In the spirit of our in class discussion, I wanted to revisit this question that is omnipresent in all discourse surrounding rape and sexual violence. In reading and discussing the articles in the DP, we found a myriad of anecdotal evidence to attest to the fact that both parties are not quite sure what constitutes consent. This is obviously problematic given that it directly contributes to the murky nature of defining rape. If rape is sex absent of consent, how do we define rape without first defining consent? Many factors contribute to our confusion. The microcosm that is the college campus filled with drinking, drugs, and partying only contribute to the complexity. I identify myself as a straight female on campus. Having heard many anecdotes from my peers—and perhaps this is an unpopular and bold opinion to voice—I would bet that every female on campus who is looking to date around and interested in partying with guys has found herself in a pressured situation alone with a man. This is perhaps too bold, but what I mean by pressured situation, I mean that at one point she felt uncomfortable, unsure or even scared at wanting to leave or needed to reject the male present. Many times we assume that we were the ones who followed whoever to their rooms, and therefore we “owe” a certain courtesy to stay or humor a man. Leaving does not seem like an easy option. I cannot begin to truly define consent, as I am personally unsure what roles drugs and drinking play in the scary web of blurred lines. However, I can say that one step towards improving the astounding statistics about sexual assault in the articles is to remove the stigma from simply “leaving.” Remove the assumption and remove the expectations. These can be innocent thoughts, as they are often not rooted in action or violence. However, I believe anybody should truly feel no inhibitions in walking out of a situation.
When women are intoxicated, for what are they responsible? More specifically, are they responsible for their actions when they have a drunken sexual encounter? Many girls and women alike have reported cases of rape after a night of “blacking out.” Perhaps Urban Dictionary can define the phenomena best, in a way that it is known to the population: “when one consumes so much of a substance (typically alcohol) that one cannot remember one’s actions at a later time, be it later in the night or the morning after.” While blacked out, these women have been sexually assaulted or raped, and have little to no recollection of the experience but have proof of sexual assault, whether physical signs or, in some cases, documented proof. The accused male claims that the female gave consent at the time, but she has no memory of that situation. Is drunken consent actually consent? I believe that if a girl can remember her actions, she is responsible for them. If she is foolishly intoxicated to the point where she cannot function properly (i.e. remember her actions), it is easy to believe that someone could advantage of her. Some state laws agree, such as California’s, which says if “intoxication by alcohol or drugs impaired the victim’s ability to consent,” (statelaws.com) the sexual encounter is considered rape. Other states see it differently, saying that a lack of consent only occurs in certain situations, one of which is “mentally incapacitated.” This could only occur if the victim was intoxicated under a substance “administered to [them] without [their] consent, or to any other act committed upon [them] without [their] consent.” So, if a girl in New York got drunk upon her own decision and was raped, she would be less likely to win the case. In this way, the lines of consent are blurred and consent becomes a more disputed topic, with many states variating their definitions of sexual consent under the influence of alcohol. The fact that the qualifications for rape is debated is proof enough that our society is not a society that has the same morals; rather, the society that we live in is one that “condones and celebrates rape.” (hooks, 109).
hooks, b. “Seduced by Violence No More.” Outlaw Culture. New York: Routledge, 1994. Print.;
Username: -___________-. “4. Blacking out.” Urban Dictionary. Urban Dictionary, 10 Jan. 2008. Web. 28 Oct. 2013. <http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=blacking%20out>.;
“California Rape Laws.” Findlaw. Thomson Reuters, n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2013. <http://statelaws.findlaw.com/california-law/california-rape-laws.html>.;
“New York Laws.” Article 130. YPDCrime.com, n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2013. <http://ypdcrime.com/penal.law/article130.htm>.
Rape culture is pervasive in our society, disproportionately affecting women. Women are sexually objectified, yet blamed for being sexually assaulted. Every 2 minutes, someone in the US is sexually assaulted. 9 out of 10 rape victims are women, but rape is not considered a serious issue by many. How many times have you heard “she was asking for it” or “girls shouldn’t wear this; it will distract the boys”? A woman is blamed for inviting rape when she flirts with others or dresses skimpily, when the blame should be on those who rape. All of this feeds into and is caused by the toxic rape culture.
Everyone should care about rape culture, whether it directly affects us or not. As Bell Hooks says, “Without a doubt, our collective, conscious refusal to act in any way that would make us complicit in the perpetuation of rape culture… would undermine the structure.” Attitudes toward rape and behaviors such as slut shaming and victim blaming are often taught to us by the people we observe and the media we consume. We need to speak out against rape culture. We are all responsible for our unintentional contributions to it, and we are all responsible for rejecting the rape culture mindset embedded in our society and ourselves.
Hooks, Bell. “Seduced By Violence No More.” Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations. New York: Routledge, 1994. 109-13. Print.
“Statistics.” RAINN | Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. RAINN, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2013.
This youtube video from a recent poetry competition has been gaining popularity on social networking sites. The video features contestant Pages Matam, who composes a poem all in reaction to a single sexist comment he overheard from a man on the bus one day. The comment was simply, “You are too ugly to be raped.” This one comment struck his attention because it’s almost as if to say by looking a certain way, a person is asking to be raped. He goes on to describe the pain and helplessness of the many victims he’s known in his lifetime. In a culture where rape and sexual harassment are often a part of an unequal, sexist, exploitative relationship between men and women (Hooks 109), Matam also makes a point to mention boys as victims of rape as well as girls. Girls are generally the expected victims, but Matam mentions young people of both genders in his impassioned speech. Regardless of age and gender, his poem brings shame to anyone who dares suggest that rape was warranted by physical appearance and he moves the crowd with his heartfelt descriptions of the torment victims feel when they are not given the right to consent.
Hooks, Bell. “Seduced by Violence No More.” Outlaw Culture. New York: Routledge, 1994.
On October 4th, an Indian girl was gang raped, set on fire, then died later in the hospital from severe burns. In an ideal world, all members of society would be responsible for each other and their actions, and this 13-year-old girl would never have been violently assaulted because her rapists would have held each other accountable, as would her parents, the police, their family, their neighbors, etcetera.
Unfortunately, reality demonstrates the impossibility of making sure that everyone plays by the same societal, humane, and moral rules. Taking this into consideration, it seems that the most logical and successful way to dole out responsibility would be for everyone to be responsible for only one person: oneself. However, what happens when a rapist refuses to be responsible for the damaging effects of his own actions? What happens when a girl is too young and naïve to be responsible for her own personal safety? I struggle with finding a solution that doesn’t involve multiple exceptions, contradictions, or unrealistic expectations from individuals or groups of people.
Still, as Susan Bordo notes, one of the most powerful normalizing mechanics in our society is “insuring the production of self-monitoring and self-disciplining” (Bordo 186). In other words, it is our responsibility to conduct ourselves in a disciplined manner to the best of our abilities, but in my opinion, we shouldn’t take it so literally as to ignore community responsibility for the well being of others. Maybe if this balance of responsibility had been achieved, this poor girl wouldn’t have had to suffer. More importantly, is it even possible for such responsibility to ever be balanced?
Bordo, Susan. “Reading the Slender Body.” Unbearable Weight. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. 185-212. Print.
Singal, Jesse, and Melanie Eversley. “Indian Girl Dies After Being Raped, Set On Fire.” USA Today. Gannett, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2013.
Consent is easy to define as a notion, but is sometimes difficult to understand and respect in practice. Consent can mean verbal permission, but can also encompass more than simply yes or no. In Yes Means Yes, Rachel Kramer Bussel argues for a higher standard of consent. Specifically, she contends that it does not suffice to only know whether or not your partner wants to engage in sexual intercourse, but consent must include an understanding of why and what kind of sex.
Having a serious discussion about consent is important. In a society that, according to Bell Hooks, condones and celebrates rape, setting boundaries helps to safeguard individual autonomy. These boundaries, however, become nebulous when different communities define consent in different ways. Recently, Antioch College adopted a rule that defines consent in a highly explicit way. Although consent defined as a formality may sometimes serve to set clearer guidelines and prevent unwanted sexual encounters, I would make the case that it is generally harmful.
First and foremost, arguing for a more explicit version of consent reduces consent to verbal permission. This approach fails to account for the subtle nuances for which Kramer Bussel argues. As opposed to advocating for such a strict policy as this one, Antioch should have adopted a policy that compels students to openly share their sexual expectations during sexual encounters. Secondly, a policy of soliciting explicit consent sterilizes the sexual process, an experience that ought to be organic and enjoyable.
Hooks, Bell. “Seduced By Violence No More.” Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations. New York: Routledge, 1994. N. pag. Print.
Rachel Kramer Bussel. “Beyond Yes or No: Consent as Sexual Process.” From Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti. Seal Press: New York, 2008.
I spent my break in San Francisco and couldn’t help but notice the city’s street art and advertisements that touch on gender-related issues. In one advertisement that captured my attention, we see a young boy on a marionette with the words “Gender Oppression” alongside him. The scene depicted in the ad seems to suggest that gender roles are inherently oppressive and even destructive. Authors Patricia Hill-Collins and Wan-Hsiu Sunny Tsai second this notion in making the case that gender expectations oppress us by creating narrow visions of what it means to be a man, woman, heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual individual. This narrow vision, they believe, creates a hostile environment in which individuals who don’t meet a particular set of high standards are considered abnormal and consequently, ostracized. I, on the other hand, tend to see a more nuanced picture when it comes to gauging the merits of gender expectations. Gender sets codes of conduct that can sometimes contribute to both efficiency and a more pleasant society. Etiquette such as men ought to hold the door for women and men ought to exhibit their strength in bed are two examples of socially constructed gender roles that one might consider pleasant. Arguing that the same forces contribute to a culture of rape and sexual violence is a long shot and constitutes an overly pessimistic outlook that proper etiquette must be abolished in our hope to abolish gender violence.
Hill-Collis, Patricia. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender and the New Racism. New York: Routledge, 2005.
Wan-Hsiu Sunny Tsai. “Assimilating the Queers: Representations of Lesbians, Gay Men, Bisexual, and Transgender People in Mainstream Advertising.” Advertising & Society Review 11, no. 1. 2010.