Combating Rape in Our Generation
TW: Discussion of Sexual Assault
I just want to make a disclaimer that in this article I am addressing heterosexual dynamics, for ease of phrasing, but this can be applied to any and all genders.
In this, I am talking about peer-rape. That is, at parties; between young adults dating; hook-ups etc. This is a category of rape that is more likely- to put it crudely- a ‘lapse in judgment’ on the perpetrator’s part, than inherently malevolent and malicious.
Statistics show that 1 in every 5 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. This figure is shocking. However, it is by no means reaching. If anything, it is understated. Almost every single girl I know has endured at least one traumatic, non-consensual sexual encounter. Now, every boy I know that I have spoken to about these issues normally gets defensive; exclaiming vehemently “you know” they would never do that, “I’m always” very respectful. So this math doesn’t quite add up. Because as uncomfortable as it is may be to say, if most girls have experienced it, then most boys have doubtlessly been a part of that experience.
So decidedly, we need to have some tough conversations. Namely, with boys. As girls, we can help society collectively understand what consent means, and what may be considered a traumatic encounter. Realities are partial and each is their own, so the ‘he said’, ‘she said’ of ineffective court trials is largely insufficient in these circumstances.
We need to educate boys on what this trauma can be like, how it can manifest itself- how it can lie dormant in your subconscious- how it can assert itself firmly at the forefront of your mind. Maybe if they can empathise and understand the extent, it could help them to be more conscientious of their actions.
We don’t want to attack boys for this, we want them to work with us. Consensual sex is a thing between two people and requires dual engagement, so combatting issues of rape should appropriately be a dual engagement. We know that many instances of rape can blur lines of consent, and whilst intoxication legally inhibits a person from consenting to sexual intercourse, it is pretty normal for many of us to be drunk. Regardless of the legality surrounding sex, whether it was ‘rape’ or not, so much sex can be traumatising, and the best thing we can do is actively try to minimise this.
I think, at the very least, we need to teach openness. I understand that many guys might be clueless of the potential affect their interactions have had on a girl. It needs to be normalised to ask a hook-up the morning after a blurry night if we’re ok. Don’t ask if we enjoyed ourselves, let us tell you that unprovoked. Coercion is an insidious form of rape. If you bruised us, or got ‘carried away’ and crossed a line, say you’re sorry and mean it. And recognise your mistake. Being reflective on your behaviour could quite frankly, save a life. Healthy communication between individuals even after a traumatic event will help lessen its traumatic burden. The aftermath is often just as horrific as the event itself.
And really, be reflective. With guys generally holding the penetrative role in heterosexual intercourse, you have the responsibility to make sure a girl is into everything, and you’re both on the same page. Don’t try and be stealthy. Don’t assume anything. Self-gratifying sex needs to be eradicated if we’re going to try and combat this issue. Ladies, if we normalise being vocal about what we want, it will help guys to know before they cross a line. Preempting potential miscommunication between both parties is vital for safe, consensual sex. At present, there is too much focus on “damage control” in sexual misconduct, rather than stopping it at the source.
That brings me onto coherency. As mentioned earlier, everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes everyone gets too drunk and both individuals might do something they potentially have little to no memory of. That’s when we need to talk the next morning to make sure that both parties feel ok. But this should be rare. We should know better. If a girl can’t string a sentence together or stand upright, that indicates she cannot consent, even if she says she wants it or seems “up for it”. Don’t be greedy- don’t take something just because you’re offered it, think about the consequences of taking it. The fleeting potential of social or self-praise the ‘morning after’ is nothing in comparison to the months of trauma you may have saved her from by telling her no.
It is also important to consider the stigma of the word rape. It immediately sets opposition, often between sexes, and causes discomfort. We need to realise that rape isn’t always a violent or often even deliberate choice of the perpetrator. In the many instances where girls have felt sexually assaulted, guys may have had no idea that their actions were taken as such. If you think that a girl may feel uneasy around you, or upset, or her behaviour may have changed- don’t put it down to awkwardness. Don’t immediately get defensive in a ‘self-preservation’ kind of way, but gently ask her about it. Or at the very least, consider your actions and accept that she may well have been upset or traumatised by it. As painful as it is to say, the least good that can be done is if you learn from it.
I don’t want to demonise men, but I want them to openly accept a certain responsibility. Transferring the burden of our traumatic pasts will help lessen it, and hopefully stop the potential for traumatic futures. We have spent too long protecting the ‘majority’ of men from feeling denounced or attacked, when we need to treat the majority with what potential they all hold. Carrying a loaded gun without knowing how to use it is a calamity waiting to happen.
A big reason that many girls don’t report rape is that they believe their suffering too trivial to adversely affect the perpetrator’s lives- as well as the regrettable social alienation of pursuing a trial, which in any case often causes further trauma. I say this with trepidation, but often many boys who have engaged in non-consensual sex with a girl really aren’t inherently bad people. We do not always perceive you as such, and if you are attentive and open to education, we will not reproach you.
For the sake of society, we want to try and form greater cohesion. Openness between men and women when talking about consent is crucial to preventing rape, and helping to heal its victims. Unfortunately, I would be surprised if any cis boys have got this far, and if you identify as one, I thank you for reading and taking this article on. Discussing a topic where you may feel attacked can be tough, but just know that this is not an attack. I hope you can understand that these conversations are very necessary for our society.