consent

All posts tagged consent

Don’t Blame the Victim: Rape Culture and Internalized Victim-Blaming

Published December 12, 2015 by auddity

Trigger Warning: This post may be triggering to those who have experienced assault.

I wrote this a few weeks ago, but delayed in posting it because it seemed so personal. I’m out of practice sharing things on such a public platform, especially something like this, with so much shame attached to it. But that’s exactly why I feel I need to post it. Sharing my experience can only help to cut through the shame and contribute to a larger dialogue about assault. 

Last night I went to a friend’s house for a girls night. It was great – we watched a movie, worked our way through three plus bottles of wine, and overall had a nice chill evening after a long week. After a while the other girls left and it was just me and my friend drinking and getting all philosophical, as one does while getting slowly drunk off of cheap wine. I left her apartment around 1:30, but she only lives about a twenty minute walk away from my place, so I wasn’t concerned about the time. There were still some people out and I spent most of my walk marvelling that you can see some stars in the night sky above Astoria. I didn’t feel any sense of urgency until I turned onto my street and I heard someone crunching leaves behind me. They were probably several feet behind me, not right on top of me, and I tried to tell myself I was overreacting and there was nothing to worry about. I sped up regardless, though, because society tells us that a young woman walking alone at night has to draw these kinds of conclusions in order to stay safe. I breathed a sigh of relief when I pushed open my front door and fished out my keys to unlock the inner door, thinking that even if someone had been following me, there was no way they’d have the nerve to follow me inside. My heart sunk when I heard the outer door open behind me. I glanced at the man and gave a small smile. I opened the door and he followed without hesitation, I think he even thanked me. I thought, “Okay, I don’t know all my neighbors yet, maybe he lives here. Or maybe he’s visiting someone in the building.” I was still clinging to the hope that what I thought was happening wasn’t actually happening.

We walked down the hall and when I reached the stairs he asked from behind me, “Miss, which floor do you live on?” I answered the second floor, praying he was about to ask me about one of my neighbors – the person he was there to see – but my fears were confirmed when he asked, “Miss, do you have a husband?” I said no and quickly turned to continue up the stairs. I think I called out “Have a good night” over my shoulder as I left because I was still trying to be cordial, which he returned courteously enough, but before I could get far enough out of reach, I felt his hand extend and brush against my butt. He said something like, “Miss, I have a really big dick,” but by this point I was hurtling up the stairs without hesitation. I opened my door and locked it behind me, still in shock that that had actually happened. I expected to hear him climbing the stairs or feel the door rattle as he tried to open it, but neither happened. I watched for him through the peephole until I heard the front door open and shut downstairs. He had left my building. Only then did the panic come. I started crying and hyperventilating as I hung up my keys and my jacket, going through the motions of the normalcy of coming home. I ran to my room, which overlooks the street, and checked to see if he had lingered outside, but there was no sign of him.

It all happened so fast. There was no time for me to be scared until after I was safely behind my locked apartment door. I spent the entire ordeal in a haze of denial that it was even happening. Everyone told me when I moved to Astoria that it was a really safe neighborhood, certainly safer than Harlem, where I lived for the previous two years. But nothing like this ever happened to me in Harlem, and if it had, I lived in a much bigger building so I could’ve easily gotten off the elevator at the wrong floor and taken the stairs back down to shake him off. My building now only has six units, two on each floor. So this guy not only knows where I live, he knows that I live in one of two apartments on the second floor. I left my apartment once today to go to the grocery store and I found that I was jumpy and uncomfortable walking around my neighborhood. The probability of him coming back is unlikely, but the threat is still there, even if it’s only in my head.

I had been drinking last night, but I was not so drunk that I was stumbling around. I walked straight and with purpose; I was alert and aware, especially when I heard the leaves crunching behind me. If God forbid I had been falling down drunk, I would hope that the first instinct of a fellow human being would be to help me, not to take advantage of me. But that’s not the world we live in. It’s bullshit, what people say – that what a woman is wearing has anything to do with her being harassed or assaulted – I was all bundled up in a coat, scarf, and mittens, in a baggy sweater, jeans, and sneakers, my hair unwashed and in a bun and he still thought I was worth following. Even if I had been in a short skirt and stilettos, that would not have been an invitation nor an excuse for him to follow me into the place I live. It is unfathomable to me that this man thought he had the right to follow me, enter my home, and verbally harass me, simply because he is a man and I am a woman.

The worst part is that as soon as it was over I felt guilty, like it had been partially my fault. I mean, I did let him in the door. I was too afraid of being rude to admit that this guy was following me and put my safety first. My instinct was to scold myself, “You should have known better,” “You shouldn’t have let him in,” “You should’ve threatened to call the cops.” But I was drunk and tired and I didn’t want to believe I’d suddenly become this vulnerable, simply by turning onto my street and walking to my front door. This is exactly what’s wrong with our society; we’ve become so used to victim-blaming as a way of explaining away rape culture, that I internalized it, my fear and disgust for this guy and what he did was quickly joined by my guilt and embarrassment of how I’d handled the situation. You know what? How I handled it is irrelevant. I shouldn’t have been forced to navigate that situation in the first place. No one should feel that they have the right to exert that kind of power over another human being. What did that guy even think was going to happen? That I was just going to be like, “Oh you have a big dick? Well then certainly, come right in!” The scary part is that if he wanted to, he could’ve forced his way into my apartment. And I have to live with that knowledge – what could’ve happened – and that I would’ve only been able to do so much to stop it. No human should feel that they have the right to do this to someone else. It seems absurd that we have to teach this, but we do. We need to stop blaming the victims of assault and start educating young men (and women) about consent. I thank God that this guy was more bark than bite, but I know that for all the situations that turn out like mine, there are countless others that go the opposite way. We have to fix this. This is not okay.

I saw this again today and it is such a simple yet affective way to illustrate consent:

 

I also love this standup routine about the absurdity of rape culture, although it could potentially be triggering for someone who’s experienced sexual assault.

 

Fully-Grown Woman, It’s Cold Outside!

Published December 6, 2012 by auddity

What does the fact that Glee’s version features two men singing mean for the gender implications of this song? What parallels can we draw between butch/femme, man/woman, dominant/submissive roles? How do we determine/assign gender roles in same sex couples? Cis/trans couples? Hetero couples?

 

Today while listening to the Glee Christmas CD at work I thought to myself, “I’m going ignore the gender role implications of ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ and just enjoy it because it’s the holidays and I am once again single and I wish someone would stop me from going outside in the cold just because they wanted to be with me.”

But I can’t. I can maybe overlook the rather suggestive lyrics for one listening, but overall it is actually a really distressing song! Let’s deconstruct and analyze:

I really can’t stay
But baby it’s cold outside
I’ve got to go away
But baby it’s cold outside
This evening has been
Been hoping that you’d drop in
So very nice
I’ll hold your hands, they’re just like ice
My mother will start to worry

I know this is dated, but still, this line automatically puts the woman in a submissive position. She still lives with her mother, is dependent on her parents, possibly younger than her male counterpart.

Beautiful, what’s your hurry?

He’s now reducing her to just her looks.

My father will be pacing the floor
Listen to the fireplace roar
So really I’d better scurry
Beautiful, please don’t hurry

Again.

Well maybe just a half a drink more
Put some records on while I pour

Now he’s getting her drunk.

The neighbors might think
Baby, it’s bad out there
Say, what’s in this drink?

Really drunk.

No cabs to be had out there
I wish I knew how
Your eyes are like starlight
To break the spell
I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell
I ought to say no, no, no, sir
Mind if I move in closer?

Did that sound like consent to you? Because “I ought to say no” isn’t “yes.”

At least I’m gonna say that I tried
What’s the sense in hurting my pride?
I really can’t stay
Baby don’t hold out

Coercing her into sex. Putting it on her to not be a frigid prude.

Oh, but it’s cold outside

I simply must go
But, baby, it’s cold outside.
The answer is no

She actually said “no,” so now it could be considered rape.

But, baby, it’s cold outside.
This welcome has been
How lucky that you dropped in.
So nice and warm
Look out the window at that storm.
My sister will be suspicious
Gosh, your lips look delicious.

Fragmentation: reducing a woman to a sex object by focusing solely on certain (sexualized) body parts. In this case her lips are something to be devoured, consumed, and the man is a position to do so.

My brother will be there at the door
Waves upon a tropical storm.
My maiden aunt’s mind is vicious
Oh, your lips are delicious.
Maybe just a cigarette more
Never such a blizzard before.

I’ve got to go home
But, baby, you’ll freeze out there
Say, lend me your coat
It’s up to your knees out there
You’ve really been grand
I’m thrilled when you touch my hand
But don’t you see
How can you do this thing to me?

Putting the blame on her for “holding out.”

There’s bound to be talk tomorrow
Think of my life long sorrow

Implication this is not just a one night stand? (This may be a stretch but whatevs.)

At least there will be plenty implied

She’s highly concerned with what others think of her actions and how it will affect her reputation. She is not an independent woman (as evidenced by living with her parents, worrying about the neighbors, needing the man’s coat to leave, etc.)

If you caught pneumonia and died
I really can’t stay
Get over that hold out

Get over it. Your morals, reputation, sexual health/habits/preferences aren’t a big deal so let’s do this thing!

Ohhh, baby it’s cold outside

Maybe I’m being too critical, but times they have a-changed and although this song masquerades as a cute and innocent flirtation between lovers, it is no longer acceptable. Sorry if I just ruined your Christmas.

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