The Lady Garden

Tea and Strumpets

Cultural Studies

Trigger warning for sexual assault

Recently, a friend and I were having a conversation, and I used the words “rape culture”. And the conversation went like this:

“What’s rape culture?”

“Fuck. Um…well, it’s the idea that we live in a world where rape is a crime that many, many women, and some men, face, and that as a crime, it is often lessened, because it’s in the patriarchy’s interests to control women’s bodies, and to encourage male aggression. Ok, wait, that’s a really bad definition…”

“The patriarchy?”

“Lordy. Um…look, can I send you some links…?”

“Yeah, I guess, but I mean, why do you care so much? You’ve never been raped…”

I didn’t, but I wanted to explain to him that he had just perpetuated rape culture. First, the assumption that I’ve never been assaulted, because he would automatically know that. Because it would be my responsibility to share that information, or he’d just be able to tell, I guess. Second, the idea that violent crime only affects the victim.

When we talk about 1 in 5 women being assaulted, or whichever statistic you’d care to use about violent crime, we focus on the 1. We think about how many women we might know who have been raped. We think how lucky to not be one of those people. But what that means is that women constantly live in a space where there’s a fairly good statistical chance we’ll be Next. Where my friend can say to me “But I’ve seen you. You’re really good at keeping yourself safe”, and not think about whether it’s reasonable that I have to do that. Where I can be harassed by a group of men walking down the street on a Sunday night, and my first thought is not to fight back, but how quickly I’d have to run to get home safely. It’s using the threat of a violent crime to control women’s behaviour, and lessening the severity of the crime because it suits your purpose.

Rape culture is where a judge can tell a sexual assault victim:

“If you wouldn’t have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you,” Hatch said.

Hatch told the victim and the defendant that no one would be happy with the sentence she gave, but that finding an appropriate sentence was her duty.

“I hope you look at what you’ve been through and try to take something positive out of it,” Hatch said to the victim in court. “You learned a lesson about friendship and you learned a lesson about vulnerability.”

Hatch said that the victim was not to blame in the case, but that all women must be vigilant against becoming victims.

“When you blame others, you give up your power to change,” Hatch said that her mother used to say.

When you blame others. WHEN YOU FUCKING BLAME OTHERS? The “other” is TO BLAME. By the same token, I would never been assaulted if I just hadn’t let a dude slam his way into my house, or led him on with my sexy, sexy flannel pyjamas. What are women meant to do? How are we meant to learn about vulnerability? Never go to bars? Never leave our houses? Never, ever, see other people?

The US election, and the constant use of women’s bodies as political tools must have been wearying for some people, at best. And downright triggering for others. I am on the other side of the world, and I’d like to lock Todd Akin in a room with some victims and some heavy objects. Here’s a good rule of thumb. If you are using the word rape in a sentence, and it’s not to denounce a violent, horrific crime, then you need to take a good look at yourself.

I don’t know what we do to go about ending this. Call it out when we see it, make a fuss, slutwalk. But the thing about living in a culture of fear is that some days, you can’t get yourself out of the bathroom. And that’s OK. It’s a reasonable response. We all need to be pushing back against the Richard Mourdock’s of the world when we can, and we need allies.

So, if, like me, you’re finding the way US politicians seem comfortable talking about women problematic*, and because this has been something of a heavy post, here, have some of the queen.

* Problematic = TLG code for Really Fucked Up

5 responses to “Cultural Studies

  1. Tamara October 31, 2012 at 11:07 am

    This is great. I will point people here for a summary.

  2. Deborah October 31, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    I think that so many men don’t really understand the constant state of calculation and assessment of risk that women live in. Always weighing up the odds of walking down that street, catching a cab home, being alone in the same room as that creepy uncle, worrying about the tradie who came around to fix the tax and didn’t do it properly but do you really want to call him back in to finish the job.

    Great post, Tallulah.

  3. MJ November 3, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Fantastic post as always, Tallulah!

  4. Pingback: Talking about rape culture | A Bee of a Certain Age

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