I have read so much about rape culture in the past week, that quite frankly, it’s all I’ve been thinking about. I’ve heard extreme views from both sides of the argument, I’ve heard a lot of ignorance, and I’ve heard a lot of people frustratedly trying to get others to see their point of view. It’s difficult to put yourself in another’s shoes, particularly when you don’t want to believe what they are saying — particularly, in this case, that women are afraid of men.
I’m not going to talk about recent events. He’s dead, let the monster stay dead. Instead, I’m going to talk about something that is probably going to get me booed off the stage, as it were, and no, I’m not playing the devil’s advocate as I’m prone to do — I’m just going to talk about something that is going to be hard to hear — and people often get angry when faced with difficult truths. People get offended when they are asked to hear something they don’t like.
I’m going to talk about how women contribute to rape culture.
And now, with just those few words, some of you are already seething, that or just waiting to see what I’ll say next.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not placing blame, I’m just examining the issue, and shedding light on something that I see as an enormous contradiction within feminism that I just can’t ignore.
Women are not objects. We are not just pieces of flesh to be used for men’s gratification, we are not just holes for them to shove their dicks into. They are not entitled to our vaginas. We don’t enjoy being ogled — we resent that men think they have the right to stare at our tits, and we should be free to dress how we like without being sexually objectified or treated like walking talking pinup girls.
Ah, there’s the rub. Pin up girls.
I’ve heard the word empowerment a lot among the feminist crowd. Empowerment.
Now, I would think that empowerment would mean living with dignity, and taking a stance against those misogynist views, and refusing to be treated like a piece of meat. That would be powerful. I think of someone like Ani Difranco or, to use an example less vague, Jennie Saia.
But that’s not always where I see the word empowerment being used. I see it being used to describe women who pose for Playboy, or who make pornographic films. I see the word empowerment being used to describe strippers, arguing that they are using their sexuality as a way to upset the power structure — they are in control, taking money from silly men with more blood in their penises than in their brains. Further, I read an article about a woman who was working as an escort to pay her way through university, and when people reacted badly and judgementally toward her, feminists cried “slut-shaming” and applauded her freedom of sexuality, how empowering that was for her.
I put forward this question — are women simply objects of masturbatory fantasy or not?
Of course not, right?
Now, step out of your self for a moment, and TRY to become a man.
Pornography is everywhere, available in today’s world at the click of a mouse — every colour, shape, size, fetish, age. Advertisers use sex to sell everything from shampoo to cars, using models as objects of desire. If you live in a good sized city, chances are there’s at least one strip club, where you can go and leer at a perfect stranger as she not only takes off her clothes, but shakes her tits and ass in your face, or sits in your lap and rubs herself all over you. If you want more than that, you can either cruise a street and look for sex-workers, or open the phone book, find an escort service, and have a girl delivered to your door. Like a pizza.
This is something that women voluntarily take part in. Posing nude has become something fashionable to do. Actors and musicians are celebrated for posing in Playboy. Now, just to make a distinction, so you don’t think I’m being some sort of Puritan. I’m not advocating shame of the female (or male) form. But there’s a huge difference between an artful nude — something intended to showcase beauty — and pornography — something intended to arouse. And no matter how many feminists praise porn stars or porn models, and talk about how empowering it is, that’s really just re-branding. Men don’t see it that way. No man opens up a porno mag or website and respects that woman with her legs spread. No man thinks “wow, what an empowered woman.” He just jerks off to her. To him, she’s just a hole to put his dick into, if only in fantasy. No man lies on some stage with a dollar bill in his mouth while a stripper sits on his face and pulls it out with her crotch because he just has so much respect for that girl that he felt he wanted to give her some money. Call it what you want, but no man pays an escort for sex because he thinks it’s just fantastic that she’s so sexually liberated and empowered. He doesn’t think about her feelings at all. She’s just a hole for him to put his dick in. No matter how you try to justify it or explain it — no matter whether you believe 100% that it IS empowering — the truth is in perception, and in this case the audience is men. And the audience doesn’t see it as empowering. The audience sees it as objectification. To the audience, these women are — I repeat — just holes to put their dicks into.
Rape culture is real. But it’s not something that some corporation invented, or that some group of men got together and thought would be a good idea. It’s something that’s been brewing for centuries, and in our fast food consumer culture, where women are being treated as just another item on the menu, it has been brewed to sick perfection. But it’s not something that only men created. What I’m trying to point out is women’s part in this, and the responsibility that we need to take — because we CAN take responsibility for this, and change it.
Every time a woman poses for some porno picture or film — she is contributing to rape culture.
Every time a woman strips for money — she is contributing to rape culture.
Every time a woman has sex for money — she is contributing to rape culture.
Every time a model either poses nude — or furthermore, just acts like a sex object for some advertisement — she is contributing to rape culture.
Every time you buy some magazine where women are objectified, belittled, or told they are too thin, too fat, too hairy, too old — you are contributing to rape culture.
Rape culture will exist as long as women are treated like objects. My argument is that women either allow themselves to be treated as objects, or else stand by silently and accept this treatment of others, some going one further and labelling it empowerment.
If you don’t like a restaurant, you don’t go. If you really don’t like a restaurant, you tell all your friends how awful it is. Then they tell all their friends, and if enough people don’t go, the restaurant goes out of business. I would argue that participation in rape culture is, ipso facto, compliance. Refusing to participate is the first thing we, both women and men, can do to fight rape culture.
As long as the internet is full of pornography, there will be rape culture. As long as there are strip clubs and escort services, there will be rape culture. As long as women’s bodies are used to sell perfume, lipstick and chocolate bars, there will be rape culture.
You can’t have it both ways. It’s either okay for women to be objectified and put on display for the purposes of masturbation, in which case we are all just objects — just holes for men to put their dicks into — or we are human beings with dignity, and sexuality is something personal between two people (or more, hey, I’m not judging) that is not simply something pornographic. We cannot, with one breath, accept, or even advocate pornography, stripping, prostitution, sex in advertising, and then in the next, complain that men treat us like sex objects. A change needs to come.
So how do we, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, make that change? First, refuse to participate in it. Boycott pornography, speak out against it, rather than advocate for it, calling it empowering. Same goes for strip clubs — don’t go. Speak out against prostitution. Don’t just accept it as something that’s always going to happen. That’s defeatist, in my mind. The next time you see some advertisement where some model is using her body to sell some product, grab a red marker, and in great big letters, write RAPE CULTURE over it. Actually, this might be a good eye-opening exercise. Grab any magazine — whether it’s Rolling Stone or Vogue or Cosmopolitan or whatever (okay, okay, I’m guessing Architectural Digest and Field & Stream might be poor choices) and count how many of the ads objectify women — women who, may I remind you, signed up for this. This is something they aspire to, and sorry, but I think that’s just fucking sad. I’m reminded of the Radiohead song “Just” — You do it to yourself, just you, and that’s what really hurts.
I’m speaking to both men and women here — many of the articles I’ve read have been terribly divisive — I believe we are in this together, and that rape culture hurts men as well as women. Women feel that they cannot trust men, and they live in fear. Men — all men — are seen as Possible Rapists Until Proven Otherwise. This helps no one. It’s dysfunctional, and it needs to change. Women need to empower ourselves by demanding respect, and men need to show that they see us as more than just sex dolls.
But Helena, you say, I like pornography.
I didn’t say it was going to be easy to change. We have been conditioned, programmed, and trained very well. But you really can’t have it both ways. I’m sorry, but you can’t.
And now, feel free to disagree with me, but please try to remain respectful.
Also, don’t make any assumptions about me in your comments. You don’t know me, or what I’ve been through, or who I am. I’m not trying to be some extreme straw-feminist in order to start a big argument. I’m merely pointing out an aspect of this topic that many do not want to admit or talk about.
People like to rant about such things without offering solutions. I’m offering you a revolutionary solution, and it’s certainly not an easy one or a quick fix, but it is a start. Refuse to participate — join the revolution. I want to see a billboard with a half-naked woman standing by a beer can with giant red letters spelling out RAPE CULTURE. I want to see hundreds of these, until finally some misogynist ad man gets the point. I want to be standing in line at the supermarket and look at the magazine stand, and see the words RAPE CULTURE jump out at me from the cover of COSMO.
I want to live in a world where I don’t ever have to read again that women are afraid of men. I want to live in a world where I never have to read some man’s manifesto about wanting to kill all women because they won’t have sex with him.
Some may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.