Between the BDSM tumblrites whining about how the bottom is obligated to speak up in order to prevent rape, and the people arguing that porn is all good fun and can be reblogged endlessly without further thought, it’s probably a damn good idea to get really hardcore about taking some goddamn ownership of your ability to sexually exploit people.
I remember a tumblr I user to follow that regularly posted nudes. One day, they posted an image of someone who looked very, very young. I would personally not have guessed her to be much older than 14. It was not overtly pornographic, but it most certainly was not an artistic nude, either. The people who ran the blog got some angry asks about that image, and dismissed it all with comments about how some grown women just look really young, okay, and someone submitted it to them and they clearly state that contributors should only submit images of people over 18, so they’re totally not responsible anyway, and that apparently included engaging in any critical thought before posting. I stopped following them after that, but it continues to bother me that I did not protest more.
I know the old, tired arguments - “women who look really young are sexual beings too, and we can’t deny them representation!” (I would argue that there’s still some fairly obvious differences between a grown woman who happens to have small breasts and narrow hips and someone in the early stages of puberty, but that’s beyond the point.) It’s laziness. If you cannot personally confirm that the person in the image is in fact an adult, what is so fucking hard about refusing to repost it? What is so fucking hard about accepting that, hey, I know a lot of ostensibly hilarious porn is created under exploitative conditions with the intent of humiliating the women involved, so if don’t know the background to a given image, I shouldn’t just shrug and hope that the people depicted don’t mind being used as a joke? What is so hard about accepting that your personal kink is not so sacred that you can’t let legitimate critique of how it enables rape and abuse go by without freaking out about how you’re being oppressed?
Rape culture has benefited enormously by appropriating concepts like body positivity and kink positivity and sex positivity and using them as way to shut down criticism. Every time I write something like this, I have to fight the urge to describe what a sex-loving, kinky girl I am, because I know that critiquing this shit will lead to attacks on my own sexuality. We are terrified of being mistaken for prudes, because to be a prude is to be judged as naive, backwards and broken, and is also viewed an invitation for sexual aggression. What is the major reason give for demonizing the entirety of second-wave feminism, after all? Those uptight old bitches hated sex! There’s a lot of critique of the second wave on Tumblr that includes throwaway references to transphobia in the movement, but this is seldom followed up with any nuanced critiques or understanding of transphobia today. Contrast that with the eagerness of many self-described feminists to assure us that they’re not ugly, hairy, lesbian misandrists who hate porn and sexy pictures. The first rule of internet feminism is to make sure no one besides certain right wing caricatures hates you.
Ending rape culture is not possible if we refuse to do things, or stop doing things, that may get us labeled as oversensitive, sex negative, or slut-shaming by people who have a vested interest in ignoring possible exploitation of others. This does not mean that one should engage in attacking or silencing sex workers or sexually active people; the goal is ultimately ensuring the safety of vulnerable parties. This may require you to feel uncomfortable about things you have uncritically accepted as sexually attractive. It may require you to stop supporting people and blogs that you otherwise like. It may require you to step back and question whether what you are doing is actually harmless fun and not abusive. It’s not fun. You’ll get a lot of shit for it. However, taking responsibility for resisting these little exploitations, even the ambiguous ones, is a huge part of fighting rape culture and restoring power to those who have been abused by it. There is no benefit in fighting for your right to passively consume the exploitation of others.
I am surprised by how much sex I have had in my life that I didn’t want to have. Not exactly what’s considered “real” rape, or “date” rape, although it is a kind of rape of the spirit - a dishonest portrayal or distortion of my own desire in order to appease another person.
I said yes because I felt it was too much trouble to say no. I said yes because I didn’t want to have to defend my “no,” qualify it, justify it - deserve it. I said yes because I thought I was so ugly and fat that I should just take sex every time it was offered, because who knew when it would be offered again. I said yes to partners I never wanted in the first place, because to say no at any point after saying yes for so long would make our entire relationship a lie, so I had to keep saying yes in order to keep the “no” I felt a secret. That is such a messed-up way to live, such an awful way to love.
So these days, I say yes only when I mean yes. It does require some vigilance on my part to make sure I don’t just go on sexual automatic pilot and let people do whatever. It forces me to be really honest with myself and others. It makes me remember that loving myself is also about protecting myself and defending my own borders. I say yes to me.”
For the most part, I think when many women refuse to believe that staggering numbers of how many of us experience sexual assault or domestic violence from the men in our lives it is because the idea of being one of those statistics is terrifying.
When men refuse to accept it, it’s because they don’t want to take responsibility for patriarchal violence.
stop making fancy products meant to “prevent rape” and start beating rapists mercilessly with varying sizes of hammers
bats and golf clubs also acceptable
4.5% of the men in the United States is an incredibly high number – that translates into over six million men.
If you added up every US citizen who was officially unemployed or looking for work in 2001, that would be less than the total number of rapists.
If you added up every US citizen who is Jewish, that would still be less than the total number of rapists.
If you added up every teenage boy who had any sort of job – an afterschool job, a summer job, working full-time after dropping out, including all of those – you’d still have over a million fewer people then the total number of rapists.
There are twice as many rapists in the USA as there are single mothers.
For every drunk driver who is in a fatal accident this year, there are over 500 rapists.
If you take every doctor and nurse in the United States; and you added them to every librarian, every cashier, every cop, every postal clerk, and every bank teller in the whole country; you still wouldn’t have as many people as the number of rapists in the United States.
(Think of that a second – think of how often, in your daily life, you’ve seen cops and cashiers and all those other folks. Odds are, you’ve run into rapists more often than that).
To paraphrase Tim Wise: In short, “only” 4.5% of the male population is a lot of people, so that even by the most optimistic assessment of how many men are rapists, there are literally millions out there who not only would but have raped a woman. When combined with those who are less vicious – those who haven’t raped, but would be willing to in the right circumstances, and those who would make excuses for why other men rape, it becomes clear just how real a widespread a problem rape and rape-supportive attitudes are among men today.”