One thing that absolutely makes me extremely upset is rape culture.
I hate it when people misuse the term rape in a sentence is clearly unrelated to rape. I’ve seen way too many facebook statuses that were to the effect of “I raped that test” or “Just got raped by that test”. It is extremely upsetting because it is offensive to anyone that has experienced sexual assault or rape and essentially trivializes a traumatic and devastating experience.
It is also frustrating when people assume that the way people, specifically a girl, dresses means that she’s asking to be raped. Last time, I checked, rape is defined as: “to have sexual intercourse with him/her, esp. by the threat or use of violence against them.” (dictionary.com) And I would almost bet my life that no one wants to ever be forced to engage in sexual intercourse against his or her will. It angers me that people would automatically assume that anyone would welcome that because they are wearing clothes that reveal skin. It is confusing for females because we are told to be ‘feminine’ and dress in such a way that highlights our femininity and what essentially makes us different from males. Because when we dress in such a way that suggest masculinity, it means we’re lesbians! So this presents a difficult situation for females and what it means to dress. This issue of clothing being somehow connected with sexual assault entered the media with the first Slutwalk in Toronto.
Before I begin discussing the Slutwalk movement, I want to mention a court case in Italy. In 1999, a woman was raped and when she went to court, the rapist was found not guilty. Why? BECAUSE APPARENTLY HER JEANS WERE SO TIGHT THAT SHE HAD TO HAVE HELPED THE RAPIST TAKE THEM OFF SO HE COULD RAPE HER. SERIOUSLY?!?!?!?!!?!?!?!?!?!?! The more I think about this, the more frustrated I get. It’s just. Unbelievable. (Article here).
Anyway, so the Slutwalks began because the Toronto Police Constable made a comment (here) about how women should ‘avoid dressing like sluts’ to avoid being raped. In response, nearly 3,000 people showed up to raise awareness about slut-shaming, sexual assault, rape and the use of the word “slut”. The power of language influences the meaning associated with words and so a major aim of the Slutwalks is to change the connotation of ‘slut’ so that it describes a female that is in control of her sexual activity.
I hope that these Slutwalks encourage discourse about sexual assault, rape and how men and women can work towards promoting a culture that does not blame or alienate the victim.
I also hope that one day, people of any sexual orientation can walk freely during the day, at night, wearing what ever they choose and living without the fear of being raped or sexually assaulted by a stranger or by someone they know.
An important part of making progress, however, begins with addressing how people interpret the word ‘rape’ and how we approach rape culture.
ALSO: An interesting article about Slutwalks and racism here.