The Patriarchal Utility of the Threat of Rape

I would hazard a guess that many people think rape is wholly about individual men forcing individual women to have sex with them. Many people object when the phrase “rape culture” is used because, they argue, everyone knows rape is wrong. There is an inability, I think, to look at rape on a national level, or even a global level, because for many people rape is simply local and individual, a random criminal act like theft or vandalism. But to view rape in this way misses the bigger picture. You see, the threat of rape is a cultural tool used to control women.

On the one hand there is rape as an individual act, and I want to be clear that I am not saying individual men who commit rape are consciously using rape to police or control women’s behavior. No. See, on the other hand is the cultural context within which rape takes place. And it’s that cultural context that is being discussed when the phrase “rape culture” is used. For the uninitiated, a look at conditions in countries where rape culture is more extreme may help to shed light on how the threat of rape serves to control women’s actions and behavior.

By now you’ve almost certainly all heard of the December 16th gang rape of a 23 year old woman on a bus in Delhi, India, her subsequent death at a hospital in Singapore, and the massive protests that have followed. Whether they use the phrase or not, women across India are protesting India’s rampant rape culture.

India’s regressive attitude towards sexual violence came to fore as the political establishment reacted to the news of the gang rape in the national capital. “Women should not go out late at night,” Delhi Police Chief Neeraj Kumar said. The attitude of his police force was shockingly documented in April, when reporters from Tehelka magazine, working undercover, recorded their conversations with thirty Delhi police officers who blamed women for being raped, naming “everything from fashionable or revealing clothes to having boyfriends to visiting pubs to consuming alcohol to working alongside men as the main reasons for instances of rape.” The had argued, for example, that “in truth, the ones who complain are only those who have turned rape into a business.”

While the men who committed the gang rape are being prosecuted, many in India, including many of the authorities, have put the blame for the gang rape on the woman herself. Let’s step back a moment and look at the reasons women in India are blamed for their own rapes, as recounted in the above paragraph. They go out at night. They dress fashionably or sexily. They have boyfriends. They go to bars. They work alongside men.

What made those women think they could live lives of equality alongside men? 

Because that’s really what’s going on here, isn’t it? When women step outside of their “places,” these men argue, it’s only natural that they should be raped. Rape is the consequence for women deigning to think that they can be equal to men. The way to prevent rape, they argue, is for women to stay safely under their fathers’ or husbands’ authorities, dressing and behaving in a prescribed fashion and not seeking to be equal to men. As I said before, the threat of rape is a cultural tool used to control women.

And now, growing numbers of Indian women are pointing this truth out and demanding that the government – not women – do more to prevent rape. They are stepping up and demanding their rights, and refusing to be intimidated. Brava to them!

With this background to the way the threat of rape serves to control women’s actions and behavior, let’s take a look beyond India to our own country. Several months ago blogger Sarah Moon explained in detail how conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists in the United States use the threat of rape to keep the women in their flocks from stepping outside of the patriarchal gender roles they endorse:

Complementarians would say that immodest dress causes rape, therefore women should dress according to complementarian standards. They would say that women who express their sexuality are making themselves vulnerable to rape, therefore women should be passive and chaste when it comes to sex–another complementarian idea. They would say that women who spend too much time in the public world are risking rape, therefore more women should stay home, etc.

Some complementarian evangelicals go beyond this to actually blame feminism for the very existence of rape.Douglas Wilson, for instance, believes that when feminists deny men the opportunity to practice “godly” authority over women, men react by taking back the authority that they deserve using violence.

“When we quarrel with the way the world is,” Wilson says, “we find that the world has ways of getting back at us.”

Whether or not complementarians approve of rape, the fact is that many women adhere to complementarian gender roles because complementarian leaders have told these women that these women will be raped if they step outside these roles. Rape is a tool that rapists use to control women, and complementarian leaders (along with many other people in powerful positions) benefit from the fear that rapists create. In fact, they harness that fear in their books, blog posts, and sermons and use it as a tool to keep women in their place.

Complementarian evangelicals rely on rape to keep their systems of power firmly in place.

It’s an ugly, ugly truth, but a truth nonetheless.

Now if you were to read this and conclude that the threat of rape is simply used to control women in “foreign” countries like India or in overtly patriarchal subcultures like conservative evangelicalism, you would be wrong. It goes on in mainstream American culture as well. Here is an example of what I’m talking about:

[At age 14] I was also getting schooled on the full contents of the “Don’t get raped,” handbook, not that any of managed to prevent rape for me in the end. I was told not to park in parking garages, because someone could hide under my car and rape me, but also not to park on the streets, because someone could come out of the shadows and rape me. I was told not to wear my hair in a ponytail, because someone could grab it and rape me, but also not to wear my hair down, because it made me look older and could entice someone to rape me. I was told not to walk alone or with only other girls, because it would leave me vulnerable and allow someone to rape me, but also not to spend time alone with or trust guys, because they could be planning to rape me.

Don’t wear this. Don’t act that way. Don’t go to this place or that, don’t go out alone or after dark. The threat of rape serves to police women’s actions, behaviors, and lives. And women who step out of line … well, they only got what they were asking for.

Two years ago in Texas an eleven year old girl was raped by twenty teens and men. Many in her community responded by blaming the girl for bringing on her gang rape by dressing older than her age and hanging out with teenage boys. Then, after a woman was sexually abused in a bar last summer in Arizona, the judge told her that this wouldn’t have happened to her if she hadn’t gone to a bar in the first place, and suggested that she should learn from this experience. Last summer in Ohio an unconscious teenage girl was raped by a high school football team at a party. Some in her community blamed her for her rape, arguing that she had “put herself in a position to be violated.” And there are plenty of other examples.

The reality is that rape is not caused by what women wear or where they go. It is caused by rapists. As long as people continue to blame the victims of rape, asking what they did to cause it or whether they invited their rapes,  whether in the U.S. or in India or anywhere else, the threat of rape will continue to be used to control women.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

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  • Christine

    I would say that a lot of the rapists are using rape as a way to control women. I don’t know if it happens here as much, but there are parts of the world where what you wear may make you more/less likely to be raped. If a woman steps out of line, men will violently punish her for it. I don’t know if it’s a conscious “this woman did something wrong, we’ll teach her a lesson”, but it’s not just a threat.

  • Rosie

    Wow. I certainly didn’t think of it that way at the time, but it’s true. With the ironic result that after I was raped by my “good Christian” boyfriend, even though I had done everything “right” and stayed in my “place”, I concluded there was nothing left to fear outside that patriarchal box and I left. All of it.

  • smrnda

    When you hear about a woman who dies after being raped and people are blaming her either for fighting back or for not fighting enough (but too few people are talking about the rapists and what they did wrong) then you know how pervasive rape culture is, and regrettably it’s not confined to any one particular location.

    • Mogg

      I was once advised that if ever I found myself in the position of being raped to make sure I fought back enough so that I would have other injuries to back up a claim of rape. The person with this advice did not, AFAIK, make any comment on how to ensure the correct level of injury – enough to be visible, but not enough to seriously damage or kill. How sick is that?

    • Andrew Kohler

      This all reminds me very much of Deuteronomy 22: 13-29 (which we were just discussing over on JT’s blog post “Why are only pleasant things sinful?”).

      I once heard a rape victim make the analogy that if a person gets robbed while walking alone through a bad part of town, it’s not considered the victim’s fault rather than the robbers. I sometimes hear people say things like “Well, (s)he was being stupid” in reference to bad things happening other than sexual assault, but clearly there’s a special focus on blaming the victim where rape is concerned. I certainly think it’s important to teach people how to avoid putting themselves at risk for injury, crime, and violence, but the focus should be “Be careful, because unfortunately there are bad people out there who do terrible things,” not “Criminals are entitled to do bad things to anyone who hasn’t taken the proper precautions.” Nor should dressing conservatively, not leaving the house without a male chaperone, or not having male friends be considered proper precautions for females; those are all absurd impositions upon individual freedom. I have to wonder: if a young man were passed out at a party and was robbed or sexually assaulted (as with the terrible crime in Ohio described in the post), would the community have blamed him? I think we all know the answer to that.

      • Christine

        There needs to be a balance though – I’m sick and tired of no one ever specifying what kind of assault happened, or what I’m supposed to be scared of. I admit that I haven’t seen this trend with education campaigns (no one says to cover your drink to avoid generic assault), but I don’t want to start seeing it there. Sometimes the distinction matters. With walking alone through the park after dark it doesn’t, but we need to pay attention to where we can abstract it.

  • Anne

    In the end, it’s not even gender roles so much as the right to exist as people. That sounds extreme, but the notion of women as property has been around for so long that it’s hard to drive out. In more traditional circles for a woman to exist on her own in public made her, by some twisted definition, a public woman. Unless you are somehow clearly attached to your “protector” you are free for the taking like an abandoned table by the curb. Most of these anti-rape admonitions given to women boil down to “don’t exist in public, and if you must exist in public be as invisible as possible. If men become aware that there’s a woman in public, it’s not their fault if they react.” The idea that a woman can own herself and exist on her own terms is seen, at best, as a nice little joke.

    Heck, even the code of chivalry allowed the knight to rape peasant girls (i.e. women who don’t belong to a suffiiciently important man).

    But it’s not just women, it comes down to many minority groups. When I read an article where people are upset by gays or atheists, 19 times out of 20 they aren’t upset by any inflammatory act, they’re upset that these groups have the GAUL, the NERVE, to exist in PUBLIC where people may have to see that they EXIST and might actually be PEOPLE!!!! When there’s violence against these groups, its justified again and again by the provocation of the group’s or individual’s mere visible existence.

    If they don’t see women/gays/redheads/anyone as human, there’s no way they’ll accept a right to exist. The only way to fight it is to exist in full and in public, no apologies.

    • Scotlyn

      Anne, you have hit the nail on the head! Thanks.

  • Darren

    Thanks for posting this. Nothing to contribute, just thanks.

  • Kodie

    I was thinking about this across a spectrum of behaviors we’re expected to control. Raping someone seems to be the exception. When someone makes us angry, we’re expected to keep cool and be able to speak to that person calmly and maturely instead. Breaking down in tears because someone criticized you is not an option for adults. I don’t know how to express myself even now, without blaming victims accidentally. We all know there are cases where our own emotions are reactions, when the instigation is slight or even non-existent, other people can definitely charge us with over-reacting. When people are charged with murder or assault (non-sexual assault!) in a courtroom, it doesn’t seem to matter what the other person did to anger the perpetrator to cause them to react that way. It’s a “no matter what” situation, you don’t get to beat them or kill them.

    So why, when a woman is walking somewhere, walking alone, walking at night, walking with other women, having a drink, dressing a certain way or whatever, why is rape an acceptable reaction to that stimulus? No, of course he couldn’t help it. In every other crime or offense, adults are expected to act with restraint and not impulsively. People are heavily socialized to steer clear of reacting poorly, dangerously, and criminally. “She was there” so that’s enough to set him off, and everyone can relate? I don’t get it. I definitely don’t understand gang rape. I can say even though we socialize against over-reactions, some people are not with it and do the wrong thing anyway. But you get a handful or more (how large is a “gang”?) of men, and what goes through their minds not stopping it? Not pulling the first guy off, of going along to be part of this group? Why are women responsible at all for this?

    If you see a shop-owner put some goods out for sale on the sidewalk and some get stolen, there are things he or she might do to prevent theft, but nobody is saying they deserved to be stolen from. Before Christmas, there was a news story about someone stealing a Christmas tree with gifts on it for charity, left out overnight… well, I do think cautiously, I would have locked it up at night, but with regard to theft of material items left out for opportunistic thieves, they held the thieves responsible. I mean, of course they did. When church boxes get stolen, it’s the thieves – you know? “Who would do such a thing” – to a church!/ children!/ charities!/ our favorite mom ‘n’ pop store!? etc. But when it comes to rapists, who would do such a thing to women? Well, any guy who got a look at her had to be thinking it, so yeah! She was there, she didn’t have the sense to reduce her vulnerability. Nobody ever says such a thing about people who have stuff stolen – thieves blend in and they can’t help themselves, so why tempt them? It’s always a matter of trust, and that broken trust makes everyone sad, except when it comes to rape, apparently.

    And it’s weird because women as I know it in the US and definitely in other cultures are fairly much encouraged to dress a certain way – to dress unlike men do, distinguish their figures and wear silky fabrics and shoes that are hard to run away in. They want us to show our boobs and legs a little and then they think that means we want them to grope us, follow us home, push in the door, drug us at parties, or whatever. Where is the shame on rapists?

    • Lucreza Borgia

      There is a shame on violent rapists. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize that the stranger jumping out from the bushes to rape you is not the norm. It’s almost always someone you trust and no one ever wants to believe that person is a rapist.

      • Anne

        And the advice may be totally backwards anyhow:

        “Conventional wisdom holds that women who dress provocatively draw attention and put themselves at risk of sexual assault. But studies show that it is women with passive, submissive personalities who are most likely to be raped—and that they tend to wear body-concealing clothing, such as high necklines, long pants and sleeves, and multiple layers. Predatory men can accurately identify submissive women just by their style of dress and other aspects of appearance. The hallmarks of submissive body language, such as downward gaze and slumped posture, may even be misinterpreted by rapists as flirtation.”

      • Ibis3

        There is a shame on violent rapists.

        Not really. For the most part, they’re treated as a force of nature which the woman didn’t do enough to avoid. Where was she, what time was it, was she alone, what was she wearing (was it too slutty, was it not practical enough for fighting or fleeing), had she been drinking, did she have a reputation for being sexually available, was she adequately armed, did she resist, did she resist too much, could she have run away, was she paying enough attention, could she have called for help, did she report it right away, is there any other explanation for her claims and so on.

    • Dominique

      Re “And it’s weird because women as I know it in the US and definitely in other cultures are fairly much encouraged to dress a certain way – to dress unlike men do, distinguish their figures and wear silky fabrics and shoes that are hard to run away in. They want us to show our boobs and legs a little and then they think that means we want them to grope us, follow us home, push in the door, drug us at parties, or whatever.” – This dovetails exactly with the interpretation of women as property – either public property or the potential property of certain men. We are groomed to please, hence the requirement to be “pretty”. This does not, apparently, include the right of refusal.

  • ki sarita

    and then if you don’t dress adequately sexily, people criticize you and tell you that you’ll never find a man to date

  • luckyducky

    My sister and I were talking about this the other day. I apologized to her for being frustrated with her for not having called the police after being some guy pinned her down and threatened to rape her when we were in college. I sympathized much more after some guy chased me back into my office building late at night. I didn’t say anything when I called the public safety escort (who were are regularly reminded to avail ourselves of but who I also knew I would have to wait 30 minutes for and I was tired) because I was embarrassed and convinced myself had overreacted — after all he didn’t *do* anything but yell and start running toward a lone woman, the only other person out, on a dark street at 2am…

    She said that her reluctance to call the police was reinforced after she was mugged a couple of years ago at 8am on a Sunday morning in the well-traveled alley behind her apt. building (access to parking for the whole block and where residents take their trash). Though as muggings going, it was about as reassuring experience as you could hope for — apart from the getting choked out. The people she asked for help were very caring, the police took her detailed description and caught the guy within 1hr and got all of her stuff back, and she was in the prosecutor’s office by lunch time. However, the message she got over and over from the police was that she shouldn’t have been where she was. She said it would have only been worse in the earlier incident because it was sexual *and* she has unambiguously broken some of the rules in the “Don’t Get Raped” handbook – namely she was at his apartment (with a friend) and female and dressed for going out.

    This also came up in a urban planning seminar about feminist planning. There was the initial resistance – not because the concepts are so very controversial but just because of the nomenclature. I asked the young (white) men if they thought it constituted optimal quality of life if they always had to be the one to walk the dog or take out the trash at night because it was unsafe for their female SO (making it explicit that I was asking them to imagine that they did or would eventually have a female SO not that I was assuming that) to do so. They really did appreciate that…

  • Sam

    Thank you for referencing the Steubenville case. I know about it because I have family in that area, but it hasn’t seemed to get much coverage.

  • L.B.

    One of the (many) things I absolutely HATE about this ridiculous rape culture we live in is the question that always seems to crop up whenever a women has the guts to report her rape: “What if she’s lying?”

    Whenever someone reports being robbed nobody asks, “What if he gave his car away to that nice stranger and changed his mind about it later?”

    In my hometown, there have been two separate times where young men have been accused of rape (one was even charged with “attempted forcible sodomy” against a minor). Whenever the topic about either of these cases came up, no one ever said anything about how horrible it must have been for these young girls, the topic always came up– “What if she was lying? Being accused of something like that is going to ruin his life.”

    • Fortuna Veritas

      I think it’s a permutation of the same basic cause that gives rise to the situation you find when they interview the people who knew or knew of a mass murderer and they give some variant of the never would have seen it coming spiel along with the general contempt of women by men, women, and institutions in this culture.

      I’m not sure exactly how it comes up, but there’s even sometimes this sense that some people feel they have to make it as hard as possible for the victim in order to make sure that they don’t have the threat of a lover with the ability to hold the possibility of making a rape allegation over their head… I’m still not sure where that comes from.

    • Basketcase

      unfortunately, we have had cases here of women inviting blokes back to their place explicitly for the purpose of having sex with them and then claiming rape / non-consensual intercourse. The men in question have even had proof that the woman specifically asked them for sex (text messages, cell-phone video), and often the men were famous.
      Women like those unwittingly help rape culture I fear, because the community ends up backing the man who was accused. In some cases here, they have even been able to prove that there was no sexual connection of any kind, and it was this rejection by a “celebrity” and a desire for their 10 minutes of fame that caused the accusation.

      • Nathaniel

        Cite or it didn’t happen.

      • Basketcase

        If I could remember the name of the celeb it involved (usually a sportsman), I would totally cite.
        But it was several years ago and the news sites here have really sh*t search functionality – if I didn’t bookmark it at the time, my chance of finding it again are slim to none. Trying to search for it, and the terms you have to use bring up mainly the current Indian Rape Victim, rather than what I am looking for (stupidly, the search results are also in no sort of order at all).
        But here is one where its not a famous person, but the woman DID lie – so is definitely not doing the campaign any favours:
        The one I was thinking of was when an international team visited, about 6 years ago.

      • Kate

        For all you or anyone knows maybe they consented to one sex act but not another. Consent to one thing isn’t consent to everything and always.

      • AmyC

        So if I tell somebody through a text message that I want to have sex with them, I’m not allowed to change my mind later?

    • saraquill

      I don’t know if this is an egalitarian case, but in my high school, the victims who were blamed for lying and just wanting to make the school look bad were all male. Or, if they weren’t lying, then that was because the accusers were already guilty for tarnishing the school’s reputation and deserved what they got.
      In that instance, power and reputation was a bigger factor than gender.

  • Angela

    I agree completely with everything you’ve written but I do often wonder how to go about educating women on personal safety without also reinforcing victim-blaming. Obviously getting into minutia such as how to wear your hair is little more than paranoia and fear-mongering but there are certain situations that can significantly increase a woman’s chances of rape. I certainly would never imply that a woman is responsible for her rape no matter what the circumstances but I also know that if I had a daughter I would strongly encourage her to avoid risky situations. It seems like a mixed message to say, “Rape is never the fault of the victim. Women should be free to do XYZ without fear about being raped. But since XYZ does make you more likely to be raped don’t do it anyway.” Anyone care to share some ideas?

    • luckyducky

      *Sigh* the perennial question. I tell my children that no one has the right to hurt them but they have a responsibility to protect themselves — not in the hit back kind of way but being smart about removing themselves from or deescalating situations. As of yet, it is just in the context of sibling squabbles and is informed by my husband’s pretty extensive martial arts training, which emphasizes the discipline required to avoid conflict.

      I hesitate to take that approach because it does feel like blaming the victim but very little is as frustrating as watching one child setting themselves up time after time to get knocked down, have their stuff torn up, etc. The “responsibility” portion of the parenting is always presented as a matter of not giving someone else the power to hurt you unnecessarily.

      I think as they get older, I’ll focus on risk assessment, danger is part of some activities and she/they should be aware of that and decide how much risk she/they is/are willing to bear and how much she/they is/are willing to do to minimize it. There are things that we do despite the risks because the reward outweighs the risk, but there is little point in taking on risk because of peer pressure, lack of forethought, etc. if the payoff is low. I hope that we can keep the blame out of it with heavy emphasis on the fact that there shouldn’t be so much danger and where the threat actually comes from (i.e., not the victim’s behavior). I guess that would be the “if you are going to mess with the bull, be ready for the horns” kind of approach. In theory (ha ha), I don’t have a problem with my children doing risky things as long as they are ready to handle those risks.

    • saraquill

      Most of the pamphlets and advice regarding being female and staying safe I always interpreted as tips for avoiding armed robbery. (Unless they specifically stated these were rape prevention tips. Some of those things implicitly stated that danger is in every corner.) Maybe composing a safety manual on “how to stay safe from violent robbery” might be better in being informative without implicit victim blaming.

    • Anat

      I think one thing to do is not to call what we advise women as ‘rape prevention’. The only one who can prevent rape is the would-be rapist, by not raping. The women can perhaps mitigate their risks to some degree, if they have true information about how rapists operate.

    • ako

      This is one of those things I’ve been thinking about for a while, and I have some general ideas for what would vastly improve the advice given to women about how to reduce the risk of being raped. (Some of this may seem really obvious to you, but most of the “How not to get raped” advice I’ve been exposed to doesn’t do any of this.)

      1 – Be aware that girls get this advice from multiple sources starting at a surprisingly young age. A lot of the time, there’s an unintentionally condescending air to the advice, as it sounds like “I know you’ve heard this a million times, but I still can’t trust you to remember it, so here it is again!” I would actually encourage people to ask themselves “What are they getting from me that they’re not getting from the hundreds of other sources of information they’ve probably already been exposed to?” before having the talk.

      2 – Accuracy! There have been some very interesting studies on what rapists tend to look for in potential victims, and they really don’t match with a lot of the conventional wisdom about what the risks for women are. (For instance, wearing more clothes doesn’t make you safer.) Get facts on what the risks actually are, even if it seems obvious, and if there are no facts, I don’t think it’s a good idea to teach “In order to avoid rape, don’t do this!”, since it could easily end up being an arbitrary and useless restriction. And looking at the facts highlights a lot of risks which have traditionally not been acknowledged, like the danger posed by guys who repeatedly violate small boundaries.

      And, on a more basic level, accuracy means acknowledging that we’re talking about risk reduction, not rape prevention.

      3 – At least equal time for “How not to be a rapist” (preferably even more). Not only does this make it clear that the primary responsibility is on the rapist, not the victim (far more effectively than the standard “It’s not your fault, but…” disclaimer), but telling people “If you do this, it’s rape!” discourages a surprising number of rapists. (A lot of people won’t cross that line unless they can tell themselves it somehow doesn’t really count as rape, and it helps to pre-emptively take away the excuses.

      4 – The goal should be grown women who are aware of the risks and capable of deciding whether to take them, not women wno never take risks. To that end, as they grow and mature, there should be more of a focus on “This activity is this risky, so be aware!” and less on “This activity is risky, so don’t!” One area where a lot o rape-prevention advice goes wrong is pressuring women to think they should never take risks, or only take them if they can meet other people’s standards of “good enough” reasons to walk alone at night, have a drink, be alone with a guy, etc., which is ultimately infantilizing. Adult women should be treated as capable of making their own decisions about risks, and children should be gradually encouraged to have more and more autonomy in terms of risk assessment.

    • Sid

      My view of it is this: the same way you’d tell a man to avoid being assaulted. If you wouldn’t advise a man to learn a new skill or change his habits in order to avoid being assaulted, don’t -begin- to tell women to do so in order to avoid being raped. Even if you view yourself as a feminist, if you find that you couldn’t imagine giving a man the same advice you feel is necessary to give a woman, you’re slipping into the victim-blaming mindset. All of this “self-defense” talk, if it is useful at all (and I have my doubts), applies equally to every other sort of violent crime (getting blackout drunk, for instance, makes everyone of every gender defenseless to assault, theft, etc; it does not magically make women “get” raped). Pretending otherwise is minimizing what rapists do, no matter what your intentions may be.

      What can women, specifically, do to “defend” themselves against rape, specifically? The only thing I can think of is to not trust anyone. Because we’re way more likely to be raped by someone we know and trust, and all the escorts and self-defense classes in the world won’t stop that from happening.

      • luckyducky

        I don’t agree. Women face a far greater risk for this kind of violent crime (violent crime in general) and it doesn’t do us any favors to ignore that. I go with the “knowledge is power” mantra and knowing the risks accurately helps people make better decisions — whether for themselves or in response to the experience of others. I wouldn’t hesitate to advise a young man who lived in a dangerous neighborhood to consider self defense and other changes in habit but I would advise more young women as a small measure to level of the playing field. Should women be expected to know this? No, it is like saying that everyone should know how to avoid armed robbery. But if you live in a place where armed robbery is a real threat, it makes sense to take additional certain precautions.

        Back to being straight forward about the risk (not pretending men and women face the same risk): if we successfully teach young people – female and male – that rape is most often done by acquaintances and in contexts that are often easily misconstrued by rapists and outsiders, it can help young people avoid those situations (by-stander intervention being one example that is about prevention and, in the best cases, focused on the behavior of the potential offender, not victim) and find the victims more credible (making them less isolated and better supported). Ultimately, this would be in a shift away from rape culture.

        And good self-defense training is as much about avoiding physical altercation as it is how to defending yourself when you need to — trusting your intuition, reading signs, making an escape, etc. Simply being told that it is okay to say “no” and preparing to say it is a big step for many young women. And the training, like a lot of training, is about preparing yourself to do something when under duress — you practice that when you are in that situation you have more courses of action prepared. Not every situation is one that a victim may be able to avoid or extricate herself from and freezing, for example, may still be the best course of action but it is hard to argue in favor of having fewer courses of action.

    • oudiva

      My alma mater tried to deal with this some years ago. A poster began appearing in women’s restrooms on campus, saying, “TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS.” Finer print said something to the effect that, in social situations, if something seems off, it probably is, and you should get out of the situation. A larger poster showed up in the waiting area of the student health service: “AGAINST HER WILL IS AGAINST THE LAW.” No finer print here, except probably the name of the law-enforcement agency that put it up. Addressing both men and women was the right approach; men have to understand that there is NO JUSTIFICATION for rape, period. And women have to be encouraged to be aware of their companions and surroundings. All the talk of “chastity” and “provocative dress” makes the mistake of assuming that rape is about sex. It’s about violent subjugation; sex is just the weapon. Otherwise, why would unattractive women get raped? Why would elderly women get raped? But they do.

  • pagansister

    How do those that blame the “woman” for wearing improper clothing explain that women covered from head to toe get raped also? Clothing and location are not to blame for a woman’s rape. IMO, there is no logical (?) reason for raping a woman. The outdated but still used excuse that women are to blame is outrageous.

    • Maria Lima

      Exactly! And how do you explain native Americans in South America completely naked going around without being raped? Clothes have nothing to do it!

      • Kate

        And if women who live in cultures where it’s common to wear little to no clothing ARE raped, it would still be asinine to blame them for their (near) nudity.

  • Chuhwanglim

    I said few week ago that Patriarchal, a suppressing culture in India cause toward rape and here is someone who is on the same boat. In the past I had an attitude that women should be blamed for being raped, they should avoid sexy dress, avoid hanging out at night, avoid going to pub and so on, I also keep yielding within me that today women fight for the liberation and tomorrow men will fight for their liberation, but I was absolutely wrong. Today I feel that women have ability and rights to go out at night, go to pub, drinks, dress whatever they like; it is men’s attitude that orient what and how women should live, not women who orient themselves how they should live or act; on the other hand I cannot avoid to indicate that majority women themselves willingly and happily live in such culture of suppression for they feel they are secured from other social violence but giving less priority to domestic violence. If such orientalism is avoided in the coming year then there will neither be women nor men fight for their liberation rather there will be both men and women fight together for the freedom of equality in general. I am approaching from mankind theory not from gender theory. Thanks Charlotte Blackburn for sharing the article.

  • sylvia_rachel

    Very good post. Thank you.

    One of the things I find most infuriating is hearing women make these kinds of excuses for rapists — even their own. It wasn’t really rape because …

    I did this myself when I was younger — I did it to myself. I was sexually assaulted when I was 16, by a guy a few years older, in a camp setting. I felt horrible about it, but did I report him to anybody? Did I even run and find a friend to tell? No. Why? Well … I’d led him on, right? I’d spent a couple of evenings talking to this guy. We’d held hands and hugged. A few minutes earlier, I’d let him kiss me. So probably it was my fault, right? And anyway, it could have been worse, right? He’d done this, but he hadn’t done that, right? And I hadn’t fought him off very fiercely, right? (He outweighed me by probably at least 30 kg, by the way.) He’d been holding me down, yes, but I could have got away sooner if I’d fought harder, right?

    This all sounds absurd to me now, 22 years later, but as a smallish, nerdy, inexperienced 16-year-old I found it pretty compelling. And I didn’t tell anyone.

    A few months later, I told a friend from the same group. The main reason I told him, I’m afraid, is that I really liked him, and we were kissing and stuff (see? clearly, slutty behaviour!!), and at a certain point I found it suddenly triggering and started to cry, which required explanation. He reacted in exactly the right way — by immediately stopping and letting me take the lead (or not), being horrified at the other guy’s behaviour, telling me it was NOT MY FAULT AT ALL IN ANY WAY, and offering to beat him up the next time he saw him. (I doubt he would’ve gone through with that last thing, and I certainly don’t condone vigilante violence, but the fact that he so clearly blamed the perpetrator and not the victim was helpful to me psychologically.)

    I later told a few other (female) friends who noticed that I was having emotional issues, and a couple of years after that I told my eventually-husband. But it took many, many years for me to get over the sense of shame and the way-deep-down idea that it was my own damn fault. And if the first person I told had reinforced that feeling, I don’t know if I would ever have told anyone else, or ever gotten over it.

    A few months ago, I had an incredibly frustrating conversation about rape and sexual assault with an older female colleague. This is not a Christian PAtriarchy person — she’s worked most of her life, she’s got a PhD, she’s smart and well read and pretty lefty, actually — but her view basically seemed to be, well, if you’re out late in the dark on your own and wearing sexy clothes … If you’ve had consensual sex with someone before and he has no reason to think you wouldn’t consent this time … If you’ve gone practically all the way, it’s very hard to stop, you know … Of course it’s terrible when someone is raped, but you know a lot of women lie about whether or not they consented ….

    It was very hard to remain civil. Mind you, she has sons and I have a daughter, which may give a different perspective — but honestly!! Ugh.

    • Kristen inDallas

      I know it’s infuriating, but making excuses is one of the few ways to avoid the paralyzxing mindset of the rape-culture. I did this when I was younger, I think a lot of girls do. Thinking it’s not the guys fault, thinking what if that girl is lying, demonizing the woman as a slut or prude or whatever. Because think about it, the alternative is to be scared out of your wits thinking this could happen to YOU, paralyzed by fear and never leaving the house. These girls want to believe they can have freedom, they want to believe they can be equal to men and still be safe. The only way to believe that is to diminish allegations of rape and start the victim blaming. So yes, frustrating…. but I think also ultimately understandable.

  • TKB

    Grappling the topic of rape for the past few years and still grappling with it even presently, I often find myself fascinated with the intersection of rape and court systems. Like most feminists, I consider consent to be the crux of determining whether a case is or is not rape. Denying or confirming that consent from a legal view, I find, is difficult. Verbal consent being what it is, it’s a shaky way to prove any case “beyond reasonable doubt”. Most instances in which someone is charged or against whom a complaint is filed require evidence and/or a strong argument — the judge doesn’t just grant the first motion for summary judgment that reaches her desk. (At least, I hope not.)

    Working in a law firm, documents/exhibits in formal cases usually make for a stronger case than not. Contracts, agreements, promissory notes, what-have-you. Even with internal work disputes, my supervisors have stressed the importance of documenting these conflicts in the event that a situation escalates to a need for disciplinary action.

    This isn’t how most sexual interactions take place. They’re often informal, undocumented, and verbal. Hence, in my mind, this explains why many rape cases boil down to “he said, she said” and turn the court lens on a victim who would prosecute. With the presumption of innocence for a defendant, the burden of proof falls to the prosecution/those who represent the victim. I’m not of the mind that skepticism in and of itself is victim-blaming, but it can easily turn into victim-blaming with an evaluation of the victim’s character, behavior, etc. in an attempt to verify the claim of rape/that the individual did not consent to sex. It’s a distraction and people are quite good at being distracted from the core question of “Did the individual give consent? No? How can the individual prove this?” This contributes to rape culture, but it also highlights what I think is interesting about the presumption of innocence in the context of rape. Should rape be a crime in which burden of proof is placed on the rapist, where the individual must prove they received explicit consent (“Yes is yes” v. “No/Absence of No/Absence of Yes”)?

    Theoretically and broadly speaking, comparing rape to other prosecuted crimes — murder as the deprivation of life, robbery/theft as the deprivation of property, assault as the deprivation of bodily autonomy free from harm, discrimination as deprivation of opportunity — rape is the deprivation of consent and sexual agency. There’s often physical evidence to corroborate a claim (presuming the claim has been questioned) — a body, inventory/stock/receipts, injuries, logs/reviews/surveillance video of work performance. (Not to say that these modes of evidence are always or even usually present.) Lack of consent *can* be evidenced via a rape kit or other bodily/physical evidence as one standard, but even if it shouldn’t be the only standard, what standard do we use instead to back up verbal consent or lack thereof, assuming the only two witnesses are victim and rapist?

    These considerations of due process aside, the biggest hurdle or failing in the U.S. process appears to be the initiation of due process — with disbelief and questioning the validity of the report/claim/victim/definition of rape before it even reaches the court in our rape culture.

    Even presuming rape culture ended, rape would still occur (albeit I would think it’d end up being less frequent) and as such taken seriously and prosecuted — I’m curious as to what the courts would look like in a society where rape-culture ended but still maintained that same presumption of innocence in favor of the defendant?

    Just some thoughts.

    • Kristen inDallas

      Awesome point. I had been thinking about this too, how the innocent until proven guilty trope has led us down this path. I’m a big fan in general of evidence before guilt, but the crucial question is evidence of what. Using an above analogy, if someone steals my car I would need to prove that they have it, and that it’s mine. If they want to counter with a claim that they had permission to use it, THAT burden of proof would fall on them, not me. I don’t understand why we couldn’t prosecute rape like this. The accuser may have to prove that a sexual act occured, that soem boundary was crossed. But if the accused wants to claim he had permission, that should fall on him.

      The objection that gets raised is that it would be “too hard” to prove he had permission and isn’t that unfair? And yeah, there’s a lot of murky, unclear communication in the land of sexual encounters. But that’s not a reason for lax laws, it’s a symptom of the problem. Nobody is unclear about whether or not they can use my car; if they don’t trust me or know me very well and they worry that I’ll change my mind if something unforeseeable happens (like a wreck) then they politely decline the offer. Stronger laws would encourage people to communicate more clearly and be a lot more certain before having sex, just like we make sure we’re certain before joyriding in someone elses car. And that’s not a bad thing.

      • ki sarita

        What you are saying is that every sex act can potentially be prosecuted as rape, because consent is not proveable.
        There are no legal procedures and standard papers involved. The car analogy is not relevant.

      • Anat

        ki sarita, contrast with the current situation where any rapist can claim consent. Currently a woman has a double fear – that she might be raped and that the rapist gets away. By shifting the burden of proof on consent men have an incentive to establish trust before proceeding to sex. Considering the prevalence of date-rape, that can be a good development.

      • ki sarita

        I’d say the law can be improved certainly but not to take away the basic assumptions of defendant rights.

      • Kristen inDallas

        “What you are saying is that every sex act can potentially be prosecuted as rape, because consent is not proveable”

        Yep that’s exactly what I’m saying. I don’t see that as a bad thing, for people (both parties) to think twice about trust before climbing into bed with someone. The difference is that I don’t see this as taking away the presumption of innocence. A sex act still has to be proved. That’s not always an easy task, depending on the circumstances. The presumption I’d change is not one of guilt or innocence, but the presumption that all sex acts are “wanted” unless proved otherwise. And that’s where I think the car analogy IS relevant. We assume the person is innocent of theft UNLESS they are proved to be in possesion of another persons property. However, we don’t presume there was a valid transfer of ownership unless there is proof of that. Why, with sex, do we reverse this and assume permission was given? Either way, it’s tough to prove and either way it’s going to disadvantage somebody. But why do we choose to disadvantage the person who doesn’t want sex, and can’t really do much to avoid being raped, rather than disadvantaging the person who does want sex, in that they might have to refrain from having it when they “aren’t sure about someone?”

  • AE

    Wow. So glad I found your blog.

    I am glad you mentioned in passing the Steubenville, OH rape. Steubenville happens to also be, in addition to a town that is corrupt and idolizes its football players, also a town that is home base to one of the most right wing Catholic movements in America. I went to college there – I knew homeschooled 17 year olds who were “given” as virgin brides to 30 year old men by their fathers, women who said they thought of their C-Sections as holy wounds for motherhood like the wounds of Christ, a “pro-life” doctor who left women’s bodies a mess, and a general obsession with enforcing patriarchal authority, virginity before marriage, etc.

    I am not saying that these people, part of either the Covenant Communities or the Franciscan University community, had anything directly to do with the rape of that girl in the same way the football culture did. But they don’t help, and they create a culture where women are the property of men and authority – male, paternal, and clerical – is absolute. Where to discuss sex honestly or out of their approved context is shamed and repressed. This is the toxic mix that led to the Church sex abuse scandal – authority, fear, shame.

    That this rape happened in Steubenville completely did not shock me. Living there for 4 years and seeing what life without feminism looks like is what made me a feminist. When I left I have never felt so free, though it took me a long time to really feel whole and strong as a woman.

  • Azura

    I agree with all that has been said here. When I was assaulted the three times, none of it was my fault. I’ve had mixed feelings on what to do two of the times. Trigger warning (!!!) for what follows, as I’m going to describe some of the details of what happened.

    The first time I was on a bus the day after a funeral and just a few hours later in the evening than a mall shooting that happened where me and my boyfriend were going to have dinner at and my best friend’s brother was shopping (we changed our plans thank goodness). I was an emotional wreck and hunched over, showing classic victim/submissive behaviour, so I understand why out of all the women on the bus I was chosen. He touched me and I froze in shock. I was terrified and when he came up to me a second time, I chased him off the bus with the ice pick on the bottom of my cane. Not a single soul on that bus helped me, not even the driver that is supposed to. I didn’t want to go to the police because I was wearing a short lolita dress, a corset, platform boots and fishnets. This was in the same neighbourhood and police district as where the comments were made that started the Slut Walk movement, so as much as I knew my clothes made no difference I also knew the police would put me under scrutiny for it. I posted what happened online, and half my friends understood and sympathized, the other half made me very frustrated by suggesting that I go to those police officers and make a report. I have no idea what I should have done, and I felt completely helpless.

    The second time I was skinny dipping at a swinger’s club, and I told him to piss off. He listened to me but pouted every time he saw me for the rest of the evening. His was possibly an accident as he only touched my shoulder and couldn’t have known it was a trigger as shoulders are fairly benign regions for touching. The staff there have been good about making people feel safe, and I had no trouble standing up for myself.

    The third time was a leader of the local kink community. I had known him for 3 years and had played with him once before with my boyfriend present. At this event (at the same club as before actually) I was with a newbie friend and my boyfriend was absent. I consented to being beaten but no penetration or sexual touching. He respected my wishes only until I went into “subspace” (a headspace that varies person to person, but to me ends up with me being very happy, very obedient, and unable to communicate verbally. I basically regress to a childlike stage and get super snuggly). At this point I am unable to consent to anything or stop anything, clearly. This is when he chose to stick his fingers down my throat and order me to suck on them. I had no way of saying no, even though behind my subspace I knew what was happening and wanted it to stop. Then he shoved his tongue in my mouth, finished beating me, and gave the customary cuddles and aftercare. My boyfriend chewed him out when he found out the next morning and the guy apologized (as if I thought he meant it). I have since found out I’m not the only victim of his, from a girl who had no idea of my experience with the man. I have no idea what to do about this either. I clearly can’t call the cops, for even more reasons than the first time, and I don’t want to cause drama amongst the community as he is well liked and he did apologize when it happened (which was a few months ago to boot). Luckily the kink community is very consent oriented and 2 years ago banned a man and his wife for non-consensual activities, but I’m still torn.

    Anyway, my point is that even someone as strong as I am about this sort of thing, who has martial arts training and does everything “right” as far as pre-sex discussions and negotiations go can still have issues. I even find myself thinking “I never said no kissing” or “it’s my fault for not being more explicit” even though I know that is bullshit just because the culture sinks these messages into your head. The other girl the third guy attacked thought an entire abusive relationship with her ex-Master (not the same guy) was her fault because she didn’t “submit” right. All this from a subculture that works really hard to get past this rape culture crap. Unfortunately the subculture is still effected by the mainstream, and the lack of police help makes it impossible for us to do much. Word of mouth and such is all we have, and with the big influx of people from 50 Shades land, we’ve got way too many new people to educate to get at them all with many of them being taught by the books that the abuse is normal and by the culture that it’s their fault for being slutty and/or female.

    /end rant

    • Tyro

      It’s good to hear from someone in the kink community, and doubly so to hear non-penetrative nonconsentual sexual activity brought up as an issue. Thank you for speaking up – I doubt it’s easy for you to talk about, and I want you to know it’s appreciated.

      • Azura

        Thanks! It’s getting easier every time I talk about it, but I do get anger-triggered with the victim blaming crap because there was literally nothing I could have done and being told essentially I must be an idiot for not thinking of some random option that isn’t even a realistic option just makes me rage all over the place. The kink community isn’t immune from this crap as much as we’d like to think we are, and sexual assault can happen with all your clothes on. I’ve had people seem almost let down when I tell them that by sexual assault I mean unwanted sexual contact, not penetrative rape. The assumption is that “oh, well he only touched you” which is a pretty silly and arbitrary line to have. Yes, my genitals were left alone, but that doesn’t really change the sexual nature of what happened.

  • John A

    It is absolutely wrong for anyone to rape or sexually violate anyone man or woman. Rape culture is also male on male just look at prisons where people are vying for power over each other. With the loss of power to feminism men need to find a new place in society. Men cannot have children and in a equal society women hold all of the sexual cards so men in a equal society are in reality inferior to women. Men are still expected to have a job or pay for dates even if the woman is self sufficant. This is the reality. Men have been opting to hyper-masculinity in response such as modern gun culture,violent video games and hard core porn in response. This is the wrong approach. But I do not know what the right approach is. We must find a place for men in this new society that makes them equal to women otherwise problems will continue to occur.

    • Paula G V aka Yukimi

      Men still have more power in society nowadays unless you live in another planet (for example pay gap or all the things Libby Anne has been pointing) and the stereotypes you are talking about are only that stereotypes that we can eliminate and aren’t universal in any sense (for example when I started dating my boyfriend at 14 we divided all expenses and he was 4 years older than me and had more money; in Japan girls and women give chocolate in Valentine’s day and typically confess to guys instead of the guy asking her, …) but anyway, so men earn more money on average for the same position, are more respected, believed, promoted, … but some of them oh have to pay for a dinner after they decided on the place and can’t force women to have sex on demand or have garanteed sex after they’ve paid for dinner, the horror… /End rant

      • John A

        You read quite a bit into my post that was not there. With men increasingly loosing power they need a new role in society. This must be provided or men will languish and power struggles will ensue leading away from equality instead of toward it.

      • Anat

        to John A: Why? Why does there have to be a role that is unique to men? Why not just many different roles that everyone can choose from? Men are not losing power, they are losing privilege, which they never should have had in the first place.

    • luckyducky

      The problem with this construct is that it views the power dynamic as a zero-sum game: power as control over *other* people as opposed to power to achieve one’s *own* aims or potential or however you conceptualize it. When you insist on seeing feminism as the loss for men — and it is loss of men’s control over women — it is very difficult to see how it is not a bad deal for men even if one is willing to make the sacrifice.

      On the other hand, when you see feminism as an expansion of power in the form of self determination, it is not a loss for men and not a sacrifice to be made, or at least not one that isn’t outweighed by the rewards, because men gain when their fellow human beings’ condition improve. Men’s condition improve and options expand as women are increasingly equal.

      The evidence: general prosperity is greatest in societies where the genders are closest to equal and investing in educating and increasing the economic opportunities for women is consistently the most effective form of community development — and men are not made destitute in the process, they share in the growth.

      • John A

        To Anat.

        Because men and women are biologically different.

        A equal society is the best thing but there are realities to this.

        1. Women control having a child and the access to sexual function for a straight couple.

        2. Women can choose to abort a baby or not to after contraception but a man after contraception cannot choose not to be a father. Granted the woman has more to lose since they have to grow the baby.

        3. Men are still looked at by women as providers not as partners hence why men have to pay for dates,propose, are looked down upon even by feminists if they make less money than a women etc…

        So their can be no true equality. The closest we can come is everyone should have access to the same jobs and opportunities for the same pay and be able to vote.

        The reality is men think and act differently than women and will need to find a new place besides seeking power which had been our thinking for thousands of years. Without a place to look forward to in this new society men will fight against it. That is not a good thing but it is the truth.

      • John A

        “and men are not made destitute in the process, they share in the growth.”

        Not totally true now a couple cannot live on one income so it hurts single partents with excess people in the work force.

        It is better than women not having a choice but it is not all roses and puppies because of equality.

      • luckyducky

        Equity when it comes to gender is not sameness — it is not having opportunities and rights determined by gender. When we get to that point… we’ll talk.

        Your comment illustrates my point. I tried to explain that when see feminism as the expansion of *self* determination — which requires acknowledging the disproportionate burden women bear when it comes to child bearing both out of biological necessity and convention and how men’s control over reproduction has long been a means of depriving women of self determination. You return to the issue men losing of control of women via loss of control over reproduction.

        And, for goodness sake, I feel sorry for you if your sexual relationships are characterized by who controls access to sexual function as you put it. I can’t say it I am any sort of expert but I hope fervently that my husband doesn’t see me as gatekeeper when it comes to sex or, well, anything else when it comes to our married life.

        Finally, your understanding of wage dynamics is lacking. The trend toward wage stagnation (necessitating 2-income families to maintain a standard of living) led rather than followed the increase of the proportion of women in the workforce and has a lot to do with the decline of the labor movement. In other words, wage stagnation for men *drove* more women to enter the workforce in order to forestall a decline in the (relative) standard of living for their families rather that the other way around.

      • Anat

        Equality is possible and the evidence is that there are many people living it. You are not required to be the one who initiates and pays – you can take turns. And just on this very blog we are discussing how we don’t care who among a couple makes more money.

        Also, what the hell do you mean by ‘Women control having a child and the access to sexual function for a straight couple.’? Either partner can object to sex and expect their ‘no’ to be listened to and either partner can use contraception (though it is better for the relationship to have an open discussion about a serious decision such as having a child).

        As for the rest, I agree with luckyducky.

    • shadowspring

      “2. Women can choose to abort a baby or not to after contraception but a man after contraception cannot choose not to be a father. Granted the woman has more to lose since they have to grow the baby.”

      Plenty of men choose not to be fathers! We call them deadbeat dads. They’re everywhere.

  • John Taylor

    Rape is “permitted” by courts and police in a rape culture where blaming the victim is a big part of the defense. The above article correctly points out that this is to keep women “in their place” as second class citizens.
    What it fails to mention and a very important part of the picture is that in every culture where women are disadvantaged, the end result is an impoverished population with an ultra rich elite in control. This pattern is well known by the ultra rich and is a very big part of why religions, governments and business demote women to subservient roles.

    Rape is part of controlling women.
    Controlling women is part of controlling the population.
    Controlling the population is how a few become rich at the expense of the many.

  • Christina

    It would seem that there are two issues that are being combined to make one look bad. There is a prudential recognition of reality and oppression of women using threats.

    Prudence looks at reality and makes decisions accordingly. Women are by nature weaker then men, even in the best culture there would still be evil men who would want to rape a woman. Ergo, women should take necessary precautions not to put themselves in dangerous situations. As a woman, I’m not going to walk through SE DC. I’m not going to go to parties and drink unless I know and trust the people. I’m going to learn to differentiate between good people and bad and learn to pay attention to that intuition that tells me when something is wrong. I’m going to learn self-defense and try to develop a good network of friends. I’m going to hold a high standard for my sexual partner such that they will need to marry me before they receive anything. This is all common sense, prudence, and NOT blaming the victim.

    Blaming the victim is when something goes wrong and you choose to accuse her of a crime rather than those who committed the crime. She may have made a bad prudential decision, she may have done everything right, but either way she is NOT the one who should be torn apart in court. In this way the chastity culture helps because if a woman is dedicated to being chaste and her friends and family know it, the burden of proof is on the man.

    The rape culture we suffer from is this idiotic idea that every man is going to be a noble gentleman and a woman doesn’t need prudence in her actions. It encourages women to “fight the patriarchal ideas” that women are weaker by placing themselves in dangerous situations. This is not healthy or good.

    • Sara

      Well, women can still be raped by their husband so your “being chaste is best” defense goes flying out the window, doesn’t it? In fact, stranger rape isn’t actually as common as people think. Most rape victims are in fact raped by husbands, boyfriends or trusted friends. You’re feeding into the rape culture by presuming that chastity or saving yourself for marriage will somehow magically ensure that you won’t be victimized. And not all women are weaker than all men. That’s another false presumption.

    • Kodie

      How is it not blaming the victim if not getting raped is both out of her control and her entire responsibility?

      Secondly, even if we allow, for arguments’ sake, that only imprudent women get raped, well that’s certainly blaming the woman for not being prudent and not blaming the man for not being able to help himself or have any regard to women. The rape culture excuses men for raping women who were as you call it imprudent. Like, if a woman doesn’t save herself for marriage, that’s her fault she got raped. If a woman has a drink with a man in his room and passes out, he is allowed to rape her.

      You kind of make me sick.

    • Anat

      Rape culture is a culture where men get away with rape because they raped a woman who was ‘imprudent’. I agree with Kodie, you have some sickening ideas in that post.

    • ki sarita

      certainly people should be prudent. People should be prudent and take measures to protect themself from rape as well as other crimes like theft, burglary, and so forth. however if i forgot to lock my door one day, does this absolve the thief?
      Whats more, the measures that women are expected out of routine “prudence” are far more extensive than any protections people are expected to take against any other crime. The solution to rape is not more “prudence” ie women having to take measures that further and further restrict their lives, whether it mean going to particular neighborhoods that you might have a reason to be in (your example), whether it means a much higher trust threshold for being able to make friends, and the list goes on.
      BTW let me point out the classism inherent in your statement. So, it’s your responsibility not to walk in a certain neighborhood? Huh? What if you LIVED in that neighborhood? As if no women already live in those neighborhoods??? Oh I forget lower class women can’t get raped. They are all prostituttes anyway. And they certainly can’t be participating on this blog for their experiences to count. Why, they can probably barely sign their names to pick up their welfare. Dainty women who need to be protected are all white and wealthy.

    • ako

      Chastity culture is rape culture. Your comment is actually a perfect illustration of why. You’re not just choosing to avoid certain neighborhoods, not have sex until marriage, etc., you’re trying to spin those restrictions into a virtue, and scare other women into following along. And for that, you need rape. You need rape and victim-blaming so you can lecture us all about “prudence” and tell us we should embrace the same restrictions you’ve chosen to place on yourself. Without the threat of rape, the arguments for embracing the particular set of behavioral restrictions called chastity are 1) religious claims (which not everyone agrees on) and 2) positive benefits (which leave the other person in a position to legitimately go “It doesn’t actually make me happier, so I’d rather not”). The power behind chastity culture is rape.

      And chastity culture (aka rape culture) is why rape victims get torn apart by the court. Chastity/rape culture brings in the whole question of whether the victim was chaste or not, which provides the defense with the opportunity to pick over every aspect of her behavior. In chastity culture, a woman first has to prove chastity, then prove rape. In a feminist culture, there’s no reason to shred her over what she wears or how much she had to drink or how far she went in bed with previous boyfriends, because none of that is relevant to the question of whether or not she was raped.

      (Also, I suggest the book The Dark End of the Street for a informative and horrifying lesson in how a society that claims to value chastity designated some women as Not Chaste by definition due to the color of their skin, and even following the behavioral rules, they couldn’t get safety or justice.)

    • Nea

      Other people have pointed out how this comment is an excellent proof of the original post’s argument, so I’m going to chime in with this:

      Stop. Calling. Women. Weak.

      *Individual women* may be smaller and weaker than *individual men.* But in a world where women have always been farmers and (in some cultures) fighters, in culture where women today are police, firefighters, sports champions, soldiers, and more, women are not WEAK!

      It’s part and parcel of victim blaming to repeat over and over that the victim needs special precautions and protections. “Women are by nature weaker than men” is no more true of an entire gender than it is true to say that “women by nature are bad at math” or “women by nature are bad drivers” or “women by nature cannot compete in business,” etc., etc.

    • Rosa

      Wow, that specific example (SE DC) is not just sexist and classist, it’s intensely racist.

      I walked through SE DC. All by myself! I was going to the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum. I wasn’t raped. It wasn’t luck – most of the people who live in in Anacostia are not rapists!

      Lots of women live in SE DC. I’m sure they’d appreciate if it were safer – nobody loves living in a high-crime area, and certainly nobody loves living in an area where slumlords don’t do much about unsafe housing, either. But they are not “imprudent” or “unchaste” because of living there. It’s an old, deeply rooted community where people have deep family ties and long histories.

  • kalimsaki

    Included in human nature is an intense love of immortality. Even,because of his power of imagination, man fancies a sort of immortality ineverything he loves. He cries out from the depths of his being whenever hethinks of or sees their passing. All lamentations at separation are expressions of the weeping caused by love of immortality. If therewere no imagined immortality, there would be no love. It might even besaid that the intense desire for immortality arising from that passionatelove of immortality, and from the spontaneous general prayer forimmortality, is a reason for the existence of the eternal realm andeverlasting Paradise. The Eternal One of Glory accepted man’s
    intense,unshakeable, innate desire and his powerful, effective, general prayer, forHe created an eternal realm for him, a transient being.

    From Risalei Nur collection by Said Nursi.

  • leiranella

    I am sorry, but the article I actually wanted to comment is ““It’s just common sense” versus “Victim blaming”” where I just can’t find the Leave a Comment part.
    Anyway I just wanted to say that I think the analogy between theft and rape is not strong enough. I think, it should be that you shouldn’t buy an expensive car because that attracts thieves.
    Just like the others:
    You shouldn’t move to a bad part of town.
    You shouldn’t use the internet.

  • OH

    I condemn all weak men and the bullsh– they believe that keeps them weak, refusing to improve themself and blaming the women for not being attracted, refusing to get help with their insecurity, and the society bullsh– that makes it hard to find good help with insecurity and whatever happend in their childhood that gave them the idea to be a psycho and not deal with it and get well. A society that enforces chastity is weak, let people decide, let people have their fun, dont be jealous. A filthy drunken bum has as much right to practice what is right for them as a priest has a right to pray, so long as you respect the rights of others. Krishna said the society is doomed that doesnt respect women and grant special respect to women who are outspoken, and Krishna told Arjuna to shoot a man down cold-blooded without warrior ethics because that man had called a woman a whore who had more than one husband. India wont get to keep all their religious wisdom if the religious leaders wont defend the truth.

  • True Feminist

    When we refuse to obey God, we bring evil upon ourselves. My rape story :

    • M

      I’m sorry you were raped. It wasn’t your fault. What you were wearing didn’t cause your rape. What you drank, if anything, didn’t cause your rape. “Refusing to obey God” didn’t cause your rape. There is only one thing that caused your rape: a rapist. Please, see a therapist or find a support group (most cities have Rape Crisis Centers that have free support). Don’t take the blame on yourself; it isn’t yours.

      • Eamon Knight

        Oh god, there’s some crazy shit at that blog. Yeah, OH needs help.