Cirque du Soleil is like whoah.
Victim-blaming is a buzzphrase I see around the internet quite a lot. You know, a woman is raped, everyone is horrified, then someone suggests that perhaps if she hadn't been drunk/wearing a miniskirt/walking alone at night, it may not have happened, and soon enough lots of people are screaming "Victim blaming! NaughtyBadWrong!" And in that case, I tend to agree - forcing sex on someone is rape, and what the woman is wearing/doing at the time should be irrelevant, and trying to suggest that the victim is somehow at fault is at the least, a bit off, and at worst, buying into the kind of thinking that allows rape to exist.
Last night I was studying for my exam, and I was reading about academic thinking around victims. Back in the olden days, someone called Christie came up with 6 attributes of a victim (yes I'm going to list them for my own benefit):
1. The victim is weak in relation to the offender.
2. The victim is acting virtuously, or at least simply going about their business.
3. The victim is blameless for what happened.
4. The victim and the offender are strangers to each other.
5. The offender is unambiguously big and bad.
6. The victim has a combination of power/sympathy that allows the victim to be accorded 'victim status' without creating opposition.
Without putting too fine a point on it, this is a stereotypical approach that has been shown by evidence to be consistently, well, just wrong. For example, little frail old ladies are statistically in quite a significant minority in terms of violent assaults, whereas young men aged 18-24 are at the highest risk, and overall, men are much more likely to be assaulted by a stranger than women. Additionally, people known to be criminal are more likely to be victims of crime than non-criminals, which seems to be seen as a function of societal stratification. In other words, the separation between victims and offenders is notional and in a large part, incorrect.
So two guys get in a brawl in a bar. They're both drunk, there's a flurry of fists, one guy ends up on the floor with a broken nose. Some would say the offender and victim are easy to identify - after all, one guy's injured and the other's not. But.. who assaulted who? And how much did Broken Nose Guy contribute to the development of the altercation in the first place? Was he acting virtuously? Is the guy who swung the lucky punch somehow 'worse' than the guy who received it? How do we identify who has been victimised in that situation? Who is to blame? Would it be fair to expect Broken Nose Guy to accept a share of the blame or responsibility for what happened to him?
I think most people would say yes, some of the responsibility for the broken nose lies at the feet of the guy who received it. And not many people would be likely to cry 'victim blaming'.
With me so far? Good.
So what about this situation? Warning - triggering.
tl;dr - Woman confesses rape fantasy to new boyfriend, they flirt around it for a while, he decides to fulfil the fantasy for her birthday, doesn't stop when she says "No". Trauma ensues.
Again, the victim seems obvious. We have a rapist and a rape victim. There is no doubt who did the raping, and there's no doubt that it was rape. However, there are some, IMO very grey areas in there. I've been unable to articulate my thoughts in a way that won't bring cries of "VICTIM BLAMING!" - and yet, having read what the woman has to say about it, I find myself wondering how much of what happened was a heinous, horrible mistake, based in misinterpretation of signals.
I am aware that obtaining meaningful consent for sex is a pretty clear requirement - and in the case of fulfilling a rape fantasy, even more so. It's a very edgy thing to do. So the guy didn't get meaningful consent - and yet, I can see that he may have thought he had it with the encouragement and flirting around it that had occurred previously. And if he felt he had meaningful consent, then 'rape fantasy = on' mode would preclude objections as being part of the fantasy.
Where I think the guy failed is in two areas - first, the out-of-the-bedroom clarification about what her fantasy involved, agreement on a safeword, clear and meaningful consent to go ahead on a future date, and means of checking-in during the activity. Second, failing to recognise her 'shutting down' as a sign that this was not what she wanted, and continuing anyway. The first I could put down to inexperience, poor communication and thoughtlessness. The second, I'm not sure how I feel. Most people WOULD see and stop, I think. He didn't.
But did he victimise her? I really don't know. He definitely raped her, and the fact that he got defensive afterwards and said "Well you asked for it" doesn't do him any favours at all in my view. But (in my mind at least), automatically dismissing this as a case of 'man rapes woman, lock him up, throw away the key, etc etc' seems to preclude the possibility that he fucked up monumentally and that there wasn't intent to disempower her in the way that's normally associated with vindictive rape, because she had indicated that she wanted it in previous conversation and that his intent was simply to fulfil her fantasy.
And I know that accepting this viewpoint is opening the door to the kind of thinking that allows rape to exist. Yet.. I'm not sure how I feel about it. Perhaps changing the word 'blame' to 'responsibility' makes it easier to sort out.
Anyway, I'm interested to hear other folks' take on it. If there's a flaw in my thinking, I'd like to know what it is and how I could look at this differently to make things clearer.
Another thing I learned last night is that the majority of stuff taken in burglaries is stuff like DVD players, DVDs, CDs, Playstations and their games, and the like. These are the things for which there's a market for the burglar to exploit - people want to buy these things.
So, um, what does it say about our society that the biggest market for stolen property is in things that facilitate escapism?