Dear Men: How Should We Respond To Rape?

Dear men: I’m asking for your advice. You all have such valuable, underrated wisdom and insight, and to be frank, we need your help. It would appear that us women are always doing something wrong. This is made all the more apparent concerning issues of rape and sexual assault. Listen, men, we are tired. As black women, we try to survive the unfiltered, relentless misogynoir we get from black men, as well as the racism and misogynoir we regularly get from white men, all the while, trying to respond appropriately to avoid being dismissed as “angry black women“. As queer women, we have to navigate the complications that come with harassment and heterosexism from both men and our fellow women, in addition to good old-fashioned sexism, while attempting to appear “respectably queer” by trying to adhere to respectability politics. Even white women face constant struggles with misogyny and rape culture, and have to calculate appropriate responses to avoid being dismissed as hysterical. Men, we’re tired. We’ve tried different things, but none of them seem to work. Specifically regarding rape and sexual assault, men, I’m asking you:

What would you have us do?

Statistics from 1998 show that 1 out of every 6 American women will be the victim of completed or attempted rape in their lifetime, but that number is ever-growing. Men, we’ve been asking for your help for decades. At this point, we don’t really know what to do. You’ve told us to cover up, or claimed that we shouldn’t get so drunk at parties, or otherwise attempted to blame us for being made into victims. We’ve tried, but sober women are still being assaulted. Women in turtlenecks have not avoided being attacked. We’ve invented devices, from hairy stockings to tampons and condoms that will injure perpetrators in the event of an attempted rape. Despite our best efforts, statistics are going up, not down.

Women at the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, Minnesota worked tirelessly in late 2016 and started a petition to change the university’s policy on sexual assault, requiring them to make the student body aware of incidents of rape and sexual assault on campus. The petition was granted, and the university changed their policy, but male students have been overheard ridiculing the new policy, calling the emails “rape alerts”, and dismissing them as being annoying.

Men, we’ve tried everything. When women don’t report sexual assault, we’re told that rape isn’t a real epidemic, but when we do, you’ve given our abusers slaps on the wrist as punishment. We’ve taken real efforts in the hopes that we’d stop being assaulted, but it doesn’t look like it’s working, and even when it starts to help, you ridicule us for it. Men, we’re really asking here, what should we do? Perhaps instead of trying everything to avoid being raped, and instead of begging you for fresh ideas, you could do us all a simple favor: Stop raping us. Hold your friends, classmates and colleagues accountable when they make jokes at our expense. Push for harsher sentences on rapists and abusers. Do better. We need you.

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Jasmine Hart
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Jasmine Hart is a staff writer for Affinity Magazine and is based in Minnesota.

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