FYI: Rape happens because of rapists, not what you wore or drank
This was a real conversation with a friend. "I don't want to sound like I'm blaming the victim," he opened while I cringed, already knowing what he'd say next. People who say they don't want to blame the victim have a tendency to end up blaming the victim anyway. "But she shouldn't have gotten drunk enough to pass out if she didn't want anything to happen to her," he said, speaking of the woman who was raped behind a dumpster by a Stanford athlete.
"We shouldn't be telling women to avoid wearing revealing clothes or avoid getting drunk, we should be telling men not to rape women," I shot back. The problem is men believing they have a right to a woman's body if she dresses or acts a certain way; shows, books, music, and seeing other people's (men and women alike) cues reinforces this belief. Rape culture is pervasive but not always overt.
For example, the other day, I was walking down the street when a man in a motorcycle shouted "Ganda mo naman!" to me as he whizzed by. This sounds harmless and other people may *think* it's a compliment, but that didn't make me feel good at all. If he thinks he has the right to say that to a total stranger, I wonder how he acts towards women whom he actually comes in contact with. Does he stop with just an unsolicited "compliment"? I don't want to find out.
Just don't look, Liz. Pretend you didn't hear it. He might get ideas and come back, I said to myself. Without thinking I crossed and instead of walking in the outer street where cars pass by (as I normally do), I slipped into a private street where there's a security guard.
Is this an overreaction? I don't think so. This has happened so many times, my reaction (such as it were) was already automatic. Women know this feeling of being on the defensive at all times.
"We live in the world that is, not as it should be," he argued back. Some men are evil - I would say pigs, but that's unfair to the pigs - who want to dominate and own. Why provoke them, why give them a reason to be their next target? It won't kill you to dress modestly, they say. It won't kill you to simply avoid drinking with them or being alone with them. Rapists deserve the full force of the law - but please, don't cause them to want to control you and give in to their base urges.
"Do you think I don't know this?" I told him, bitterly. I only ride Ubers or private cars. I absolutely avoid walking in streets unless it's only a short distance, and when that happens I am always on high alert. I look for other males in the area - are they in a group, or are they alone? How far are they from me, how fast can I run? If I absolutely must be in an unsafe place, I dress as conservatively as possible. Pants, a loose shirt, sneakers.
The main reason I haven't moved out of my current neighborhood even though it's not convenient for me to live here anymore is because it's heavily guarded. There are guards at the gate, guards at the clubhouse, roving guards, and a doorman in my building. I pay a lot of money so I can feel this safe, but at the back of my mind - always - is the question: are there any threatening males in the area? I am always watching out.
Some might argue that I'm paranoid, but if you're a woman I think you understand what I mean. This dull fear, this constant quiet surveillance of the environment, is the cost of being able to wear or do what we like. Still my world is smaller because of this fear. My range of actions are limited compared to a male's.
"Do you think I don't know this?" I asked him again. "Women have been told bluntly since we can understand what sex is that we should not wear this or that, or drink, or be alone with a man. We've been told our self-worth is tied to our virginity so men would value it too; once we are no longer virgins, well, whoopteedoo, it's a free country down there! Men can't be blamed for abusing us (economically, physically, emotionally, or verbally), we deserve it for losing our virginity before marriage and not respecting ourselves. Here's a manual on not to get raped. Read up. Don't make a mistake, or else." I've heard this exact same words from people who love me, people I respect.
Are they right?
We live in the world that is, not in the world that should be.
Instead of telling girls how to avoid getting raped, we should tell boys not to be rapists. We already know. We've heard it hundreds of times growing up. We'll probably not stop hearing it any time soon. We still get raped. So tell your little boys (or girls, or any gender) not to rape. Call out your misogynistic colleague who thinks he's witty for making inappropriate jokes. Call out Senator Sotto. Call out the catcallers. End rape culture and reshape the world we move in.
In the meantime, don't forget the pepper spray.
Here's a good read on myths and facts about rape.