Dora (sigelphoenix) wrote,


Here's what I read today at work before going to do a C.O.R.E. presentation.

According to a court in Maryland, a woman cannot withdraw consent to sex once it has begun.

Because, apparently, once a man sticks his penis in you, you lose all say over what happens to your own body. I guess this isn't terribly surprising, though, since that's the common conservative position on abortion - if you consented to have sex, then you lose the ability to decide what happens to your body if you get pregnant. It doesn't matter if the pregnancy is inconvenient, painful, damaging to your body, or even life-threatening. And now, apparently, it doesn't matter if sex does the same thing. You said 'yes' at one point, after all.

Does anyone else have an image of a three year-old whining, "No take-backs!"?

But wait, there's more! The court graciously explained the basis for this ruling, which was a law that states that raping a woman "de-flowers" her and is thus a loss for the man who owns her.

Maryland court in less than 50 words: You're not allowed to control your body once a man penetrates you. But that's okay, because your only worth is being a pristine virgin for the man who actually controls you anyway.

More here, here, and here.

You know, contrary to popular belief, I don't hate men because I'm a feminist. But I do hold a scathing contempt for a large number of them, namely the ones who are too selfish, lazy, stupid, or cruel to own up to their privilege. Particularly the ones who purport to be intelligent or even enlightened, and have the tools for education staring them in the face. I include judges in this category.

And, like I said, I went to do a C.O.R.E. presentation almost right after reading about this. This made me feel both good (because I'm doing something, however small, to fight rape culture) and bad (because it makes me confront on a regular basis how much the general public buys into rape myths).

Luckily, tonight's presentation was at a sorority. Now, sororities and fraternities both engage in a lot of the same victim-blaming and gender stereotyping, just as men and women in general do. However, there is a different quality to the groups - in sororities, victim-blaming is generally motivated by fear, the fear that nearly every woman feels about her potential to be a victim of sexual assault, a fear that is schooled into us all throughout our lives. So when audience members in sororities spout the usual, "women who dress like that know what they're asking for," or "women put themselves in situations that can lead to rape," what they're really saying is: "Women who get raped are bad/stupid/slutty women who do this. I'm not a bad/stupid/slutty woman, so I don't have to be (as) scared of being raped." It's still shitty, but at least it makes me irritated instead of angry and outright frightened.

In fraternities, the same statements are said with a different tone, one of disapproval, dismissal, even contempt. The motivation here isn't fear for themselves - just like in sororities, they think of rape as something that happens to women, by men. They view themselves as part of a group that escapes this fear. What they don't like to admit is that the reason they get to escape the fear is that members of their group (men) rape women. Often, and largely without punishment. This avoidance leads them to push the responsibility onto women - for how they dress, for getting drunk, for being attractive - all the while ignoring the simple fact that the decision to rape is made by the rapist, and the rapist alone.

Now, men don't want to be viewed as rapists. Good, anti-sexist men don't want to be viewed as rapists. Also, men who do rape, or at least engage in coercive sexual behavior, don't want to be viewed as rapists. But it's like the guys who will get indignant when you display distrust of them (not being alone with them, not getting into their car) because, 'I'm not a rapist!' But then they'll go and say that it's a woman's responsibility to protect herself from rape by being suspicious of all men. So even though the men I present to don't want to be labelled as rapists, most of them don't do a damned thing to fight the rape culture that stereotypes (fraternity) men as rapists, to repudiate the fear-driven advantage unfairly given to them - not even during my presentations, when they have the context and the information and the encouragement to do so. They either continue to espouse rape myths, or they sit back silently and let others do the speaking for them.

Many of the men I've presented to don't have the courage or decency to speak up for women. There are many reasons for this. First, this would involve speaking against the members of their gender who cause women's fear of rape. Everyone will be quick to condemn the random stranger who jumps out and grabs an innocent woman - but few will speak against the guy who shares their age and social status who commits date rape, instead falling back on the myth of false rape accusations to show their solidarity. Also, speaking against rape culture would mean opposing the idea that sex is something for men - men get to have sex without fear of the slut stigma (and being a slut means that no one cares if you get raped), men get to think of sex as something that is for their pleasure/ends with their pleasure instead of worrying about pain, men get to have sex that results in pregnancy without being forced to deal with it. Also, men have a right to sex - whether it's from their wives and partners, or from the girl they're on a date with who acts flirty or gets them so turned on they 'can't help themselves.' Even without being rapists, men benefit from this state of affairs, because it deflects the accountability, guilt, shame, and fear from them and onto women. Even men who do not want these privileges can't fully escape from them - though they can at least vocally repudiate them.

What's worst of all is when you can tell that a man actively relies on these privileges - like the guy last week who dismissed the idea that violent, conquering language for sex ('scored,' 'nailed,' 'banged') didn't matter because "sex is violent, so what?" (Said with a mixture of casual contempt and nervousness, because, after all, he didn't give a shit what we were trying to tell him - but it was still hard for him to tell us two women, to our faces, that he essentially didn't care about our sexual autonomy.) I've presented to men of whom I could not say with any confidence, "He has not raped, or will not rape, a woman." Not because I think they want to rape, or be a rapist, or that they would even realize if they committed rape; but because they willfully hold on to their ignorance about sex, about consent, about men's and women's responsibility. As a result, even if they engage in coercive sexual behaviors, they will get to look at the way the world works - what it says about what sex is, what is acceptable sex, and who gets the responsibility for coerced sex - and they won't have to consider their actions 'rape' and therefore stop themselves.

Obviously, I am feeling cynical tonight. But the thing is, this wasn't any grand epiphany. This isn't any different from the things I know to be true on a 'good' day. It's just that, usually, I can focus on the men I know personally, who more or less avoid this behavior, and ignore the teeming masses of men who just don't care. It's harder when I'm down in the trenches and facing the ignorance head-on.

I feel an obligation here to do the standard, 'of course there are good men who are so wonderful and would never rape' disclaimer. But you know what? I'm tired of it. Not being a rapist shouldn't win you any prizes. It means that you're a decent man - not some specially generous or courageous or noble hero. It means you don't treat your sex drive as more important than a woman's control over her own body. This should be the default minimum ethical standard. Men shouldn't have praises heaped upon them for this - men should feel shame if they don't live up to this. Why is that so hard for us to remember?

Oh, and did I mention that I have a presentation tomorrow at a fraternity?
Tags: activism, c.o.r.e., feminism and sexism, in the news, sexual violence and harassment
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