Ah, arguments. I love ‘em. On meeting an ex after ten years where he learned I’d become a lawyer, he sighed happily and said, ‘Ah, you’ve found a way to argue for a living! How nice for you!’ So, no, I don’t tend to shy away from arguments. I do however, shy away from pure conflict. Which is what arguments are if your opponent is an idiot. Such ‘arguments’ are tiresome and boring and lead to nothing by way of resolution (which is what I really like about arguing).
I had one the other day. Mr.Clever (we’ll call him that because he was a mister and I can’t resist sarcasm) wasn’t being an obnoxious moron, oh, no; he was merely ‘playing devil’s advocate’ (and he actually used those words, so judge him at will). The ‘argument’ was about rape culture and victim blaming. Needless to say, his incredibly original argument was that, like, we all have to, like, take responsibility to keep ourselves, like, safe. So, like, if you leave your car unlocked and somebody steals it, like, you’d have to, like, admit you had some responsibility for the crime, right?
Er, no. Only one person’s responsible for stealing my car, pal, and that’s the fucker who stole it.
There is a point in there somewhere. Given that the vast majority of people can’t actually comprehend the basic (and perfectly balanced) equation: person who committed the crime = person responsible for the crime, we have to give them something to cling onto. Right?
So, it got me thinking. If you do leave your car unlocked and somebody steals it, you could admit that you could have done more to lessen the opportunity for somebody to commit a crime against it. If you leave the house with all your windows open and somebody breaks in, you could admit that, again, you could have taken steps to lessen the probability that somebody would break in. So, why should rape be a ‘special case’ (look at me playing ‘devil’s advocate’!)
The problem with rape is
two three many fold, but I’m exhausted with rage just thinking about the whole issue after three, tops. OK, four.
1. everyone agrees stealing is wrong. Not everybody agrees rape is: many instances of rape are considered to be ‘other': date rape, a change of mind after the event, a false accusation, an ‘error in judgment’, a ‘mistaken belief in consent’. Or something called \’gray rape\’ (thanks to blue milk for the heads up there) Call it how you like, the message is the same; as Whoopi Goldberg so pithily put it, ‘It wasn’t like it was rape rape.’ ‘Rape rape’ isn’t officially defined but, basically,is limited to any ‘rape’ which includes all of the following: being jumped on in a park in broad daylight by a man you’ve never met before whilst you’re wearing a nun’s habit and on your way to giving alms to the poor children.
2. there is always something a raped woman could have done to ‘prevent’ the rape. It is always her fault. Forget about locking windows and doors, the woman can’t do anything about existing whilst in possession of a vagina. That is rape culture right there, in a nutshell. She drank, she didn’t drink and was stand-offish; she wore a short skirt, high heels, a low cut top, clothes; she had a lot of make-up on, she didn’t have any make-up on and looked desperate for a man to ‘pay her some attention'; she’d had sex on a previous occasion, she had never had sex before and was therefore obviously gagging for it; she went into a room, she didn’t go into a room, she didn’t leave a room at the right time, she didn’t try hard enough to leave a room; she kissed the rapist, she didn’t kiss the rapist and it enraged him; she said she would, then changed her mind, she said she wouldn’t and ‘allowed’ her mind to be changed; she said she would so obviously it was assumed she’d do his mates as well. If she’s an eleven year old child, she didn’t have the common sense to get herself a better mother, amongst other things.
3. the onus is always on the victim. In other instances of crimes against the person, we rightly blame the perpetrator. The statistics are somewhere if you can be bothered to look (I can’t), but young men aged 18-24 are most at risk of any group (by sex or gender) of being victims of crimes against the person. Their risk is pushed upwards by the fact that they tend to go out, get hammered and then get really hammered by other males who are also hammered. But nowhere are the public safety campaigns telling young men to avoid drinking, carry assault alarms, know how they’re going to get home, etc etc etc. They’re nowhere because, rightly, there’s an understanding that fine, upstanding males shouldn’t be called upon to live in fear of not-so-fine, violent-when-drunk men. You just try to lock ‘em up when you can. Life, it seems, carries risks and men drink, so what can you do, eh? C’est la vie, mes amis. Not only is rape always the woman’s fault, she can’t even plead ignorance of the risks in her defence because everywhere, surrounding her like a fine mist from her earliest years, are the messages telling her of the danger she faces from men if she doesn’t watch out. And nowhere are the messages telling her that this shouldn’t make her feel so much scared as angry as fuck.
4. As a result of all of the above, the other big difference with rape is that the woman gets no sympathy, no real understanding of her pain and distress. Get your open-windowed, unlocked doors house burgled and, shit, you were partly to blame, but hey, you lost your stereo/computer/TV/cat and that hurts. Everybody gets that. No matter how much you are deemed to have ‘invited’ the burglary, everybody understands that on no level did you actually want to be burgled. Not so for the woman who is raped. Because of all of 1. and 2. above, there is always the thought on some level that, well, she did want it a bit, didn’t she? Or she wouldn’t have have done anything in 2., would she? And she always does something in 2. because whilst I’ve limited 2. to a precise number of words on a page, it’s actually length is infinity. Plus 1 (as Boogie would add).
Always, always, always, her fault. And all predicated on the dual ideas that all women are slags who love it really and all men just can’t help sticking it in. And all utter, utter lies.
And as always for me these days, my thoughts always end with: how the hell do I protect my daughter from all this shit?
Answers on a postcard, please.