The Missed Message

A lot has been said lately about the “rape culture” of America. About how women are being accosted and raped and then “slut shamed” after the fact. About how women report a rape and then are treated badly by the very institutions that are supposed to protect and seek justice for them. About how many rape cases are never prosecuted and that many have evidence kits that haven’t even been tested or looked at because there wasn’t enough funding for that kind of thing.

And there is always the push back. How women should know better than to dress that way/act that way/go to those places. About how men really don’t do that kind of thing and women are just reporting rape to garner attention. About how women would never get raped if they didn’t act like sluts/whores/tramps.

Now, I know that men are raped, too. And rape, no matter who is the victim and who is the perpetrator is disgusting. But, for the sake of this little post (and because I’m a woman), I’m going to be sticking with the female victim speak.

There was an article on Yahoo just today that made me think about doing this post. Now, I know, I know, Yahoo is not a great purveyor of news. But, it caught my eye when I was going to check my email. The article was titled “Sorry, Robin Thicke. Blurred Lines Are a Myth.” (click the title to be taken to the article) It detailed a study that showed that 90% of the time in a bar or nightclub, that men on women sexual aggression was unwanted.

That’s not what got me. I mean, I’ve been to clubs and the attention was not always wanted. Hell, I’ve gone to work and gotten attention that I didn’t want. I’ve walked down the street, been shopping in a mall, serving on Active Duty, and got attention that I didn’t want.

What got to me about this article were the comments below the piece. There were a couple that really peeved me off. To start, there’s this little piece of heaven: “More liberal ‘rapey’ bullshit.. Women are as sexually aggressive as the guys….so called “victims” like the attention they get as the alleged oppressed. Everybody’s a victim of the white guy – the Left’s mantra!” Or, how about this one: “I think it’s fair to say probably most Women (sic) in bars do want it – they just want it from guys who know how to act..not drunken groping #$%$.” Or, how about this one, “So a bar isn’t the best place to meet a quality guy? What a shock.”

I would ask if I really have to enumerate what is wrong with these modes of thinking; but, seeing as how these folks thought that these words were alright to share, I guess I have to.

The article wasn’t about sexual aggression. It was about predator-like behavior of men towards women. It was about unwanted sexual aggression and unwanted sexual advances and touching. Sexual aggression is fine – if everyone is on board with that. A woman or a man that knows what they want in bed and from a partner is fine. The operative word here is “partner.” Groping someone’s ass/tatas/dick in a public bar without permission means that you are not a partner. You are a pervert. Yes, I can see how people could mistake the two words as they both start with the letter “p,” but they are not the same thing.

And why do you assume that a woman in a bar wants to have sex? Maybe, she just wants to have a drink. Hence why she went to a bar. Would you assume that a woman in a diner wants to have sex, or would you assume that she was just hungry? How about a woman at a car wash? Or in the shopping mall? Or at the gas station? Why do you think that every woman in a bar wants to have sex? Maybe they just go there for the good music and the good drinks. Maybe they go there to socialize with their friends. Not every person, regardless of sex, is looking to bump uglies. Sometimes, they’re coming there for the original reason that the bar was built: to have an alcoholic drink. Kind of like, sometimes I actually use my cell phone as a phone and not a hand held computer.

As for the last one, why do you think that a woman is on the prowl for a guy just because she is in a bar? What, because we don’t look like Cliff Claven, we can’t enjoy a drink? We are obviously there because we are lonely and undersexed.

These are the things that face women every day of the week. I have been sexually harassed, groped, and had to fend off unwanted advances in places like the shopping mall, the shoe store, the grocery store, the office, the bar, the dance club. If sexual harassment or assault only happened when we went to places like the club, it would be easy to avoid. If it only happened when we wore short dresses or high heels, swimsuits or burkhas, we would be able to take steps to protect ourselves.

But here is the cold, hard truth. Sexual harassment and assault can happen anytime and anyplace. When I was sexually harassed when I was active duty, it was while I was wearing a military uniform, BDUs. There isn’t anything that covers a woman more completely, unless you adhere to strict Muslim teaching, than military BDUs. I wasn’t wearing a short skirt, I wasn’t wearing high heels. I was wearing combat boots and a hat. I wasn’t acting provocatively. I wasn’t having an inappropriate conversation. I was doing my job.

And that’s the problem. It has become almost socially acceptable, through songs like Mr. Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” and the media portrayal of women, to sexually harass women. Why? Why is it alright? Why is it that so many of the people that are supposed to protect women through laws and other actions are so stupid about what rape is and why it’s bad?

Why haven’t we changed the conversation? Why aren’t men more pissed when they hear something like, “She shouldn’t have worn clothes like that!” Why aren’t men upset that it is being inferred that they have little to no control of their basest desires that they would be compelled to attack a woman because of the clothes she wears? Or the places she goes? Or the drinks she consumes?

Why aren’t men more upset? When did we, as a society, become so cavalier about the fact that women are being violated in record numbers? And why aren’t we more upset that these women are shamed about the fact that they were raped, like it was their fault? We side with the rapist, bemoan their “lost futures” or the fact that they were “great kids” that made a mistake, or hear a statement like “boys will be boys.” But we never hear about the horrible consequences of their decisions. The shame that the girl will feel, or the fact that having a normal relationship with a man will be hard for her the rest of her life. Or that maybe she will never be able to bear children because of the violence of the rape. Or the therapy that she will have to go through. Or the PTSD that she will live with for the rest of her life.

No, we don’t hear about that. Instead, we hear about all of her past boyfriends and her jobs and her clothes. We look at her social life and make assumptions about how she was “flirty” or “a social butterfly” or “a tramp” or “a whore.” We shame these women into making them think that it’s their fault because they were asserting their personality or sense of style.

As a woman, I worry every day about who is behind me in a store, or in a parking lot. I worry about going places when it’s dark. I worry about what I wear, how I speak, how I walk. Because I don’t want to be catcalled, or harassed, or raped just going about my life.

It’s exhausting worrying about all of those things just to live my life.

I shouldn’t have to worry about what I wear, or how I speak, or how I walk. Because rape is never the victim’s fault and there is generally nothing that anyone can do to keep the rapist from making a move, or trying to rape a woman.

We can’t keep from being raped by changing our wardrobe, enhancing our vocabularies or learning to walk like a model.

Because the act of rape is never the victim’s fault. Ever.

And that’s the message that society seems to have missed.

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