Cop Rapes Woman at Gunpoint, 11-Year-Old Rape Victim Smeared, Accuser Sued for $2 Million: Is US Society Failing Victims?
Continued from previous page
And is it any wonder that some real victims, when questioned about an assault, might embellish or shade their accounts (both Leigh Jones and Nafissatou Diallo have been accused of doing this) in the fruitless effort to be a "better" victim, to not be blamed for something that was done to them?
That's the other essence of rape culture, which was distilled so memorably by Amanda Hess; it confuses women, too:
Rape culture does not just encourage men to proceed after she says "no." Rape culture does not simply teach men that a lack of physical resistance is an invitation. Rape culture does not only tell men to assert ownership over whichever female body they desire. Rape culture also tells women not to claim ownership over their own bodies. Rape culture also informs women that they should not desire sex. Rape culture also tells women that saying yes makes them bad women.
Both rape and rape accusations are products of the roles assigned by rape culture. In the traditional seduction scenario, a woman is expected to not desire to have sex, and to only submit after the man has successfully coerced her into submission. When the preferred model for consensual sex looks a hell of a lot like rape, an array of fucked-up scenarios are inevitable: the woman never wanted to fuck the guy, refuses to submit, and is raped; the woman submits to the man's coercion in order to avoid other negative consequences (like being raped); the woman had desired the sex all along, but must defend her femininity by saying that she had been coerced into sex. Thankfully, a good deal of modern men and women reject these antiquated ideas, but they're far from being banished from the sexual landscape.
The landscape may seem somewhat bleak at the moment, but there's hope in the grassroots movements for media justice and for countering the rape-culture narrative that have sprung up this year.
Online activism like a petition demanding the Post retract its nasty characterization of Diallo and a similar campaign directed at the Times' rape coverage are beginning to hold the media accountable for the lens they hold to victims.
And Slutwalk, whose message is encapsulated by the idea that nothing causes rape except a rapist and a lack of consent, is creating a powerful and conversation-starting counter-narrative to these high-profile defeats.
Where justice and authority let victims down, solidarity, activism, and a massive effort to create awareness will have to fill the breach.
Sarah Seltzer is an associate editor at AlterNet, a staff writer at RH Reality Check and a freelance writer based in New York City. Her work has been published in Jezebel.com and on the websites of the Nation, the Christian Science Monitor and the Wall Street Journal. Find her at sarahmseltzer.com.