I’m finding this describes me more and more lately.
Especially when the ‘humour’ I’m surrounded by is of the sort that looks harmless and innocent but is in fact damaging and dangerous.
Those ‘hilarious’ Facebook tropes, for eg. ‘What women say and what they really mean’. I dont’ know about you, but I tend to say what I mean. If I say no, it means no. If I say I’m tired, it means I’m tired. If I say I don’t want to have sex with you tonight, it means I don’t want to have sex.
On the other side of that, most men aren’t pathetic creatures led by their penises and helpless in the face of overwhelming urges. The only people who really think that are rapists. Men who aren’t rapists understand that their ‘need’ to have sex doesn’t trump their partner’s rights to not be violated.
I KNOW that the women posting this don’t think rape is A-OK. I know that they don’t really even think like this. But it’s so insidious. Gags about women just needing to be persuaded, men just can’t help themselves, it’s only rape if she wakes up, ‘surprise sex’ (thanks for that one Jimmy Carr), all of these and worse are EVERYWHERE.
We live in a society that normalises and even glamourises rape and sexual assault. You don’t think we do?
Rape jokes and myths are prevalent on mainstream television, and are very rarely challenged. Why is this? How many people STILL believe ‘she was asking for it’, ‘she shouldn’t have got so drunk’, ‘It can’t have been rape if she was kissing him earlier’, ‘of course she wanted to have sex with him, he’s a millionaire footballer/celebrity’?
I want my sons to grow up knowing ABSOLUTELY that no means no. It doesn’t mean, ‘pester me until I give in’, it doesn’t mean ‘get me drunk enough and I will’, it doesn’t mean ‘hold me down so I don’t struggle’.
I want my daughter to grow up knowing she is safe from sexual assault. One way to achieve this is to stop normalising rape. No means no.
Consent is not a grey area. If she hasn’t said yes, assume it’s a no. Saying yes the night before doesn’t mean it’s automatically yes this morning. Being in a relationship or married doesn’t mean you are in a constant state of consent. Being too drunk to say no is not the same as saying yes. Etc.
It’s not rocket science.
Women are conditioned to accept rape and assault, did you know that? The default position for most of us when threatened is to freeze. On a thread on Mumsnet a while ago, HUNDREDS of us had tales of what we called ‘small sexual assaults’. The groper in the pub, the flasher on the train. Most of us never challenged it. Lots of us had very similar stories to tell of feeling unable to speak up, out politeness and social conditioning.
I have a low tolerance for men who paw me in nightclubs, but it used to happen almost every weekend. I was dancing, therefore I was fair game to have my bottom felt or even my boobs groped. My reaction? I used to walk away. Nowadays I am more likely to shout ‘GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME’. The most recent time this happened was a few years ago when my husband was playing a gig and I was dancing. Clearly ‘I am dancing’ means ‘please touch my arse’ to a minority of men. Why does this go unchallenged? Why do women feel they shouldn’t shout out about being touched without consent? Why do some men think they are entitled to touch us without invitation?
Well, partly it’s because we are all fed the message from a young age that women dont’ know their own minds, and men have unignorable urges and can’t help themselves. It’s the acceptable face of rape.
So please, lets not perpetuate the ridiculous myth that women and men say one thing and mean another. Lets teach our children that no always means no, and that we ALL have the right not be touched if we don’t want to be.
It really isn’t funny.