With more discretion this might should be something that lives exclusively on this piddly blog I keep for self-reflection or maybe in my journal, removed from world-wide access all together. It exists in both of those places as well, but in the time I’ve spent considering this, I’ve decided I’m finished being quiet about this. It’s time to use my voice, even if within only my small sphere of influence.
This past Saturday night I had a personal experience with rape culture. A few years ago I might not have even realized the things I experienced even qualified as that, but I’m a bit wiser now, in addition to being quite a bit more disheartened. I went out for a girls night with some grad school friends I know and trust, and although I should not even have to explain this, I will go ahead and say that we all dressed modestly and were mindful about how we were conducting ourselves.
Among the many things that happened over the course of the evening, men danced provocatively and suggestively on and around me (grinding on me and pretending to spank me) after I explicitly asked them to stop, I was called lewd and offensive names, a man grabbed my jaw to pull my face close to his, said I was cute, and then was confused when I recoiled, stating that he’d given me a compliment and I should be happy about it, and to end the night, my friend and I were cat-called by men hanging out of two different trucks at the same intersection, one of whom invited us to join him for some ‘fun in the bed of his truck.’
I did not solicit any of this. I did not want any of this. I did not go out on Saturday night to feel degraded, disrespected, disgusted, or unsafe. And yet over the course of this week, I have continued to feel each of those sentiments as a result of one night, for four hours.
The worst part of all of this is that as dirty and repulsed as I felt after four measly hours of sexual harassment within Nashville’s rape culture, not one bit of my experience even scratches the surface of the overwhelming rape culture that exists in our nation. From the minimization of statements of sexual assault by a presidential candidate to the belittlement of a survivor of sexual assault by the former Vanderbilt football player that assaulted her, rape culture is everywhere. And if we don’t yell and scream and advocate and assert and proclaim that this rape culture is not okay, it is just going to continue.
Rape culture is in the television you watch. Rape culture is in the lyrics of the music you listen to. Rape culture is in advertisements for the products you buy. Rape culture is on the meme page you follow. Rape culture is in the jokes you’re laughing at. Rape culture is possibly even hidden inside what you think is a compliment. Rape culture is more than just rape.
The Nashville Sexual Assault Center put out a statement through the Tennessean yesterday that I would encourage all of you to read. I think this puts it best:
“In all of these cases, we are selling good men short. What we are communicating is that it is normal and acceptable for men to take advantage of women sexually, that it should be expected that women’s bodies should be the topic of degrading and demeaning conversations, and that words are just words without devastating lasting consequences or impact…Regardless of political beliefs, we must turn our efforts to ending rape culture. Instead of raising girls to learn to protect themselves from potential sexual assault and unwanted sexual advances because they are inevitable, we should be raising them in a world where they know completely that their bodies are respected and they should never have to worry about being sexually assaulted.”
So I’m charging all of you with this- examine your life- all of it. Really listen to what your favorite song is saying. Really watch how that tv show handles consent. Really think about how you would feel if that unsolicited comment were directed towards you. Really consider what that meme is implying. We've got to start with ourselves, but we can't stop there either.
Rape culture afflicts all of us. For women, rape culture puts us in a state of perpetual fear, when we know very well we are so much more. For men, rape culture sells you short, asserting to the world that you simply can't help yourself. It's time for all of us to stand up, reject this, and be more.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Let’s do something, y’all.