Trigger warning for rape.
I spend a lot of time talking about rape. Seriously, my parents have started picking up on how much I talk about rape and sending me articles about rape in the judicial system and the FBI’s new definition. But one of the big problems with talking about rape is that a lot of it is just raising awareness– rape is happening, it is common, and people suffer from it. And apart from donating to RAINN it’s pretty rare that anyone tells you anything you can actually do.
Well, they do. As we’ve talked about before, there are usually two ways of talking about rape prevention: the mainstream view, which is that women (who are, of course, the only people raped) ought to avoid rape by not walking alone, getting drunk, wearing short skirts, etc; and the feminist view, which is that we ought to tell rapists not to rape. Both are ineffective in their own ways.
There’s little empirical support for the mainstream view (…anyone ever seen a, you know, actual study on the effects of clothing on rape?); it tends to lead to victim-blaming if the survivor didn’t follow the advice; it offers no help for partner rape, which is one of the most common rape scenarios, except “take self-defense classes and be ready to attack every person you know at any time”; and, well, call me a radical feminist, but I don’t think people shouldn’t have to avoid daily life activities for fear of violent assault. And the feminist view, while morally sound, suffers from the flaw that if rapists were prone to taking advice from feminists about how to have sex, they wouldn’t be rapists in the first place.
Fortunately, the world does not consist entirely of rapists and rape survivors! In fact, the majority of people are neither: about 6% of men and a probably smaller percentage of women (I am unaware of the stats) are rapists; about 18% of women and 6% of men are survivors. That leaves about 85% of the fucking population that is neither and to whom, being the majority, we ought to direct our rape-prevention advice. Which I shall proceed to do!
Don’t be that asshole. Okay, look, we are members of the Not Rapist portion of the population, yes? But that doesn’t mean that we necessarily practice good consent. Hell, even Tiny Ozy was prone to “are you suuuuuuuure you don’t want sex?” wheedling. Remember that learning good consent is a process– no one expects you to be a flawless communicator immediately, and there is no sense beating yourself up for the times you’ve used pressure to get someone into bed in the past, as long as you don’t do it in the future.
Boycott rapey shit. Sorry, Wedding Crashers, 40 Days and 40 Nights, and everything else that has decided to make “rape is fucking hilarious!” a plotline. My deepest apologies to The Misfits, Odd Future, and anyone else who is like “lol, I mentioned rape, I am edgy.” If an artist is normalizing, condoning, or apologizing for rape, do not give them money. (If you’re about to protest about how you will never be able to watch/read/whatever anything ever again, I would like to say (a) yes you fucking can and (b) dude, the Internet is right there, I hope I don’t have to teach you how to pirate shit. Also, the library is fucking free.)
The most important subset of Boycott Rapey Shit, in my opinion, is Boycott Media Made By Rapists. Yes, that means that you shouldn’t buy the DVD of Chinatown. My heart bleeds. Where you draw the line about Stuff Made By Rapists is an individual choice– I personally won’t listen to Modest Mouse— but I see no reason why we should be encouraging the careers of rapists, particularly rapists who have experienced no meaningful punishment.
Stay informed. Because, trust me, at some point you will end up in a conversation about rape! And then someone will be saying some fucking rape-apologist shit like “I totally don’t think women are asking to be raped, but she should know that there are a lot of bad men out there and not encourage them by dressing like a slut.” And if you know how to answer that (I like either “dude, why are you trying to encourage women to wear fewer short skirts? Not cool” or “People have been raped wearing all kinds of outfits– jeans, sweatpants, Elmo footie pajamas”), then you will not be stuck glaring at them and coming up with something really fucking witty to say half an hour later.
Intervene. I hope everyone here knows about the bystander effect. If you don’t, get your ass to Wikipedia and learn, because the single greatest cause of not falling victim to the bystander effect is knowing about the bystander effect. For everyone else: the most important thing is your own safety and the safety of the victim. Don’t rush in like a white knight ready to slay the dragon and actually leave everyone worse afterwards.
If you encounter someone hitting someone else on the street, you might call the police, be a witness to the violence by standing close by, verbally intervene (for instance, by asking the victim if they’re okay and need a taxi), or create a distraction. You could talk to a friend who’s emotionally or physically abusive in a private, calm moment and tell them that their behavior is not okay and they need help; be ready to drop the friendship if they won’t. If you have a friend whose relationship is showing red flags of abuse, encourage them to break up with their partner; if it has progressed to full abuse, tell them that you’ve seen the signs and that you’re willing to give them whatever help they need. If your friends are being harassing or otherwise shitty, call them out on it, distract them, or even just frown and refuse to join in. Drunksit your friends, if they need it, and help pull them out of situations where they’re uncomfortable.
One of the most common situations you’re going to get into, as a non-rapist non-rape-survivor person, is someone saying some kind of rapey comment. You know the type. The “she was asking for it”s. The “don’t drop the soap”s. The “women falsely accuse men of rape all the time”s. The “you can’t rape a man”s. The “it’s not rape if you enjoyed it”s. Thankfully, those people are absolutely never original, so you can develop a repertoire of responses. The exact strategy you use depends on your personality: I tend to go for deep, deep sarcasm (“oh, yes, I know I go out every Saturday night just begging to be raped”), flying into a feminist rage (“you said WHAT about prison rape?”), and sheer iciness (“I hope you realize that if you actually have sex with a passed-out person you’re a rapist.”).
Know how to respond to survivors. Most survivors will tell a friend or relative first; you can play a major role in their recovery, or revictimize them. Listen to them, believe them, and respect their feelings and decisions (for instance, don’t pressure them into reporting if they don’t want to). Say things like “I’m glad you told me,” “you didn’t deserve it,” “this isn’t your fault,” “I’m sorry this happened to you,” “it’s brave of you to tell someone.” Gently ask if you can help. Don’t ask questions about their situation– they’ll disclose what they feel comfortable disclosing. Accept their reactions, even if they aren’t what you’d do or they don’t fit in with how survivors are “supposed” to behave. DON’T VICTIM-BLAME– seriously, if you’d respond to a rape survivor with “well, you know, you’ll be more careful next time”, GTFO my blog.
Be a good influence. Children are the next generation of hopefully less rapey people. Teach any children you happen to know about healthy and respectful relationships– fairness, respect, dealing with anger. Model healthy relationships for them, if you can. Respect their boundaries: if they don’t want to be tickled, don’t fucking tickle them; if they don’t want to hug Aunt Marge, don’t make them hug Aunt Marge. A child still has bodily autonomy and while it can be overridden for good reasons (vaccines), avoiding some awkwardness at the dinner table is not one of those reasons.