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The culture of sex is changing in America. That much is certain. But this change is very different from the Free Sex society of the 1960s. That revolution was about casting off the boundaries of an old society. It was about creating some new, beautiful norm. That era changed the culture of sex in America for good. This modern sex revolution strives for similar results—but has very different goals.
Despite the change in sex over the last century, one thing remains the same. Rape is prolific. Rape has always been a difficult crime to track. First of all, most estimates show that less than half of rapes are reported to the police. This percentage was probably even worse before the 1990s—when the numbers peaked. The thing is, the count hardly even matters. Whether it’s the 17,190 rapes reported in 1960. The 109,060 rapes in 1992—when the numbers peaked. Or the 83,425 reported in 2011. It doesn’t matter. All of these numbers are insanely too high. The current laws surrounding rape are not enough to protect against rape.
Although many victims of rape are men, the culture of rape is largely a culture of violence against women. Family members take advantage of unsuspecting minors. Boyfriends who don’t listen to a “no” (or fail to understand a nonverbal no). Strangers lurk in the shadows—hoping to fulfill a dark pleasure—and know the chance of getting caught is less than 5%. With or without the 1960s, the problem of rape is widespread. It always has. America has always had a culture of rape that perpetuates rape.
The modern sexual revolution—which looks to encapsulate the 2010s—targets this culture of rape. Its origin can be traced back to one man: Constable Michael Sanguinetti of the Toronto Police. In an intimate meeting of only ten students, he was recorded saying, “I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this – however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” In the months that followed, SlutWalk was created. These marches featured women in every type of dress—from very revealing to completely covered. Every woman, however, had one thing in common. They were fed up with women being blamed for their own rapes.
The marches are fascinating. The signs and chants have three focuses. The first, which I will not cover here, is the reclaiming of the word “slut”—much like The Vagina Monologues aimed to reclaim the word “cunt”. The second focus is far more fascinating and important in my eyes. The idea is to place the blame where it belongs: on the rapist. It doesn’t matter if she was flirting, if she dressed provocatively, if she was drunk, if she said yes before, etc. No will always mean no-regardless of the situation. Many of these depict victim’s stories [1, 2] as they discover just how distributing the culture of rape has become. The message is a simple one: the rapist is always to blame.
This is the strong aspect of SlutWalk (and the online culture that has developed as a result). The simple truth is that the rapist is to blame regardless of the circumstances. The fact that so many women have been blamed instead shows how deeply engrained the culture of rape is in this country. This reality gave birth to the third purpose of SlutWalk.
The third feature of SlutWalk is: Educate Men. This idea is to go after the source of our rape culture. It is important to teach men that a woman does not need to verbalize the word “no” in order to communicate that she does not want to have sex. If a woman stays unnaturally quiet or starts crying, it must also be regarded as a no. In the end, the advice given to men is beautiful. Reject the idea that no means no. Adapt the ‘Yes Means Yes’ mentality instead. The idea is to make sure she is okay with what you are doing every step of the way.
This is a beautiful idea that I, as a man, attempt to subscribe to in my romantic encounters. It is a great way to hold men accountable when they encounter this culture of rape. By teaching men this alternative to the norm, SlutWalk is doing a great job at attacking our rape culture’s core problem: ignorant acceptance. However, in order to truly cure the culture of rape in America, the movement against the culture of rape must expand. To women.
SlutWalk is, at its core, sexist. It is true that when a rape takes place, the only person at fault is the rapist. When we are dealing with the culture of rape, everybody must be encouraged to alter their behavior. Slutwalk has done a great job of encouraging men into ‘Yes Means Yes’ behavior. However, they have done little to encourage women to alter their behavior.
First and foremost, the ‘Yes Means Yes’ mentality cannot be regarded as something that needs to be taught to men. Instead, it needs to be adopted universally. The single best tool we as a society had against the culture of rape is our belief in equality. Equality with regards to sex means that either person can ask to bring the relationship to the next level and either person can say no. Only when the Yes Means Yes mentally becomes universal can we start working on eradicating the culture of rape.
The rape fantasy and expectations of dominance are natural fetishes. However, if we as a culture hope to challenge the culture of rape, these fetishes need to be challenged. Men who engage in practices or porn of this nature need to understand that they are feeding the flame of a dangerous animal desire inside themselves. Continues practice does not get the natural “urge to dominant” out of your system. Instead, it transforms it into a habit that could lead to sexual assault. The transition is an addiction and will work slowly—transforming the man into the monster.
On the other side of this coin, however, we still have a problem. Many women like to engage in rape fantasies and encourage dominance. Women must understand that these fetishes feed the flame and, in some instances, are the spark that will transform the man into the monster. By expecting their male counterparts to become dominant, women are teaching their significant others not to view females as equals when it comes to sex. If this practice becomes a habit, men will alter their views on sexual equality in order to satisfy their sexual desires.
When a man with skewed views on sexual equality encounters other women, the culture of rape is perpetuated. Even if his next partner does not have a rape or dominance fantasy, he will still have an altered understanding of that a sexual relationship should entail. At this point, the responsibility is solely on the man. If he pushes a partner too far because of this mentality, it is his fault. As we’ve come to understand first and foremost: the rapist is the only one to blame in a rape.
The purpose of SlutWalk and the Sexual Revolution of the 2010s needs to be to cut off the culture of rape at its source. Make sure people understand the blame lies with the rapist is a perfect start. Encouraging a “Yes Means Yes” mentality is a great way to ward off unwanted behavior—and should be adopted by men and women alike.
However, in order to end the culture of rape, the fetishes of rape and dominance must be minimalized. In order to do this, women must be encouraged not to solicit such behavior. Men must be encouraged never to push such behavior. Then, as a final barrier, both men and women must be taught how to reject such solicitations from their sexual partners. Only when these behaviors become mainstream and the dominance fetishes are minimalized will the culture of rape start to deteriorate.
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