Thursday, March 27, 2008

Victim Blaming: International Edition

A new study from Ireland came back with some fairly depressing findings.
  • One in four people believe women who have been raped are partly to blame for the crime because of how they dressed, their sexual history or how much they had to drink.
  • More than 30% think a victim is some way responsible if she flirts with a man or fails to say no clearly.
  • 10% of people think the victim is entirely at fault if she has had a number of sexual partners.
  • 37% think a woman who flirts extensively is at least complicit, if not completely in the wrong, if she is the victim of a sex crime.
  • One in three think a woman is either partly or fully to blame if she wears revealing clothes.
  • 38% believe a woman must share some of the blame if she walks through a deserted area.

This is blatant victim blaming. Period. Stop. I'm going to refer to an old comparison: If a man is walking through a deserted area at night and is mugged, he is not blamed. If a man's wallet can be seen though his back pocket and he is robbed, he is not blamed. If a man pulls out his wallet with cash visible and he is robbed, he is not blamed. If a man has been robbed in the past, he is not blamed.

We had a similar discussion on our radio show before break, regarding the way women dress and subsequent expectations of behavior. One of the main points we tried to convey is that men are not mindless sex maniacs. They have the ability to stop, to resist the oh-so-enticing women in the miniskirt. A poster on put it best:

"I'm a guy and I am appalled by the thought that so many people still believe that we are just animals who aren't able to control our actions once they see a nice pair of legs or breasts. Arousal may be unconscious, whatever follows isn't."

But if a man makes that conscious decision to continue when his partner's consent is not given, he is solely to blame and nothing a women is wearing, has worn, has said in the past, or has done can exempt him from that blame.


Krista said...

how could anyone believe that it was 'entirely' or 'fully' the VICTIMS fault? i'm floored that one person would even believe that, let alone percentages!

Colt said...

I think of it as you should look both ways before you cross the street. Now the person in the road is to blame for not looking and the driver is more to blame because they just killed someone and it could have been prevented. So, no not all rape victims are to blame. But there are still some girls who know what goes on in the alley or at the beer pong party and they go anyway. There partly to blame for not looking both ways.

Tyler said...

Like what Colt said, They might not be at fault, but they put themselves at a greater risk by being excessively flirtatious, wearing revealing clothing, or just plain putting out. They have not taken all possible precautions. They could carry pepper spray, there are a number of protective measures that they can take. I'm not trying to say if a girl gets raped it is her fault, I am saying that if she is dressed skanky or flirts heavily and it happens, she has not properly protected herself, just like leaving your car unlocked with the key in it on the street, and then wondering why it got stolen.

Tyler said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kate said...

Women should not have to live in fear. They are citizens of humanity, and as citizens of humanity they should have the ability to walk anywhere they choose. They should be able to wear whatever they choose, drink what they choose, talk to whomever, and be completely comfortable and safe.

Crossing the street is not a correct analogy. It breaks down because there are laws that pedestrians have to follow, so they are at fault if they disobey those laws. Women, thankfully, are not legally obligated to wear certain clothes, or refuse drinks.

And I refuse to take any blame for sexual assult. Ever.

Colt said...

Yes, everyone should be able to live without fear, but that is not the case and never will be. The world isn't perfect and we don't always get what we want or need. When your parents tell you not to touch the stove cause it's hot and you do it anyway they don't feel too sorry. Yes rape is awful, but don't touch and you wont get burned.

Colt said...

And what I say only applies to a few, very few. I am not saying all rape could have been prevented by the victim.

Kate said...

So, I am never supposed to go out, to drink, to flirt, to walk alone at night? This is my life, and I want to live it.

I refuse to live in fear. And again, your metaphor breaks down. If I wear what I want, flirt, drink, I am not touching the fire. I am not even near the fire, the fire would have to find me.

Matt said...

It's like the first amendment. You can say whatever you want, but you still have to live with the consequences. You can dress and act any way to please, but you still have to deal with the consequences. Just like when you say "fire" in a movie theatre, nobody will stop the consequences that subsequently rain down upon you. If you want to "drink, to flirt, to walk alone at night," Kate, you will, in return, be faced with adverse consequences. I make it very clear that this does not apply to EVERY rape case, but the riskier life YOU lead, the more risk YOU are susceptible to.

Jezabel said...

I have to agree with Colt and Tyler - the way women dress can draw attention to themselves. Having your neckline go all the way down to your belly button is a surefire way to attract men, but consider the types of men you are attracting. You aren't attracting winners, that's for sure - you're attracting the men that are out there looking for a one night stand, and sometimes that comes at a cost to the woman who is probably oblivious to the fact that she looks cheap. Sexy and cheap are not the same thing. Part of being sexy involves wearing clothes (it's a new concept, but go with it) - if guys can see everything right away - what's the point in taking time to get to know you? they'll just take you for a night or two then leave you on the curb (and tell their friends).

Rape is not the victim's FAULT but by placing yourself out there in outfits that say "come and get me, i'm cheap" certainly increase the risk of getting raped.

Kate - I don't think they are saying you shouldn't live your life as you want to live it. I think they are telling you that you need to be careful the types of messages you are sending to people. If you dress in a way that is alluring or seductive, men will take that as you making the first move in a way - you are dressing to impress them. If you want to dress like that, go for it - just be aware that men are visual - if you look cheap, they'll assume you're cheap.

Geoff said...

Jezabel, Colt, and Matt sum it up for me.

Matt said...

Ummm, if you are flirting, unless you are flirting with yourself, you are necessarily touching the "fire." If you are flirting, you ARE near the fire! The fire doesn't need to come to you because you are flirting with it.

Amelia said...

As a feminist, my thoughts are largely about how to change the society that I live in.

Yes, I agree that women who dress in certain ways may be more likely to draw unwanted attention.

The problem lies in that being the case.

Instead of just admitting that that is the case, we should be thinking about how to change that. Why should we be content with acknowledging the fact that women have to be careful about how their dress attracts men? There needs to be progress toward changing that. The types of men who take advantage of women need to be reduced in number. Those kinds of men need to be re-educated, so that they treat women with respect regardless of the way they dress.

Certain comment posters are just not going far enough with saying that the way women dress can cause certain men to react in certain ways.

We need to try to get men from stopping taking advantage of women. That is not idealistic. It can be changed. We just have to believe in it.

Jezabel said...

It is impossible to re-educate men. As a feminist, you'd think you would know that. You can't teach an old dog new tricks. It is not something you are going to be able to do unless you cage all men and force them to be so afraid of women that they wouldn't dare try anything... but I'm pretty sure that that is highly illegal, so there's no chance of that happening in the near future.

Amelia said...

Jezabel, I am not that cynical about men. Not at all. It is not all men who rape women. Not all men have that problem. So, in essence, it would be a lot easier to re-educate the men who have the problem than you may think, because the problem is a lot less widespread.

Maybe that will be my next project. Getting involved in that effort, just to show you that change is possible.

Thanks for reading my blog and Kate's posts, though. I do appreciate hearing from our readers.

Jezabel said...

Amelia - good luck with your mission. I don't think it will do you much good. but good luck all the same.

Amelia said...

You have to dream big. That's the only way change ever occurs. And I'm willing to be that dreamer, because I am willing to admit that our society has problems and needs to be changed.

Thanks for the wishes of luck, though, Jezabel.

Kate said...

I think you can definately re-educate anybody at anytime.

And I know I'm being idealistic and trying to live in a world that doesn't yet exist. I acknowledge that, but I won't take any responsiblity if I am ever raped.

And Yay Amelia. I am ready to join your mission.

judgesnineteen said...

colt: Don't touch and you won't get burned? Wrong. People get raped even without doing any of the things mentioned here. The problem is not women taking risks. The problem is men (as the vast majority of rapists are men, but of course female rapists should be held equally accountable) feeling entitled to rape people. And not understanding what constitutes rape.

Hang in there, amelia.

Jezabel said...

judgesnineteen- I don't believe it is an issue of "entitlement" this is not something passed down from generation to generation like money, heirlooms or property. it is an incurable mental disorder in which the rapist feels a sense of power by preying on those deemed weaker than themselves. granted that in some cases women are not preyed on based on the way they dress, but in a vast majority of cases - dress and outward appearance plays a role in the outcome of a situation. Rapists will often go for what appears to be an easy conquest over someone who is more conservatively dressed and seems to have more power.

lindabeth said...

Wow, Tyler and Colt, I'm glad to see that in our society it is the victim's responsibility to prevent violence!

In your "cross the street" analogy, both pedestrians and drivers have responsibilities. Men have the responsibility to honor women's "nos," to respect that a positive sexual encounter is one where both parties choose it by not taking advantage of a woman who can't make that choice. Men and women have the responsibility to ask for sex, to decide if they want it, and to provide an answer. Men and women then have the responsibility to respect the answers. Men DO NOT fulfill their responsibility when they rape. But this also assumes that rape is about sex, or a "miscommunication" around sex.

When people blame women's "excessive" sexuality for rape, they are misunderstanding rape by presuming rape is about sex. But rape is about power and control, not about sexual desire. It's about entitlement to a person's body, regardless of what they want. Or projecting your wants onto them, and justifying your insistence on them after the fact on how she behaved.

You can see that rape is about control, dominance, ownership, etc. if you also look at male-male prison rape, or if you think about the rape (and often murder) of transsexual individuals.

When men use the mere fact that a woman is sexual person (behavior, clothing, etc.) as a justification for and motivation for her rape, it is because he is rendered powerless that women's sexuality is part of who they are as an individual that exists in the world, but is unavailable to him. Rape gives him that power and control that he lacks in a society where women's bodies and sexuality is seen to be the right and privilege of any man.

lindabeth said...

I think the comments that says

dressing provocatively="I'm cheap"=rape me

still misses the point that even someone who has a lot of sex with a lot of people has the right to say no to you.

Further, it is only in a world where men see the truth of the world as being that women exist for their pleasure, that women dress for the purposes of the visual pleasure of random male strangers, that women's behaviors are read only in terms of what they do or mean for men, that a woman's clothing can be interpreted as an invitation to sex. And that world is a sexist one.

You women-blamers act like unless I want sex, regardless of what I might say if approached, I should be dressed as a paper bag.

And this again to reiterate....RAPE IS NOT ABOUT SEX GONE WRONG!!!!!