Sexual assault is never flattering

(T/W for discussion of sexual assault)
Tired of all things Ghomeshi. Tired of my cynicsm, tired of the excuses, tired of it all. Unfortunately, I will probably say the following over and over again, not just in regards to Ghomeshi, but in any discussion of our society and how we treat women:
There is something to the idea that people really do think that at some level a man expressing sexual interest in a woman is flattery…that the “only” problem is if she doesn’t like it. He’s the hapless victim, she’s the one who overreacted…and hey, she probably led him on. Hey, she probably secretly liked it…there’s always a reason the man isn’t responsible. “All” she had to do is say no…and if she did and he ignored her then she gave him a signal.
Men are presented as continually sexual creatures whose only mode is “on”. There’s even a myth to support that: the idea that men think about sex every thirty seconds in an average day. Women are the controllers of men’s sexuality: it is the woman’s place to say “no” if she’s not interested. What this suggests is that a woman’s consent is the default position: there is never a question that boys and men should be taught that they have to ask and have a woman’s consent. Nope, they can do as they wish: it is up to the woman to say no. (This is one reason why people feel that dress codes for girls are reasonable: after all, those girls don’t know any better…they have to be taught to say no, to refuse men and boys. Since they are perpetually available sexually to anyone male they have to dress in a way that will visually signal “no” to any male onlookers.)
This by the way is why there have been several cases in the US where judges have ruled that women were not sexually assaulted or raped despite actual physical evidence, recordings and witnesses: the “victim” was unconscious, therefore, argued the judges, they did not say no. An absense of “no” means the man had every reason to believe he could do as he wished. Consider that when you argue that it IS only up to the woman to say no.
I’ve written elsewhere about rape threats–that there are trolls who think the absolute worst thing they can say to a woman is that she is too ugly/fat/old/etc to rape…because in their brains, they genuinely really truly think that rape is about sex and sexual interest and desire. Whereas the reality is that rape, sexual harassment, sexual assault are about control and domination.
Ghomeshi didn’t behave like this because he’s playful and he just looooooves women so darned much: he did it to let everyone know that he’s the one in charge. He’s the one who was superior to the women he worked with, to the women he invited over to his home (different than the few women who were long-term girlfriends who were not assaulted). He’s the king.
And when you explain how it was the fault of anyone but Ghomeshi you allow him and other men carte blanche to repeat this behaviour. After all: it’s not their fault. The women should have said no.

2 thoughts on “Sexual assault is never flattering

  1. I’m curious how you feel about women who continue to support DC Comics, who won’t even give up buying Wonder Woman to boycott a company that institutionalized harassing and discriminating against real life women. What about women who happily tweet and promote Superhero Girls, WW, Batgirl, Poison Ivy League, and generally validate DC’s pose that they give a damn about women.

    The company is vulnerable, they violated fair hiring laws in their effort to keep women away from Berganza. But if women who were discriminated against don’t bring suit, don’t go to the ACLU, aren’t we letting them get away with it? Aren’t we just as culpable? The men of DC Comics committed crimes and they did it as employees of Time Warner. A scolding on Twitter is a profoundly impotent response.

    • I feel like there have been an awful lot of stories about sexual harassment and assault by an awful lot of comics people…and this seems to be the only one that people feel like paying attention to. I feel like I’ve seen way too many people jumping on the bandwagon announcing, “Time to reset the counter! DC Comics has screwed up again!” and that they’re making it about their problems with the company and not about actual concern for any of the women involved.

      I feel like DC Comics announced that Berganza has been through treatment and that there haven’t been any reported incidents in the last few years…so that means that people would have to decide for themselves that they’re going to lead a boycott over incidents from a few years back while inferring that the women actually involved somehow did wrong by not doing so themselves. Pretending that people are doing those women a favour by forcing them to the front of a line they didn’t want to be in is just victimizing them again. Might be more helpful to ask rather than to tell. After all, the whole point is that no one listened to them or took them seriously.

      I feel that I don’t get to judge other women and tell them what their life choices are… I don’t know their lives or their experiences and I wouldn’t presume that I am the one with the answers.

      If you want to boycott DC Comics, then boycott DC Comics.

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