Rape Culture Gaslights Us All. Call It What It Is.

There are some things that shouldn’t be controversial opinions. Like this:

Hi. This is pretty straightforward. CW for sexual assault. (Adding lines here for the CW) If it isn't enthusiastic affirmative consent, IT IS RAPE. Period. Dot. End of story. She says "Not tonight," so you decide to wake her with sex? RAPE. She's medicated, drunk, or otherwise zonked? RAPE. She says no but you "wear her down"? RAPE. She doesn't want to, but you're dating/ engaged/ married? RAPE. And yes, if you just "grab em by the pussy" and go for it? RAPE.

Hell, not only should it not be controversial, it should be universally applauded.

And yet, after I posted that, barely any of the reactions were from cis men. (Two, or 14%, as of the time I’m writing this, about eight hours after posting it.)

Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaybe it was because of Facebook doing its stupid "algorithms", but I can’t be sure.

But what’s more insane? That there are female apologists for rapey behavior.

Every single example up there is a real person I could name. Specific incidents that I’ve happened to learn about. And for every example up there, there was a woman who tried to make excuses for the man who raped someone. Sometimes they were making excuses for the man who raped them.

Which puts me in a horrible position. When they defend these rapists, they end up (inadvertently?) acting as an advocate for the (or their) rapist. If I continue to dismantle those defenses, they feel like I’m arguing with them.

This isn’t a new thing. I’ve had to remind women that marital rape is, well, rape. And I totally grok that men’s privilege can blind them to the effect that rape culture has. I don’t blame these women at all. Society has screwed them over to the point that this kind of shit is "normal".

Which is why we need to call out rape and rapists by name, without euphemism.

For fucking example.

Call it the patriarchy, call it rape culture, call it capitalism. We’re all steeped in it, and it gaslights women worst of all.

There are some clear signs and signals you can take away from all this, though. It’s actually just like a stupid sexist meme about video games:

And yet this jackass, rather than saying “Wait, what do you mean?”, rather than asking what needs of hers aren’t being met, rather than doing anything, decides that the only appropriate course of action is to berate her communication skills, to berate her needs, and then (threaten to) dump her. Saying that he’s gaslighting her is not exaggeration in the slightest.

I mean, I get it. I’m a Gen Xer. That means that I had all sorts of problematic and rapey shit peddled to me as “normal’. (See: Revenge of the Nerds, most John Hughes movies, Police Academy, Han forcing Leia to kiss him, etc.) It’s quite possible that behavior isn’t entirely intentional. To quote the Savvy Psychologist podcast:

Unlike in the movie, the gaslighter isn’t usually trying to destroy a relationship, much less destroy a relationship in order to claim something as concrete as a treasure chest of jewels—mwa-ha-ha-ha! Quite the opposite. The gaslighter wants the target around, wants to maintain the relationship. They just want the target around on their terms. By the same token, gaslighting isn’t always conscious. Indeed, gaslighters don’t sit around stroking their goatees or petting a white cat while plotting to undermine your sanity.

How to Recognize 5 Tactics of Gaslighting, Savvy Psychologist

THAT DOES NOT REMOVE RESPONSIBILITY. Not for me, not for anyone. It’s not about “canceling” or “cancel culture” or any of that. It’s about what you do when confronted with what was done. When faced with what you’ve done, do you try to play it off? Do you try to minimize it? Do you throw a huge pity party for yourself? Do you try to discredit the other person or make them feel invalidated? Or do you own up to your failures and mistakes, try to make them right as best you can, and then not only never do that again, but do what you can to make sure nobody else makes the same mistake. To quote the Doctor:

I don’t understand? Are you kidding? Me? Of course I understand. I mean, do you call this a war, this funny little thing? This is not a war. I fought in a bigger war than you will ever know. I did worse things than you could ever imagine, and when I close my eyes… I hear more screams than anyone could ever be able to count! And do you know what you do with all that pain? Shall I tell you where you put it? You hold it tight… Til it burns your hand. And you say this — no one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will ever have to feel this pain. Not on my watch.

The Doctor, The Zygon Inversion

Featured Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash