I was glad to see the Aug. 31 article about rape charges against a Yale student on the front page, as an arrest regarding such serious allegations certainly merits publicity. Of course, I have no knowledge as to whether or not the accused is guilty. But regardless of the outcome of this case, it’s important that when arrests of this kind occur, we don’t shy away from talking about them.
It’s important, too, that we don’t shy away from talking about rape. The sad truth is that rapes happen on college campuses across the country, yet remain largely invisible.
Why? Many collegiate rapists, who are educated, intelligent predators, cover their tracks thoroughly enough to get away with it.
I have heard countless stories over the past year from college women who have found themselves in a position with a male “friend” in which they do not want sex but are manipulated or coerced. Some were able to fend him off and avoid sex. Others weren’t — it happened too quickly or she was drunk or she was alone and scared to say no.
None of these men was held accountable for his actions, because none of those women have any legally- or socially-legitimized voice with which to articulate these violations. The men knew what they needed to do and/or say to remain protected in the eyes of the law. The women resigned themselves to silence because it would be detrimental to them to make an accusation that does not hold up in court. Sometimes they convince themselves that they weren’t really raped.
Rape happens on campus, in dorm rooms, at parties. All the time.
In the article, a lawyer was quoted as saying: “[T]hese cases are easily alleged but difficult to prove.” He’s right that they are difficult to prove, particularly when a woman’s word means practically nothing. However, he is entirely wrong in claiming that they are easily alleged. Victims of rape often feel pressured into silence. Women in particular are often silenced in matters of sexual predation.
Most women I know do not respond when they are catcalled walking down the street, even in broad daylight or physically unthreatening situations. Confrontation and anger are “unfeminine” or “bitchy,” and women have been trained from birth to uphold standards of civility and decency — even when men don’t reciprocate. Ignoring it makes the woman the better person, morally. Unfortunately, it does nothing to combat misogyny and sexual predation.
It’s a predatory man’s dream when he no longer has to silence women because women are silencing themselves.
The frequency of attitudes or incidents makes them no less horrible. Every day, some men feel that it is their right to announce whether or not a woman fits their standards of attractiveness. And even empowered, self-identified feminists spend a great deal of time making excuses for misogyny and dominance.
Not all men are rapists or predators. However, because we have consistently failed to call out every instance of misogyny, many “nice guys” can perpetuate problematic attitudes about gender without even realizing it because they are the good ones — relatively.
In order to truly combat rape and sexual assault, we must not compromise. I recognize that men are not always the perpetrators and women the victims. But a refusal to critically examine the behavior of men, and a persistence in justifying misogyny — “He’s really a good guy, so I won’t mention it” — illustrates how ingrained compulsory heterosexuality and male dominance truly are. I challenge everyone to eliminate the qualifier “For a guy… ,” a disclaimer that implies that men who do show emotion or do not catcall women somehow deserve a medal.
To stop the excuses and put all genders on an even turf would open our minds to a realization that women can do anything men can — you name it. It would demonstrate that the biological penis is not as essential or all-determining as many people still consider it to be.
We shouldn’t make assumptions or generalize about “men” and “women,” but instead approach every individual with a common standard. Feminists must avoid creating a gendered double standard. We must not cave to the fear that if we raise our expectations of men, none of them will pass the test. They will — and if not, so what if they don’t? An absence of criticality often causes women to limit and relegate themselves: “He’s a guy, what more can you expect?”
A lot more.
Hateful action stems from the fostering of hateful, objectifying and dehumanizing attitudes about women in everyday situations. What if every woman forcefully and confrontationally defended herself against verbal and physical violence, fighting fire with fire?
Predatory men depend upon silence and bank on women not having the courage and self-respect to speak. Victims of rape must be applauded for refusing silence — and for bravely facing all of the repercussions of being outspoken individuals with an awareness of personal rights and voice.
Loren Krywanczyk is a senior in Silliman College.