I’m having flashbacks to the first time I saw the Vagina Monologues performed at my university back home in Ontario. My Short Skirt…that was the one they ended on. A young woman, wearing a tight red tank top and a tight, short, leather skirt took the stage, and began expressing how her “short skirt is not an invitation.” I sat up in my chair, I absorbed every word, every feeling she portrayed, and I understood. I could feel her frustration, her pain, but also her freedom – the longed for liberation of being able to walk the streets as one feels without someone seeing a large fluorescent “Come In, I’m Open” sign flashing overhead. Somewhere in history men have been brainwashed to think they “deserve” pussy, when the truth is it’s something they must earn through respect, compassion, reciprocation, honesty, and communication. (This goes both ways for any gender/sexual orientation).
I watched a short clip from an interview with Sharon Stone. The male interviewer quite bashfully asked if she had experienced any form of “unwanted attention” in the industry. Her first response was laughter, followed by, “I came into this industry alone, from Pennsylvania, without protection – looking like I do. Trust me, I have seen it all.” Whenever I hear things like this, read another story of a woman who was forced into a compromising situation, I fall deep within myself. I think about all the women in my life, and ask the universe to keep them safe. But then I realize…
Already, most of these women have experienced abuse in their lifetime. Some molested during childhood by family, family friends, neighbors, strangers; some abducted, raped, attempted raped, groped at parties, bars, in friend’s homes, family homes, coerced or intimidated into engaging in sex or sexual activities… And yet, these women are some of the strongest I know. Why? Because what can they do? It wasn’t their fault someone felt they had reign over their bodies. It wasn’t their fault that society portrays women as objects to be played with, not humans to be respected. They had to keep living. And to them, they are just another survival story. A survival story!
A study conducted by the Centers of Disease Control in 2010 found that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men have experienced an “attempted or completed rape” in their lifetime. And this is just based on the reported rape cases. According to the Cosmopolitan article I inlcuded in my post last week (see article here), two-thirds of sexual assault go unreported.
Stop for a moment and re-read those numbers.
I read an article recently, written by a man that said in order to solve the “rape problem” we need to make it legal on private grounds, that way women won’t “drug themselves up” and go into rooms with strangers. (Because every woman who has been sexually assaulted was under the influence, right? And those who were are now just the scapegoat for the violence carried out against them?) Not only did this make me want to smash the shit out of my computer, but every morsel of my being lit up with fury. Was he being satirical? People argued that in the comments. But, the problem with that is this:
Who the fuck knows? Not all of his readers, that’s for sure. Rape isn’t a negotiation, people. And an article such as this, regardless of its intent, is another push for those who don’t quite take the matter seriously. He said the issue of rape shouldn’t be a priority. Another patriarchal perspective from someone who, most likely, has never experienced this (or any other) type of abuse. It is this kind of language that reinforces male dominance, and the perspective that males have an innate right over the female, and autonomy does not exist.
This guy also argued that the solution isn’t teaching boys “not to rape,” because they should just know better. I’m sorry, can I restate that 1 in every 5 women are raped… so, guess what, honey? It’s still happening. No, maybe the solution isn’t sitting your pre-pubescent son down and saying, “don’t rape, okay?” But rather, enforce meaningful sexual education, which includes the fact that:
HOW WOMAN ARE PORTRAYED IN THE MEDIA (SHOWS/MOVIES/PORN) is NOT necessarily REAL, and should be viewed with caution. And how about the fact that men and women both approach sex differently based on their physiological makeup and needs, and these needs are never more or less important than the other, and should be communicated before engagement of sexual activities. Always!
The problem isn’t the type of education, it’s the lack of education, but also the language we use when we speak to our children.
Parents fight against schools teaching their children about sex because it’s impure, will encourage the behavior, is too soon, bla bla bla, yet father’s continue to say to their boys, things like, “Oh stop being a little girl” or “only girls cry.” This language subconsciously reinforces the fact that girls – women – are on a lower standing than men; that we are weaker, and therefore men should not resemble us in any form.
The alternative to this is conscious communication. If we aren’t conscious about the way we educate our kids, they will still act on their sexual feelings. The difference? Without education, children/teenagers are thrown into the sexual world alone, the only knowledge coming from society, that unrealistic media we spoke about, and their own physical desires. We teach our kids kindness and sharing in classrooms and on playgrounds, yet expect them to naturally bring respect, compassion and reciprocation into the bedroom?
I’m not implying that all uneducated boys and girls will become rapists, but all you have to do to understand the importance of education – how it changes a community, a city, a nation – is to look around the world. The areas with the least education have the highest crime rates – and I’m not just speaking about rape anymore, but crime in general – as well as teen pregnancies, poverty, etc. Enforcing this kind of sexual education will have the same effect – it will assist in the eradication of these crimes.
Studies show that young boys and girls who are exposed to sexual media or degrading music are twice as likely to engage in oral sex and intercourse than those who aren’t. In addition, the way porn has affected our youth only reinforces the idea that male pleasure is more important than that of the female. For example, there is a growing number of young women who are engaging in anal sex due to the demand that porn has influenced. The result of this is young girls are made to feel as if something is “wrong” with them if it “doesn’t work” or doesn’t go as planned. Of course, what young people are misunderstanding about this is that anal is an art – it takes care and preparation, as well as the desire of both parties; it is not something that can or should be done on a whim. As well, no one party should ever need to be convinced to engage in any form of sexual activity. But that, again, is a whole other branch of this topic.
My point here is, without proper education, discretion, or boundaries, our youth take to mainstream education (porn, media). Because young men are more likely to seek and watch porn than our younger women, males tend to set the terms based on their desires, ergo, the unrealistic acts/physicality found in porn. Because, let’s be honest, I doubt your twelve, thirteen or fourteen year old son, nephew, cousin, is googling “feminist,” “ethical,” or “sensual” porn. (Another area for education!)
Before I move on, it is important to understand that the topic of porn isn’t being discussed here just for rape/sexual assault prevention, but also because teaching our boys about media and expectations, we are setting them up for deeper connections and more satisfying relationships.
By no means am I saying that porn should be completely off the table for everyone. Of course, there are age restrictions for a reason, and should be abided by. Let’s be real, I’d be a hypocrite if I said people should refrain completely (remember Monday’s article? I had a Porn Date). My message here is to be sure that our boys (and girls) understand that the majority of what is on screen, in magazines, is totally and utterly photoshopped, painted, airbrushed, exaggerated, etc.; that real, healthy and meaningful encounters/relationships should not be influenced by the happenings of these forms of media; that bodies come in all shapes, sizes and colours; that recognizing their own wants and desires is important, so they are confident enough to say “yes” or “no” when the time comes. This should be something that is reinforced from, well, the beginning of your child’s life through language and discretion, because, even if content is not of a sexual nature, it can still impact the self-esteem and expectations they have for themselves and each other.
Education will change the world! Education begins at home! So no, don’t sit your son down and say, “don’t rape.” Don’t sit your daughter down and say, “don’t wear this/do that/walk the streets at night/be a tease,” and all the other mixed, victim-blaming messages we bombard our little girls with. Instead, sit down and ask yourself:
- How do I portray myself as a man/woman in front of my son/daughter?
- Am I supporting (whether consciously or unconsciously) rape culture in any way; albeit through benevolent sexism (believing women are fragile and need protection), hostile sexism (holding negative generalizations about women/men), or giving into rape myth mentality (ex. A woman who is sexually assaulted is somehow responsible for it because of the time/place she was present, her attire, her behavior, etc.)?
- What language am I using that could be demeaning to my son/daughter, and how can I change this to be more inclusive/gender fluid/gender positive?
- Do I show my partner respect?
- What kind of people do I want my children to be, and how can I guide them by example?
- What can I do in order to create a sex-positive environment for myself, my relationship, and my kids?
If we all started there, what a difference we would make in a short period of time!
Topics to follow in this multi-part series:
– the deafening statistics
– male allies
– it doesn’t just affect women
Until next time,
Fuck well (and respectfully), my friends!