Rape is Normal

One of the Ongoing Series here at Shakesville has been a series generally referred to, with heaps of caustic irony, Rape is Hilarious. Now seventeen parts and counting [One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen], it's a periodic reminder of how saturated our culture is with "jokes" designed to minimize the seriousness of rape.

A complementary concept is the normalization of rape, an insidious bit of sickness which itself has been largely accomplished with "jokes," but which is constantly reinforced and protected through the frequency of images associating sex and female sexiness, in particular, with sexual vulnerability. In high fashion mags and adverts, which routinely make use of such imagery, there are two archetypical expressions of this narrative, bookending its iconic extremes. One is the fierce sex minx whose feral sexuality (represented by wind-swept hair, wild-eyed look, and often animalistic pose, possibly in combination with torn dress and/or animal skin bikini) will be tamed by the well-dressed and civilized man in the image with her, or the one presuming to be meeting her gaze on the other end of the camera. (I actually wrote that description before finding this picture as an example. Yeesh. Just clunk Cavegirl Heidi over the head and take her home.)

The other iconic bookend is the image of a woman looking drugged, dazed, weak, vaguely sickly, and/or forlorn—but, above all, vulnerable.

"Hi, I'm Keira. I'm very, very sexy—but very, very weak and possibly on the verge of unconsciousness. Don't you want (to take advantage of) me?"

Images like these, which we totally take for granted, serve to subliminally reinforce the rape culture, via their inextricable associations drawn between sex and the edge of psychological oblivion, i.e. a place where enthusiastic consent is not possible.

It should be profoundly disturbing to all of us that we want to look at women in that state, affected for the lens or otherwise, no less that it is found alluring and that we associate it in any way with a healthy sexuality. But images like these are so ubiquitous, our culture so steeped with suggestions that the precipice of incapacitation is sexy, that we have become inured to their unqualified injuriousness.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but when this droopy-eyed, bombed-out, confused, nearly-comatose, and vulnerable expression…

…is served up as the epitome of sexy, is it any wonder that teenage boys who spend fitful nights masturbating to the oh so lovely, oh so vulnerable, oh so sexy girl on the cover of their sisters' and mothers' magazines turn into the men who don't understand that when a woman looks like this you help her, not try to fuck her?

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