Why Rape Culture Is Winning
I kept my initial post about the verdict of Jordan Johnson’s rape trial brief because I wanted a chance to listen to the responses, and there were plenty.
Here is one worth reading (Missoulian):
For victims of date rape, the process on display during the Johnson trial was more important than the jury’s decision, said Cindy Weese, of the YWCA Missoula. The trial illustrated what victims confront when they choose to report those crimes.
“It’s going to be a grueling process, and their life is going to be exposed to everyone,” said Weese, YWCA director. “… No matter the verdict, (the case) is going to have a chilling effect on victims of sexual assault.”
Every imaginable seed of doubt was used to great effect by the defense. Was the woman seen horribly depressed at every moment of the subsequent year? If not, then she must be in it for the attention, or the notoriety, or the pure vindictive-bitch glory of revenge…for what? JJ’s indelicate post-coitus behavior?
Jezebel writer Katie Baker, who pissed off lots of folks in Missoula by actually coming here and examining our rape culture last May, wrote an article about how JJ was very easily acquitted of rape. Near the end of the article, she says this:
It’s incredibly frustrating that the jurors didn’t feel there was enough evidence to show that Johnson actually raped the woman in part because she was visibly happy that the administration was actually taking action against the football team and, probably more importantly, visibly conflicted about being part of a case that received so much attention. But this is why rape cases are so difficult to prove, especially when the people involved are intoxicated aquaintances — and the accused is a sexy football player.
The main problem the jury had, though, which I highlighted in the first post, was whether or not Jordan Johnson knew the sex was not consensual.
Along those lines, a blog post by a UM professor caught my eye, titled Why I Need a Sexual Assault Reality Check. Here is the bulk of the post:
Last week I accidentally discovered a disturbing online video that sarcastically demeans the sexual assault awareness training we use at the University of Montana. It features a very creepy man. In my experience, it’s rare to see and hear someone who is CLEARLY misogynistic. I may be going out on a limb here, but it appears that a very creepy misogynistic man made this video.
Despite his creep factor (did I mention he was creepy?), he makes a point in the video that I’ve heard before. It goes something like this: During sexual encounters it’s the woman’s responsibility to say “No” in a way that is clear and explicit and unequivocal. If this message isn’t delivered and received, then the sexual encounter can or should continue.
Now, I’m all for women speaking up. That’s a good thing. But for me, the problem of this message is the assumption that because males are built to want and need sex, they’re basically unconcerned with how their partner is feeling and in the absence of a clear and unequivocal message, should simply proceed toward intercourse.
This assumption—that men don’t care how their partner is feeling—seems wrong to me. In my limited experience (myself, my friends, my clients), I’d conclude this: Although most men want sex, they also want their partner to want sex. Maybe I’m going out on another limb, but I think most men prefer their sexual partner to clearly and unequivocally say “Yes!” about having sex.
Once again, in thinking about the dynamics of rape culture, it comes down to education—or, more importantly, who is doing the educating. Without explicit sex education early in life, what fills the void is porn and a popular media culture that objectifies women and emphasizes sexual conquest over a shared sexual experience.
An example of our media culture’s treatment of women was on full display recently at the Oscars, with Seth MacFarlane’s song We Saw Your Boobs.
The link is to a Huffington Post article that points out that four of the scenes Seth cites in his disgusting song are rape scenes—Boys Don’t Cry, The Accused, Lawless, and Monster.
Rape culture is pervasive, and it’s learned. It won’t be easy to change the culture, but that is where the change needs to happen.