The ignorance behind arguing against teaching men not to rape

I am sick of this argument that teaching men not to rape is pointless. I am sick of the stupidity that allows for “if that worked, then murderers wouldn’t kill, and theives wouldn’t rob, and terrorists wouldn’t attack us.” That is why we have 16,259 murders per year in the USA, as compared to the lowest estimate of 207,754 rapes every year. That’s more than 12x more frequent, if you’re not so hot at math. We are taught not to murder and not to steal, but rape is left by the wayside. Our morality is learned from a young age, and a great deal of our environmental influence plays a  large part into what we perceive as right and wrong. Why do you think terrorists hate us and bomb us? Because they are brought up in a culture that teaches them to hate Americans because we are western, godless people who steal from them, aid their enemies, and kill their innocent citizens (which is unfortunately more accurate than I’d like to admit). We gain our morality from our education, and if we have lapses in our morality, it more often than not comes from a lack of parental teachings, or psychological issues. As disadvantageous as it is, we learn what we know; this is why abused individuals are more likely to become abusive themselves (obviously this is not a hard and fast rule, but it is still prevalent).

Regardless of our familial teachings, we constantly absorb from our society that murder is wrong; in our media, the bad guy always gets caught. It’s the main storyline of almost every film. We have dozens of murder mystery television shows where the murderer is consistently apprehended; justice always served, retribution always attained. The rare exception is the ‘moral’ thief (Ocean’s Eleven, The Italian Job) or the ‘vendetta’ revenge murder (V For Vendetta, The Princess Bride), where we are given moral implications for their immoral behavior. It is perpetually impressed upon that if we should kill, or rob,we will be caught, and we will be punished, and that ultimately, is a great deterrent. And this is the crucial difference between why rape is so prevalent in our society, as compared to other types of crime.

Women are reduced to something less than human in our society. We have magazines that objectify women and turn them into sexual objects (seen here and here). A prominent feature of any film plot is that the man ‘earns’ his prize female, the reward for all his trials and tribulations. On top of that, only 5 of the top 250 films on IMDB pass the Bechdel Test (since you’re probably to lazy to google what the Bechdel Test is). Our society teaches men that women are a commodity, not people. We are treated as second-class citizens, worth only 77 cents to every $1 a man earns. When men want to insult each other, they use references to female anatomy (you’re such a pussy!”). When given the question of, “What would you do if you awoke tomorrow as the opposite sex?” men’s most common response was, kill myself.”  If men do not wish to be women, they do not respect or value women, and the consistency of that response shows that even men are aware of the disparaging nature being a woman in our current society holds. We live in a society where we are perceived as sexual objects. 

We are regularly shown scenes of rape in film and television, where ultimately, the crime goes unpunished, such as The Book of Eli, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and Quantum of Solace, all receiving an R rating. But when we have a film showing the sexual gratification of a woman, such as Blue Valentine, it receives an NC-17 for pornography. When the women in our military report their rapists, they are dismissed from service, more often than not, dishonorably, while their attackers are promoted and continue to rise in the ranks. When we say “No,” it is not accepted, not respected, but rather considered playing ‘hard to get,’ and is treated simply as another obstacle to overcome. We exist in an age where we have ‘state sanctioned rape,’ because if we’ve agreed to sex before, we have apparently agreed to every sexual advance we will ever encounter during our lifetime. We have politicians who refer to rape as simply another “method of conception” and a “gift from God” when it results in pregnancy. Our judges fail to convict our attackers appropriately due to “lack of putting up a fight” (I’m Not Kidding. The perpetrator had 10 years shaved off his sentence).

When we speak out against rape, we are bombarded with threats of sexual violence, even though most would never dare to use that same technique in regards to murder. When the gang rape of an 11 year old is reported, our newspapers comment on her amount of makeup instead of on the monsters who attacked her. When rapists are convicted, our news anchors sympathize over their “promising futures” lost to the label of sex offender. We live in a country where 31 states permit the rapist to sue for custody and visitation of his child (because nothing screams good parent like sexually assaulting another person). Our society cannot tell the difference between comments made by men in magazines and rapists (can you?). For the first time in nearly 20 years, our Congress failed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. We live in a culture where when we muster up the courage to report our rape, the first questions are in regards to our level of intoxication, manner of dress, and time of day. We are taught that we are the ones to blame. When we deal with homicide, we do not assume the victim did something to provoke the attack. We do not sympathize with their murderer. We do not question the store owner of the robbed shop about why he did not have a security guard, cameras, or a dead bolt. We do not assume the victim is at fault in our society, with the sole exception of rape. So little surprise that less than half of rapes are reported, for fear of being shamed in a culture that breeds judgement against victims. And of those reported rapes, only 3% lead to jail time for the rapist. With those kind of odds, even the more moderate of moral men may decide it’s worth the risk. A 97% ‘get away with it’ rate ain’t half bad, and after all, we exist purely for their sexual enjoyment.
We live in a culture where rape is condoned, rather than condemning it.

And this is the most pivotal thing we need to learn- not all rapists are men in dark alleys with guns and ski masks. Rapists are not just “evil men;” they are for the most part, opportunists (and this is again, a crucial difference to the murder analogy). Every 2 out of 3 rapists know their victim. And most men do not even realize that their behavior falls under the definition of rape. If she’s too drunk to verbally consent, it’s rape. If she’s unconscious, it’s rape. If she says no, and you continue, it’s rape. If it is anything other than an enthusiastic and verbal consensual YES, chances are, it’s rape. 35% of men (again, for those who are mathetically-challenged, that’s roughly 1 out of every 3 men) say they would rape if they could get away with it, 42% said they used coercive behavior (ignoring “no”, physical aggression, and forced intercourse) and 82% of rapists did not label their behavior as such (source). So when men are lacking a clear understanding of what constitutes rape, YES, we need to teach them what qualifies, and why not to do it. We need to teach them that women are not objects, but people, and that they are not there strictly for sexual pleasure. We need to teach our men that women are equally valuable, so that our culture begins to change, subsequently molding our media to different standards that will breed an entirely new type of culture. And if it is still a question in your mind, please take the time to educate yourself on the effectiveness of a “don’t rape” based campaign, Don’t Be That Guy (hint: it reduced rape by 10% in the targeted region, and that was only in one city in Canada).

But please, continue telling me that teaching men not to rape won’t change a damn thing.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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