Rape is a spectrum

All the men I have ever met have opposed rape. They even say they cannot understand it. Why would someone do that? How could they ever derive any pleasure therefrom? They recoil at the thought of it; some even claim that if a woman is not interested they wouldn’t get a hard-on.

I see all of these men as extremely dangerous potential rapists. Because they are so sure they are not rapists — this makes them especially susceptible to rape. They see rape in a dichotomy, as it is often portrayed in media (film, television, and now especially in the news and social networking websites). In these media, and thus, in men’s minds, there either is a rape, or there isn’t. There is nothing in between. Sex is either consensual, or it isn’t. A very good illustration of this mindset is in the following tweet, shared by the feminist page Humans of Patriarchy:

Capture d’écran 2019-08-25 à 22.00.57

For these men, rape is violent, committed by a man’s overpowering of a woman through his brute strength, or with the aid of a weapon. The word conjures up images of a screaming woman, frantically pushing off her attacker, who forces her down against her will, muffles her cries, rips off her panties and just shoves it in. So we have seen in the movies. Or, as we have learnt through recent news, rape is also when a man has sexual intercourse with an unconscious woman. After reading up on the Steubenville case, many liberal, feminist men were appalled, and now protect themselves by always asking “are you sure you are sober enough to consent?” whenever their partner is out of it.

These men see themselves as male allies. They would never commit rape, never gang up on a helpless woman and force themselves upon her while she screamed “no”. Thus, they find no faults in themselves–“I am against rape, therefore I am virtuous when it comes to my dealings with women. I would never rape them. I just date, like a normal guy”– I have heard sentences like these from the most insistent, imposing, irritating men I have ever met. Since they do not rape, and since rape a dichotomy (either rape or consent) they do not have to find errors in their ways: they do not rape, therefore, everything else in consent. It is consent when they send messages over and over again to the woman who is obviously not interested, asking, if they have tact “do you wanna hang out?”, “what are you doing saturday”, or “why aren’t you answering?”, “are you okay?” “what’s wrong?” if they don’t. It’s they who, upon hearing “I don’t want to have sex with you”, keep trying anyway until they get a “yes”. I heard a man who told me he hated rape say “yes, you said no, but your body was saying something different”.

Why do they keep trying if she isn’t interested? Because, if they try enough, over and over again, she might say yes. Not because she particularly wants to. Usually just because she is bored, and he’s at least someone. Or maybe she convinces herself that he might be alright; maybe she hasn’t heard someone tell her she was beautiful in a while. Or maybe all his messages, all his insistence wear down on her. Imagine being at someone’s house, expecting to just watch a movie, then have that person insist, and insist, and insist. You say no, you just want to watch the film, there’s no reason to leave, he hasn’t hurt you, he hasn’t committed any violence. You just want to watch the movie, but at every opportunity he tries making a move. Saying no is an act which requires much more energy than yes. Yes is easy. It’s a way out, psychologically speaking.

In any case, it is never good sex for her. But he doesn’t really care, because he’s not thinking about her. He has satisfied his desire.

Rape? Of course not. She said yes! He never had to use force! Even if they were sleeping side by side, she having told him she just wanted to sleep, then while they sleep he grabs her hand and slides it under his pants. This freezes her, she doesn’t know what to do, she just wish she could sleep, it is too late to take the bus home. Yet that’s not a rape; he didn’t force himself on her, and one either rapes or one doesn’t!

I would just like people to reflect on this conception of rape being “either/or”. Not only is it simplistic; I am afraid it actually does more harm than good. If in their mind they are not rapists, then they can tell themselves that they are feminists. They believe there is no further work to be done, no gradients of abuse in their behaviour towards women. “Have you ever been raped?” one such man asked me. “No, but I have had sex with someone when I didn’t want to because they kept insisting.” “Oh my goodness, that’s horrible, we have to talk about this.” “It was with you.” I didn’t say that last sentence because of my inclination to please. And I know that when I do point these things out to men, usually I am the one apologising to them for making them feel bad.

From a young age, women are taught to please, and men are taught to receive. They are, by  their social nature, entitled. Entitled to sex with the girl who has come to watch a movie at their house. Why else would she be there? “I don’t want to have sex with you,” she says. “Then why are you here?” he says. The mere presence of a woman in their space entitles them to sex, in their subconscious minds. As though his words did not have a psychological effect on the woman. As though this did not constitute a form of abuse.

Entitlement is part and parcel of the gradient of rape. “How can you do this? This is not your decision alone to make!” so were the words of a man in a Russian rom-com whose girlfriend was breaking up with him. A woman’s decision to no longer have sex with a man is often viewed as “selfish” by a man. Does she not have a commitment to him? How can she just let him go like this? Perhaps because she is her own person, with her own individuality, her own desires. This does not cross his mind, for she is his desire, and is bounded by it. In the film Manhattan the girl does not go study in Paris, to advance her studies, to further her own life, because Woody Allen wanted to keep fucking her. He insisted and insisted, until no became yes, much to her own detriment. Were he to get an opportune placement in Rome? Sorry honey, I’m off, well, you know, my future’s first. She wouldn’t insist, because she respects the fact that he has his own life.

This entitled attitude, in which women have no existence of their own but are merely play-things for men to enjoy, for men to cry and cry if their toy has been taken from them (worse, it is trying to move away out of its own volition!), ultimately leads into the bedroom. Many men think they have a greater sex drive then women, because so many times they have to insist and try and ask to have sex when she doesn’t feel like it. Truth be told, she just doesn’t want to with you, man. Women rarely insist. They may press hard, flirt like crazy, try in many subtle ways. But rarely will they make someone feel like they are unwanted because they are not up for sex. Because why should they? He is his own person, if he doesn’t want to, fair enough. This logic only works if you see the other person as an individual. And I am afraid men have yet to see women as subjects rather than objects to escape the entitled-rapist set of mind.

These words probably do worse than preach to the converted. I know it will not impact the entitled self-proclaimed feminist men. I know because one who locked me into a nine-month relationship I tried desperately to leave cut me off completely after I told him he had been abusive, even though I supposedly was the most important person in his life, someone he considered marrying. Yet after I held the mirror to his face for him, and finally formulated how he’d hurt me, with his screaming, his condescension, his insistence to change who I was into what he wanted to be –I have never heard from him again. He probably will go on saying he is a feminist who hates rape. The entitled self-proclaimed feminist men tell themselves they have no flaws with regards to their treatment of women, because they are not rapists. Which is why I contend: rape is a spectrum, and rather than saying “I am not a rapist”, it is more a matter of trying to honestly perceive on which side of the spectrum you are on, and to work on that. Perhaps realise that you yourself are part of rape culture.

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