If women are blamed for their own victimization, what happens to men? Bridget Welch explores how the dichotomy of virgin-slut forces an equally ugly dichotomy on men: rapist-protector.
Originally posted at sociologyinfocus.com.
I recently posted on how the birth control debate reinforces the dichotomy of women as sluts or virgins. If women are responsible for their own virginity, the post explained, and then women who fail in anyway (whether it is having sex or taking birth control) are sluts. But where does this leave men?
Men are the ones attempting to make women fail in purity protection. In other words, its men who are attempting to tear into the wrapping paper of a woman like a little kid on Christmas day. They are licking the proverbial lollipop and making it unsuitable for rewrapping. Because women are responsible for their own purity, men are never responsible for a woman who “falls” — regardless of WHY she falls. In this way, women are blamed for their own victimization — to the extent of being at fault for their own rapes.
The Daily Show summarizes this with a discussion of views on women in the military:
To summarize: Men are either too protective of women to be in the military with them, or they get “too rapey”. In her invite of men to come see her all girl punk band, “Prehistoric Rape Machines,” Samantha Bee summarizes: ”come on down. Protect us. Rape us. It’s your choice. Two choices only. Two choices.”
If we think about it, we can see how the two choices that women have (virgin or slut) and two choices men have (protector or rapist) are tied tightly together. In a book of interviews of men’s perspectives on rape, Tim Beneke summarizes the perspective of victim blaming. While I will not detail the entire argument here (there is a selection of this book available), two points are telling for our purposes.
First among these is that “a woman who assumes freedoms normally restricted to a man (like going out alone at night)” (or perhaps like joining the military or having control over her own reproductive activity) “and is raped is doing the same thing as a woman who goes out in the rain without an umbrella and catches a cold. Both are considered responsible for what happens to them.” Why is that? Well if you walk in the rain you know you are going to get wet. If you go outside all womany at night? You best know that you are going to be raped. Why? Because, according to this logic, women are responsible for keeping themselves safe from men who can’t maintain control over their baser instincts.
Second, if a woman is attractive or dresses attractively, “she attacked him with her weapon so, of course, he counter-attacked her with his.” In other words, a man is not responsible if he rapes a woman who looks or dresses a particular way because he was provoked beyond his ability to control himself. In other words, the way she acted, talked, or treated that man makes her rape her fault.
In both, a woman acting in a way she is not supposed to (as a slut) results in a predictable result — a man raping her. What that means is that it is the woman’s fault. She should have KNOWN better. Basically, she should have known that men are “prehistoric rape machines.”
What is slutty behavior? Evidently moving into a man’s domain (e.g. entering into his work place, being outside or in other ‘dangerous’ places at night, etc.), dressing provocatively, being too attractive, or even, as recently suggested, taking birth control are all ways to present men with something they cannot refuse. Men will have no way to control their urges and they will rape. Or so goes the popular narrative that blames women for their own victimization and men for being weak. If a woman is virginal and stays in her own place then she will be protected by men.
So men. How do you like being prehistoric? Either rapist or protective caveman. Does it feel limiting?
As a woman, this whole thing makes me sick. I don’t want the type of woman I am allowed to be so constrained. I don’t want to have to rely on men for protection from other men. I don’t want to have to assume that no space is a safe space and that I need to constantly police my own behavior to not step a toe over some invisible line. But as a wife of a very good man and the mother of a little boy that I hope will grow to be a very good man (not to mention a father, three brothers, some step-brothers, nephews, great-nephews, and male friends), I am disgusted that the virgin-whore is paired with the protector-rapist. “Only two choices. Two.” Indeed.
- What are the dichotomies for men and the one for women. How do they relate?
- If men are supposed to be protectors, how is it that they do not get blamed for failing to protect a woman when she is raped? Is there times when they are blamed?
- It is common knowledge that men are sex machines – always wanting sex and doing anything to get it. How does this stereotype play into victim-blaming for women?
- Watch this Limp Bizkit video. A lot of the messages we get about who women and men are (and what they should be) are given through the media. What does this video tell us about victim blaming
Photo by Orin Zebest/Flickr