I’m a feminist. I’m proud of it. This week, all over the United States, colleges will be performing The Vagina Monologues and A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, A Prayer and other V-Day benefits. These are important acts; and this week I’m going to blog about feminism, violence against women, and rape because outside of my ivory tower and safe classrooms where I feel protected: I don’t always say what I should.
*Trigger warning: The rest of this post is about well rape, and that may be upsetting so read at your own risk.
Number one thing I usually am to afraid to say: Rape jokes aren’t funny. So, this particular rape joke is pretty tame; in it John Mulaney talks about an experience in NYC where he was perceived as a threat late at night in a train station and a woman runs from him. He ends by equating rape as something Men do and he is not a Man. The equation that man = rapist is problematic for men AND women. However, the simple equation made light of in this joke is that all men are rapists, or that being a rapist is part of what it means to be a man. That being said, this is just the kind of rape joke I feel okay-ish about posting. In fact, most rape jokes aren’t about the simple fact that Men are Rapists (though Women certainly can Rape). Most rape jokes are about a rape that happened – and how it wasn’t rape (discounting a woman’s feelings because women are “crazy”) or how it she deserved it etc. I have yet to hear a rape joke like that told by someone who didn’t also feel entitled to women’s bodies. Women telling rape jokes aren’t much better because this creates an atmosphere that desensitizes the culture overall to rape. Rape jokes aren’t funny, because in the context they’re told, usually those telling them can’t admit that they might be a rapist. In A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, A Prayer, “Rescue” shows how rape affects Men as well as women – and how being a Man means confronting the ugly fact that Men are Rapists: and choosing not to be is a choice Men in this culture have to make.
As a Pagan, rape comes up often either as an unforgivable act or an acceptable one depending on the story and tradition. As a Hellenic Pagan, some gods rape. Even in Abrahamic traditions – rape is sometimes acceptable. Rape is a part of war. Men rape women for various righteous reasons. Rapes are sometimes avenged. My gods do not rape – my god is the liberator of women. To rape a Maenad is a horrible crime – Maenads are fierce and tear men who follow them into the woods to shreds. My god protects his women… but my god accepts there is a danger out there women need to be protected from. In the Judeo-Christian tradition Jesus plays a similar role. Jesus rescues women, protects them, and preaches compassion – not rape.
Sexuality is sacred in my tradition, and in many traditions. The sacred balance of male and female, the spark that creates life, the greatest divine experience. So if this is true, how can rape exist? How can Pagans (or Christians) rape? How could he hold me down and force himself in me against my will? Why didn’t he STOP when I said No? When I screamed…? Why did he think he was entitled to a blow job or a hand job simply because we went on a date? When we follow traditions that hold sexuality sacred, we become accountable for our sexual actions: we become aware of our sexuality. Sex should not be abused, or used as a form of power. We should strive then to create sacred space with sexuality and to uphold our end of the deal not be willing victims and rapists. In order to fully avoid this dynamic it’s necessary to face our roles, to really look at it, and to say “not me.”
Despite everything we say and do, we do not live on islands. Rape exists. We may be raped – we may be objectified, we may have an experience that is close. We do not have to be victims always just because we have had these experiences. We are not powerless. As friends we need to remind our friends that we are present with them, support them, help them heal from rape and other forms of violence. As those who have survived these awful experiences, we cannot allow the scars to rule our lives. We are not victims forever. We can take our power back from those we have to freely given it. Men, can make the choice NOT to rape, they are not powerless. As a woman, I have a right to change my mind – I CAN be “too tired” when you finally get around to it. As your wife, I don’t owe you sex – “marital rights” are those to which we have agreed and under no circumstance are you owed the pleasure of my body. My body is for me, and my pleasure: this has nothing to do with you.
“My Short Skirt” The Vagina Monologues
Our bodies, as men and women, are sacred vessels for our own worship and pleasure. It follows logically then, that it is important to take part in actions like V-Day, to make statements through art or other means, to promote positive sexuality and prevent rape and other violence against women. So, on this Valentines day, or any other day, take a moment to consider the ways you can prevent rape and violence against women occurring in systematic ways.