I’m actually a little bit nervous about what I have to say in this blog post, but at the same time, I feel like it needs to be said. OK, so, here we go…
I think there are a lot of rapists out there in the world, right now, who honestly don’t realize they are rapists. Good people. People who, if asked, would emphatically swear that they would never rape someone, never commit sexual assault, and yet, they have. They’ve done it, and it’s our fault, as a society, for allowing so many young men and women to grow up without an understanding of consent.
Now, I am not saying that the people who are raped or sexually assaulted by an “unintentional rapist” are any less the victims of a terrible crime. I’m just saying that these unintentional rapists are also victims in their own way; in this case, they are victims of ignorance.
We don’t teach people that persistence and unrelenting “seduction” can lead you to become a rapist when the target of your attempts breaks down and agrees to hook up/have sex/whatever simply for the sake of getting you to leave them alone. Or because they are afraid of what might happen if you don’t.
We don’t teach people that, if you’re having sex with someone and they start to feel hurt or scared or they need to stop for WHATEVER reason, not stopping makes you a rapist. No, it doesn’t matter that you are turned on and it’s hard to just stop short. Masturbate if you have to, but if you ignore your partner or shame them into continuing, you are a rapist.
We don’t teach people that men can be raped by women, that an erection does not always indicate arousal, and, even if it does, arousal does not always imply consent.
We don’t teach people that silence from their partner does not mean that they are consenting to go further and further; in fact, that silence could be silence borne of shock or shame or fear… but they will suffer in silence because we don’t teach people to ask their partner if it is okay to continue.
We don’t teach people that consenting to sex once does not mean that every future sex act is okay, that pressuring your significant other or spouse into sex is still rape if they don’t want it.
Most people know from experience, from pop-culture, that these situations don’t always hurt someone.
Puck got Quinn drunk on Glee before having sex with her, but few outside of this feminist blogging bubble ever called it rape. Persistent lovers chase their one true love in movies all the time, never giving up until they “win her over in the end.” Characters in TV and film almost never ask their partner for consent before engaging in sex.
Sometimes real life follows the media, and everything goes just fine in the end. Sometimes a person is raped and another person becomes a rapist simply because they didn’t know any better.
How many rapes could be prevented if we just taught consent BETTER? How many people would be saved from the terrible feelings and thoughts that come along with rape? How many perfectly good and moral people wouldn’t have to become rapists if we simply took the time to teach people to check in with one another and truly respect the wishes of their partner? Most importantly, what are we going to do to stop being silent bystanders to a slew of unintentional assaults?
Let’s talk about it…