You probably knew this was coming. Trigger warning - rape and rape culture - Tactical Ninja
Nov. 8th, 2013
02:56 pm - You probably knew this was coming. Trigger warning - rape and rape culture
Warning. This post is going to be all kinds of triggery, and I’ll start by being up front about what it’s about.
Rape Culture. Specifically, rape culture in New Zealand.
As background, this week there came to light in our clean, green, peaceful , safe country that there was a group of young men in Auckland who call themselves Roast Busters. They liked to get young women and underaged girls to parties, get them beyond-meaningful-consentingly drunk, then gang rape them and film it. And photograph it. And then share it on Facebook.
The cops have known about this for two years, have had formal complaints from victims, and did nothing but watch because ‘not enough evidence’. To add insult to injury, when a young friend of one of the victims called a radio show to talk about it, the hosts grilled her and victim-blamed her as if she were the one who had done wrong.
As you can imagine, there’s been a public outcry, along with the “What can we do?” A petition for the government to do something. Opinion editorials to the max.
That last one is worth reading. However, you might note that it’s in the very same paper that just two days ago told me to get a sense of humour about Bob Jones’s misogynistic columns.
So when something like this happens it crystallises people into action. At the moment, advertisers pulling their accounts from Radio Live over that interview are being lauded and retweeted all over Twitter. People are up in arms, angry, and wondering what they can do. Others are supplying them with suggestions like donating to Rape Crisis (from which the state pulled funding recently).
The thing is, while all that is laudable and good on folks for doing it, this situation is a symptom, and those actions are only addressing the symptoms. Lambasting Radio Live will not change the culture that allowed these boys to think this was ok in the first place. And they are only one media outlet in a nation of media outlets that continue to support rape culture.
The man I complained about to the Press Council? He wrote another article two weeks earlier in which he had a go at ‘hysterical feminists’ who were ‘upset’ about a verdict in which a judge suggested that two women who had been assaulted were ‘foolish’ to venture out alone at night (together), and acquitted the perpetrator. He naturally included his own vitriolic attempt at victim-blaming as well. You know, the usual – “Sure, rapists are bad people but you should know better than to (do whatever you were doing when you were raped). Etc.
And he still has a job. One which is defended by the editor of the Herald as ‘deliberately provocative’ and ‘an attempt at humour’.
So, you know, I find it a little difficult to read Rebecca Kamm’s otherwise excellent article up there, because all I can think is that it’s in the same paper that supports the (more widely read) perpetuating of the same bullshit myths she’s trying to shoot down.
And it goes deeper than just the overt victim-blaming too. Remember when I wrote about the ‘women drivers’ thing, and how it was reflective of a culture that does actually operate around the idea that women are not supposed to drive because Reasons? And how that culture is demonstrated in the design of vehicles and the way some men feel entitled to tell women how to drive, or make them sit in the back like second-class citizens?
Rebecca talks a bit about the realities of rape in our society. How most rapists are known to their victims, how stranger-rape in a dark alley is the rarest form, and how the victims of ‘acquaintance’ rape find it even harder to come forward because there are often no bruises, and because the capacity for victim blaming is greatly increased when the victim has chosen to be in a particular situation with a particular person, such that we have the appalling statistics around the reporting and follow-up policing of rape. Oh and let's not forget the perception that 'acquaintance rape' is somehow less harmful because it was someone the victim knew that raped them.
So how hard do you think it would be for a victim to come forward if she were married to her rapist? How about if the rapist didn’t force her but instead coerced her through a systematic dismantling of her resistance through sleep deprivation and attacks on her self-esteem until she capitulated?
Yes, I’m talking about myself. That’s my experience. I was raped on a regular basis over a period of seven years by someone who if you asked him, would think he was not raping anyone, because I didn’t say no. At least, after he’d followed me around the house for hours, night after night, to the spare room, to the couch, to anywhere where I might be able to sleep. After he’d shouted abuse at me and wheedled and cajoled and pressed himself all over me while I cringed away and cried. After he’d ignored no after no after no, continuing to press and follow and shout until I gave in and let him do it so he’d stop harrassing me.
I let him, therefore in his mind, it wasn’t rape. He was my husband and sex was his right. He didn’t force me, right? And a man is supposed to be persistent in his pursuit of sex, right?
And the saddest part? I didn't think it was rape either, until years later when I finally understood why I was having a PTSD type reaction to any situation of coercion. When I realised that consent given under duress is not consent, and that having sex when you don't want to is what rape is. Because I grew up in the same culture.
And this is why the Roast Busters are a symptom. They are my husband, in a way. They are young men who don’t think it’s rape because she didn’t say no, never mind she was unconscious at the time. They don’t think it’s rape because the young women chose to be in their presence and that’s tantamount to consent in a rape culture.
They don’t think it’s rape because people like Bob Jones get to question the motives of victims publicly, asking whether they should have chosen to be in a place, whether that was perhaps not a little foolish, and implying that perhaps then maybe they deserved it? And judges back this up with decision statements that do the same thing.
And while I’m under no illusions that the Roast Busters men read Bob Jones’ column, this attitude is so pervasive in our media that I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that their Dad, Uncle, Auntie, brother or mate does read him. Or someone like him. Someone who thinks it’s funny to suggest violence against women as hyperbole, whose speech is peppered with terminology that reduces women to their genitals (cunt!), who believes there’s a seed of truth in the thing about women drivers, or about women being hysterical, irrational, or emotional.
It’s not just victim blaming. It’s a culture that demeans women in general by presenting us as useless for anything but sex, and in turn presenting men as aggressive pursuers of sex. Remember Jones assuming an angry woman is only angry because she can’t get a bloke? Apparently that is what we exist for, in his view. Getting a bloke.
So these young men who grow up in this culture end up believing that women *want* them, that women exist for them to stick their dick in, even when the woman herself is saying no (or unable to say no). They believe that it is their role to take sex when they want it despite the wishes of the other person, because the other person has been painted socially as a non-person who doesn’t really know what she wants, whose job it is to please him sexually.
I have personal experience of the result of this type of socialisation, and you would be hard pressed to convince me that the media doesn’t have a role in perpetuating these attitudes when I’m faced daily with “What was she wearing?” and “Irrational women!” and “Don’t listen to her, she’s emotional!” and “Drunk women are asking for it” and “Well she chose to be there/stay there!”
Rape culture springs from a culture that sees, and portrays, women as less-than.
So while I commend Rebecca Kamm’s words and appreciate the Herald publishing them, I am viewing them with a very jaundiced eye. She’s completely omitted to mention her own paper’s complicity in perpetuating the culture that allowed this to happen, and in my opinion that is one of the more important points that needs bringing up in this.
The media needs to stop with this bullshit and stop giving money to people who perpetuate it. And the state needs to step up and start prosecuting rapists instead of blaming victims. End of story.