What Men Need to Do About Rape
College men should be the driving force behind ending campus rape culture, not the group perpetuating it.
By Jessica Peña, University of Texas at San Antonio
I’ve been taught to fear those of you I don’t know—especially after dark.
I’ve been shamed and lectured into covering up my body as much as possible or else. I’ve heard time and time again the inherent dangers that come with being born female instead of male.
For most of my life I accepted this fear and constant threat of violence against me just for being a girl, but I’ve seriously begun to question it since I’ve been out on my own. Why should I have to be so afraid all the time? Why am I forced to fear you all as potential rapists?
I know that having a penis doesn’t automatically make you a rapist—just like having a vagina shouldn’t automatically make me a target. I’m not just something for you to force yourself on. I’m someone’s girlfriend of six and a half years. I’m someone’s sister. I’m someone’s daughter.
So, why was it so necessary for me to be taught that I need to be afraid just because some of you were never taught to respect women?
You don’t know the nagging dread in the back of a woman’s mind as she tries to enjoy her girls’ night out while feeling men ogling her. You’ll never feel the pounding heartbeat and goosebumps that a woman feels every time she walks to her car alone at night. You won’t ever have to second-guess your entire outfit just because someone might take it as an invitation to take advantage of you.
If I wear a skirt too short or a blouse too low cut, well then I’m just asking for it, aren’t I? But if you wear a tight pair of jeans or a tank top to show off your muscles, does that mean it’s your fault if someone else strips you naked and forces themselves on you?
Allow me to make something very clear: No matter what she’s wearing or how much she’s had to drink, it’s never welcome to have a foreign entity violently forced inside of any woman without her absolute consent.
If a woman is of age, she should be able to drink as much as she pleases without having to worry about what a man might do to her.
As long as she is not putting herself or those around her in any danger by driving, a woman has every right to have a good time. That does not make her a slut or a whore. It does not mean she wants any sexual attention. Inhebriation is not an invitation.
Stop assuming we’re so desperate to hook up with you that we’re okay with you ripping our panties off and dragging us into some dark corner. Get it through your head that “No” (or any variation of the word) means NO. It means STOP. It means DO NOT CONTINUE. Take responsibility for your actions and control your animalistic urges to pounce.
It is both sickening and maddening that it’s even implied that a woman should be held responsible for the assaults inflicted upon her by a man. Blaming a woman for being raped is like blaming a plane crash victim for the plane crashing. You know when you board an airplane that it could crash, but no one is going to point their finger at you for boarding it. So why are so many fingers pointed in women’s directions when they find themselves brutally victimized?
I’m no law student, but it seems pretty clear cut to me that the person who committed the crime should be the one held responsible and reasonably punished. As if it’s not enough to be savagely raped once, the legal system then goes ahead and makes the victims relive the entire ordeal all over again—sometimes to no avail. Apparently, even being found guilty on three counts of sexual assault is not enough for even a year of jail time.
It’s 2016. How much longer is it going to take for everyone to realize that women are not objects? Women are not play things for men to rough up and leave in a heap. Women are people. Women are mothers, daughters, sisters and wives. Think about the important women in your own life. Would you blame them if they were sexually assaulted? Would you shame them for putting themselves in such a vulnerable position in the first place?
Rape culture in this country is something that urgently needs to be addressed. Avoiding the topic, remaining silent and making light of sexual assault on television and in movies only makes the issue all that much more difficult to overcome. Rape is not a punch line. It’s not too taboo to speak about—it happens almost 2,000 times a day. And it’s not too late to change.
For centuries, women have been held responsible for what happens to them. As I mentioned before, women are taught to be afraid. Women learn to behave, dress and speak in such a way as to not attract unwanted male attention. Obviously, whether or not a woman is raped cannot be left up to women when it’s men doing the raping.
Instead, I challenge you, men, to make a difference. Talk to your sons, brothers and nephews. Teach them to respect and value women for who they are—not to sexually objectify them for their bodies.
Recognize when a woman is interested and when she is not. Don’t laugh with your buddies when they crack jokes about such an unfunny topic. Stop acting like your sexual urges are so uncontrollable you can’t just keep it in your pants. Put an end to the violence.
A Woman Who Is Tired of Being Afraid