Content alert (obviously): rape, rape apology, victim-blaming
“Sure, in a perfect world, you could aim rape prevention efforts at potential rapists. But that’s never going to work. Rapists are sociopaths, beyond the reach of persuasion or reason. You’re never going to convince them. So it’s totally reasonable to aim rape prevention efforts at potential rape victims, and teaching them how not to be raped.”
Every time a discussion of rape happens, it’s a sure bet that the conversation will eventually turn to what the victim could have done differently. Even when the specific topic at hand is rape culture, and the ways that sexism and misogyny and sexual shame and entitlement and attitudes about masculinity and other toxic elements of the culture can make rape more likely and less likely to be punished… the conversation will eventually get turned to “what should rape victims do to keep from being raped.” Even when the topic at hand is ways that rape victims routinely get blamed for their rapes, the conversation will still eventually get turned to “what should rape victims to to keep from being raped.” And when this happens, and when people speak out against it, it’s almost certain that someone will say, “But that’s not part of rape culture! That’s just practical common sense! We want people to not get raped — and telling likely targets of rape how to keep themselves safe is the only effective way to do that!” (As happened in this comment thread. [UPDATE: Forgot to include the link. Here it is.])
I don’t ever want to hear this again. Not just because it’s part of the exact victim-blaming rape culture we’re talking about. Not just because this business of rapists being just a handful of sociopaths — as opposed to active members of society who you might know — is bullshit. I don’t want to hear it again… because it’s just flatly not true.
Have you heard about the “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign in Edmonton?
The “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign is a public service rape prevention campaign launched in Edmonton in 2010, and adopted by other cities in Canada, which took the radical step of aiming its message, not at potential rape victims, but at potential rapists. It took the radical step of educating potential rapists about what rape actually is. It recognized the role that alcohol commonly plays in rape — and it educates potential rapists that having sex with someone who doesn’t consent, or who is too drunk to consent, or who is passed out and therefore unable to consent, is rape.
The campaign didn’t target the stereotypical media image of rapists, the drooling psychopaths springing on suspects in a dark alley with a knife. It targeted ordinary folks, frat boys and partiers and bar-hoppers and folks who just like to toss a few back now and then… who have been brought up in a culture that teaches that drunkenness equals consent. It was influenced by a study out of the U.K. showing that 48 percent of men ages 18 to 25 did not consider it rape if the women was too drunk to know it was happening. And it teaches them that no: drunkenness does not equal consent, being stoned does not equal consent, being passed out does not equal consent. It had slogans like, “Just because she isn’t saying no… doesn’t mean she’s saying yes.” “Just because you help her home… doesn’t mean you get to help yourself.” “Just because she’s drunk doesn’t mean she wants to f**k.” It had slogans on every poster saying, “Sex without consent = sexual assault.”
And the campaign has been so successful, the number of reported sexual assaults in Vancouver fell by 10 per cent.
I’m going to say that again, since it’s the big take-home message from this piece: A rape prevention campaign targeted at potential rapists rather than potential victims was launched… and the number of reported sexual assaults fell by 10 per cent.
Yes, I know. Correlation doesn’t equal causation. But this is a dramatic drop in a very short time, with no other obvious causative factors. The Edmonton police are so convinced of the campaign’s effectiveness that they’re bringing it back, with new posters (one of which focuses on male victims of same-sex rape)… and other cities around Canada want in on the action.
I would like to point something out: This wasn’t a years-long or decades-long effort to radically change the culture’s attitudes about sexual consent. This wasn’t a years-long or decades-long effort to radically change the culture’s attitudes about sexism and misogyny and sexual shame and entitlement and attitudes about masculinity and so on. This was a one-shot public service campaign: a series of posters distributed in bars, nightclubs, transit stations and campus facilities. And it still had the apparent result of reducing the rate of rape by 10%.
Think of what we could do if we did more than just launch a public service campaign.
Think of what we could do if we did take part in a years-long or decades-long effort to radically change the culture’s attitudes about sexual consent.
As was pointed out in the recent conversation here (can’t find the exact comment, sorry): It’s completely reasonable to think that culture has an effect on rates of rape. Rates of rape are different in different cultures. Why is it so irrational to think that changing the culture might reduce the rates of rape?
People changed their culture’s attitudes about slavery. About lynching. About women’s right to vote. About the Ku Klux Klan. About same-sex marriage.
Why is it so irrational to think that we could change our culture’s attitudes about rape?