Young girls around the world have to listen to lectures about their personal safety. I have lost count of how many times I’ve heard people say: “Don’t wear that skirt, it’s too short, too tight”, Don’t get into cars with strangers”, “Watch what you say around boys”, “Don’t drink too much”, but I have never heard anyone lecturing young adult boys that “rape is wrong” and that rape is never a victim’s fault.
“That’s how sex is presented to boys – it’s not intimacy; it’s not the loving, egalitarian [part] that we get something out of, it’s something we do to the other. We raise women to survive in a rape culture, because we raise women to know these things. We do nothing to talk to men about not raping. But we do talk to women about how to protect themselves, which is further why we place the blame on women when something happens. ‘Well didn’t you know not to do that? Didn’t you know not to wear that dress? Or didn’t you know not to walk down that street at that hour of the night?’” says Feminist Don McPherson, on rape culture and educating boys to not rape.
Most men don’t understand what it is like to be afraid to walk in the street at night, or get into a Taxi. Women feel unsafe most of the time. Women feel violated in the streets when some male decides that it is his duty to comment on her figure or wolf-whistle when she walks by. Women feel afraid when they feel someone’s gaze on them in the street or when they see someone edging closer while waiting for the bus.
Rape culture is encouraging male sexual aggression. It’s treating sexual harassment as a compliment. Rape culture is using rape as a weapon, a tool of war. It’s using rape to “cure” people who are gay. Most importantly rape culture is victim blaming.
There is a TV commercial in Scotland called “Not Ever”. Commercial focuses on rape culture and victim blaming. The woman in the commercial is at the bar with her friends, when a man makes a comment: “check out her skirt, she’s asking for it”. The commercial continues with the same woman shopping for a skirt when a saleslady approaches her and asks if she needs help. The woman replies: “I’m going out tonight and I want to get raped. I need a skirt that will encourage a guy to have sex with me against my will.” Then the saleslady picks the blue skirt. The point of this commercial is evident: nobody asks to be raped. It’s wrong to blame a victim. Just because someone drank too much doesn’t mean that she wants to get raped. Just because someone is wearing a short skirt doesn’t mean that she was “asking for it”. It is not and should never be a woman’s responsibility.
If a man is robbed in the street at night, does anyone ever question if he was “asking for it”? Was he dressed as a rich person? Was he wearing a really expensive watch? He must have been really stupid to wear expensive clothes on the street. Maybe he has a history of giving away money in the past, so surely police should not believe that this time he was forced to give it away. I believe this analogy is understandable. The logic in both scenarios works the same way. If no one blames a person for getting robbed, why should people who have been sexually harassed be held responsible and blamed? Why should they need to defend themselves?
So, all I want to say is that, next time you decide to whistle at someone in the corridor or make a remark about their appearance, next time you decide to make a list where you rank girls on their breast size and appearance, next time you call someone a slut, next time you laugh at an inappropriate rape joke, think about how it affects other people, think about what you’re promoting and think about what kind of a person that makes you.
By Mariam Tsetskhladze