Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Rape and responsibility

This is going to sound funny, but I think Dan Savage has illustrated what I think of as the canonical rape.

A guy doesn't understand that she said no, and she meant it. He doesn't think he's doing anything all that terrible. He goes on his merry way without a care in the world until everything blows up in his face. And, when confronted with the enormity of what he's done, it's suddenly all about him; poor guy's on suicide watch at the hospital, and his family and friends think that she should forgive him. Plus, and this is the part that makes me wish "society" had an ass to kick, she has questions about her own good sense, wondering if maybe she should forgive him, and thinking that maybe this massive betrayal of trust was somehow less massive because he wasn't trying to cause her physical pain. (Hat tip, Pandagon)

What really sickens me is that I read the part of what was quoted at Pandagon, and I felt a little tug at my heartstrings. She's tied up, he decides he'll try a little anal sex, she asks him not to, but he goes along, and does it. And now, well, like I said, poor guy is suicidal. Well, that doesn't make up for the harm he caused, not a bit of it, but geez, hasn't every guy gone a little too far when horny? I don't excuse what he's done, but gads, suicidal? Just a twinge on the heart strings, there. Yeah, he deserves to feel horrible and awful, but I've faced feeling suicidal, so I have a bit more sympathy in that range.

But then I learned the rest of the story. See, this wasn't a guy deciding to experiment with anal sex. She'd told him no, never, not gonna happen, there were medical issues. If it's *that* important, find someone else. And he didn't care. Not until he saw a scary amount of blood, after he was done fucking her. (Sorry about the language, but gentler words don't properly describe this kind of act.)

She mentions figuring that, well, he wasn't trying to hurt her, he used lube and carefully stretched her out, trying to do it right. And yeah, I can see someone thinking that makes it better, in some way, but god damn.

It means (check the link) that he had that much more time to hear her telling him, no, stop, don't do this.

And family and friends are asking if she can forgive him. You know, I reckon they don't know the details, but you know something? I don't see that it matters. Why does she have to prove that it was bad enough that she shouldn't forgive him? Why isn't her unwillingness to forgive him proof that what he did wasn't worthy of forgiveness?

(Don't answer that. I know. They're scared that he's in such bad shape. I'm ranting, I'll be fair about this later, if necessary)

Where was I?

Oh, yeah. And it illustrates something else about the whole issue of rape that just pisses me off.

People seem to view sex as being nothing more than, I don't know, walking down stairs with someone. Sure, you don't just walk down the stairs with anyone, but you could... it's just, you do have standards. And, if you have a bad experience, well, oops, hey, those stairs are slippery, get up, brush yourself off, and for heaven's sake, stop whining.

But to continue the analogy, it's one thing if you fall down the stairs and you hear your partner say "oh shit!" and try to steady you, and hold you, or cushion your fall, and comfort you afterwards. It's another thing if you're going down the steps with a clumsy oaf who steps on your foot and makes you stumble and fall. And it's still another if you get pushed... or, to make a proper analogy with the letter I'm referencing, "still another if, after being blindfolded by someone you trust to carefully lead you down those stairs, find yourself shoved, head over heels, by a guy who is giggling while you tumble, who only seems upset once he realizes that you're really badly injured."

People don't realize that horrible sexual experiences don't just happen. Sure, they can 'just happen' sometimes; sex is powerful stuff, and it can evoke powerful responses.

But there's another person present, another person who bears responsibility, another person who should at least be making sure you're not *hurt*. Okay? I mean, sure, people can be selfish about their own desires, people can be grudging with the give and take, people can have their orgasm, and roll over and go to sleep, but whatever else they do, they should be making sure that their sex partners aren't hurt. Plus, hurtful things don't just happen. She wasn't horrified and bleeding when he lubed up his finger; she probably could have forgiven him after he slipped a finger in, if he realized that she really didn't like it (and then, left her ass alone forever). But he kept on going, while she cried, screamed, and bled.

No, not every horrible sexual incident is like that; sometimes it's not that drawn out; sometimes there aren't the equivalent of huge, flashing neon signs saying "stop!" But they don't just happen in an instant, either. They take time, and people don't go from gloriously happy and perfectly consenting to instantly traumatized. Sure, it's impossible to prevent all sexual unhappiness, but damn it all, people can try to make sure their partners aren't actually hurt.

Honestly, it's really not too much to ask.

And no, I'm not saying that everyone whose sex partner gets hurt is a rapist. But it's not a neutral event, either. If you're driving and you dent someone else's car, maybe you're not a horrible driver, but you sure as heck can't say you have no responsibility, either. At the very least, you need to go over what happened, and figure out why the other car got dented, and figure out how to avoid it in the future. Sometimes there are no lessons to learn ("it was a patch of black ice"), but most of the time, there are ("I guess I was going a little fast, though... I knew there could be black ice.").

Personal responsibility is understood if a driver damages someone's car... but all too often, it flies out the window if a rapist damages a victim's body, mind, or spirit.

When you say: "Personal responsibility is understood if a driver damages someone's car... but all too often, it flies out the window if a rapist damages a victim's body, mind, or spirit."

Don't forget the damage caused by "FALSE RAPE CLAIMS." Duke is the most current example.
What exactly happened at the laccrosse party? Were you there?

If not, you don't know.

What we do know is that the officer who first spoke to her describes her as being in a state consistent with a person who has undergone recent trauma. (The officer doesn't describe it that way, but I've seen trauma, both sexual and non-, and I recognize how she was acting.)

We know that she very quickly started the process moving to press rape charges.

We have strong evidence that she was hurt, in some way, on that night.

But one of us is willing to ignore that she was clearly and visibly hurt, and the other one isn't.

And the one who doesn't care about how badly the victim is hurting is whining about "FALSE RAPE CLAIMS"[sic].

Well, the one who does care about the victim is certainly willing to listen to anything you have to say that adds to the discussion, but a blank assertion that there is a huge societal problem regarding false rape claims doesn't really add anything.
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