Two posts from today that neatly bookend a whole series of shelves about the rape culture.
- First, from Thomas at Yes Means Yes – Mythcommunication: It’s Not That They Don’t Understand, They Just Don’t Like The Answer – a detailed look at some studies laying out exactly how people actually commonly express refusal without actually using the word “no”, because a blunt “no” is considered rude/aggressive. Yet, in normal conversation, these polite refusals (“I’d love to, but I’ve got other plans” etc) are still generally completely understood as in the patterns of social etiquette as signifying unwillingness to comply/proceed.This underlines precisely what the problem with the standard of “she didn’t say no” is; that it is, given social norms for refusing non-sexual propositions, an irrational expectation and the imposition of an unfair burden where being expected to violate a lifetime of social training is what is demanded. The studies also show that women are right to fear violent reprisal if they fail to refuse politely enough, because this is what men say that women deserve for a blunt expression of NO that violates norms of etiquette.
“Rape results from a refusal to heed, rather than an inability to understand, a rejection. “
The problem is not women being unable to express a well understood refusal, the problem is rapists refusing to accept a well understood refusal.
- Then from Holly at Pervocracy, we have how internet comments work in Rape Culture: Defending the Indefensible – the predictable victim-questioning, victim-blaming, and rapist-sympathizing reactions that we can document on the internet but which we also regularly hear from work colleagues, family members and even our dodgier friends. Why might people are aren’t knowingly friends with rapists, who aren’t rapists themeselves, who are not objectively pro-rape at all, nonetheless feel the need to cast doubt on rape victims and make excuses for accused rapists? Holly has 4 theories which I’ll briefly summarise:
• The Just World Fallacy: bad things don’t happen to good people, they must have done something to deserve it.
• The Male Gaze: response to a rape case is “what if I were accused of rape?” rather than identifying with the victim.
• The “Consent as Contract” Model: insisting on sex as payment for [my attention] is just fair trading, how dare she try to rip me off.
• The Plain Old Fashioned Assholery: I can be the meanest, most hard-hearted, narrow-minded jerk in town.
Holly goes into more detail, and you should read it all.
What I take home from these two posts, alongside Melissa’s salient statement about the blaming of an 11yo girl for not being clear enough in expressing refusal against 18 strong young men from last week is this (and it’s no surprise, nor is it something nobody’s never said before, it’s just something worth repeating): there’s a metric buttload of social energy bound up in entangling women (and other rape victims) in a catch-22 when it comes to sexual consent.
i.e. unless we express refusal/rejection vigorously and unmistakably in front of multiple witnesses in a public place, then we’re not communicating clearly enough and our objections can be “misunderstood” with impunity;
However, if we do express refusal/rejection vigorously and unmistakeably in front of multiple witnesses in a public place, then we are bitches for embarrassing the propositioner in public, and we deserve to be “taught a lesson”.
We’re not supposed to ever hold a winning hand here.