Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Thoughts about sexual violence

I was reading a thread over at Pandagon , and it started me thinking. I decided not to post my thoughts there, because, well, the theme of this particular thread is how some rape-defense classes talk about choosing to prepare to defend against rape.

And there's a way to tilt that towards blaming the victim; "why didn't you choose to (learn to) defend yourself? Why didn't you choose not to be a victim?"

Because, after all, when a seemingly-nice-enough man suddenly turns into an animal when you're alone, and you can't quite believe what's happening, and you're hoping there's some alternate explanation, hey, isn't the first thing society tells you is that it's a good idea to put a stop to it with some violent action?

No, society doesn't say that? Well, you're right, no, it doesn't.

And that's one of the things that really piss me off about rape.

(I want you to understand, rape infuriates me. "Infuriates" is much, much stronger than "pisses me off". But this is one of the things that just adds a huge glob of insult on top of a terrible injury.)

A lot of rapists count on that. They depend on the fact that women won't believe it's really happening. They depend on throwing their victims off balance. As far as they're concerned, if she can't form a coherent thought that says "I'm being raped!" until after the deed is done, that's all to the good.

Because, once the rape is completed, the rapist can now say "well, why didn't you try to stop me?" and make the victim question her own memory. She thought her lack of consent was blindingly obvious; was he really confused?

Probably not. He probably just set up his defense. Odds are, she'll be so confused that by the time she realizes that she sure-as-hell was raped, it'll be too late to prove anything.

And wouldn't it be terrible if that woman then accused this fine upstanding gentleman of a horrible crime like rape when it can't be proven?

And that's why I asked that question above. Does society say it's okay for a woman to get violent when she feels a guy is moving too fast on her? No.

But I think it should.

If a guy groped me, and I decked him, not a jury in the world would convict me, and they wouldn't bother asking if I said "no". They'd only care that he couldn't prove that I said "yes".

But if a guy make some violent, direct gesture, a woman is all-but expected to treat it as an awkward social situation, instead of as an incipient assault.

And it's stupid, because the basic principle is easy: we are allowed to determine who touches us in a sexual manner, and are allowed to protect ourselves, even if it requires appropriate levels of force. And while you can argue long and hard about what might be appropriate, and when force is actually required, the principle is impossible to argue against.

So why do we have to have classes that teach women that it's okay to fight back?

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