Originally posted on School of Doubt — you can read The Atheist Academic columns on Saturday mornings, usually.
Back in college, I was a volunteer rape crisis counselor. I had months of training, and I was on call for a few days a month. Basically, if a person (almost always a woman) was sexually assaulted and went to the hospital, I went with her. If that person needed a legal advocate, I would go to court with her. Sometimes I would just talk on the phone with someone, letting them talk through their feelings. Once or twice, I arranged self-defense courses for people who needed to feel like they had more control of their lives.
This was ten years ago, and I remember being horrified at the culture in college where it was OKAY to rape someone. Think about that, for a minute. That it was fine for a guy to grab a girl and throw her down in the ground and put his penis in her. That it was unfortunate, but no huge deal, to take advantage of a drunk girl. I remember telling my grandpa – who I loved dearly – about what I was doing. He said, “Well, those college girls with their short skirts, they ask for it.”
People really think that way.
So, a lot has changed in the past ten years. I’m not around a college campus, so I don’t see weekly examples of sexual assault. But I DO write for a kick-ass website that’s part of a series of websites which empower women, and we send each other articles that may spark a discussion. And that’s how, just this past week, I came across two different articles which prove to me that rape culture is alive and well in our world.
First of all, there’s some serious shit going down in Canada. (<— I never thought I’d get to use that line!!!) There is a campaign from the Vancouver Police Department which urges men to not rape, and there are posters up around the city that have slogans such as, “Just because you help her home… doesn’t mean that you get to help yourself — Don’t be THAT guy” and “Just because she isn’t saying no… doesn’t mean that she’s saying yes”. They’re done really well, as you can see in this article. However, a group, Mens Rights Edmonton, has launched a counter-campaign, with phrases such as, “Just because you regret a one-night stand doesn’t make it consensual — Don’t be THAT girl”. Has my grandfather come back from the grave?
The whole situation is annoying. What is the point of these posters? Is it to promote victim-blaming? Is it to give more loopholes to the already tenuous trail of evidence to convict in rape cases? And, really, how many women actually LIE about being raped just because they regret the sex?
If you REALLY want to be mad, check out the comments section. People are assholes.
The other article I read that made me rethink my rose-colored glasses belief that everything is just fine in men/women relations was this brochure by the U.S. Air Force. The Air Force decided to tell women that if they were being raped, “it may be advisable to submit [rather] than resist”.
It also never instructs military personnel to NOT rape in the first place.
Again, what are people thinking? I don’t believe that there are many people who would actually say, “It’s okay to rape” or “Women should just let men have that they want.” HOWEVER. Our culture, in little ways, teaches boys that there are situations in which they are in charge, and that it’s okay to let their bodies take over.
Luckily, there is something that we, as educators, can do to minimize sexual assault. I would love to see more awareness in schools about how to NOT be a perpetrator of sexual assault and how to minimize the risk of being a victim. Secondary schools tend to ignore the fact that their students are having sex, which means that students aren’t getting direct instruction on how to have safe sex and why NO means NO. Young women — and men, for that matter — aren’t told about dating violence, and when to leave a relationship and ask for help. And why is that? I believe that it’s because we have too many religious protesters who apparently would rather see young people’s lives ruined by bad choices than see their innocent little 16-year old hear the word “sex”.
So, what do we do? Let’s teach the kids! Teach them that they can use their minds and not their hormones. Teach them that they should keep an eye on friends in group situations. Teach them that there’s no shame in saying “no”. Teach them that a short skirt doesn’t mean an invitation. Isn’t that the teachers’ jobs? Isn’t this just as important as the “Just Say No” drugs campaign? It’s time to teach real-life skills — and what a better place to start than with our bodies?
What do your schools do about teaching sex education? If you’re a parent, what do you think about that? If you’re a teacher, what is your view? How much does religion play a part in what is actually taught? And what can schools do better?