A beautiful woman walks down Shattuck at night in a skintight red dress and black jacket. Her high heels click against the pavement when, out of nowhere, she is attacked by a rapist. Was she asking for it?
A 16-year-old high school girl from Steubenville, Ohio, drinks at a party. She starts to feel sick and passes out. Two football players use this as an opportunity to drag her unconscious body from one party to another. They rape her, urinate on her and live-tweet the whole thing while their friends watch and laugh. Please tell me, was that girl asking for it?
A former Steubenville NAACP leader thinks she was, calling the victim “drunk and willing.” Women are constantly scrutinized and blamed for violent crimes that are committed against them because of their clothing, their personal choices and their alcohol consumption. Society teaches us: Don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal, don’t murder. But when it comes to rape, the message is clear: Don’t get raped. Rape is an act whose responsibility, time after time, falls on its victims, not on its perpetrators.
We have to wonder why. Is it the media, which unfortunately uses the female form as an object? Turn on the TV, and look at how many half-naked, writhing women you find in commercials for cars, for beer, for food. The media tells us we can have the woman just as easily as we can the new bacon double cheeseburger. It’s all there for the taking.
Women can’t win in this world. There seem to be only two positions open to us. The first is the role media creates, in which women exist only for the pleasure of men, to be walking, talking sex dolls who never say “no.” If we reject this objectified role and demand to be treated as people, with freedom to choose what we wear and sleep with whom we like, we get labeled as cockteases and whores. Female liberation exists only within the confines of patriarchy.
All of our choices, then, become tied to sex. What we wear, what we drink, whom we smile at are all just open invitations for men to exercise their physical dominance over us. I wish I didn’t have to say “men” and “women.” It saddens me that rape is also a gender issue. Yes, female rapists and male rape victims exist, but the majority of rapes involve a male aggressor and a female victim. It is disempowering for us all that women are portrayed as wanting to be maimed sexually and that men are portrayed as insatiable beasts, incapable of rational thinking and unable to control their sexual desire.
I’m sorry to the man outside of BART who tried to start a conversation with me. It was late, and what I gave you in return was no eye contact, no “hello” back. My fingers tightened around the pepper spray in my pocket. I’m sorry to the men who have good intentions but are treated like criminals simply because they’re male. That’s not fair.
But it will continue to happen. I will keep ignoring any man who talks to me late at night. I can’t be the nice person who I am when one in four women will be a victim of rape or attempted rape by the time she leaves college. I can’t help but be on guard when I know that 50 percent of rape victims who come forward are accused of lying. I will not feel safe in a country in which the media mourns the damaged football careers of two rapists and not the poor 16-year-old girl whose life they ruined. I can’t sit back and relax when only 3 percent of all rapists end up in jail. I am a woman, and let me be honest: I am terrified.
My fear grew when I found a website called avoiceformen.com, a self-proclaimed anti-feminist website that runs articles whose topics include why women are the only ones who can stop rape and how women actually enjoy being raped. Part of their sick, twisted logic is that women often like rough sex and that some have rape fantasies, so rape is OK and should be encouraged.
Let me make myself very clear. Enjoying rough sex is not asking to be raped. Even having rape fantasies is not asking to be raped. There is a monumental difference between playing out a fantasy with a sexual partner you trust and feel safe with and being forced to have sex against your will. Making excuses for rape does nothing but perpetuate rape culture and encourage rapists.
For those of you who think women are “asking for it,” you’re right. We are asking for something. We are begging, pleading, demanding a world in which we feel safe and respected. We’re asking to be treated like decent human beings. We’re asking for an end to rape and rape culture. When will you finally listen?
A previous version of this column incorrectly stated that one in four women will be raped by the time she leaves college. In fact, one in four women will be a victim of rape or attempted rape by the time she leaves college.