I have noticed something very strange lately – a general claim that society is blaming women for rape and insisting that they should be constantly on guard instead of blaming men. Now, I don’t know where that comes from. I grew up with the understanding that rape was wrong and I was not to do it. Not only was I not to do it, I would be an evil person if I did it. I have no friends who claim that women should be blamed for rape, and while I have heard the claim that women should be more modest to prevent rape (an inherently stupid claim) it has never come from anyone who could be regarded as having the least credibility in society, except for one Toronto police officer, who is a dinosaur. The response to that police office was widespread and international (the slutwalk). Now, we currently live in a time (and if you are in the west) a place where rape is incredibly rare, rarer than ever before in history or anywhere in the world.
So, is this a rape society? If you lived in a time where theft was almost universally reviled, where the big question with theft was not if it was wrong, but whether or not borrowing something and then not returning (but with the persons permission to borrow it) constituted theft, where theft was the rarest it had ever been in the history of human kind, where thieves were often killed in prison by other prisoners who found them disgusting and loathsome, would you say that you were in a theft society? All of these things are true of rape today (nobody thinks rape is okay, the statement that rape is worse than murder is actually somewhat common. There are questions around consent, and what qualifies as consent, but nobody believes that sex without consent is okay, and to tell the truth many of those questions are somewhat challenging. There is less rape here and now than ever before or anywhere else. Rapists are often killed in prison, and men who rape underage people are usually kept out of general population as that is essentially a death sentence for them, usually in incredibly horrific ways). So, how do we justify calling this a rape society? Right now women have more agency than ever before, and it could even be argued that the average woman has more agency than the average man (not saying it is the case, but strong arguments could be made).
So, let’s look at where the claim might come from: how some people could believe we are a rape society.
We will start with an easy one, the 1 in 4 stat. This is the statistic that 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted in college. It comes from a study funded by Ms. Magazine and performed by Mary Koss. The problem is that it’s a really broad study, and includes questions like “Did you ever have sex after drinking alcohol?”. The study is often taken out of context, and instead of sexual assault the claim is usually “1 in 4 women are raped in college”. However, the vast majority of respondents who fell into the assaulted group did not consider themselves to have been sexually assaulted.
Okay, this one is a bit weirder, and not nearly as fact based… because it’s not about facts. A lot of women talk about how they are in fear when they go out alone, how that’s something men don’t have to deal with. First, the claim that we live in a “rape culture” is one of the key components of that fear. They believe (even though it’s obviously untrue) that they are at a large risk of assault if walking alone at night. Since most sexual assaults happen in the home by someone who knows the victim this is not a reasonable fear. By contrast, they believe that men are not worried about walking alone at night… the reality is that men are at a much higher risk of assault, robbery, murder, etc. than women are. Many of us know this, and most of my friends carry knives. They keys between the knuckles thing is actually common (and not a great idea, you can easily destroy your hands that way).
Part of it is that rape tends to get more media attention, and stranger rape far more than any other kind. Another part is that violence against women is pictured as meaningful in movies. Violence against men is simply part of the film.
Now, there is a great deal more to this, and I will happily talk about it with anyone who submits a non spam comment (as usual), however I’m in the middle of marking a class, so have to go for now.