Posted by: mzbitca | February 11, 2009

Ahhh, rape culture

So, as circumstances would have it, I happened to recently be near two teenagers ( a boy and a girl) who were perusing a Post Secret Book with which I am familiar.

They were hunched over and reading the secrets, occasionally pointing them out to each other and alternated between giggling or being amazed.  At one point, the girl said “oh my god that is absolutely horrible, that girl should go to hell.”  Out of curiosity I looked to see which secret had grabbed her attention.  It was a secret that went “I considered pressing statutory rape charges when he broke my heart”.  The two kids continued a five minute discussion about how horrible this girl was and how pathetic etc etc etc.  They soon moved on to giggle at any secrets involving sex and poo but thinking back on the exchange one thing kept bothering me.

I know the book these teenagers were looking at and I know that there are multiple secrets in relation to rape, incest and other types of abuse.  These were glossed over by the teenagers with nary a comment, but they chose to fixate on the one talking about a false accusation(that never happened) and completely ignored the actual assaults that did occur. I could have written the situation off as a one time thing, but, as Liss is found of saying “This shit doesn’t happen in a vacuum.”

I felt like I had just witnessed a large arc of our culture consciousness acted out in miniature, proving that these memes take hold and infect everything around them.  Just as in real life,  the actual rape and sexual assault cases are completely glossed over as nothing new or nothing important but the occasional possibility of a false rape is set upon and shouted from the rooftops.  Consistently on feminist blogs, when writing about a news report of a rape or assault someone comes around to “what about the menz!?” and talk about how prolific false accusations are when there is NO factual evidence to support this and most researchers state that rape and sexual assault are severely under-reported.

Whether acknowledging it or not, these teenagers chose to let their outrage fly over a girl that admitted to fantasizing about filing claims while they quickly skimmed past sections actually talking about the severe damage that occurs when one person violates another.  This girl was worthy of condemnation and hate but there was no sympathy or horror voiced at the pain and trauma of victims.  That type of reaction is what feeds and keeps rape culture alive.  It perpetuates the belief that rape/assault is something that is a sideline story, an unfortunate side effect of living as a woman; but when someone dares to tarnish a man’s reputation and label him as a rapist they are the lowest of the low.  

Some may argue that people understand rape/sexual assault to be bad and feel that they don’t need to acknowledge that, but I see that as an excuse to turn your mind and heart away from the actual reality.  When we say “rape is bad but what can you do?” it’s so easy to stop caring or to even start, in some people’s cases.  There is never any deeper look at society, just a “bad people do bad things” mentality that completely ignores the high rates of rape and that statistically most people know, and in some cases, had fully trusted their attacker.  These people that never take larger jumps about what rape says about society are fully comfortable in taking the occasionally false allegation and applying it to all other alleged victims.  Our rape culture and the patriarchy make it much easier to wield the brush that paints all victims as liars or sluts than to look introspectively at ourselves and ask why rape/sexual assault is so prevalent and what ways does our society support it.

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Responses

  1. Well said.

  2. The irony is that if she was underage, and therefore theoretically could press for statutory rape because her lover was older, she would not be crying false rape, because she was underaged. The fact the secret says ‘cry statutory rape’ is significant because whilst it would still have been out of malice had she done it, if she really was underage, then it was statutory rape and she would legally have been doing nothing wrong to report it (If you get what I mean, I’m not sure I’m explaining it well).

    Of course this only makes it seem worse and reinforces your point: forget false rape, if a girl considers reporting a man for the genuine crime of having sex with a minor (statutory rape), she’s evil, whereas women and girls who survive rape are unworthy of notice.

    I agree with the key issue of the post: that the way society focuses on false accusations and demonises all women because of them is shameful. That it’s held over all rape victims as if somehow they must all be lying, or all deserved it, because some woman somewhere considered lying. Because even the chance of some woman lying about this ever is worth letting all the rapists walk free, giving them the benefit of the doubt, misinterpreting evidence of rape, and assuming that any man who looks normal is incapable of rape. Because we so badly want to believe all women lie about this as a society, that we cannot imagine any man we see as capable of this, and gloss over any evidence that this may be the case. Because men are always worth our sympathy, and women always worth our contempt.

    On a less depressing note, I love reading Post Secrets online every so often. It’s like that site with one sentence stories: each one is so moving, every time in a different way.

  3. Want to feel even worse, Anne Onne? What if, in breaking her heart, her too-old “lover” showed her that he actually had just been manipulating her and taking advantage of her youth and inexperience the whole time?


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