Category Archives: Rape Culture

Rape – An Analogy

Via  Femblr.

A Modern Sexual-Assault Tale

Man: Hello, I’d like to report a mugging.

Officer: A mugging, eh? Where did it take place?

Man: I was walking by 21st and Dundritch Street and a man pulled out a gun and said, “Give me all your money.”

Officer: And did you?

Man: Yes, I co-operated.

Officer: So you willingly gave the man your money without fighting back, calling for help or trying to escape?

Man: Well, yes, but I was terrified. I thought he was going to kill me!

Officer: Mmm. But you did co-operate with him. And I’ve been informed that you’re quite a philanthropist, too.

Man: I give to charity, yes.

Officer: So you like to give money away. You make a habit of giving money away.

Man: What does that have to do with this situation?

Officer: You knowingly walked down Dundritch Street in your suit when everyone knows you like to give away money, and then you didn’t fight back. It sounds like you gave money to someone, but now you’re having after-donation regret. Tell me, do you really want to ruin his life because of your mistake?

Man: This is ridiculous!

Officer: This is a rape analogy. This is what women face every single day when they try to bring their rapists to justice.

Man: Fuck the patriarchy.

Officer: Word.


Not Rape

I don’t know much about Bristol Palin (‘cept I heard she did something weird to her chin lately?), but I did read about her experience of losing her virginity, via Persephone.

I may not know much about Bristol Palin, but I do know about not rape.

I’m guessing I know as much about not rape as every other woman.  You know, too.

Those incidents in which, whatever else may or may not be true, consent is not freely given by the woman, but neither is it expressly not given.  Those situations where the equation is not ‘I want to = consent’  but is torn and complicated until the actual equation is twisted beyond all recognition, but can be read as ‘I didn’t want to = consent, because I couldn’t, didn’t know how to stop it and didn’t even know I should try‘.

As a child, as a teenager, I stumbled along the path to sexual maturity with as little knowledge about what consent really meant as any woman.  Incident upon incident of utterly normal experiences that were more or less distasteful to me, sure, but which it never, not once, occured to me to object to, not even on an experience-by-experience basis never mind on a this-whole-thing-is-fucked-up basis.

Experiences which left me feeling weird and disconnected but which were entirely within what I had learnt – by cultural osmosis – were normal.

Experiences I wasn’t sure I wanted to have at that time, with that person, and which, some way through, I just wanted to end, all the while understanding that it wasn’t for me to end them.

Experiences which I had learnt were how sexual experiences were for girls.  We weren’t supposed to want them, despite what may or may not have been stirring in our underwear.  Our own stirrings were, according to the model taught, irrelevant.

Girls couldn’t want these experiences, that wasn’t allowed, but we had to have them if we thought it was necessary; necessary to avoid being frigid, but without being a slag.  It was a fine line which was impossible to walk, but which girls had to walk nonetheless.

This – this pressure, this coersion, this mocking, this assault – was just the way it was for girls.  Girls didn’t want sex, boys did.  Girls did what boys wanted whilst trying to stay on the tightrope of what was necessary.

And still, this is just the way it is for girls.  Still, still, still girls are taught only one thing: they are to resist sexual adventures otherwise they are sluts, but they have to accept sexual adventures otherwise they are frigid.  The model is resistance, then collapse.  But only in the right circumstances, tut tut.

It is the way of things, they are taught.

It took me until my early thirties – way after my full conversion to feminism – to finally see my early sexual incidents for what they were.  They were acts inflicted upon me.  Acts which I knew I had to resist just as I knew I had to capitulate to them.  But object to this rock-and-a-hard-place shit?  Well, that took me a long time to realise.

I forgive my slow realisation.  Uncontested paradigms are fucking difficult things to see through.  Fish live in water without once thinking, Fuck, I’m wet.  Like the time I, aged five, stood on a wasp and my grandma, who just happened to be making Yorkshire pudding, lovingly applied the batter mix to the sole of my foot, having told me (and ergo convinced me totally) , that Yorkshire pudding batter healed wasp stings.  Years and years and years after a time when, had I given it a moment’s thought, I would have realised instantly that she was fibbing, I still held the idea in my head that Yorkshire pudding batter healed wasp stings.  You trust in something and you believe in it totally until someone calls it different and you actually think about it, connect the dots in your head, and the scales fall from your eyes.

These sexual experiences weren’t rape, not by any legal definition and not by my own definition and not by the definition of millions of women and girls who are having them still, and who still have no words to describe them.  Whatever you are willing to call them, however, is almost less important than what they were not.

And what they were not was about me.  They were not about my sexuality, not about my sexual blooming.  My sexual journey began and ended with knowing when to say yes while trying to still say no.  They were not about my desire, my emotions, my life.

They had nothing to do with me.  What is really fucked up is that it never occured to me that they should.

In her review of (among others) Caitlin Moran’s new book, How to be a Woman , Zoe Williams, says:

‘It ought to be obvious, beyond remarking, that a woman should be able to sleep with whom she wants, when she wants, as often as she wants, without danger and without shame.’

Which is laughable given how non-obvious that idea currently is, but it is also a beautiful thought, simply expressed, isn’t it?

But here’s the kicker to what is such a simple and beautiful thought: girls and young women are not, either in our society or elsewhere, given the tools to understand the underlying basis of that concept.  They are not taught to understand how to want.

Nothing in what they learn teaches girls to think through exactly what it means, in a sexual context, to want something.  They are taught instead that ‘wanting sex’ is about wanting many things but it is not about wanting sex.  She ‘wants sex’ because otherwise she’s the only virgin in her class, or because she knows having sex makes her look ‘hot’, or because her boyfriend will dump her if she doesn’t.  Or she doesn’t ‘want sex’ because then she’s a sl*t (quite, quite different to looking ‘hot’), or because her father will kill her if she does, or because she may get pregnant.

Because of any of a million extraneous reasons, a girl’s want of sex is not about ‘want’ at all.  It is about not wanting.  Not wanting to be a sl*t, not wanting to be frigid, not wanting to be different.  Not only is Williams’ idea not the way ‘people’ think, it’s not even the way girls themselves think.  It especially isn’t the way girls think – nobody polices teenaged girls’ sexuality like other teenaged girls.

We give them no instruction in how to remove all these extraneous considerations from a desicion as to desire.  How to boil it down, clarify what their actual desire is, when the impurities of cultural mores are removed.  Hell, we don’t even teach them that they should desire.  We resolutely do not teach them how to say, I want this sexual experience because I desire the experience – this act with this person at this time – and I shall be joyful in it and it will reward me with not only sexual pleasure but with a deeper understanding of both myself and my desire.

Teaching Boogie and (and L’il Boo), the basic in-and-outs of sex education concerns me not at all.  I’ll teach them, they’ll learn.  Fuck, it’s biology, they’ll learn that by themselves, whichever way their biology takes them.  Teaching them about the whole fucked up mess of girls’ sexuality is where my teaching resources will be going.  My daughter will not grow up accepting these experiences.  She just won’t, goddammit.  She’ll kick not rape in the fucking throat and go about her business.

Mistress’s New Law No.4

With thanks to Kenneth Clarke for the inspiration.

Following on from his white guy patriarchal misogynistic rape apologist comments, we have Mistress’s New law No. 4.

Given that the current definition of consent seems to cause so much confusion (‘well, she didn’t cut my cock off, so she must’ve been OK with it’), Law N0.4 will bring some much needed clarity to the area.  Henceforth, a woman’s consent to any sexual act is to be defined in accordance with the principles put forward in Hole’s Asking for It.

Thus, in the event of any dispute as to whether valid consent was in fact given, the following questions will be posed:

Was she asking for it?

Was she asking nice?

If she was asking for it,

Did she ask you twice?

Subsequent to these requirements, anyone accused of rape or sexual assault must provide evidence that not only did the woman positively consent to the act in a happily enthusiastic fashion, she positively reiterated that consent a second time, just to make sure there would be no misunderstanding.  Failure to provide such evidence will lead to a presumption of no consent.

And yes, I realise this tips the current notion of consent on its head – silence will not be enough, I’m afraid, my ‘date’ raping friends – and it will lead to some written contract probably becoming normalised prior to any consensual sexual interaction, but this is a fucking revolution, my friends.  Change is kind of what it’s all about.


You can’t have missed the brouhaha about SlutWalks, the whole thing is all over the media like a viral rash.  Like many feminists (from what I can see), I’m both genuinely excited about the fact that finally, victim shaming is being challenged on a scale that has the media paying attention and horribly depressed that this has only been achieved by buying into – and effectively celebrating – the Patriarchal notion that there is such a thing as a sl*t in the first place.  As others have noted, Reclaim the Night marches – with their implicit rejection of that notion and explicit rejection of men (women-only! and identifiably feminist to boot!) haven’t garnered anything like the interest generated by SlutWalks.

Oh, I don’t want to be confliced about this!  My life is conflicted enough without having doubts about people shouting down rape culture and telling it to fuck off even if they are wearing a short skirt.  So, I’m trying – I’m really fucking trying – to find the whole thing as positive as I can.

So far, I’ve managed to convince myself to take heart from the fact that these things are even happening; that, finally, a policeman can’t just stand up and tell women not to dress like sluts if they don’t want to be raped and get away with it.  I’ve also cheered myself with the thought that many of the participants are young women, many of whom probably don’t identify as ‘feminist’, but who may, by taking part in these walks, be taking the first steps to doing so.  I think back to my tentative first steps towards actually owning my feminism and boy, was I clueless.  I’d have been totally on board with the whole SlutWalk thing.  Totally.  Having taken the first steps, they too, may then learn about all the Patriarchal nuances that have passed them by and they may too come to understand why other feminists have these misgivings about how desirable it is to try and reclaim the word ‘slut’ and even, whether it’s even possible.  Fuck, I can’t help it – I just want to be cheering these women on.  At least I’ve no intention of turning up and counter-protesting; that wouldn’t help anything.  I even toyed with the idea of taking part.

But.  But.  But.

Then I spoil it all by asking myself this question:  would I take my daughter?

She’s been on protest marches before (start ’em young I say!), notably, in a feminist context, she’s been on the Million Women Rise.  She’ll also be coming on the next RTN march now she’s old enough to stay up late.  So, I don’t shield her from these issues; I involve her and explain this shit to her.  But a SlutWalk?

No, I’m sorry.  And not because I don’t want to explain the concept of slut to her either (I don’t, but then the feminist life is hard, get with the programme), but because I can imagine the conversation.

Boogie:  Why are we here?  You said there’d be ice cream.  And pink elephants.  And why is that woman in her underwear?

MB: Well, your questions are connected.  Some people think that if a woman dresses a certain way, she likes to have sex a lot and then they take that assumption and think that that means that a man can have sex with her even if she doesn’t want to.  Nobody, nobody can have sex with someone if that person doesn’t want to.  It’s a crime and the police will come and take them to jail.  In theory, at least.  You know how when I’m tickling you and you say stop, I always stop?  It’s kind of like that; I stop because it’s your body I’m tickling and it’s always your decision as to whether you want to be tickled.  It’s your body and it’s always up to you to decide whether you want somebody to touch it or not.

Boogie:  Is sex like tickling then?  (No, I haven’t, it seems, been particularly clear about the whole sex thing – I haven’t failed miserably and opted for the ‘special cuddle’ line, but I’m not far off)

MB: For current purposes, it’s very like tickling, yes.

Boogie: But why is that woman in her underwear?

MB: She’s making the point that even if she goes out without her clothes on, she can still say no if somebody wants to have sex with her and she doesn’t want to.

Boogie:  OK, but what’s that on her belly?

MB: It’s the word ‘sl*t’.  Sl*t is a name horrid, horrid people use for women who like to have sex a lot.

Boogie: So she likes to have sex a lot?

MB: She may do, I don’t know.  Some women like lots of sex, other women prefer less.  Some women would like more than they get but don’t get the privacy in their own damn home. (seriously, she’s so used to these sotto voce asides, she won’t even hear this bit).

Boogie:  Yeah, yeah, but she must because she’s written sl*t on her belly.  So she must be a horrid, horrid person too, mustn’t she, cos only horrid, horrid people call people that?

MB: Erm…

Boogie:  Urgh, she’s horrid, horrid, sl*tty sl*t, she is!  Shall we throw stones at her, mama?

MB: Let’s go get ice cream.

Off we walk into the sunset, having firmly planted the idea in Boogie’s head that self-proclaimed sl*ts are the worst sl*ts of all.  Me: 0, Patriarchy: 1.

And as she grows, she will hear this word again and again, thrown at girls and women who are even suspected of having sex.  She will think back and know that it’s the worst thing a woman can be.  Sl*t cannot be ‘reclaimed’ as long as it’s still the worst thing a female can be and as long as it’s still possible – policemen on public speaking assignments aside – to throw it about as an insult without censure.  As long as the idea that it’s possible to be a sl*t still exists.  Because until it isn’t, women and girls will still not be in charge of their own sexuality, they will still not be allowed to exist as independent, sexual beings with desires and wills of their own.  The whole thing’s still too loaded and too, too common to be reclaimed.

And it won’t be long before my daughter’s exposed to it.  Take this, two girls, aged 11 and 12, charged with cyberstalking a classmate, defacing her FaceBook page.  The ‘worst‘ thing they did?  They ‘instant-messaged “random individuals” under the alleged victim’s name to arrange sex acts.’  Even at 11 and 12, they knew the power of calling sl*t.  They knew that to hurt this girl the most, all they had to do was imply that she was chasing sex.

And this:

They left messages on my web page calling me a sl*g or a slapper, then created online groups dedicated to calling me names.

posted on a 15 year old girl’s site.

And this:

We’re going to get you tomorrow, you look like an ugly sl*t.

‘You sl*t, no-one is going to touch you because you’re a lesbian. You are a sl*g and you look like one. You need to get some friends because you have none.’

posted on a 17 year old girl’s site by cyberbullies.

These are not isolated incidents.  And I cannot in all conscience, expose my daughter to the idea, however well-intentioned, that ‘sl*t’ is a valid thing to proclaim yourself to be.  If she thinks it’s OK to self-identify as one, how’s she going to object when somebody else calls her one?