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Rape culture

A friend of mine, let’s call her K, has a son who just turned fourteen. She’s fairly committed to the idea of raising him as a relatively decent human being and, being a fairly active person online, she recently asked her blog for help finding books and DVDs and the like on how to be a gentleman. The replies were somewhere between empowering and heartbreaking. Rather than tips on holding doors open for women and other gentlemanly conduct, they were more suggestions on not having sex with a girl who is drunk. It was more about rape culture and how you go about breaking that to a boy without suggesting you think that he is – or is ever likely to be – in any way culpable. And it got me thinking again about just how differently our society treats men and women.

Last year I was at a concert with my girlfriend (Bertie Blackman, for those who care) and I was having a pretty good time. Except that there was this guy. I don’t know what tipped me off about him but I kept turning my head and catching his eye. I don’t mean I kept looking at him because I really have no interest in guys whatsoever. I just keep looking in different places, and he’d be there, always, always looking at me. It was crowded in there so this was in no way accidental. I figured, whatever, the guy’s probably on drugs, he’s fixated on me for some reason but it’s not a big deal. Except that at some stage during the night, I kissed my girlfriend, and when I looked up, he was there again. About five minutes later, when I did it again, I felt someone’s hand slide across my back and towards my butt and it was not my girlfriend’s.

I prised him off, screamed in his face and had security throw him out. But the feeling of violation took a long time to go away, and even now I have a little shudder going down my back when I think about it. Because I have no idea in what possible universe seeing two other people (of whatever gender) be intimate in public would be an invitation for you to paw them. I would like to blame it on the occasion, or the guy being on something, or on anything, really – except this kind of thing has happened to me before. I’ve had guys put their hands on the back of my neck or lean in when I was kissing a girl. I’ve had cars pull over and guys yell at me to give them a go when I was merely holding hands. I’ve even had guys who I thought were friends try to get me drunk to see if I’d swing their way when intoxicated.

But I have never had a woman do anything of the sort, no matter what I was doing, where I was, or how drunk I was.

I don’t know if we have a rape culture and I don’t know what it means, really, to have naked women on every magazine. I don’t know if the guys who have been fucking creepy to me have seen me as an object or if they’re insensitive idiots. I do know that my all-girls school taught self-defence on how ‘not to get raped’. That every girl I know has had it beaten into her to never leave a drink unattended, to avoid short skirts and travelling alone late at night, and to never approach or get into an unknown car.

Tips to prevent rape and/or sexual assault

I do know that there was a facebook group from an all-boys school last year that described itself as ‘anti consent’. I know that some guys in a van repeatedly slowed down and harassed my girlfriend on a quiet road last week. I know that I have been repeatedly singled out at night by men who were a lot bigger than me to ask for directions or help. I don’t know what the guys in the van wanted; maybe they too were just after directions. But for several men in a van to yell at a girl alone at night on a quiet street shows, at the very least, a criminal lack of awareness of the fact that they scared the living daylights out of her.

My friend K wanted advice on how to explain to a guy that women are taught from a young age that they need to protect themselves from sexual attacks because some guys think it’s okay – even funny – to have sex with a woman who is drunk and can’t consent. That women have, out of necessity, learned to always walk on the side of the street with the lights, never accept an open drink or let one out of their sight, and not go anywhere with a guy they don’t know.

That rape jokes, regardless of context, delivery, or individual, really just aren’t okay.

Just for starters, it terrifies me that guys don’t know these things. On reflection, it upset me that I was so overwhelmingly glad that my friend was teaching her son these things, because it shouldn’t be a special case, it should be universal. If we cannot yet change gender differences or power imbalances, then, at the very least, every damn person in the world should be aware of them. Every guy should know that many women will perceive an unwanted come-on as a threat. Every guy should know that even if they personally have not, would not, and will never commit violence in any way, shape or form, particularly in relation to sex, most women will weigh up the possibility before responding. Every guy should know that if they yell out of a car at a woman on the street, and she doesn’t respond, it may reflect that she’s scared they’ll stop the car and attack her, not that she doesn’t mind. Every guy should know that every woman, at least in Australia, has been told endless times that she may be subject to violence, rape and assault from men, whether or not she already knows them. Every guy should know that women around the world are raped, sometimes multiple times, often by people they know, frequently as a form of control, sometimes as a weapon of war, often by people who should be protecting them, sometimes by their own family members, sometimes as children, sometimes while incapable, sometimes after being sold. Every guy should know that rape culture says that if a woman is raped it’s her own fault – and every guy should know that that is not ever true.

Every guy should know that every girl knows most of those things, and that when he makes an unwanted advance, some of that will inform her answer.

I like to think that maybe if guys had the faintest idea how I felt about it, they wouldn’t treat me and my girlfriend as another pin-up or porno. That they wouldn’t follow us around or scream abuse or chase me down the street because I had the nerve to yell back. And yes, it’s probably a faint hope, because I’m pretty sure some guys will never have it beaten into their heads that some women a) don’t want them and b) are allowed to not want them. That someone else being gay has nothing to do with them. That other people’s sexuality is not an insult, nor is it relevant, to their own.

Bring on the education. Because when I thought through the list of guys I know, and tried to name those who would know what rape culture even meant, I came up with one. And that’s not okay.

Comments

    • That’s an important post too! And a good reason not to watch commercial TV. Ugh.

      The thing is, I’m pretty sure if I made the same comment in front of my brother, he’d have made the same response. Or baited me into an argument about it, which he wouldn’t have taken seriously. Ugh. Not cool.

  1. It’s not just men who behave this way, unfortunately. A few years ago, a girlfriend and I experienced something similar at a party. Except it was a couple who started harassing us, and entirely on the instigation of the woman. It seemed based on the presumption that because we were two women in a relationship, that somehow meant we were ‘open’ to sexual advances from other people. When they wouldn’t get the message we left the party – very, very quickly.

    We experienced hooting and harassment from single or otherwise men on a regular basis, and the fact that I almost feel like I hardly even need to mention this is just another example of the extent of it, really.

    • Wow, that’s nasty! But I guess may ultimately reflect the same kind of mentality – that women are objects, and lesbian relationships are for others to watch and enjoy. Ewwww.

      and the fact that I almost feel like I hardly even need to mention this is just another example of the extent of it.

      God yes. I don’t even bother to talk about it if I get hassled any more, and it’s a somewhat underrated skill of mine to give the finger while not losing my place in a conversation (or a kiss!). But seriously, what can possibly be going through their heads?

  2. Powerful, powerful words. You made me weep, because I am not sure I have ever been more aware in my 40 years of just how heavily burdened by this we are as women. Straight women. Gay women. Single. Partnered. Young. Old.

    Every. Single. Day.

    Thank you giving me a new way to present this. I will be doing so at every opportunity.

    • It’s something I’m becoming increasingly aware of, not just as a lesbian, but as a woman. I have always been whistled at and hassled; any number of my friends have had unwanted sexual advances or encounters. But it’s this ongoing prevalence, this ongoing expectation, that is wearing me out. This thing in the media about the burqa, and France banning it, and whether it’s male oppression if women want to wear it, and the attitude that it’s a woman’s fault if she’s assaulted, and the blame the victim bullshit, and I am so tired. SO tired of it. And I don’t think it’s getting better, I think it may be getting worse.

      And the ‘feminist’ response is for magazines to show unairbrushed women, and I, I think there’s a place for that sort of response, but I think a better response would be to take away beauty magazines and the expectation in little girls that they are there to be looked at.

      I’m delighted to give you any material you need to fight the good fight. :)

  3. When my son was 18 and at the ‘Big Day Out’ in Melbourne, there was a young woman being passed over the crowd’s heads: crowd surfing. A boy next to him who he didn’t know put his hand up and grabbed the girl’s tit, to which my son yelled, Hey, that’s not right! pushing his arm away. Another boy he didn’t know either, said, Yeah, that’s not right! and punched the first boy in the face which my son was equally shocked by.

    My gripe about what you’re writing about Georgia (apart from the obvious) is the tendency for males to split females into the Madonna/Whore duality. They’re not people, they’re either a whore or they’re a figure to be held up so reverently they have to be protected above all else. Australian men have their own particular version of this and it’s extremely pervasive in my view.

    Bring on equality, real equality. And I would say to your friend, she doesn’t need help, she just needs to make sure he knows how she feels about the subject. It might not appear that he’s listening, but, from my experience, he’ll be taking in every word she says.

    • I kind of like the kid for punching him, honestly!

      And – yes. The duality thing is such crap. There’s no idea of a spectrum, even, let alone the idea that women are people and we should probably treat them all pretty well. *headdesk* The Mary McKillop case is a pretty good example in my mind – she’s a nun and a saint and she did good things yay! Let’s get canonisation for this one, dead woman, and ignore the ongoing issues in Australian society relating to the treatment of women. Some days I could pull my damn hair out.

  4. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, (and this week in particular on my blog and, like you, I am so, so tired of the dominant narrative being that I need to be careful, that the whole world is unsafe for me, because of my gender.

    Thank you for reminding me I’m not the only one feeling so frustrated.

    • Yes! This is what I was aiming for! I should have put that sentence in there, frankly, but yes. I am so tired of the narrative being that I should protect myself, instead of men taking responsibility for their own actions. GACK.

      I mean- the burga thing, in the papers? I honest to god don’t mind what people want to wear, and if women feel more comfortable in it then frankly I understand that. But the expectation that a woman cover herself lest she incite a man’s lust, that disgusts me. I can understand doing it in self defence, but the societal expectation, and the blame, bothers me.

      • the truth is we live in a society where if we aren’t the ones being wary and careful and frightened about what could happen to us, no one else will. Currently the world is unsafe for us because of our gender, it sucks but it’s true. you let down your guard because you think surely there isn’t a guy like that here, or it couldn’t possibly happen to you and that’s when it does. If you aren’t the person on the alert looking out for yourself, you’ll end up being the girl who got hurt. And people will say ‘are you sure you said no?’ ‘did you make yourself clear?’ ‘did it really happen like that’ ‘you should’ve known better’. We shouldn’t have to be afraid of getting hurt, we shouldn’t get hurt, but in this day and age ideals aren’t helping and they don’t help you forget. The entire Australian cultural mentality towards sex, women, consent, and what is acceptable needs to change.

  5. Thank you for writing this Georgia – it needs to be said and yelled over and over until everyone gets it (…that elusive day). I was reminded of an essay posted on Racialicious “The Not Rape Epidemic” http://www.racialicious.com/2008/12/21/original-essay-the-not-rape-epidemic/ (a must read for everyone, everywhere). Your post Georgia and the post I’ve just linked demonstrate really simply and powerfully just how pervasive rape culture is in our society, and why it’s so important to fight it.

    • God yes, yelled!

      That essay! God! So much I identified with in it. Things like, women have sexual advances forced on them, and internalise shame, and never do anything about it, so we have ongoing silence. A friend of mine, when she moved, had one of the removalists come on to her and kiss her in her new bedroom, tried to feel her up. Which is inappropriate at the best of times, but my friend was fifteen at the time. And this – in her brand new room and house – I can’t see how you would fail to think of it every time you went in there.

  6. Thanks for his intellignt and emotionally aware article. It shouldn’t be relegated to rad femmes to be vocal about rape culture. Mothers and fathers should be teaching this to their sons and their daughters. Thanks for this articulate rendering of this passionate and provocative issue.

    • It bothers me that anyone trying to even comment on the disparate treatment of men and women is automatically treated as an extremist, ‘unfeminine’. Because yes, it should be universal!

  7. Pingback: Tweets that mention Rape culture « Overland literary journal -- Topsy.com

  8. You paint with very broad strokes Claire, it’s a shame your opinion isn’t as formulated as your writing. I feel offended as a man that you would be so particularly callous and irresponsible as a journalist (writer or whatever purport to be your position) having tarred all of the Australian male population with the “slobbering drunken rapist” stereotype. I don’t deny that there isn’t a “rape culture” doesn’t exist, I’ve seen it myself. However your article lacks a fair and balanced impartiality that diminishes it’s true intent.

    • Matt,

      My name is Georgia.

      I think you’ll find the vast majority of the Australian ‘journalist’ and other media population is very ready to provide men with excuses. I have no interest in doing so, and didn’t. I also think you’ll find the experiences of many women, responding above, suggest that I have talked about something many identify with and find worthy.

    • matt, as a man i don’t find this offensive at all. i think as georgia has written in the post and in her reply to you that this is a feeling that many wmen feel. i have had female friends tell me the very same things and points that are made in the article. as men our role is to listen and educate other men as to what behaviour is acceptable and not to make people feel safer.

      • I am a man, and a father of two very young girls. I am very nervous about equipping my girls with the confidence and smarts to navigate their way through adolescence in the Australian community and Georgia has expressed the reasons for my fears quite brilliantly I think. There is undoubtedly a misguided attitude to women in Australian society, perpetuated by an irresponsible media that objectifies women at every level and large sections of the male population that are not willing to acknowledge their responsibiltiies in changing it, instead falling in behind the weary and paper thin arguements of females having to be more careful. I hold a candle of hope that the next period of my life will see positive changes as suggested in conclusion by Georgia…. for my daughters’ sake.

  9. I’m a bloke and I get pissed off about this kind of thing. Not at you (or your girlfriend or any of the other replies), but at the males who cause this attitude. I already have a female partner so I’m not after a girlfriend, and I’m not chasing a hookup, one night stand or whatever.

    But because of the behavior of other men, every woman has to be so careful with men, even men she has known for a long time, which makes a barrier between those of us who really do want to talk to you about common interests (or to use some the examples used in the OP, offer you a lift on a hot day, ask directions because you look like you know your way around).

    There IS a rape culture in this country (maybe part of the Sam Newman footy show bullying culture ?) and unfortunately I think its so pervasive that it may have to be a generational change. However, I’m doing my best to raise my sons (and daughter) to understand that anyone (male or female) that is weaker, exposed, vulnerable deserves help not abuse or assault.

    • Martin! Thank you for a great male perspective on this issue. I agree, I’m often disappointed that fear or cultural conditioning can interfere with decent friendships between men and women. Yes, it does interfere with the kind of examples you raise; from my side, it’ll stop you drinking one more glass of wine, or accepting a lift from someone you don’t really know, even if you really want it.

      I don’t know much about Sam Newman, but I’m always concerned by bullying cultures.. and I think we have one of those, too. Bullying women into sex would appear to be the unfortunate overlap, sigh.

  10. I still put my keys between my knuckles when I’m walking at night alone. I just don’t really think “coming on strong” is a relevant behaviour anymore. Girls aren’t passive – if you are pushing your luck or forcing conversation with a girl, she’s not interested.

  11. Yes! So do I. And I take aside as many friends as I can, and show them what to do if someone grabs them from behind (if anyone is interested, I am BEYOND happy to tell you).

    And yes yes yes to your last sentence.

  12. Thanks for the great article. As a guy, I have to say you’re completely correct. Almost all of my male friends have no perception of these things and some of the blokes I’ve discussed it with frankly didn’t believe me. I wish I knew a good way of getting this message to them – my female friends don’t really want to talk about it. Your friend K is doing the right thing. All boys should be taught this but I can’t say by whom – parents would be best, schools would be fine but I can’t see it happening.

  13. thanks for this post. as a man i try to keep these things in mind constantly. i think the greatest thing us men can do is to listen and spread what we hae learnt from all the women in our lifes around this subject.

  14. I’m a 34 year old male. Up until 5 years ago I didn’t even know these sorts of thoughts, behaviours, attitudes and actions existed let alone occurred. Partly this was because of the pervasiveness of the Madonna/Whore duality so much so that it simply fades into the background and partly because none of my girlfriends talked about it and nor did my mother.
    I was made aware of it by a female co-worker with whom I had a trusting, platonic relationship. After her telling me that when she was an adolescent random guys would walk towards her with their hands outstretched in an attempt to feel her breasts (only when she was alone of course, not in the company of a male) and guys would wolf-whistle at her as she walked by I began to keep a look out for this sort of behaviour. For all the educators of males out there, have them walk behind a stereotypically good-looking woman and watch the gaze of oncoming males. Almost none of them simply mind their own business and walk on by; some will passively admire her beauty, others will look longingly and still others will look as if they can barely restrain themselves in broad daylight in public. Quite amazing to watch!
    My education continued with my current partner who made me aware of the structural scaffolding upon which low-level harassment hangs and upon which outrageous feats of denying human agency occurs and is occasionally reported (but only when the perpetrator is an elite sportsman or entertainment identity) and rarely chastised.
    The pity of it all is that 50% of the population is in constant low-level fear and people of goodwill in the other 50% start way, way behind the eight-ball in their day-to-day interactions. As for reaching a point of honesty and genuineness in a romantic relationship, well, let’s just say it’s just shy of coming up with a unified theory of relativity.
    My only point of hope is that if we change one male at a time then one day we’ll simply breed out the rapists, thugs, bullies and disconnected morons.

    • I’m so glad to hear from someone who has become only gradually aware of it. I’m sure once you suddenly see this, it would change your whole perspective on life.

      I know what you mean about it being such a pity that all relationships are tainted by this. There are so many male friends I have who I am quite sure would never hurt me or take advantage of me – but there are so many other I just don’t know about, and I’ve been wrong before. You end up so nervous about every human interaction and it makes it so much harder as people to have meaningful relationships.

      And fifty percent of the population living in low level fear – yes. A very accurate description, very worthy of repeating.

  15. Hi Georgia,
    I was given this link by a friend who was following up on a conversation we’d previously had.

    The conversation was sparked on a boozy night out in Tokyo when a group of about 7 of us uni friends met up and went Karaoke. We’d made drinking friends with 3 Japanese guys (2 young one old) who joined us in our booth. As we were walking home all 4 of the girls revealed that the japanese men had been subtly touching, groping, and forcing themselves onto them while no one was watching.

    The four women are amongst the most empowered, conscious, smart and strong people I know so I was absolutely shocked that no one had done anything. To be honest I was angry. If these amazing women were afraid to stop that behavior in that situation; with a large group of close friends, including 3 largish males, when can any woman feel safe putting her foot down?

    I challenged one of the women about it (let’s call her A) and she responded “what could anyone there have done?” And I realized I didn’t know what I personally could or should have done, had I been aware.

    I thought your article is useful as a guy who, as such, may make women uncomfortable, even though I can say I’d never consciously do so. But I think it extremely unfortunate that your response to K’s son would be “here’s how not to be a rapey man,” rather than “here’s how to be a decent human being.” You mention the rules for women; no lifts, attended drinks, company at night. And you nicely articulated guidelines for the potential creep (as we all are); know what women are really thinking and worrying about. But what about the man-friend of the harassed woman? What are we to do?

    I found Finn’s post above interesting; the guy punching another guy over a grope. I’m actually disgusted by your response. “I kind of like the kid for punching him, honestly!” Really? Great, lets replace sexual violence with physical. A kid from my school is now severely brain damaged from a similar altercation (he was not the creep). Perhaps you were being jocular, but that’s even worse. If rape jokes ‘really just aren’t ok’ then perhaps lets also cut the gags advocating violence as a response to harassment. Take this seriously. We men have our moments, and when we do, you’re completely unhelpful. So please, take this seriously and help me and other men deal with this important question;

    How I should act or respond if I’m in company with women and someone else is making unwanted advances towards them? I know it would be entirely contextual, to the point that any definitive ‘rules’ or ‘procedures’ would just be silly, but;

    Is it ever ‘my place’ to intercede?

    Does my gender have any bearing on the situation at all? Should I behave as a woman with above-average physical strength might, or should the testosterone actually do something useful for once?

    If the woman is saying she’s very uncomfortable or has already been mildly assaulted but ‘its ok’ (like in Tokyo), is it really ok? Should I go against her express word and intercede?

    In situations where violence between me and the other guy is possible, do I have a responsibility to do nothing? Does it matter whether I think I can overpower them? How do I stop the problem or prevent it from happening without catalysing violence?

    Are there ever extenuating circumstances? One of my friends said ‘this shit is acceptable in Japan, and we’re in his country, so I’m not going to be an imperialist about it.’

    Do I let wolf whistles and car window insults slide? Is it virtuous to jump into the valiant ‘white knight’ role, or does that just make me the dickhead in the situation?

    Would I be a dick to do anything at all and thereby essentially suggest that the woman is incapable or too physically or emotionally weak to look after herself? Or would I be a dick to ignore it and essentially condone rape culture?

    K’s son deserves more than ‘hold doors open’ and ‘don’t be rapey.’ If you’re fighting rape culture without men on your side you will lose. Stop cracking gags and help us.

    • But I think it extremely unfortunate that your response to K’s son would be “here’s how not to be a rapey man,” rather than “here’s how to be a decent human being.”

      Actually, I at no time in this article repeated what I said to my friend. My advice to her was to have a discussion about the fluidity of sexuality, and links to articles regarding how to be safe sexually, and to be sure everyone involved wants to be there and is enjoying themselves.

      As for my comment on the kid punching a sexually harassing teenager, well I personally am a pacifist. But I have enough friends who have been held down and groped, or pinned at the back of a bus and assaulted, that I am just about out of patience for any kind of sexual assault. Yes, I was being jocular, but I also do believe that if men are going to act violently – and a sexual assault is violence, let’s be really clear about that – there will be violent responses. Self defence, if nothing else.

      Also, as to fighting rape culture without men, I think we’ve got a few, and the above comments from men are largely grateful to me for raising the issue, so I am going to disqualify your claim to not being helpful. To help you, and others like you who are having trouble figuring out the wavy lines -

      I think the vast majority of the time, if a woman is able and happy to handle a creepy male on her own, it’s her responsibility to do so – and moreso, her right. However. There are a lot of women who are shy, nervous or afraid. If someone is drunk or clearly incapable of defending themselves, yes, you should step in. If someone is saying something is fine but is clearly distressed, you should step in. If you aren’t sure… well, I lean to the side of better to be protecty and have an annoyed friend than have a girl fight off unwanted sexual advances and maybe more on her own, but that’ll vary according to circumstances. Other women will differ. As a general rule, I think if you think someone’s uncomfortable, maybe you don’t have to confront the guy, but you can just go somewhere else. And a lot of the time, we will be grateful.

      What I really want, from this article, is for people to be aware. This is about solidarity among women, most of whom never speak about this kind of harassment which is practically continuous, but it’s also about getting guys to be aware of what’s going on. As you said, you were in the room with three girl friends being harassed and didn’t notice. Maybe if you were looking for it, you would have. The fact that no one notices this, or talks about it, worries me more than anything.

      If you’re still wondering, follow the link above to the article on rape culture. The woman writes a feminist blog, much of which is about rape culture; I’m sure there;s resources there.

      • I would just add that the ‘intervention’ doesn’t have to have a ‘shock and awe’ flavour. Start subtle and work your way up. Your female companions will let you know when they feel more uncomfortable about the intervention then they do about the harassment. You might be surprised at how quickly such behaviour stops when other males take issue with it.
        Yes the above sounds very brutish but frankly if you need to get into the ditch to stop the action(s) in question then into the ditch it is! Education when everyone is sober is one thing but words mean nothing if they are not backed by action.
        May I also commend Georgia for starting the conversation. Most women don’t talk about it most of the time and the fact that the above article has had quite the re-tweet count means that an awful lot of women are finding an awful lot of commonality over the issue.
        For us males, yes the change in attitude is going to be difficult (even painful and frustrating at times), time-consuming and fraught with failure but for the sake of your relationship to 50%+ of the population ultimately worth it. Oh and if you can’t see a benefit to it think of it as a service to those women around you whom you treasure both born and yet to be born…

      • Hi Georgia – while I am totally with you on the raising awareness issue and am similiarly worried about the fact that Max did not realise his friends were being harrassed while he sat next to them, I do think his questions about the appropriate response from men in such situations is a valid one. I do not doubt that many kind hearted, well intentioned men would feel either a) equally uncomfortable – and potentially intimidated – around such behaviour [should they "notice" it] and b) potentially worried that any “saving” actions they undertake will give offence.
        Like you (I think), I do not believe that these are valid excuses to do nothing. However, I don’t think there is anything to be gained by dismissing Max’s concerns. I have not previously read your articles so perhaps I’m being a little too sensitive and you were not being dismissive, but rather impatient that we need to have this discussion at all. I understand that frustration but would like us to offer a helping hand to those who wish to enact change but have no idea on how to go about it.
        To Max – I think the most helpful thing men can do (apart from not be perpetrators of course) is to speak up when the men around them do something that is out of line. I think this is especially the case in younger men and boys – peer acceptance of behaviour, I feel, is the biggest contributor to these things continuing to occur. If we all, men and women, speak out when such unacceptable things occur then I think we can look forward to real change.

      • Thanks Georgia,
        I particularly appreciate the third last paragraph of your response. Fairly common sense, but it was interesting and productive I think.

        As to fighting rape culture without men, I’m also grateful to you for raising the issue. I thought your blog was excellent, very worthy of the re-tweets and decided to comment with constructive feedback rather than a pat on the back. I’m sure you’d prefer dialogue to a cheer squad.

        Thanks also to the Anonymous poster below. I think you’re right about a subtle but escalating response. And jvg’s point about speaking up in peer situations was a good one. It can probably be more difficult for many males to react to male friends’ harassment than a stranger’s.

        But I beg you to reconsider your thoughts regarding physical violence as an answer to sexual violence (we were always very clear that sexual harassment is violence).

        Firstly, lets agree on self defense. Self defense is not violence. Violence is behavior involving physical force intended to hurt or kill someone. It’s always entirely justified and if sexual attackers are injured, then all the better.

        Secondly, when there are people who may intercede physically – be they men or women – then that physical interception is almost always justified wherever it may prevent a sexual assault. I really liked the part of your response saying that going somewhere else is a better response than a confrontation. When words and subtle actions fail (which I imagine is rare) physical interception is justified.

        That leaves us with the situation brought up by Finn; punching someone in retribution for a sexual assault. Here’s where I’d like to change your attitude, or perhaps invite you to clarify it, and articulate it better than you have previously on this page. To be honest, it’s my hope that I’ll be preaching to the choir here. You seem passionate and well considered on the topic of preventing rape, so I hope you don’t ‘disqualify’ this as you have my previous feedback.

        In situations where sexual violence has occurred, violent retribution is never the answer.

        I took particular exception to your joke about liking a kid for punching a harasser. Your response was equally disconcerting. You appear to have repeated your approval of such behavior and even applauded it. At the very least, your attitude appears to be that ‘they’ve got it coming’ or that violent responses are just deserts or inevitable, and that’s ok. Anonymous (below) appears to mirror your attitude, though he may not have distinguished preventative violence from retributive violence, as I’d like to. To clarify again, retributive violence is what I’m concerned about.

        I also have enough friends (and family) who have been assaulted to be completely out of patience with sexual violence. I’d hope my anger wouldn’t cloud proper reflection on what kinds of responses are ok.

        Firstly, as a pacifist you’ll know that violence is never a good answer.

        Secondly, exposing not just creeps but also intervening third parties to violent altercations is bad. (I’m thinking of the severely brain damaged kid from my school, who will never walk, talk or eat independently again)

        Thirdly, escalating a situation physically exposes the victim to even greater physical risk.

        Four, violence often leads to court. Forcing abused women to be involved in trials about assaults sparked by their abuse is bad.

        Five, and this one’s important, if women come to fear that male friends will react with violence if they speak up about sexual assault, they may prefer not to speak up. (I’m afraid this may have been a factor in Tokyo)

        Ultimately, this was not the topic of your blog, and I’m not after a protracted debate on the topic of violent response to harassment. Your blog was excellent, and I’m grateful to you for raising the important issue. I’m really not trying to nit pick. For such a person to crack gags about retributive violence being a good response to harassment, and then persevere with the opinion that it is a natural, inevitable or somehow ‘ok’ response goes to show that even those with great awareness of rape culture have still got a way to go. I don’t intend to attack you. I hope my comments help further an understanding of how we should be fighting rape culture together, with solidarity amongst women, and the men who wish to support them.

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  17. Apologies Georgia, I read your last name incorrectly as your first.

    I agree that the media often excuses men (particularly in the realms of entertainment – whether it be boozed up sports star, reality TV presenters gone wild etc.) for behaviours that are unacceptable in today’s society. Men (as well as women) should be held accountable for sexual discrimination in every situation. I take issue with the impetuousness of your response. I do not doubt that every woman has been in a situation where they have been made to feel uncomfortable. Perhaps if your editorial had focused more on the use of education as a means to change these behaviours rather than being a footnote to what felt overall like an exercise in male flagellation then I might have appreciated your opinion piece more.

    • Matt,

      I believe you’re missing the point of the article. I am looking for solidarity and awareness of this issue, which clearly a lot of people have identified with. Your comment came across as an superficial assessment of the ideas from a point of male privilege, and frankly I found you offensive, with your discussion of my role as a ‘journalist or whatever I purport to be’. Your tone comes very close to suggesting I get back in the kitchen, and I was not amused.

      Also, it is not my responsibility to educate you. I can point you in the right direction, and I certainly suggest you follow up the link on rape culture, and, hell, read that whole website. I am also pretty sure that if I wrote an article about how men should be educated to treat women better, no one would have cared. Feminism is practically a dirty word to my generation, which I think is awful, but not something I can change.

      This, on the other hand? Clearly is hitting a nerve with women all over the internet. To quote a retweet of it I’ve seen about twenty times now, if it offends you, maybe you should ask why.

      To be clear, and to ensure this doesn’t descend into an angry discussion neither of us probably want to have, I don’t intend to discuss this further with you. If you want further information, there’s plenty out there.

  18. Thanks Georgia for writing so passionately about this. The shame of it is when women raise these concerns, some men and in fairness, some women, become really defensive rather than look at the issues and the evidence. Of course not all men behave in the ways you’ve discussed in this post – not that you’ve suggested this – but enough of them do to make life very difficult for women.

    I still go way out of my way to avoid dark isolated places and I can feel terrified especially at night if a man is walking behind me for some distance and there’s no-one else around.

    At least now there is some effort at education of young men though it’s frightening that young men can’t work out what rape is for themselves. But as bad, is that there is still an expectation that the way women behave and dress can prevent them being raped. Women still have to take responsibility for male sexuality and when men lose so-called control, get the blame (she led him on, slut, she was asking for it and so it goes). And yet rape is not about sexual fulfillment it’s about power and control.

    Perhaps if were to socialise boys differently we wouldn’t have the rape culture we do.

    • Well said Trish.

      May I also add that those who behave in these ways make it difficult for men who do not. Clearest example is that of approaching a woman for a date. It is extremely difficult to do this even if the person you were approaching were open to such an advance. It becomes nigh on impossible if the person automatically has her guard up. Indeed you could say that it is a miracle that an empowered woman wants to have a relationship at all given the vast majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by those whom she knows whether that be a partner, family member or even friend.
      Don’t get me started on trying to start an innocent conversation over a point of interest….
      As for the male defensiveness I think that is a result of the male internalising commentary about his sex in general as a comment about him. I stand to be corrected by either Georgia or any other female commenter if I am mistaken but I don’t think Georgia and the others mean the commentary as a personal attack. They are expressing their experiences and opining on possible educative techniques to break that which has given rise to those experiences.
      The other point which I think should be made re male defensiveness is that it stems from having to re-conceptualise what women are. They are not possible sexual encounters, nurturers or blank canvases upon which to project the Madonna/Whore duality but actual thinking, feeling people who are just as individuated in their approach to most given issues as anyone else. I think that this is the root of misogyny and whilst I (like most males) have been brought up with a version of it, it can be fought against if people are willing to talk about it.
      I only hope more people of good will are brave enough to bring this out into the open so that change may begin (and yes I understand the irony and hypocrisy in attributing this comment and call to action to Anonymous but I would rather be able to discuss this with males I meet in my day to day life than have them ignore me as some sort of weak-kneed hen-pecked male who holds these opinions due to the overbearing of his will by the women in his life).

  19. Oh please Georgia. If you take offense, I sincerely apologise. There was no intent meant by my questioning of whether you were a journalist or not, sexist or otherwise (it’s my first time to this website so I literally did not know). My issue was with the tone of your article, not the issue you’ve addressed. I just do not ascribe to the same views of hegemonic masulinity that you do. Perhaps idealism doesn’t work so well on a soapbox.

    No flame war, just a differing opinion.

  20. Matt,
    Do not ‘oh please’ Georgia. The sentiment underpinning those two words is responsible for the eerie silence regarding this (and other) issues in the public sphere. If you take issue with her argument pick the weak point and have at it but do not play the woman. It trivialises your interlocutor, does not constructively contribute to the discussion and sends a signal (which will probably be ignored by Georgia I would imagine) that a woman speaking up will have her concerns ignored and be painted as ‘difficult’. Not cool.

  21. I would have thought any discussion into this topic would have been positive? (regardless of differing opinion) I’m happy to discuss it further; however to denigrate my views by claiming i’m picking on Georgia for being a woman and having an opinion (which at the core of it I’m actually not) whilst basking in anonymity the Internet can provide – isn’t particularly redeemable either.

    • Matt,

      I have my reasons for remaining anonymous. If the editors felt the need to contact me they have my email address. Further, I note that you fail to provide your surname (affording you a degree of privacy) and for all I and the other readers/commentators know your real name is not Matt. So please, don’t attempt to opine upon my redemptive status or lack thereof.

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  23. Dear Georgia,

    Thank you for this post and the link to the Rape Culture on http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/
    I feel like adding:

    Rape culture is when the verb to rape (someone) is being used interchangeably with to pwn (someone) in the Internet-based video game culture.

    Wikipedia defines pwn as follows:
    “Pwn is a leetspeak slang term derived from the verb own, as meaning to appropriate or to conquer to gain ownership. The term implies domination or humiliation of a rival, used primarily in the Internet-based video game culture to taunt an opponent who has just been soundly defeated (e.g., “You just got pwned!”).”
    Or as now we see more and more often (my son estimates about 50% of the time): “You just got raped.”

    The gamers also use the term and action on screen of teabagging (meant as “lowering one’s testicles into the mouth of another person”) Teabagging action is making your character crouch and uncrouch over the dead opponent’s body. In our rape culture this is called interactive entertainment.

    And then there are the rape games, which really need to go.
    http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2006/12/rape-for-sale.htm

    And what about this title: Irony Maiden. How Sarah Silverman is raping American comedy.
    (By Sam Anderson, Slate, http://www.slate.com/id/2130006/)

    And yes, women rarely speak about rape culture for many reasons worth looking at.

    It is good though to hear from the decent guys in comments above. Your work to end the rape culture is crucially important. Thank you.

    Agnieszka

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