Tuesday, March 10, 2009


"Why would anyone need this?" my coworker, a young woman raised by Russian immigrants, asked me, referring to a pamphlet about STIs. "Can you imagine someone coming up here and being like, 'Hmm, let's learn about STIs!'?"

We work in the undergraduate admissions office at my department at school, so what she said isn't that far-fetched--it's not like people are visiting to learn about health. I said, "That's not why we're putting these up, it's just so if people happen to be up here and see these, maybe they'll want to learn more."

"But why STIs? It's their fault if it happens, because they had sex before marriage, or had unprotected sex."

To be completely frank, here, my coworker is not what I think anyone would define as "liberal". I don't know if I would necessarily call her conservative, but she definitely takes conservative stances on certain social issues, so I'm not completely unused to hearing her say things I disagree with, but that's another story. Anyway, I said, "It's not always their fault. What about rape victims?"

"Rape is sad, but if a woman is raped, then she was probably asking for it."

Hold up. Yes, she did say, "she was asking for it." I'm not making this up.

"Asking for it? Are you serious?"

"Well, I mean she was probably dressing provocatively or something."

"You're totally blaming the victim here."

"No, I'm not! I mean, what if she's a hooker that gets raped? It's like her job, she's choosing to have sex for money."

"Just because a woman 'chooses' to be a sex worker doesn't mean she deserves to be raped. That is not her line of work. It is not her fault if she's raped. I literally cannot believe you're saying this as a woman living in 2009."

It confounds me that there are still people, still women, out there who can honestly believe in the "she was asking for it" argument, that rape victims somehow deserve being sexually assaulted. A woman may dress sexy, yes, but how does that say, "I want everyone to lose all respect for me and take complete advantage of me, ignoring everything I say"?

The fact of the matter is: rape produces an unequal power relationship between a man and a woman, in which the man asserts his dominance over the woman. Essentially, the man becomes an active subject, while the woman becomes objectified, stripped of her humanity. She loses her agency, and thus loses her ability to speak for herself, act for herself, decide for herself. Rape is not just a physical violation, but an emotional and, ultimately, psychological violation.

And in no way is dressing sexy an invitation for someone to violate you in any of those ways.

1 comment:

  1. Yes! That's what I'm talking about!

    I first learned the concept of blaming the victim in a public health class, and I realized that people DO BLAME THE VICTIM...the prevalent way of thinking. Why do you think women feel guilty when they get raped? As if they did something wrong? To prevent sexual assaults, people always tell women to dress more conservatively but they never address the root of the problem...the perpetrators! No message ever gets sent out to them.

    I don't know if you heard about the recent sexual assault attacks at Berkeley...I guess you could call him a serial finger-er who preys on women in skirts and shorts. Then Berkeley had a SKIRT RALLY because we wanted to send the message that women can wear whatever the hell we want. Wearing a skirt is NOT an invitation to go under or in.