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“She Was Asking For It”

This post by Nick Kiddle over at Alas has caused quite a stir. You can see Nick’s follow-up here. To summarize, Nick went out one night for the express purpose of picking up men for sex. She met two men (paratroopers), and went back to their camp. In the process of engaging with these men (it’s not clear whether or not they were having sex, or what kinds of sexual activities they were engaging in), Nick noticed that one of them was no longer wearing a condom. She told him he could either get another condom and put it on, or they could stop. He didn’t agree to either of her solutions. She put her clothes on and left. Nick writes:

If he had persisted, if he had penetrated me despite my objections, that would have been rape. I had consented to sex, but I had made it clear that condoms were part of the deal. When the condom vanished, so did my consent.

In the following post, Nick writes:

In my ideal world, men would not be tempted to commit rape. Sexual encounters would be handled with negotiation, not with one partner’s insistence on getting what he wants at the expense of another. Men would respect the desires of women to control what happens to their bodies, whether they’ve known each other for ten minutes or ten years.

And in my ideal world, the fear of rape could not be used as a justification for slut-shaming.

Seems reasonable enough to me. But it’s not so clear to some other folks:

Read More…Read More…

One Brave Woman

After 30 years, Kathleen Ham will confront her rapist in court. The trial against him three decades ago resulted in a hung jury; now, DNA evidence links him to Ham’s rape, as well as the rapes of at least 24 other women.

Now, I have mixed feelings about this article. But one thing it does an excellent job of is showing how disgustingly flawed our criminal justice system was (and in many ways still is) when it comes to sexual assault survivors.

During her examination at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Ms. Ham recalled, she put up a front of cool control. The doctor’s official report cast doubt on whether she had been raped. She appeared too calm, he wrote.

The night after the attack, when Ms. Ham sought refuge in the home of old friends, a street noise made her scream. “That was when I realized that my life was taken away from me,” she said.

Then came the trial. Under the law at the time, the prosecutors had to prove that force was used on Ms. Ham, and that the rape was consummated. They had to have a witness.

Mr. Worrell’s defense lawyer, George C. Sena, kept Ms. Ham under cross-examination for a day and a half. His third question was whether she was a virgin. He repeatedly suggested that Ms. Ham had engaged in rough love with a pimp.

“Well, why didn’t you get out then?” Mr. Sena asked. “Were both your legs broken?”

The prosecutor, the defense attorney, the judge and most of the jurors were men. The two Manhattan district attorneys who re-discovered this case are women. And while that isn’t an argument for the superiority of female DAs, it is illustrative of the positive influence that under-represented groups have had in breaking into various sectors of society. Women’s presence in the police force and in the legal community has had an overwhelmingly positive effect on how sexual assault survivors are treated. It’s certainly far, far from perfect, but it’s a lot better than it was 30 years ago.

What I don’t love about this article is that is paints Ham as more of a victim than a survivor. This is a woman who seems to have had a very successful life, and currently works as a civil rights lawyer. While it’s certainly important to recognize the tremendous impact that sexual assault has on the lives of survivors, it’s important to also look at how much inner strength human beings have — not to portray her as someone who “got over it,” but as someone who had a horrific thing happen to her but who isn’t broken by it. She’s purposely allowing her name to be published to show that rape isn’t shameful for the person who survives it. Thirty years later, she’s putting herself back up on the witness stand, even after having suffered such humiliation there before. That’s bravery.

And the fact that this story is highlighted on the Times website also shows how far our media has come in covering what are traditionally “women’s issues,” and writing about sexual assault. I don’t want to come across as refusing to recognize the continuing, serious problems with our legal system and how we prosecute rape — just look at the Orange County rape case , the Kobe Bryant case, and the half-assed defenses of rape which suggest that if a woman is aroused, she can’t be assaulted. There are lots of problems. But thanks to people like Kathleen Ham and these Manhattan DA’s, things are improving.

“How Long Did It Take You To Get Over It?”

Antheia at Mad Melancholic Feminista writes about her experiences surviving rape, what it means to “get over it.” Read the whole thing — her story is written with incredible clarity and honesty, and does a great service to survivors everywhere:

We teach our daughters to fear the possibility of rape occurring at the hands of strangers which oftentimes leads to their reluctance to report rape at the hands of their fathers, male family members, teachers, and boyfriends. We teach our daughters that rape is about sexual oppression when it should be viewed as GENDER oppression. We preach the “potentially lethal lie that if you don’t do anything wrong, if you’re just careful enough, you’ll be safe.”

Antheia walks the same thin line that so many survivors do: She puts her experience in a greater context, she understands it as part of a systematic problem, she positions herself as a survivor and not a victim — but she still has to deal with the day-to-day task of surviving.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about my rape, there’s not a time that I don’t hold my pepper spray when I walk home alone at night, there isn’t a moment where I can walk towards a man on the sidewalk and not feel my body tense up until he passes. Asking me when I’ll be “over it” is like asking a victim of the hurricane when they’ll be over the anguish that they’re experiencing right now, like asking a mother when she will be over the loss of a child. You can try to forget; you can build a new house after the storm, have another baby to fill the cradle, and start engaging in sexual relationships with other partners, but is this “moving on”? And is attempting to cope with the tragedy considered “getting over it”? It’s amazing how short a period of time 10 minutes is in the scheme of things, and yet how easily the mind can continuously remind you of that time, in the brilliant words of John Irving “your memory is a monster. You forget, it doesn’t. It just files things away; it keeps things from you, and brings them to your recall at a will of its own. You think you have a memory, but it has you.”

I simply can’t do her post justice here. Please, read the whole thing.

What To Do About Statutory Rape

I sure as hell don’t know how such issues should be dealt with, but this story is indeed disturbing. Girl, 12, starts dating man, 20. At 14, she gets pregnant and they get married. She was in eighth grade. He was 24.

Now, will it do any good at this point to lock the guy up? No, it probably won’t. In fact, it’ll probably just make it harder on the 14-year-old child who is now at home with a newborn baby. But this relationship is obviously, um, problematic. I’m not trying to be judgmental here, but I’m pretty sure that when a 12-year-old and a 20-year-old are in a sexual relationship (or a business relationship, or any relationship), there’s going to be an inherent power differentiation, and a serious issue of judgment and maturity (on the 12-year-old’s part by simply being 12, and on the 20-year-old’s part for having sex with a child).

I’ve said before that I think it’s important to let women make their own decisions, and to let them be their own moral agents. I’ve also said that being of minor age should not strip someone of their right to their own body. I certainly stand by those statements. But where does statutory rape come in — particularly the more extreme kind, like this? Thoughts?

The Glass Closet

What happens when a female basketball player, backed by the same franchise as Kobe Bryant, is accused of sexual assault? Well, she sure didn’t get the same treatment that Kobe did. Bryant got backed up; coaches insisted tat he play until proven guilty. Byears was removed immediately, and went from playing basketball to working at JC Penny.

I’m not arguing that sexual predators shouldn’t face the consequences, but there should be a single consistent policy for players across the board — a policy that applies to big NBA stars and little WNBA stars alike.

Doctor, It Hurts When I Do This

The whole of American society’s response to rape, it seems, runs along the lines of the old bad joke in which the patient says “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.”

Society’s response: “So don’t do that.”

“Don’t go out at night. Don’t relax with your friends on vacation. Lock your doors. Don’t be friendly with men you don’t know. Don’t trust the men you do know.” It’s a prescription for a very large prison, one that women are expected to carry around with them every minute of their lives.

And they’re expected to do so while the behavior of rapists is – well, certainly not condoned, but explained away as some regrettable extreme right tail of the normal male sexuality bell curve.

“Rape Trap” Condemned in South Africa by Women’s Groups

One one hand we’re told to take all precautions possible, on the other, told not to adapt to a violent culture.

You might remeber Feministing reporting on the “rape trap” anti-rape device being introduced in South Africa in response to their astronomical rates of sexual violence. Once an artistic concept developed by a Swedish woman “to contribute to the debate on men’s sexual violence against women in society,” this tampon from hell is becoming a reality in a country where over 50,000 rapes occur in a year.

The tampon-like device, invented by a woman, supposedly protects women from rapists by cutting into a man’s penis.

It has sparked an empassioned debate over the high number of rapes committed each day in the country and the authorities’ apparent failure to tackle the issue.

Activists are outraged and want to stop it going on sale alongside tampons in chemists and supermarkets next month.

…The device, which Sonette Ehlers, its inventor, has patented, is worn like a tampon but is hollow. In the event of a rape, she said that it would fold around the rapist’s penis and attach itself with microscopic hooks. It is impossible to remove the clamped device without medical intervention.

“We have to do something to protect ourselves. While this will not prevent rape, it will help identify attackers and secure convictions,” Ms Ehlers told the Johannesburg Star.

Women’s groups were immediately outraged by the introduction of this product to store shelves, beginning a debate quite like the one we are having on the very topic this week:

“This is a medieval instrument, based on male-hating notions and fundamentally misunderstands the nature of rape and violence against women in this society,” said Charlene Smith, one of South Africa’s most prominent campaigners against rape.

“It is vengeful, horrible, and disgusting. The woman who invented this needs help.”

The inventor of the device, Sonette Ehlers insisted she did not hate men.

“Something needs to be done, and women are crying out for me to go ahead,” she told the BBC’s World Today programme.

Ms Ehlers has patented the tampon-sized device, and expects it to go on sale next month.

Lisa Vetten, of the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) said it was “a terrifying thought that women are being made to adapt to rape by wearing these devices”.

Ms Ehlers’s critics argue that it would be better to educate men not to rape in the first place, rather than just to catch them after the deed.

But the inventor insisted: “I’m not an educator – I will go for those they can’t educate.

The question seems to be whether or not women should adapt. Women’s groups say no, women aren’t raping themselves, it is the men who need education. And interestingly enough, they believe that the use of such a device is misandrist toward rapists (?). Perhaps I’m missing something. Others believe that whatever is necessary to protect oneself should be employed, be it pepper spray or barbed tampons. In South Africa, a woman has a greater chance of being raped in her lifetime than learning how to read.

I don’t know what sort of value to place on this concept, other than to say that the idea that a woman’s last resort is an anti-rape device inserted into the vagina because rape and sexual assault are so prevalent is absolutely horrifying. As Jessica of Feministing asks, have we given up the idea that men can willfully stop raping women?

These things do not occur in a vacuum. Rape is systematically used against women and children as an act of war. Myths prevail, primarily in regions of the African continent, that sex with a virgin will cure a person of HIV/AIDS, accounting for the alarming rate of baby and child rapes in the region.

The overwhelming question is Why? In part, the culture of violence is a legacy of apartheid.

At the root of the problem, says Dr Rachel Jewkes, a senior scientist with the South African Medical Research Council, is men’s attitude towards women.

“In South Africa you have a culture where men believe that they are sexually entitled to women. You don’t get rape in a situation where you don’t have massive gender inequalities.

One of the key problems in this country is that people who commit rape don’t think they are doing anything wrong.”

Is this a problem that can be solved with barbed tampons or education? Neither? Both? I don’t know either way. But this makes my chest ache.

HT: Feministing and Krista

Women Speak on Rape

DED Space discusses what it means when rapists have culture on their side.

Echidne of the Snakes takes apart Steve Gilliard’s prescriptive etiquette for women, in other words, his essay on How Not To Get Raped (Echidne later provides an astute update stemming from the comments in her previous post). Pseudo-Adrienne takes on this Gilliard essay as well. Shorter Steve Gilliard: “Yes, some guys are assholes, but it’s still your fault if you get raped.”

After surveying her class during the Kobe Bryant trial, Alley Rat finds that rape myths are alive and well among well-educated, middle-class boys and girls. Some of these comments are incredibly disappointing.

Amanda states the obvious: “Women cannot stop rape. And I’m sick of being told women don’t do enough to stop assault on us.”

Pinko Feminist Hellcat can’t win for losing. She discusses how others negatively perceive her precautionary tactics.

Both Amanda and PFH write on something I was criticized for just a few months ago, taking precautions out of what the author described as a “sad” fear. When I walk to and on campus at night, I turn my headphones low, make sure I’m wearing shoes I can run in, and loop my house keys through my fingers. I listen for footsteps around me and maintain a confident walk as though my confidence can somehow protect me. Sometimes I justify my late night solo walks with a statistical likelihood: if it happened to me once what are the chances of it happening again?

I have my wits, my strength, and my logic in my favor, but if a man decides he wants to do something to me, there is little I can do about it short of turning myself into a warrior.

These are my precautions to ensure my safety, I will not apologize for them. Safety does not mean indoors after eight.

The author who criticized these things as sadly fearful didn’t understand why I would take these precautions unless I had been raped or something. I left a comment replying that my first introduction to sex was rape and that after eleven years this summer I still live with the legacy. What he didn’t understand is that fear of assault does not result from having been raped, but from living in a culture in which, as PFH says, trust can mean peril.

A policy of rape

This Krisof column is sickening. He looks at rape in Sudan, and some of the information he puts forth is absolutely awful. Unfortunately he doesn’t really get into the history and politics of rape as a war tactic, but his column space is short. An excerpt:

Gang rape is terrifying anywhere, but particularly so here. Women who are raped here are often ostracized for life, even forced to build their own huts and live by themselves. In addition, most girls in Darfur undergo an extreme form of genital cutting called infibulation that often ends with a midwife stitching the vagina shut with a thread made of wild thorns. This stitching and the scar tissue make sexual assault a particularly violent act, and the resulting injuries increase the risk of H.I.V. transmission.

Sudan has refused to allow aid groups to bring into Darfur more rape kits that include medication that reduces the risk of infection from H.I.V.

The government has also imprisoned rape victims who became pregnant, for adultery. Even those who simply seek medical help are harassed and humiliated.