Women have it hard in this world, y’all. I honestly used to think that once I got away from the Quiverfull stuff I’d have all this equality and easy happiness to look forward to in mainstream America. I bought the rhetoric that we as a nation have reached gender equality, gender parity. Maybe you’re laughing at me (wow, she believed that?) or maybe you’re shocked I’d even suggest such a thing (Yes we have! How haven’t we?) but I did believe it. That is until I graduated college and had to quit a job because I had a boss old enough to be my grandfather appreciating me for something other than just the work I was doing. Yeah, the reality of this gender disparity stuff really hit me then, out in the working world, but not until after I gently let grandpa know I wasn’t interested and didn’t want that sort of attention. Suddenly he wasn’t so appreciative of my research skills. I didn’t know the rules. The game was that I could either put up with an old man leering at me in the office every day and trying to flirt in a way that turned my stomach (this stuff went beyond southern charm, y’all), or I could quit. So I quit. The power dynamics were not in my favor. He was the one being inappropriate and yet I was the one without a paycheck for a couple months while I scrambled to find another job.

Thankfully I’ve never had another boss behave that way, but the truth is that mainstream American culture can often be crappy to women and sometimes people spout things that fit right in or are downright indistinguishable from the extreme anti-woman rhetoric I grew up with. Today was one of those days that I stepped in a big pile of it. Because it’s such a good example I figured I’d share it because hey, this is a blog and that’s what I do here.

Ok, so this all started because a woman who cut off her husband’s penis and put it down a garbage disposal got life in prison. A friend of mine posted a link to the story on Facebook.

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People were talking about it. I had this to say:

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A few other ladies and I were having a Facebook conversation on it. Typical stuff, really. I’m a bit of a policy nerd so I always find myself posting stats and links. This time it was to RAINN. Then some guy – let’s just call him “Dick” – weighed in.

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Dick’s comment was the sort that get under my skin (I have a pretty good built-in jerk detection system and bullshit alarm), but I figured he was just mistaken and probably simply repeating stuff he heard. I also think it’s best to give people the benefit of the doubt, as well as space to question their own assumptions. So I responded, trying to give him room to recognize what he was doing and correct it. Ac360 link

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Dick’s response was icky. He sounded like some Todd Akin type “legitimate rape” guy.

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I was shocked and disgusted. Hmm, where I have I heard the argument that condoms and sex outside of marriage make rape harder to detect? Oh yeah, in the Quiverfull/Christian patriarchy world, that’s where. I tried to talk some sense into Dick. A good friend of mine calls this “jackass whispering” and I concede she might have a point.

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Obviously things went downhill from there…

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I realized for sure that nope, I was definitely not talking to someone who was mistakenly spouting some garbage. I was talking to a genuine bona fide rape apologist. They are actually not a rare bird. They are all over the place, y’all. They just look like ordinary men. You can often tell by what comes out when they move their lips (or in this case tap on their keyboard) though. Dick is what they’re like. FGM link

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It’s about as awkward to call out a sexist (rape apologists are a subtype of sexist) as it is to call out a racist, but as you can see, I did my best. Guys like Dick sound almost reasonable and then say incredibly obnoxious things when they are challenged. When they get really bad though is when they get called out on it. It’s like pulling the hood off of a KKK member. You’ve got to prepare for some hate. They don’t use the n-word (unless maybe if you are a black woman). They use the i-word instead. So I braced for the nastiness. I got it. Irrational.

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The idea that rape culture must just be accepted as a part of life, that “men will be men,” that women are in charge of preventing their own rapes, and their male relatives are in charge of finding and mortally wounding the rapist, if one ever dares touch “their” women leaves women in an unsafe world. Does this stuff help prevent women from being raped? No, it doesn’t. Or else it would be societies with these feudal ideas that had less rape, but it isn’t. This “I will kill whoever touches her” attitude makes it not about the woman at all. It’s suddenly about men defending their honor against an enemy and the woman is just a placeholder. If it was about her, it would be about making sure she could live free and never experience sexualized violence in the first place (and not by policing what she wore or where she went either – that doesn’t count as a real solution) and that she could choose whether or not she wanted to press charges and if she did want to press charges, could expect the justice system to actually be justice-oriented. Jackson Katz gives an amazing talk on what men’s real responsibility in these types of situations is.

Does the kind of stuff Dick said indicate a low opinion of women while working to keep women knowing they are vulnerable and must be on guard, feeling their only choice is to rely on men in their families for protection, feeling they must not stray too far from “safe spaces?” Yes it does. Paternalism of that sort reduces the amount of things women can do and allows creepers to creep with impunity and rapists to rape with a damn good chance of never being caught and never having the women tell anyone. Women are safer, happier, and healthier (mentally and physically) in the societies where women are treated respectfully, as equals, as people.

America is still a paternalistic society, and it’s still a patriarchal one. A place where at least one in six women is sexually assaulted in her lifetime and where only 3% of rapists ever even see jailtime is someplace I shouldn’t have to live, but it is still the country I live in, the world I live in. It’s the world we all live in. It’s the world we’re having kids in. Now isn’t that scary? We deserve better. And we deserve better than to be told these genuine concerns and the issues we want fixed are somehow irrational. Wanting safely and respect is the most rational thing in the world.

So here is a list of a dozen things women do not ever deserve to hear and that rape apologists often say:

1.) Rape is the worst thing in the world (maybe even worse than death, and leaves a woman ruined).
2.) Rape rarely actually happens.
3.) The world is unfair and some other places are horrible to women, but in this nation/state/county/ethnic group/church/family, women are treated well and this is not up for debate.
4.) Rape doesn’t happen in communities like where you live and rarely happens to the kind of women you know.
5.) Sex organs and hormones define who you are and what you do, and that a woman’s sex organs (and only the ones you recognize as being most important, not the ones she does) define her in some unspecified “different” way than men’s does.
6.) Men’s “lust” is greater and that’s why rape happens (ignoring that both genders are equally sexual and that rape is a crime of anger and hate).
7.) Women in your life are only at risk from rape by violent strangers, not anyone her family knows and trusts personally.
8.) When a guy “takes advantage of” a girl who is too drunk to give consent isn’t actually rape and at any rate it’s her fault for being drunk around him.
9.) Women often “cry rape” after “regret sex” or because they want revenge or attention.
10.) It’s not rape if she’s married to him or she’s agreed to sex with him before or if she’s done sexual things for money.
11.) Male family members must teach women how to protect themselves with the knowledge of how you told them to dress, the rules on where they’re allowed to go and when, and by carrying self-defense weapons at all times, and then they will be protected from rape.
12.) Any guy who actually does rape a women “for real” (particularly a women in your family) deserves death or a near death experience and I will personally see to the punishment for him, vigilante justice style.

I figure the more we get in the habit of telling rape apologists that we find what they have to say abhorrent and making what they say more socially unacceptable (Ex. Todd Akin getting voted out of office for his “legitimate rape” comments), the more we remind them that they are being like Dick here when they spout such nonsense, the less room for them to act like Dick there will be, the less credence perspectives like that will have, and the less rapes there’s likely to be.

Because while not every rape apologist is a rapist, all rapists are rape apologists.

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