When it comes to any kind of crime, I think it is important to make a distinction between blame and responsibility. In all cases all of the blame belongs to the perpetrators. However, in some cases, some of the responsibility can also be put on the victim.
If a man goes alone through an area of the city at night and gets mugged, I would give him none of the blame, but some of the responsibility (He’s not at fault for doing what he did, but it was at least somewhat irresponsible of him to do so).
If a girl gets so completely drunk that she can not take care of herself and she ends up being raped, I would give her none of the blame, but still some of the responsibility (She’s not at fault for doing what she did, but it was at least somewhat irresponsible of her to do so).
Everybody knows the world is not perfect, and that there are situations we should avoid getting ourselves into. And writing that the situation in question could have been avoided if she had been drinking less could help remind people to be careful not to get too drunk. Perhaps it can even help avert a few situations like this in the future?
I am going to assume that you’re a man and that you’re basically a good person but that you just doesn’t have a fuckin’ clue what it is like to be a woman. So get this..
Imagine we meet in a bar and you make eyes at me. Imagine I smile back at you. We get talking and you buy me a few drinks. We drink and we flirt. I introduce you to the friends I came with and you make them all laugh with some of your jokes. You start to feel pretty good about yourself. Then you find out we’re all planning to go back to my place for a few more drinks and you’re damn pleased when I invite you back too. You think you might get lucky here. And you’re right. We go to my bedroom and close the door leaving my friends smirking behind us. But when we’re done and you’re lying back with your head spinning from the alcohol and the smokey room and the exertion who should slip into the room but my boyfriend. Now he just heard us having sex and he saw you picking me up at the bar and he assumes from all that that you’re the kind of guy who is up for anything. So now he rolls you over and holds you down. Why shouldn’t he? You’re drunk and you’re naked and if you were up for sex with me then why not with my friends too? Maybe you’re such a guy that you think you’d manage to fight him off somehow – throw a few punches, kick free in this situation. Maybe you think you could convince him to be reasonable, that you’re not into this kind of stuff. But then four or five of his mates enter the room; you can’t tell for sure how many because you’re lying on your stomach and feeling pretty sick right now. They all think they’ll have a shot at you. You might still think you could fight them off but I wonder how you’d go with that. What if they’re filming you on their mobile phones and laughing while they touch you? What if you know this video could end up anywhere and you’ll never, never live this moment down? What if they ridicule you because you might even have started crying in frustration by then and perhaps you wet yourself, being so drunk and struggling to get free, and what if they tell you that you should really keep yourself in better shape? (The possibilities are endless here for just how degraded and violated you could feel in such a situation. Defeated too. In fact the next time you’re reading a newspaper report on a rape try changing the gender of the victim and seeing how it feels). So maybe then you size it all up and think you’re better off not getting beaten to a pulp by five or six men and that you should just stay as still as you can until it is all over. Maybe the alcohol has really hit you by now and you’re starting to black out anyway.
Now as a man* the assumption is that you don’t generally want to be fucked by other men, especially not like that. So you know that if shit like that went down we would recognise the crime for what it was – rape. How could getting drunk or laughing with some new people you met or even having sex with someone possibly mean that you automatically wanted to have sex with five or six other people not of your choosing? But for women it is not like that. For us the assumption is that we were somehow asking for it unless we met some kind of endless test of resistance. Were we sober enough, dressed appropriately, virginal enough, not too flirtatious, did we say no loudly enough, did we explicitly say that we are not into gangbanging, because if we weren’t entirely specific about that point well then how were they to know – they couldn’t possibly tell by the way we just froze up in fear?
You say why don’t we put some responsibility on women for ‘getting raped’ but the problem is that we already put too much responsibility on women. That’s the fucking problem. And ultimately she can’t ever completely safeguard herself against rape because rapists exploit situations where they can seize power over someone else, which was pretty much the whole point of my previous post. And believe me if it is one thing women don’t need more reminding of it is that we could get raped. We already got that memo, loud and clear. The only thing women need reminding of is that it isn’t our fault. And if we are going to use court reporting to send out public warnings to try and “help avert a few situations like this in the future” then shouldn’t we be sending the message of responsibility to the men who actually rape and not their victims?
It is not a perfect world, as you say, but while we’re wondering why 17 year old girls can’t be a little more cautious let’s also wonder why men can’t be a lot more decent. Rape stops when rapists stop raping.
*Unless you are gay or trans in which case you’re probably seen as asking for such brutality too, just like women.
WARNING: the same person who left the comment to which this post responds has also entered the comment thread below. He continued to attempt to argue that women bore some responsibility for rape. Many others have argued against him and I will be moderating any further comments of his, but I have left his existing comments untouched as I think there is some useful discussion happening in response to them. This thread might be upsetting to you, please let me know if this is the case and if you think I would be better to remove his comments altogether.
Also, because I wasn’t around to moderate this thread a lot at the time it got away from me in parts and some stuff went down in here, like abusive insults that I don’t normally tolerate on my blog. However there is an argument to be made that men who enter feminist forums like this and who cop an earful/pile-on might get an enlightening experience – they might get to say huh! this is what my male privelege has allowed me to escape until now, I have never had to confront how ugly my rape culture ideas are because my views get to dominate all the other spaces I participate in but now I am in a space where everyone doesn’t tolerate rape culture and that feels new to me, I could learn from this experience.