We live in a society that is quite content to victim blame. When it comes to crimes like rape and sexual assault, sexism at the behest of patriarchy ensures that these crimes are not taken seriously. Despite the liberated post womanist/feminist state that we claim to live in, women’s bodies are largely still considered to be belong to the bodies of men.
In some cases engaging in sex once is enough for many to assume permanent consent. Wearing clothing that can be interpreted as sexually revealing will also for many imply consent to sexual activity. Appearing in public intoxicated; thus reducing the ability to respond will mitigate the responsibility of the assailant in the minds of many. These ideas are not some relic of the pre 1970 understanding or sexual violence and women, they are in fact encoded into law in some states.
Oregon is now awaiting the signature of the Governor on HB 2343. Until this bill becomes law, if the victim is intoxicated, or otherwise incapacitated by choice, instead of being charged with rape in the first degree the assailant will be charged with sex abuse in the second degree.
No matter how many times victims state that rape is rape, if there is inequality factored into the law, justice can never be severed. While it is important to acknowledge that men are victims of rape as well, it is my belief that the reasons law like this still exist is largely due to sexism. The majority of rapes are committed against women and when this subject is discussed in the wider social sphere, it is largely understood to be a woman’s issue.
Rape apologism is part of social discourse. Just recently Seth Rogan made a film depicting rape and it was brushed off as a joke. The victim clearly was in no position to consent but because women can be punished for a failure to maintain strict codes of behaviour the rape was understood as appropriate. Unfortunately behaviour like this is far to common. When we laugh at rape scenes like that depicted in the Rogan film we are diminishing the trauma that rapes causes to the victim.
Until this law is passed it negates the idea that consent must be given enthusiastically. Coercing someone into sex or taking advantage of an incapacity is rape. If we are to honour the idea that each individual is entitled to bodily integrity, it must be understood by all that both parties must consent to each stage of sexual activity. It seems like such a simple concept and yet we routinely fail to honour it because to do so would endow women with control of their bodies.