So, have you ever had a sudden reality check that reminds you that you aren't safe in this world, that, despite the wonderful men in your life, there are others; men who think they are owed, that they deserve something special for helping out the object of their desire, who embody the spirit of rape culture?
These are men, seemingly ordinary, decent men, who nonetheless hold attitudes that are the reason behind so much violence and hatred against women (probably also minorities, but it's women in this specific scenario).
I had this reality check yesterday. I was reminded that, despite my position of significant privilege, I'm still not safe, and I should never, ever accept help from anyone, in case they have an ulterior motive. I witnessed this reality check on Facebook, on a personal friend's wall.
On my personal Facebook, I posted this comic:
A personal friend shared it to her feed. Then this happened:
There is so much wrong, and frustrating, and scary about this exchange I don't even have time to unpack it all. There are some things I have to say, however.
To start off with, the dragon is metaphorical. To translate the comic into real life, that dragon could be anything; a ride home when she needed one, a meal/drink that was paid for, a "compliment" on her appearance, some heavy lifting when she wanted her bookshelves moved, etc. Pick a reason, pick any scenario where someone helps or does something nice for someone else.
Now imagine demanding sexual favours in exchange for this nice thing you've done.
I hope that thought makes your skin crawl, because if it doesn't, we can't be friends. You are not permitted within 400 metres of me. Go away.
Let me make something abundantly clear:
You don't deserve a cookie for being nice. Nice is what you SHOULD be. Furthermore, it is not nice at all if the only reason you're doing it is because you want a little diddle after.
To my fellow women, it is not rude to establish and defend your boundaries when someone violates them. They deserve a tongue-lashing, or even a belting... with a studded belt. Set your boundaries, and enforce them by any means necessary. If someone thinks you're a bitch for doing so, that is someone whose opinion you can happily dismiss. They are well beneath you.
To anyone else who may scoff when the phrase "Rape Culture" is used, take a look at the conversation above. Read it several times. Then understand that when we say there is a pervasive culture where women are treated not as human beings, but as sexual objects to be won, convinced or coerced, know that we aren't lying. Know that it's not just a small few of arseholes who think like that, but actual real people, who actually move in the same world, and sometimes the same circles as you do.
It is not a culture of rapists, but a culture of excuses for rapists, excuses that are easy to make because a comic illustrating the ridiculousness of demanding sexual favours in exchange for aid can be met with, "That princess was ungrateful." in all seriousness.
We're not lying to you. We're telling the truth. Rape culture is real, and it affects us all.