Men are responsible for rape.
That’s it. The story can pretty much end there.
The problem is that it doesn’t end there. No guy is looking at that statement – “men are responsible for rape” – and ending his part in it. Rape is a daily fact of life, one so taken for granted that two completely different experiences have developed: the life of men and the life of women. The dividing line between these experiences is rape culture.
Men live above rape culture because we create it. It is the rare man who takes measure of a well-lit parking lot at noon as he searches for his car, wondering whether an attacker could be tucked between SUVs or even underneath his own car, waiting to hear the *chunk* of a door unlocking. Instead, not only do men grow irritated and lash out at women who do not respond to their drunken advances at a party, but their friends join in, miffed that “one of the bros” could be turned down. Men have generated rape-culture rules out of the ether, such as the sex-on-the-third-date rule – and we even feel justified in explaining it as an investment decision, i.e. “if I spend more on her than I would on a prostitute, I’m just going to settle for the whore”. Men have fashioned a set of social rules which indemnify them from liability for their bad behavior.
Did you see that? “Bad behavior” has a wink-and-a-nudge sort of connotation, implying the kind of thing we wish we could do if only we were as free as those “bad boys”? That’s one of those social rules. Turn it on the flipside to get another social rule: women who engage in “bad behavior”, with that same wink-and-a-nudge, are sexually promiscuous; they’re seen as taking charge and enjoying their sexuality, again with the idea that we wish we could be that free. It’s even buried in what should be everyday speech. It’s so thoroughly ingrained into society that we can barely talk about men and women without this specter of male privilege and female sexual availability rising overhead. Men as consumers who take what we want from the world; women as commodities who are only in control when they give their bodies to men without overt coercion.
Women live in the shadow of rape culture. Women do not create rules; they abide by rules or suffer consequences. The madonna-whore complex has been simplified to slut-prude, as now virginity is no longer fetishized and even pregnancy and motherhood have become subjects of porn sites and 4chan threads. A new generation of women co-conspirators – “fun-fems” – has been recruited to redefine feminism and act as enforcers of rape culture. In this way, men have engineered a circumstance where women cannot even reliably turn to each other for support. In this dynamic, the only value a woman has is through sex, and if she’s unwilling or unable (or demed unsuitable by men) for that application, there are few other venues open for her.
Women are allowed to complain about this, of course. So long as they’re willing to face the results of their “whining”. And that’s the first result: dismissal, based primarily on demeaning characteristics assigned by gender – whining, henpecking, and the like. This dismissal often carries several base concepts about women in the undertones. Women don’t like to have fun, for example, with “fun” meaning “whatever a guy wants to do”. Or more sinister ideas: women need to be opened up to their sexuality, women will learn how to have fun if they let men have their way, there’s nothing a woman can really do to stop a man (or men). The threat behind that dismissal is never missed.
What can you do, fella who considers himself a nice guy and doesn’t rape women?
Well, you can start by reading this entire list of Heartless Bitches articles: http://heartlessbitches.com/rants/niceguys/ng.shtml
Now stop calling yourself a nice guy.
Next, you can consume this excellent article by Phaedra Starling on Shapely Prose, which will give you a glimpse of how women perceive a man’s approach: http://kateharding.net/2009/10/08/guest-blogger-starling-schrodinger%E2%80%99s-rapist-or-a-guy%E2%80%99s-guide-to-approaching-strange-women-without-being-maced/
With that education under your belt, there are three very simple steps to follow:
Consider how women will view your words and actions.
Refrain from saying things or performing actions which are disrespectful,dismissive, or threatening, or which others might perceive as such. (This includes rape, in case you’re a shithead.)
Hold the men around you to the same standard. Out loud. To their faces. Every time.
And that’s the real reason the story doesn’t end where it began – the recognition that men are responsible for rape. Because we men don’t act like we’re responsible for it. We don’t tell each other we’re responsible for it. When one of us goes on about how he banged a totally drunk girl last night, none of us inform him that someone who is drunk is in no position to consent, when we’re not congratulating him on his “conquest”. When a sports star is involved in a rape scandal, we post comments on news articles to the effect of “she’s lying for a settlement”. We say things like “bros before hos” (Jesus, we say “ho” at all). We act like there’s a great big man-club that rules the world, and bitches better watch out, ’cause the boys are back in town.
And you wonder why one in six women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime, or why the majority of rapists commit more than one rape. Men know they can get away with it. You probably don’t think in those terms. You wouldn’t want to do it, and you know you’d get caught if you did. But be honest for a moment: it wouldn’t be too hard to do it if you wanted to. And I guarantee, on my last dollar and my mother’s grave, that you have a friend who knew it. Who did it. And who will never pay for his crime.
It is our job to turn the tables. All men are responsible for all rape.
You, Mr. Ex-Nice-Guy (remember, you’re not going to call yourself that anymore) – you are responsible for every rape committed by every man with whom you’ve interacted. So am I. Because we’ve all been tested and failed. We all stayed quiet. We all thought it was a funny joke. We all watched the video. We all told someone else that it’s no big deal. We all said “slut” or “cunt” or “whore” or “bitch” or “skank”.
“Stop the rape of women” is the same as “stop raping women”. If it matters to you, you will change your actions, attitudes, and ideas. You’ll expect the same of others. And you’ll start right now.
Everything I’ve said here has been said before, and better, by others. But until this stops – even beyond then, if it ever does stop – it hasn’t been said enough.