This is a question that I’ve been asking myself for a long while now. Rape culture is definitely not an urban legend, so who are the protagonists behind it? Of course no one would deliberately say “my best friend might be a rapist”. That just doesn’t sound right. Why would you be friends with this dude then? Plus after all, you know him by heart so you’re pretty sure. But are you really?
The thing is that, if there are so many sexual harassment and assault cases, there MUST be someone behind them. Also, sexual aggression is not something that takes place in one specific and unique environment. It happens on parties, college campuses, work places, night clubs and so on. So it’s harder to make a detailed picture of a potential rapist/sexual harasser and where one is guaranteed to cross them.
In conclusion, and by following this logic: we could say that anyone could be a potential rapist. Anyone BUT your friend and family members. Because let’s not forget that you’re convinced that they would never do such a thing.
The thing is that when this idea gets spread on a global scale: there are almost no predators left. Because well, everyone is convinced that their social and family circle is not touched by this problem.
This is not an invitation to mistrust all your male friends and family members, don’t get me wrong. I’m not pleased by the idea about my little brother being a potential sexual aggressor either. Neither do I like the scenario of mistrusting every man that crosses my path. Still, I’m having a hard time finding a proper balance in this issue. By refusing to persuade myself that the men I love and treat me well, might harm someone in the future, am I contributing to the unconscious protection of sexual aggressors?
I hold on tight to the belief that the men around me: my father, my brother, my friends and my boyfriend, are immune to this. I grew up in a women-friendly family environment and the only negative and aggressive encounters I had with men, were outside my home. I grew up understanding that once I’m going back to my family nest, I’m safe. But the reality outside showed me another face of the male sexual and aggressive impulses. For knowing this, my deepest nightmare would be seeing the men I cherish so much demonstrate such behavior.
But let’s not sugarcoat this: finding out one of your closest friends or family members, badly harmed someone or sexually assaulted that person… it’s a big punch in our faces. All the trust, loyalty and love you gave to that person gets covered by a layer of deep mistrust. What is there left to do?
I have no answer to this and I guess that, for the time being, there’s no scientific way to approach such a thing either. There are no numbers that can quantify the strength of your trust in someone. That same trust can be the perfect shortcut to blindness. We’ve seen this happening on a widespread scale: As Kevin Spacey came out as being gay in an attempt to cover the allegations made against him, many fervent fans started to create their own reality concerning this case. “Well, Kevin Spacey is a gay man that had to hide this for the sake of his career and could not live out his sexuality… well, therefore some shit things happened. That doesn’t make him a bad person though”
I guess I can understand how claustrophobic one can feel under the public eye. But isn’t this the most current scenario each young gay man is confronted with? I’ve never seen this as an excuse or justification for any sexual aggression though. Because there is simply no excuse or justification to such an act.
We get personally hurt when someone we admire or cherish commits such acts of ugliness. After all, we put part of our faith in them. When something becomes personal, we tend to become protective of it. It’s just a human way to react. No one likes to be seen as an idiot for liking something the majority is pointing their finger at.
It’s as simple as starting to find an excuse to apologize for that vase you broke. Well, great, you’re sorry and all. But that shit is broken now and on top of all: it’s a unique piece, there’s no way to recover its original state.
We can consider this as a metaphor to what happens to a rape victim: something gets broken inside and there’s no way to fix it. Try to glue it together, make it a little bearable to look at. But one cannot ignore the fucking cracks. Even getting used to the cracks does not take away the reality of the pain endured during the mass-destruction. Why is there no way to put it back together? Because each one of us is a unique piece with no spare parts in case of needing a replacement.
Kevin Spacey’s incredible acting and talent is not enough to wipe away the cracks and reverse breaking something valuable into pieces. Is he therefore impossible to defend?
Maybe. Maybe there’s another perspective to this that I’m missing out on. But what we should prioritize in our thought process in these particular cases, is the victim’s credibility. Tangled in our own feelings and how those changed towards the aggressor, we lose the victim’s testimony out of sight. Instead, we start to argue about the credibility of the case mainly from the rapist’s perspective: “Why would he do it?”“Can this be a personal target to his career?”“There’s not enough to proof”etc…
Finding out your friend crossed some crucial lines at a party, or reading tweets accusing your favorite actor of sexual harassment… the reactions can be quite similar. First the disbelief, next: questioning whether your friend did this “on purpose” or not and then eventually considering the victim’s statement.
Is this the wrong way to do it? Should we instead turn our backs on everyone that thought sexual harassment is a fun thing to do? Never watch Spacey’s movies again, boycott Netflix and accessorily shout it out on the social media… Why not. But would we do that with our friend or family member? Boycott his social life, shout out on the internet what a disgusting pig he is and accessorily support the victim?
Our personal attachment to someone prevents our imagination from wandering into dark scenarios. But this should not blind us from the reality. We trust and believe in these men because they have been so good to us or we’ve witnessed them being good to others. That is not an excuse to ignore clear signs for the sake of our trust and love.
Act up if you see your brother treating his girlfriend like shit. Prevent your friend from doing something stupid to a girl while being drunk at a party. When signs pop up, don’t exclude them from your radar.
Like the wise canadian writer Margaret Atwood once said:
“Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”