Rape Politics in a Rape Culture

This is something I may have no business writing about. It’s one of those things that’s sometimes easy to talk about as if it’s distant or happens “over there”. So this is your trigger warning and “adult subject matter” warning and a warning that I’m overusing quotation marks and parenthetical statements. This is also a warning about how lengthy this is going to be.

Again I have to say that I’m not a feminist other than believing that women shouldn’t be treated like s—. I say this so you won’t be surprised when I say something that riles you. I may zag when I probably should have kept to zigging. I’m probably going to start ranting about porn (not altogether un-hypocritically) somewhere in here.

Anyway, I’ve never been raped or assaulted and this is one of those issues where experience and personal stories count toward authenticity.

What is wrong with these dudes?

Women can’t or rarely get pregnant from “legitimate” rape? Because their biology has a way of shutting down that whole rape sperm thing? A pregnancy from rape is a gift from God? It’s something God intended??

I have a serious problem with some of the Christian theology I’ve been hearing lately. We really need to get a grip. I think that it’s a case of bubble living. I listen to some of these conservative Christian shows and they live in a pretty isolated world where they limit their associations to people who think and often look like they do. That’s a very efficient way to turn yourself into a crazy person. Even better than isolation.

That’s how these guys with public forums who claim Christianity somehow turn into bigoted, vile, snide, sarcastic jerk faces and have no clue how anti- the ideal of Jesus they actually are. No clue. It’s how these doughy asshats can go on the radio and on TV and call a young woman a slut and feel good about it. I mean, disagree on policy. Fine. But come on. I already wrote in a previous blog about how Jesus in the Bible treated women who actually were prostitutes or having affairs. Short version. These media Christians have missed the boat entirely.

It’s how they can create entire organizations fighting the “homosexual agenda” and gay marriage while half of Christian marriages implode, heterosexual Christians do whatever the heck they want, and (in the black community) homicides, school drop out rates, and God knows what else blows right out the top of the thermometer of social ills.

That Christianspeak starts to manifest itself into actual beliefs and principals. Terms and bon mots will get picked up and circulate virally and all of a sudden it’s a thing. Whether it’s “kissing dating goodbye” or “being called by God” or “waiting for God to provide this thing or that” or if something bad happens “God allowed it” or “God lifted his hand of protection” or if good things happen it’s because “God is blessing you” or “God intended for you to become pregnant via rape”.

Let’s follow this reasoning for a minute. Does God intend for everything that happens to happen? Have you seen the news lately? I don’t advise watching it. There have been a few little girls who have been brutally killed recently. For no reason at all. Just because some maladjusted a-hole (teenagers in a few recent cases) felt like he had some justification or momentary lack of impulse control. Did God want that to happen? So does that mean that God kind of sent the teenager that murdered that one little girl and dismembered her? Was he an agent of God’s will?

Come on, people. Let’s get a grip here. It’s 2012.

A thought: By the way, if men could get pregnant abortion would probably be legal up until the little league years.

Belief

Religious fervor doesn’t make for good, healthy policy. I am not anti-Christian. I claim some form of Christianity. I just want it to be very, very far from what Christianity has become.

So I’m not bashing people for having beliefs that differ from mine. I’m bashing ignorance. I’m bashing a medieval view of women.

I’m also bashing the fact that the people who say they want to end abortion to save lives — because they believe that a human being is created at conception — seem to lose interest after that baby comes out of the womb. They don’t seem to have the fortitude to put forth policies that support that Life when he/she turns into an actual human being who ends up near the bottom of the socioeconomic pecking order.

And by policies I don’t mean just government assistance. I mean actually creating a culture that values flexibility for working parents. I mean doing what it takes to create infrastructure and stability for a mother — let’s say a single mother — to raise a child and provide an opportunity for education and activity and experiences that promote upward mobility.

I think they’re more Pro-Birth than Pro-Life assuming that “life” includes actually living for a few decades.

Snarky Feminist Websites

I read Jezebel somewhat regularly. I used to read Feministe. There are some other blogs that have a feminist and womanist bent.

I find myself disagreeing with a lot of things because it seems like they’re trying to find things to be upset about. Okay. Wait. Wait. Don’t go. Let me finish this thought.

It’s another communal bubble. It’s not monolithic but there’s definitely some self-imposed cultural isolation. Those sites are often intended to be safe havens. Read the recent policy for comments on Feministe. They state that on occasion any comment that doesn’t represent Feminist ideals may be edited or removed. Wow.

It’s not really a matter of correct or incorrect either. It’s like … it’s a matter of emphasis.

I mean, there’s a lot of bullcrap out there in our society. There’s a double standard when it comes to women. If a woman steps out of line somehow with what people expect or want, she’s labeled a slut or a bitch or is mercilessly ridiculed. It doesn’t matter if she’s 12 or 50.

A man cat calls a woman on the street and that starts massive comment threads about rape culture. And my response is “rape culture”? Sure, that’s obnoxious but “rape culture”?

Then I watch the news. TV commercials. Listen to politicians spout twisted rhetoric. Then I think…

Circa the 1970’s

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chester_the_Molester

Don’t worry. There aren’t any pictures there. In the 70’s Dwaine B. Tinsley authored a comic strip called “Chester the Molester”.

It depicted the character, Chester, trying to trick women and girls into — or I should say on to his genitals. I stumbled across some porn magazines when I was a kid and saw some of them. Tinsley was later convicted of molesting his 13 year old daughter but the conviction was later overturned because, I think, the prosecutors used the subject matter of “Chester the Molester” against him in trial, which is apparently a violation of Tinsley’s First Amendment rights.

Cartoons about molesting girls were acceptable to publish in an international mainstream magazine.

Hm.

There was one of those wild, racy sex romp comedy movies. I think I saw it on cable in the early 80’s. It was full of skits — like “The Kentucky Fried Movie” or “Amazon Women on the Moon” and I thought it was hilarious at the time. In one scene of the movie there was a woman tied to a tree calling for help.

A guy hears her and comes to her aid. She starts thanking him profusely and explains that she was accosted, raped and left tied to a tree. Comically, he gets a look in his eye and gives the camera a “Well, as long as I’m here” look. That was the punchline of the scene so the movie moves along to the next scene leaving you with the thought that it’s hilarious that this guy is going to rape this woman. What a fortunate opportunity for him.

Hm.

When I was a teen I watched the Mikos story arc of “General Hospital”. With Butch the fresh faced assassin. Laura and Luke. Turns out … well, soap operas used to be chock full of rape. In earlier story arcs Luke had forced himself on Laura. Eventually they ended up as lovers and a couple. This happened kind of frequently in soaps back in the day. Guy rapes woman. They become an item.

Pretty much all of the major soap operas used the rapist-turned-lover trope.

Hm.

Close to Home

(This is excerpted from those “25 things about me” notes I wrote on Facebook a few years ago.)

Did I ever tell you about my neighbor in the apartment complex? Came home one evening and there was black powder all over my door. And I was like, “What the hell.” Weird, right. It was finger print powder. Three detectives came by my apartment and very subtly interviewed me. Asked me to put Leika in the bedroom. One asked me questions while another walked around the place looking at everything, and the third just stood quietly.

Two mornings later, two of them knocked on the door at 8am. I was very unemployed at this time, my days spent watching “Pinky and the Brain” and “Animaniacs” and “Law & Order”. I usually woke up around noon. Eight in the morning? Not quite functioning. Oh, and I was job hunting, of course. And gigging occasionally.

Anyway, they asked me to “come downtown” to the police station to be questioned and to be fingerprinted. I went. I didn’t know any better. They took my photo, finger prints. They waited until they cleared the photo room of a group of gangbangers they had just brought in. Then they took me to another room and drew blood for DNA. Then and only then, the detective told me that the woman who lived in the apartment next to me had been raped. And I asked him why she couldn’t tell him that it wasn’t me. And he said he couldn’t tell me that.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so … I don’t know what the word is. What’s the word for when you’re grown but all of a sudden want your mommy?

She was really cute, my neighbor, but never really acknowledged me. But a few days later her door was open and she was there with a friend packing her stuff up and she gave me kind of a dead stare. There was nothing to do or say so I just walked on.

Anyway, one of the detectives gave me a ride home, eventually. Never did hear the outcome. Funny thing is, I had read in the paper days earlier about a rape on that street and I was like, “Oh wow. That’s right in this neighborhood.”

I told a woman this story once in an IM conversation and she asked, “So did you do it?”

“Do what?”

“Did you rape her?”

No, I did not. Just in case. Want to make that clear.

A few months later, the maintenance guy apparently broke into an apartment and sexually assaulted the two women who lived there. One of them got free and jumped to the balcony below and called the police. When they arrived, he was in another apartment. A woman with a kid. The papers said he was high on meth. The police got there and apparently he fought. I’m pretty sure they beat the living crap out of him. They hog tied him and put him in the back of the car or patty wagon or whatever. He suffocated and died. That’s why cops aren’t allowed to hog tie people. Put you on your stomach like that, you can’t roll over, you can’t breathe. I still wonder if he’s the one who raped my neighbor. I assume so.

Then I imagine the situation from my neighbor’s point of view. You’ve been violated. You’re not even sure who did it. It could have been your next door neighbor. A guy who’s quiet and you’ve never really talked to despite having lived on the other side of a wall for a year.

How do you function in that situation, y’know?

Group Think

It’s interesting how when a celebrity is accused of rape the accuser is instantly discredited by that celebrity’s fans, including female fans. I find that troubling.

On one hand, you can make a crap-ton of money by making an accusation stick and getting a payout. (That’s usually the first thing detractors mention.)

On the other hand, the celebrity’s power and influence puts them in a unique position to (and mindset) to take advantage of someone. R. Kelly had that whole thing with a 15 year old and the video of it. People rallied to his defense saying either “It wasn’t him” or “She knew what she was doing so what’s the big deal.”

If I replaced the celebrity with priest it would change the context entirely, wouldn’t it? Like the friar this week who said that sometimes priests are seduced by young people. This friar was in charge of a facility where abusive priests were counseled.

Hm. Rape culture.

To my daughter from an alternate reality

We’re mostly beyond thinking that if a woman is sexily dressed she’s asking to be raped. In fact, in America we’re at the point where mentioning a woman’s behavior at all with regards to rape is considered victim blaming and is anathema. Any attempted analogy or metaphor is shot down.

When I think about and write about these things I try to keep it in perspective. I have never been abused, sexually or otherwise, so I can’t speak from that experience. I’m glad that I can’t. I wish everyone could say that. I honestly do. We all know someone who has been abused/raped/violated even if we don’t know it.

What would I say to a young, female relative or friend? Or if I have a daughter some day what will I tell her when she’s in the swing of puberty? Starts dating in a culture where kids dance and party to “Ay bitch. Wait til you see my dick”. (Screw you, Ying Yang Twins.) Off to college for the first time when society is sending strong, conflicted messages that all point to the same thing.

I will tell her to be careful. To always be careful. To walk in groups, to jog in groups. For gods sake don’t go running on those trails alone. Not even in the day time. When men verbally harass and intimidate her on the street, on the metro or wherever, do I advise that she walks away or stands up for herself?

As a dad, do I say, “Honey, I wish you wouldn’t wear that skirt to that frat party or that part of town? No, I’m not saying — of course you have the right to dress how you want. Just don’t let your guard down because there are people are out there actively looking to take advantage of you. There may not be a lot of them, but there are enough to be a real danger because they’ll be a higher concentration of them at the places you want to go to party and cut loose. They’re predators and they go where there is prey. They go to waterholes and trails and wait for (what they consider) prey to come by in a weakened state or otherwise unawares.”

I don’t know if I’d ever actually speak the word “unawares” but you get my gist.

I’d tell her that we are awash in pornography. That means that a LOT of these men out here are viewing her through cultivated fantasies. And online porn especially is about denigrating women. Not mutual pleasure and respect but dominating and often humiliating women. They build their tolerance and need more and more and then they take all of that stuff that’s stored up in their minds — all of their darkest twisted masturbatory fantasies that don’t quite make room for the fact that you’re a human being — and they’ll project it on to you.

“Go. Have fun. Live. But be safe and smart. It’s not fair that you have to be on your guard so much, I know. It’s not fair when five three hundred pound lions stalk, target and try to run down a slight, spindly gazelle and its baby. But that’s how it is.

“But listen. If anything ever happens you can always talk to me. You never need to be embarrassed or ashamed in that situation. I’m on your side.”

Goodnight and Good Luck

Alright. I’m done. If you actually made it this far you deserve something. Maybe the last ten minutes of your life back? I’ll see what I can do about that. This blog has been written over the course of weeks and …

Oh. But you know what’s really messed up? With all of that — a pretty dark blog entry — this, the USA, is one of the best times and places for women in the history of humankind. There’s a pretense and a movement that is real and has influence, representation and even power. We can’t say that about a lot of places today and definitely not throughout history.

I mean, if you can’t treat women with respect — and I mean this socially, biologically, evolutionarily, spiritually, politically, theologically and otherwise — there’s no way you can respect anything else: life, your environment, nature, fellow human beings.

I’m hopeful that we can and will do better.

Stay frosty out there, my friends. If you can’t be good, be safe.

Advertisements

6 comments

Add Yours
  1. Janna

    This got me thinking about that show Dexter – the protagonist/anti-hero who is trying to deal with his dark urge to kill people, by only killing bad people. We also live in a culture of violence. And I’m not one to be overly alarmist about video games causing kids to go out and think the behavior from the game is OK in the real world, but it’s the culture, you know? (Yes, I know you do.)

    • garyarthuryoung

      I saw three teenagers in a metro station the other day. Skateboarders. They were sharing a video camera and would video their boarding tricks.

      Then I saw them get on one of the really long escalators, let a woman pass them … and start taking video of her posterior as she walked up the stairs.

      Pretty sure that ended up online somewhere.

      Ah, kids today. Well, at least the upskirt Reddit and Tumblr people are being held accountable and catching flak.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s