Tag Archives: street harassment

We Are Not A Rape Culture

Feminists argue we live in a culture in which rape is considered normal and acceptable, and that in order to stop sexual violence we need to change our cultural attitude towards women, sex and consent. Not long ago, only extreme feminists in far corners of the internet believed in this rape culture mythology, but recently even the White House has claimed we have a culture of passivity and tolerance concerning rape. The similarities with the trafficking hysteria are overwhelming. Not only are the claims false, they are, again, harmful to everyone.

Rape is considered one of the most heinous crimes, we have strict laws that we all want to see enforced and rapists are despised. I think sex offenders are probably the most hated group in both the USA and Netherlands. Children and teens are exposed to years and years of prevention messages, and nearly all men view rape as a horrific crime. The majority of our culture despise rape, despise rapists and wish to support victims. This does not mean we don’t face any problems when it comes to rape: sex-negative victim-blaming is prevalent, teenage victims are often ridiculed by their peers (just read about Jada and #jadapose if you want to feel really sick) and these things do need to be addressed. But this rape culture hype is not helping at all.

Rape culture activists falsely claim that one in five female college students are raped (it’s probably more close to one in forty). They falsely claim that rape is on the rise or even an epidemic (it’s actually declining). They falsely claim that a lot of men rape (in fact 90% to 95% of all rapes are committed by roughly 3% of men). They falsely claim that rape is caused by ignorance about consent and that men need to be taught “not to rape” (actually, rapists don’t care about consent, they mean to rape). The falsely claim that explaining rape is wrong will stop people from raping (rapists disregard the overwhelming cultural message that rape is wrong).

Rape culture activists have become a strong political force and have been successful in initiating policy changes. Men accused of rape are brought before campus judicial panels without due process, they are publicly named and expelled from schools even when police refuse to bring criminal charges because of unconvincing evidence. The rape culture hysteria is part of a larger feminist movement that claims all women are victimised by men, that sexuality is inherently harmful to women and that we need to protect women for their own good.

My partner was visiting a home for mentally disabled children a couple of years ago when one of the girls joined him and his sister on the trampoline. They all fell down and laid there for a while when the young girl suddenly straddled him and began ‘riding’ his body in a sexual way. His immediate response was to hold his hands far away from her body: “I am NOT touching her, this is NOT my initiative, I am NOT assaulting her!”. Because that’s our knee-jerk response as a society, the man as the aggressor and the girl as victim. He knew he’d be guilty until proven innocent if nobody would even think he was touching her.

Want to know what rape culture is? It’s raping a girl to punish her brother. It’s compensating a father when you rape his daughter (“you break it, you buy it!”). It’s stoning a woman to death when she was raped. It’s denying rape unless two men consider it rape. It’s forcing women to marry their rapists. That’s rape culture. We do not live in a rape culture.

But it’s a Compliment!

I noticed him looking at my legs. There weren’t many people in the train that evening, he was sitting across from me and I watched as his gaze went over my ankles, up to my knees, and further to my thighs and hips. Shameless, I thought. Then he looked me in the eye, a bit startled, smiled apologetically and quickly looked out the window. He blushed a bit, looked at me again and I grinned. We both looked away and I comfortably listened to my mp3 player until I reached my destination. I felt flattered.

Almost every woman experiences street harassment, but men often find it hard not to get defensive when women discuss this problem. “What, is it a crime to look at a woman now?” they’ll ask, “if you’re dressed in a sexy manner, aren’t you asking for the attention?”. They’ll tell us “but it’s a compliment!” and advice us not to be so sensitive. “We just find women pleasing to look at”.StopStreeHarassment

But I don’t think that’s it. Street harassment isn’t just a man finding a woman attractive and expressing that. A compliment is intended to make the other person feel good, if you really want to compliment someone and they express discomfort you back off. Street harassment is a man believing he has the right to look at a woman and talk to her whether she consents and feels comfortable or not. Often, street harassment is bullying, the intention is to make a woman feel unsafe or scared. It’s not a compliment.

It’s a dark, empty parking lot. A guy walks up to me. “Five euro’s if I can wet my fingers on your cunt!”. I pretend I heard nothing and walk faster.

“You look pretty”. I force a strained smile and look away. “Hey, I complimented you! You’re really pretty. What’s your name?”. I mumble a ‘sorry’ and start walking away. There aren’t many people around and I feel uncomfortable. “Why are you walking away? Hey! I complimented you! Come back here!”. I keep walking.

He catch him looking at my legs. He continues staring for so long it’s becoming rude. I try to make eye contact, but when he finally looks at me he gives me a “how you doin'” smile and says “hey”. I look away. He makes himself comfortable and examines my legs some more. I try to cover myself with my coat.

The guy in the first example acknowledged me as a person, was sensitive to my emotional response and didn’t feel entitled to my attention. It was a compliment, something he gave for free without expecting anything in return. The second guy intended to scare me, the third guy felt I owed him something and the third guy didn’t give a damn how I felt and just used me for his enjoyment. That’s not flattering. It’s intimidating, it made me feel unsafe and disrespected.

Don’t tell me to take it as a compliment.