I’ll Take Rape Culture for $400, Alex

So I’m, like, really glad about the conversation revolving around the Stanford Victim (who is basically the bravest person I’ve never met) and the Stanford Rapist (who, let’s be clear, is in fact a rapist). But I’m also really unhappy with the amount of stupid that has been brought to the surface.

If I have to read one more tweet about how rape culture doesn’t exist or women should learn not to drink around men (Matt Walsh, I will come for you one day…) or see that letter from the father of the rapist (fact: he is a rapist) bemoaning his son (the rapist’s) ruined life or hear about his supporters (that would be supporters of the convicted rapist) saying he didn’t mean it or read the rapist’s unapologetic apology where he doesn’t even mention his victim…. I think I might just light myself on fire.

But you know what? This is a pretty–for lack of a better term–positive conversation. Mostly everyone is angry. Angry at the judge who seemed real concerned by the impact prison would have on a boy who raped a girl (AKA a rapist). Angry at the girl who thought he was nice in high school and how can he be held accountable for an event the girl can’t even remember? (You know, when she was raped). Angry at a culture that presents white rapists as different from black rapists, even in the pictures they use. Angry that newspapers and lawyers all reference the irrelevant bright future and the irrelevant extracurriculars and the irrelevant swim records to make a case for a boy (who is in fact a rapist).

So at least people recognize the wrong at play here. The dad is vilified. The friend’s band is blacklisted. News stories start changing their tune–and their photo choices–as their focus changes from the “Swimming Star” to the “Stanford Victim.” So, hey, there are consequences to actions.

Unless you’re the actual rapist who gets off after a few months of good behavior. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

But it’s a conversation and it’s happening and I’m mostly glad. Because people should be angry. Angry that it’s 2016 and people are still refusing to acknowledge that the way we treat rape in this country is not okay. The way we treat women in this country is not okay. The way we feed male privilege is not okay. But I am so tired/sick/annoyed/infuriated that we’re still having the same conversation.

But Shelby, people clamor, think of how far we’ve come. Things aren’t as bad as they were when Shakespeare wrote Taming of the Shrew! Can’t you be happy with that?

Yeah, congrats to us: four hundred years later and our dialogue about women and rape has shifted a teensy bit! But also, it’s 2016 and I still have to have conversations about how she wasn’t asking for it. Just because a woman is wasted, naked, surrounded by boys–even if she’s wearing a shirt that says “Taste My P*ssy” she’s not asking for it. What’s more, you aren’t entitled to it. Just because you’re stronger, you’re eager, you’re sitting pretty with your male privilege telling you every girl should want it…doesn’t mean you get it.

I’m sick of feeling nervous around guys. Sick of reading about the latest apps and tricks to fend off unwanted attention or would-be rapists.

Don’t wear your hair in a ponytail. Don’t be on your phone. Don’t have headphones in. Walk with purpose but don’t draw attention to yourself. Check under your car. Don’t get in your car if it’s parked to another car. Don’t go to the bathroom alone.

Is it good advice? No, it’s the SADDEST ADVICE to ever give little girls and yet we just dole it out like it’s a how-to on winning the Powerball. It’s like we should be excited: now we have the secret to not getting raped! Lucky us!

ERR. No. Still happens.

Not every rapist is drunk. Not every rape happens at a party. Not every sexual assault is a rape. Not every rapist is a stranger. And the worst of all, not every person will be on your side if it happens to you. The questions victims get asked, oh the questions. Watch the documentary The Hunting Grounds if you really want to see how far we have to go in our treatment of rape and sexual assault cases. Read this story about women who saw a man put something in a girl’s drink only to find out the two were actually longtime friends. Watch this clip from Master of None if you want to see how men and women go through life a little differently.

But I’m over it.

Do you know how nauseating it is to be worried every time I see a group of guys? How noxious it is to think how best to tell a guy off at a gym or a club or in the freakin’ grocery store so that he doesn’t get angry? How terrifying it is to hear about all my friends, all these acquaintances, all these STRANGERS LIKE ME who didn’t make it home safe and sound like I did? I actually feel lucky I haven’t been raped or assaulted or harassed past some catcalls. Lucky. As in, it’s dumb luck that I’m not one of the 25% of women who won’t be so lucky.

That’s terrifying. One in five women will be raped. One in five women will go through a system that takes a fine-tooth comb to their story, their actions, their choices to see if they’re to blame. Because #NotAllMen.

That’s where we are: we’re actually in a place where we justify rape. We’d rather believe #NotAllMen than #YesAllWomen. And that’s rape culture. We take the black and white of sexual assault clearly being wrong and stir up enough grey to actually wonder if maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t all that bad after all. He was drunk! Boys will be boys! She didn’t say no. But that is ignorant. That is dangerous. And that perpetuates an idea that women are around for the taking and men simply can’t be blamed for following through. We try to parse up the wrongness of it all to believe there are degrees of badness. But for whose benefit? It’s definitely not mine. Because I go around living my life believing that men will do me wrong. I’ve seen it. Seen it in the way men on the streets treat me; or in the way the guy at the gym gets mad when I say I’m not interested; or when a man pulled out his dick and got off behind me in Times Square. Was I asking for it? Hell no. Was I lucky to have it just be that? Sadly, sure. But that doesn’t mean I’ll ever be okay with the way we victim blame and the way we work around defining rape to try and stretch the word so thin that it doesn’t mean the same thing every time.

We want to believe boys know better and if they mess up, well, there must have been some reason. But I’m done. Brock Allen Turner doesn’t think he did anything more wrong than drink too much. And that’s scary to me. It’s terrifying that he can cataclysmically change a woman’s life and actually believe he is justified in blaming her circumstance. It’s terrifying that a father can think so much of his son’s future that he can ignore the life of a girl his son irreparably damaged. It’s terrifying that a court can find him unequivocally guilty and he still, in a way, gets away with it.

I’m sick of hearing about the swimmer’s life. Everything he has lost. All the sacrifices he’s been forced to make. I’m sick of hearing about what a special boy he is, how this poor choice has ruined his life, how it’s unfair to be labeled a rapist just because he raped one girl. I’m done. Hear me, hear me because I’m sick of seeing f*ckboys get away with it. Yes, this culture has failed them too–because why aren’t we teaching boys they aren’t entitled to a woman’s body in any way, shape, or form. Skimpy clothing, alcohol levels do not dictate when it is and isn’t permissible to take advantage of a girl or a situation. Familiarity or desire does not excuse abuse. Privilege and opportunity does not justify taking what you want. When someone is raped, assaulted, or harassed, it does not matter where they were, what they were wearing, what they were doing: the fact that it happened is wrong. If a girl starts to say yes and then says no, it still means no. If a girl once said yes but can’t say it now, it does not mean go ahead. If a girl can’t say yes and if you can’t process that, it does not mean there’s suddenly an opportunity to get away with it and call it a mistake later.

It’s 2016. We have so much information at hand, so much power in community and discourse. We should be able to say THIS IS WRONG. We do have rape culture, Matt Walsh. 20 minutes is long enough to change a life, Brock’s dad. Rape is rape, best friend of rapist. So please stop telling me it’s the girl’s fault. That she could have done things differently to not wind up behind a dumpster, alone and vulnerable. Sure, she could have. But that’s not the point.

It’s 2016 and I feel like I’m still fighting to say rape is rape. So you can take your questions, your judgments, your pointed fingers and gentle suggestions to know better and act different–you can take all that and pack it away with the the theory that the earth is flat or that our planet is the center of the universe. Because it’s a dumb, outdated opinion. We should know better. We should act better. The world should be better.

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