The Concept And Confusion Of Women As Sexual Beings

Sadly, blaming the victim is becoming a familiar trend in rape trials.

Following an explicit incident in a trial in Ireland, resistance towards this injustice was expressed through a frenzy of protests with the hashtag #ThisIsNotConsent going viral.

During the trial, the perpetrator’s defence lawyer, Elizabeth O’Connell, held the victim’s underwear high, to all in the courtroom: “Does the evidence out-rule the possibility that she was attracted to the defendant and was open to meeting someone and being with someone? You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.”

These words not only violate the privacy of the victim, but also violate a basic right of feeling comfortable in your own clothing, without being judged or victimised, simply for being yourself. This has no place in society, never mind a courtroom.

The outcome of the trial has absolutely baffled me. In the simplest term, a rapist has walked away with no charges because a young girl decided, on that morning, to wear a certain type of underwear. It is absurd to suggest that this seemed reason enough for this man to force himself on to her, forever changing her life. He is now to walk free, without judgment and the ability to offend again.

Susan Dillion created “I Believe Her – Ireland”, a site dedicated to the creation of a safe space for survivors of sexual assault. She started this viral social media movement #ThisIsNotConsent after the recent events.

Susan’s Instagram @ibelieveher is also as fascinating. She regularly posts the outfits that were worn by several victims when they were a victim of sexual assault. Instead of this ever present belief of revealing outfits and sexy undies, the items include full length puffer jackets, cosy pyjamas, and wool knits. Not the clothing you would expect someone who was “sexualising” themselves to be wearing.
Since the hashtag was created, protests have been held across Ireland, in opposition to this, ever present, injustice. Countless women have joined in the online movement (myself included) to express their anger and outrage over the grounds for the most recent rape acquittal. Some have posted art or cartoons and, like myself, have shared photographs of a variety of underwear to demonstrate that regardless of the style, underwear is never an explicit invitation for anything unwanted.

Consent means giving permission for something to happen or agreeing to do something and being comfortable with that decision. Consent does not
discriminate. No matter your gender, whether you’re straight, gay or bisexual, if you’re planning to do anything sexual, consent must be given.
Consent must be given freely. Any act must be wanted, it’s simple… just ask. If you want to do something sexual with your partner, the responsibility lies with you to check that it is wanted and your partner’s (or anyone for that matter) wishes are respected if they say no. Consent is never implied by your past behaviours, what you wear, or where you go. Feeling like you must do something when you don’t want to is not consent.

Silence is not consent.

Victims of sex crimes are usually blamed in ways that are rarely considered in investigating other crimes. If someone is mugged, we don’t question whether the victim deserved it or somehow brought upon themselves. Were these victims asking to be robbed?

We don’t listen to the attacker for the “good reason” on why they attacked and stole from another. The question that then comes to the forefront is why do we feel that it is necessary to impose these on countless victims of sexual assault?

My issue is that for far too long now, people have blamed the victims (mostly women) for allowing themselves to be raped, abused and assaulted. We were “too drunk, too flirty, dressed too revealing”. Therefore, surely we must have wanted to be abused in such ways! What a fucking joke! Why do we tend to consider sexual assault a women’s issue even though men are more than often the perpetrators?

If we are discussing rape we can’t ignore the most common reason given, “male instinct”. The rapists (mostly men) are too often forgiven for their disgusting behaviour. They claim that this “male instinct” gives them a right to get away with such awful acts of abuse. The statistics are horrible –
Research from The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Home Office Inspectorates estimate that of the 50,000 rapes thought to occur each year, between 75% and 95% are never reported. And almost a third of reported cases recorded by police as “no crime” should have been properly investigated as rape. If a man commits a rape, then he has, on average, a less than 1% chance of being convicted. Those most likely to result in a conviction are classic stranger rapes; this mean that most women knew their rapist and in many cases this is also why they don’t report it*.

*taken from Why is rape so easy to get away with? Julie Bindel for The Guardian

The concepts of violence, power and domination are often characterised with males and masculinity in the Western World.

In Europe and America, most significantly, the situation of women has risen greatly over the last few decades. However, in many areas of the world, male domination and oppression continues. In some Middle Eastern countries, for example, women effectively live as prisoners, unable to leave the house except under the close watch of a male guardian. They have no rights at deciding their futures or living their own lives; they are seen as nothing more than goods, property of the males of the family, and as the men are seen as their owners, they make all decisions for them. Their “owners” are also seen as having the right to have sex with them on demand too. In Egypt, surveys have shown that the vast majority of men and women believe it is acceptable for a man to beat his wife if she refuses sex. How can this be? How can this practice, of what can be considered as slavery, be accepted in the 21st century?

The subjection of women historically comes from men’s desire for power and control. The same need which has driven men to fight and gain ownership of other groups or nations. The persistent abuse of other classes or groups leading them to dominate and control women. Since men feel the need to gain as much influence and restraint as they can, they sought to rob any control that women have. They removed the rights for women to make decisions, leaving women unable to choose their path in life. All things seem to show how many abusers feel the need to control their victims by turning them into sexual objects rather than the women that they are.

Women often learned that they were viewed as objects by the opposite sex, to provide them with children and maintain the family home. This is a societal stigma that is progressively being eradicated. We no longer have to be what man expects of us, they can no longer use us for their gain.
Women are taught to play games which are deemed sexy, that NO means yes… (it doesn’t) and when if we do then turn down any advances, we are the marked with the words “tight” or “frigid”. These words echo to women that their roles in life are commodities, depersonalising them and disregarding their needs.

The bodies of women are heavily criticised in the media. Social media is full of #AD ‘s for vacuous shit including skinny teas and other “body changing” devices. This is teaching and influencing young women that their looks are more important than their substance. It promotes the damaging idea that our surface image determines how much we deserve in life. This is not the case, how we look and what we deserve in life should be two completely different factors, but sadly, it is exhibited that all over our modern world, beauty is everything.

Porn often represents the idea that male pleasure is more important while female pleasure is not required. With this, it discourages women from learning about their own bodies wants and needs, instead supporting them to think their bodies as instruments for others. Sex and giving pleasure to another is a lot of fun, but if we are missing the part where pleasure is received then we become merely an object.

Finding balance is incredibly hard. If we encourage women not to show themselves as sexual beings, this too can be just as harmful as representing them only by their sexuality. If we are telling women not to wear revealing, sexy clothing because men might take it as an invitation, or being friendly and chatty, we could send the wrong message. There is a potential to teach that that our bodies are to blame for anything bad that happens to us— rather than that if someone else has decided that our behaviour, clothing, or chat is an invitation. That, however, is on them, not us.

These word that are there to help “protect” us ultimately are causing us to again be viewed as objects that must be controlled. This is insulting to both men and women though, most couples can and do have a loving consensual relationships without the violence of this “instinct”.

The law is clear, if one of the individuals involved does not consent, then it is rape. So how come so many men are getting away with it? Despite the oppressive views held by many, women can be seen, active, ambitious. We can be anything we want to be. Do all the things that make you a person and not just an object. We must stop denying who we are and keep fighting.

We are powerful, and only we can shape the future for our young women.

photo credit: Ian Aberle Dallas Women’s March 2018 via photopin (license)
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