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Rape Culture 101

Good morning! Dave’s out of town, so I am taking his day. Which works out fine, as I’ll be a bit frantic on Wednesday in my rush to get everything packed and organized for my trip to Wisconsin on Thursday. Why Wisconsin, you may ask? Because I’m attending WisCon, the leading feminist science fiction convention! I’ll be discussing rape in genre fiction Sunday evening, so if you’re at Wiscon, you should come to that. We can get dinner after. It’ll be awesome.

But since I wasn’t expecting to blog today, I don’t really have a topic of my own! Alas! This strikes me as an opportunity to highlight some other people’s fantastic posts.

We talk about rape culture here a lot.We try to give some background in what that means, but we haven’t gotten into serious nuts-and-bolts detail - in part because Melissa McEwen of Shakesville has already written the ultimate, untoppable Rape Culture 101 post. That post is brilliant and comprehensive, and even if you already have an idea of what rape culture is and what it means, I highly recommend that you go read it. Take time to click on the links and read them, too. Set aside some time for this.

This is what we’re fighting.

Another fantastic rape-culture blogger is Harriet of Fugitivus. All of her posts are fantastic, but I’m going to highlight this one:

If women are raised being told by parents, teachers, media, peers, and all surrounding social strata that:

it is not okay to set solid and distinct boundaries and reinforce them immediately and dramatically when crossed (“mean bitch”)
it is not okay to appear distraught or emotional (“crazy bitch”)
it is not okay to make personal decisions that the adults or other peers in your life do not agree with, and it is not okay to refuse to explain those decisions to others (“stuck-up bitch”)
it is not okay to refuse to agree with somebody, over and over and over again (“angry bitch”)
it is not okay to have (or express) conflicted, fluid, or experimental feelings about yourself, your body, your sexuality, your desires, and your needs (“bitch got daddy issues”)
it is not okay to use your physical strength (if you have it) to set physical boundaries (“dyke bitch”)
it is not okay to raise your voice (“shrill bitch”)
it is not okay to completely and utterly shut down somebody who obviously likes you (“mean dyke/frigid bitch”)
If we teach women that there are only certain ways they may acceptably behave, we should not be surprised when they behave in those ways.

And we should not be surprised when they behave these ways during attempted or completed rapes.

Women who are taught not to speak up too loudly or too forcefully or too adamantly or too demandingly are not going to shout “NO” at the top of their goddamn lungs just because some guy is getting uncomfortably close.

Women who are taught not to keep arguing are not going to keep saying “NO.”

Women who are taught that their needs and desires are not to be trusted, are fickle and wrong and are not to be interpreted by the woman herself, are not going to know how to argue with “but you liked kissing, I just thought…”

Women who are taught that physical confrontations make them look crazy will not start hitting, kicking, and screaming until it’s too late, if they do at all.

Women who are taught that a display of their emotional state will have them labeled hysterical and crazy (which is how their perception of events will be discounted) will not be willing to run from a room disheveled and screaming and crying.

Women who are taught that certain established boundaries are frowned upon as too rigid and unnecessary are going to find themselves in situations that move further faster before they realize that their first impression was right, and they are in a dangerous room with a dangerous person.

Women who are taught that refusing to flirt back results in an immediately hostile environment will continue to unwillingly and unhappily flirt with somebody who is invading their space and giving them creep alerts.

People wonder why women don’t “fight back,” but they don’t wonder about it when women back down in arguments, are interrupted, purposefully lower and modulate their voices to express less emotion, make obvious signals that they are uninterested in conversation or being in closer physical proximity and are ignored. They don’t wonder about all those daily social interactions in which women are quieter, ignored, or invisible, because those social interactions seem normal. They seem normal to women, and they seem normal to men, because we were all raised in the same cultural pond, drinking the same Kool-Aid.

And then, all of a sudden, when women are raped, all these natural and invisible social interactions become evidence that the woman wasnt truly raped. Because she didn’t fight back, or yell loudly, or run, or kick, or punch.

That is but a sliver of the post; like many of Harriet’s, it’s long. But really, go read that whole thing. It’s illuminating.

And now I must go do paperwork on all of the fantastic volunteers we just accepted for our June training. Did you mean to apply and not get around to it in time? Then you should apply for our August training!

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Posted by Shira

Shira formerly served as a volunteer with BARCC's Survivor Speakers Bureau and Prevention Services. She also formerly worked as BARCC's volunteer and program assistant. Shira also writes science fiction and fantasy short stories and poetry, and much of her outreach was done within the community of science-fiction fandom and the closely-allied local polyamory community.


  1. Linda Leverett - Great Lakes ILMay 27, 2011 at 2:42

    Exceptional Post. Thank you and everyone that takes the time to express their feelings, share their knowledge and help illuminate others on this topic.

  2. Wonderful blog post. Thank you. We are just starting our own blog and it will be available June 15, 2010. We are all very excited to further participate in the conversation through this media. Hope to see more posts from you.

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