November 1, 2017 • Sarah Jean Gosney
I think that we, as mature adults, can agree feminism’s most general, stated goal is to liberate and empower women. And I think with our very level, adult-sized heads we can concur that rape is bad. Really bad and really illegal, and although I understand many of you believe there should be harsher sentencing in many cases, the fact remains that the crime is prosecuted and punished.
But the recent #MeToo phenomenon started me thinking again about the outcry against Rape Culture that we have seen in the past few years, accompanied by the plea (or sometimes the demand) that believing victims’ stories and shunning sexual assailants is the only way to truly out rapists and eliminate rape.
I think nothing could be further from the truth. I won’t spout FBI statistics about how rape rates have been steadily decreasing for decades, because those are easily accessible and do not at all address the sexual assault epidemic we seem to be dealing with.
I want to emphasize, I don’t doubt that these #MeToo incidents happened, but I am shocked by the abdication of responsibility on the part of the empowered women who have been victimized.
I almost never have inappropriate encounters with men. Sure, there are some cat calls here and there, but those are small words from strangers who will be in and out of my life in thirty seconds or less. Limiting compromising situations is very important as someone trying to maintain a trusting, long-term relationship, but this should still be vital to any woman, especially a feminist woman, who cares about her own safety.
My largest asset for protection is not a firearm, a law, or a big strong man. My safety lies in my big, strong boundaries.
There are several things that I avoid that prevent me from getting into sticky situations. I know my limits with alcohol and don’t get almost never get drunk. If I do it’s in the presence of my boyfriend or my immediate family—people who have proven their trustworthiness over a period of years. I don’t do illegal drugs or use medications off-label.
I won’t pretend to be a saint and say I’ve never done any of these things—how do you think I figured out these were bad ideas? If I’m ever unsure about a situation, I ask myself, WWaFHD? What Would a Fifties Housewife Do? You might call it restrictive, but I call it darn effective.
Clearly calling out men isn’t working to solve this problem. No decent man wants to rape or assault a woman (and I really believe most of them are decent), but you always have to plan for the scumbags. However, I think that the real issue is that the decent guys are so freaking confused about what appropriate behavior is anymore that just about any man can be accused of being a rapist.
I find a lot of the confusion comes into play in the grey areas. It’s clear if a woman is passed out that she is incapacitated and unable to give consent. It’s clear that if you corner her, and she says to get the hell away that that isn’t a welcome encounter. However, I’ve observed and heard of countless situations where a man thinks he is engaged in a potentially sexual relationship with a woman and the woman thinks nothing of the sort.
Before I go on, let’s be clear: there’s no such thing as platonic friendship between men and women. There is one-sided-attraction “friendship,” there’s we’re-both-in-relationships-so-we-can’t bang “friendship,” there’s two-disgusting-people-who-should-never-be-seen-naked-not-that-we-didn’t-think-about-it-at-least-once “friendship,” and then there’s the classic we-just-haven’t-done-it-yet friendship.
To be fair, there absolutely are mentoring-type situations with a significant age difference and a structured relationship that don’t fall into this category. Not literally everyone is unconsciously trying to have sex all the time, just most of the time. This can’t be de-programmed. As sophisticated and civilized as we are, humans are biological beings with the primary imperative of reproduction.
This ties in directly with fidelity in a relationship as well. If you’re marginally attractive and have a pulse, you’re going to want to get it on with someone who isn’t your spouse/partner from time to time (or someone will want to with you), but it is your job to make sure that you never put yourself in a situation where someone could fall prey to their baser desires.
Every “Oh, it was just one drink!” or “We’re just friends, I swear!” chips away at any foundation of trust that you have built. Even if you never do anything, it puts the thought in everyone’s mind that it could happen, and then all sexual promises are left up to willpower (which by itself is a terrible strategy).
Here’s my basic list of how-not to get taken advantage of:
You can be friendly and engaging as a woman without being a tease. (This is true for men too, but I don’t have much experience in that department). Keeping yourself out of ambiguous situations and being firm but kind about direct advances clears things up quickly. To be honest, men (and boys) tend to react quite well to a simple “I’m flattered, but no thank you. I’m not interested,” delivered with a smile. After all, even if you’re not into it, it is compliment, but that in no way means you need to encourage future approaches.
The truth is that implementing this isn’t necessarily fun. You are going to miss out on a lot of attention, liberated partying, and addictive ego boosts, and you’re going to need to change some of your friendships. But you’re also going to “miss out” on a lot of sexual violation.
Your Body, Your Choice, Your Responsibility.
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