Thursday, 29 March 2012

How Can We Still Be Fighting This?

It seems feminism still has a long way to go. Lately I've seen so many instances of this that my blog seems to be about little else! This is not a feminism blog! But I can't just sit back and pretend we're not still living in an old-fashioned, chauvinist society. (Who can forget the "nice guy" on Twitter who believes that a woman owes sex to her partner even if she doesn't feel like doing it?) Certainly the same old argument about rape continues to rage – how is it that we're still having to clarify the meaning of rape, in this day and age? How are people not getting this?

Right now Indonesia is developing anti-pornography laws, the implementation of which is so misguided. Offensive criteria includes the wearing of short skirts; this means women who wear mini skirts will find themselves in trouble with the law. Why? Because (and I quote):
"There have been a lot of rape cases and other immoral acts recently and this is because women aren't wearing appropriate clothes". Who said this exactly? Indonesia's parliamentary speaker. Seriously. He then went on to say:
"You know what men are like. Provocative clothing will make them do things."

Good grief. Let's read that sentence again:
“You know what men are like. Provocative clothing will make them do things”.
Hang on... who is being cited as the cause of rape here? Who is getting the blame? Who is finding themselves facing restrictions on their rights? Men? Or Women?

When will the world stop defining rape as a natural, uncontrollable response to a woman's attire? What is wrong with these men who cannot help themselves? Why is it always the victim who gets blamed for "causing" rape?

The only person who causes rape is the person doing the raping. It's pretty freakin' straightforward yet I can't believe how many heated discussions I've had with people about this issue; people who certainly agree rape is bad, but think if women dress provocatively, they should expect reactions. I'm not going to argue with that fact per se. Personally I'd never go out in a mini skirt or a barely-there top but if I decided to do so, then yes, I would anticipate some people thinking certain things about me. But lewd thoughts are one thing – lewd actions are quite another. While “provocative clothing” might create a reaction, nobody has the right to force someone to have sex, or to do anything they don't want to do.

Others will argue that sometimes a woman will lead a man on, act like a tease, and then - when they get themselves into a compromising position - decline sex. I'm not going to disagree that this happens. Women have a right to decline. And yes, some women might behave like a big ol' tease and that must be frustrating. But that still does not give anyone the right to force someone to have sex, or to do anything they don't want to do. What is the MATTER with a man that feels a woman owes him something because she's turned him on? You can dislike a girl for leading you on; that's your prerogative. But if you think that's ok for you to force sex out of her, and you do so, then guess what - you're a rapist.

Yes, women have to take responsibility for themselves. As do men. For goodness sake, that's a given for all of us as human beings. But let me make this clear. Women do not have a responsibility to not get raped. The whole idea that women can prevent this from happening is so badly blinkered it's ridiculous. Women don't have control over rape. It is the rapist who has the control. And hell, I know so many men out there who will be appalled to think some of their fellow males are not responsible enough to wait for a woman's consent.

Whatever the circumstances, if you don't have consent, it's rape. It should be plain and simple. It IS plain and simple. So why are women still being targeted as the source of rape, rather than the rapists? Are we still going to be arguing about this ten years from now? Because it seems we've still got a long way to go.  


  1. 'Whatever the circumstances, if you don't have consent, it's rape'

    So, in this context what is 'consent'?
    Is it a legal binding agreement with 2 witnesses?

  2. I find the idea of woman's clothing being to blame for rape offensive to both men and women. Not only are victims being told it's their own fault, but men are being told they're all potential rapists because they can't help it. Really? I reckon most men I know can stop themselves and would be utterly horrified at the suggestion that they couldn't.

    Take heed, Anonymous... if someone says stop, you stop. Basically, don't be a douchbag.

  3. 'if someone says stop, you stop'
    So, consent is not having someone say 'stop'?
    Is it the implicit nature of the ambiquity a problem?
    'Don't be a douchebag' seems to be rather general advice. Is it not possible actually to be more precise?

  4. The debate around what constitutes consent is a complicated one. Anonymous, I can be more speciific regarding not being a douche bag. Ask clearly and explicitly if the person wants to have sex with you. Wait till you get a "yes". Explain to the person you are about to have sex with that if at any point they want to stop, you will hear them if they say "stop". If the idea of being that explicit makes you uncomfortable bear in mind the axiom, "if you're not comfortable talking about it, you probably shouldn't be doing it." Women need to be educated on the importance of giving clear consent in the form of "yes, I want to have sex with you" without feeling shame or embarrassment at saying it out loud, and men need to be educated on the importance of waiting to hear this before they plough ahead. The pun is intended.