I’ve just read Sali Hughes’ piece in The Pool about the recent New Yorker magazine cover in which thirty five women who claim to have been drugged and raped by Bill Cosby are pictured, next to an empty chair which stands for the eleven women who are still too frightened to be photographed, despite also having been attacked by Cosby. The chair also stands for every other unacknowledged rape victim in the world.
It’s a powerful piece of writing.
It’s also really distressing.
The most distressing thing for me, is not what Cosby has done, although that’s sickening enough. It is the responses from people on social media about the article that make me despair. It shows me that many people feel that the victims are the ones in the wrong. It shows me that we are still living in a world where many people still think the best thing a woman can do in these circumstances is become invisible and stay invisible. It shows me that many people still think that it is a woman’s fault if she gets raped.
It saddens me that I am writing about this subject again. Only a few months ago I found myself writing about rape culture in response to the Bombay bus rapist’s comments. How tragic that in a different country, one that perhaps thinks of itself as ‘better educated’ than its Indian counterpart, the same stupid, ignorant, ill educated sentences spill forth from people’s mouths.
It shows me that somewhere we are failing our children, both girls and boys, if we don’t challenge this, if we don’t educate our children to think differently. Here’s what I will be saying to my children on the subject:
Rape is NEVER acceptable, under any circumstances whatsoever.
Rape is about forcing someone else to do your will without any thought or care for the welfare of the other person/s involved.
Rape is about brutalising someone inside and out, mentally and physically so that the rapist can feel good about themselves for a few sordid moments, at the expense of a lifetime of vulnerability and distress for their victim/s.
Rape is NEVER the victim’s fault. It doesn’t matter if the victim wore skimpy clothes or a snowsuit. It doesn’t matter if the rapist thought the victim was too fat or too thin, too ugly or too beautiful, too loud or too quiet. It doesn’t matter if the rapist decided that the victim was asking for it. It doesn’t matter if the victim was on the wrong side of town, or drunk. It doesn’t matter if the rapist was married to the victim.
It doesn’t matter what the excuse is. It matters that the reasons are excuses. It matters that the reasons are excuses which only go further towards disempowering women and heap further indignities on women who have already been brutalised enough. It matters that the excuses allow the twin crimes of sexual violence against women, and the demanding of their silence and compliance in this matter to flourish.
A culture which blames women for the fact that men cannot exercise self control over their own sexual appetites is a culture which perpetuates a male sense of entitlement when it comes to the use and ownership of a woman’s body and mind.
A woman is NEVER the toy, belonging, object, slave, whipping girl of a man.
I didn’t think I’d have to point out that the culture of sexual violence against the innocent and the demands of silent compliance to that cultural demand are exactly the same reasons why the hideous crimes against children which are only now being uncovered in all areas of society were allowed to flourish for so long. It seems I might have to draw parallels however, as too many people clearly think these things are different. Don’t fuck children and keep quiet about it. That’s naughty. It’s alright if you fuck women though. They’re tough enough to look after themselves. Is that it?
Consent, freely given and given in the full knowledge of what is being asked is the only grounds on which any form of sexual activity should be entered into.
If you are in any doubt whatsoever about the other person’s feelings about what they are about to do, or what they are being asked, it is better to stop until they are sure, one way or the other. If this inconveniences you, then hard luck.
Nobody is ever ‘asking for it.’
Nobody ‘deserves’ to be raped, or have any form of sexual violence enacted upon their person.
Sex should be joyous, free and consensual. It should be exciting. It should be about shared vulnerability and about making something bigger and better than what is physically happening. It should be a celebration with someone you care about.
Sex should never been shameful. It should never be about exerting power over someone else (unless, you have both agreed that this is what you would like to do, obviously). It should never be about making someone else feel small, worthless or insignificance. It should never be about breaking someone, physically or mentally.
Sex should be an act of mutual respect between people who want to experience pleasure together.
It should be something you’d be pretty pleased to admit to in public. It should never be something you have to hide from people. It should never be something to fear.
Rape is beneath you.
I don’t really want to know the finer details of your sex lives, when you get them, my darling children, just as I’m sure you don’t want to know the details of mine.
Just make me proud when you bring home your boyfriends and girlfriends by loving them in the most respectful, adorable way you can. Make me blush by being able to shout your good fortune at finally having figured out sex from the rooftops. Make me have to stick my fingers in my ears because I’m too old and prudish to know the details of your swinging from the chandeliers with the objects of your affection.
Love people as you would wish to be loved. Respect people as you would wish to be respected. Cherish people as you would wish to be cherished, and never, ever take pleasure in the powerlessness of other people in the face of your own power. Never abuse your position in life. Never hurt other people to make yourself feel better.