Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Who's the victim?

Last semester I went to a presentation called "Sexual Signals". It was held in the auditorium and put on by comedic/spare of the moment actors. The entire presentation was a series of skits about sexual misconceptions. One skit in particular dealt with rape. The definition of rape. A scenario was given of a girl who initiated making out with a friend, however when he tried to have sex with her she said "no". Despite her "no" he kept going. She did not put up a fight, and prior to this event a few beers had been consumed. The audience was pulled, and when asked who thought it was the girl's fault. Almost every hand in the entire auditorium went up. Then the actors went on to explain the definition of rape, and anytime that a one member of the party says "no", and the other partner does not stop... that is rape.

There is a quote that could explain this phenomenon better than I could. Kimberle Crenshaw wrote an article entitled "Respect" and she said, "Our own community readily embraces those accused of rape and chastises a woman for 'not having the good sense God gave her' or 'having no business being up there with that man at 2 in the morning' or 'being foolish not to know what his true intentions were.'" Wow! That is so true, but if accepted is frightening. That very statement redefines everything.

In those phrases that Kimberle stated many things are being assumed. The silence of a woman is valued because any woman who stands up for herself is just "crying victim". It also assumes that woman are held responsible for reading minds because she should have known his intentions. So, among all the other reasons that woman are forced to act a certain way in order to be accepted, she now has to trade in her emotional well being for the sake of being "silent".

In the article Kimberle also went on to quote a statistic that one out of every twelve men admit having continued to engage in sexual activity after a woman said "no". That means that if these men only did that to one woman than we could assume that one out of every twelve woman has said "no" and been molested. Yes, I said it... MOLESTED! Ouch! That word hurts. Why? because it insinuated that there is a victim and perpetrator. We hate to think about that. We would rather just not have to deal with it which would include someone keeping quiet. The someone would have to be the victim because the perpetrator has no reason to speak.

Now, I would like to address the very nature of the word "no". Words are like money, in theory they hold no meaning only that to which we place on them. "No" is really just two letters. These letters are turned into sound which creates a spoken word. However, this word is still just a sound. How do we place meaning on a sound? Society! We created the word to carry a certain amount of meaning. This meaning is not flexible. In any situation no will always mean... no. It will never mean "yes" or "maybe", and any dictionary you look it up in will say the same thing. So, how can we say that dealing with something as serious and emotionally scaring as sexual assault this word suddenly looses all meaning. I for one hear more reasons why the woman was in the wrong than the man in most sexual assault cases. However, the woman was the one who spoke "The word", but we conveniently disregard that.

I'm sure I'm not the only person who has ever heard such phrases as "he's just a man", "he can't help himself", or "she was asking for it". Those phrases in general are outrageous to me. I understand that a man's sexuality is much different than a woman's. I really do understand this. However, I have met men who actively use self control. I have also met men who can walk by a attractive woman and not jump on her because they are "men" and that is "just what men do". No! It's not. It's an excuse that society has made for men and certain men take full advantage of this excuse. Revolting!

It is now time for confessions. Of all the hands in that auditorium, my hand was right with them. I do not want to deal with these situations. I would rather everyone take responsibility even if it is not theirs to take, and then what we don't know won't hurt us. This also means that I would have to redefine many of my encounters with men that were all "my fault". Why is this? I will tell you. Taking responsibility is taking control. I for one like to have control. If I take responsibility for everything that every happened to me (my fault or not) than I can essentially prevent it from ever happening again (it's in my hands). However, if I place blame where it should be than I could possibly be taken advantage of again (because it's not in my hands). I can not think that. I would rather be "strong" which in my mind is calling everything my fault. In my mind I would rather label sexual abuse as an "affair". I would rather label molestation as a mutual sexual encounter. I would rather leave out the "no", because I know in the end... it doesn't have any meaning. It is just two letters and nothing more.

This is by far the hardest thing I've ever written. It takes a good deal out of a person to face the truth. Sometimes it is so much easier to ride to wave. Sometimes it's so much easier to tell half truths... to take responsibility for everything because it can be clearly defined. There is still such a thing as mutual sexual encounters (I'm not discrediting that). I am saying that many encounters are being labeled as something they are not in order to "keep the peace" or "not cause a fuss". Part of emotional maturity is being able to look at a situation and call is what it is however painful that might be.


m said...

That must have been very tough for you to write, but I'm proud of you, Catie! Keep searching for the truth.

Jennifer said...

love you, Catie...
lots and lots and lots