Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Women can't stop rape

When I read the Amnesty report, I had two concurrent and contradictory thoughts. The first was an exasperated 'I thought we'd been through this before', and the second was a depressing 'How much am I not surprised?'

In the last month I've had two disheartening conversations about rape. One chap suggested that marital rape was justified because the woman 'had promised to give her body'. An interesting reading of the marriage vow 'I will honour you with my body', which is said by both parties. A man forcing himself upon his wife is not 'honouring' her. Nowhere in the marriage vows is there a clause in which the woman has to give up her human rights, become less than a person upon marriage. How could someone seriously entertain the idea that marriage gives a man carte blanche to abuse and dehumanise his wife? I was shocked that someone could still hold such views, and was angry with myself for being unable to argue more effectively.

More recently, I was joking with someone about blogging being the path to fame. This fellow suggested that the best way for me to become famous was to 'shag someone famous and then cry rape'. The implication that women do that, and that that was what I should do, as a woman, was absolutely appalling. On another level, wouldn't someone think twice before saying something like that on the grounds that the woman he was speaking to might have suffered sexual violence, or be close to someone who had suffered sexual violence? Wasn't he aware of the abysmally low conviction rate for rape, the low rate of instances of sexual violence being reported, the humiliation rape survivors frequently undergo in court as their conduct and life is judged? I thought these were well known facts- and this was an intelligent and well-read man. When challenged, he didn't seem to understand that his comment was offensive.

This poll had me, along with many others in the feminist blogosphere, depressed and anxious. It was hard for me to find any words to think or say on it. Luckily, many feminists have written brilliantly on this topic. Check out Yclepta, Andrea, TP, Gendergeek, and Volsunga for their more eloquent offerings.

All I can think to do is to repeat that which has been said a zillion times before, as it seems that it bears repeating. Rape is an act of violence, it is not sex. It is an action wilfully inflicted on one human being by another human being. The rapist is responsible. The rapist bears the blame. Women can take every possible precaution, but they can't stop rape. We can pile on as many layers of clothing as possible, we can lock ourselves in our houses (which wouldn't work as the majority of rapes take place within a domestic setting, rather than in the alley), we can paralyse ourselves with fear such as men will never know, we can live truncated, restricted half-lives governed by terror, but we cannot stop rape. Women cannot stop rape.

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