Non-exhaustive list of things we should have known in our rape culture

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Why is our knowledge not enough

We are hearing a lot about it nowadays. We are slowly but surely discovering the workings of the « rape culture » in which we live. Some curtains are coming down. We are finally admitting that rape is not only a matter for particular social strata, but that it affects them all without exception. We finally admit that the people who rape are not crazy beings lurking in the shadows of dark alleys waiting for a lonely victim. They are mostly men, representing 99% of those convicted of sexual violence and mostly known by the victim, 91% of cases according to the HCE[1]. Family, colleague or teacher, friend or spouse, it must be admitted that many cases of sexual violence are committed without prior physical violence, but under the effect of surprise, emotional coercion, threats, or even psychological exhaustion of the victim.

This culture is constructed and perpetuated by all of us in society. Notably through the valorization/impunity of rape in the media and social and cultural representations[2]. But also by the spread of misconceptions about psychology, physiology, gender identity and sexual identity[3].

This article is a non-exhaustive list of things I should have known as a child, or at least as a teenager. Of course, I am far from understanding everything in this field. I am still learning every day and in a few months this article will certainly seem very light.

Why is our knowledge not enough? — Because rape culture is still there.

What you weren’t told

Unfortunately many teenagers do not have the necessary knowledge to develop a healthy sexuality and some might have false and hindering ideas on what they should expect. Of course we all have been told at some point: « your body belongs to you, if a grown-up wants to touch it and you don’t want to, you have to say no, stand up for yourself, tell a trusted adult, scream, run, etc. ». But no one warned you the threat would come from the people you love, or the people who have authority over you. No one told you how the abuser would proceed; Surprise, manipulation or lies, making you feel guilty, or playing on psychological exhaustion. Nobody told you about the potential reactions of your body and brain in these very stressful moments resulting in an incapacity to act when they show up.

What you weren’t told ? — How to recognise a situation of sexual violence.

What you didn’t know

The unknown is the experience, not your attraction to it.

Will you like it? You are unlikely to enjoy something you don’t want, especially when related to sexuality. Develop your curiosity, don’t force it.

There are so many things you have never done, and yet you know deep down whether you want to experience them or not. You know if you want to go skydiving for the first time. You know if you want to go on a trip to a foreign country to discover a new culture. You know if you want to try that exotic food you just heard of. You know if you want to get to know that person you just met.

Wanting is a mixture of curiosity, enthusiasm and certainty.

Thus, none of these sentences are valid:

« You can’t know if you want to since you’ve never tried it! »

« …but, your body responds to stimulation, so you want it! »

« The only way to know if you want it is to try it. »

« If you don’t want it, it means you don’t love me.

« At ‘X’ years old it’s not normal to not want this,
you must be broken. »

What you didn’t know? — What you want IS important.

Are you guilty as a victim?

You know what you want, no matter how old you are. No one knows better than you. Not your body, nor your age, nor your partner, nor your parents, nor your friends, nor your psychiatrist. Your emotions are flags raised by your brain to inform you about what is good or bad for you, don’t ignore them. Listen to them, question them, give them reason when a situation seems abnormal or goes against your will. And this is true no matter what the cause is. You are not guilty of your refusals. The guilt goes to the one who does not respect your will.

Are you guilty as a victim? — No.

HCE : High Council for Equality between Women and Men.

Mirion Malle’s comic book, « Commando Culotte » (Panty Commando), portays well some of the sexist macanisms embodied in cinema and TV shows.

Emily Nagoski’s book, « Come as you are » contradicts many of our absurd beliefs about women and their sexuality.


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