I want to come out and say that, loud and clear, for everyone who happens across this little slice of the internet to hear. I’m uncomfortable with responses I’ve read that suggest that, as a man, all he is allowed to say about the subject of rape is “it’s bad. Don’t do it.” I will say that people who have little to no background in a particular subject should do their homework very thoroughly before talking about the subject at length, which is why I hate when dominant groups try to wax poetic on the experiences of marginalized populations, but in this particular case I feel like that mindset suggests that the only people allowed to talk substantively about rape are rapists and rape victims, which doesn’t seem healthy for the overall development of our society. I don’t think I’ve ever been involved in a sexual act that was not enthusiastically consented to by both parties (though I occasionally wonder about the first time with my ex, because in the last seconds before we crossed that line, he asked me if I was sure I was ready, and I told him I was positive, and I didn’t ask him in return before we continued), but I don’t think that invalidates my opinions about rape and rape culture. And I don’t think my opinions are any MORE valid than The Champ’s just because I’m a woman.
Now he could have approached the subject more delicately, I’ll give you that. Saying that the tone of Zerlina Maxwell’s article:
seems to shift from “men need to take full responsibility for their actions” to “men need to take full responsibility for their actions…and women have carte blance to act as recklessly and stupidly around men as possible without any trace of accountability.” and I just can’t agree anymore.
[And] why can’t both genders be educated on how to act responsibility around each other? What’s stopping us from steadfastly instilling “No always means no!” in the minds of all men and boys and educating women how not to put themselves in certain situations? Of course men shouldn’t attempt to have sex with a woman who’s too drunk to say no, but what’s wrong with reminding women that if you’re 5’1 and 110 pounds, it’s probably not the best idea to take eight shots of Patron while on the first, second, or thirteenth date? Yes, sober women definitely get raped too, but being sober and aware does decrease the likelihood that harm may come your way, and that’s true for each gender. (emphasis added) (source)
is decidedly insensitive, but as I understand it, he was never trying to say that women who get themselves into less-than-safe situations deserve to be taken advantage of. THAT is victim-blaming, and I didn’t see any of it in his post. All I saw was the same advice my momma gives me whenever I’m going out: be smart, and be careful. Know your limits. We obviously need to switch from being a culture that teaches “don’t get raped” to being a culture that teaches “don’t rape,” but I don’t think that promoting safety amongst women is necessarily antithetical to that endeavor, ESPECIALLY when we take non-forcible rape into consideration. (By that I mean, like, A and B meet at a bar, get drunk, go home together, and shit goes down without enthusiastic consent and neither A or B know what to think about the situation in the morning.) I think that suggesting that the entire onus of responsibility for that situation falls onto the responsibility of the man (if we assume this is a heterosexual encounter) is JUST as dangerous as the female-blaming society we’re trying to grow out of.
I think that the most productive step our society could take towards rape prevention and overall healthy sexual living would be to promote responsible sexual conduct for people of all genders: that means more than just drilling into people’s heads that “No means no,” but rather introducing more nuanced understandings of consent, and the ability of persons in various conditions to give consent. If, for example, due to excessive amounts of alcohol consumption, neither party remembers what happened after a night of sexual activity in which enthusiastic consent wasn’t given (because enthusiastic consent can’t really be given if you’re blacked out), why is one party any more responsible for the night’s events than the other? OBVIOUSLY when one party forces him/herself onto another party, the victim bears zero responsibility for the situation, but there’s a lot of grey area between forcible rape and consensual sex. I think it’s perfectly healthy to suggest that, if it takes two informed persons to have consensual sex, all persons should assume at least a little bit of responsibility for making sure they can make informed decisions regarding sex.
So yes, his article is far from delicately written. Yes it presents a heteronormative, cisgendered, and somewhat sexist (in his presentation of men as aggressors and women as victims, because women can rape men too; an erection is not consent) understanding of rape and rape culture, and I wish the post had taken more nuance into account along those lines, BUT I don’t think his basic premise of promoting sexual responsibility for ALL people is off the mark.
Feel free to fight with me in the comments. I don’t mean to have offended anyone, so if I have, please enlighten me as to alternative viewpoints/understandings and I’ll take them into consideration and we can all learn and grow, okay?