**Heads up – this post will contain some personal information with regards in my own PERSONAL experiences within rape culture. If you know me, and ask me about specific details, it will be awkward and awful, so don’t do it.**
Teach ‘Don’t Rape’ instead of ‘Don’t Get Raped’.
This is a common idea within the feminist community, and it’s a good one. But often I hear people (usually MRAs or people who aren’t aware of feminist ideology) come back with “But you don’t teach murderers not to murder! It’s common sense, and there are just bad people out there”.
And these people are right, we aren’t directly taught not to murder people, and yes, there are bad people out there. But what this response does is assume that rapists are just a bunch of bad people, nameless people, who are sociopaths. People who don’t follow unwritten rules of ‘common morality’. Bad apples, who are unteachable, uncontrollable, unrestrained, but also unavoidable. And that is not true. That’s rape culture talking.
Through years of socialization in our rape culture, I learnt that rape was done by weird cismale strangers who had weapons, in dark alley ways in the early hours of the morning, to ciswomen who kicked and screamed and fought back, then went straight to the police, who would instantly file a report and catch and charge the rapist right away. And the rapist would go to jail for a long time, and the woman would go home and everything would be fine.
“That’s what real rape is,” said Rape Culture.
Rape culture taught me what doesn’t count as rape or assault. It told me that it isn’t rape if I had slept with that person once before. It’s not rape if it’s your partner. It’s not rape if you consented to other sexual acts with them. It’s not rape if the rapist doesn’t penetrate you. It’s not rape if you didn’t go to the police. It’s not rape if you didn’t go to the police straight after. It’s not rape if you didn’t fight back. It’s not rape if you weren’t conscious. It’s not rape if you’re trans*. It’s not rape if the rapist wasn’t a cisman. It’s not rape if you still talk to your attacker. It’s not rape if you were both drunk. It’s not rape if you were drunk. It’s not rape if he was drunk. It’s not rape if you kissed them. It’s not rape if you’re a sex worker, or if the rapist was a client. It’s not rape if you invited him into your house. It’s not rape if the rapist is a ‘good guy’.
I was also taught that as a female bodied person, it was my responsibility to protect myself against these faceless, animalistic predators. I learnt that my body was inherently deserving of unwanted sexual contact, so any clothing I wore mustn’t accentuate my femininity, because a rapist will become overwhelmed with lust and be unable to control himself upon seeing my flesh. I learnt that if I drank alcohol, or took drugs, I would lower my defenses through my inebriation and become victim to sexual violence. I learnt that if I walked alone late at night, I would be walking right through the territory of prowling rapists. I learnt that if I didn’t lock my doors and windows, I was inviting rapists into my home.
And above all, I learnt that if I didn’t take these precautions – if I dressed unmodestly, drank, walked at night, left a door unlocked – it was my fault. I DESERVED that attack.
“You provoked them,” said Rape Culture. “You dressed like a slut and walked through a dark car park.”
That stuff, all that utter bullshit, about the kinds of rapists, about victims, that is rape culture and it’s a huge fucking load of douche.
I knew I was living in a rape culture was when I was 20. I had been sexually assaulted by a former friend while on prescription sedative drugs. I had text messages from them admitting to assaulting me. About a month after the incident, I went to the police. Questions I was asked (that were imperative to the case, according to the officers) included “why did you wait so long before reporting it?” “why do you think it was assault?” “had you slept with this person before?”.
After a long wait and a number of interviews, I was told that yes – they had spoken to the person in question. Yes – he did admit to assaulting you. But no, we can’t press charges because you had been in a sexual relationship with him a year prior to the incident, and because you were unconscious he didn’t know you weren’t consenting. No, we can’t require him to get any education about sexual assault or consent.
“It’s your job to say no,” said Rape Culture. “How could he know that you didn’t want it, if you were unconscious?”
Rape culture ignores how important consent is. Enthusiastic, non-coerced, sexy sex consent.
Rape culture says: “Do it until they say stop, then keep doing it until you are sure the ‘stop’ is serious.”
Consent says: “Do it after they say go, and then check in at each sexy step to make sure the answer is still ‘yes’.”
I am a survivor. I have been sexually abused and attacked by seven people from when I was 14 to when I was 20. Only one of those people was a stranger to me. Some of these people I had considered friends, close friends, partners. Some of them are still in circles I sometimes frequent.
These rapists, they all have faces and names. They have friends and jobs and lovers and families. These rapists are people like you and me, and they are everywhere. And like you and me, they live in a rape culture.
Don’t you think for a second that that excuses what they did to me.
But the same culture that taught me not to walk the street at night, taught them that rapists aren’t regular people, like them.
“You’re not a rapist,” says Rape Culture. “You’re a good guy! What’s the point in asking if ze wants it, if you’ve done it with hir before?”
Not every rapist is an unteachable sociopath – which means you CAN teach rapists not to rape, and you CAN teach people not to become rapists. You can do it by telling rape culture to fuck the hell off, and stop perpetuating it.
This means teaching people that rapists aren’t just back-alley strangers – they are people who ignore consent. Teach them about what consent is and what consent isn’t. Tell them that no means no, but some body language also means no, some dismissive ‘not right now’ ‘sorry’ ‘I’m not interested’ phrases also means no. Tell them how important (and sexy) an enthusiastic ‘yes’ is, and teach them how to ask.
When you write a news piece on a sexual attacker who has assaulted, or tried to assault people in a certain area, don’t tell women not to go out at night, or stay in groups. Tell the community that law enforcement will be policing that area, give assailant descriptions, and ensure that the public know that when that person is caught, they will be charged. Don’t put the onus on women to not get raped. Crack down on potential assailants by making sure they know that you WILL come after them, and you WILL stop them.
When you’re out at night and you see your buddy hitting on someone who isn’t interested, or following someone around – pull them back and give them the hard word.
When you’re getting sexy with someone who moves your hand away from their breast, or crotch, or anywhere on their body – don’t move it back until you have been told that it’s alright.
Know that when you ask someone if they’d like to fuck, and they say ‘no’ – that’s it. Don’t keep asking. Drop it, and move on.
If a friend asks “if someone rapes a prostitute, is it theft?” tell them that it’s rape, and it’s wrong as hell to be telling those sorts of ‘jokes’.
Teach your kids to always assume that they don’t have consent until they are given it expressly and recently. Teach them consent doesn’t last forever and is always allowed to be withdrawn even during the act.
ALWAYS REMEMBER CONSENT. ALWAYS KICK RAPE CULTURE WAY THE FUCK OFF.