Friday, March 8, 2013

thoughts on rape on International Women's Day

I don't watch much TV so it was via twitter I came across the Zerlina Maxwell story. Maxwell suggested on Sean Hannity's show that men needed to be taught not to rape. As Maxwell says

"The reality is that we need to be changing how we train and teach young men. We need to teach them to see women as human beings and respect their bodily anatomy. We need to teach them about consent and hold themselves accountable."

This was taken in some corners as some crazy, insulting idea and Maxwell has been attacked for her statement. But why? It's well-established, as Maxwell pointed out, that most rapists are known to their victims. They are boyfriends, friends, relatives, and husbands. The man jumping out from the bushes is rare. What is it about our society that these men feel it's ok to force themselves on women? Because there must be some underlying sense in the perpetrator that either this is not that big of a deal or that even if he gets caught nothing will really happen. Just as Ta-nehisi Coates is tired of "good people" who are racist, I am tired of "nice" boys who rape. Again, there is a sense of the institution versus the individual-people like to think of rape as an isolated incident that does not reflect society as a whole, since we know it is bad and nobody we know would do it. But why does it continue to happen at an alarming rate, why are prosecutions so rare, why does the focus tend to be on women learning to "be safe." Why is pointing out the obvious, that it is the person with the power, the man, who needs to change so upsetting to people? If we as a society have created norms that rape is ok, we as a society can change them, and we must.

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