There is ranting, foul language, triggering conversation about bodies and sexual violence, and various manners of voodoo and black magic in this blog post. Consider yourself warned.
Victim blaming. The idea that a victim has culpability in being victimized. Hold on to that definition for a minute.
We’d been sitting on the phone for a little over an hour, at this point. I laid sprawled out across my bed, nail file in hand, beaten-up cell phone attached to my face, listening to him talk. I’m not entirely sure what I thought he might be doing on the other end of the phone, but I remember the point where I legitimately stopped “half-listening” and had to sit up, anxiety overpowering my obsessive desire for perfectly straight nails.
“I mean, it’s hard to say it, but I’ve been raped before.”
“Wait, what?” There was a long pause before I could finish. “What happened?”
Apparently, as a basketball player in school, he went home with one of his team mates to spend the night at his house instead of going home. That night, sleeping on the couch, he woke up to find a woman – his friend’s mother – on top of him, taking advantage of the fact that he’d developed an erection in his sleep. He was terrified, confused, and – I could tell – crushed: this was his “first time.”
He never told his mother. She’d never understand. Men don’t get raped. Men do the raping, right? She’d simply tell him to never speak of it again… so he figured he’d get a jump start on that and not speak on it at all. This left him with countless misunderstanding about masculinity, his place in society, and whether or not he should trust his own body. It led him to misunderstand what “signals” are and what part of himself allowed this to happen.
He was a kid who got a hard-on in his sleep. That’s it.
As I recall this unfortunate story, I sit here, right now, with my jaw completely and totally in my hands. I am dumbfounded.
Across my screen flew this link, and I immediately felt anxiety all across my chest, my arms and down my spine.
A few…quotes… of… interest:
It seems as if the considerable push back again victim-blaming has pushed all the way past prudence and levelheadedness, making anyone who suggests that “women can actually be taught how to behave too” insensitive or a “rape enabler.”
…as the article continues, and lines such as “Consent can be withdrawn by the words “no “or “stop” and in many states, a woman doesn’t have to say no at all. Consumption of alcohol can prevent a woman from being able to legally offer consent” begin to seep in, the tone seems to shift from “men need to take full responsibility for their actions” to “men need to take full responsibility for their actions…and women have carte blance to act as recklessly and stupidly around men as possible without any trace of accountability.” and I just can’t agree anymore.
Sparkling little beauties, those quotes.
I look at those quotes, and I am astounded by the naivete they display.
People far more eloquent than myself have commented on the foolishness of telling victims (and potential victims) that they have some culpability in their ability to be victimized. I’d be a fool to re-mow that neatly manicured lawn.
However, I think we need to fully understand what the world looks like in a space where it is acceptable to tell people that they can protect themselves from being raped. It’s easy to talk about the immediate consequences of a society that thinks that women invite attack by “dressing like sluts” or by “drinking too much” (and yes, I am saying “women” on purpose, despite the story above) and how wrong-headed that thinking is, but what does the world look like when you are told to live in constant fear of being victimized?
You know what it looks like? It looks like young girls, suffering from the advances of grown men who should know and be encouraged to do better, who carry their books across their chest because their breasts attract too much attention. It looks like Mothers of young girls, buying their pre-teen and teenaged daughters giant sweaters to wear to try to hide their breasts, because they “know the boys will stare.” And, right now, as someone says, “Of course they will stare!” I have to wonder – do we even bother to tell our boys (and, hell, grown men, too) how wrong that is? That no, it is not simply “hormones” and “natural urges” to gawk at and objectify a young girl because she’s got a large rack?
A victim-blaming world looks a lot like Mothers calling their daughters (or someone else’s daughter) “fast” for attracting too much male attention, instead of wondering about, asking, or checking the men lavishing attention upon her (particularly when it appears that the male in question is hella old.) I remember hearing “Mmmmmm, she fasssssss…” all the time, but not once can I recall hearing anything similar for men. Also worth noting, Google apparently doesn’t know the male equivalent of “fass.” Neither do I… and I’m pretty sure you don’t either.
A victim blaming world looks like women who disconnect from their bodies – caring for them and appreciating them – because they are going out of their way to discourage rape. You know, because they have to do what they can to assume responsibility for rape, right? A victim blaming world looks like a place here young girls are discouraged from learning about their bodies because if they actually started to love and appreciate the things about them that signal their femininity – curves, for example – then it’d be their fault that they attract attention and, eventually and potentially, rape. It’d be their fault. You know, for dressing like sluts.
A victim blaming world looks like the women who participated in this post, who thought that they were raped because they were just “too damn sexy” for a rapist to even bother to ask whether or not she deemed him worthy enough to receive her body. It looks like women who do not and may never understand that rape isn’t about you being “too sexy for a rapist to wait for your consent;” it looks like women who will never understand that this violent, reprehensible crime wasn’t about them as people, individuals, human beings at all.
A victim blaming world looks like a space where women believe that the reason they were raped was because they were too attractive and, therefore, must remedy this situation by making themselves unattractive. Throwing away makeup, no more high heels, no more fancy dresses, and no more svelte figure. (We can talk, all day, about what’s wrong with society thinking these are what make a woman attractive, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is what society thinks is attractive.) It is a space where women “make themselves ugly” by “making themselves fat.” It is a space where women cope with that fear (of it happening again) and that shame (because, you know, they have to take responsibility for their rape, too) by eating with their emotions. Except… fat women can be victimized, too.
A victim blaming society looks like a space where women, taught to perpetually fear assault, don’t know how to respond to men who say “Damn, boo, can I get that?” or the man who says “Good afternoon! How you doin’, miss?” In a victim-blaming society, every man is Schroedinger’s Rapist – every man is a potential rapist, and I have to treat you as such. A victim-blaming society also is the space where the victim is also chastised for being an angry and bitter Black woman for not speaking to said potential rapists. We are expected to swallow our fear and efforts to protect our vulnerability so that we can speak to you, potential rapist, because how dare we not respond to you?
A victim blaming world looks like a place where men can be victimized, and because we’re so used to women being the victim… we don’t know what the hell to do with male victims. Do we… tell him it was his fault? Do we… give him the screw face and tell him he should’ve gone home? Do we… question his manhood for being overpowered by a woman? (Remember, we tell men don’t hit women.) Or do we high five him and tell him “Dude, old chicks are the BEST first time! I had one my first time, too!” And, do they never understand that this, too, counts as rape?
A victim blaming world looks a lot like a child-ass curfew for a grown ass woman. Because she’s not supposed to be out after dark anyway.
A victim blaming world looks a whole hell of a lot like women who intentionally avoid alleys, construction sites, overpopulated street corners, large groups of men and certain stores because they are notorious for catcalling and street dominance. We don’t say “Hey, guys, you don’t show your masculinity by publicly dominating and embarrassing a woman.” We tell women “Dress in a manner wholly unacceptable to you to avoid being raped.” Because, of course, they have responsibility in this, too.
I said this a long time ago, and I’m saying it again – not only is rape about a rapist having control, but victim blaming is about controlling the female population: what better way to cajole women into standards of purity, decency, “learning how to behave” and sobriety than dangle the threat of “Well, if you don’t, you’ll surely invite rape upon yourselves?” What better way to get “these hoes” and “these broads” to understand that they don’t “know how to behave” than to help drive home the point that rape happens because women do bad things? Better yet, bad things happen to women who aren’t perfect, or at least striving to be. And who defines that “perfect?” Certainly not women.
That’s what “rape responsibility” and “victim blaming” look like – each phrase looks like another way to tell women that they can have the very essence of their humanity, femininity and womanliness taken advantage of if they don’t adhere to society’s standards. The message cant simply be that we need to lay the blame at the foot at potential rapists to take control of and responsibility for themselves and stop raping, no… it’s “you do things that invite rape… like leaving your house.” You aren’t an “acceptable” rape victim if you a) weren’t chaste before the attack; b) wore anything above the knee; c) wore anything form fitting (mind you, all three of these are marks of whoredom); d) were out past your grown ass woman society-imposed curfew (only whores are out after dark); e) had on red nail polish or red lipstick (only whores do that, of course); f) do anything that requires you to leave your house unaccompanied by a man (you lesbians? y’all are out of luck, here); g) are an actual prostitute (they’re whores for a living… of course they deserve to be raped.)
Think about how many women you know who break those rules on the daily. Now, think about the fact that, of the few rapes that are actually reported, only 20% of those actually end in conviction. While that may speak to the theory that many acts that are reported aren’t actual rape and the jury was simply effective in figuring that out, that kind of fail rate also means that more than a few actual rapists are walking these streets with us… and therein lies the rub.
When will we ever see advertising, blog posts, books and TV specials telling men how to be men? How to treat women with respect – yes, even when they show little respect for themselves (whatever that means), we should still feel called on to respect them – and how to value sex that consists of two people who are sober, able and capable of feeling and expressing not only passion… but consent? How to take no for an answer? How to appreciate but not objectify? How to safely approach a woman you’re interested in without being creepy, being obnoxious or making her feel like she needs to break into a full on jog to get away from you? When will the media ever set its sights on telling men how to be men for men’s sake, instead of telling Black women to be what men want them to be… because the height of Black womanhood is “finally getting a man?”
We’re won’t. We will, however, see perpetuation of the “there are no Good Black Men” myth. Women will desperately seek out one of the remaining twelve Good Black Men, jumping through various hoops and contorting themselves like Cirque du Soleil acrobats (or Magic City strippers, take your pick) to be deemed worthy. Other women will snag whatever raggedy man they “can get,” ignoring his faults because they have fallen for the “get a man” mentality: they believe that “the worst thing a Black woman can be is alone.”
And that’s why I know things won’t change. After hundreds of comments, the original author of the post didn’t take it upon himself to apologize for throwing grenades and smiling at the damage (I’m sorry, but bringing up potential server costs and popularity – Facebook likes, son? – is not only tres gauche but tacky as every available f-ck.) Instead, he apologized for “being so flippant.” His male privilege flew out of his zipper, and he’s sorry that you’re offended by the sight of it, but at least you get to see how big it is. Stop playing… ’cause I’m still not impressed.
A victim blaming world looks like a space where a grown ass man can bring up rape on a “humor” website, say he “definitely reached for the inferences” he made about the article he read that “inspired” his post, say he “shouldn’t have brought it up” on his site and pair that with bragging about the hits the post got him as well as “all this success has undoubtedly made my large head even bigger.”
It’s a world where we use sexual violence to garner attention, and wax faux-apologetic for it. In the words of the great philosopher, Pharrell, “Got damn. It’s a new day.”
Y’all can have that, though.