And the award goes to…

Posted: May 26, 2010 in Feminism

Yesterday I found the best comment on my blog so far. In honour of the person who posted it, Kim Boo San, I am going to establish an award. ‘The Quiet Riot Girl post of the year award’. It is a rolling competition, so the winner can be toppled at any time. But this one is going to be hard to beat. Thank-you Kim. Your prize is knowing how much you have heartened this jaded feminist in her struggle to keep arguing her corner in a hostile (‘feminist’) environment.

Here is the comment in its entirety:

‘I really enjoyed this article; I’ve had issues with the whole “rape culture” concept but I’ve never been able to pin down why. I think you brought up some of the problems I have with it, as a term.

What I really want to say is how much I love the “opposite of rape is not sex, it is no rape” concept. I am very frustrated in the rape dialogue because the confounding of rape with sex hyper-victimizes the victim. Rape becomes the WORST THING EVER and something the victim cannot – indeed, should not! – ever recover from. To me, the disempowers rape victims.

Rape is about violence, and like getting hit in a fight or mugged on a street corner, it is traumatic. But society doesn’t stigmatize the mugging victim – “Oh, she’ll never be able to walk home from work again!” – the way it does a rape victims. Rape victims are supposed to immediately suffer huge, insurmountable issues in their sex life, it’s almost a cliche.

Now, I’m a victim of date rape. It was not fun. I hated myself for “allowing it to happen” even though I was incapacitated by alcohol at the time, so yeah, I had issues about that I’ve taken a long time to confront. But you know what? It was not the end of my sex life. I did not suddenly distrust all men. No really, I kept having sex! Even after rape! I know, it’s crazy talk! *rolls eyes* Women who suffer violent rape have different issues, of course, and certainly have reason to experience trust and personal space issues. But it is NOT about sex; it’s about being violently attacked. And until that differentiation is made the stigma of being a rape victim will continue to deprive such women the right to recovery.

This mythologizing of rape is still rooted in the whole “pedestal” complex, IMHO, and thus rapists are EVIL and women who get raped are spiritually/psychologically disfigured for LIFE and blah blah blah. The “rape culture” paradigm, while clearly meant as helpful critique and containing valuable cultural insight, seems to carry on that tradition.

Not that I have a viable alternative, mind you. I just liked what you had to say. Thank you!’

No, thank you!

  1. What a powerful comment. I’d go even further: I think behind all the concerns in the mainstream media about how we ~could~ get raped, there’s a hidden message that we ~should~ get raped if we behave in a certain way.
    And these supposedly rape-inducing behaviours are the most basic assertions of female independence. Going out alone (at night!), spending time alone with men outside our family, wearing clothes that acknowledge our sexuality. We are still making dire threats based on a luridly Victorian morality.
    Should men rape women: no, under any circumstances. Can women recover from rape: yes they can, and they do. The question is, does our society want women to recover from these awful sexual ordeals, or does it suit us quite well to make a whole gender to live in fear?

  2. I was just thinking about this the other day…

    About how when people are mugged or suffer any kind of violent attack they feel no sense of shame when talking about their attack. A person will talk about being mugged, etc, without a second thought and people engaged in that conversation will not feel oppressed by the knowledge that this person was mugged, etc.

    But if a person reveals to someone else that they were raped in usually comes in the form of “deep-dark-secret”. If someone were to mention in a casual conversation to people he/she hardly knew that he/she was raped, the person they were talking to would feel ill at ease. The perfect example of too much information too soon.

    I remember this happening to me once, about a decade ago, a co-worker of mine mentioned, during one of your smoke breaks, that she had been raped and I thought that we definitely weren’t close enough on the friend spectrum for her to reveal that to me. I felt really uncomfortable and unsure how to react. It was as if the information was too sensitive to be spoken aloud in the context that we were in.

    I’m not trying to dismiss rape by saying it’s like a mugging, but I also don’t think we do anyone a favor by boxing rape up as this very traumatic thing that we shouldn’t talk about.

  3. Hi Olga
    I totally agree with you. I think the same can be said of domestic violence, though I think things are changing and people are not as reticent about admitting to suffering DV these days. Though when I suffered DV and was very vocal about it and went to the police etc, I found that me talking about it led to quite a lot of women I knew admitting to having experienced it, and I could tell some of them had not told anyone before then.

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