Rape Culture, or Why We’re Afraid of “Nice Guys”

 

You who have been following me for a while will know I rarely make comment on current events in the media. I rarely write posts related to issues that are happening in the political or religious platforms – or anything that people would want to debate…

But there is a particular issue in the media currently that I feel maybe a blog like mine should at least comment on, if not relate a post to.

For new readers, I will catch you up on why the forthcoming post might be related to “a blog like mine” : I have been subject to abuse by a couple of men. I have had a boyfriend in the past that abused me in various ways, including sexually. I have had a ‘lover’ (for lack of a better word) that was threatening and domineering. I have also, a few times, written about other incidents that I have lived through, as a woman, that has painted the very picture of rape culture.

So it seems now it would be timely to write about this topic in light of the Stanford Rape case. The only thing I want to comment on directly regarding that case is: disgusting. It’s bad enough that rape cases are hard enough to prove when the rape was long done and perhaps the girl was too ashamed to tell someone right away and/or get a rape kit done before she showered and started to heal from any physical wounds. It sucks so bad that that is the case, but at least on some level it makes sense that without evidence a rapist wouldn’t be able to be held accountable through a court of law.

But for fuck’s sake. This particular asswipe was caught in the act! It disgusts me and saddens me all at once that it is easily proven that he is in fact a rapist, but the system still lets the victim – and all other women – down by ruling leniently and making light of the criminal’s actions.

Out from this case, I have seen a lot of “Rape Culture” commentary, explanations, memes, comic strips, etc across the internet and social media in what seems to be a renewed effort to bring this issue to light. In an effort to make others realize, especially men who tend not to realize the damaging effects of this culture as women do.

So here I am, on a blog like mine, and I need to reiterate what many others have been saying. I am adding my voice and my story – for what it’s worth.

I read a Swedish article (I believe – I can’t find it now to be sure) once, fairly recently – within the last year or so – written by a man who was bothered and upset that while he explained he was a nice guy and not scary looking that a woman visibly appeared fearful of him while in a sparsely populated train station.

While I understood where his point of view was coming from – knowing that he knew himself not to have ill intent; I could immediately understand the woman’s point of view as well. His, and many others’, claim that not all men are bad or not all men are rapists/abusers, do little to ease our minds when we already know these things:

  • You’re bigger than us; often stronger than us
  • Rapists and abusers often appear “nice,” and many of us know this because we have already been abused by a “nice” looking man
  • You’re a stranger… We’ve been taught since we were little girls about “Stranger Danger,” and we start to realize the truth of this the more we experience as we come in contact with various men through our lives
  • We have “nice” or “well meaning” men touch without asking; invading our personal space
  • We have “nice” or “well meaning” men get angry when they think we “can’t take a compliment”
  • We all have a host of personal experiences and have witnessed other women’s experiences that prove to us that we need to be careful around any man we come in contact with, whether he looks nice or not.
  • We have been harassed in the streets, we have been slut shamed, and we have seen so many men essentially get away with assaults or rape because they thought they could and they were right… and then we see their victims blamed and shamed.

We know that there are genuinely nice guys out there. We know that a lot of men who do things that make us uncomfortable are not necessarily acting with ill intent towards us… But the issue is that they also just don’t understand how even minor acts or words of theirs can contribute to Rape Culture.

A couple of years ago I started to tell my husband about my boyfriend when I was a teen that abused me. He would strike me occasionally, he was controlling and sexually abusive. When I first told my husband I didn’t give a lot of detail to start… I was still processing the courage to let the whole story out, as I had held it deep inside for a decade and a half, not telling anyone.

He said something about Wyatt “not really hurting me” …Not in disbelief of my words, but in justification to himself that whatever I lived through did not seriously injure me. I know he just didn’t quite understand the extent of it at that point, but his words were like a slap. He thought he was being supportive, but his words seemed flippant and I realized he just didn’t understand and I wasn’t sure if he ever would. My feelings and experiences were trivialized.

He did get bothered when he read that David had thrown his keys at me. That elicited a reaction because I should have told him another man had treated me that way – as if he should have done something to protect me after the fact.

Um, Ok.

Except my experience taught me to be compliant in abusive situations; I would never have dreamed of running to my husband to deal with David’s outburst… At least not until I got to the point I actually was afraid of serious injury.

The glossing over of men’s behaviour towards women contributes to Rape Culture. Saying “It was just a joke,” contributes to Rape Culture. Expecting any and every woman to feel comfortable with you or react as you wish them to contributes to your entitlement and… to Rape Culture.

Just because you, yourself, are not a Rapist doesn’t mean you aren’t contributing to Rape Culture. Even if you are the best of men and never do anything that directly affects a woman negatively, but you don’t speak up when you see others (men and women alike) making jokes or speaking to or about women in a belittling way/ “mansplaining” or touching them inappropriately or without being asked… Then you too are contributing to Rape Culture.

We’ve learned that even with men on the street that don’t know us… We, as women, are expected to be polite and smile even when they make us uncomfortable. God forbid we express discomfort lest we get verbally abused or worse. Lest we get called a “Bitch” or have a “nice looking” guy take other liberties to teach us some supposed lesson.

Trust me; I’ve learned the lesson well enough. That is why I smile or am polite when I have to be… and why I too would tense up and move away if I were virtually alone in a train station when that young, nice, Swedish man happened to approach the platform.

We need more male allies. We need more men to realize how deep this runs in our lives so they too can help us… Please, help us.

 

I am not as eloquent as a lot of other people that write about this topic, so please read more… For some other very good information/view points on this matter… follow these links:

What is Rape Culture?

When I was 11/I Was Never Raped

#inteensam (Swedish Language video about what girls hear in school.)

25 Everyday Examples of Rape Culture

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7 Comments

  1. Pingback: Telling our stories | I Will Not Live in Vain

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