Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Drunk in Charge of a Penis, and other Rape Metaphors

I've been diving into the Blogsphere recently, mainly at awesome places like The Sexist - a blog I think everyone should read - and there have been quite a few posts about rape*, and why it is or isn't a lot like X. And I'm noticing a few themes here. Aside from the usual victim-blaming crap, or at the very least, perpetrator-excusing crap **, there seems to be the disturbing tendancy to compare women to money or goods. I cannot count the times that I've seen a woman's wearing of a short skirt, or getting drunk, or making a bad decision (or several) being compared to someone openly displaying property. Even by feminists and allies.

I think just about everyone will be familiar with the "Jut because someone is flashing their wallet doesn't mean they are asking to get robbed" analogy (or its odious cousin which claims that they were asking to get robbed) but how about the Shop window full of goods, or the parking your car in the wrong place, or this one:

"Let’s say a short skirt is “sexually provocative.” If so, then putting a “for sale” sign on your car is also provocative. If you put the sign up, that means you hope someone is going to be interested in buying your car. That doesn’t give them the right to steal your car, nor does it oblige you to sell your car for any price they offer just because you “provoked” the car-buying public into making offers in the hopes that someone would propose a deal you thought was worthwhile" (post 39)

Why do, even people making the right kind of point, still have to return to the same stupid mindset of the people who coined the word "rape" (which, as etymologists will tell you, originaly meant the same as "theft") to try and convince people that it is wrong, no matter what the circumstances. All the time we seem to come back to this idea that rape is a property crime (or at least analogous with one). Why is this? Why not use a comparison with, say, murder? It's not person A's fault if person B murders them, even if person A was being deliberately (or accidentally) antagonistic and "totally asking for it" - and I think we can all agree on that. So why is it any different if person B rapes person A instead? Why do all those "they were asking for it" arguments get given so much weight now? I think that's pretty clear cut. But people get upset when you equate destroying another human life with "just"... well, destroying another human's life.***

So how about this one; let's stop equating the woman with property, and try a little role reversal. Instead of saying that a woman is a car who shouldn't be parked in a bad neighbourhood, let's equate a penis with a car; and why not - men do it all the time :).
If you get run over by a car, or are a passenger in a car when it crashes, is it your fault you got hurt, or the driver's? I'm going to say, (and I think the laws of the land agree with me here) that it's going to be the driver's fault - ie, the active participant. Over at The Sexist again, they agree with me, and Amanda Hess has done a great piece which includes a section about how driving is a privilege, and in some cases, while legally pedestrians have right of way, this sense of privilege tends to mean that drivers ignore the law and as a result people get hurt... (sounding familiar anyone?) only no-one would ever think to blame the pedestrian in this scenario, while we blame rape victims all the time...

I came up with a few others - the passenger-in-a-car one, explaining why it's often difficult to say "I want to get out" when your friend is driving dangerously, or the "flirting" one explaining that consenting to being given a lift home is not the same as consenting to being in a car crash, or the drink-driving one suggesting that even if your judgement is impared with regards to who you accept a lift from, it's still not your fault if the driver crashes - But the thing is, while I enjoy making up metaphors like this (and the drunk-in-charge-of-a-penis jokes that follow), the sad thing is that no metaphor can ever really do justice to the fact that rape is a hideous, heinous, horrific crime, and no-one should ever have to be blamed for it happening to them. I may complain about the kinds of metaphors being used to teach people that victim blaming is not ok but truth is, it's even sadder that we need to use metaphors, indeed that we have to explain this to some people at all.

* Yes, the "Alex" in the comments is me on this one...
** Not always the same thing - this one usually comes up in the "rape as natural disaster" analogies.
*** I never know if this is disengenuous or not towards rape survivors - is tying someone's life (and the destruction thereof) to their bodily integrity (and the violation thereof) trivialising the person? Or is it trivialising the suffering to say that rape does anything less? Suffice to say that I think rape has the potential to destroy someone's life and/or mental wellbeing - or at least f**k it up beyond recognition.