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Chrissie Hynde, war zones and rape culture


rape culture, Chrissie Hynde, rape survivor, war zoneThere is still a fundamental misunderstanding about what rape culture really is.

Chrissie Hynde*, a well respected musician, recently promoted her new book ‘Reckless’.

A quote from the book about her experience of being raped by a biker in the 1980s shows that she blamed herself for her rape.

“If I’m walking around in my underwear and I’m drunk? Who else’s fault can it be?” she said. “You know, if you don’t want to entice a rapist, don’t wear high heels so you can’t run from him”.

This quote has been endlessly debated both in the mainstream press and feminist circles. A good example of this is in the Daily Mail, where six female writers offered differing opinions.**

The points of view that the quote has attracted are also epitomised by a recent radio interview between freelance journalist and political activist Julie Bindel and Ella Whelan a writer for Spiked Online.

Bindel is featured first and strongly comes out for the perspective that rape is never a woman’s fault – only the perpetrator’s.

Whelan then states: ‘if we go out and aren’t aware of our surroundings, don’t know what is going on – then if stuff happens and we get into trouble then to a certain extent we have to admit our responsibility for that’.

In other words, when women leave the house, they have to take responsibility for protecting themselves from sexual assault/rape.

What was not discussed on the programme, as is usual with mainstream media, is the surrounding environment – or what Whelan calls ‘stuff’ –  that we live within. Bindel did name it – rape culture – but the presenter did not mention it and Whelan dismissed it.

Although loathe to use an analogy – we are all fed up with women who are raped being compared to houses/cars being burgled – I do think that there is a fundamental misunderstanding in the mainstream about what rape culture really is.

It is not surprising that this is the case, because to acknowledge it would mean that society would have to really take on board how bad sexual violence/rape against women is in a capitalist and patriarchal system.

So, my analogy:

If you live in a war zone where snipers are firing across the streets at each other, then you would not walk in between them because you might be shot and killed. This is common sense within a war zone.

Similarly, if you live in a culture where men are routinely practising sexual violence/rape against women and this is triggered by women being vulnerable in public, then as a woman you would make sure you would not be vulnerable in public, otherwise you might be sexually assaulted/raped. This is also common sense – BUT only if we accept that we live in a sexual war zone.

So, the connection that is not being made in the mainstream is the similarity between a war zone and our culture – our culture is a sexual war zone for women. This is rape culture.

And that is what feminists consistently point out as being the problem.

Sexual violence/rape against women is part of our lives. And we are expected to deal with it every day and we have to mitigate against our chances of it happening.

If we don’t then it is our fault.

My question is: is it reasonable to accept that we live in a sexual war zone?

Is it?

Or can we, by consistently trying to get the message across that we are in a sexual war zone and we need to address this, promote change?

Obviously the analogy above is simplistic and does not acknowledge that sexual violence/rape affects women both in public spaces and within the home.

However, once the concept of rape culture is understood, then the link can be made to sexual violence/rape against women in public spaces, in domestic spheres, in online misogyny, in the sexualisation of women in the media, on Page 3, in the violence against women routinely promoted within pornography – all the areas where women are promoted as sexualised objects.

And rape culture can also encompass sexual violence/rape against everyone. Rapists do not care who they sexually assault/rape and it has very little to do with the class, race, age, sexuality, gender or disability of the person who is targetted. Because – as in a war zone – sexual violence/rape is about power.

So back to Chrissie Hynde. Her comments make sense if we accept that we live within a sexual war zone.

Within a rape culture.

I will not accept this.

I will not.

*While not agreeing with Chrissie Hynde in blaming of herself for her rape, I would also like to state that she is dealing with her experience in her own way, and this article is not aimed at criticising her as a rape survivor.

**I am not linking this post to the Mail because of ‘click bait’, but if you can bear it, search for ‘So DO women who dress provocatively invite rape? After the storm around Chrissie Hynde’s comments, six women writers share their passionately conflicting views’.

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