Women’s Rights, Rape Culture, & Responsibility!
Some months ago, I briefly became the focus of a lot of unexpected attention.
Ilive in Sweden, surely one of the most feministic countries in the world. This story begins with a post I saw on Facebook that had been made by a young woman in my Peace and Conflict Studies class. A rough translation of her Swedish post reads “The next time a man paws at me, I’m going to squash his balls as hard as I can. If he reports me to the police, my defence will be that I thought he liked dominant sex, because he was touching me when I told him I didn’t want him to. I like to have dominant sex and thought he thought it felt good when he was saying stop.”
I was shocked by the violence in her post and thought that man must have done some ghastly, unspeakable things to his victim. Thus, I set out to discover what she was talking about. I found an online article in a relatively large regional newspaper called Sydsvenskan. It was a rape case that had been in the news at that time. The case involved a young woman who had gone to a bar, met a guy and later that night went with him back to his home. The man was quite drunk, the woman was sober. Once at the man’s home, they talked a bit and began to engage in physical intimacy. Details were not provided, but given the progression of the story, it would be logical to conclude that clothes had come off and it was progressing in the way sex does. At the point where the man began to penetrate the woman, she suddenly began yelling “No!” The man, arguing in court that he thought she was into “dominant sex,” covered her mouth and continued about his business. The man was acquitted, according to Swedish law, which requires the establishment of intent to rape, not consent.
The conditions of this rape were so foreign to me that it would be impossible for me to ever find myself in this woman’s position. I have dubbed it “one-night-stand rape,” essentially, a potential one-night-stand gone bad.
Replacing a person with a non-entity
As I was searching for information about this rape, I ran across a lot of rage towards the acquitted man, who had been thoroughly demonized in the Swedish news and social media. There was a large demonstration held in Stockholm in protest against the acquittal. My own verdict was that my classmate’s Facebook post was unjustifiably and disturbingly violent given the circumstances under which the rape occurred.
I was surprised at this nation-wide backlash, when the woman herself willingly went so far with the man. I felt like the boy in The Emperor’s New Clothes; nobody was stating what seemed to me the most obvious and pertinent fact—the woman went home with a drunken stranger. Nobody I saw on any social or news media was commenting on the carelessness of the woman’s actions or how unnecessary it was for her to have found herself in the vulnerable situation she put herself in, or the fact that she put herself in that situation.
The discourse around the “one-night-stand rape” seemed to be unrelentingly focused upon the man in the scenario and on vilifying him. The woman became a non-entity, faded away into the background, like a ghost in a sun-bleached photograph. With this concentrated channeling of rage and disgust onto the man, people were effectively relegating women to the role of helpless victims posited innocently before the perverse and uncontrollable lusts of men. Eternal victims, with no hope of ever freeing themselves from their victimhood. People imagine that, in accusing and expressing their rage at the man, they are standing up for women’s rights, counter-acting female victimhood. In reality, by exonerating the woman of any responsibility for her choices, people are creating her victimhood, perpetuating it by stripping her of all power to influence and control what happens to her.
Responsibility and power are intimately intertwined. You either take on responsibility for yourself, and thus the power linked to it, or you relinquish your power fully, along with the responsibility you deny.
Responsibility vs Blame
One great impediment to empowering women to take control over their own fates, to the extent that we easily can, is the taboo around discussing the accountability of the woman in cases such as this one. There is an overwhelming, universal “social campaign” afoot to equate responsibility with blame. Making any allusion to a woman’s responsibility for her own actions is taboo and this ensures the impossibility of empowerment and prevention.
It is a fact that responsibility is not the same as blame. Blame occurs when an individual denies all effects of his or her behavior on a situation and accuses external forces of having caused it. Responsibility, from that same individual’s viewpoint, is the acceptance and acknowledgment that he or she behaves in certain ways or makes certain choices which contribute to how events play out in his or her life. In other words, blaming is an act of an individual who is denying his or her power and influence, while responsibility is the act of that same individual acknowledging and embracing his or her power to affect situations. These two words are thus antonyms.
Lamenting a Dearth of Common Sense
Common sense is not so common, indeed. As a child, a fear of strangers is drilled into us. “Don’t take candy from strangers.” “Don’t get into a car with a stranger.” “Don’t open the door to a stranger.” But it’s perfectly safe to go to a bar and go home to possibly have sex with a drunken stranger alone in the middle of the night?
Being strangers, neither of the participants in this rape situation could possibly have known the sexual preferences, habits or practices of the other. The woman could not possibly have known that the man was into dominant sex, nor could he have known that she was not.
Furthermore, after a minimal amount of experience, one learns that once one engages in physical intimacy with another person, it may become quite difficult to control the situation, especially considering the fact that some people will advance very quickly towards the actual act of sexual intercourse. In this case, the slower or hesitant person won’t be able to keep up with what is happening and will not be able to react quickly enough in a way that will effectively convey his/her message. These facts need to be taken into account in social interactions.
A good way for a woman to take care of herself, take responsibility for her actions and maintain control over what happens to her, and simultaneously ensure that her own well-being remains independent of any moral failings or lack of responsible behavior on the part of the man, is to take some time to reflect on sex, intimacy and on what she wants, with the goal of arriving at a set of rules that she will always act in accordance with in her dealings with men in general, but in particular with regard to romantic interactions. The woman is then empowered by this decision and these rules and she will be prepared far in advance to communicate to any man what she will allow and not allow him to do with her.
Naturally, I felt compelled to contribute my unique and “radical” perspective on this rape case. So what did I do? I wrote an article which included most of the points I’ve made here thus far. My article was published on Sydsvenskan’s website. Because I broke the law of social taboos, with the audacity to suggest that the woman’s own choices put her in an unnecessarily vulnerable position vis-a-vis the man, my article got almost 20,000 shares on Facebook and caused such turmoil in the country that I was contacted by a national Swedish television station.
Response to My Article – Violence is the Answer
Instead of advocating easily-implemented, peaceful, preventative measures, which enable both man and woman to keep their dignity intact, such as simple, sane modifications of behavior on the woman’s part, people continue to advocate that society’s eternal victims freely indulge in absurd behavior, such as sex with strangers, backed up by violence. Women insist on the right to continue to willingly put themselves in extremely vulnerable positions before strangers, creating the perfect set-up for victimization. In the event that things go wrong for her, society insists, not that she behave with common sense and prudence, but that she be prepared to give a man a swift and powerful kick in the balls.
The very day after my article was published, a Swedish girl, all of 19 years old, wrote an article in response to mine. With flagrant irreverence for the meticulous distinction I had articulated between blame and responsibility, she insisted in her article, entitled “Place the Blame Where it Belongs,” that women must learn self-defence, because “We know that the blame can and never will be ours.” For me, this clearly translates into “We women will never accept that we have any control over our behavior and, in our helplessness, we must learn to beat the living daylights out of men.”
Oh the Irony!
Placing full blame on someone else is the height of victimhood. Using that victimhood then as an excuse to advocate hatred and violence against men is twisted and wrong. Thinking that that empowers you is delusional.
It’s truly a product of human delusion that in refusing to take care of themselves by behaving responsibly and prudently, women are seen as empowered and exercising their rights. It is quite the opposite. By placing blame on the man, people are making women wholly dependent upon the law, a judge, a court—a horny, drunken stranger—for their well-being. Victims do not take advantage of their rights or their power—they rely on others to take care of them.
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