What is this “Rape Culture” that people keep talking about?
Basically, it’s the culture, attitudes, comments, and actions that enable sexual assault. Whether it’s victim-blaming, perpetuation of rape myths, attacking survivors, or–
Oh, wait. I have a better idea. Let me show you some of the comments I’ve seen since my article about sexual harassment in SF/F was published over at io9 yesterday.
Content warning for slurs and other garbage.
1. I think there’s a valid conversation to be had about what cosplay is appropriate for wearing about, particularly at conventions that bill themselves as “family friendly.” One convention I attend has a note about adult costumes and activities, with a note that the rest of the con didn’t consent to see your S&M play.
However, that second paragraph basically starts by saying, “If he dresses like that, he’s asking for it.” And that’s just full of Nope.
2. There’s a lot going on in this one, including this woman’s decision that she gets to judge what’s “real” assault and what isn’t, and what the “mentally healthy” reaction should be if you’re harassed. Basically, this kind of attitude encourages victims to remain silent for fear of being judged and ridiculed.
3. But it’s so hard to be a guy! We should be sympathetic with the harassers and abusers and rapists because it’s so hard to get a woman, and apparently we’re all automatically entitled to women’s time and attention or something, I don’t even know. Basically, just some gross and sexist man tears. (Comment comes complete with bonus sexism, gamer stereotypes, and other nonsense.)
4. Yes, this woman is indeed a terrible person. But she does illustrate the double-standards about men being victims of harassment and assault. “Funny enough they usually don’t care.” Even if this were true, that usually means she knows damn well that sometimes they do care. This is someone who enjoys sexually harassing others, and believes she’s entitled to get away with it because of the myths that females can’t be harassers/men can’t be victims.
5. I saved the “best” for last. “How dare you mean people come into my personal community — my ‘safe space’ to harass others — and start demanding to be treated like human beings.” I’m gonna fight for my right to harass women, dammit! You’ll never get away with this!
I blurred out the names because this isn’t about attacking individuals. It’s mostly a reminder that one reason rape, assault, and harassment are so prevalent is because attitudes like this discourage people from speaking up, excuse the behavior of perpetrators, and generally help to perpetuate the problem.
Eleanor C Ray
August 30, 2016 @ 7:33 pm
An example of discourteous (and therefore basically inappropriate) behavior: touching someone you don’t know, on purpose, without checking.
An example of extremely inappropriate behavior: touching someone whether you know them or not, on purpose, without checking, for purpose of getting a sexual feeling.
How hard are these?
August 30, 2016 @ 10:19 pm
What really twigs me about #2 isn’t as much that the comment illustrates the reasons that many victims stay silent (although that’s horrible enough on its own). It also says, in essence ‘if your disability (PTSD, in this case) is noticable enough that it makes me uncomfortable and/or it requires some sort of consideration or accommodation, then you just shouldn’t be in public.’
It’s possible that some harassment victims have their PTSD triggered. It’s also possible that they’re already in therapy – or didn’t find therapy useful and/or accessible for one reason or another – and want to go to a con anyway.
If I use a wheelchair, I fully expect you to accomodate me by having a ramp in place and keeping it maintained. If I have PTSD, I fully expect you to accomodate me by having a harassment policy in place and enforcing it.
August 30, 2016 @ 11:36 pm
In a wider sense, this is part of what annoys me so much about the people who bitch about “political correctness” and how terrible it is – what they’re complaining about is essentially that other people have needs, desires and preferences, just like them. They’d prefer to be able to say whatever they like without having to worry about offending anyone – other people would prefer to be able to get through a day without having to pretend they’re not being confronted by needless offense from people who can’t be bothered to be polite toward them. They’d prefer to be able to do whatever they want without censure or criticism; other people would prefer to be able to get through an event without being propositioned, harassed, or otherwise confronted with impolite behaviour. They’d prefer to be able to avoid having to remember that other people are just as human as they are; other people would prefer to avoid them, full stop.
Pulling this back to the whole “rape culture” thing – the current meme of the day on Twitter (“how to talk to a woman wearing headphones”) is largely about people calling out this sort of entitlement culture. And that’s what “rape culture” is – it’s a culture of entitlement, where one group of people believes they are entitled to the time, attention, politeness, good humour, and even bodies of another group of people, regardless of whether this second group of people is interested or not.
Eleanor C Ray
August 30, 2016 @ 11:44 pm
That is well said, Archane. PTSD is not so simple as therapy=over it, either. It is a physiological response to certain emotional or physical stimuli, and as such, is not necessarily amenable to talk therapy or medication. Sometimes so, just as sometimes a person only needs a wheelchair until they finish getting physical therapy, but often it simply is a trained reaction to something that triggered the fight/flight/freeze instinct, and is not able to be unlearned. Ask a traumatized vet what *they* might do if someone triggered them, and then think how you would feel toward the one who did it. The mechanism is the same.
August 31, 2016 @ 8:24 am
Most people master it in kindergarten, if not before.
August 31, 2016 @ 11:38 am
(This is not so much in response to you as sparking off of your post, so please don’t take it as a criticism.)
I have been trying to get discussions of trigger warnings started at my college. In fairness, I am not meeting so much resistance as non-response. But one of the things that’s getting me is that when I am met with resistance, at school, on-line, wherever, the example of the combat vet (which many of us have encountered) is usually the one to get people to go, “Huh…good point.” And I am very, very glad that we as an institution are taking the needs of veterans seriously. I am also really, really annoyed that sexual assault survivors don’t prompt that reaction, that I have actually heard a colleague say that if a student needs a warning (not an alternate assignment; not to skip that story, but a warning), then “maybe they’re not ready for college.” Yeah. I won’t say no one would say that about a combat vet, but I bet it would be a lot less likely, and responded to a lot differently.
August 31, 2016 @ 4:08 pm
Lucy Gillam, I applaud your courage and persistence. I hope that things will change. I’ve worked in various college libraries for a long time and the awareness has been slow and it is changing. Early in my career, I was stalked by a library user, a member of the community, who made me feel vulnerable, threatened, and extremely self-conscious about my body. He acted like he had the right to possess it, strip it, and look at it without my permission. I felt very dirty. It was starting to escalate with him coming up behind me etc. When I complained to my boss, she told me “you are just flattering yourself,” partly because my body type was larger than considered acceptable. I was not. Lucky for me, the rest of the staff conspired to keep me safe. I was never alone when I in the building and he was too. Fortunately he moved on. But I wonder if he did it again. Likely.
I tell that story because I think it’s an example of what I hope is the bad old days. Under the expansion of title IX, colleges that receive federal money are supposed to have a Title IX officer who receives complaints confidentially and investigates and recommends further action; as well as a program of education. I live in the sort of liberal NE so I hope this is spreading.
Rape culture including sexual assault, harassment, stalking, peeping and other similar behavior is embedded in our media, culture, and even rhetoric. I am disturbed by a strong resurgence of the language of dominance and intolerance that is now infused into our political landscape. Instead of raising awareness and change, it seems to be moving it into the realm of acceptable behavior. so much of the embedded rape culture escapes our notice because it’s such a big part of our acceptable tropes. We don’t see it because we’ve always seen it. Some of our greatest love stories contain it, Romeo spying on Juliet on the balcony scene, Othello murdering Desdemona because he’s jealous and so forth. The romance of the stupid hapless guy following a girl around until he wears her down and then it’s the great love story.
It’s when we start looking at things with new eyes that we say, “oh shit, there’s so much work to be done.” So here’s to all of you who are willing to talk about it, blog about it, and speak up to authority about it.
Eleanor C Ray
August 31, 2016 @ 6:26 pm
I quite agree, though I don’t mean to get far afield from the original discussion. Soldiers with PTSD sometimes get people’s attention better, at least since the Viet Nam War-era mistreatment of returning vets. Some vets are uncomfortable seeing PTSD from sexual abuse as a serious matter, compared with their own. That distresses me. I came close to dying from the sexual abuse I suffered. It was pretty “real”.
I hesitate to blame the difference in the treatment on sexism, as women soldiers get PTSD and so do male civilians. I do think more people are willing to think about honorable soldiers returning with PTSD than they are to think about rape and abuse survivors, though we are the more numerous group.
I think soldiers are easier to face for some people because what happened to them generally happened far away. Civilians can say that “people like us” wouldn’t do things such as happened to these soldiers. We abuse survivors are closer to home–as close as family and friends. We are perhaps scarier to think about, because we were attacked by those around us, around *them*.
September 1, 2016 @ 1:49 pm
Great article. Thank you for writing it, and being an advocate.
One thing I’ll note – many (most) of the comments on IO9 are supportive – the tools are outnumbered by the folks who get it. But the tools sure are tool-ey.
Jim C. Hines
September 1, 2016 @ 1:55 pm
As comment sections go, I’ve been pretty pleased with what I’ve seen on that article over at io9. There are exceptions, like you noted, but it’s not the raging fire some sites get.
Tina Smith Gower
September 1, 2016 @ 8:22 pm
Thank you. I’ve really been enjoying your post on this subject (harassment at cons).
I feel like there is a lot to say and address and you do it with a lot of care and without attacking. It seems like that is a way to make some real progress.
I am completely stunned (not) that Donald Trump has a double standard | Fraser Sherman's Blog
September 12, 2016 @ 12:36 am
[…] •Jim Hines writes about sexual harassment. People freak out. […]