Let's talk about rape culture

*trigger warning.  I'm going to talk about rape.

I think it's time to start having some really serious, systemic conversations about rape culture.

I teach girls.  No boys, just girls.  And I like that.  I don't have much patience for, nor do I relate well to, the stereotypical fighting-farting-butt-jokes-agro-posturing that one who teaches males inevitably has to deal with.  Also, my only real experience teaching boys was mostly sex offenders.  And to be honest, I had a really hard time setting that aside and simply teaching them.  It was hard, especially when they were misbehaving, not to think about how much they had hurt girls, or children.  Which ultimately made me feel guilty, because they, nearly without exception, had been sexually hurt themselves long before they ever exhibited predatory behavior.

I think the concept of rape culture has really probably only been on my radar for a couple of years.  And I'd be lying if said that working with and teaching girls wasn't something that largely opened my eyes to the importance of feminism.

In case you aren't familiar with what exactly rape culture is, let me first tell you what it isn't.  Rape culture is not a culture in which everyone thinks rape is super awesome.  It isn't a culture in which, upon hearing about a rape, people high-five each other.  It isn't a culture in which men are taught to condone, support, or not be disgusted by the boogie-man-in-the-bushes-sneak-attack-rape-at-knife/gun-point archetype.  So again, if you aren't familiar with the idea of rape culture, wait a moment before you get defensive and think/mentally yell "rape culture?  Yeah right!  Rape is not condoned in our culture!  Rapists go to prison and get raped and beaten by other prisoners!  Everybody hates rape!"

By the way, if you think that people who go to prison—regardless of the reason they go there—deserve to be raped, you should probably reevaluate your system of morals.

Here is what rape culture is: a society in which rape is a pervasive problem, (check) where the majority of sexual assault occurs with impunity, (check) where rather than teaching young men and women what consent truly means, and that, for the most part, rape is committed by a person known and trusted by the victim, (check) we teach women to protect themselves from rapists (check.)  A society in which victims are nearly always drilled with questions about clothing choice, level of inebriation, location, what sort of sexual signals were given (check.)  A society in which we typically meet out a measure of the blame to a victim of rape (check.)  A society in which violent acts of rape are a normal part of our media experience.  Where "blurred lines" and acts of sexual coercion and male entitlement are the norm (check.)  A society in which girls are taught to dress modestly because they might cause men's loins to stir, and everybody knows men have very little control over their penises (CHECK.)  A society in which women are objectified in pretty much every way, where the burden of sexual responsibility is placed upon women, where men feel as though they are entitled to women's bodies, where a POTUS can get a blow job from an intern, and carry on a prestigious career, but had a FPOTUS blown a man, she'd have been utterly destroyed and called a whore, a slut, whatever (checkcheckcheckcheckcheck.)

That is rape culture, and that is what our girls have to grow up in.

Some say the number is 1 in 3.  Other places, I've seen 1 in 4 or 5.  1 in 3-5 girls in the United States of America will experience sexual assault during their lifetimes.  And that is fucking unacceptable.  The reason why these statistics exists, is because of all of the things I listed above.  1/4 of the women you and I and everyone else loves and cares about will not be assaulted by the proverbial boogieman in the dark.  Most of these women will be assaulted by people they know.  Because we aren't teaching men (and women, for that matter) the myriad faces of rape.

Her boyfriend said he wanted to.  She said no.  She said no again.  She said no again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  Then she didn't say anything.  He did what he wanted.  That's rape.

I don't have daughters.  But I have sisters.  I have nieces.  I have girl friends.  I teach a lot of teenage girls whom I can't help but see as little sisters and nieces.  And it breaks my heart that this is a reality for the women in my life.

I've seen someone I loved and cared about, moments after a rape.  I remember very few details of that year of my life.  But I vividly remember the devastation, the hysterical tears like I've never seen before, nor since.  It's a moment that has been etched upon my soul.

I suppose this is on my mind, because of this recent killing spree committed by this 22 year old kid who felt entitled to "hot babes'" bodies to the point where his frustration drove him to murder.  Go ahead and call it a "mental health issue."  Call it a "gun control problem."  This goes much deeper than that.  While his views are on the extreme end of misogyny, they are a product of the component of rape culture that teaches men to objectify women, and feel entitled to their bodies.  In most cases where things go too far, this leads men to do date rapey things.  Or to push girlfriends farther than they want to go.  Or to avoid calling it rape if it "seemed like she wanted it," but then said no.  Unfortunately, in this particular case, it was mixed with mental instability, access to a gun, and exploration of misogynistic "men's rights" groups, (whatever the hell those are) that then lead to the murder of 6 people.  But it's all a product of the same rape culture.

You're fooling yourself if you simply blame this on "bad parenting," or a "lousy home life," or even "mental health issues."

I hope someday to have a daughter.  But god, I'm terrified to bring one into this world.

And that is why we all have to be feminists.  If you hear the word "feminist" and immediately think of men-hating, abortion-loving militants—please stop watching Fox News and listening to Rush Limbaugh.  Being a feminist simply means that you want equal rights and equal treatment for women.  That you want women to be as safe as men.  That you support equality in politics.  That you value women's contributions equally to men's.  That you aren't an asshole.  That you believe women can be just as powerful as men.  That you believe that a woman's ideas can be just as good as a man's.  That you believe that our girls should be taught that they can do anything, rather than confined to a narrow mold. That you believe that women, rather than men, should be making social and political choices that affect women.

Feminism doesn't mean men don't matter.  Feminism doesn't mean that all men are shit.  Feminism, to me, means that we are simply striving for a world, and a country, in which women are as powerful, as successful, as influential, and as safe as men.

It's time that this conversation be had in every home.  It's time this conversation be had in public schools (because inevitably, it won't be had in many homes.)  We must drill this into boy's heads.  And girl's heads.  This has to become systemic.

1 in 3 is atrocious.  1 in 4 is hideous.  1 in 5 should shame every. single. one of us.  1 in one thousand would be unacceptable.  But it will never change until we change.  It's time for feminism to quit being a buzzword, or a derogatory term, or a special status.  It's time for feminism to be the expectation.


Why everybody gets "tattooed mormon girl" wrong

I've noticed over the last year or two, lots of posts in the Mormon fbook-social-media-blogosphere regarding "Tattooed Mormon Girl."  I'll go ahead and refer to her as TMG from here on out.  I think that [lots of] Mormons love TMG because she is visual proof that a person's past can be exactly that—just the past.  That anyone can be clean, repent, and leave an old life of sin behind.

TMG gives Mormons [the ones who aren't so uptight and un Christ-like as to shun her outright for covering parts of her temple with [IMO] beautiful artwork] the chance to say, "see?  We include even someone who looks super worldly on the outside, but what really matters is her faith, yadda yadda."  The reason this bothers me, is because it is ultimately a phony sentiment.  So many pat themselves on the back for "looking past" her tattoos.  So you can interact with a tattooed human, and not reduce her to the ink on her arm?  BFD.  Congratulations.  She's a damned convert, and you're not an awful human being.

The convert part is sort of what gets me.  Because seriously—you aren't a good person for not judging her for having tattoos.  You're just not a shitty person.  Because ask yourself this—what if she weren't a convert?  What if she were the same in every respect—spiritual, faithful, intelligent, not-super-evil, etc, but yet had chosen to "graffiti" her temple anyway?  How would you look at her then?

She wouldn't be on the cover of LDS living mag, that's for certain.

I read a blog post written by her husband today that really got under my skin.  I don't know why I read such things, and I really don't know why I even care.  The most bothersome line was as follows:

"How do you look past the tattoos she has, knowing that people will stare?' Some would even applaud me on marrying her, because of her past and how her past is so visual. I mean really? Serious? Hearing that use to bother me. Not once have I ever noticed or even cared that she has tattoos, I just don't see them when I look her. Sure, I know they are there, but its not something I have ever cared about."

Here is the thing.  I get the point he is trying to make—that her tattoos do not define her.  That he looks on her heart, rather than at her skin.  But what he is in reality doing, is not completely accepting his wife for how she is.  If he truly loved all of her, he would very much see them, and love them, because they are a part of her [and they are actually quite beautiful.]  They aren't merely relics of a wicked past. They are a part of who she was, who she is, and what made her the person she is today.  Don't get me wrong—I'm not questioning the guy's love or devotion to his wife.  I simply think that he is misguided in the way he is presenting TMG.  

Instead of being an actually really valuable, progressive teaching lesson: "I love my wife.  She has tattoos.  Also, she is an incredible person.  Her tattoos don't change that, and maybe even add to it," he is reinforcing the very stigma that people who applaud TMG are accidentally not overcoming at all.  Instead of teaching "people can have tattoos, and still be good people, and good Mormons, and it isn't your damned business to judge them anyway," he is teaching "people who got tattoos in their past can be good people and good Mormons, after they repent, and once we can get ourselves to just ignore them and not look at them."

The lesson is really this: nothing has changed.  Tattoos are still stigmatized, and people with them still stigmatized.  Only now some people, instead of looking at them as currently sinful, look at them as proud battle scars of sin.  Proof that bad people can become good.  

So please stop patting yourself on the back for not judging TMG.  If you can get to a point where you can look at her and think, "that is some beautiful artwork on that awesome Mormon girl's arms," then go ahead and start patting.  Because maybe, just maybe, you're starting to set aside meaningless dogma, and getting to the heart of what the gospel is really about—loving one another.