Today in Rape Culture

[Trigger warning.]

In three parts...

Part One: Shaker Richard Gadsen emails about this theater review in The Guardian, in which Mark Lawson wonders if he should have walked out on a play in which there was objectionable content about sexual assault:
It's a rightly angry play and I shared the writer's rage, until a moment when it turned against him. A young woman, Dora, is raped by three of her classmates in turn. The characters look back on the action of the past – from either old age or the afterlife, depending on their luck – and Dora's reflections on this violation are: "I screamed, but I could feel myself getting wet … I felt a pleasure I'd never known … I'd been raped by that pack of savages and I'd actually felt pleasure."

My first reaction was to hope for a mishearing caused by the actress's mumbling or my ageing ears. But the published text was on my knee and the lines had been crisply delivered as written. I have never believed in censorship, but it struck me that these words, though possibly tolerable if spoken as personal testimony in a documentary, have no justification when given by a male writer to a female fictional character because they appear to validate one of the nastiest and most discredited of male fantasies. Even more queasily, the speech is an incidental detail, irrelevant to the main business of the play.
Lawson reports that no other reviewers have noted the passage that angered him, despite the fact that "there was angry discussion among women in the audience the night I went."

Women (and men) can become physically aroused while being sexually assaulted. But Lawson's point is well-made: It is a very different thing for an actual survivor to report such an event, and quite another for a male playwright to put it in the mouth of a female character, with no evident purpose or relevance to the central plot.

The dialogue could have a conceivable rationale—if, for example, the play were about a rape trial in which a defense attorney were trying to use evidence of a victim's arousal to discredit the accusation of sexual assault (which has happened in real life). But stuck in randomly, it serves the exact function that Lawson describes, "to validate one of the nastiest and most discredited of male fantasies," that women secretly enjoy rape.

Part Two: Shaker Keeks emails about this dreadful post at Waiter Rant, in which "Waiter" compares no one helping Kitty Genovese while she was being raped and murdered to everyone thinking someone else is leaving the tip at a restaurant. Seriously.
Now I'm not making light of Ms. Genovese's murder, but if you've ever watched a large party in a restaurant divvy up a bill you'll see the same "diffusion of responsibility" thing at work. In many cases patrons think the host or the "other guy" is going to leave the tip so they don't throw in. The result? The waiter often gets a bad tip or no tip at all.
You gotta love someone who can, with a straight face, follow "I'm not making light of Ms. Genovese's murder" with a comparison of her murder to being stiffed on a tip.

Here's the thing: It's possible to explain diffusion of responsibility without invoking the gruesome attack on Kitty Genovese. For example: "You know how everyone in a workplace always thinks someone else is going to throw spoiled crap out of the refrigerator?" See how easy that is? No equating rape-murder with something not even in the same galaxy required.

Part Three: Shaker Katecontinued emails about this PSA about chemical cleaners, which was approvingly posted at TreeHugger with the note that it's "hilarious."

Musical jingle, as if a typical cleaning commercial, as cartoon bubbles race around bathtub grinning and a woman watches them contentedly, bopping to the tune: Shiny Suds / We're Shiny Suds / We shine like only Shiny Suds / Shiny Suds do a shinetastic job / A shinetastic job!

[edit; the same woman is walking into the bathroom clad in only a bathrobe; she yells over her shoulder "Breakfast in 20!" just before closing the bathroom door to indicate it's the next morning; she takes off her robe, yawns, and pulls back the shower curtain, where the Shiny Suds are still hanging out]

Shiny Suds [all male voices]: Morning!

Woman: What the f-?! [she jumps back and wraps herself in the shower curtain]

Leader of Shiny Suds [deep male voice]: You forgotten us already? [the Shiny Suds laugh]

Woman: Why are you still here?

Leader of Shiny Suds: We're still here because you sprayed us here.

Another of the Shiny Suds: We're chemical residue left over from your cleaner.

Another One: Made from toxic ingredients. We give you the impression of clean-

Another One: -and then we get to watch you clean! [the Shiny Suds laugh]

Leader of Shiny Suds: Now, if you please...

Another One: Scrubsy-dubsy, baby.

[Woman looks freaked out and reluctant.]

Another One: You don't wanna be late for work! Awwww.

Another One: Get in the tub, please.

[edit; woman is now in shower, washing herself, with her arms tight, to try to keep her breasts covered; the Shiny Suds are shouting and leering]

Shiny Suds: Oh, yeah! Woo! You know you want it! Wow! Look at you! [she balances on one leg to hide her genitals] That's doing wonders for your core!

[cut to close-up of Shiny Suds gawking up at her, panting]

Leader of Shiny Suds: Use the loofah.

Shiny Suds: LOOFAH! LOOFAH! LOOFAH! LOOFAH! LOOFAH! LOOFAH! LOOFAH! LOOFAH! [she reaches down and quickly grabs the loofah] Wooooooooooo! Yeah! Woo! All right!

[They celebrate by singing the Shiny Suds jingle, as we see the woman through the shower curtain, crouching and trying to keep herself covered while she cleans herself.]

Text Onscreen: You deserve to know what chemicals are in your cleaners. Support the Household Product Labeling Acts.

[Woman drops loofah. One of the Shiny Suds says, "Oopsy-daisy!" When she reaches down for it, they whoop.]

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