Consider this: there is a woman walking along a road at night.
A man appears out of the shadows and demands she give him all her money. The woman says no. Eventually, by force, the man robs the woman of her money. That is a crime, a crime we would all be rightfully shocked by. So why is it that when it’s not her money that the man takes against the woman’s will; when it’s her pride, her dignity, her rights, her body, and often, the rest of her life; society suddenly gets all confused about standing up and declaring it wrong? Why is it that on average, only around 6% of rapists are convicted?
Nobody would ever dream of blaming the woman who got mugged for what happened to her. Nobody would ever say “Well you shouldn’t carry money or phones on you.” Oh no. We accept the necessity of carrying these items on our person and see the perpetuator of the attack as utterly in the wrong. With rape, however, we see it differently. Society is reluctant to accept the necessity of women actually existing; they are reluctant to accept that they have to walk around in public, that they have to be out after dark, that they have to look nice. A girl who is mugged is never blamed for carrying money on her, so why is a girl who is raped blamed for wearing a short skirt? Or for being drunk? Or for having the audacity to be alive and enjoying herself?
This is the shadow of doubt which causes us as a society to consider that perhaps, in some tiny way, a fraction of blame lies with the woman. Because she’d been wearing a short skirt, and she’d been so drunk, and she’d been flirting with the bloke all evening. Well, let’s take this shadow of doubt and let’s extrapolate it back to the big black cloud it originates from, the cloud that says, ‘it’s all her own fault’, the cloud that says the poor rapist man was just confused; he quite understandably mistook her pleas to ‘get off’ as encouragement, when she cried he made the easy mistake of interpreting them for tears of happiness because he really was just that good in bed. The fact that, for most rapists, a form of physical force is required?
Oh, just the guy getting a little over excited.
No no, she asked for it, her top was low cut and that says ‘sleep with me’ much louder than all her cries say ‘stop’.
The problem with our attitude towards rape is that we focus too much on how women can prevent it happening to them and simply accept that men will always do it if given the opportunity. We see women the way pickpockets see open handbags: as a temptation. If only that handbag had been closed, the whole thing need never had happened. How silly of her, we think, she almost (always almost) asked for it. I shall make this clear though; women are not handbags. They may like handbags, they may love handbags, but that doesn’t mean they are handbags and they’re certainly not open; and just because they exist and happen to be attractive, does not mean they are responsible for any unwanted attention that they get. When a woman wears a skirt, as far as I’m aware she doesn’t sign a contract at the counter agreeing to sleep with every guy she meets while wearing it, when a woman gets drunk, she isn’t making a deal with the barman that now she’s had that glass of JD and Coke she’s up for having sex with everybody in the bar. Woman do things they want to do, drink things they want to drink, wear things they want to wear. They do none of these things for men and that is the problem. For as long as men see themselves as the motivation behind these acts, so will these rapes and assaults continue. If boys are raised to believe a woman is wearing a dress to attract his attention and not simply because she wants to look nice in a dress for herself, he will think he automatically has a right to her in it.
Not only is this view of rape damaging and wrong, it is also offensive to men, implying that all boys have the ability to become rapists if they see a hot enough girl in a short enough dress. Boys go to beaches, they see girls in bikinis and short skirts all the time but the majority of them, at worst, indulge in a little tacky horn honking and move on. To suggest that a girl’s attire could transform any of these lovely young men into rapists is ridiculous. A rapist is a man with a dangerous craving for power and a girl of any age and in any clothing is vulnerable to him. Therefore it is him, not her we need to address. A rapist is a man with no respect or compassion; a problem that is not going to be solved by all women wandering round in nun’s habits reciting chastity vows.
But, all these excuses and complications aside, rape is defined as ‘non-consensual sex’ and that says everything. NON-CONSENSUAL i.e. the woman said ‘I do not want to have sex with you’. And it is not even debatable, it is simply irrelevant what she was wearing or doing or saying. When a woman says ‘I do not want to have sex with you, she means ‘I do not want to have sex with you’ and if a guy continues to push the matter, and ends up forcing her to do it then it is wrong, and it is entirely the rapist’s fault.
The recent rapes and sexual assaults on the elderly that have been in the news prove once and for all that rape is not a crime based on sexual temptation, but on power. Nobody could accuse the elderly women burgled and raped by the infamous ‘night stalker’ of having ‘led him on’ and yet it still happened. Why did it still happen? Because rape is not a spontaneous response to attractive girls, it is not an impulsive mistake, a lack of control in sexually suppressed teenagers; it is a lot darker, crueller and more violent than that.
Rape is an issue at the forefront of the news at the moment; culminating in protest marches known as ‘Slutwalks’ prompted by the comments of a Canadian Policeman who warned girls not to dress like sluts if they didn’t want to get raped. I urge you all to go, go and promote the incredibly radical idea that it’s not actually a woman’s fault when she gets raped and that the best way of stopping it is to lock up the rapists, not the women, in their houses after dark. Whether it’s a young, attractive girl that gets raped or a vulnerable old lady, these horrific assaults are equally despicable and their victims are equally blameless.