My dearest imaginary readers,
I apologize for my sudden disappearance from this blog, but, you see, I have been going through an existential crisis. The “Long and Winding Road” (I love that Beatles song) to Apple Hall Counseling still awaits me, as my work ethic and emotional health is still not up to snuff. The good news is my post-teenage angst (not induced by anything in particular besides my moody disposition) has had some good outcomes: it helped me discover the Aurora Center volunteer application, which I am excitedly working through, and it helped me encounter the amazing article on rape culture that I’m writing about today.
You see, I couldn’t settle for the usual preaching to the choir tone that my writings usually take on in these posts; I couldn’t settle for another “blah blah pro-choice”, “blah blah Republicans” article that you all could anticipate even before I open my… laptop. In my battle with the drudgery of college life, I’ve decided that all work from this point forward should be meaningful, and so today dear readers I hope to challenge you to think about things more than usual, to really look for solution to the long-unsolved crisis of rape and sexual assault.
The article referenced is this one, a feministe piece challenging feminist (or are they rape culture?) theories that claim assault is a result of miscommunication between individuals and general lack of sex education on campus. The argument essentially boils down to this: contrary to expectations, most rapes are perpetrated by a small subset of predators. All those “this is rape” posters may very well be useless, because the true rapists are repeat offenders, potential sociopaths who cannot in any way be educated out of their horrific actions. The research also confirms the well-known but often rejected argument that rapists are women-haters; when compared to the average male, a rapist was “more angry at women, more motivated by the need to dominate and control women, more impulsive and disinhibited in their behavior, more hyper-masculine in their beliefs and attitudes, less empathic and more antisocial.”
So is your curiosity peaked yet? Well it shouldn’t be; I haven’t hit the interesting part. From his research, Lisak developed the Predator Theory of rape: that rapists “plan and premeditate their attacks”, are adept at identifying and isolating easy victims, and deliberately use alcohol to lower a victim’s defenses. I emphasize that last part because this facet of the theory poses a moral dilemma for women. On the one hand, women are just as entitled to flirt and drink at parties as everyone else: that does not make them “rapeable”. And yet a female acting on this freedom of choice is statistically more likely to be a rape victim. The data reminded me of an argument I had with a female friend of mine about walking home at night; she said she felt uncomfortable walking home late because she was “wearing a skirt”. Were women who wore skirts and walked alone somehow asking to be raped, I challenged, because I knew two female victims of sexual assault that would beg to differ. But my other friends soon rushed to her defense: the skirt comment had nothing to do the typical victim-blaming that composes rape culture discourse; she could just be easier prey for a rapist in a skirt than in other clothes. Perhaps she was right, and if she was could I blame her for wanting to protect herself? If women in Africa have gone so far as to put razor blades inside their vagina to prevent being raped, is it really so odd that American women would give up some of their freedom for security, to live with less fear of being a victim?
Fortunately, we don’t have to resort to repeating the age-old “women should be more careful” axiom. Thomas, the author of this amazing feministe article on Lisak’s research, points out that bystanders have a major role to play in the campus rape epidemic. If only bystanders were to intervene when they saw a guy “deliberately getting the woman drunk or angling to get the drunk woman alone in an unfamiliar place”, chances are these assaults would never happen. Males in particular also need to be on the lookout for potential predators: that guy friend who “sees a woman too drunk to know where she is as an opportunity” may not necessarily be a serial rapist, but his behavior and comments are cause enough for concern. Thomas calls on men to not tolerate these potential predators in our midst; instead, they should call them out, let them know that their behavior is unacceptable and they will punish them for it socially and legally.
I encourage all of you not only to read the whole article but also the comments; it really is a beautiful piece that challenges our very basic ideas about rape and rape culture. In fact, this article took me down memory lane for a bit, back when my best friend and I were naive high school kids watching a comedy about college partying. There was one scene that filled us with absolute dread: a girl, barely walking and on the verge of unconsciousness, almost being dragged into another guy’s car for what the viewer could only presume was a one-night stand. The drunken girl’s female friends came to rescue her and take her home, and we heaved a sigh of relief. But my best friend’s then boyfriend, a generally nice guy who I know completed respected my friend’s personal boundaries in real life, saw that scene another way: the female characters had infringed on the guy’s night of fun. Was my friend’s boyfriend a predator then? Absolutely not, and yet I do know that he was a typical bystander, one who’d be thoroughly indoctrinated in rape culture discourse. This, my dear readers, is what we’re up against today.