Men around the world are getting a wakeup call. Regardless of what many men may have been told through literature, the movies, or by their friends in the locker room, women are not “asking for it.” Check out the reasons why below.
Asking for It
Men like to think that women speak in coded signals. Understandably, human communication is bursting with nuance and subtleties, and there might be some truth to the idea that women rely more heavily on these strategies than men do. However, some things require a direct request and a definitive answer. If a woman wants to have sexual contact with a man, she must say so directly, or consent has not taken place. Imagine sexual contact to be like requesting a loan from a bank or purchasing a car. You can never do such things through mere winks and nods. Those things in life, like intimate contact, need to be directly requested and approved.
Many men like to think a woman’s wardrobe sends signals that she wants to have sexual contact. While it’s true that clothing can set the mood for an occasion, an attractive or revealing outfit doesn’t mean a woman is “asking for it.” Explicit permission is still required. For a manly comparison, consider a guy wearing a team’s jersey to a football game. Just because he is dressed like he wants to play football, doesn’t mean he actually wants to be tackled. He most likely just wants to order nachos and watch the game with his friends. The wardrobe of a woman is the exact same thing. Don’t touch her unless she says she truly wants to play.
Sexual Harassment or Sexual Assault is Real
Some men like to brush off concerns of sexual harassment or sexual assault. Disturbingly, they might try to use what’s called a so-called “nuts or sluts” defense. They might claim a woman was a “slut” and truly wanted the contact or a “nut” and imaged the whole experience in her head. Let’s get some things straight here: false accusations and misunderstandings are definitely real, and they can promote a hysteria approaching witch trials in Salem or even outright McCarthyism. One only needs to look at the debunked Rolling Stone article or the writings of the feminist Camille Paglia to see that. However, for every false accusation, there are hundreds of devastatingly real incidents that have gone unreported. Those stories need to be heard to keep them from happening again.
The truth is, most sexual assault isn’t perpetrated by sociopathic men looking to cause pain to unwilling victims; it is perpetrated by otherwise well-meaning guys who don’t understand what consent is. The idea that she is somehow “asking for it” has contributed to a very harmful practice of blaming rape victims for their own rapes. If she had simply dressed more modestly, or hadn’t been in that neighborhood, or hadn’t been out at night alone, then she wouldn’t have been raped. In its most serious form, victim blaming can take the shape of exculpating rapists, which is very, very evil.
Some, though, have taken the idea of victim blaming too far. In 2014, Martial Artist and Miss USA winner Nia Sanchez suggested that women on college campuses should take self-defense classes in order to protect themselves from sexual assault. Sanchez was instantly excoriated by hardline feminists for engaging in victim blaming. The logic goes something like this: “Any suggestion that women take steps to protect themselves sends the message that women and women alone are responsible for their protection, and thus any failure to do so must be their fault.” The conclusion takes the shape of “don’t teach women to protect themselves; teach men not to rape.”
This sounds logical to some, but it’s actually a false equivalence. “Blame” after the fact is not equivalent to a proactive ownership of responsibility. It’s kind of like saying, “Don’t teach women to look both ways before crossing at a sidewalk; teach drivers not to run women over.” True, pedestrians crossing at a crosswalk have the legal and moral right of way, and are under no obligation to look both ways for careless or aggressive drivers. If a driver hits a woman at a crosswalk, it is his fault and his fault alone, whether she looked both ways or not. But it is not somehow “victim blaming” to suggest that she go above and beyond her legal obligation in order to protect herself. By all means, let’s teach men not to rape – but on the off chance that there is a criminal element that won’t listen, what’s wrong with adding a layer of protection by empowering women to take charge of their own destiny? Shouldn’t feminism support that idea?
Victim or Victor?
Victim blaming is horrible, and we need to do more to educate men about affirmative consent, so that fewer rapes happen and victims are not blamed when they do happen. What’s more, we need to stiffen penalties against men who knowingly violate the sovereignty of a woman’s body. Sexual assault is a crime, and it should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. But when our righteous condemnation of victim blaming becomes a nonsensical diatribe against sincere efforts to protect women, we do an incalculable disservice to the very women we intend to help! As harmful to women as victim blaming is, we do even more harm when we make them powerless in the face of those who would assault them. Feminism ought to embrace every effort to empower women, and help them become the heroes of their own stories, rather than helpless victims reliant upon the magnanimity of the patriarchy for their safety and success. To all the women out there: you aren’t a victim; you’re a hero.