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Alexa Petersen | Jeminist: A Jumbo Feminist

Steubenville at Tufts

Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 16:03

Trigger warning: the following column addresses sexual assault.

Steubenville happens at Tufts. In fact, Steubenville probably happened last weekend. This rape case, in which a large part of an Ohio community rallied behind the alleged, now convicted, rapists (who were on the Steubenville High School football team) rather than rallying behind the survivor of this vicious crime, happens everywhere. It doesn’t have to be a football team and it doesn’t have to be high school — all that’s needed are those who buy into a victim−blaming culture. For those of you who say that you are not one of those people, listen up.

None of those boys set out to be rapists. None of them thought, and probably still do not think, that they are rapists. But they are. They sexually assaulted her and digitally penetrated her while she was intoxicated. They are responsible not just for her assault, but the years of resulting emotional and physical turmoil she will likely experience. And the people that stood idly by, watching this barbaric and disgusting act — they are responsible. And the people who bullied the victim, or witnessed the bullying and name−calling without stopping it — they are also responsible.

There are lies we tell ourselves in this society to take the onus off of our own actions. Because rapists are only perverted 40−year−olds who hold a gun to your head in a dark parking lot, right? Here are some of the lies we tell:

“She/he shouldn’t have been drunk.” Sexual assault is defined as any sexual advance on someone who has not given informed consent. Here is where “informed” comes in: a drunk person cannot weigh all their options properly and may be easily coerced, and taking advantage of that inability is rape. Rape. It’s not persuasion; it’s not your lucky day. It’s rape. Remember my words next time you think you’re about to “score.” And, make no mistake, this applies to all sexualities and gender expressions.

“She’s a slut anyway.” My fear is that this phrase is used more by women toward other women than by men toward women. Let me be abundantly clear: the number of sexual partners a woman has had does not make her susceptible to, available for or welcoming of unwanted sexual advances. It does not make her deserving of them. And if she gives consent once, it does not mean she will give it again, or that you don’t have to ask. Slut is a dirty word –— a cruel word. I hope the reader seriously considers not using it ever again, for its only purpose — literally, only purpose — is to degrade women.

“She/he should be ashamed.” This lie has gender−specific implications. Women, expected to be the guardians of their secret garden of sexual virtue, are looked badly upon if they allow too many people between their legs. Women who have many partners are “asking for it” because ... haven’t they already asked for it? Men, particularly gay men, receive very little encouragement to report their assault. They are supposed to feel ashamed that their masculinity and strength could not stop their attack, and their assault is somehow painted to seem less legitimate than an assault against a woman.

These are only a few of the lies that we tell ourselves. I use “our” and “we” purposefully. A culture of sexual assault is a system, not just a set of individual acts. We all play a part in it, whether we are active in perpetuating or not active in stopping it.

Stop using the word slut. Stop gossiping about someone’s sexual choices. Stop laughing when someone is too drunk and “disappears” upstairs. Because it’s not funny. It’s rape. And it happens at Tufts. It happened last weekend.

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