Saturday, January 26, 2013

Failure to act is still an act

Why does there apparently have to be a new Kitty Genovese incident to shock the nation every generation? Why don't we teach even the most basic levels of civic involvement? Why did I have to be in a college psych class before someone in an academic setting brought up the concept of diffusion of responsibility?


The Kitty Genovese attack was a travesty, I don't condone the inaction but I at least understand the idea of fearing to walk into the darkness from the safety of your Queens apartment toward screaming and violence, or assuming that someone else has already taken steps.

But on August 11 in Steubenville three parties worth of teenagers just sat back and watched as a girl was used and degraded in front of their eyes.

These teenagers looked at all of the people around and saw with their naked eyes that no one was lifting a finger. They left their expensive-world literally at your fingertips-phones in their pockets instead of dialing the police or parents to tell the story of what they were seeing. That is, the ones that were not using these phones to memorialize the scene.

They listened later as her attackers bragged, and they certainly learned as her supposed protectors failed her.

I hope that this eats at the voyeuristic and impotent men and women of Steubenville for the rest of their lives. I hope that they know with a burning sickness in the pit of their stomachs that by participating (yes participating) in a scenario which allowed a girl to be treated as if she was an object, a toy, as so much less than human that she was literally turned into a urinal, that they effectively abdicated their OWN humanity.

I hope that they have long lucid lives in which to contemplate their complicit participation in rape.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cop-outs which facilitate rape (part 2): why we need to stop talking about self control

In my last post I addressed a discussion I had been in regarding the picture below and addressed in part the idea that victim blaming facilitates rape. But that's not the only cop out represented here.

Which leads me to this old gem...

"certain people in this world do NOT have the self control needed to keep them from raping women who dress certain ways. Everyone (even guys) have to always be aware of their surroundings and even other people around them to stay safe".

If rapists did not have the "self control needed to keep them from raping women" it would be very easy to identify and get them out of society because they'd be raping everyone everywhere the minute their gonads start churning out enough hormones (note: the same argument works for robbery - replace the verb as appropriate).

This would just be a thing that everyone knew about, and there would be an expectation that occasionally you may have to tackle a random adolescent who suddenly hit that werewolf level of hormone saturation threshold and lost their ability to control themselves. 

Clearly they have some manner of self control as they are not arrested at twelve casually attempting to rape the nearest person they can overpower in the middle of times square, or in the front of their 10th grade classrooms, or at church, or at the dinner table.

When you lack self control that doesn't mean you get to still have self control when it's really quite convenient.

img source

They have enough self control to choose victims, choose encounter places, and keep from doing it where they are sure to get caught. So clearly they have enough self control to keep from raping people, hell they manage to keep from raping people nearly all the time!.

This attitude is an immense cop out.

What they lack, essentially, is respect. You don't rape someone because you think they are so sexy you just can't help it, you rape someone because you lack the respect for them as a fellow human being deserving of autonomy over their own body. The fact that you want to have sex with something is just plain more important to you than their desire to do,well, pretty much whatever they happen to be doing at the moment.

img source:

This is also why it is possible at all for female rapists to exist as males obviously do not corner the market on lack of respect for others.

If we focused less on teaching women that it's their fault for tempting the "tenuous self control" of rapists and more on the social attitudes which make it so easy to view women as objects existing for consumption first and *people* second perhaps there would be less of a problem (also more broadly, respect for other people as PEOPLE would be pretty awesome).

If nothing else there would be less tolerance of rape.

Some people will never have the requisite respect for others to lead a healthy life in society, but we certainly don't need to give them less stigmatized targets.

Cop-Outs which facilitate rape (part 1): why we need to stop talking about keeping safe

A friend of mine once posted this picture on her Facebook. It brought up some interesting points which I think are worth going into deeper

One respondent astutely pointed out that "it assumes that the natural state of rapists is rapist" which is a pretty reasonable thing to point out, but then the conversation turned to the tired old temptation based victim blaming.

"I would avoid walking through the projects with dollar bills hanging out of my pockets too"

The problem with this metaphor is that it assumes that there is somehow a situation that makes it easier or harder to be raped.

In reality you have to replace "projects" with "the entire world" and "dollar bills" with "your own skin".

But then also imagine that there is a neon sign over your head saying "Slow runner! Aim for tricky left knee! Biggest bills in front pocket! Enjoy!" and you have a much better picture of the situation.

Except we're forgetting the even bigger sign that says "Go ahead, the cops probably won't give a shit about this one".

As someone who became a statistic at the age of seven in my own home to a non-stranger I can assure you... there is NO SUCH THING as a safe place to be and there is no such thing as not sexy enough to escape notice.

I'm sure there are countless grandmothers, boy scouts, women relaxing in muumuus in their own homes, pee wee league players and other sundry people that didn't happen to be half naked in a strip joint handing out embossed invitations to their orifices at the time of their rape that could back me up on this.

I jog regularly in my neighborhood. It is a very good neighborhood, the houses are nice, the cars are generally either well kept or on the expensive site. I wear longer loose shorts and I have my breasts flattened by a sports bra (which is not my outer layer). I am sweaty and devoid of makeup, my hair is pulled back in the most efficient way possible.

I carry my phone. I carry pepper spray. I jog in the middle of the afternoon. I ALWAYS tell someone what I'm going ot be doing and how long I expect to take. I keep my music low and my earphones out of one ear entirely. Does this attention to not being sexy or available mean I abandon all further caution and run by in arms reach of open work vans and dark alleys? No, of course not, because regardless of my preparations I ultimately am NOT the one who determines whether I am going to be targeted for rape on any given day.

When you blame a victim for facilitating their own misfortune and cause them to bear the brunt of another person's actions you direct attention away from the person who made the active decision and make it EASIER for them to make the same decisions in the future.

By blaming victims you are FACILITATING future rapes.