Asking for it: Another Excuse For Rape Culture

*Trigger Warning*
349683be31bb0eb61bb4798034fd4c13Well, really, what did she expect? She should have known better than to have photographs taken in the first place.  She was asking for trouble the moment the door was closed and she started taking of her clothes. Anyone with half a brain would have been able to know what would have happened next. Everybody always says that everything will be kept a secret and nobody else will see, but seriously. Only an idiot or someone who is far too comfortable being naked in front of strangers would fall for that, right?

Isn’t this was everyone thinks when a woman tells them she just went in for a consultation with a cosmetic surgeon? Surely this is the first thing that goes through someone’s mind when she excitedly tells about possibly having something “done”, how the procedure will take place, the recovery, and of course the vital “before” pictures to compare with the “after”. I have had these conversations with girlfriends and nobody has ever condemned anyone over photographs. Not even when one friend’s surgeon had his computer network security compromised and patient information, including photographs, were stolen. We consoled her, hugged her, and assured her that everything would work out okay. And for the most part it has.

When a recent news story broke regarding celebrities having their personal nude photographs leaked online (one news story can be found here on the Chicago Tribune) my Facebook was flooding with wagging fingers, “Don’t these girls [yes, girls] know better than to take nude pictures of themselves in the first place?!” another one, “I’ve got some advice to keep your pictures from being stolen: Don’t take them!” My favorite?  “If you’re going to take nudes than you’re asking for them to be stolen.”

Ah, yes. There it is. She’s asking for it. Of course she is.

Of course a woman would be asking for a stranger to walk into her private space, go through her personal belongings with the sole purpose of finding something to violate her in the most intimate of ways, and than use that viciously humiliate her in public.  Wouldn’t all women want that?  And is it not true that the most violating and demeaning way for a woman to be preyed upon is her body and sexuality? After all, a woman’s sexuality might as well be the final frontier of the modern age when it comes to breaking down barriers and putting a woman firmly in her place.

If a woman is too successful in her job than she must have slept her way to the top.  If a waitress earns more tips it’s because she flirts with the men at the table. If a woman earns a promotion it’s because she slept with the boss. Short skirts and low-top blouses will earn discounts and perks, right? There couldn’t possibly be any other reason for a woman to have any kind of financial, educational, social, or other advantage over a man unless it is tied to her body and sexuality.  If she has sex than she is a whore, if she doesn’t have sex she is a prude or cold fish. If she drinks than of course she is a lush but if she doesn’t than she might as well be a teetotaler.

Women have no expectation to privacy, then. When they are asking for invasion than all doors are open for perusal, judgment and scorn.  We are buffets for public censure, that is after all who feel like it have gotten off from whatever it is they’re into. If you’re a woman in Texas, you are no longer legally protected if someone secretly takes an up-skirt photograph without your knowledge. Of course, women should know better than to wear skirts anyway, right? Why on earth should women be wearing skirts when someone could just walk along and photograph their undersides? Obviously they are asking for that to happen. If only women wore pants all the time than men and other perverts wouldn’t succumb to their baser instincts. In Massachusetts, for that matter, Peeping Toms can peep to their hearts’ desire as long as women are at least partially clothed. And really, women are asking to be watched while they dress if they have windows in their homes anyway.

I was scolded heavily yesterday for saying my comparison of the celebrity nude leak and rape culture/victim blaming.  Ironically, the person (a man, obviously) said that it was insulting to rape victims because it cheapens the impact of the crime. Since I don’t wear my rape survivor status like a merit badge, he didn’t realize how foolish he sounded by implying I was insulting myself.

This is the pernicious nature of rape culture.  An excellent definition of rape culture can be found Transforming a Rape Culture by Emille Buchwald, Martha Roth and Pamela R. Fletcher:

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.

It condones emotional terrorism against women, which would include a constant threat of releasing private and sexual images of the women themselves. It doesn’t matter if these women took these photographs for their own purposes or in exchanges with partners as sexting. They are consenting adults and they have not broken any crimes.  That bears repeating.  These women have not broken any crimes.  The hackers who not only hacked the images and then projected them onto the internet, however, did break the law. Why is it, then, that the women are who carry the brunt of the shame?  Ironically, a hacker who worked with Anonymous in the Steubenville rape case is facing 10 years in prison whereas the rapists themselves were only sentenced to one-two years.

Because they are women, that’s why. And they are women who were expressing their sexuality. And why shouldn’t they? Are they not as entitled to their sexuality as the men who expect them to be sexy?

Oh, but what about choices and consequences? this man berated me with. It’s not victim shaming if he is merely pointing out that some choices carry heavier consequences, especially if the choices are risky ones.

And isn’t that true, for example, if a person were to drink and drive.  If a person were to imbibe, a definite choice to be sure, and then to drive, it can not be denied this is a risky choice that carries with it an even heavier consequence. However, a person who drinks doesn’t generally set about with the purpose to drink with an expectation of privacy and an expectation that her drinking will be kept private on her own private property and then drive.

Taking nude photographs, then, is more or less a low risk one. Or should be. They are taken on a personal device, saved on a personal device, and shared with personally selected individuals. The only consequences would be those forced upon you.

This is primarily the problem and why rape culture is pervasive. The victim shaming and threats become so natural that such “common sense” wisdom seems so reasonable. Only it isn’t. Finger wagging does not remedy the startling fact that 61% of rapes go unreported.  Clearly, there is something going wrong in our communities when the first response is “They should have known better” and not “Who would do something like that to these women?”

“Rape culture is people objecting to the detritus of the rape culture being called oversensitive, rather than people who perpetuate the rape culture being regarded as not sensitive enough.”Rape culture is the myriad ways in which rape is tacitly and overtly abetted and encouraged having saturated every corner of our culture so thoroughly that people can’t easily wrap their heads around what the rape culture actually is.” (Melissa McEwan, Rape Culture 101)


When people, like this man, say they “don’t care to be painted with the same broad brush” and patronizingly offer that I am “entitled to [my opinion]” while adamantly telling me all the ways that I am wrong, rape culture continues to entrench itself. And whether he wants to be painted with it or not, he holds the brush.


C. Streetlights
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Published by C. Streetlights

I wrote and illustrated my first bestseller, "The Lovely Unicorn" in the second grade and I've been terrified of success ever since. Published by ShadowTeamsNYC and represented by Lisa Hagen Books