This is my last post on this ghastly topic. In the first, I said that I agreed with the feminist party line that rape is caused purely by the addition of a rapist. In the second, both in the comments and the post, I said I really struggle with the idea that no woman could be held even a little bit responsible. Primarily this was because of my close relationship with a rape victim. It seemed to me that if I said that a woman who was getting drunk and frisky with total strangers had the same total lack of fault as child who was raped (my friend) then I was somehow cheapening the horror and misery that latter felt.
While I rationally accepted the obvious truth that rape is cause by the addition of a rapist (something that did not seem so obvious to me a few years ago), I found this statement emotionally disturbing, and I wasn’t sure why. So, post three was an attempt to explore my feelings about it. I found two reasons to be disturbed. The first was I had a lot of hate toward women when I was young man. Though I never acted on these feelings, to accept that rape is just as evil towards a drunken, promiscuously dressed woman as it is towards a child, meant I had to look at my feelings in high school and college about my peers, not as the reasonable thoughts of frustrated young man, but as something profoundly unhealthy.
The other reason was the safety and security of my daughter. Obviously, I had some unhealthy views about sex, love, and sexual roles. I picked these views up in the malaise of church, camp, campus, books, and “positive Christian radio”. I want my daughter to grew up healthy, strong, and, above all, free. I want her to love freedom. Free speech, free press, free trade, freedom of religion. These are the things I believe in. They bring me joy, and if I can only communicate one thing to her in my life it would be “Freedom is worth fighting for.” Yet, having been the first trusted male for several rape victims. I have heard about rape to a detail I could have never imagined, and I am terrified of teaching my daughter to believe something that could hurt her the way some of my beliefs hurt me.
So I arrive at my answer: Rape victims are to blame for rape in exactly the way that soldiers are responsible for their injuries. Right now my good friend Paul is “down range”. He volunteered to join the Air Force. He volunteered to go on the very dangerous mission he is on. No one forced him to join. No one forced him to go on this mission. If he gets shot, it will happen at the end of chain of decisions for which there can be no one to blame but him. Yet, if he gets shot my thought will not be “Well, he was asking for it.” Or, “Well of course, he got shot, wearing a US uniform in a place like that.” Or “Well, a nice guy would not have been in that village with an M4 in the first place.”
It all boils down to reasonable expectation. You see, I joined for a lot of reasons. I was broke, I was tired of fighting the bad guys and never winning (we belonged to an inner city church). I was facing my fears. There were a hundred reasons I joined, but in the end I joined to fight this misguided war on terror for one reason: So my daughter wouldn’t have too. I made a decision about “reasonable expectation”.
The US has a reasonable expectation of acts of terror. They are people out there who hate us. Regardless of whether their motivation has merit, their methods are horrific. I volunteered for the Air Force during a war, a war that will never truly end. I volunteered to endanger my life for an ideal, the ideal that terror should never be a reasonable expectation.
We fight for rights by using them. We fight for freedom of speech by speaking freely. The day we say “I’m not going to say that, I’m afraid of what the government might do” we have lost our free speech, regardless of what a old piece of parchment under glass in Washington says. Couldn’t we blame Martin Luther King for his assassination? He could have stayed at home. He could have stayed quiet. But instead he fought for his right to free speech by speaking up. He fought for his right to peacefully assemble by peacefully assembling. He got shot because he stood up and said “Hate is not a reasonable exception.”
Rape is not a reasonable expectation. No matter what the statistics say, no matter how many lives are destroyed, no matter what, it is never a reasonable expectation. We fight for the right of people to dress how they like, speak how they like, and act how they like without fear acts of hate by dressing how we like, speaking how we like and acting how we like regardless of the consequences.
I joined the Air Force because I believed that planes full of innocents crashing into buildings was not a reasonable expectation. This life style choice is a risk, but I believe in this ideal so much, I will risk my life for it. For the belief that rape is not a reasonable expectation I will believe things that put my daughter at risk, because I would rather have her live a life of danger and freedom than cower in fearful security.
Why is this subject so important to me? Why do I need to have an opinion on this? First, to redeem my past. As I said before, I have never raped anyone, not by even the least coercive definition. I never felt the desire to do so, but I did share one common thought with rapists: I hated women because of how much power they had in comparison to me. I would submerge my identity to be with a woman. I would change my vocabulary, my clothes, my hair. Anything just to be seen with a woman, yet no woman would equally debase herself to be with me. I hated myself for being so desperate and empty and I transferred this hate to women.
Christian life reinforced these outlooks in a lot of ways. Women were the “weaker vessel,” fragile, emotional creatures, who could not be trusted to make important decisions, which is a backwards way of saying they could not be held as accountable as a man for their behavior. This and the tyranny of love. Young adulthood is a time to understand love and sex. I remember so many ex-couples where the girl broke up with the guy and really wanted to be friends afterword. Getting a mix tape of Micheal W Smith’s “Friends” was not unusual.
Packing up the dreams God planted
In the fertile soil of you
Can’t believe the hopes he’s granted
Means a chapter in your life is through
But we’ll keep you close as always
It won’t even seem you’ve gone
cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong
And friends are friends forever
If the lord’s the lord of them
And a friend will not say never
cause the welcome will not end
Though its hard to let you go
In the father’s hands we know
That a lifetimes not too long to live as friends.
With the faith and love god’s given
Springing from the hope we know
We will pray the joy you’ll live in
Is the strength that now you show
But we’ll keep you close as always
It wont even seem you’ve gone
cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong
Do you see what I mean the tyranny of love? My god, who could do that? No pain of loss was great enough. No hope of a different kind of love could hurt enough. Nothing could hurt enough to end it. You just had to just keep suffering, pretending that everything was OK. This was the “love” that my female peers spoke off. This too contributed to my hate.
Further, from home and a little bit from the Christian culture, I had picked up the idea that women were not as sexual as men. “Women act like they want sex to get love, men act like they want love to get sex” was never said from the pulpit, but as a viewpoint, it pervaded the churches, camps, and college I went to. To have this incredible need from someone and have them have no need of it themselves felt so unfair. Imagine you are dying of thirst, and you crawl up to a person sitting on a 55 gallon drum of ice water. “No, you can’t have any. You’re all icky and thirsty.” You’d be pretty mad.
Again, the Christian culture shares some blame here, because if I could have just had a girlfriend and gotten laid, I probably would have calmed down with the hate quite a bit. But Christianity told me that the only acceptable way to desire sex was to want a wife. So every female friend I had was the future Mrs. Ronin Truthwalker. Every issue was huge. I could never just enjoy a young women for who she was. No, I had be weighing her character for fitness as the mother of my children. This is not conducive to good friendships, which made me feel hurt and betrayed a lot. Which again, increased the hate.
This hate I used to feel is the first reason this subject is so personal and important to me.
The second reason is my daughter. I don’t want her to grow up the way I did with these really stupid ideas about sex, love, and male and female roles in society, because ideas take people places, and those aren’t places I want her to have to go. A person’s ideas about rape are sort of a litmus test for what they think of women. If a person thinks that rape is not as serious a crime when the women was dressed suggestively that person is saying “It’s OK to harm women if they don’t look like nice women.” Which then says “Nice women either don’t like sex or don’t look like they do.” Which then says “It’s OK for guys to like sex, but not for women too.” Like I said, ideas take people places and I don’t want my daughter to go the places those ideas take people and I don’t ever want to go back myself.
I want my daughter to be free and strong. I want her to believe that rape should never be a reasonable expectation. At the same time, I don’t want her to believe an idea that puts her at risk. I’ll finish the rest of this later. This is just why this is important to me. I’ll give my conclusion later.
In my earlier post about rape I mentioned the Christian/Conservative/patriarchal party line as my starting point, my beliefs in high school. I explained why I felt this view was wrong, and I agreed more or less with the feminist party line. That post climbed up over 1000 words and I quit, saving the second half for another day. This is the half where I admit thought I agree with my own conclusion, I am concerned by the direction society has taken in response to the tension between these two view points.
For some reason, women trust me. They tell me things they would not tell other men in their life, and this contributes greatly to my disillusionment with Christianity. Being a fundamentalist home schooler, my high school was the kitchen table, and not a lot of sexual coming of age happened there. The place that “grew me up” was my job at East Iowa Bible Camp. A busy lifeguard, I sat stone still, watching my grossly over crowded pool carefully. There was room for two my stand, and to make sure I didn’t miss anyone, I didn’t talk. I just listened.
Girl after girl sat on my stand with me. Enjoying the comfortable silence for a time, and then beginning to talk. And they told of their rapes. I don’t remember the numbers anymore, just that it was more than half. These beautiful young women, with their shining eyes and easy smiles had been raped. So many of them had been raped. They were worship leaders, youth group assistants, nursery volunteers. They were young the face of Christianity, fresh scrubbed and facing the ‘morrow. It still disturbs the hell out me as I write it 12 years later.
I knew from TV shows I’d watched, the important thing to say, was that it wasn’t their fault, and while I said it to still their tears rolling down their faces so incongruently in the summer sunshine, sometimes I didn’t believe it. One friend told me she knew she was raped, but didn’t remember. Klara (not her real name) had been drunk, and she remembered doing a strip tease for the boys at the party. She woke up with her panties around her ankles, her crotch feeling raw and damp.
Another friend was four. Her mother left her with a good Christian neighbor everyday. The neighbor’s son was 10. He raped her. He raped her everyday until they moved to the mission field, eight years later, her a budding young woman, him finally legally an adult. We’ll call her Gina.
These two women never told each other their stories. Neither ever knew the other was victim, and I’d given my word I wouldn’t tell. Inside, I seethed. Both were raped, both had something horrible happen. Both were shattered inside. But one was actively trying seduce a stranger and had, with full knowledge of consequences, consumed a huge quantity of alcohol. The other was four years old. In general, I agree with feminism, I agree that rape is far to common, but I have always felt any definition of rape which puts these two acts on the same moral level is less than ideal.
I remember believing that raping a drunken promiscuously dressed woman should not be punishable to the same severity as raping an “innocent” women. This retrospect belief sickens me today. Feminism taught me that woman should be able to do and appear as she wishes and that only thing that makes for a rape is the addition of a rapist. I feel that is mostly true. I also feel saying Klara’s experience was as equally not her fault as Gina’s is an enormous slap in the face to Gina. I feel that saying the only contributing factor was the addition of rapists elevates a Klara as much as saying “She asked for it” rapes Gina anew.
My second confusion is about alcohol. A woman cannot give consent if she is drunk. Even if she says yes, her yes is meaningless, because she lacks the ability to consent, and cannot be held accountable for her action. Yet man, no matter how drunk, rapes if he does not hear and heed a “no”. This is a horrible double standard. In short a woman is not accountable for her sexual behavior when drunk, yet a man is. This is patronizing so called “positive discrimination”. It is clear sexual Uncle Tomism, that says that woman are weaker and less accountable and need more protection.
This issues are where I step away from the party line. I am not making statements of fact. I am stating my understanding of the facts. I could have them wrong, and I welcome correction. Please feel free to comment and set me straight, that’s why I wrote it. I would really like to hear something from some card carying feminists on these two issues. Thanks for reading, all.
I’ve wanted to write a post about rape for awhile now, but it’s a pretty hard topic to write about. I’ve never been raped though I have been sexually assaulted a few times. I want to write about it because I want some discussion on it from my readers. If you never comment on anything else, this is the blog. Unfortunately, I have my usual problem of with holisticness. I can’t talk about rape without talking about gender, sex, feminism, and society. This means a lot of variables which introduce a lot more chance for me to accidentally spew bullshit.
(The purpose of my blog is to purge myself of bullshit. I am out here, saying to the whole world, “Hey, call my bullshit.” So, readers, if I say some total crap, be gentle. I’m here to learn.) Now that that’s out of the way…
When I was in high school, it was incredibly important to me to develop my world view. I’m not sure if my experiences are unique to me, if all young Christian me, all young Christians, or all teens in general feel this pressure to have an opinion on everything. I think because of Christianity, I was in a group of people who believed that they had special revelation about how the world should work, the pre-packaged world view I and other de-cons have mentioned before. The church calls this having a ready answer. I also believe that the rationality that my father taught me as a method for interpreting scripture helped me to be a rational thinker. It was important to me to have an answer that was really defensible.
I believed that rape was a crime, a terrible one that should be punished with death, but only in the case of real rape. A wonderful American girl with good clean hobbies, perfect teeth and and well earned scholarship to a small, but challenging private college, is snatched out of parking garage and raped after a prolonged fight with her assailant.
But in the news a lot was something called date rape. A woman would dress like a prostitute, let a man get her drunk, take her home, get her naked, and then say no. Well, that wasn’t rape at all, she acted like she wanted sex, then got upset when she got what she had, through her actions, asked for all night. I wasn’t sure how this should be treated, but certainly it didn’t deserve the death penalty. This could not be what God intended when he said that a rapist should be killed. If fact, the Torah says that a woman who is raped where others can hear her, and doesn’t yell for help must herself be stoned. (Deuteronomy 22:24)
I remember the scuff about Clarence Thomas, and similar stories, and the consensus among my peers was that these girls hadn’t really been raped, because they were asking for what they got. I remember the humorous incredulity in regard to news story of prostitute who had been raped. You can’t rape a prostitute, we reasoned, you can only rob her by not paying her afterward.
So, now I am an atheist. One of the things I have done is try to examine the claims of people who’s view I rejected outright before. Some I have found that I still reject their ultimate thesis, Muslims, for instance. But feminists surprised me. I found that while I don’t agree with everything they say, I can test many of the basic theories of feminists with a skeptical eye and burden of evidence, and that these theories pass.
You might notice I said “girls” in reference to the alleged victims of rape. I know that they were over 18. Yet, they are called girl, for the same reason that a 50 year old black man is called boy. An unconscious display of power, a statement of the hierarchy, a re-establishment of pecking order. I know now that what this is, and I try to eliminate such patterns from my writing and speech. And the feminist taught me a lot about rape.
First, most rapes are not what I described above as “real” rape (though it too is real). That would more appropriately be called “Hollywood rape.” It’s quite rare. The place where most rape happens: a woman’s own bedroom. The person most commonly raping them? Someone they trust; how do you think they got in the bedroom? Now, I know some people will read this and think to themselves, oh well that’s not real rape.
Rape by someone they trust in their own bed? That can’t possibly be real rape because that wouldn’t happen to nice girls. Whether you realize it or not, if you are going to be really honest with yourself, if you think that sort of rape isn’t real, it is because you have decided that a girl in her bedroom with a man she trusts is already guilty of wanting sex, so she can’t be upset about the man giving it to her. I used to believe that, so it is with some authority that I say, how mind bogglingly stupid.
Imagine going to a hospital and saying you are interested in a vasectomy. You talk to the doc for about an hour, you take the brochure, and you get up to walk out. At the door, the doctor shoves a needle into your left buttock. You instantly don’t feel right, you turn around and fall. As the world goes black and you become increasing powerless you feel the doctor pulling your pants off. You wake up, and you have a vasectomy. You’re not going to sue are you? After all, you’d been asking for it for an hour.
Two women both go to Applebee’s. They both go with someone they trust and care about. They both dress quite revealingly for the pleasure of being seen. They both get quite tipsy. They both get taken home and carried to their bed by their date. One is raped. One is not. What’s the difference between the two situations? The addition of a fucking rapist.
It’s not the way they dressed. It’s not the way they talked. It’s not the drinks they had. The only thing that got one women raped, the only thing that made the situation something terrifying and twisted was the addition of rapist. The problem is not the victim, the problem is the rapist.
Not every man is a rapist, in fact most aren’t. The problem is not the woman. The problem is not men. The problem is rapists.