I have often been confused by the multiple theories & opinions that surface in the wake of a rape. All of them seem to try to explain “Why he did it?” or “What did she do that led to it?”. And perhaps that one should extend these theories to role reversal in some rapes. But all that I heard viz. “It was sexual frustration”, “It was an act of establishing a power hierarchy” & “She was drunk”, “She was a social climber” etc. didn’t complete the necessary logical chain in my head.
Nothing — no action, no stimulus, no context — nothing, translated into rape.
There were (as the predominant pair of questions above reflect) 2 elements that stood out in every incident — (1) How drunk or how she dressed or what kind of friends she maintained or what she smoked/snorted or how late she was traveling etc. & (2) How he raped her.
What follows is my making sense of how the violation comes about.
What seemed to make sense after studying the reports of many incidents was how any trait or act by the victim was used to incrementally justify the action to a point where the action seems to have taken the form of “she deserved it” or “That was the only way to treat her”. This sickening spiral into depravity is made possible by a conditioned sequence of rationalising the aggression pent up in the criminal/abettor as a response to a stimulus which could have been anything. I could nearly imagine each rapist in a split second or matter of seconds take the stimulus, build on it, project it, amplify it till it called out to his aggression & demanded he “Rape her”.
Whatever she says or does or carries or wears, a rapist essentially makes a scapegoat of those to justify his aggression.
There is no behaviour or trait that a woman can demonstrate or possess that absolutely demands rape. Nothing can cause rape (in the scientific/statistical sense of causation).
I thought it might help to lay out common scenarios or seemingly likely sequence of events or stimuli that men let spiral into a call to rape. Most men wouldn’t let that spiral take form. Many men won’t heed that call. But rape is not the only form of violation that men subject women to. To grope, to brush against, to squeeze are all unwelcome. Men need to realise that its not ok & not just a frivolous thing, because it is in our accepting it as frivolity that men are encouraged into treating that too as a stimulus to go further when they stop hearing the “No”.
No amount of band-aids will help heal the aggression we have let grow in society since the days of our childhood. Bullying in school has grown into bullying countries & ethnic groups. So if you care about eradicating rape, it has to start really early. No woman who is honest can be blind to aggression in other areas & expect that it will die down only in the context of rape & sexual abuse. But that I will leave to each person’s honesty.
What follows are typical things I have heard men face & hastily roll into a scapegoat on which they let their aggression ride. Recognise these & disallow your brain/brawn to nurture them.
Scenario 1: But why would she wear that if she didn’t want it
I wear what I want. I will take it (assuming that “it” refers to comments on my haircut but it also works if “it” refers to sex) from whom I want. You need to understand that. Let’s break down the stimulus. I am wearing, what you consider, provoking attire. It could well be a hijab or a bikini. It could be my Goth makeup. Whatever it is, it excited you. You either are aroused or you think it is wrong that I provoke your…desires? If you are aroused, you then move (in your head) to think that since I aroused you (which I didn’t, because you were aroused by me), I am sending you a message that I want it (same it) from you. If you are provoked, you are agitated as to how can I present myself like this. If aroused, & believing that I am sending you messages, you decide to answer the imagined message with a “Yes, here I come.” If provoked & agitated you feel a moral obligation to quell the provocation. In either case, the machinery turning my appearance into a need for an action from you, is happening in your head. In the former case you submit to the “Games they play” & make a move. In the latter, you cannot see that the moral obligation you have is only to quell what is inside you. The fact that you are agitated cannot justify “shutting down the music”. It can only justify your leaving the scene. In either case, when you move towards me, hear my “No”. I am either not interested in you or I don’t care to live by your values or sense of morality. If you believe the whole world should live by your sense of morality then it is clearly dangerous because your sense of morality allows for a woman to be raped (whether you call it punishment or not, more on that later). Listen to my “No” & leave.
Scenario 2: But she needn’t appear like that. Isn’t she secretly just hunting for sex?
A dear friend helped me articulate this best — her secret is out when she says “No”. Thereon it isn’t a secret that she didn’t want it & you were wrong. If you have trouble admitting you were wrong, jump to scenario 4 (below). Maybe my friend was “strutting her stuff” because she wanted to have fun or simply have sex. Maybe she told me that on the tube & you overheard it. But if she is saying “No” to you, she means she doesn’t want it from you. Whatever her reasons are, she said “No”. Don’t choose to hear it as a weak “No” or testing-waters-No. Maybe she will regret saying “No” because she will end up going home alone. You can try approaching her then with puppy eyes or chocolates and asking her again. If she says “No” it is no more a secret. If you think she is just playing hard to get, try harder. But if she keeps repeating “No”, you are the one who is finding it hard to get.
Scenario 3: But it is just 20 min of action!
Murder is just (often) 2 min of action or less. A terrorist attack could be much less than 20 min of action. Blast fishing can be 2 min of action or less. Cecil suffered a horrific 40 hours but even that is just 0.04% in an average lifespan of a lion. How does the time duration of an act determines its vulgarity? Would a rape be horrible only if it lasted 24 years? Or for centuries? And it might be action for you, but it is a violation for me. It is an utter disregard to my preferences & freedom. It is a terrorising of my place as a human being in a human society. I feel tortured & I am not part of some game of yours to “slay” young girls or blondes or girls whose name starts with L. Calling it “just 20 min of actions” or “just a wham bam” is disregarding what it is for me. It was “20 min into everlasting hell” & “being tossed into lifelong nightmares”. Why wouldn’t you call it that & try to still feel like it’s nothing? Before your mind summarises the proposed act into “just 20 min of action” & subsequently deem it as not much damage to indulge in, pause and ask me. Ask me if I feel the same way. And if I still want it. If I say “No”, listen to it & go away.
Scenario 4: How dare she say “No”?
Is the 300 lbs homosexual bouncer who propositioned you, allowed to ask the same question & react to it? Is the local gang that wants to take your car because “Princess likes the wheels” allowed to ask you that question? Is the government that suddenly decided to levy a 65% surcharge on your income allowed to ask you that? Is the beat cop who always stops you & orders a full frisk (& I mean full) every single time he sees you, allowed to ask that? Is the NSA that demands you hand over your phone, tablet & internet connection allowed to ask you that? Is Hoggett allowed to ask that when he was about to shoot Babe (the pig)?
Or would it then be a a violation of your right to choose & freedom? Would it then be oppression/repression?
Do not translate a “No” into a “How dare she say No!”. There is nothing daring. It is merely a right to voice one’s preference in a society that listens to one’s preferences & respects them in amicable ways. It becomes an act of daring only if all “No’s” were always crushed & has become folklore. That is a sick inhuman world to live in & allowing that will one day consume those who thought it was ok, because maybe that local gang was waiting for the world to consider these things ok. Hear the “No” & feel free to ask me why I feel like a “No”. I might tell you or I might just be wary of creating avenues for you to be sophistical & coerce a “Yes”. A conversation might convince me that I was hasty in my “No”. It might not. I am allowed all of these as much as you are. But my “No” is no act of daring. It is a call to you & to dare you to be decent & heed my “No”.
Scenario 5: She needs to be taught a lesson
Perhaps. A lesson in what? Let’s discuss that but before we get to that, what about me or my actions made you feel that I had missed a lesson? My attire (scenario 1)? My attitude (scenario 2 or 4, perhaps?)? Or my behaving in a way that you deem inappropriate for society? Or did I hurt your pride or reputation? If I have insulted you, you can let me know it is not acceptable. If I behave like a princess & mock you, you can either leave (if it is beneath you to deal with a vulgar creature like myself) or you can sling expletives & sailor-talk at me. Word for word you can match me as long as you find it entertaining. Ah! No hitting. No raping. Sure, invoke my mother & father & siblings because I am doing the same (in this imaginary scene), but if I am not striking you or raping you, you can’t too. This is where a friend of mine asked me “But I didn’t cuss. She thought it was ok to cuss. How is that fair? Some guy will say — sure, she abused me in the way she could & I abused her in the way I could!” This is where I would implore all my sisters & brothers (save 1) to behave themselves. A “No” from a guy is as clear as is a “No” from a girl. Stop misbehaving. But all said & done, raping someone isn’t commensurate retaliation for sailor-talk! Neither is battery.
Back to why I must be taught a lesson — Did I hurt your pride or reputation? Maybe you were amazing at chess & you thought a girl couldn’t beat you & I did. Maybe you thought you were the fastest in the pool & I beat you. Maybe it was a debate competition. Maybe it was beer-pong (yuck!). Maybe your friends are teasing you about losing to a girl. How does teaching me a lesson make you any better at your trade? It does shut down anyone from accepting your challenge but that is what happened through the history of United States of America & their treatment of the Natives. Or in other oppressive regimes (China, USSR, Middle East, Australia, etc.). Even today, Wikileaks is being hunted down because they dared prove the American government to be ridden with holes. Who then, needs to be taught a lesson? So maybe you talk to me & learn how I got to be good at this trade. Maybe you want to practice harder. Maybe you & I can be sparring partners. But raping me is not going to help you & is only going to hurt me & make me distrustful of the society I live in. I do not want to invoke images of the same thing happening to your mom, sister, wife, daughter for you to see why that is wrong (scenario 6).
Maybe you think I am a rich girl & I deserve it. Or a girl from a ghetto & deserve it. Maybe you think that since I do drugs, I deserve it. Maybe you think all cheerleaders deserve it. Or all feminists do. It doesn’t matter which category I fall under — do not let that category mask itself into a justification for your aggression. Whatever my category, raping me is not going to rid me of that, it is only going to give vent to your aggression.
If my behaviour is inappropriate for society as you define it, let’s discuss. Let’s talk about where your definition arises from & where my definition stems from. Let’s debate on what makes society good. I’ll learn from you & hope you’ll learn from me. Or maybe I am not interested in debating every single guy loaded with aggression. Terrorising me & raping me is not part of the definition of your just & moral society (I hope not). So, before you rush to conclude that I need to be taught a lesson in that via rape, consider other means. They might be more effective & I might partner with you. Or we might depart with a better understanding of each perspective. Raping me will teach me no lesson other than throttling my expression & life. You wouldn’t want that on yourself (Scenario 4).
Scenario 6: I can get away with it. It is her problem & I don’t care.
So said the Nazi Schutzstaffel. So said the USA when they dropped the N-bombs on the islands of Japan. So said the Russian CPSU. So said every Klansman at one point (maybe even today). So said the Pacific Gas and Electric Company. So said Fannie Mae & Bear Stearns. So says every racist cop in America taking aim at unarmed Afro-American citizens. So says every upper-caste thug in India against some lower caste victim. So says every terrorist group. So says every priest who abuses a ward under his aegis. So says every religious cult leader who abuses his “devotees”.
The measure of a society is all that one can get away with yet how everyone knows not to subscribe to that. Scenario 4 talks about how you could also be subjected to this same attitude. Before you let this hunch snowball into a justification for raping me, think about what happens if you didn’t get away with it. What happens if you were butchered by my protective sister or father or mother or brother or BFF or boyfriend? What happens if they torch your entire house with your family in it and make it look like an accident? What happens if you were getting away with it & were run down by a truck driver who didn’t stop & thought he could get away with it? Whatever scenario I conjure the one thing that remains is that I can never get away with it. I am left going over what happened. I am left with lesser trust in me. I am scarred in ways you won’t understand but could have avoided.
So don’t mix that drug in my drink. Do not try to get me drunk because in that state, I am not allowed to drive so why expect me to be sane enough to convince you out of raping me? If in that intoxicated state I declare that you should jump off a cliff, would you? Ask me only when I am sober. If I am drunk, get me home or get me help. If I am lying in a heap by the road, call 911. Do not start pondering over how you can get away with raping me. Do not calculate on how much your town loves the local football team & hence, they won’t harm you (and sadly for those boys, Anonymous leaked their video so they didn’t get away with it. Sadly for Anonymous, USA doesn’t care about truth but about the cosmetic details of how truth was revealed!). The only options you should be willing to admit are:
- Ignore her & run away
- Call the cops/ambulance
- Call my family & pass judgement
- Call my family & ask them to come help me
- Help me
- Keep harm away from me
Do not explore the option of how you can get away with it or how I might not remember anything.
Scenario 7: She is a base person. She is an ugly person.
Maybe I am. Maybe I am a degenerate liar. Maybe I am a delinquent. Maybe I will never find anyone who wants to have sex with me. So? You rape me? Let’s assume I have been all the horrible things you accuse me of. Are you assuming the role of a jury? And your verdict is? Teach me a lesson (Scenario 5)? Rape her because rape cures…what? Yes, I am a base person. Maybe, I need correction. Submit me to qualified people who can help address my depravities. You aren’t qualified to fix me, esp. if you think rape will, in which case you need fixing.
If I am ugly & I still say “No”, you aren’t doing me a favour by raping me. Whatever you morphing into a justification for your aggression unto me needs a pause. I am ugly. I am fat. I am too skinny. I am pimply. I might never find a guy who will love me. Hit the brakes before you translate that into an urgent need to do me a favour. No, you aren’t doing me a favour by being violent. If I am so unappealing in appearance, leave me alone or leave me when I say “No”. Please do not translate that into scenario 4.
I feel these scenarios should suffice to show how some random act or stimulus snowballs into a justification for aggression. It is not the stimulus that causes any untoward act but this layering of contrived justification & intention & motives on top of that stimulus peppered with pent up aggression that leads to an act of rape. Watch how your mind works. Watch every reason that appears to take you closer to “Hence, rape her”. Burn every single strut being assembled to scaffold your call to aggression. A decent man is one who can watch the foundations of titillating (albeit hollow) reasoning he builds to give an inevitability to his actions, and systematically remove them till they never appear even when a woman is semi-nude in front of him. If she says “No” don’t question her appearance or location or time of the day. She has made it clear. No.