Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Public Service Announcement

I'll be the first to tell you that I think this world has a long way to go in terms of gender equality, but in general, there are some battles I feel like we've fought, and won.  The vote, for example, at least in this country.  I also like to think that, at least in terms of overt and conscious thought, we are past blaming the victim for sexual crimes.  Well, I learned the other day that world is way worse off than I thought.

Let's just say, since even if it didn't start this way it quickly degraded into this, that a friend on facebook started a poll concerning a theoretical situation:

Man and woman are making out, woman attempts to touch man's genitals.  Man says he doesn't want to do that.  Woman asks why.  Man chooses not to elaborate.  Woman replies that she DOES want to do that, and goes back to attempting to do that.  Man attempts to physically prevent it from happening, but ultimately doesn't stop her though force, or through leaving the space they are occupying.  Woman performs oral sex on him.  The next day, man is confused.  Was he raped and/or assaulted?  Should he press charges?  He didn't want that to happen, but in the moment he did experience pleasure from the act.

The responses included: laughter, "Wha?", and, from several different people, "He should man up!"  I'm not kidding.  People said this stuff.

As the conversation continued, it became clear that these comments were responses to the suggestion that he may press charges.  People felt that was unnecessary or uncalled for, because he was certainly strong enough to stop her if he really wanted to, or he could have run out of the room.  As one person put it, (paraphrased) "If I pressed charges every time I initially said 'no', but ultimately went through with the act in question, I would be living in court!"

Fair enough.  The question of whether to take the matter to court depends, I think, on whether the person in question is a danger to others.

BUT, people were also suggesting that this man was not a victim, that he was insulting real victims by using the word, and that, yes, he should, 'man up.'

To this I say, WTF?

Let's go back to that story.  I will highlight for you the significant portion.

Man and woman are making out, woman attempts to touch man's genitals.  Man says he doesn't want to do that.  Woman asks why.  Man chooses not to elaborate.  Woman replies that she DOES want to do that, and goes back to attempting to do that.  Man attempts to physically prevent it from happening, but ultimately doesn't stop her though force, or through leaving the space they are occupying.  Woman performs oral sex on him.  The next day, man is confused.  Was he raped and/or assaulted?  Should he press charges?  He didn't want that to happen, but in the moment he did experience pleasure from the act. 

THERE IS NO QUESTION THAT THIS IS A CASE OF SEXUAL ASSAULT.

It doesn't matter that the victim was physically stronger than the assailant, it doesn't matter that the victim experiences sexual pleasure during the act, and it sure as hell does not matter that the victim was a man and the assailant was a woman.

Is that clear?

It is incredibly sickening and horrifying to me that we should ever ever EVER tell a victim of ANY crime to 'man up.'  Or claim that he's not a 'victim' because...his assailant didn't slam his head into the wall a few times for good measure?  Because...he has a penis?

A man or a woman is not at fault for his or her rape or assault because he or she

a.) was wearing 'provocative' clothing

b.) was alone at night

c.) opted not to fight back for any reason

d.) felt pressured because of the assailant's position in relation to him or her

e.) was drunk out of his or her mind

f.) experienced an orgasm 

g.) was sexually promiscuous prior to the attack

h.) ANY OTHER FECKING REASON YOU CAN MAKE UP

None of those things are illegal!  Not fighting back is not a crime!  Not getting up and leaving is not a crime!  Continuing to attempt sexual contact with a person when that person has said NO, or in fact, when that person has failed to explicitly say YES constitutes a sexual assault.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  

If, the next morning you feel slightly sheepish because you didn't stick to your principles, but otherwise ok, that was probably not an attack.  If, you feel naughty and giggly because you did something that's out of character for you but otherwise ok, that was probably not an attack.  If, you feel confused, conflicted, scared, hurt, numb, disconnected, or a need to initiate a sexual act with this person again not because you're horny, because you want to prove that you wanted it, or for a reason you can't fathom right then, then it probably was an attack, and you can, and should, take steps to process what happened to you so you can handle it in a healthy way, heal, and move on.  That very well may involve pressing charges against your attacker, and if there is reason to suspect your attacker will attack you, or someone else, in the future, then that would be the right thing to do, if you're up to it.

We live in a fecked up culture where we think that men ALWAYS want sex, and any man who doesn't want sex, doesn't want a woman to stick her hand down his fecking pants without his permission, needs to "man up".  That is such bullshit I can hardly stand it.  Everyone of every gender ALWAYS has the right to be in control of any sexual contact happening to his or her body.  Some women enjoy lots of sex with a variety of men.  Some women enjoy that with women, or with both men and women, maybe both at the same time.  The same goes for men.  Some men prefer not to be sexually active, for a day, a week, a month, a lifetime, until they're in stable relationships, until they're engaged, until they're married, until they're legal adults, etc.  The same goes for women.

I want to live in a world where "No" or "Please stop" is enough.  I refuse to accept that you have to fight back to prove that you didn't secretly want it.  Wearing a miniskirt doesn't mean you secretly wanted it. Having a Y chromosome doesn't mean you secretly wanted it.

Get that through your heads, because if I ever hear the phrase 'man up' in a conversation about sexual assault again, I am going to commit some non-sexual assault and battery of my own. 

That is all.

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