Writing about rape culture is aggravating. When anyone uses the word ‘rape’ to describe the consequences of certain beliefs and ways of being, there is always push back. Why? It’s icky. It exposes the dark under belly of our society. It reminds us that our assumption of safety is a veil of ignorance. It reminds us that evil is lurking around the corner. It reminds us that the bad people are walking around and look just like us. They do not have a dastardly mustache or wear a shirt proclaiming their nefarious nature. Rape culture is alive and well because society is too immature and scared to believe that it exists.
I imagine the first time Annette Kellerman donned her bathing suit that covered her from neck to foot leaving only her arms exposed, the shock to the community was palpable. Her arrest for indecency was not just a signal to women that they were responsible for men’s wicked thoughts but that they needed to fear the consequences of a man and his machinations. The mode of dress for women has long been the subject of rape discussions. Is a mini-skirt or plunging cleavage an invitation to sex? Is wearing form-fitting clothes a form of solicitation to every lecher in the vicinity to ogle and cat-call their appreciation?
As a society we abhor this behavior of men but with the caveat that they are behaving in a normal manner and just reacting to the stimuli provided to them by these women who are dressing inappropriately. Regardless of the behavior, men are excused for their beastly ways because they are only men. The sexual urge in a man, according to societal beliefs, is only reined in by a slight veneer of propriety. The slightest provocation can unleash them onto an unsuspecting populous. The problem with this belief is that it is not true. Most men can easily control their urges. Most men are complete gentlemen and respect women. The reason we, as a society, excuse the behavior is that age-old Jimmy Carter nugget of “sinning in the heart”.
Men are ashamed of the thoughts and fantasies that have resided in the recesses of their mind. If they have sinned in their heart, what would it have taken to make these thoughts reality? Excusing sexual assault and harassment is based on this belief that rape is a part of life. It is inevitable. What these men refuse to see is that they can stop themselves. What these men and women fail to realize is that our societal permissiveness to this behavior is why it continues.
Where do we draw the line? The following is societal understanding of rape.
Can an adult rape a child? Depends on the age or how old she looks and as long as he doesn’t hurt her.
Can a man have sex with a woman who is unconscious or incapacitated? What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.
Can a woman change her mind when having sex with a man? No. She is just being a tease.
Is date rape a real assault? If she decided to stop fooling around after his point of no return then she should just be quiet. She asked for it.
Can a man rape a prostitute? Isn’t that what they are paid for?
Can a husband rape his wife? See prostitute.