How Slut Shaming Becomes Victim Blaming

This is a video by Chescaleigh whom I posted about earlier. The video is kind of old now, but still so relevant (especially in the wake of the Steubenville case) and she does an amazing job of explaining, unfortunately from personal experience, how blaming victims of rape is so common and why it needs to stop.

The Egregious, Awful and Downright Wrong Reactions to the Steubenville Rape Trial Verdict

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By Doug Barry

If you followed the Steubenville rape trial through to its conclusion yesterday morning when Judge Thomas Lipps handed down “deliquent” verdicts to high school football players Trent Mays and Ma’Lik Richmond for raping a 16-year-old girl after a party last August, you probably subjected yourself to some pretty graphic trial testimony, as well as the needling worry that justice, even after all the visual evidence and testimony the news-gathering public has been bombarded with over the last few months, might not be done. How many times have we seen the justice system, the media, or just casually callous observers with too much access to social media shame a sexual assault victim for brining about her or his own ruin? So many, in fact, that this website has an entire tag devoted to victim-blaming.

Anyone who thought we might trudge through another high-profile sexual assault case involving student athletes without suffering through a barrage of victim blaming from ignorant rape apologists or conservative conspiracy theorists is clearly a delusional optimist. Athletics occupy a special nook in the American psyche — our athletes have achieved a godlike status in pop culture, and our athletic diversions have become sacred. That’s why the legislative branch of our government seems to only overcome its partisan differences when it’s trying to investigate whether or not people cheated in the hit-the-ball-with-the-stick game. Or whether football is too dangerous, as if it’s somehow news that repeated blows to the head are bad for you.

It’s also why some people can take to Twitter and spout geysers of shit from the tips of their typing fingers. There’s waaaaay more victim-blaming on Twitter, more than you can probably stomach in a single sitting. There seems to be no limit for the amount sympathy some people can muster for Mays and Richmond, and, conversely, no limit to the amount of callousness they can muster in dismissing, discrediting, or flat-out blaming the 16-year-old girl, the only — and we really shouldn’t have to say this — real victim in this rape trial.

Sports worship is also big reason why, in the case of the Steubenville saga, certain media outlets (ahem, CNN) have pushed a sympathetic narrative about Mays and Richmond, the two “deliquent” (that’s the juvenile court equivalent of “guilty”) teenagers who also happened to be stand-out athletes on a well-regarded high school football team. The banter between Candy Crowley and general correspondent Poppy Harlow after the trial ended Sunday, in which they cluck-clucked over these “two young men [who] had such promising young futures” — and who, they added, were “very good students” — shocked a lot of people, many of who rightly wondered whether CNN, so sensitive to the wrecked football careers of Mays and Richmond, had reserved any sympathy for the 16-year-old rape victim.

CNN wasn’t alone in trying to drum up sympathy for the fallen football stars. Good Morning America‘s extensive pre-trial coverage last Tuesday hammered out pretty much every angle, but concluded with an emphasis on the shattered football futures of the two guilty teenagers:

When the trial commences Wednesday, there will be no jury involved. Instead, a juvenile judge will decide the fates of Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, who face incarceration in a detention center until their 21st birthdays and the almost-certain demise of their dreams of playing football.

Then again, another pre-trial article from ABC focused on Richmond’s state of mind the night of the sexual assault for which he’ll now be serving time in juvenile detention. He was excited, the article explains, for the August doldrums to end and the football season to finally begin:

It’s no surprise that he was in a celebratory mood. But even Richmond admits that some of what happened at the parties he and several of his teammates attended that night crossed the line.

“Crossed the line” is certainly one way (a shitty way) of putting it. Another way is to say that he and teammate Trent Mays raped, filmed, and mocked a 16-year-old girl who was too intoxicated to even consider consenting to any of the sexual acts her unconscious body was subjected to that night.

Images of Mays and Richmond crying in the courtroom and quotes of them lamenting their sentences are part of the Steubenville story. News outlets are obligated to report things like Richmond collapsing into the arms of his attorney when the guilty verdict came down, sobbing, “My life is over. No one is going to want me now.” That reaction shouldn’t surprise anyone (Richmond is 16-years-old), though it might make it a little harder for some observers to outright despise him. People want a monster when heinous crimes are committed, but part of what makes even the most violent criminals so insidious is that they’re not monsters at all — they’re people, sometimes people we might have, in other circumstances, held a door open for.

What’s so distressing, though, about the way major news outlets like CNN or ABC wring the sympathy out of the Steubenville story is that they’re tapping into America’s collective yearning for its worshipped athletes to be pure, to be somehow incapable of committing a crime like rape. That’s obviously not true, but there always seems to be a reluctance (or flat-out unwillingness) for some people to believe that athletes could sully the sports we venerate. When an athlete commits a heinous crime or, God-for-fucking-bid, cheats, the collective outrage is palpable — a lot of people who’ve invested a lot of time and emotional devotion into sports feel betrayed, and that betrayal can make people lash out at the offender (like with Lance Armstrong), or even defend the offender at all costs.

CNN and ABC know this. They know that American sports fans go batshit, tongue-lolling crazy when they see wall-length portraits of Michael Jordan putting an inflated rubber sphere through a 10-foot-tall hoop. They know that, against all evidence to the contrary, some people still want to believe that Mark McGwire really hit all those home runs that one, electrifying summer when his face was caricatured all over packets of Big League Chew. And they know that some people, steeped in reverence for America’s new pastime of watching hyper-muscled humans run into each other on a gridded field, will feel their heart strings plucked for the ruined football careers of two young men.

That, however, is not what the Steubenville story is ultimately about. It’s not about a rust-belt community suffering the woes of an enfeebled steel industry, and it’s not about how important it is for Steubenville to simply “get over” its ignominious moment in the national spotlight. It’s about a 16-year-old girl who was raped by two young men who thought that being good at throwing and catching an inflated ovoid meant that they had cultural carte blanche to behave however they wanted. Being good at a sport doesn’t entitle anyone to automatic public sympathy, and delving into our cultural sympathy reservoirs to bemoan the tragedy of a football player’s young career cut cruelly short does not make news coverage sensitive.

Maybe Richmond and Mays cried at their sentencing, fine. They should have cried. They should feel very fucking sorry for what they did, because it’s awful. We, however, should not feel sorry for them because a university will most likely not give them a scholarship to play a game. The sooner this country comes to terms with that fact, the more civilized and empathetic a place it will be.

[Source: Jezebel]

24 Lies People Like To Tell Women

By Chelsea Fagan

1. There is such a thing as a “real” woman and she is defined by “having curves,” which is not to be confused with “being fat,” and if you fall too far outside of that particular bell curve, you do not count as a “real” woman.

2. There is something inherently wrong with you if you have slept with a certain number of people, and it must be the result of some former trauma or unfinished business you have.

3. There is something inherently wrong with you if you are insisting on remaining a virgin until marriage, or indefinitely, and it is something that can be rectified with “the right man.”

4. Bisexual women are simply “going through a phase” or “having a little fun,” and are doing it mostly for the attention of the men they are more attracted to.

5. There is a direct correlation between the kind of clothes you wear and the amount of respect you deserve.

6. Men are entitled to sex with you after a certain amount of nice gestures, and if you remain uninterested after the right combination of activities and words, you are responsible for his unhappiness for being a cold bitch.

7. You are “supposed to” enjoy and universally support any number of female artists and creators simply because she is female, and not because you actually identify with her work in any way.

8. There is a certain amount of your worth as a person — and it’s significant — which is tied up in your relationship status.

9. You owe strange men on the street who call out to you and make you feel uncomfortable to smile at them and cheerfully dismiss their advances.

10. If you don’t smile, and you don’t make yourself as amicable as possible while getting away, you are guilty of being a frigid bitch.

11. If you are too friendly, you’re leading them on.

12. The vast majority of your value in dating someone is how good-looking you are. The other qualities you may or may not possess are rendered largely unimportant in the face of your physical beauty.

13. If you don’t look like a photoshopped image of a model in a magazine, there is something inherently wrong with you, and not with the image.

14. If you spend enough money on beauty products, clothes, and haircuts, you will become as beautiful (and therefore as worthy) as said women in the magazines.

15. There is a “correct” course of action to take as a woman when you are in an abusive relationship, and if you don’t follow it to the letter, you are deserving of shame and mockery for not presenting a good example for other women.

16. It is every woman’s job to be a model of some kind for other women in her life.

17. If one woman acts a certain way, or engages in a certain behavior, she is a reflection on all women and not just herself and her personal choices.

18. There are certain things that women should inherently want out of life, such as marriage and having children, and if you do not want those things there is something defective about you.

19. As a woman, the question you should be asking yourself as you enter your career is unquestionably “How do I have it all?” The underlying assumption is always that you want both a family life and a career, lest you be considered lazy or immature on either front.

20. There are certain choices we can make in life which are inherently more feminist than others, such as choosing to delay family life in order to have a high-powered career.

21. Sex work is something dirty and shameful, and being an educated, hard-working, good person and being a sex worker are mutually exclusive.

22. There is a way to date and have sex and meet people which is more moral and respectable than another.

23. Your sexuality should always be someone else’s business, and other people should get a say in the control you have over your own body.

24. If you are a take-charge person who is hard-working and demanding of others the way many men who are deeply respected in business might be, you are a bitch. And that is that.

[Source: Thought Catalog]

In the Conversation About Gender Inequality, Men Must Be Included

Since the Superbowl this past sunday I’ve had a lot of thoughts running around in my mind regarding sexism and gender roles and what it means to be a man or a woman in our society. Mostly I’ve been angry and I’m not entirely sure who to be angry at. I watched the game with a small group in which I was the only female. I heard comments like “what a pussy” and “he’s gonna cry whether they win or lose, I don’t wanna see that.” I watched Beyonce’s halftime show, during which time almost all the guys left the room using it as a time to refill their drinks – it wasn’t the important part after all. They did see the end of halftime, during which they asked questions like “did her boob pop out?”

I drove home after the game feeling stressed and angry at the state of the world and it kept me up that night as I tried to fall asleep. It hasn’t stopped there either. Since then I’ve been hyper-aware (more than usual I should say) of the comments men make to one another regarding women. Having a group of friends comprised almost entirely of men makes me privy to a lot of commentary that I might not hear otherwise. Then again, I have to wonder if I’m hearing a watered-down version of what these guys would talk about if there wasn’t a girl present. And it’s not just men who are engaging in objectifying and sexualizing language in regards to women either; women are doing it too. I was involved in a conversation about why there were no longer cheerleaders at my former high school.

          “I heard one cheerleader gave every guy on the football team a blow job on the bus. That’s why there’s no cheerleading team anymore.”

“Remember that slut who was a freshman when we were seniors? She had sex in the locker room.”

I had a problem with this dialogue when it was happening, but it was only a day later that I realized just how biased and one-sided this conversation was. If the story about the cheerleader was true, why wasn’t she alone punished instead of the entire cheerleading squad? And for that matter, are we to assume that these football players had absolutely no say in the matter? Why weren’t they punished as well? Why wasn’t the football program scrapped along with the cheerleaders? Whether this story has any truth to it or not, for the guys on that football team it’s a funny story. For the girl, it’s a life sentence.

And then there’s the comment about the “slut” who had sex in the locker room. We have to assume that if she was having sex, there was probably a guy involved. But we don’t hear about him. He’s just a guy doing what guys do, and he happened to do it with a “slut”. Good for him. Those high school girls better be careful though, if they’re having sex with a guy who’s not their boyfriend, or if they’ve had a lot of boyfriends, or if they have sex at all, they’re at the risk of moving into “slutty” territory.

The thing is, we’ve heard this story before. We’ve heard it a thousand times – a man sleeps with a bunch of women, he’s a stud. A woman sleeps with a bunch of men and she’s a whore or a slut or easy or fast, etc. etc. We’ve all heard this before and I think most (too optimistic?) or at least a lot of people, men and women alike, agree that this is an unfair double standard. So why does it persist? I honestly don’t have the answer, but I hope that I can continue to make sense of it.

I think that a big part of the problem when it comes to addressing gender roles and double standards is that men are being left out of the equation. There’s a lot of talk about women’s liberation and what women and girls can do to be strong and independent and stand up to the patriarchy. This is all great, and I fully support it. The problem though, is that men are often left out of the conversation or scared away by words like “feminism” and “girl power”. Men aren’t being forced to look at at what what they can do to work towards gender equality because as far as they’re concerned, they’re comfortable and they’re not necessarily doing anything wrong.

Men, especially white men, are also vilified in a lot of feminist discourse. It’s not really any surprise that men then feel uncomfortable talking about issues like rape and domestic violence when the finger of blame is pointed directly at them. I have to admit, when I hear a guy say “But what about me? What about problems that I face as a man?” I don’t take him that seriously because the problems that he faces can’t possibly compare to the issues that plague me as a woman every single day. But this is not true, and this is not the attitude that will bridge the gap of gender inequality – it will only widen it. Boys grow up learning that to be a man means you must be strong and you must be competitive. They watch movies where men are heroes and being a hero means being violent and getting the girl. They learn to view women as both pretty objects for them to look at and a prize which they can win if they use all the right strategies. They learn that if a woman wears something revealing and is nice to you, that she owes you something, and if she is reluctant to have sex with you after she clearly gave the green light with her clothing choice and friendliness towards you, she’s a tease. They learn that if they don’t live up to this ideal of manhood, if they show emotion or don’t have enough sex, they are at the risk of being called a pussy or a faggot.

Men are taught all of these things growing up, whether it’s by their parents or the tv they watch or the kids they’re friends with at school. And when we hear statistics like 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, we shake our heads and wonder why it happens. But it doesn’t just happen, it is being done. And it’s being done by men who are taught that they can probably get away with it, or it’s ok because she’s a “slut” or she was “asking for it”.

Men need to be included in this conversation. They should be offended that other men get away with rape and sexual assault because it’s “in their nature” to do these things. They should be offended that advertisements see them only as meatheads who watch football and drool over blonde busty women. They should be offended by the fact that they cannot cry or show emotion at the risk of being called a pussy. I have seen the guys that I hang out with fulfill every stereotype of “manhood” in the book. I have heard them say sexist things and put on this act of manliness around their friends. But I also know that they are far more complicated than this and far more multifaceted than society would have us believe. I have seen them cry and I have had them talk to me about their feelings, about how they’re lonely or insecure – about how they are human beings just like me.

I know that there are deep rooted problems and mindsets that will not be changed overnight. There will always be people in the world, men and women alike, who believe that the way things have always been is how they should stay. I also know that if we’re going to change any of these problems it has to start with a conversation – a conversation in which men are invited to participate and given a chance examine the ways in which society has taught them to act.

Modesty, Body Policing and Rape Culture: Connecting the Dots

By Sierra

Definition: The “modesty doctrine” is the belief that women need to cover their bodies to prevent men from being attracted to them, because sexual attraction is lust that leads to sin and death for both.  The modesty doctrine is not the same as wearing conservative clothing. You can do the latter without believing the former. The modesty doctrine is found in fundamentalist Christianity, Judaism and Islam, with milder echoes in mainstream Western culture.

In my previous posts on the modesty doctrine, I’ve written about how, as a teenager, I believed that the only solution to the problem of male lust was to have a sexless body. This desire for androgyny contributed directly to my eating disorder, as I deliberately tried to purge myself of curves. Is self-starvation extreme? Yes. Is it illogical as a response to the modesty doctrine? Not at all.

I posted this excerpt from Feministe’s article on the Stuyvesant school dress code on Monday, but it bears repeating:

Beyond the treatment of young men as uncontrollable animals and the treatment of young women as rape-bait, the Stuy dress code enforcers also appear to fall into a common problem with dress codes generally — defining an “appropriate” body. As the students quoted in the Times article implied, some of them technically met the dress code but were still told they were “inappropriate,” not because of what they were wearing, but because of how it looked on them. I don’t know what those students look like, but I’m going to guess it comes down to boobs and butts. Flesh is what’s often considered “inappropriate” — B-cup boobs in a turtleneck are fine, but double-Ds are not; straight hips in a pencil skirt are fine, but curvy ones are not. It’s the body that’s being policed, not the clothes.

The modesty doctrine isn’t about clothes, it’s about bodies. It’s a method for punishing women who do not conform to an idealized, asexual, inoffensive body type. The “offenders” are women with large breasts, wide hips, or discernible “booty.” The modesty doctrine claims that the right clothes conceal a woman’s figure, and that the wrong ones expose her curves. The problem is, some women have figures that cannot be concealed. Even denim sack jumpers will reveal a curvy woman’s hips or breasts when she moves. When I was rebuked for my clothing as a teenager, it was often identical to the clothing all the other girls were wearing. The only difference was that I had “developed” first. The modesty doctrine defines some bodies as inherently problematic.

The hyper-vigilance of fundamentalist men and women to root out “immodesty” conceals a hatred of female sexuality: secondary sex characteristics should not be visible except in approved circumstances. The system is designed to ensure that the only time a man is “turned on” by a woman is when he is allowed to act on his urges: in the marital bed. In other words, if a woman’s body is visible, it ought to be available for sex. Although I don’t think many men think this consciously, the idea crops up in misogynist rhetoric all the time. “Immodest” women are “asking for it,” or it’s “false advertising” if a woman in a short skirt won’t go home with you, or (in the terms of the Christian patriarchy movement) a woman “defrauds” a man (literally, deprives him of a right or property) by allowing herself to be attractive in a situation wherein sex with her is illicit or unwanted.

The modesty doctrine frames this idea in terms of clothing to preserve the veneer that women are somehow to blame for this, and that there’s something they can do about it. There isn’t. The modesty doctrine revolves around the assumption that a man has a right to sex with every woman he finds attractive. In Christian fundamentalism, he only has a right to sex with his wife. Therefore, other women who are attractive to him seem to taunt him with something he can’t have (extramarital sex). That’s why certain women get singled out as threats, despite trying their hardest to be “modest.” It doesn’t matter what they wear; if men find them attractive and can’t marry them, they must be punished. This disproportionately happens to curvy women because their sex is impossible to erase.

Something’s missing here. I hope you’ve picked up on it. The woman does not have any agency in this model of male sexuality. What she wants or doesn’t want is either erased or subordinated to what he wants or can’t have. The relationship is between the man, her body, and the law (monogamy). Similarly, entire facets of male sexuality are written out. Men are not allowed to see themselves as objects of desire, to consider themselves attractive or to enjoy the idea of sex with an initiating woman. The corollary to accepting that sex isn’t about having a right of use for another person’s body means enjoying the experience of having a woman express genuine interest in you. In the fundamentalist model of sex, men are aggressors and women are reluctant recipients. Relinquishing the right to sex with a woman and replacing it with mutual consent means finally experiencing sexual interest that isn’t forced. It threatens patriarchal masculinity, however, because having that experience (being wanted) means letting go of superiority and admitting to having the same experience women do. It means acknowledging a woman’s capacity to be the one with desires and one’s own capacity to be an object of desire. Fundamentalist men also aren’t allowed to acknowledge that, despite their monogamy, their bodies will occasionally feel attraction to others, and that attraction does not in itself have a moral value.  Every misplaced flutter of the heart explodes into anger at being “defrauded.”

A similar dynamic takes place when men justify the modesty doctrine by arguing, “I wouldn’t want other men looking at my wife like that.” That expression reflects the pride of possession and defensiveness fundamentalist men are taught to feel regarding their wives’ bodies. If a man believes women who dress “immodestly” are depriving him of his right to sex, he also believes that men who look at his wife with sexual interest are trying to assert a right to sex with her. In other words, they’re threatening what belongs to him.

This is all quite dehumanizing. It sounds scary and extreme. I can see the heads shaking already. That’s fine. What I’m analyzing is a system. I certainly don’t think that most fundamentalists – or even most people – have thought the problem through to this degree. Most of my thinking as a fundamentalist girl was reactionary (“That guy is staring at me. I need to go change.”). Most men that I grew up with never interrogated themselves over why they were so disgusted with an unattractive (to them) woman wearing shorts. They never outright said “she’s offering me something I don’t want,” but they did say things like “nobody wants to see that,” which isn’t too far off. It doesn’t take into account that she might have reasons for wearing shorts other than for them to look at her. They assumed (probably without recognizing it) that women’s bodies were for looking at whenever they weren’t completely hidden.

Feminists will probably find all of this annoyingly familiar. What am I saying, after all? The modesty doctrine is rape culture. It is inseparable from patriarchy. It is the very means by which patriarchy reduces women to mere flesh. “If I can see it, it’s mine” is the motto of a thief. If a woman’s body is the “it,” it’s the motto of a rapist. “If I can see it, she’s defrauding me” is the motto of Christian patriarchy. The Christian patriarchy movement attempts to obliterate a woman’s sexual agency in several ways:
First, it demands she cover up to keep men from wanting what they see.
Second, it sanctions sex with a woman based not on her consent but upon marriage vows (“it’s impossible to rape your wife because her body is yours”).
Third, it places control over marriage vows in male hands through courtship (father and husband). Consent is therefore farcical.
Fourth, it demands that women, not men, face the consequences of sex: either the guilt of adultery for the imagined sex a leering man has with a woman he finds attractive, or the perpetual pregnancy resulting from marital relations, as birth control is forbidden.

The modesty doctrine goes way deeper than the denim jumper. It’s a central pillar of patriarchal religion. Doing away with it means finding another support for ethical sexuality. I think it means replacing the idea of possession with the idea of sharing. It means seeing consent as a permanent requirement, one that doesn’t expire upon marriage. It means moving beyond a toddler-like vision of the world (“everything is here for me to look at”) to an adult one (“I can see the world around me, but it isn’t about me”). It means ceasing to fear that you can be defiled by something you see (it’s what comes out that defiles you). It means taking responsibility for your own actions rather than accusing others of “forcing” you to sin. It means ceasing to assign respect or perceived moral character to women based on how much or how little of their bodies are visible, or how curvy they are. Finally, it means replacing a functional definition of women as bodies with a recognition of women as full human beings who can wear whatever they damn well please.

Sierra is a PhD student living in the Midwest. She was raised in a “Message of the Hour” congregation that followed the ministry of William Branham. She left the Message in 2006 and is the author of the blog  the phoenix and the olive branch.

[Source: Patheos]