Saturday, December 19, 2009

But I'm Not a Rapist

This is a rather late response to a few blogs. The reason is that I kept telling myself that I wasn't going to write on the topic, but then I couldn't stop thinking about it. So obviously I just need to get this out on the internets so that I can get it out of my head.

The blogs that sparked this post:

There's really just one issue that I want to address here and that is this idea that men are offended when women say that they feel the need to look at every man as a potential rapist.

First of all, 1/3rd of all women will be the victim of sexual assault in their lifetime (source pdf). Many of those women are assaulted more than once. That is a LOT of sexual assault. But you know that someone has to be assaulting these women. And we also know that men are the main perpetrators of violent crime (source). So logically, men are the ones assaulting these women. How come we never hear statistics of how many men are rapists? 1/3rd of women are sexually assaulted, but what fraction of men are doing the assaulting? And since men commit the most violent crimes against each other, why aren't men more afraid of other men?

So considering how many women are assaulted and how men are almost always the perpetrators, isn't it just a survival tactic to be wary around men? And I think the biggest problem here is that we're more wary around men we don't know, which is a problem since its usually the ones we do know who attack us. Do we think all men are rapists? No, but its difficult to tell which ones are and which ones aren't. Sometimes its safer to assume that a man we just met is a rapist so that we take extra precautions.

One of the most powerful statements I've heard about this subject is actually from a man. I've posted the video on my blog here before, but to reiterate he says “Ask a woman in your life who you care about, how her life would be different if the threat of sexual assault didn't exist. And listen to what she says; don't talk just listen to what she says. Because you will see how constrained her life is.” I think that part of the reason that men may feel offended by our statements is because they don't really try to understand what women go through every day of their lives. I've never been outright raped or assaulted. Its actually difficult to define the sexual violations I've experienced because they don't follow the usual definitions. But needless to say, I have felt violated in many ways. And like most women, I live in constant fear. Its a fear that is ingrained within us from childhood. Talk to your female loved ones and really listen to what they have to say.

I don't think that men should be offended by the statement that every man is a potential rapist. The reaction: “Well, I'm not a rapist” is a way of blocking out the problem. Its a way of saying that its not your problem. As if the problem only lies with women and their rapists. We desperately need men to fight against rape along side of us. Instead of being offended and throwing up a wall, be shocked by the statement, understand it, and work to change it. If we are ever going to see an end to sexual assault we need men to help us.

What needs to be done is we need to change our culture. Instead of always telling women to protect themselves we need to understand that the culture encourages men to rape women. We need to stop blaming women for being assaulted. We need to change our views of sex, ownership, and gender. The onus needs to be placed on those who perpetuate a culture of violence and rape.

You may never have raped or assaulted a woman yourself, but have you made a joke about sexually or physically abusing a woman? Have you laughed at jokes like these that your friends tell? Or have you even just sat by being offended by what someone is saying about women, but you haven't spoken up? Has a woman told you that she has been sexually assaulted and you didn't believe her? Or maybe you thought that if only she wasn't such a slut/drunk/risk taker that maybe she wouldn't have gotten raped in the first place? Have you ever assumed that a woman bringing a rape case against a star athlete was just in it for the money? Have you ever offered a woman drinks in order to try to have sex with her? When a woman says no to sex, do you try to convince her otherwise or do you just let it go? When you have sex with a woman do you make sure that she is an engaged and active partner or is the lack of “no” enough consent for you? Have you ever catcalled a woman on the street? Have you ever felt entitled to have sex with a woman because you bought her something or took her out? If you answered yes to any of these questions you are guilty of participating in rape culture. And I guarantee you that most people will probably answer yes to at least one. No one is perfect, but we need to realize what we're doing and change it in order to eradicate rape from our society.

Recommended Resources:


Britni TheVadgeWig said...

Bravo. I agree 100%. In fact, I'm considering doing a post in which I write down every time I'm sexually assaulted, harassed, or violated over the course of a few days. Every time I'm groped, the subject of catcalls, inappropriately hit on, inappropriately ogled. I want to put, in writing, all of the times over the course of a day that I go through this.

I wrote a post on my blog a while back about "Not Rape." It was based on an article that I had found and I think it does a good job of discussing what you're trying to relate about your experience with sexual assault. It's here.

Hubman said...

You can construct all of the arguments you want, if you call me a potential rapist solely because of my sex, I'll continue to be offended.

Now if you say "any man could be a rapist", THAT I understand.

But to say that every man is a potential rapist, as Britni originally phrased it, bothers me.

Anonymous said...

I can't speak for hubman, but women considering men as potential rapists isn't what upset me about Britni's post - it was the statement 'all men ARE potential rapists.'

I understand that it's just clumsy wording, meant to imply that 'any man could potentially be a rapist' and not 'all men are capable of potentially raping somebody' but if that's the case why don't THEY JUST SAY IT.

Britni was also angry and wrote that 'all' men victimize and abuse women, which is offensive to men who don't victimize and abuse women.

Feminists need to ditch the 'all men are potential rapists' and change it to 'a potential rapist could be any man' because otherwise men are going to continue shutting their ears to their very valid concerns.

Garnet Joyce said...

Britni: I love Yes Means Yes! My boss at Early to Bed gave us all a copy for the holidays last year (one of my coworkers wrote an essay in it). That book is just fantastic. If you haven't read the whole thing you really really should.

DruePhoenix said...

One thing that popped into my head as I read everyone's back and forth, from blog to blog to blog.

If we're all for equality, shouldn't we go out of our way to change it to any person is a potential rapist? While yes statistics, however flawed their sampling base may be(considering how little is actually reported, by any type of sexual assault victim) do show that men are the large majority of the offenders, I feel that this brings up one thing that has always annoyed me about feminism.

That it's inherently not an equalist ideology. In the end, and I am generalizing here. I do get the feeling, especially as a male raised by feminists, that I am often unfairly prejudged as guilty until proven innocent. Not of course on par with a lot of the more severe stuff that goes on out there, but it is still somewhat hypocritical in my opinion.

Living in fear is a symptom of a flawed society, just like the disturbing lack of public anger and outcry when it comes to the scope and frequency of sexual assaults of all kinds.

I believe it is allowed for me as a man to be offended still to say that I, as a member of this group of those with Y chromosomes, I very well could be a racist. Not only to say that me saying "well I'm not a racist" but to assume that means since I am not myself a rapist, that the world of rape does not touch my life.

I grew up with many women in my life, I have always naturally been more comfortable with them, and I am someone who has had a large number of very close friends or family members assaulted, and to feel this... helplessness and anger and all the other feelings I could never put into words. I don't say that I suffer even the tiniest fraction that they do themselves, there's no way I could do any more than empathize without first hand experience myself. It effects us too, many of us are raised to not see these things happening in the world, to not feel the wounds inflicted on those we love, but it is not all of us. The beauty and tragedy of humanity lies in our differences, it comes out to both extremes.

Sure, if we want to generalize we could say any person is a potential rapist, or murderer, or embezzler, or terrorist... or humanitarian, or savior, or friend, or anything at all.

I agree to a point with the second to last paragraph. We do need a change, mindsets need to shift and reality needs to come into focus for more of us.

But some already do see these things, men and women. I think that point is lost on many people...

(It's late, so please excuse any lack of eloquence.)

Weaselheadx said...

I think a lot of people lack perspective. Sure, we are all selfish in our own ways, it's a form of survival instinct. But a lot of people don't even seem to try to get it. You can't go through life treating everyone exactly the same. We build expectattions from one another as we interact. For a woman to be wary of men is only natural. Hell, it's natural to be wary of anyone. Like anything, there is a healthy level of this and unhealthy one. If you go extreme and become this agorophobic type of person, that's not healthy. But equally unhealthy is not being wary at all. I'm not saying an unwary victim is at fault, not at all, it's just that I believe it is healthy to be wary to some extent. As a friend of many women, I do treat them differently. I don't think this is sexist, it's just an extention of this same wariness. For example, say a female friend and a male friend go with me to a bar. We all get pretty sloshed. I will be much more concerned that the female gets home safely than the male. Ideally, everyone does, but I am much more wary for the female. Sexual assault is all too real.

Garnet Joyce said...

Drue I understand where you're coming from, but I have to disagree. I think by erasing the fact that men commit most violent crime, we're erasing why they commit the crimes. And here I'm talking about more than just rape, but violent crimes in general. One of the things that needs to change is how society defines masculinity. As it is now, violence and anger are masculine. Caring and nurturing are feminine. Why does masculinity have to be the opposite of femininity?

Some of the most exciting work in feminism (both from men and women) right now is on defining a new radical masculinity. Still staying true to having differences between masculinity and femininity (although not specifically tied to biological sexes), but redefining what those things mean.

DruePhoenix said...

Yeah I actually agree with you Garnet, I realized today that I probably did a lousy job articulating my thoughts last night. I certainly don't think we should ignore the here and now causes and symptoms of violence, caused by societal and familial influences and all the other ones that are too numerous to list right now.

I do think though that the progress that has been made with bringing various people of all kinds that are seeing things in a more... shall we say "enlightened" way, should be acknowledged when we do refer to people as a whole.

Absolutes can be useful for arguments sake, but just like we shouldn't ignore the problems, we also shouldn't ignore the progress.

I of course need to do some more reading... I'll visit my mom and peruse her many bookshelves of material on the subjects :)

Garnet Joyce said...

Drue, I agree that we need to acknowledge those that are helping to change things and are breaking the mold. That is why I quoted my friend Steve in the piece and why almost all of the resource links I provided are male led groups. My hope is that more men will join these types of groups and realize all the ways in which they can help. If you can somehow watch Tough Guise I really really recommend it. I tried embedding the video in the comments but I can't. So go to my link for it and watch the trailer. Its good stuff.

Epiphora said...

Well, *I* think this post is fabulous. Especially this:

Instead of being offended and throwing up a wall, be shocked by the statement, understand it, and work to change it.

And the last paragraph is perfect. Just perfect.