Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Violence Against Women Is A Issue About The Behavior Of Men

The statement in the title of this post is something that too many people react to with denial or the claim that pointing this out is an act of man hating. This simple concept is so hard for these people to accept because of the persistent widespread belief that girls and women who are raped or abused by men are the primary cause of this violence committed against them.

This belief is why most of the rape prevention messages are directed at girls and women.

Under this model, boys and men who rape and abuse are turned into Pavlov's guys. Girls and women are ringing these guys bells and these guys can't help but salivate. Except in acts of violence against girls and women such as rape these guys aren't salivating like the dogs in Pavlov's experiment, they are taking action.

Pavlov's dogs didn't maul him when he didn't give them the food they were anticipating. They drooled.

This idea brings me to an Iowa Independent article which features the work of Jackson Katz who co-founded the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) Program at Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society. Katz is also the author of the book The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Can Help.

Katz said one underlying problem is that college campuses tend to focus on the prevention of rape and sexual violence. "But the term prevention in not really prevention; rather, it's risk reduction," Katz said. "These programs focus on how women can reduce their chances of being sexually assaulted. I agree that women benefit from these education programs, but let us not mistake this for prevention."

"If a woman has done everything in her power to reduce her risk, then a man who has the proclivity for abuse or need for power will just move on to another woman or target," Katz added. "It's about the guy and his need to assert his power. And it's not just individual men, it's a cultural problem. Our culture is producing violent men, and violence against women has become institutionalized. We need to take a step back and examine the institutionalized polices drafted by men that perpetuate the problem."

What Katz is getting at is that the desire and willingness to rape is within the rapist before any so-called risky behavior by girls or women in the presence of this would-be rapist. And this desire and willingness to rape is sociological not biological.

The current prevention strategy is what I call the, "Don't rape me. Rape her." strategy.

Think of warnings to not go to frat parties. If all frat parties are this dangerous and the individual attitudes of fraternity members cannot change, then the correct rape prevention strategy is for all colleges and all police forces to schedule regular patrols so they can immediately shut down all frat parties.

Unfortunately, most rape prevention messages directed at girls and women are worse than ineffective, they provide backhanded support for rapists who will respond to genuine allegations with, "It was consensual" because the corollary to "If you don't want to be raped, don't drink." is "If you do want to be forced sexually, do drink." That turns drinking even one beer into defacto consent.

No wonder drinking is often used as an excuse to do nothing about a rape allegation.

With that belief set why would a boy or man bother asking outright since the answer to his question is likely to be no or a polite alternative which clearly means the same thing.

Right now most of the rape prevention messages only teach boys and men how to get away with rape. Don't rape the sober. Don't rape using a knife or a gun. Don't give your rape victim bruises which can't be dismissed as being part of rough sex. Introduce yourself to your rape victim before rape so your rape will be dismissed as a misunderstanding.

We must teach boys and men that those who are good at getting past a girl's or woman's lack of willingness are not good at changing that person's mind about sex, they are skilled rapists -- which is no more admirable than someone who is good at overcoming another person's defenses to succeed at any other personal crime such as murder.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:04 AM   6 comments links to this post


At April 29, 2008 12:02 PM, Anonymous Anna C said...

This isn't exactly on topic, but I wanted to ask you something about what you define as rape.

I've been reading your blog for a while and am very interested in the issues that you discuss, and have become much more aware of the victim-blaming in our culture (I'm from England by the way).

I was watching Law and Order this afternoon, and the situation was this: a woman had been drugged with ghb at a party by a man obviously intending to rape her. He did, and she was left dishevelled and wandering around the flat.

Another boy at the party was friends with the girl but wansn't in a relationship with her. He didn't know that she had been drugged and therefore was incapable of consenting. He saw her crying and looking tired - and he knew that she had been sick - so he took her into his room, meaning to try to comfort her. They chatted for a while, and then she kissed him. Then they had sex. The police later treated this as rape.

Do you think it is? Because though maybe it wasn't perfectly moral to have sex with her when she was so intoxicated that she had vomited, but it is rape? How was he to know that she didn't want sex? She never said no, she never indicated that she wanted him to stop - in fact the opposite.

But on the other hand, she couldn't legally consent (though of course the second guy didn't know this).

So did he rape her?

At April 29, 2008 2:11 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Yes, he raped her. When someone arrives obviously traumatized emotionally and physically as you describe then that rules out the possibility of consent. That isn't unknownable so the second rapist is no accidental rapist.

Taking a traumatized girl to his room is no innocent action. Since he didn't know what happened to her and with the known possibility that drinks get spiked with drugs, he should have called 911. Failing to do so in that situation could contribute to the death of someone who has been drugged and raped.

Even if he assumed she had consumed only alcohol, failing to call 911 is criminally negligent since girls can die of acute alcohol poisoning and timely medical intervention can save lives.

At April 29, 2008 5:50 PM, Blogger JENNIFER DREW said...

Jackson Katz is right it is a cultural problem and more importantly it is a men's issue. Our society still believes in the sexual double standard wherein males are taught they need take no responsibility for their sexual behaviour or actions because after all their sexuality is uncontrollable once aroused. Women and girls are still taught they are responsible for controlling male sexuality and if a man rapes them it is their fault not the man's.

We need to teach boys and girls from a very young age that 'having sex' which predominantly means heterosexual penis in vagina is not a man's right but that women too have rights and one of them is the right to own their sexualities and bodies. It means teaching boys before they reach adolescence that being male does not automatically entitle them to commit rape. It means teaching boys and girls what sexual autonomy really means and that it is not limited to one gender - men but applies equally to both genders. We also need to teach girls and boys about abuse of power how this operates within dominant definitions and beliefs of what heterosexual and same sex relationships should be. We also need to teach the real meaning of mutual and respectful sexual relationships. Consent becomes meaningless when women are limited to either saying yes or no because they are not allowed by male-centered ideas to say what if any, sexual acts they would like to engage in because doing so automatically defines them as sluts in so many men's eyes. We need to address rape prevention at men not at women because for too long women have been socially controlled and policed by a male-dominant society. Instead of focusing on women's actions and behaviours we need to challenge male beliefs that they must on no account be held accountable or responsible for their actions.

Rape is rape if a man presumes he knows what a woman or girl wants and he believes he need not discuss it with her but instead knows by her actions/behaviour/non-responsiveness she is supposedly 'consenting' to him raping her.

At April 30, 2008 2:17 PM, Anonymous Anna C said...

Thanks for responding! I have a few more questions - I really appreciate your thoughts...

You said that it would be criminally negligent not to call 911 when he saw the girl in that state. But the only consequence of the alcohol he saw was the fact that she had been sick. Tons of people get that drunk on a semi-regular basis, and they are fine - surely it would be a bit extreme to call 911 every time someone was sick after drinking?

And I know it obviously wasn't a completely "innocent" action to take the girl to his room. But, looking at the situation from his point of view - since he saw her just as an upset girl, who might have had an argument with a friend - surely he isn't guilty of rape just because he had the possbility of having sex with her in the back of his mind when he tried to comfort her?

So basically, his actions (from his point of view) come down to

1. seeing a drunk, upset girl
2. she makes a move on him
3. he has sex with her

Do you really think that this can be rape? Because I think it's a bit unreasonable to expect that his mind would immediately junp to "her drink's been spiked" when he sees her looking intoxicated. She wasn't unconscious or anything - she could hold a conversation and everything.

(By the way, don't think I'm on his side - I suppose I'm paying devil's advocate here slightly - just trying to work out what I think about the situation. My instinctive reaction is to think that she definately was raped the second time, because she couldn't consent. But the second guy isn't crimanally responsible, for it wan't reasonable for him to expect to know that she couldn't. Instead, maybe the first guy - and any others who helped him prepare the date rape drug - should be tried for both rapes, since they created the situation?)

Thanks again.

At April 30, 2008 3:06 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Anna, To get into the issues you raise and why none of that reduces this guy's guilt I'm going to start a new post.

It may take me a few days.

At April 30, 2008 3:30 PM, Anonymous Anna C said...

Thank you - I'm looking forward to reading it. And please don't designate me a "rape apologist" or a "victim-blamer" - I don't think the girl is to blame at all for being raped, and I'm not out to clear the second guy from any wrongdoing.


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