If we could really put our heads together and talk about rape culture like adults, without first having to struggle over that perpetual-motion loop of “But I’m obviously the first person to tell you feminists that WOMEN NEED TO BE MORE CAREFUL,” what sort of topics might we cover? What sort of places might our discussion go if we could finally get over that initial hump?
Francesca Lewis at Medium asks us to stop acting like “good men” and “rapists” are discretely bound categories without overlap, and instead understand how rape is a decision that otherwise good men can make.
By the logic of the saints and monsters world view, he pretended to be loving and kind in order to get away with raping me. He was always a bad person. The truth, though, is grayer. The man who wrapped my arms in a towel and dried my eyes and told me silly stories in the hospital waiting room is real. The man who ignored my lack of consent, who knew I didn’t want it but made a choice to convince himself I did, and punished me for making him feel like a rapist, he’s real too. It is possible for these qualities to exist within the same human being.
And, also, another question we might toss around:
I would like to tell the story of my own rape to illustrate my point, but survivors of sexual assault are discouraged from giving too many details. No one wants to hear that — it’s unseemly. Just say “I was raped” and be done with it. Rape culture has made graphic depictions of sexual assault seem exploitative. To describe the physical realities of my rape is seen as an attempt at titillation. The “sexy sexy rape” problem. But this is rape through the male gaze. I describe my rape in detail as one might describe a brutal beating. I resent the fact that my experience of this violence is silenced by the same patriarchal forces that brought it about in the first place. This silence perpetuates the sense we are alone and reinforces our shame. Not to mention how unhelpful discussing sexual assault only in abstract terms is in combating rape/rape culture. Can you think of any other traumatic experience we are discouraged from talking about? If I survived cancer I could write an article about the symptoms, diagnosis, tests, treatments, side effects in graphic detail. Who would say that was gratuitous? Why is rape different? Because men find it titillating. Well tough shit, I didn’t write this for you. Not everything is about YOU.
Is there an acceptable way to describe a rape? Is it possible to go into specifics in recounting a rape without hitting the gratuitous/titillating barrier?