It has been a triggering week. Thirty women and counting have come forward accusing Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault; most recently, Lena Hadley stepped forward. Last week old tapes of Ben Affleck and Jason Momoa have surfaced propagating Rape Culture. One shows Ben groping a reporter’s breast. The other is a 2011 interview with Momoa on a Game Of Thrones panel at San Diego Comic Con that has him on record saying he enjoyed Game of Thrones for the fantasy violence and because he got to “rape beautiful women.”
Seriously, what the fresh hell is going on? Are we really that far removed in our society that we cannot keep our mouths shut and our actions in check if it even starts to blur the line of propagating our rape culture?
For those unfamiliar with the term “rape culture,” it is an environment in which rape is prevalent and normalized by media and pop culture. We see it on Game of Thrones as it happens to various women. We see it in our own society as people continue victim blaming. We see it in sinister phrases that make sexual assault seem trivial (“Grab them by the p***y,” anyone?). We see it in mindless comments. Most sinister, however, is when it rears its ugly head in our own perception of things.
There is a deep culture that makes light of rape and sexual assault on all levels. People downplay comments they perceive as jokes or not as “serious,” because they are so out of tune with how hurtful rape culture really is.
Take this in: rape culture exists because we as people like to think that it does not.
We do not acknowledge our own rape culture and our messages of misogyny. By not coming to terms with it, we are portraying men’s sexuality as uncontrollable, aggressive, and violent, then penning it off as, “He can’t help himself. He was triggered by what she was wearing or what she was doing.”
This problem is created by victim blaming and the idea that men are inherently sexually violent. That it is in their nature to take what they want if they get a hint of a signal that it is okay. Even if there is no consent, there must have been something to trigger them to sexually assault or rape. Why is this okay and why are we as a whole in denial?
To fight this we must look into our ideas about masculinity. How can you be a man and not participate in this rhetoric?
We must empower women to be sexually confident and not make excuses for flaunting or owning their sexuality. There is nothing dangerous about female sexuality. It is not something to be conquered or quelled. It is something to be celebrated and met with active and eager consent by both parties. Or more…if you’re into that type of thing. When I worked at Rape Trauma Services, all the counselors went around to all the women in the room, looked us all the in eye, and said, “You could walk naked down the street and no one has the right to touch you unless you say yes.” WORD.
We must stop treating sexual assault and rape as a joke. We must acknowledge that rape has a deep cultural rooting in conquering and exerting control over people, in colonizing people and breaking apart cultures, in degrading victims of war and in humiliating and objectifying women.
We must think about our media outlets and what they’re teaching us about our gender roles and about sexuality. Ask where their message is coming from and why they want to broadcast that message. Especially if it has to do with minorities. Why is it that rape scenes with the exception of a few shows tend to show violence against women? Violence against women of color? Why is it that when rape is shown, we brush it off and are desensitized? Why are the camera angles the way they are? Question everything.
Finally I want to leave you with this. I was reading this article by ABC this evening and in half of the allegations they pointed out that many victims of Weinstein’s never came forward and some women actually had sexual relationships with him after they were assaulted. Why is that information relevant? As a society, does the fact that a woman consents to sexual advances after she has been assaulted make it okay? Doesn’t this speak to the normalization of sexual assault and rape in our culture?