I want to live in a world without sexual violence, and I believe that is possible, because I believe the causes of sexual violence are things we can change. Gender beliefs around men having an unstoppable sex drive, around women expressing desire being problematic or shameful. The eroticisation of vulnerability and violence. Restrictive gender rules which tell us all that men should be in control of what is happening sexually, and should know what to do without asking their lovers. Institutions which use sexual violence as punishment, or as expression of power. Sex being seen as a spoil of conflict of any kind. Entitlement to sex being defined by one person in their own terms, regardless of what the other’s wishes are. Not raising children to believe they have control over who touches their bodies. Not developing language and skills in talking about our bodies and sex.
You get the picture. So when I read, in an article about a man being raped in prison:
Prison officers do their best to prevent it, but basically, if it’s going to happen it’ll happen.
what I think is, to be frank, what absolute defeatist, apologist nonsense. You know what would stop rapes in prisons? Institutional condemnation of rape in prison. Not putting prisoners in double-bunking situations. Taking action against rape. Treatment for men in prison – because people who work with male survivors of childhood sexual abuse will tell you that one outcome for male survivors is rage at a system which has failed them. Rage with frequently ends up with those male survivors becoming violent offenders – not necessarily sexual – sitting in our prisons.
When we accept that sexual violence is inevitable anywhere, our world dies just a little. Rape and sexual violence are violations which our social norms about sex, gender, power and violence allow. We can change all of those social norms to make coerced, unwanted and forced sex completely unacceptable.
Basically, if we think it’s going to happen, let’s stop it.