Victim Blaming, Rape, and Slut Walks

I have wanted to raise this issue for a long time but I realize that my blog is sometimes not the place for any socio-political rants and raves. Since this is *technically* in the news and a recent event, I’m going for it.

Comments are, as always, strongly encouraged whenever and wherever I voice my opinion.

I was raised by a family that includes a small group of caring men and a larger group of women, many who I would describe as strong and independent. The women on my mom’s side of the family grew up in a  neighbourhood notorious for it’s violent crime and were taught early on the basics of street savvy and self-preservation. These lessons were passed on to me when I was born and part of these “street smarts” was a discourse surrounding avoidance of kidnapping and rape.

These lessons aren’t uncommon for women: don’t get raped. We are taught what to do to thwart unwanted attention, how to communicate that the attention is unwanted, and what to do if we find ourselves in a situation we aren’t comfortable with. I know that I shouldn’t wear my headphones when walking at night and I know I should check in with my girlfriend when she leaves the bar alone to make sure she gets home safe.

I wonder how many men are taught these lessons. I wonder how many men are taught to dress less provocatively or where to kick or punch a predator who may have you pinned to the ground. Conversely, I wonder if men are taught not to rape. Or what to do if you find yourself in the position where you want sex and your partner is unwilling. While I have been jokingly told “Don’t get raped!” by well-meaning friends, I have never heard a group of bros telling their friend “Don’t rape!” when they leave the bar alone with hormones raging.

Victim blaming is one of the most frustrating parts of being a woman in a world where rape is a sad reality. This is why high-ranking Toronto Police officer’s make comments like “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized” and events like Slut Walk are born. And this is why Toronto residents write letters to the Toronto Sun about ways women can avoid being sexually assaulted. If we can expect someone not to steal our new TVs or expensive jewellery, surely we can expect the same of our dignity.

So ladies, don your burkas lest we entice helpless men with our bare skin and democratic freedom!

Ugh, just kidding.
What I really want to say is: “Hey! Don’t rape, okay?”
And let’s work on changing the discourse surrounding women and rape in general and stop victim blaming while we’re at it!

 

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5 Comments

  1. Amy W
    July 16, 2012 / 4:41 pm

    You know what, I’m glad you did raise this issue.  There is a sincere need for more constructive discourse in social settings, blogs, and anywhere conversations take place.  It seems like polite society shies away from the topic all together and the news media sensationalizes a few high profile cases.  I’m not sure most guys realize how frequently rape actually occurs, how serious the issue is, or how close to home. Off the top of my head I can immediately think of 4 women I know who have been raped – by complete strangers, acquaintances, family.  I think of this when I hear good guys who would never hurt anyone make ‘harmless’ rape jokes with other dudes.  There is a casual culture around rape humour for sure that is so pervasive.  It’s almost socially acceptable in some circles, which completely slays me.  Consider for a minute how harmless those jokes aren’t if they are overheard by a girl/guy who has either been or known a victim of that trauma.  Consider also the stats on rape, and how likely it is that we’ve met or even joked with a rapist or potential rapist.  Think about how the things we say and do can legitimize rape culture to that guy, or send a clear message that it’s not cool.  The missing link seems to be men reinforcing this message with other men.  

    • JamieLeighTO
      July 19, 2012 / 12:25 pm

       Amy! Great comment 🙂

      Have you read this article on the response to comedian Daniel Tosh’s rape comment to a fan? http://austin.culturemap.com/newsdetail/07-12-12-14-37-the-best-response-weve-heard-to-daniel-toshs-misquoted-rape-jokes/

      A quote from the article:

      “Let’s imagine a world in which women cut men’s dicks off. Like,
      frequently. To the extent that one in five men has had his dick cut off
      by a woman or had a woman attempt to cut his dick off.

      Sometimes it’s a clear-cut case where a woman attacks you in the
      street, out of nowhere, and cuts your dick off. But more often it’s a
      situation where you actually know the woman, maybe you trust her, maybe
      you think everything’s okay, and then one day she cuts your dick off.”

      I think you’re totally right about the prevalence of rape and I’m glad law enforcement agencies in Canada and the U.S. are working so hard to work with the victims of rape in a way that encourages reporting the crime. None of my friends have openly discussed the issue with me, but that doesn’t mean I assume it hasn’t happened to any of them.

  2. MindKry
    July 17, 2012 / 1:34 pm

    I was PO’d (to use a polite term) when I read the story in yesterday’s Sun about this letter, although I’m unsurprised.

    I live next door to Islamists and the younger in the family likes to converse with me once and awhile. Now, I’m a pretty open minded guy for the most part, able to hear both sides of the story with an even head but I hate the idea of people insinuating that if women dress less provocatively they will inherently be safer. This is precisely the argument he gave me. The reason it came up was because I mentioned the Slut Walk and how I’d like to take part.
    He made the same sweeping allegations the cleric quoted in the Sun did. He tried to back it up with his iron clad opinions about how if men are less enticed they will not act out of lust. I guffawed for the most part and I don’t talk to that guy about anything because I came within a breath of punching him, it’d have been his fault though, if he hadn’t been so transparently wearing his stupidity on his shoulder I wouldn’t have felt the need to hit him. Yet I somehow refrained.In the print edition of Toronto Sun there was an editorial debunking the myth that women who wear the traditional muslim burkas are somehow immunized to rape. It was also addressed with solid facts and numbers in the second half of the main article. I don’t normally do this, but I’m currently applauding the Toronto Sun for meeting this one head on.
    The idea that a woman who is raped is at fault for her own rape is like blaming the guy whose car gets stolen because his car was too nice. It’s not a logic our post-industrial age society should be fostering and yet somehow it’s here.I’m going to make this clear though, this is not an Islamist problem, this is a cultural problem and it’s a problem on every side. People still seem to blame women for rape on any side of the cultural line. It’s a justification that is unjust, nothing more and nothing less. Saying the woman ‘deserves it’ is simply a way of taking blame off of the person who perpetrated the act.The sooner we can stop that kind of thinking the better.

    • JamieLeighTO
      July 19, 2012 / 12:18 pm

      “This is not an Islamist problem, this is a cultural problem” – I’m glad you said this!I didn’t discuss the article in detail in my blog because when I did that on Facebook it turned into a conversation about race and religion. I think it’s a bigger problem than that which is what I tried to emphasize.

      Women who wear traditional muslim garb ARE still raped. Men are raped. Why is there so little conversation around women being raped by women? Is it because they don’t deserve it?

      Here’s a question (for everyone):
      When I was up in arms about this article at work a (male) coworker explained to me that men rape women more than women rape men because men are inherently AGGRESSIVE because TESTOSTERONE, okay? And their basically hardwired to reproduce so it’s kind of obvious that they rape more because of NATURE and CHROMOSOMES.

      I think you can imagine my subsequent freakout and am wondering if anyone agrees with him and I’m missing the point?

  3. Rob D
    July 19, 2012 / 11:17 am

    Very well said. That should be an ad campain