SlutWalks, Rape Culture and Modesty

By: hawkgrrrl
August 30, 2011

Since spring, women worldwide have taken to the streets to protest rape culture in several “SlutWalks.”  So, for the uninitiated, what is “rape culture”?  According to Wikipedia:

A rape culture is a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm.

In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable as death or taxes. This violence, however, is neither biologically nor divinely ordained. Much of what we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that can change.

In a nutshell, rape culture is whenever we task victims with the burden of rape prevention.  It is also viewing rape as somehow more understandable if the victim is attractive and healthy (whereas raping children or the infirm or the elderly is more universally reviled); it is whenever rape is viewed (on any level) as a form of flattery.  If you’d like to see a more comprehensive description of “rape culture” try this.

On January 24, 2011 Constable Michael Sanguinetti spoke on crime prevention to Toronto university students in a safety forum.  He said: “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”  Although he later apologized for the remark, the first Slutwalk was organized in April of this year to protest the remark.  At the protest, organizer Heather Jarvis shouted to a cheering crowd:  “As a slut, the only thing I’m asking for is consent.”  Since April 3, more than 50 SlutWalks have taken place across Canada and the US and around the world.

Although women were encouraged to participate wearing everyday clothes to demonstrate that violence toward women is an everday occurence, some women elected to dress in revealing or “slutty” clothing to flaunt the term used by Constable Sanguinetti.  Some women wore the decidedly non-slutty clothing they were wearing when they were raped:  usually jeans, sweats or pajamas.

Response to the movement has been mixed, even within the feminist movement.

  • Australian commentator Andrew Bolt observed that guidance on how to dress in any given context is simply risk management that doesn’t constitute victim-blaming.  (Feminist retort:  simply having a female body shouldn’t pose an inherent risk.)
  • Journalist Rod Liddle says:  ”…I have a perfect right to leave my windows open when I nip to the shops for some fags, without being burgled. It doesn’t lessen the guilt of the burglar that I’ve left my window open, or even remotely suggest that I was deserving of being burgled. Just that it was more likely to happen.”  (Feminist retort:  leaving one’s valuables hanging out is not equal to merely possessing a female body; women of all shapes, sizes and clothing are raped.)
  • Feminist blogger and writer Jessica Valenti says: “The idea that women’s clothing has some bearing on whether they will be raped is a dangerous myth feminists have tried to debunk for decades.”  (Even women in an abiya are raped).
  • Feminists Gail Dines and Wendy J Murphy state:  “Whether we blame victims by calling them “sluts” (who thus asked to be raped), or by calling them “frigid” (who thus secretly want to be overpowered), the problem is that we’re blaming them for their own victimisation no matter what they do. Encouraging women to be even more “sluttish” will not change this ugly reality.”  They view the word slut as being inherently indivisible from the binary view of women as madonnas or whores, making the word “beyond redemption. . . . Women need to find ways to create their own authentic sexuality, outside of male-defined terms like slut.”
  • Writer Debra Arthurs criticizes the use of the word “slut” because ”far from empowering women, attempting to reclaim the word has the opposite effect, simply serving as evidence that women are accepting this label given to them by misogynistic men. . . .  Women should not protest for the right to be called slut.” 
  • Melinda Tankard Reist who is active in opposing the sexualization of children in modern culture said:  ”I believe the name will marginalise women and girls who want to be active in violence prevention campaigns but who don’t feel comfortable with personally owning the word slut.”
  • Louise Bagshawe (a British Conservative MP) objects to SlutWalk on the grounds that it “lionises promiscuity”, which she says is harmful.  She also added “promiscuity is not equality.”
  • Tanya Gould, columnist for The Guardian, in her article Marching with the SlutWalkers states:  “Slutwalkers have internalised their abuse.”

Protesters during a Slutwalk march for the right of women to wear what they want without harassment on June 25, 2011 in Auckland, New Zealand. The Slutwalk began with a small protest in Toronto, Canada, when women marched against a policeman who claimed he was told women should 'avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized'. Slutwalks have occured and are scheduled for major cities around the world.

Is the LDS church’s current teaching on modesty and chastity evidence of an underlying “rape culture”?  While the term is clearly provocative, it also seems troubling to me to apply the term to people who would never actually commit a rape or condone a rape, but who unwittingly trivialize rape (e.g. “I got raped on my taxes this year”).  Isn’t there an important distinction between actual rapists and those who trivialize rape through ignorance?  Yet, the SlutWalks, IMO, are an important step in educating people who are ignorant about rape, who mistakenly think that it’s related to a woman’s dress or who think that consent is a luxury for “good girls,” and that the promiscuous do not have protection under the law. 

The church has also distanced itself from damaging teachings of the past, such as the idea promoted in Miracle of Forgiveness that a girl who did not die in the process of fighting off rape has been unchaste.  While not promoting rape, this is a blatant example of victim-blaming, especially damaging to victims of incest.  To be told that you would have been better off dead when you’ve already been victimized in one of the worst ways possible is truly unbearable.  Distancing ourselves from MoF is evidence of progress.  How do current teachings stack up then?  On the whole, the section on Chastity in Gospel Principles was well done, IMO.  But once we get to the topic of Modesty, the whole lesson falls apart.  Here are a few questionable excerpts from Gospel Principles:

  • Weird Off the Wall Comment We should also help children understand gender roles. This will help a child have a good feeling about being a girl or boy. Parents who feel good about their roles as men and women pass this feeling along to their children.  How does this in any way relate to Chastity?  Placing limits (roles) based on gender does not promote good feelings so much as resentment.  Is this comment inserted to prevent children from becoming gay (under the debunked notion that gay children are mimicking the wrong sex)?  Or to promote motherhood so females will willingly choose to be baby farms?  The comment is totally off the wall and not explained.
  • Theological Foundation for Modesty?  Since the time of Adam and Eve, the Lord has asked His children to cover their bodies. No further examples are cited, so perhaps this means that no retraction of the original request was made.  Until Eve was tempted by Satan in the Garden of Eden, she and Adam did not know they were naked. After eating of the forbidden fruit, they became aware of their nakedness. They tried to cover their most sacred parts with aprons of fig leaves. Sounds itchy.  However, the Lord’s standards for modesty are greater, and He gave them coats of skins to cover themselves—even though at that time they were alone in the world.  This is the only theological foundation for modesty cited in the manual, and it’s somewhat tenuous.  This also means that we can walk around in just our garments (ew!), but instead we cover our garments.  Or at least we try.
  • Clearly rape culture / victim blaming.  “We are responsible for the effect our dress standards have on others. Anything that causes improper thoughts or sets a bad example before others is not modest. It is especially important that we teach young girls not to wear clothes that would encourage young men to have improper thoughts.”  Given the law of Chastity, it’s probably OK to tell girls and boys to not dress with the object of provoking lust, but implying that they can avoid creating improper thoughts in others based on how they dress or worse, that they bear blame for others’ thoughts, is completely unrealistic and unfair.
  • When all else fails – use guilt!  “We can measure our standards of modesty by asking ourselves: How would I feel about my clothing if I knew the prophet were to visit in my home? Is my clothing a good example of what a Latter-day Saint girl or woman should wear?”  Because the Lord looketh on the heart, but your fellow Mormons will tear you to shreds for minor dress code violations.
  • Please, not in front of the kids!  We should practice modesty within our own homes. Even small children should be modestly dressed and taught about modesty.  Children are innocent and should not be sexualized, either through parents dressing them like Brittney Spears or through parents freaking out over a tank top. Can’t we just let kids be kids?  Surely we’re not saying kids are to blame for pedophiles’ urges.

Given the flimsiness of the write up in our Gospel Principles manual, “modesty” is a topic we should stop teaching because we can’t seem to find either a logical or a plausible theological foundation for our arguments.  On the contrary, we stir up a whirlstorm of judgmentalism and crazy fundie talk. I think our best bet would be to stick to Chastity and let remarks modesty follow naturally, based on common sense.  That way, only what is truly linked to Chastity (which is defensible) will be discussed.  To me, modesty (as it is described here) is creating hedges about the law (the law of Chastity in this case).

What do you think? When we preach modesty are we promoting rape culture?  Is the SlutWalks movement making an important difference in eliminating victim-blaming?  Discuss.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

72 Responses to SlutWalks, Rape Culture and Modesty

  1. Tom O. on August 30, 2011 at 6:01 AM

    I think there is a large omission in the OP, and that is a recognition that, far more than the Gospel Principles manual the predominant pornographic culture (which includes much more than just depictions of nudity and hard core sex) bears the responsibility for creating a rape culture.

    We have no problem regulating industrial pollution because of the effect it has on innocent third parties; pornography should be treated no differently.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 4

  2. John Mansfield on August 30, 2011 at 6:27 AM

    Victims of crime and potential victims are easier to communicate with and motivate than outlaws, so we get harangued about preventing crime of every kind: lock your house, lock your car, don’t get mugged. It’s annoying, as if we’re the problem, but there is a logic of effectiveness to it.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 5

  3. Andrew S on August 30, 2011 at 8:07 AM

    Tom O,

    Firstly, it’s not a zero-sum game. I think that’s a major point. So it’s not something to look at and say, “Well, this contributes far more to rape culture, and so let’s not consider other things that do.” It doesn’t work like that.

    Secondly, some of our commenters wanted us to talk more about issues as they relate to the church. That’s what hawkgrrrl is doing.

    Thirdly, I think that this post addresses contributions to rape culture that most people wouldn’t expect is really insightful. For example, you talk about treating pornography no differently from industrial pollution because of the effect it has on innocent third parties…but would you ever go out and venture that the church’s teachings on modesty should be treated the same way? The problem is many people don’t see anything problematic about the church teachings.

    re 2

    John Mansfield,

    But the outlaws don’t exist in a vacuum either. It’s not like there is a set minute proportion of the population destined to be an outlaw and unreachable (or at least, if there is, this is a subset of the larger set of people who commit crimes). So, this logic of effectiveness really is illusory (or, put in another way…if it indeed is easier to talk with victims, but a more lasting solution would be the more difficult task of changing social/environmental conditions…why take the easy way just because it’s easy?)

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  4. hawkgrrrl on August 30, 2011 at 8:18 AM

    John Mansfield – I think your comment misses two points: 1) one’s own body isn’t a “valuable” or a possession. Is it right to teach people that their body is property that can be stolen or that their body is essentially something that must be hidden or it will be taken by force? It’s not as simple as the robbery analogy because the violation is so much more personal. Men are not taught that their bodies endanger them; and 2) it’s a fallacious argument as illustrated by the hundreds of rape victims who wore the clothes in which they were raped to the march; they were not scantily clad or provocatively dressed when they wer raped. They were not flaunting anything. That’s the point of the protest, to say that victims were not protected by their dress, and being raped usually has nothing to do with the victim’s actions.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  5. hawkgrrrl on August 30, 2011 at 8:22 AM

    Tom O., FWIW, I agree that pornography is part of the current cultural problem. I likewise feel that encouraging promiscuity is not beneficial to feminism and equality and that misogynistic terms like slut are irredeemable.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  6. John Mansfield on August 30, 2011 at 8:46 AM

    Andrew, Winnipeg tired of being North America’s joyriding capital, so it implemented an intensive system of monitoring and counseling young car thieves, which seems to have done some good. At the same time, though, all Winnipeg vehicles in a “Most-at-Risk” category were required to have immobilizers installed, so it is hard to say whose behaviour modification, owners or thieves, made the biggest difference.

    http://www.mpi.mb.ca/english/autotheft/autotheft.html
    http://www.winnipegsun.com/news/winnipeg/2010/07/20/14775066.html

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  7. Andrew S on August 30, 2011 at 8:55 AM

    re 6:

    John,

    but why do you call them car thieves in the first place? What makes them car thieves? (I suspect the answer is: because they have stolen a car…in which case, my response is…what is being done to disincentivize stealing cars in the first place…other than by operating on the cars?)

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  8. Ray on August 30, 2011 at 9:15 AM

    This is such a difficult issue specifically because it’s so complex. There truly are reasonable, logical stances that can taken which are somewhat contradictory.

    For example, there is a HUGE difference between “accountability” and “responsibility” – but the more nuanced aspects of “responsibility” (those that deal with the “shoulds” and “should nots” rather than “blame” often get ignored, leaving the two terms as synonymous for too many people.

    We don’t live in isolation; we live in societies. That alone complicates this issue FAR beyond a simple, “We should be able to do whatever we want.” No, we shouldn’t – but establishing the best lines between personal freedom and communal responsibility is extremely difficlut – especially if we are looking for consensus.

    I use the “explorer vs. settler” analogy in a lot of discussions, and it fits at a fundamental level much of this topic. Some people are much more comfortable than others with risk and exploration and individuality. They are the “explorers”. Others are much more focused on safety and security and unity. They are the “settlers”. I’ll leave that open for now, but simply say that I think there is an element of that fundamental difference at play in these debates.

    Finally, I am wary of ANY position that merely reflects the opposite extreme of the position it attacks. Yes, absolutely, women should not be blamed for being raped – as if it always is the fault of the woman for revving up the men and “causing” the attack. However, absolutely, women should not be absolved of all responsibility (for being “responsible” in the way they act) – as if nothing they do can contribute to rape and a rape culture.

    There is a lot of area between a man raping a woman in a burkha and a woman dancing naked in a bar full of drunk men – and until we can openly and honestly talk about where a proper COMMUNAL line is between the two extremes, we’ll continue to spin our wheels and reflexively blame rather than solve.

    Fwiw, I like the Church’s general understanding of modesty (with some detail concerns), but I really don’t like the way we tend to make the women and girls responsible for the men’s and boys’ thoughts. Women CAN become “walking pornography” – but it takes MUCH more to do that for any reasonable guy than we tend to tell them, and the primary responsibility for women becoming “walking pornography” lies with the man who turns something non-pornographic into pornography. That really has to change, imo.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 6

  9. Ray on August 30, 2011 at 10:07 AM

    “That really needs to change” was meant to refer to the idea that women bear the primary responsibility for the way men think – just to make sure it is clear.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  10. Bro. Jones on August 30, 2011 at 10:20 AM

    #1 As the OP at least implied, rape culture also exists in extremely conservative societies like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where women are forbidden to be immodest and access to pornography is somewhat difficult (compared to the West). So it’s not just an issue of pornography in the greater culture.

    That’s not to say that pornography isn’t part of the problem, just pointing out that extreme emphasis on modesty isn’t the solution.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  11. Bro. Jones on August 30, 2011 at 10:25 AM

    On a side note, just once I’d like a (male) LDS leader to say, “You know what? Young women are pretty much just beautiful no matter what. Even if you wear modest Sunday dresses, pantyhose, and Mary Janes every day–you’re not any less sexy to a young man in a hormonal haze. His problem, not yours.”

    As I often told my first (LDS) girlfriend, “I can’t speak for every guy, but I think you’re sexy even if you’re modest.”

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 8

  12. jmb275 on August 30, 2011 at 10:31 AM

    In Ann Arbor, MI we have recently had a series of rapes and sexual assaults. The perpetrator has yet to be caught. Just about every week we get an email about what women can do to help stay safe. Don’t walk alone at night, don’t listen to your iPod while walking alone, etc. I feel like they’re done in very good taste with a focus on preventative measures that do not involve a woman’s sexuality at all. So I think it can be done properly.

    I absolutely agree with Hawk. I also can see Ray’s points in #8. I think the issue is that we have to draw lines somewhere, and Hawk points out we’ve drawn the lines in the wrong places – and I agree. I draw the line at aggression and violence. Hence, no justification can be given for initiating violence and aggression in the form of rape. If women walked around naked and drunk it would not justify rape. That is not to say that women’s dress and actions don’t have an effect on men, but it means that that is not where we draw the line, not where we place our focus.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  13. Daniel on August 30, 2011 at 10:37 AM

    jmb275:

    If women walked around naked and drunk it would not justify rape. That is not to say that women’s dress and actions don’t have an effect on men, but it means that that is not where we draw the line, not where we place our focus.

    In reading over and thinking about Ray’s comment I had the same reaction… even if a woman gets drunk and decides to dance naked for all to see, that doesn’t make her responsible for the rape. The responsibility for the rape rests solely on the perpetrator. Even if the woman made overtures to draw the gaze of a certain man, who took them to mean a certain thing, then invited him home with her… even while naked the whole time. If/when she says no the responsibility rests solely on the perpetrator.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but at no point can that man say that the woman is even partially responsible for the rape – “she was dancing naked… what does she think I’m going to do to her?” It’s lunacy to suggest that a woman is partially responsible for that despicable act.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  14. Jeff Spector on August 30, 2011 at 10:56 AM

    Men/boys need to be taught that violence against anyone is wrong especially the violent act of rape (women or men, for that matter). And societies which permit and condone such action should be called to task.

    And while I appreciate the point that a woman cannot provoke a rape no matter what she does. Women or all types, sizes, age and dress are raped, so provocative clothing is not really at issue, but it does stand to reason that precautions should be taken at a number of levels.

    One can also make the case that a person crossing the street in the middle of a street wearing black on a dark night does not deserve to be run over and killed by a car.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  15. Starfoxy on August 30, 2011 at 11:01 AM

    Re 2:Victims of crime and potential victims are easier to communicate with and motivate than outlaws,
    I would quibble with this, especially in regards to rape and other types of sexual assault. There have been an assortment of surveys that indicate many men have committed acts that are legally rape, but would never classify their actions as such.
    I personally know a young (lds) man who was charged with sexual assault, and I have no doubt he is guilty of it. I also firmly believe he -at the time- really didn’t know that it was wrong. We just sort of take it as a given that men just know what constitutes rape, or coercion, and there is a lot of evidence to indicate this isn’t the case. I think shifting the discussion from what women must do to avoid rape towards giving men plain direct instructions on what rape *is* then a large number of assaults would simply never happen. I’m very certain the young man that I know wouldn’t have participated if someone had sat him down a few years prior and said “[xyz] is rape. Don’t do that.”

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 6

  16. topher on August 30, 2011 at 11:19 AM

    I also think that much of this issue lies in a misconception of why rapists rape. I think many people assume rape is about sex, but this is not the case. Rape is usually about dominance and power over the woman.

    Also, only a small number of rapes are comminted by a stranger. The vast majority of women are raped by people they know, spouses, boyfriends, friends, co-workers etc…
    Just a few thoughts…

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 6

  17. Anonymous on August 30, 2011 at 12:12 PM

    Re: 15. I’m very certain the young man that I know wouldn’t have participated if someone had sat him down a few years prior and said “[xyz] is rape. Don’t do that.”

    The explicit defining of sexual terms is a touchy subject, but an important one. We do tend to fling certain words around when it comes to sex and chastity that I’m not at all convinced people really understand. I’m reminded of the Mormon Story with Tresa Edmunds where she told the story of teaching a Young Women’s class on modesty and one young woman not understanding what “masturbation” was. Same goes for “petting” and “necking.” These words appear in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlets, but honestly where else have you ever heard them? I still don’t know what they mean exactly.

    And when there’s no clear definitions of any of these words or concepts, then the demarcations can get fuzzy, and things may occur that wouldn’t otherwise.

    The thing is, who’s supposed to do the teaching? The Church?? Are we supposed to have an Priest’s Quorum lesson on What is Rape? There’s the concern that if we describe an act in detail, then that puts new ideas into a person’s mind that they wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. I’d guess parents should be doing the teaching. But what happens if the parents themselves don’t know, because they themselves were never taught? Surely then, school sex education will do it. Only that’s not quite right, either, and many LDS parents take their kids out of sex ed anyways.

    Ugh.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  18. Andrew S. on August 30, 2011 at 12:25 PM

    re 17,

    (p.s., I guess this comment should have a trigger warning.)

    Petting/necking and confusions about terms like that comes from the fact that the pamphlets are woefully outdated. No one says those things anymore.

    …Of course, I’d probably burst out laughing if I saw “dry humping” or “sexting” in a For the Strength of Youth pamphlet.

    I think Starfoxy’s comment does bring up a lot of good points, for example. I mean, I don’t know so much about the idea that if you describe an action in detail, then people will get ideas to do it…but I have seen studies where people ask guys, “Is *insert description of action that is rape without using the word* OK?” and guys are like, “Oh yeah, that’s fine.” People have a very narrow view of terms like “rape,” “coercion,” etc.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  19. Henry on August 30, 2011 at 12:30 PM

    You bear responsibility with every action. If I dance near a cliff despite repeated warnings and I fall off, it’s my fault. If a woman is warned about being a stripper at a certain club and she goes anyway, she bears some responsibility if something happens.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 2

  20. Jon on August 30, 2011 at 12:30 PM

    Men/boys need to be taught that violence against anyone is wrong especially the violent act of rape (women or men, for that matter). And societies which permit and condone such action should be called to task.

    Yes, people shouldn’t have double standards and should renounce all forms of violence. To say no violence on the one hand and them commit atrocities on the other that the government condones is a double standard. The society as a whole justifies all sorts of violence and rape is just he tip of the iceberg. When society starts accepting more of a uniform and principled view of the world will be the time when people will see all sorts of violence as wrong.

    Please ignore this post if you don’t like this post broadened to the basic principle.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  21. Ray on August 30, 2011 at 12:58 PM

    #11 – Bro. Jones, A-freaking-men!! Avoiding rape, ultimately, is a matter of changing those who might commit rape – not those who are raped.

    In that light, I tried very hard in my previous comment to draw a distinction between common definitions of “responsibility” (“it’s your fault”) and acting in a responsible manner (being aware of things and acting accordingly). In using the example of a woman dancing naked in a bar full of drunk men, I do NOT “blame” the woman if she is raped. Rape in that situation is the fault of the man. I mean that sincerely. However, I think it is naive and irresponsible to avoid telling women that they shouldn’t dance naked in a bar full of drunk men – that rape is a real possibility in that type of situation and that they ought to avoid such situations. (Likewise, knowing how many rapes happen on first or second dates, I think it is iresponsible for women to drink enough on those dates to risk having impaired judgment.)

    Again, living in a society makes these issues much more complex than focusing solely on an individual rights issue or saying, “I should be able to do whatever the Hell I want without fear of being raped.” We can talk all we want about what “should” be, but we can’t ignore the reality of what actually is. We just need to try to reflect reality and not distort it or the ideal we are teaching. It’s important that we not teach and preach a fantasy, even as we hope and pray that it is not a fantasy in the future as a result of our efforts.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  22. Andrew S. on August 30, 2011 at 1:30 PM

    Along with the other pieces of advice to give to women, we shouldn’t forget to warn them that they definitely should avoid doing the irresponsible thing of being a woman…after all, ceteris paribus, it just increases their risk.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 9

  23. jmb275 on August 30, 2011 at 1:51 PM

    Re Ray #21-
    I think your clarifying comment here is very good. Responsibility for the rape lies solely with the perpetrator. But certainly no one would argue that there aren’t preventative measures that can be taken to reduce the odds of getting raped. For me, and the point I was trying to make, is that I think our focus is wrong as Hawk points out. When lessons include language that even give a nod to the idea that women in some way may be responsible (not just taking precautions) I think we’re missing the mark. Now perhaps we could argue that the lessons don’t really do that. I think subtly they very much do, particularly in light of the otherwise patriarchal sexual repression we systemically inflict on females (not just in the church but in society at large).

    Re Daniel-

    Maybe I’m wrong, but at no point can that man say that the woman is even partially responsible for the rape – “she was dancing naked… what does she think I’m going to do to her?” It’s lunacy to suggest that a woman is partially responsible for that despicable act.

    I think you’re absolutely right.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  24. Starfoxy on August 30, 2011 at 2:01 PM

    However, I think it is naive and irresponsible to avoid telling women that they shouldn’t dance naked in a bar full of drunk men – that rape is a real possibility in that type of situation and that they ought to avoid such situations.

    You know, Ray, I could get behind that- if it actually meant that women who followed such guidelines were less likely to be raped. I don’t think it is at all clear that this is the case.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  25. Starfoxy on August 30, 2011 at 2:08 PM

    Furthermore, if such guidelines actually did work I would wager that it is because the rapists themselves are familiar with said guidelines. They know that if they pick off, say, the drunk girl, then they’re far more likely to get away with it. Creating a list of ‘common sense’ behaviors smart women follow to avoid being raped can be almost the same thing as telling rapists which women they are allowed to rape with impunity.
    Such guidelines seem less about preventing rapes and more about ensuring that victims are credible.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  26. aerin on August 30, 2011 at 2:25 PM

    I think discussion of rape in priesthood is a good idea. What about rape within marriage? I can’t imagine that conversation occurring but I think it is an important one. Can rape occur within marriage? Yes, it can. Being married does not equal consent.

    Another point, being in the dorm room or room of someone of the opposite sex does not mean consent to sex. It’s a bit different than working as a stripper, but still many people from a certain generation think that merely being alone or in a room alone is consent. This is not true.

    I like the Oberlin model, where people were asked before kissing. There were a ton of jokes about it, but really, it does address some of these issues.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  27. Ray on August 30, 2011 at 3:36 PM

    #22 – Andrew, if that comment was pointed at mine, all I can say is, “Where have I EVER implied anything like that?” It’s better than the first thought that came to mind, frankly. (If it wasn’t pointed at me, ignore the above.)

    #23 – I agree about our manuals – and I said so.

    #24 – “Creating a list of ‘common sense’ behaviors smart women follow to avoid being raped can be almost the same thing as telling rapists which women they are allowed to rape with impunity.”

    ????????????? I guess we just will have to agree to disagree on that one. If we can profile rapists and how they choose their victims (which I’m sure we can do, generally speaking, but I have no idea what that profile would be – hence my use of the example that came to mind, which might be way off base), I have no idea why sharing that profile would be akin to giving them permission. I honestly don’t get it, so I would appreciate some more detail as to why you see it that way.

    “Such guidelines seem less about preventing rapes and more about ensuring that victims are credible.”

    and that’s a bad thing, in and of itself? If a rape happens, it’s not a good thing to have a credible victim? (PLEASE, don’t read anything into that question except the question itself.) Again, I just can’t how that’s a bad thing, in and of itself.

    #26 – I think a serious discussion of rape has to include spousal rape.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  28. hawkgrrrl on August 30, 2011 at 5:07 PM

    Going to the example of a woman dancing naked in a bar, I think teaching chastity covers that without addressing modesty. There’s a line somewhere in there where you have to ask – why is the woman doing this? What message would help the woman make better choices for herself – not to avoid violence from men, but to promote her own self-worth? To me, giving her the sense of control and that women are valued for their minds and not just their girl parts (whether for sex or baby making) is a start. Frankly, it’s a slippery slope between justifying male lust and elevating maternity; in both cases, the woman’s body is elevated above the woman herself (who becomes secondary in value).

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  29. Andrew S on August 30, 2011 at 5:43 PM

    re 27,

    Ray,

    To my best knowledge, you didn’t imply it at all. I just wanted to add that as an addendum, because that’s the reality. We can talk all we want about what “should” be, but we can’t ignore the reality of what actually is. We just need to try to reflect reality and not distort it or the ideal we are teaching. It’s important that we not teach and preach a fantasy, even as we hope and pray that it is not a fantasy in the future as a result of our efforts.

    But I’ll be more explicit so you don’t think I’m being flippant: I believe the focus on women’s actions is a red herring, because it’s not women’s actions that are getting them sexually assaulted. You can have a woman who is *doing* everything right, but because she *is* a woman and not a man, she will have a considerably higher risk of being assaulted. So, to the extent that people say, “I should be able to do whatever I want,” it’s not because they are living in a fantasy world or because they necessarily actually want to do (insert whatever thing)…but rather that they are pointing out that our emphasis on actions and behaviors is causing us to go off the mark and believe that it was those actions and behaviors that explain so much.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 7

  30. hawkgrrrl on August 30, 2011 at 7:56 PM

    Sorry I want to mention again on the church’s Chastity section of the GP manual. I was actually quite impressed with it. I really didn’t see anything that wasn’t on point. The contrast to the Modesty section couldn’t have been more jarring. The Chastity section was not about women being responsible for men either in implication or explicitly. It was very much presented as a spiritual principle for the benefit of the person who follows it. That’s what was absent from the Modesty section – any spiritual rationale.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  31. Ray on August 30, 2011 at 8:02 PM

    #29 – I agree with everything in that comment, Andrew – and my only frustration in conversations like this is the tendency to preach extremes and belittle attempts to discuss more moderate attempts to find a practical, workable compromise as a possible solution.

    I’m not saying you did that – but I am saying it’s an approach I read and hear over and over and over again.

    Oh, and fwiw, not that it will surprise anyone here, I really loathe the term “slutwalk” – for the same reasons articulated by some of the women quoted in the OP.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  32. Andrew S on August 30, 2011 at 9:48 PM

    re 31,

    Ray,

    I can see what you’re saying, but sometimes I also feel as if “compromise” is an evil. Instead, I’d rather push the Overton Window on a lot of these things.

    As far as the term “slutwalk” though…I completely agree. I think it’s pretty counterproductive (although it certainly is polarizing…)

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  33. Bro. Jones on August 30, 2011 at 10:40 PM

    Ray #21: Agreed. It’s a tough line to walk without assigning blame, but I do feel like it’s worthwhile to educate women about risk avoidance in the same lesson that teaches men not to rape.

    As for slutwalks, I told a friend: “As a man it’s surely not my right to assault you for dressing in a ‘slutty’ way, but I’d submit that it’s my right to ogle you if you’re dressing for attention, and/or draw conclusions about your character and taste, depending on how self-righteous I’m feeling at that moment.”

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  34. Stan Beale on August 31, 2011 at 2:33 AM

    Over the years I have found most Mormon treatments of Sexuality and Rape to be horribly lacking. Let me point out two.

    1. It is estimated that only about one in ten rapes is ever reported. Some of the key reasons focus on fear of reaction of husbands or boyfriends; shame/guilt feelings plus fear of treatment at and after a trial by defense, media and friends. Do the attitudes and history of beliefs of the Church make it much harder for a Mormon woman to report a rape? I( would argue yes.

    2. A number of years ago at the high school where I tought, we instituted a short class in rape prevention for girls and rape awareness for boys. It was amazing the number of Church parents who refused to let their kids attend. The sad thing is that I have never heard of such education for our youth in Young Men and Young Women. I hope that is only my own lack of knowledge, but I fear it isn’t.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  35. hawkgrrrl on August 31, 2011 at 3:17 AM

    Stan – this is a good point. We had a self-defense class in YW when I was a YW, learning basic ways to essentially gouge an attacker in the ‘nards with your car keys. I can assure you it was well attended, and I have often used the techniques when I’ve felt unsafe in a dark place with public access.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  36. SilverRain on August 31, 2011 at 7:18 AM

    I don’t even think many women know what constitutes rape, which surely adds into the low reporting. For example, if a woman is manipulated or pressured into “consent,” when she has already said no, is that rape?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  37. SilverRain on August 31, 2011 at 7:21 AM

    Is it rape if she consents, then changes her mind part way through?

    Is it rape if she has frequently had sex with the person before, but doesn’t really want it that time?

    Is it rape if she consents to sex, but not specific actions when having sex?

    Etc. . . .

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  38. Ryan on August 31, 2011 at 6:10 PM

    I personally agree with Rod Liddle’s analogy. The reality is that leaving your windows open means you’re more likely to be burgled. It doesn’t mean you’re deserving, or lessen the burglar’s guilt. But it is absurd to pretend leaving your windows open doesn’t make it more likely. Acknowledging that reality doesn’t constitute blaming the victim. It is common sense.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  39. Andrew S on August 31, 2011 at 10:32 PM

    The feminist retort to Rod Liddle’s analogy is still nevertheless true. Maybe I’m a broken record, but I find it really important to keep on iterating this.

    I think Starfoxy really said it well in comments 24 and 25. It would be nicer for our own personal images of the world if we could just rationalize that people who get burgled (or more people than otherwise) just had their windows open. Or, in another way, it would be nicer for our own personal worldviews if we could say that people who have open windows are more likely to be burgled.

    What’s absurd is that people break into closed windows. What’s absurd is that people who want to get into homes do not seek for open windows; if they want to get in, they will go for closed windows, chimneys, etc., They will do so and turn “common sense” on its head.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  40. Ryan on September 1, 2011 at 2:06 AM

    Andrew S,

    You’re right that sometimes people break into closed windows. But that doesn’t mean that they look for closed windows. That really doesn’t make sense. In fact the college in my town had a rapist who would specifically look for open windows and avoid women’s rooms where the window was closed and locked. The police put out several warnings to residents in the area to lock their windows. By doing so were the police “blaming” people who had left their windows unlocked? Of course not. They are simply recognizing the fact that an unlocked window makes it more likely that the rapist would enter that person’s home and attack them. Just because a locked window won’t stop all burglars or rapists doesn’t mean it won’t stop some.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  41. hawkgrrrl on September 1, 2011 at 2:58 AM

    Ryan – The analogy doesn’t serve. Non-burglars don’t rob houses, and burglars aren’t stopped by closed windows. So-calls “sluts” are not disproportionately victims of rape. You might as well tell women: “Your best chances of not getting raped are to not have a vagina.” That at least has the benefit of being statistically true.

    Since women who dress modestly are just as likely to be raped, telling women not to dress like sluts is adding insult to injury to all the modestly dressed rape and incest victims.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  42. hawkgrrrl on September 1, 2011 at 3:05 AM

    I hate to say it, but maybe this boils down to men identifying more with male rapists than with female rape victims. If you’ve never raped nor been raped, perhaps you are more likely to imagine yourself in the more stereotypical gender position. If you are a man you try to understand why a man might rape, and you mistakenly equate that with normal sexual behavior. But this is not how rapists think. Rape is about overpowering and dominating another person, not about normal sexual thoughts. Is overpowering and dominating an unwilling person normal male sexual behavior? I certainly don’t think it is.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  43. Andrew S on September 1, 2011 at 7:36 AM

    re 41,

    Hawk, I completely agree. I think that one thing that’s really interesting from the SlutWalk project (although I can’t imagine how traumatic…) is how many of the participants wear what they were wearing when they were assaulted…or as the first sign says, “I was wearing pants and a sweater…is it my fault?”

    Because I think it’s easy for people to just use “common sense” and say, “Well, sure, some people were not doing (insert anything I can rationalize as risky using “common sense” reasoning), but surely, most were not.”

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  44. John Mansfield on September 1, 2011 at 7:53 AM

    Andrew, since this conversation is still going, I think there is a lot to be said for the point you and Starfoxy have been making. Social acceptance of all sorts of things—declaring bankruptcy, smoking tobacco, beating children—can vary enormously between nations or decades. Changing such acceptance in directions we want is where the bulk of effort should be applied. My “logic of effectiveness” of modifying vulnerability of potential victims is incomplete and where too much effort goes.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  45. Ray on September 1, 2011 at 9:58 AM

    I agree totally with Hawk and Andrew that rape is in no way normal sexual behavior and that rapists aren’t thinking like non-rapist, hormonally-driven, normal people. Having said that, I also agree that there are enough rapists who do look for concrete ways to decrease their likelihood of being caught that teaching women to close and lock their windows is a good thing.

    All we have to do is look at the details of Elizabeth Smart’s kidnapping to understand that part of the reason she was able to kidnapped was the fact that one of the house windows was unlocked. Maybe he would have continued to stalk her and find another way to kidnap her – but maybe he would have locked onto someone else or just given up when he realized he couldn’t get into her house. Maybe knowing they regularly kept a window unlocked was the key that triggered his determination to kidnap her.

    I don’t know – but the “maybe” is worth the encouragement to lock a window, imo.

    The same can be said of theft.

    There are LOTS of things the two of you (and Starfoxy) have said here with which I agree completely – but equating things like telling women to lock their windows with giving rapists permission to rape (and even defining whom they should target) just seems like the other side of the same extremist coin to me.

    What’s the best way to teach people to avoid being raped? I don’t know, but teaching them how to disable an attacker is my initial response. That won’t always work, but it’s the first thing I would do. Everything else is secondary to being able to defend yourself as well as possible. (Having said that, I have read of people who target strong women, since that heightens their feeling of power and domination, so is teaching women to defned themselves encouraging rapists to attack them? My answer is, “Of course not.”)

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  46. Ryan on September 1, 2011 at 10:22 AM

    hawkgrrl,

    >>The analogy doesn’t serve. Non-burglars don’t rob houses, and burglars aren’t stopped by closed windows.<<

    I'm not sure what you mean by non-burglars don't rob houses. Non-rapists don't rape. I'm not sure where you're going with that. But the second part "burglars aren't stopped by closed windows," is demonstrably false. Take the case of Richard Chase, a serial killer in California in the late 70's. He would simply walk up to homes and try to door to see if it was locked. In fact, the articles about him on Wikipedia and about.com both confirm that Chase was deterred from entering homes if the door was locked and that at least one woman avoided an attack simply by locking her door: "Chase continued to search for unlocked doors of homes to enter. He believed a locked door was a sign that he was not wanted, however an unlocked door was an invitation to enter." Whether we want to admit it or not, to some an unlocked door is an invitation to enter, just as dressing a certain way sends a certain message. It may not be right, but ignoring the reality seems unnecessarily dangerous.

    Does this mean Chase's victims in any way deserved what they got? No. Does it in any way lessen his guilt for his crimes? No. But, by taking a practical approach and acknowledging the reality, instead of abdicating all responsibility, at least one person was able to prevent an attack and possibly murder by simply locking her door.

    Also, you said "…women who dress modestly are just as likely to be raped…" I don't know whether that is statistically true or not, but either way, I think it is misleading and not concretely verifiable.

    Ultimately, I think common sense should win out over the desire to avoid victim-blaming. Wouldn't the best policy be to do everything possible to avoid becoming a victim? If there's no victim then there's no need to worry about victim blaming.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  47. Ray on September 1, 2011 at 10:40 AM

    Btw, I see locking a window or a door as an aspect of self-defense with regard to ANY possible action.

    “If there’s no victim then there’s no need to worry about victim blaming.”

    Ryan, the very idea that we can eliminate victims by having potential victims (which is everyone, really) change the way they behave does contribute to victim blame in a very real way. That’s VERY different than talking about reasonable aspects of self-defense and attempted prevention.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  48. Starfoxy on September 1, 2011 at 11:31 AM

    Re 27“Such guidelines seem less about preventing rapes and more about ensuring that victims are credible.”

    and that’s a bad thing, in and of itself? If a rape happens, it’s not a good thing to have a credible victim? (PLEASE, don’t read anything into that question except the question itself.) Again, I just can’t how that’s a bad thing, in and of itself.
    I phrased that somewhat poorly. Yes a victim is more credible when she was, say, sober (and that can be a great thing, like you said). But it seems like doing everything absolutely perfectly (completely 100% risk free behaviors at all times in her life) is the bare minimum required for a victim to be credible enough to even proceed with a trial. Let alone obtain a conviction. The ‘common sense’ advice is so pervasive that every one thinks unless you were following every guideline at every moment of your life then you weren’t really interested in avoiding rape; therefore it wasn’t rape, just sex you regret.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  49. Ryan on September 1, 2011 at 11:45 AM

    Ray,

    >>the very idea that we can eliminate victims by having potential victims (which is everyone, really) change the way they behave does contribute to victim blame in a very real way. That’s VERY different than talking about reasonable aspects of self-defense and attempted prevention.<<

    I agree that we're all potential victims. That's why I lock my doors and windows. And of course we can't eliminate all victims, and I didn't mean to suggest that. But I'm not sure I see your point. I am a potential victim and I recognize that. It's an uncomfortable reality I live with every day, but I recognize it and I have changed my behavior to avoid becoming an actual victim. They way I do that is to employ reasonable aspects of self-defense and attempted prevention. So, I guess I don't see the difference between the two. If my home was robbed despite my locked doors and windows, I wouldn't blame myself because I had taken reasonable precautions to avoid something and even though it still happened, I had done what I could to prevent it. If, on the other hand, I accidentally left my front door unlocked and my home was burglarized, I would blame myself for leaving the door unlocked – not for the burglary, but for my failure to take reasonable precautions to prevent the burglary. I guess I don't see that as victim blaming at all.

    My point was that with Chase's potential victim who took reasonable precautions and avoided becoming an actual victim, there was no need to even address victim blaming because there was no victim. That doesn't mean all rapes or other crimes can be prevented because they can't. But why not prevent the ones that can be prevented?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  50. James on September 1, 2011 at 11:56 AM

    In response to the various perspectives advocating the position that how women present themselves can be viewed as one preventative measure among others I’d like to present a quick scenario (one that takes a different angle to the question than the point that rape can occur regardless of “modesty).

    A man decides to go to a strip club. He sits for a while and watches the performance of a woman who takes off her clothes, dances seductively, and in general sells the sexuality of her body as a commodity. The man becomes increasingly aroused during the woman’s performance, decides to follow her and then rapes her in the parking lot.

    So let me ask the question: should the woman’s profession/performance serve as a mitigating circumstance when the man is brought up in court on rape charges? Should a judge/jury reduce the rape charge to aggravated assault because the woman provoked a sexual response in her male viewers?

    I would say no, not at all. The woman’s actions do not change the fact that she was raped. That do not make the act less heinous, nor do they make the actions of the perpetrator more understandable. What the woman was selling on stage was sexuality and sexual response, but not sexual intercourse. Even if a woman walks around dressed provocatively, expressing sexuality is not the same as consent, and neither is it even and indication that sexual intercourse is on the table. The stripper is is likely trying to just get tips and make money in general. The provocatively dressed woman may be trying to attract a man using the way she presents herself as a lure. The point is, though, that in neither case is there anything amounting to a direct invitation to sexual intercourse. Creating desire is not the same as inviting sex. Modern advertising makes it perfectly clear that sexuality can be used as a means to an end and that end is rarely sexual intercourse.

    So, if the woman’s presentation of her body is not a mitigating factor in rape cases, if sexuality is used for purposes other than sexual intercourse, then we should not even talk about “modesty” as a relevant factor to rape prevention.

    Eliciting sexual desire does not lead to rape. Sexual desire isn’t even always used for the purposes of sexual intercourse. Therefore, the conclusion that women dressing provocatively is a factor in their rape is false and should not be seen as a component of prevention.

    I can appreciate Ray’s desire to find some middle ground, but in the case of drawing a causative or facilitative correlation between the presentation of the body and rape, the connection simply isn’t there.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  51. John C. on September 1, 2011 at 12:25 PM

    “baby farms”? Really?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  52. Ryan on September 1, 2011 at 12:36 PM

    James,

    You present an interesting analogy. You’re right that the woman’s profession does not justify the fact that she was raped. But, does it make it more likely? Yes. Clearly, in your example, the man’s decision to rape the woman was based on and brought about by the fact that he was increasingly aroused by the woman’s behavior, and arousal was the response the behavior was intended to produce. So, while the woman’s profession didn’t justify rape, it made it more likely. Does the woman have the right to engage in that type of behavior? Absolutely (assuming it’s legal). By engaging in the behavior is it more likely she will become a victim. Yes. Again, it shouldn’t be that way. But I think it’s very harmful to ignore reality just because we don’t live in a perfect world.

    In sum, I think Rod Liddle’s analogy fits this issue perfectly. If you want to leave your window open, you can do so, but you assume the risk of that action. As for me and my house, we will close our windows when we nip to the shop for some fags.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  53. James on September 1, 2011 at 1:52 PM

    “So, while the woman’s profession didn’t justify rape, it made it more likely.”

    That statement leads me to believe that I failed in articulating my position. Let me try again.

    If eliciting of sexual response in males makes rape more likely, then we have to focus on what causes sexual response in males, which would then force us to take Andrew’s somewhat facetious comment as a completely serious. What is it that causes heterosexual males to become aroused? Females. That means the problem is women: get rid of women and we can dramatically reduce the number of women raped to almost zero.

    If sexual arousal is not dependent on provocative body presentation, but on the female body itself, then it is false to conclude that behaviors that increase sexual response as a factor since a sexual response will exist regardless of body presentation. If clothing makes it more likely for a woman to be raped, so do seductively crooked smiles and sidelong glance, a pretty face, make up, a smile, a flirtatious disposition, any physical contact, or even just walking. All those behaviors can elicit a heightened sexual response (just like provocative clothing), which means if we conclude that certain clothes increase the likelihood of a woman being raped, we also have to tell women they better be careful when engaging in the risky behavior of smiling, or walking, or even having an attractive face at all.

    Just having a female body will cause sexual arousal in males, and there are a myriad number of ways women (whether intentional or not) can increase the intensity of that sexual response. So are we going to draw an arbitrary line somewhere and indicate that certain behaviors intensify sexual response but are not facilitations of rape, but other behaviors cross the line and do facilitate rape? That seems pretty strange to me when we could simplify the process and simply say that while the female body can elicit sexual arousal in a myriad of ways, the man is the only one who bares responsibility for interpreting that sexual response (universal in heterosexual males) as some form of invitation to sexual intercourse. Men are the only ones who can be accountable for how the decide to act on their sexual response.

    Dressing like a “slut” does nothing to increase the likelihood of rape, unless you are also willing to agree that a smile can do the same (both are behavior which can potentially intensify sexual response). I’d like to see an argument for how we should present a case to women encouraging them to smile less so as do diminish the likelihood of a rape occurring.

    (And while we might think that clothing is different than smiling, I don’t think that is a provable distinction. I’d be happy to be proven wrong, but I don’t think I will be.)

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  54. James on September 1, 2011 at 2:11 PM

    So whether a woman is dancing naked or simply smiling (either of which could potentially create an intense experience of male arousal), neither scenario can be said to increase the likelihood of a rape occurring because then we’re saying that in order for women to really do all they can to prevent rape, they must stop doing anything that can cause intense arousal, in other words, we are saying that women must stop having female bodies if they want to prevent rape.

    If we want to really talk about rape prevention, we’ll focus on things like not being alone and not going somewhere with a group of people you don’t know and the like, not on posing arguments which, if followed down their given trajectory, lead us to say that the existence of women are the reason women are raped.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  55. Ray on September 1, 2011 at 2:45 PM

    I think one of my frustrations is that people often talk about rape as if ALL rapes occur for the same reasons. They don’t.

    Just as a quick example, there are many instances where rape happens as a result of loss of control / inhibitions with people who, under “normal” conditions, would not carry out the thoughts that occur in their minds but do so when their normal action filter is impaired. There are many other instances of habitual / predatory rape, where people go out looking for an opportunity to rape someone. There are ways to lessen the likelihood of being in the first situation; there are ways to lessen the likelihood of being a victim of the second type of rapist. Nothing, however, shifts the fundamental blame for rape.

    We need to acknowledge the nuances to have constructive discussions about possible solutions, imo – and it’s frustrating when it just turns into “it’s always the woman’s fault” or “no woman has any reason to modify er behavior in any way in order to try to minimize the likelihood of being raped”. It’s frustrating for two reasons: 1) neither extreme is correct, imo; 2) neither extreme includes the cases where women rape men – or men rape men – or women rape women.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  56. James on September 1, 2011 at 3:59 PM

    I would completely agree that a woman can do things to diminish the likelihood of being raped. Where I would disagree, is that one of those things is feminine sexuality manifest bodily.

    If there weren’t things that could help reduce situations that could lead to rape, there would be no relevance to a discussion of rape prevention. So yes, walking alone, irresponsible drinking, hitchhiking, not locking one’s doors all are things that can be avoided and which someone can do which will diminish (though not eliminate) the possibility of a rape.

    To reiterate: I agree completely that there are things women can do to reduce the possibility of getting into situations that could lead to a rape, but how a woman presents her body (clothes, makeup, gestures, walking, smiling, etc) is not one of those things.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  57. Ray on September 1, 2011 at 4:32 PM

    “Where I would disagree, is that one of those things is feminine sexuality manifest bodily.”

    James, fwiw, I’ve never said that is the case. I don’t see dancing naked at a bar as “feminine sexuality manifest bodily” – just as I don’t see rape as primarily about sex. Dancing naked in front of a group isn’t “sexuality”, imo. It’s exhibitionism and a form of physical stimulation, but that isn’t the same as sexuality – any more than masturbation is sexuality or rape is sexuality.

    If you notice, nothing in any of my comments has dealt with how a woman dresses – except to say explicitly that women aren’t primarily responsible for the thoughts men have about them no matter how they are dressed. Men are. I know, because I just went back and read all my comments in this thread to make sure. Nothing in them even implies dress as a cause of rape. It’s easy to make assumptions, but that message just isn’t in my comments.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  58. James on September 1, 2011 at 5:44 PM

    Ray, you’re right that you never specifically discussed dress (that was a more general response to the thread which seems to have in mind dress standards in discussing the Liddle argument). You did, however, say “There is a lot of area between a man raping a woman in a burkha and a woman dancing naked in a bar full of drunk men” which clearly situates your thinking in terms of clothing as having an impact on rape outcomes. That comment infers that there is some correlation between rape and how one presents one’s body, and I think I’ve demonstrated the tenuous and futile nature of that supposed connection.

    What’s more interesting to me though is your comment on sexuality. I’d be interested in understanding how you define sexuality because it seems you’re saying that “physical stimulation” can only count as a manifestation of sexuality when you have two consenting adults in a committed relationship. I think your going to have a hard time selling that definition though. I agree that not all manifestations of sexuality are also manifestations of intimacy, but I don’t think the argument works that masturbation is a non-sexual act, or that exhibitionism isn’t a form of sexuality.

    A funny couple of examples comes to mind:
    If your definition were to be put in place a lot of missionaries out there would have an easy way to relieve some stress and mission presidents would have a way to encourage the missionaries do something “fun” on p-days when those missionaries can’t come up with ideas on their own, because if masturbating is a non-sexual act, then how could it be breaking temple covenants and the law of chastity in particular (no *sexual* relationships outside the bonds of marriage)? After all, those missionaries would only be stimulating themselves (much like stimulating their tongues with a bowl of ice-cream) and wouldn’t be engaging in any sort of sexual behaviors. This formulation would also help out horny couples getting ready for marriage because as long as they don’t touch each other, naked dancing and self-stimulation on opposite sides of the room don’t count as sexual sin (something can’t be sexual sin if it’s not sexual, after all). And since simply opening one’s eyes or sniffing an aroma is an act of stimulating certain organs, no act of stimulation of body parts can be considered a sin because those organs are just responding to stimuli. I sure wish I had known about this definition earlier because single life as well as those days being engaged would have been a lot more fun!

    Anyway, one serious last comment: just because something is arguable a perversion or misuse of sexuality does not mean that it is non-sexual. Rape may not be primarily about sex, but there is definitely a sexual component.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  59. hawkgrrrl on September 1, 2011 at 9:06 PM

    James – I’m not sure where the masturbation example is coming from. I said rape is not a sexual act; I should have said that it is not primarily a sexual act. But I also think that there are 2 extreme types of rape being discussed:
    1 – dead hooker type rape (the exotic dancer example). Hookers are vulnerable for many reasons. They go into secluded places alone with any man who pays them, and their credibility is low because of the promiscuity inherent in their trade. It’s irrelevant to talk about them arousing lust in rapists. Rapists can find hookers pretty easily.
    2 – girl next door rape. This really really varies depending on perpetrator and circumstance. Some rapes are because a person randomly encounters a rapist and is alone or the rapist can get her alone to commit the crime. Some rapes are date rape scenarios where the real issue is lack of consent. Some rapes are incest.

    That’s the US and most women-friendly countries, but in oppressive societies, instances of rape are much higher because they are condoned and reinforced by society and men who’ve been disempowered through corrupt systems. In South Africa, for example, a recent study shows that 25% of men have committed rape. Half of those have done so multiple times. According to one accused rapist, there is a Zulu law that if a woman “is aroused” in a man’s presence, the man is legally obligated to have sex with her. That was one rapist’s defense, a high ranking government official who raped a woman who was “provocatively dressed.” Clearly it’s open season on women in such countries. This is the slippery slope we are on when we start thinking that provocative dress is an invitation to rape.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  60. James on September 1, 2011 at 10:04 PM

    “I’m not sure where the masturbation example is coming from.”

    I think you must have skipped comment #57, which was what I was responding to.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  61. Ray on September 1, 2011 at 10:30 PM

    “it seems you’re saying that “physical stimulation” can only count as a manifestation of sexuality when you have two consenting adults in a committed relationship.”

    I can’t sell that definition, because I don’t believe it and will never teach it. I honestly have no idea how you got that definition from what I wrote.

    In the context of a woman (or man) dancing naked in a bar, I think the best definition of “seuxality” is “the state or quality of being sexual” – and I just don’t think dancing in a bar is primarily sexual, just as rape is not primarily sexual. Both manifest physically in sexual actions, but the overall acts of dancing naked in a bar and raping someone don’t seem to be about sex. They appear to me to be primarily focused on physical stimulation and physical domination alone (NOT actually being about sex). Of course, there are exceptions, where the dancing and rape actually are about sex itself, but I don’t think most cases are. (If it makes more sense to substitute “being about sex” for “being sexual”, go ahead. I’ll admit a bad word choice in that case.)

    I think I have made it clear that dress has nothing to do with most rapes. I avoided that discussion intentionally and tried to focus on the other conversations. My comment about the huge area between a burkha and nudity was to highlight that fact – that BOTH a woman who has every inch of skin covered and nothing covered can be raped, but that there also is a lot of area between those extremes.

    However, to address dress directly, there are so many instances where those who are seen as sluts (partly because of how they dress, like the prostitutes in Hawk’s comment), are targeted for rape because of that perception that I can’t say there is absolutely no correlation between one’s appearance and one’s chance of being raped – even if it largely might be because most serial rapists are sane enough to pick on those they believe will be less believable and more likely to be blamed and/or silent. However, there also are rapists who target those who appear to them to be virgins (again, based often on the way they dress), so I’m not just saying it’s “looking like a slut” that contributes. I certainly am not an expert, but what I’ve read leads me to believe the most common targets based on dress appear to be the extremes, interestingly enough. If that is incorrect, I won’t be surprised, but it’s my best guess right now.

    I then said that “until we can openly and honestly talk about where a proper COMMUNAL line is between the two extremes, we’ll continue to spin our wheels and reflexively blame rather than solve.” That involves admitting appearance does play a role in some rapes (not a large percentage and not in acquaintance rape – which is the largest category, but not a tiny number, either), and that it’s important to recognize, admit, discuss and analyze it. It’s only when that discussion can occur (even if not consensus can be reached), imo, that we can move away from the extremes.

    Fwiw, if I were forced to pick a side and support an extreme, it would be the one that allows people to dance naked anywhere they want. Let the rest of us take responsibility for and deal with our own reactions.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  62. Ray on September 1, 2011 at 10:33 PM

    One more thing, James:

    It’s interesting that you assume my own definition of sexual sin matches perfectly the examples you used as “funny” when I never hinted about how I view those things.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  63. Ray on September 1, 2011 at 10:39 PM

    Actually, I did hint a bit. I should have said, “when my hints don’t match what you appear to assume my belief is.”

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  64. James on September 1, 2011 at 11:46 PM

    Ray, you’re definitely right that I’m making assumptions on what your beliefs are, and those assumptions are based on how I interpreted what you were saying, which interpretations I am quite open to finding out are wrong.

    “I honestly have no idea how you got that definition from what I wrote.”

    Good point. I was sort of scratching my head at your comments, and then started giggling to myself as I tried to think about the implications of what I saw as your interpretations. Where I got it from was from the idea that masturbation and stripping are not sexual (your words: “Dancing naked in front of a group isn’t “sexuality”, imo. It’s exhibitionism and a form of physical stimulation, but that isn’t the same as sexuality – any more than masturbation is sexuality or rape is sexuality.”). Notice that you back off of that strong statement in your subsequent comment by saying those things are not “primarily sexual.” There is a difference between saying something isn’t connected to sexuality and that something is not primarily connected to sexuality.

    But let me get more to the point. When you made the claim that neither seductive nudity nor masturbation were connected to sexuality, you lost me. Masturbation is a sex act. I cannot understand how a sex act can be non-sexual. Also, a seductive strip dance only functions because of sexuality and the sexual response elicited. Just because a woman and her viewers are commodifying her sexuality doesn’t mean that what she is doing is no longer expressly connected to sexuality.

    And maybe I wasn’t clear before, and I apologize, but I think some wires got crossed (most likely by what I thought of as a tangential reference to you at the end of my initial post) in these back and forths. In my preliminary comments I was not engaging you directly on the topic of dress and its purported relation to rape, but rather the general topic and others in the thread.

    Maybe I misread you, but if you characterize masturbation and seductive nudity as nonsexual than what I saw as “funny” examples would follow. No? I have no idea what you believe about missionaries or the nature of sexual sin, but my point was that if the claim is made that masturbation, for instance, is not sexual, then what possible grounds would there be to discourage it?

    And I’m sure your right that dress may have been a factor for many rapists as they notice whatever mode of dress snags their attention (and I mean anything along the false continuum of Madonna/whore), but my point is that dress is a useless and offensive factor of consideration in rape prevention. That’s all. I’m not saying there aren’t times that dress doesn’t play a role, but because the bodily presentation is so diverse, it is wrong to characterize provocative dress as increasing the possibility of rape any more than any other manifestation of the sexual nature of the body would.

    And back to the topic of rape: It is not uncommon to hear the claim that rape is not about sex, and such a claim is partially correct, but it needs qualification. What that position is claiming is that rape is not just something that happens when some average guy gets intensely aroused. Agreed. Rape is not just a spillover of intense arousal. The other part of that claim is that rape is primarily about power and dominance. Again, I agree, but with a caveat: while it is about domination, for that person domination and coercion are arousing. The rapist derives sexual pleasure from an act that is socially and morally abhorrent, but that does not mean that for the rapist the act of domination is not for him a very sexual act. Not a mentally healthy sexuality, but a sexuality nonetheless (just as many other fetishistic forms of sexual expression are morally abhorrent such as arousal at the sight of feces, or dead people, or fire, or etc etc).

    So sure, naked dancing, masturbation, or even rape are not manifestations of a normative sexuality, but even if they are arguably deviant, that does not mean they are not explicitly sexual.

    I understand (or at least think I do) that your trying to point out that rape as a phenomenon is more complex than we often assume. I would agree. I would also agree that analyzing factors such as appearance in the context of a rape culture can be beneficial, but for me that benefit would largely be statistical and as a tool to analyze culture at large and not as a way to turn to women and indicate that the unavoidable fact that human bodies are sexual and that men are often visually aroused mean that women should present themselves in such-and-such a way in order to reduce the likelihood of rape. Bodily manifestations of sexuality (whether it be concealing or exaggerating), meaning something like dress, is fine as a factor of rape discussion (just as any detail could be discussed with sociological relevance), but I worry that those discussions too often move towards blaming or seeing, in particular, provocative dress as a facilitator of rape.

    And one last comment: I apologize if my “funny” examples were offensive to you, Ray, or if they bugged you in some way. I realize now how they could have been perceived as mocking or insulting and that wasn’t my intention, but in trying to understand what you were saying about sexuality (which I still am not quite clear on), I think I overlooked the potential that comment had to rub you (or others) the wrong way. I’m not backing off my claim that I think your discussion of sexuality as it connects to masturbation or whatever is half-baked, but I should have been clearer that what I was getting at was that further clarification is needed for your claim to work, rather than saying that the claim is patently false, which is what I think I may have conveyed in my sloppiness.

    Anyway, sorry for fomenting all this poor communication. Hopefully we can get to a point where we don’t feel like we’re talking past each other or being jerks or whatnot.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  65. Ray on September 2, 2011 at 7:19 AM

    Thanks for the clarification, James. I think we disagree less than you think, but sometimes I get focused on minute detail and end up clouding the big picture. I also don’t hold a lot of absolutes, so I’m all over the place on various topics, so it’s hard sometimes to guess accurately about how I view one thing based on how I view something else – even something related. It drives some people nuts, but it’s just the way I am. Sorry about the confusion, but I’m dealing in some ways with such fine detail that it’s better to back away and stick with the big picture where we seem to agree in the end.

    “if the claim is made that masturbation, for instance, is not sexual, then what possible grounds would there be to discourage it?”

    There certainly aren’t any solid scriptural grounds, since the one OT passage that is used to do so is misinterpreted to do so – and with that I will back away and leave you scratching your head. :D

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  66. Ray on September 2, 2011 at 7:21 AM

    Oh, and just to make it clear, I wasn’t offended by your funny examples. I just thought it was interesting that you assumed they would be funny examples to me.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  67. Ray on September 2, 2011 at 7:27 AM

    *sigh* one more thing I forgot to add, James, just to see where it might go in a discussion:

    Telling all women that they are potential targets of rape just because they were born as women is the same as telling all men they are potential rapists because they are born with the capability of assault with a deadly weapon. Yes, both are true, but I’m not sure either is right to teach or useful in any way.

    However, if one is going to be taught, the other ought to be taught, as well.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  68. realnotreal on September 2, 2011 at 12:10 PM

    Coming in late on this discussion. As one woman who was assaulted, I have a slightly different perspective.

    I have read some comments that align, to a degree, with I am going to say.

    Who cares who is responsible or what I wore or did not wear. It is a non-issue. The trauma is one of personal violation. Period! Next, is it possible to put the pieces of my life back together in a way that will allow me peace and perspective about the event. Whether I knew who was responsible had very little impact. It did not change the results.

    I am fully aware that this will not resonate with many of you. That is why all comments are so important and need to be respected. This is a forum from which we have the opportunity to learn much without having to experience all.

    I appreciate the dialogue.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  69. realnotreal on September 2, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    I left out an important part of what I wanted to say.

    We live in a world where it is vitally important for us to learn the skills that will protect us as best we can. We are all subject to some sort of attack, regardless of gender. If we are parents, we need to learn the skills and then teach them to our children, age appropriate of course. We do not want our children to walk around in constant fear and worry. Discussion and preparation increase confidence. Many studies have shown that predators can spot and will attack those who appear as victims. They will pass over those who walk and act with confidence and assurance. Of course this is not always the case, but it is the trend.

    I hope I have not offended any with these comments. We all know of exceptions to what I have said.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  70. Ray on September 2, 2011 at 1:57 PM

    #68 & #69 – Thanks for that input. It is critical to hear from those who have personal experience, and I appreciate you being willing to share.

    Amen about the defense focus.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  71. J.K. on September 6, 2011 at 2:19 PM

    I just stumbled on this and wanted to say– lots of good commentary, but James, I kind of adore you. You did such a nice job of articulating so many things I believe to be true.

    For me, a woman should be able to express her sexuality as she pleases without fear. A woman dressing sexily isn’t always doing it for men or the reaction of men. Sometimes it is for women, sometimes it is for herself. Sometimes it is just a style, sometimes it is about confidence. And even when the reaction of men is a part of the dress- well, again, so what? So you see a girl in a sexy outfit? Think, “that’s hot” and move on, don’t think “she must want sex,” because that is not necessarily true (and if she did want sex, consensual sex, so what? That doesn’t make her a slut, either).

    I don’t dress “sexily” very often, but I wish we lived in a world where women could dress in a way that felt best to them, without worrying “will this put me in danger.”

    Frankly, I wish discussions about male and female bodies were different in general, and that our culture would be more accepting of the human body for what it is, sometimes sexual, but not always. If we are more comfortable with bodies, with ourselves, with the idea of bodies in non-sexual contexts as well, then I think we’d all have a much healthier reaction to sexuality and appearance.

    Side note that I doubt anyone on this forum will agree with, but…. personally, I don’t see a problem with pornography, in theory. I see a problem with pornography that is mostly created by the rape culture, a porn-culture that is dominated by images of men overpowering women, and debasing them. If porn showed the great diversity of human sexual experience better, if more porn was created by and for women, if the standards for what will be shown and the treatment of porn actors improved, I think there is plenty of room for porn to be healthy human expression. But where it gives people unrealistic expectations and fills minds with only images of sex as a way of overpowering and debasing women– that is one of the great dangers of porn, I think. But erotic images and videos in an of themselves are not evil, I think.

    I don’t think human sexuality and expression are against God’s wishes, as long as it happenings in a non-damaging way, and is consensual.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  72. The Myth of Modesty | uiwomenscenter on March 17, 2013 at 3:12 PM

    [...] combat this negativity, women have taken to the streets in protest in what they self proclaim as “Slutwalks” in places such as Toronto, demanding respect and protection as victims of sexual violence and [...]

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

Leave a Reply

Subscribe without commenting

Archives

%d bloggers like this: