I have to admit, first and foremost, that I don’t know much about the whole Anita Sarkeesian issue. I’m not following up on AAA titles and all the discussions these days. What annoys me, however, is the way people wage war about how it’s not different whether or not a man or a woman is threatened with rape online. Let me tell you why there is an actual difference.
I don’t doubt, after several blog posts and other articles I read online while the debate was still raging hottest, that men who are outspoken online face death threats and rape threats as well. It’s a definite prove the internet still has some growing up to do - the users have, at any rate. So why should it be more terrible when it happens to a woman?
If you are a man, looking at this comic might help to give you a bit of insight into a woman’s world. Or, rather, into the dark side of a woman’s world. But here’s the true reason why it is different: men don’t really have to fear the rape threats, women do.
Don’t believe me? Well, outside jail, a man past his teens doesn’t have to fear being raped. The number of rapes happening to adult males (as I said, outside jail) is extremely small. It’s more likely for a man to be hit by lightning than to be raped, once he’s adult and not in jail. So Mr. Dawkins and other people who get threatened online regularly can sleep safely and leave their homes whenever they wish.
So, what is different for a woman? A woman is always in danger of being raped, from the cradle to the grave (and I do not kid you about one of those, really). Statistically, one out of five women (that’s 20%) in a developed first-world country will be sexually violated at least once in her life. In some so-called third-world countries, the rate is far higher - remember all those mass-rape cases in India recently? Rape is not a joke to us. Rape is not something we can just brush off. Rape is real and always raising its ugly head.
Of course, we know most people who make any kind of threat online would never follow through with it in real life. It’s much easier to write ‘I’m going to kill you’ than to actually do it. So, no, not every guy who ever threatened a woman on Twitter or Facebook with rape will really pull through with that, should he ever personally meet that woman in question.
Our problem, then? Well, not every guy will, but some might. And we can’t see which of the guys who threatened us will actually pull through, given the chance. It’s not as if a potential rapist has ‘rapist’ tattooed on his forehead or something. They might look nice, they might look friendly, they might look harmless.
And afterwards? The woman, having been raped, will have to face the flack. It’s true, rape is the only crime for which the victim usually gets blamed. People either say ‘she’s lying’ or ‘it’s her fault, because she dressed slutty.’
Yes, there are women who report a false rape, for whatever reason. But then, there’s thousands of people filing in false damage or burglary reports with their insurance companies each year. Does that mean you immediately scream ‘insurance cheater’ when someone tells you their home has been broken into? Or they’ve been in a car accident?
Victim blaming is possible in the case of rape, because most victims are women. That might sound like a typical unfair feminist claim. It’s not. Women still aren’t equal to men in every aspect. They usually still are lower on the hierarchy and have less power and influence. Sexual harassment and rape are not about sex, you see, they’re about power. Exercising power over someone. Hence the jail thing above, in jail, rape isn’t about sex, either, but about exercising power over someone else.
Let’s be honest, a man who just needs sexual relief doesn’t go out and rape a woman. He’ll visit a prostitute, pick up a woman for a one-night stand (and in this case, the woman wants it, too, so there’s nothing wrong about it), or just, you know, take care of it by hand.
And in most cases, the offender in a rape case is no stranger with a raincoat and a wide-brimmed hat. It’s a family member, a friend, a colleague, or a superior. It’s not about what the woman does or doesn’t wear, either. There’ve been rapes during the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, while women were forced to wear those one-man tents. Tell me how a woman in a shapeless, black (or blue) bag with a little meshing for seeing through can dress ‘too sexy,’ will you?
For a man, that might all sound crazy, untrue, or just scaring. For a woman, all of the above is a truth she has to live with, every day of her life, from being born to dying. So, the next time you see a rape threat online, tell the guy who has made it off for it. The next time you hear someone crack a rape joke, tell them it’s not funny. If a woman does, she’s just being sensitive or a feminist. Perhaps it has more impact, if it comes from a fellow guy.
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