alley, committed by a gun-wielding stranger. The vast majority of rapes are acquaintance rapes, and it is these occurrences where women are left with the most of the blame. Look at how she was dressed, she obviously wanted it. We slept together before. If she got that drunk, it was for a reason. But she was flirting with me at the bar; why else would she have talked to me?

Many of the posters have emphasized that most men don’t rape, and that is obviously and thankfully true. However, the existence of rape cannot be ignored; it is real, and the danger to women is everywhere. It is hard for a man to realize the powerful, semi-unconscious fear that pervades most women’s lives. Women can’t comfortably study at the library after dark. Women are warned to avoid parking cars at the far end of the lot. Women shouldn’t run in parks alone. Women are even warned against pulling over in a secluded area if a cop is flashing his lights, for fear he is an imposter. To follow all the restrictions, warnings, advice, and guidelines is to limit the living of one’s life.

While I am not advocating going to a bar alone, dressed provocatively, chatting with strangers, and downing a few shots, I am also not saying any woman who does should be blamed for the actions of the men who surround her. These men are autonomous human beings who have control over their biology. They are not sex-crazed animals, insatiable in their lust for women. They have the ability to ignore the woman or put her in a cab. If they choose to do otherwise, it is solely their decision and solely their responsibility.

_____
Please read here to see where this discussion started.

Also, please visit Men Can Stop Rape.

31 comments:

Colt said...

You are right, it isn't fair to women and they are hardly to blame. I think there should be more general education about this. Not just for the females but the males too. "72% of rape victims know there assailants. 38% are a friend or acquaintance. 28% are an intimate. 7% are a relative." That is sad. "More than 50% of all rape/sexual assault incidents were reported by victims to have occurred within 1 mile of their home or at their home." More sad news. That info came from,
RAINN
There are allot of sad stats on that website. Rape is horrible and we should be discussing how to stop instead of playing the "blame game."

Colt said...

On the RAINN site there is a portion dedicated to protecting yourself too.

JPR said...

Nicely put. There's also that population of good guys who will always pick up their phone if you need a walk home.

Take-home lesson, while women aren't to be held responsible for being raped, there are also a variety of ways to protect oneself... and i think those can be applicable across gender, station in life, etc.

Amelia said...

Great post, Kate.

This really is an important topic that touches the lives of all women, and I am very pleased to have given people this forum to talk about the subject.

We need to get together and try to come up with some ideas for action on this topic.

Amelia said...

Also, thanks to Colt. I added your link under "Feminist Links" on the blog.

Tyler said...

Ok, I'm sure i am one of these commenters, so I will clarify myself. I do not think women are to blame. I also realize the majority of men would never do such a thing. I think just like you that girls SHOULD be able to do what they want, but this is not a utopia, so they must protect themselves from the idiots out there. It is just like locking you doors. Girls, you do send a certain cue to guys with how you are dressed, If you don't like the response, wear something else. I am not against an effort to educate men, as long is it is not taken to the level of being disruptive. But women also need to be reasonable about protecting themselves. I'm not sure how alot of liberals (perhaps not the ones in question on this site) can be so upset about victim-blaming in some crimes (rape) but do it for others (if somebody steals your stuff it is only because they are oppressed by society). So, my point is, to all the girls out there, there are consequences to the way you act/dress, and you need to think about those. and to the men, Don't be a jackass.

Tyler said...

Also, In the Victim-Blaming post, The stats are obviously referring to just random rape, or at most somebody met in a bar type stuff, not date rape or acquaintance rape, which is a whole different ballgame, and seems to be alot of what you are discussing in this post. Not to demean one of the other, but i think the two should be separated for the sake of discussion. Both are bad, but there are differences in the way they happen, who typically commits them, and the level of precaution a woman SHOULD have taken.

Amelia said...

Tyler, in your comment you said, "I am not against an effort to educate men, as long is it is not taken to the level of being disruptive."

Disruptive of what, may I ask? Education does not typically disrupt anything except for the normalities of society. Like, for example, when women's studies started being taught at universities, giving women a subject of study to help unify them in a way that had not previously been possible.

So what would you be afraid of this education disrupting, Tyler? The natural progression of a society where women have to live in fear when they go out, and have to be extra cautious about how they dress? I would like some clarification, because that is certainly what it sounded like to me.

Tyler said...

Yes aimee, I meant disruptive of life. I don't care what kind of advertising you put out, or anything like that. An elective class is just fine. But the second you institute a law, or require a class that disrupts me from my life as it is, is the second I get extremely upset and declare you took it to far. Do you lock your doors when oyu leave your room? or theoretically, would you leave your keys in your car? It is the exact same issue about rape.

judgesnineteen said...

I just put up a post in response on my blog.

Meg said...

If you act like a 10 cent whore, you will be treated like a 10 cent whore.

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Ryan Capuano said...

I'm proud of you, Katie.

Tyler, they should have had some kind of discussion about this kind of thing in your high school health class, like they had in mine. Somehow, they need to institute some kind of education on the issue, because a lot of people really have no idea. And that's probably the best place to do it.

And how is locking your keys in your car the exact same issue as rape? How is that even in the same ballpark?

Martha said...

Tyler- I am confused about why education or reform is not supposed to disrupt our lives. Reform (and the education that go along with it) by definition changes the way we live and the world we live in. How are we supposed to stop the social forces that cause rape if we don't change the way our society functions? Why would laws that punish rape more severely be bad? Why would classes that educate us all so that men are less likely to feel entitled to rape and women know how to protect themselves better?
Basically, if we want things to change, they way we live can't stay the same.

Kate and Amelia - I love the show and the blog. You women are amazing and I admire you so much.

Tyler said...

Ryan- Taking precautions against being raped is the same as locking your doors and car. Not rape itself.


Martha- Pure and simple, Do not infringe on my rights or reasonable expectation of freedom, and I don't care too much. Also, What I said was I would be a fan of education that didn't disrupt my life. Disrupt means infringe upon me as a normal guy who likes my freedom.


You people should read a little closer.

Amelia said...

Tyler, your idea of education about rape (preventing it, its causes, or whatever) infringing upon your freedom, still baffles me, honestly.

I do not understand why you feel so strongly that educating the country about a devastating crime that is, among other things, largely about power relationships, would limit your freedom.

I really just don't understand it.

Amelia said...

It's almost as if, Tyler, you are stripping validity from the rape argument, as if it really isn't a problem, by not wanting widespread education about the issue to happen and feeling threatened by it.

Tyler said...

I'm just saying, if the goverment were to send me a letter saying "please attend this mandatory anti-rape class, under penalty of law" i would be extremely upset.

Geoff said...

Conceal and Carry Baby!

Colt said...

Just like the letter that says go to school under penalty of law. The same school that should be teaching people about rape in the sex-ed class.

Ryan Capuano said...

Never thought I'd be agreeing with Colt, truth be told. I take back my comparison of you to the other Colt I knew.

Tyler, it's not mandatory that anyone go to school. But most people do indeed go to school. And even though sex ed is still far from perfect in a lot of parts of the country, rape prevention should be introduced in these classes, like it was in mine.

Tyler said...

Ryan, I mean outside of school. And you are flat-out wrong. The only way to get out of going to school is to be home-schooled, which in theory you are still in school. Please do not attempt to argue education with me. Our High School health classes were an absolute joke. I never meant anything about sex-ed in school. I was referring to a reeducation type program, where all men were required to attend or something.

Jezabel said...

I don't know what types of sex-ed classes you guys had, but I know at my high school we had a few weeks out of health class devoted to sex, pregnancy and rape. Thing is, when we discussed rape, it was discussed how to prevent it. Suggestions included: not drinking with people you don't know, not going to clubs alone, not dressing like a two dollar hooker, not walking by yourself at night, not taking drinks from stragners, not leaving your drink unattended, and not being oblivious to your surroundings. They aren't teaching women to be paranoid nuns, they are teaching women to be cautious. Being cautious and having your freedom limited are two different things. Locking the door to your house when you go to bed every night is a suggestion, as are all of the above. You don't have to follow them. It's just reccomended that you do. Creating a program for men would just be a waste of government tax money for something that is just going to flop. No one will go. And if they do make it required to go, no one will take it seriously - just like going to traffic school after you get a ticket. No one honestly pays attention, they just go out and speed again. People do not change. It's a fact of life.

Colt said...

People change. Thats a fact.

Amelia said...

Jezabel, the problem is that sex-ed differs from one school to another. In my health class, only a portion of which was actually dedicated to sex (and that merely focused on listing contraceptives and their effectiveness), and we never really discussed rape or rape prevention or why rape happens or the psychology of rapists or anything practical.

I would never suggest making rape education a merely male issue. In order to work toward a solution for this problem, men and women need to work together. I would not suggest the government spend money on wrangling up all the men and forcing them to go to rape-prevention classes. Not at all.

It would be wonderful, though, to mandate that it be discussed in a thorough, practical manner in all sex-ed classes, which currently is not the case. Why not? Men and women have to go through sex-ed in public school. A well-thought program, with a section on rape and its prevention, when used in a public school setting, would be able to reach a good number of men and women, and could possibly be very effective.

Tyler said...

actually, the federal government has attempted to mandate what is taught, and it isn't rape prevention. it is math and science. Thanks to the lovely little law we call NCLB.

judgesnineteen said...

"People do not change. It's a fact of life."

Explain to me why we can teach women how to be careful and they'll change, but we can't teach men how to be careful (to get consent), because they won't change. There are some rapists who will never change, I agree. But not all people who rape do so because they're crazy monsters. A LOT of them do so because they don't know what the rules are, what makes rape, how it makes the victim feel, etc.

judgesnineteen said...

But honestly, I think it's more than education in sex ed class that we need. We need a societal change in values. We need organizations like Men Can Stop Rape (gosh, I wonder why they named it that if women can stop rape by just not being so irresponsible). We need guys to speak up to their friends and say that affirmative consent matters, because it's been shown that guys will listen to their male peers and that their perception of their friends' ideas on consent will influence their own. All of those are types of education, but they need to take place not only in school, but in church, at home, among friends.

Amelia said...

I definitely agree with you, judgesnineteen. A societal change in values is what we need. Your ideas are excellent.

lindabeth said...

Hey ladies (the writers), don't be discouraged. There are many many misunderstandings about rape, and Colts stats I think really nail that one home.

Many people think that rape happens in an isolated public space, if you're wearing certain clothes, if you're particularly attractive, etc. These assumptions make it easy to a) blame women, and b) keep women "in their place" (ie not traveling independently, not having the freedom to behavior or dress or go where they want to).

But as Colt writes, 72% know their assailants. And when that is the case, it must change the way we think about rape and what it is.

And about protecting yourself, sure, of course. When I'm out I NEVER leave my drink unattended. I don't ever get really drunk unless I'm in a place I feel safe and where there are people who will ensure I get home safely. I have had experiences in my life where someone I trusted picked me up from a bar because I was too drunk to drive and then as I was half-passed out, raped me.

OF COURSE, we should encourage precautions. But that doesn't ever mean that if it does happen, rape is ever the woman's fault.

And yes yes yes to the idea that we need societal change. I think part of the rape problem seriously has to do with men's response to women's equality and the persistence of objectification. It's easy to rape someone if you don't see them as a person with agency. We also need to combat the myths and stereotypes and jokes around rape, and stop excusing their representations in advertising especially. Not to mention the incredible frequency that sexual encounters are "promised"/made promising in alcohol ads.

Marc said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for that! You rock for writing this post. "Gray rape" and date rape are important issues feminist leaders on college campuses need to take on.

The key, I believe, is to teach young men to deconstruct their masculinity and understand the messages they are faced with everyday about how women are viewed, what defines a man and such ...

I'd LOVE to work together with your campus on this issue!

Marc