Thursday 4 February 2016

Content Warning Rape Culture

I've very carefully been avoiding reading any detail about the pro-rape Return of Kings hate group.  I'm sure there are lots of other people doing the same.  Too hard, too awful, too difficult to do while being functional in daily life.  So what I have to offer is probably not as useful or considered as many of the other excellent pieces of writing I've been turning away from.

What I want to mention is how when something like this sparkles and shines above the normally opaque surface of rape culture, above the grime and darkness of everyday attitudes toward women that enable most rape, and sexism, we go for it instantly, dispose of it vigorously and then, for some, rest, reassured that we did our bit.

It's good that we respond to these overt threats, that we call them out as unacceptable.  We should do that.  I'm particularly heartened to see men strongly rejecting pro-rape views, alongside many of marginalised genders.   There are peaceful anti-misogyny rallies happening in Auckland and Wellington this weekend, for a public show of opposition, and it is great to see these continue in broader rejection of rape culture now that the Return of Kings public meet-ups have been cancelled.

The very idea of anyone being "pro-rape" reminded me of the (probably apocryphal but nonetheless) chilling jus primae noctis or Right of the First Night.  For those not keen to follow the link (which is a Wikipedia article) the general idea is that the feudal lord gets to rape new brides on their wedding night, before the marriage can actually be consummated with the new husband.  This has come up as a practice in Game of Thrones, and appears not to have been an actual codified right as such, but it does seem very aligned with long standing views of women as the property of men, and the exercise of power over other men by damaging or claiming such property.

Think, if you will, of modern cults in which the leader is entitled to rape any girl or woman they wish, and it is to be seen as an honour by the victim and her family.    Consider the practice of slut-shaming, and how women are valued by their sexual attractiveness while simultaneously judged for enjoying sex, particularly sex outside the bounds of holy monogamous matrimony, as if sex were something not just for men.  Reflect on the threats of rape directed at women who speak out online, or do not comply with instructions from men in their lives; for me the most terrifying moment of the whole of Firefly/Serenity is when Jubal Early threatens to rape Kaylee (note, he then goes on to use a threat to rape Kaylee to gain power over a male character too).

Imagine what it is to live your everyday life knowing that someone you interact with holds the view that you are available to be raped by them at any time.  That shouldn't be too hard for many people, as it is not a million miles from the Schrodinger's Rapist reality for pretty much anyone of a marginalised gender and/or sexuality.

So as we oppose Return of Kings, their hate and their wrongness and their fear, let us also look beyond them in their shiny coat of misogyny to the darkness behind.  That darkness is harder to see, harder to make visible to everyone else, harder to clean away, but still we should scrub at it.  It is built of years and years of rape culture based on the inferiority of women, of pretty much anyone who isn't in the traditionally powerful demographic of a society.  Layers are created from rape jokes, specks added by #EverydaySexism such as "male nurse" and "lady driver", larger blobs slathered on by discrimination that still keeps many out of the professions they would seek on the basis of their genitalia.

We chip off the sparkle of Return of Kings, and we keep chipping, keep scrubbing, keep cleaning, until it is all gone.

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