by Jane Moore
Rape is an epidemic, not to mention one of the top causes of drug addiction. The scars are invisible, and the resulting trauma can never fully heal. Even if you’ve never physically done the act, it’s possible that you’ve been a propagator of the rape culture in some form. From nonchalant comments in conversations with our friends to the media we absorb, we tolerate the degradation of women and write off the uncontrollable overly aggressive sexuality of men and accept it as the norm. Whether you are guilty of this mentality or not, it is never too late to change your mindset or become an advocate for change. There are ways to combat the issue.
It is crucial to understand what it is you’re fighting for. Here are some of the terms that float around when this subject surfaces:
Rape Culture: A term that was coined by Feminists in the United States in the 1970’s that was meant to imply the ways in which society blamed victims of sexual assault and normalized male sexual violence. Here are some other ways to phrase it.
Consent: permission for something to happen or agreement to do something. Consent doesn’t have to only pertain to sex. You have a right to say no in any situation, be it a pinch on the cheek from your grandmother or the pranks and horseplay you’ve been subjected to over the years. It doesn’t always have to be verbal either. There are plenty of signs or gestures to suggest consent, like a hand signal or a squeeze of the hand. And while we’re at it, just because the conversation is framed around needing female consent, men have a right to say no, too.
Sexual Coercion: When a partner doesn’t ask in a way that welcomes no as an answer, or hears no and pressures or makes you feel guilty about it
Long Term Relationships
The fact is, most sexual assaults are committed by a friend or acquaintance, not by a stranger. And just because you’re currently in a relationship or have been with someone for a long time doesn’t mean you can throw consent out the window. After the initial sparks fade away, you begin to realize that one person’s sex drive is higher than the other. It is difficult to distinguish between compromise and lack of consent. Here are some ways to differentiate between the two:
What Consent Looks Like:
- Communicating throughout the entire process. Ask permission to do something rather than assume it is okay, even if you’re in the heat of the moment.
- Respecting that when they don’t say “no,” it doesn’t mean “yes.”
- It’s not always the guy’s job to initiate, and the girls are not always the only ones that might want to take things slow.
What Consent Does Not Look Like:
- Assuming that suggestive clothing, flirting, or accepting a ride is a sign that anything goes.
- Saying yes, or not saying no, while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Saying yes or giving in because you feel too pressured or afraid to say no.
Red Flags In a Relationship:
- They pressure or guilt you into doing things that you don’t want to do.
- They manipulate you to feel like you “owe” them.
- They react with sadness, anger, or resentment if you say “no” to something.
- They ignore your wishes and don’t pay attention to nonverbal cues that show you’re not consenting.
3 Ways to Dismantle Rape Culture
- Name the real problems: violent masculinity and victim blaming go hand in hand. Instead of asking about the victim’s sobriety or what she was wearing, ask why he thought his actions were acceptable.
- Re-examine and redefine masculinity: once you get to the root of the problem (violent masculinity), begin the journey to understand that rape is not a natural masculine urge. Re-frame the conversation around what it means to be a man without resorting to violence. Join organizations fighting to spread the real meaning of masculinity.
- Seek enthusiastic consent: rather than looking for a verbal “no” or nonverbal cues, seek an active “yes.” It takes a lot of the excuses away if every party involved assumes responsibility that your partner is into everything you’re doing sexually.
Sexual violence is a tough conversation, especially when you’ve been with the same partner for a long time. It gets harder because you have grown to care about that person and you don’t want to disappoint them. But it is necessary not only to express your concerns and wishes, but to educate the masses and hope for an eventual culture change.
–Jane Moore believes in the healing power of travel. She loves exploring unfamiliar places and writing about her experiences at FitwellTraveler.