I’ve been hearing the expression “rape culture” being flung around lately and I’m afraid that people may be confusing healthy sexuality with rape culture. I think people are using that term to suggest that a culture in which sexuality is openly displayed, where people dress suggestively and treat sex as a casual thing is a culture that encourages rape. I reject this concept completely. Rape is a world-wide problem. It’s been an epic problem all the way back into the mists of time. It is a problem in cultures where women show no more skin than their hands and eyes, and it’s a problem where women wear very little.
Rape is a problem everywhere where there are penises and vaginas.
To suggest that a culture in which women are openly sexual beings, liberated from the chains of conventional puritanicalism, and who dress in a provocative manner are contributing to or creating a rape culture is to, once again, put the burden of male sexuality on the shoulders of women. It suggests that if only women would stop enjoying sex and trying to attract male partners with short skirts and dirty dancing then men wouldn’t objectify them and if men didn’t objectify women they wouldn’t rape them. Being sexually active and trying to attract partners for casual sex isn’t unhealthy among mutually consenting adults where protection is used to prevent unwanted pregnancy and STDs. In this sense women objectify men just as much as men do women. On the sexual front the object is to have sex, not create a lasting partnership or have a soul-shaking spiritually charged sexual connection with someone – it’s to get your damn rocks off.
I don’t think a culture of casual sexuality is actually unhealthy. I think it’s human nature. Being honest about human nature and allowing people to both express it and experience it safely is the healthiest way to handle human sexuality.
I believe that religion is the number one contributor to the world-wide culture of rape that we’re fighting now. Religions consistently put more value on men and their needs than women. And I’m not singling out any particular one. Aside from Buddhism, maybe, nearly all major religions are patriarchal and teach that women are only here to serve men, that their only real value is to feed male appetites and give them children. Men may use them as they please and a woman who does not do as the men in her life bid her – she may be punished however they see fit. Should a woman be raped it is because she is fallen, she is not righteous, and furthermore, if she is raped she is now dirty. A man’s sexuality is a thing of God’s making but a woman’s sexuality is a thing of the devil’s making.
It’s all bullshit, of course. Written by men. Applauded by men. Upheld by men.
Women in our country, in spite of its pervasive puritanical underpinnings, have tried to break free of the virgin/whore paradox. We’ve tried to normalize the outward expression of our natural sexual drive, and to share the freedom men have to seek sex for casual pleasure. And for our liberation we are punished, as much by men as by other less liberated women. Lots of women who are raped aren’t wearing provocative clothing, aren’t women who are flaunting their sexuality. So to suggest that wearing provocative clothing as a culture is the cause of rape is inappropriate.
I also think we’ve taken the term “objectification” too far. A man lusting after a woman, being only interested in having sex with her is not objectifying her. Just because you see a person and you lust after them but don’t have a deeper interest in them doesn’t automatically mean you see them as an OBJECT with no feelings or right to respect. Unless you think sexuality is a dishonest and bad thing.
Real objectification is when you don’t see the subject of your lust as a human being, as a person with their own feelings, as a being with a right to be treated with respect.
I think rape culture only exists where patriarchy is still the law of the land and where a whole society is complicit in allowing men (or women) to get away with rape, to punish the victim instead. Where men can confess to a rape and not do any time. It’s shameful. Judges should not be allowed to let rapists off with probation. Rape should be prosecuted like murder. Everyone needs to understand that violating a person sexually is sometimes worse than killing them and it should be punished accordingly.
No one invites rape. No one deserves rape. A person should be able to stand naked out in the world and not be violated.
Bottom line: it’s all about consent. And that includes recognizing when someone is not in a condition or of an age to consent.
CONSENT IS EVERYTHING.