Today in Rape Culture

[Trigger warning.]

Shaker Amanda sends one of the most cynical, exploitative articles I've read in a long damn time, in which columnist Logan Jenkins uses the gruesome rape-murder of Chelsea King, a high school student who was killed while running on a local trail, to victim-blame women: Female runners who run alone, female runners who aren't trained in self-defense, female survivors of attacks who don't "follow up" sufficiently with police...
Should women, especially young women and girls, ever venture out on trails alone? Is the spiritual reward worth the bodily risk? To be perfectly safe, no. But I can understand how women bridle at the prohibition. Isn't it one's right to run through fear?

With bravery, however, comes relentless responsibility.

If a woman goes for a lone run, she must be a warrior, too.

Ears and eyes always tuned to danger. No spacing out to music, either recorded or internal. (Chelsea reportedly was a "purist," eschewing an iPod.)

The lone runner must keep her head on a swivel. The slightest abnormality should trigger an adrenaline rush to flight or fight.

She must be willing to make noise, lots of it, if she feels in the least threatened. Blow a whistle, scream. (Who cares if she's wrong and hurts an innocent's feelings?)

Perhaps she should carry a weapon — Mace? pepper spray? — and know how to use it. If she can't flee, she must be willing to do serious harm.

...Last December, in the same general area of Lake Hodges, a 22-year-old college student was roughed up by a man with a football players's build whom authorities believe was John Albert Gardner III, Chelsea's suspected killer.

The college student fought off her attacker, injuring him and escaping. In what appears to be a tragic failure to follow up, the woman left for college before a composite sketch of her attacker could be drawn and circulated by San Diego police.
Mr. Jenkins ends his column with: "How grateful would we be if it were all a bad dream, Chelsea is still running in the open field, and sitting in jail today is an evil man with a missing eye," thus tacitly blaming Chelsea herself for getting murdered, instead of taking out her assailant's eye, and causing Jenkins the temporary discomfort of feeling bad.

I'm not sure I can adequately express the profundity of my contempt for a man who sits in judgment of a raped and murdered girl, who sighs wistfully that she wasn't better prepared or able to protect herself and save us all the inconvenience of mourning her death.

Who is so thoroughly ignorant and impenetrably arrogant that he thinks writing a column admonishing women to stop getting themselves attacked, raped, and killed is fucking helpful.

Where is his advice for men who hurt women? Nowhere to be found, naturally, because Jenkins is just another passive recipient of rape culture narratives who lazily accepts that there will always be monsters in the world, oh well whaddaya gonna do?, and thus regards the only solution as exclusively tasking victims with rape prevention.

Look how helpful he is, lecturing women on keeping themselves safe.

I just positively adore how Jenkins gormlessly puts forth his ideas about how women should be more responsible for their own safety, as if no one's ever fucking said that before, as if no one has ever suggested that the burden of rape prevention should be on women. (And as if women aren't socialized from birth to be intimately familiar with rape prevention, from their behavior to their clothing choices to their attitude, etc. etc. etc.) Hardly a week goes by that I don't read an article saying the same goddamned thing, whether women are being admonished to "learn common sense" or "be more responsible" or "be aware of barroom risks" or "avoid these places" or "don't dress this way" or whatfuckingever.

If Jenkins wants to make a serious contribution to a conversation about rape prevention, he could try writing something that answers this question: Why is it always more important to lecture women on what they should be doing to avoid rape than to talk to men about the fact that they do not have the right to women's bodies without express consent?

But of course he doesn't want to make a serious contribution. He wants to lecture female runners about taking responsibility for their own safety, and then pat himself on the back for caring about victims of sexual violence, despite not making the merest effort to understand the first thing about its perpetrators.

Here's the thing about perpetrators of sexual violence: They hurt people. They hurt people who are strong and people who are weak, people who are smart and people who are dumb, people who fight back and people who submit just to get it over with, people who are sluts and people who are prudes, people who rich and people who are poor, people who are tall and people who are short, people who are fat and people who are thin, people who are blind and people who are sighted, people who are deaf and people who can hear, people of every race and shape and size and ability and circumstance. The only thing that the victim of every rapist shares in common is the bad fucking luck of being in the presence of a rapist.

Rapists are determined to rape. And if Chelsea King hadn't crossed John Albert Gardner's path, someone else would have.

Victim-blaming is based on the damnably fucked-up notion that people (and women in particular) allow themselves to be victimized by virtue of carelessness or stupidity, and they need to be warned and educated and lectured and hectored and cajoled and shamed into never being victims (again).


No one has ever been a victim of sexual violence without someone determined to do it to them.

Enough victim blaming. Enough.

[Related Reading: Five Reasons Why "Teach Women Self-Defense" Isn't a Comprehensive Solution to Rape.]

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