Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sexual Assault is alive and well in 2015

I was a college student in the 1970’s where some young men were aggressive, some sweet and kind, just like today. Women and men participated in drinking and drugging on campuses, and rape sometimes occurred.

Nowadays, with rape so common nationally and globally, we need to understand why men still abuse women. We can agree that some men choose to physically overpower and control women in all sorts of ways. This is not just about rape by strangers in dark alleys but rape in fancy educational settings, housing privileged kids where rape is an institutional hazard, a nightmare, and a disgrace.

Rape is also the buying, selling and renting of children’s and women’s bodies in a society that prizes and rewards economic greed and financial success. Sex trafficking is rampant with children being stolen to become commercial property, thereby becoming slaves.

In the 1970’s and 80’s here in Nashville, we young women marched in protest about issues like women’s equality and rape. These days sexual assault seems not to have decreased even while gender roles and acceptance of sexuality differences have evolved positively. Probably because rape is not about sex but about power.

What can we do about this continued tragic state of affairs? First, by admitting that a large portion of the problem is that we are nested in a society whose social norms allow for and promote the abuse of children, women, minorities and the poor.

Being hesitant to say “no” to male sexual or aggressive behavior may be partly due to some girls’ and women’s buying in to the patriarchal idea that sex is something that a woman “gives” to a man, something he can “take from” her, “stealing her virginity.” Even the phrases sound criminal, describing a power exchange. Children also are taught to obey adults, increasing their risk.

These days, I would think that men would be even more careful about getting consent to sex. Even if the perpetrators and/or victims of rape are drugged, drunk, or impaired, men need to be absolutely sure their partner is a willing, adult sexual partner.

Although women are now seen as more equal to men than in the past in some ways, sexual violence is slow to change. Domestic violence of all sorts continues and Pat Shea of the YWCA encourages men to help solve this problem.

We grow up being highly influenced by our media, advertisements, movies, and magazines, many which glorify girls’ and women’s bodies as commodities. To decease sexual violence, parents need to teach their children about respecting each other’s bodies and how to deal with conflict in a nonviolent manner, something they may know little about.

Perhaps if men felt better about themselves, they wouldn’t rape. But, this problem goes further than that on a macro level. This is about economics, buying and selling products and services. After all, making money is a large part of the American Dream. 

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