(Warning: If you are sensitive to sexual content or discussions on sexual crime, I do not recommend reading this post. Likewise, if you are a gamer, please understand that nothing in this post is meant as a personal attack on you, nor is it meant to suggest that the gaming industry is inherently bad. Finally, please read this with a critical mind. It is very easy to become emotionally charged over this topic, but that emotion does nothing to help the situation. Beyond that, enjoy!)
We live in a world where a woman can get raped and then put on trial for having sex outside of marriage. This is to say that we live in a world where deeply embedded religious ideals are given license to commit heinous and despicable acts.
The case to which I am referring happened in Africa, and the man received no reprimand for committing the rape. As a matter of fact, in most cases across all continents the rapist(s) is never brought to justice. There are exceptions to this where rape convictions are both common and much more plentiful in some places as opposed to others; although there are still some that are not pursued for varying reasons (all of which can be attributed to institutional corruption). It would seem that as a global community we are more concerned with blaming the victim than avenging the terrible harm that has been forced upon them. This trend of blaming the victim is not always obvious, and it is so embedded within our social framework that most of us never see it. Some do this by use of simple statements like “women should know where not to go and what not to wear.” The people who say this almost always follow it up with “it’s not victim blaming, it’s common sense prevention.” Most see this as a reasonable argument, unable to understand that attitudes like this have contributed in large part to what is commonly called “rape culture.”
Our western cultural paradigm contains within it three major “normalizations.” These are ideals that cause negative effects, and they work together to build a culture in which the violent, abusive, and demeaning act of rape is seen as somehow less serious.
Normalization #1: Women are objects. In music videos where the star performer is male, women are used to dilate the pupils of those watching who are attracted to the female form. In advertising, sex is used to sell almost everything. Whether it’s scantily clad stick figures selling lingerie or busty bombshells selling beer, we see it everyday. Nobody can deny the use of women to sell the promise (or at least the suggestion) that you will have greater success with them if you use the product written across their silicone breasts. In everyday conversation (just go to a public place and listen), a woman may be referred to as intelligent, funny, bright, or any number of adjectives. The thing that will inevitably be stressed the most however, is how she looks. Much is made of the objectification of women by men, but both sexes are guilty … women do it too. The point is, we objectify women without even thinking about it or seeing it.
Normalization #2: Violence is okay as long as it’s kept at arms length. Despite cries to the contrary, one cannot deny the obvious effect of the normalization of violence as a result of its glorification in the gaming industry (some say this about the movies as well, but the cultural dominance of mainstream film is not nearly as powerful). I am not presuming that playing Grand Theft Auto will make a person go out and commit rape. What I am saying with absolute certainty is that the popularity of this game and others like it creates a dialogue. The gaming industry is massive, rivalled in size only by the adult film industry, and the discussion around aspects to the most popular games infuses a huge amount of content and influence to the pop culture dialogue.
In the game, the victim is unknown to the player. If the victim I hear about on the radio is unknown to me, why should I care anymore than I would about the prostitute I raped and beat up on Grand Theft Auto? Does the fact that the character on the game is fictional really make a difference? Are the graphics not meant to depict reality as closely as possible? Violence is okay as long as it’s kept at arms length. We may never see a person admit it, but this is the situation we have.
Normalization #3: Rape is okay. You can always identify a person who thinks rape is okay. They know they can’t come out and say it, so they will use other phrases (“it’s not actually possible to rape anybody,” “she loved it, she just gets off on putting up a little struggle,” “it’s not rape if you’re both drunk,” “it’s not rape if she says ‘no’ at the last second. You can’t do that at the point of no return,” etc etc etc). These are justifications for rape. Normalization happens when they are accepted. They become accepted when you have immature people watching mass amounts of pornography (sounds silly, right? Porn is harmless regardless of who uses or reads it? Read on).
The adult film industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, and rather than promoting discussion it promotes ideals. Playboy promotes the image of the “perfect” yet unobtainable female form. Penthouse promotes the attitude that women are merely fleshy sex toys who all like to do whatever it is you want them to. The hundreds of film companies in California’s “porno valley” promote the idea that violent sex is normal. Pornography has always been about power, aggression, and control, but as people become desensitized they start to demand more. The violent and demeaning subcategory known as “punish porn” is currently the fastest growing niche in the adult film industry. Make this stuff accessible to a 15 year old, as it currently is, and that child is going to think that this is normal. Put a bunch of 15 year olds together in a room, and you will eventually hear a conversation where two or more people are laughing about something they saw in one or more of these films. Let it go long enough, and you get a case where a 15 year old girl is gang raped, pictures of the assault are distributed, and the girl is harassed about it until she takes her own life … all while police sit back and don’t feel a necessity to bring the perpetrators to justice. (Note: in the case this refers to, there were a few ‘half-assed’ charges laid to appease the public. They never went anywhere, so the boys who committed the crime are still free and allowed to enjoy their lives, while the girl they assaulted was denied that opportunity.)
If women are objects, violence is okay as long as it’s kept at arms length, and demeaning sex is normal, what do we think is going to happen?
Marriage and Pre-Marital Sex
The concept of marriage predates all three of the great monotheistic religions, yet they have all hijacked it and laid claim to their own definition as the “true meaning.” Christianity is the most prominent of the three, having been used to manipulate, change, and control cultures on every continent, and the Bible lays out many guidelines for marriage. The one referred to at the beginning of this post is the idea that sexual acts must be reserved for marriage. I have no personal problem with anybody believing this, it really doesn’t affect me either way, but I do have a major problem when this ideal leads to a raped woman being accused of pre-marital sex. In the African example, the woman was put on trial. In North America, pre-marital sex is thankfully not a criminal offence, but there is still a stigma among certain religious circles. Those who claim that this stigma doesn’t actually exist need only to look to an abortion clinic, where protesters shout obscenities at women as they enter. The personal situation in which the woman getting the abortion finds herself is of no consequence to the protesters, who are only concerned with shaming and degrading rather than practicing the Christian values of love, acceptance, compassion, and humility. If the woman entering the clinic was raped, she is being blamed for that. It was somehow her fault.
Rape culture is thriving, and I personally find that terrifying. Worse than murder, rape takes away the dignity, self respect, sense of security, and self-worth of the victim. It destroys life, whereas murder simply ends it. From a Christian perspective, rape is a violation of the 8th and 10th commandments. The 8th commandment is “thou shalt not steal.” When you rape a person, you steal those things mentioned above (dignity being the most notable). The 10th commandment is “thou shalt not covet.” If nothing is coveted, nothing need be stolen, for the sole reason for stealing anything is that you want it. No matter what the coveted thing is (sexual pleasure, power and control over another person, the desire to act violently, fulfillment of a sick fantasy), something must be desired, and therefore coveted, for the rape to take place. I will also note here that the act of rape violates the 2nd commandment (“thou shall have no other idols but me”) as well.
It is happening with increasing frequency. Young women the world over are being raped and then blamed for it. In an age where we should know better, this problem is gaining in popularity. In an “enlightened” age, women in most places still cannot take a walk after dark, or go to a bar without being slobbered over by sweaty predators carrying the date rape drug in their pocket. We hear the stories every day, and the problem continues to grow. When it happens to someone we love, we ask “why is nothing being done about this? Where is the justice? Where are the laws to protect us?” Action, justice, and protection will only be achieved if we stand up and fight for it. If we fail to stand up and fight, we have no right to become outraged at an inadequate system when it fails us.
I fight for the rights and dignity of LGBTQ people. I fight for the rights and dignity of women. I believe that human beings are to be respected and treated with dignity. When I hear of a raped woman being put on trial for pre-marital sex, I ask myself where our compassion and sense of humanity has gone. I urge you to ask yourself the same question.