There was a video of a 17 year old, mentally handicapped girl allegedly being raped by 7 men that went viral in South Africa. The country was up in arms at this appalling incident. There was anger and frustration from every sector about everything from woman and child abuse, lack of leadership, a lost youth to the dark side of technology. A lot of, seemingly, rhetorical questions are being asked. Most common of these was; what the hell is going on? My name is Vus, and I would like me and you [insert your name here] to talk about rape.
Why am I introducing myself and wanting your name? Because when in moments like these, people tend to hide behind the concept of “society“. This absolves them from the need to be, personally, part of the issue. People throw in their 140 characters worth and keep stepping.
What is Rape?
Rape is a form of sexual violence whereby a perpetrator either physically forces or coerces an individual to engage in a sexual act without their consent. However, rape does not always involve physical force and physical harm does not always occur. This will be important later on.
Real Men Do Rape
With the furor around this #RapeVideo incident the phrase “Real Men Don’t Rape” has been thrown about like coaches for Bafana Bafana. I have a problem with this. The idea of a “Real Man” is so relative as to be nonexistent. Who decides what qualities this specimen should have? Whose definition should be used as a standard? No two people are the same and although there are certain “acceptable” traits, no one can really tell another who they should be.
Also, this girl was not raped by Bugs Bunny and Winnie the Pooh. Real men (and a minor) raped this girl. Yes, the “Real Men” thing is more a metaphor than a direct, physical definition, I know. But why are we using clichéd metaphorics to describe such a heinous act? Because is easier. Its easier to detach them from our “society” because that way it is unlikely that we are going to accept that these are people we live with. “Who are these monsters?“, I read on twitter. Monsters, huh? No, they are not monsters. They are flesh and blood human beings, born of woman, much like me and you.
Why do I have a problem with these phrases? Because when a woman has to deal with the trauma of being raped and you portray the perpetrators as some inhuman, supernatural beings, I doubt it does much for her psyche. It was not Smiggle from Lord of The Rings looking for his “prescioussss” inside her. It was someone you may have as easily walked passed in the street and didn’t think twice about. My point is that in understanding this issue of rape we need to accept that we live in a society that contains rapists. Some of them being very normal Joe’s you might even hang out with.
Rape In Mind
The thing about these incidents that we read about that scares people is imagination. What terrifies a woman when she reads about rape is the possibility of it happening to her. Even worse, being curious human beings, she imagines what it would be like to be raped. The shear terror, the pain, the smell, the utter thought of being violated like that. Well, men, being curious human beings too, also imagine what it would take for them to rape someone. Real talk.
Yup, just like every woman thinks about the possibility or the process of being raped, every man asks himself the question: what would it take, what would possess me to rape someone. The good news is that most men don’t have the answers to this question(s). So, then where do rapists come from? The answer will break your heart.
I am saddened by the number of women that I know, personally, who’ve been raped. I will thumb suck a statistic and tell you that the number of women who’ve been, or at least nearly, raped that you know personally is higher than you think. But wait, that’s not all. You know a lot more rapists than you think you do. The World Health Organization estimates that 1 in 4 women will likely experience sexual violence, and get this, by an intimate partner. Most women have been raped were raped by people they know. So who are these monsters and where do they come from? You know that better than I do.
What makes rape so complicated is that there is an assumption that it is this brutal act of violence perpetrated by some hooded, demented freak in a dark alley somewhere. Well, there’s a lot more demented freaks behind boom gates and complexes than there are in dark allies. Let’s look at the definition of rape again. “It does not always include physical force and it does not always result in physical harm”. Think about that for a minute. This means that if we put aside the popular definition of rape as a brutal act of violence, then we are left with a whole lot more women and men who have actually been raped. AND we have a lot more rapists than we thought. This means that the possibility of the fact that you may have been raped is realer that you thought. So too, is the fact that you may have raped someone, and you didn’t know it.