Rape Culture – Part 2/3: The difference between victim blaming and the systemic participation of women

Individuals in the social role “woman” often get into a victim role in Rape Culture. A familiar reaction is to declare these individuals guilty for offences committed against them (instead of their perpetrator). This behaviour is called victim blaming, and is a crucial characteristic of Rape Culture.

A typical form of victim blaming is the alleged relationship between a woman’s skirt length and her sexual availability. The artist Rosea Posey illustrates the absurdity of this allegation in the following picture:

A woman lifts up her skirt and presents a naked leg. The leg has markers where different skirt lengths would end, reading typical expressions of Rape Culture.

Source:
Rosea Posey (2012) Judgements [Online]. Available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/roseaposey/7173294256 (Accessed 26 May 2018).

All expressions deny women self-determination over their bodies. “Asking for it” in the sense of “provoking an attack” justifies violence when the woman wears “too little” clothes, while expressions like “prudish” indicate that she wears “too much” clothes. Both claims can be exposed as an excuse for an assault by a simple question: “Too little” or “too much” for whom or what?

While the length of her skirt might be a hint whether a woman is feeling more or less sexy that day, it does not constitute any form of “sexual availability”. A thing can be “available”, because it cannot conceive whether it is being used or not. A person, on the other hand, can never be available, because they have a will of their own. A distinction between both situations is only possible by consent in all human activities that involve more than one person (i.e. also in sex). If there is no consent among all individuals involved, the person who ignores or breaks consent automatically commits a violent act, i.e. a criminal offence!

Example:

A woman walks alone, at night, and in a mini skirt, through the streets of a large city. Time and again, police officers have issued warnings to not exhibit this behaviour as a woman and to dress less revealing. This advice is, however, quite the double-edged sword:

  • From a purely ethical point of view this advice is wrong: Because no matter how a woman dresses, self- determination over one’s own body is a basic human right. The responsibility for any form of assault always lies with the perpetrator, never with the victim. To blame the behaviour of a woman as a reason for a transgression against her is always an excuse of an offender, nothing else.
  • From a purely pragmatic view this advice is correct: Because in a patriarchal society women, who dress revealingly, are harassed more often than a women who dresses modestly. A woman who, due to such a warning, choses to wear modest clothing reduces the danger of unfair treatment and sexual assault.

The last point amplifies why I am of course not arguing that all people would suddenly become good and play fair, if only women would unblock their sexuality. Mankind will always contain stupid people and assholes. That is, for example, deducible from the fact that 80% of all crimes are committed by 20% of the population (repeat offenders). People can already be part of the 20% when their sexuality awakens, or become assholes due to frustration with the asshole dynamic over the course of their lives. As soon as people have become assholes, however, their personal history is ethically irrelevant, because all individuals, as soon as they are of age, are 100% responsible to honor consent and fairness with their fellow human beings and thus do their part to create an ethical society that supports everyone in need.

Assholes, no matter how they became one, will become offenders if and when an occasion presents itself. An occasion is any situation with one or more vulnerable individuals in range. This is true for all psychological and physical acts of violence.

Typical for offences of Rape Culture, however, is that if no vulnerable individuals are present, offenders tend to project the social role “woman” on everything which they cannot clearly identify as the social role “man”. This is why abusers often prey on “ladylike” women (easy to recognise: role “woman”), or people who don’t dress or act “appropriately” such as feminine men (they don’t know what “it” is, but definitely not role “man”). That projection can also affect people who have never assumed the social role “woman” (but look like one) or are intentionally working against the patriarchal falsehood.

If most women fully lived their sexuality with all suitable, consent-adhering and fair people they find attractive, there would still be enough assholes, psychopaths and rapists in the world. And it would still be absolutely necessary for women to reject them, bring charges against them, or act in self-defense. It might be possible, however, to break the vicious cycle which produces new assholes from originally consent-honoring and fair people by disappointment. In the long term, the population would settle down on a constant percentage of assholes (probably the 20% plus standard deviation), whose offences would still have to be monitored by the constitutional state.