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Rape is wrong & our thinking on rape is wrong & our communications on rape are wrong

I wrote this as comment on Kate Holmquist's column about rape, in the Irish Times. Not a topic I'd expect to cover here but Rosemary MacCabe's post about Burger King and own comment on the column have connected it to marketing in my mind.

The idea (as paraphrased & attributed to Helen Mirren in one of the comments) of a woman being "partly/ largely to blame for putting herself into danger" implies, correctly, that there is danger. If we're serious about doing something about this, we need to acknowledge that this danger exists. The law needs to work to minimise that danger by clearly communicating that it is against the law to rape or sexually abuse someone under any circumstances whatsoever, and anyone found guilty will be appropriately punished.

Meanwhile, our ethics and behaviour need to be based on the reality of that danger: there are people out there who will take advantage of you, and who will give themselves the benefit of any doubts about your intentions; so, protect yourself from them (e.g. by staying in control as much as possible), or at the very least be absolutely clear with people to whom you are entrusting your safety what your intentions are. On the other side of the same coin: there is a danger that you could lose control and take advantage of a vulnerable person; so, guard against that (e.g. by staying in control as much as possible), or at the very least be absolutely clear with people who are entrusting you with their safety what your intentions are.

And finally, our ethics & our laws exist in a biological-social-cultural context, and it is education that helps us understand and deal with the changing context of rape: we all need to acknowledge that historically it was male sexuality that determined our attitudes here, and that we probably have quite some way to go yet before overcoming fully the imbalances that exist. We also need to figure out why the danger exists in the first place: to what extent, if any, is it innate behaviour? Do we have to learn to repress something in our sexuality? Or is it mostly learned behaviour? Do we need a more radical overhaul of sex education and perhaps to introduce gender studies into schools? And, even more problematically, is there something in the portrayal of women, of men, of sex, in our cultures that is delaying enlightenment? Who is controlling that portrayal and to what purpose? Who is wittingly & unwittingly encouraging that portrayal? How far do we need to go to correct it?

How can we tolerate images like this being part of our culture if we're at all interested in balanced sexual relations:


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