There’s been a lot of talk recently about rape culture. For instance, we’ve got the NYPD catastrophe, DSK and Jamie Leigh Jones all circulating at the same time. In each of these cases, the woman’s character and credibility are being called into question. The problem is that women bare the burden of living in a society that expects men to act violently and to exert their power sexually. Women are responsible to take “proper” precautions to avoid this “natural” danger. Women cannot drink, because if they become intoxicated and are raped, no one will believe either that it happened at all or wasn’t consensual. They better watch what they wear, because high heels and a skirt above the knee would certainly send a message to sexually violent men that rape is welcome. Don’t be alone with a man, even if you’re simply cleaning his hotel room. That’s clearly an invitation. And for goodness sake, women should definitely not go into the military or work for a private defense company! Simply being there is akin to accepting unwanted sex. In fact, you sign a contract stating that you cannot go to court if a sexual assault happens.
It is embedded in our minds that women invite rape. If a woman has the audacity to charge her rapist, she must prove that she did nothing to invoke it. And in this day and age, that ain’t easy. If you’ve got a sexual history, if you had a drink, if you got dressed up to go out, you might have just been looking for that rape. And somehow, even though we “know” that men are dangerous, sexual predators, we seem to doubt that the individual man on the stand actually is. So again, the finger is pointed at the woman.
So what in the world do we do about the fact that women are in such danger, and have little legal recourse? Stay inside? Always be with a male protector? Don’t have a career of our choosing? Perhaps this is what it’s really all about. If it’s too dangerous to have women out there on their own in the world, it would be better for everyone if we simply retreated back into the home, and gave up on the silly notion of equality or independence. It seems that rape culture is just another patriarchal defense mechanism. By victim blaming we create an environment where women’s choice to be out in the world, acting or behaving in a way that does not conform to or support the patriarchal order is given as the reason for their alleged misfortune. The goal (conscious or not) is to shame and scare women into “proper” behavior.
Here’s some food for thought. What would happen if a woman was in her home, baking cookies for her kids and an intruder came in and raped her. What then? I’m assuming public outrage and a conviction. The reason? The rapist was the one disrupting the patriarchal order.
By asserting dominance and fear through rape, perpetrators and victim-blamers are securing a patriarchal system where women are systematically oppressed by men. In this terroristic system, the fear alone is enough to limit women’s freedom. These fears are reinforced when a woman is harassed on the street or hears about an assault.
In the end, it all comes down to protecting a patriarchal order.