Blogging “Yes” Day 13: Linking the Discourse on Female Sexuality and Date Rape

Here we are at day thirteen of the Blogging “Yes” project, and Lisa Jervis’s essay “An Old Enemy in a New Outfit: How Date Rape Became Gray Rape and Why It Matters.”  Jervis is the founding editor of Bitch magazine and her essay is another that will contain concepts very familiar to most feminists.  It focuses on the idea of “gray” rape, which is an updated spin on the “date rape is not as serious” victim-blaming discourse that’s been around, well, probably as long as dating culture.  What I wanted to highlight here is the connection between the “gray” rape discourse and modern  messages about women’s sexuality.

Women are now encouraged to look sexy for other people, but not to be sexual for ourselves.  These messages about sexuality as culturally overdetermined sexiness have intensified over the last decade or so, keeping pace with supposed cultural acceptance of women’s sexual activity in general–but they make it harder than ever for women to center our own authentic sexuality.  When you’re steeped in messages about looking hot at the expense of (or as a substitute for) feeling aroused or having sexual desire, it becomes all the easier for you to question your own judgment about what happened to you and believe the cultural forces telling you that your assault was just miscommunication and bad sex.

I just love how Jervis puts this idea so concisely–as female sexuality becomes supposedly more acceptable, it also becomes more commodified and less authentic.  I can remember so many of the sexual desires I thought I had as an adolescent, that I unpacked when I got older and realized they were lifted straight from popular discourse and had nothing to do with my sexuality.  Of course, our sexuality comes from all sorts of influences, and it’s not necessarily less authentic because it came from the mainstream, but we do need to think about what society teaches women about sex and how that relates to this “‘gray” rape concept.

We’re taught that women’s desire is complicated, that orgasm is often unattainable and a pain for (men) to obtain.  We’re taught that orgasm is the ultimate goal of sex, and that it’s something for men to expect and women to possibly get as a bonus prize.  We’re taught that sex is supposed to be uncomfortable.  We’re taught that courtship and seduction is a dance, often a silent dance, that relies on unspoken cues, and that being able to “understand” these cues without discussion is sexy.  We’re taught that talking about sex is embarrassing, or we’re taught that it’s only for “certain times” without much experience of times where it is framed as okay.  We’re taught that women can say “no” and mean yes, that an unsure, breathy “no” might be reasonably understood as consent (that comes from an actual court case, folks). We’re taught that women shouldn’t like sex too much, or that women are too picky about sex, that we often regret it after the fact.  We’re taught that if we drink, if we party, if we wear revealing clothing, we should expect to be touched, kissed, and fondled.  Is it any wonder that so many women internalize the concept of “gray” rape?

Advertisements

About Avory

Avory Faucette is a queer feminist activist, writer, and public speaker. Zie graduated from the University of Iowa with a JD in 2009, focusing on international human rights and gender/sexuality issues in the law. Hir current work focuses on queer identity, policy, and marginalized identities under the queer umbrella. As a genderqueer person, zie comments frequently on non-binary identity, transgender and genderqueer issues, and media coverage of these populations. Zie also speaks at colleges, universities, and events on transgender and queer issues and conducts trainings on related topics.

Posted on April 18, 2010, in rape, relationships, sex, sexuality and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: