As noted earlier, there's a rally in Manhattan today to protest the acquittal of the two NYPD police officers who were accused of rape. While I'm sure the rape apologists are out in full force—again, I have never seen a rape case so cut and dry that tons of folks won't defend in all the years I've been writing about this issue, and that's not because they weren't cut and dry—the ugly reality is that there was a ton of solid evidence to corrobrate the victim's testimony (and yes, women's eyewitness testimony is still considered evidence, even in rape cases, which many people seem to forget). There's the video footage that indicates the cops kept going back to her place, and only an idiot would think that they would have any other purpose but rape. There's the rape kit that showed that she'd been penetrated in the position she recalls being raped in. There's the taped admission from the cop that he used a condom (which explains the lack of DNA evidence). And there's the fact that the jurors feel so guilty about letting rapists off, but, by their own admission, they just can't really see the victim as a victim because she was drunk. A telling quote:
“She was drunk. I don’t believe she would have gotten into this situation if she wasn’t . . . She was blasted. She was a mess.”
So the question now is, what are we protesting? What needs to change so that raping women is considered legal if the victim behaves in an unladylike fashion?
This is where things get really depressing, because there's no quick fix. There's no authority to appeal to on this anymore. In many ways, feminists have done a really great job of getting authorities to take rape seriously. Not that there's not more to do, but we should take a moment to be grateful that the police pursued this case, the city prosecuted it, and even that the jurors tried to make excuses for their loathsome willingness to let a couple of cops off for raping someone because they thought the victim brought it on herself. These are, historically speaking, huge steps forward. The NYPD immediately fired the cops as soon as the trial was over. I'm sure there were areas where the authorities could have done more. Prosecutors especially are often too timid about addressing head on the prejudice against victims of rape. But at the end of the day, the ultimate responsibility for this injustice lies with the jury who just couldn't bring themselves to believe that even if a woman does something stupid like drinks too much, she should not be punished with rape.
Seriously, a hangover is enough, assholes.
This case demonstrates that, above all other things, what needs to happen to stop rape is a change in our culture's attitudes about sex and women. Getting it through people's thick skulls that no one deserves to be raped is a start. But the toxic attitudes that allow people to excuse rapists go much deeper than that.
At its core, the rape culture is built around the belief that women do not deserve to have a subjective sexuality. Sex is constructed as something women have and men have to extract from them. And women who "give it up" are seen as weak idiots and sluts. It's been said before but it's worth saying again, this time from David at Man Boobz:
We grow up, after all, in a society that treats sexuality as a commodity that women possess, and that men try to “get” from women – by charming them into “giving it up,” by buying it directly or indirectly (by going to a prostitute or paying for dinner), or simply taking by force.
This has to end. This attitude makes it all about the victim and how she didn't adequately protect "the goods", instead of about the rapist, who uses sex as a weapon to violently assault people. If someone gets too drunk and they pass out, and a gang of dudes decides that they're going to use that person as a pinata to see who can land the biggest punch, would we say to the drunk person, "Well, you should have known that's what dudes do." I would hope not. I would hope you'd be so horrified that anyone would think that beating the shit out of someone for shits and giggles was a fucked up thing to do.
Well, that's what rape is. It's a violent assault that uses sex as a weapon instead of fisticuffs. But the general gist is the same. But we get all confused, because we as a culture don't think of sex as something that men and women do together for fun, but as something men extract from women. If we were clearer on this, why rape isn't sex wouldn't be so damn hard to understand. And we wouldn't tolerate rapists wandering amongst us, free to rape.
This is cultural change. It works one argument at a time, one clear-headed presentation, one Slutwalk, one rock song, one blog post, on explanation of why you or your friend or loved one did not deserve to get raped. This is a long-haul battle. But it's one we must fight.