A conversation on rape culture and Brett Kavanaugh

Rachel Lindo and Taiwana Shambley, Contributors

Rachel: As Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court ruling raged on and into his confirmation on Oct. 6, it wasn’t uncommon for us to see debates in the comments of Facebook posts on how people are afraid to live comfortably and safely. Since the #MeToo movement, more people have expressed that they’ve experienced moments where they weren’t able to give consent, consent was ignored or consent was assumed.

Taiwana: How would you define consent?

RL: Consent is when there is a clear agreement between individuals that they will engage in sexual acts.

TS: What does this clear agreement look like?

RL: Both individuals are fully aware of their actions. Meaning one person isn’t passed out or significantly more under the influence of drugs or alcohol than the other. Also, one person isn’t belittling the other with unwanted sexual advances until the other submits.

TS: I think it’s wild how many people don’t understand consent. I bet Kavanaugh genuinely doesn’t think he sexually assaulted Dr. Ford too, not understanding that “not hearing her say no” doesn’t equate to a yes.

RL: It reflects the grip rape culture has on our society. I believe that ads are a part of America’s rape culture problem and how they use sex to sell products. Women are presented as seductresses in order to sell the product. They perpetuate that if you want sex, you can have it — especially if you’re someone in a position of power.

TS: I agree, Corporations definitely contribute to rape culture by feeding the sex market. We can’t have an honest conversation about sexual assault without acknowledging how society contributes to rape culture.

RL: How would you define rape culture?

TS: I would say rape culture describes a society where women are more likely to experience sexual assault because of the inferiorizing attitudes that said society has about them.

RL: What are some of these inferiorizing attitudes?

TS: Some of these attitudes include objectification, or the idea that women are objects for male gaze and sexual pleasure and body policing. By body policing, I mean folks that aren’t women attempting to dictate what women can and can’t wear and what parts of their body they can or can’t show. For instance, school dress codes: from skirts not being allowed to go above the knees, to tank tops that can’t show too much shoulder. Another example is in the black household where mothers would often tell their daughters to watch what they wear around the house when their uncles, older male cousins and the like visit. But rather than erase a whole group of people’s body autonomy with body policing, we should be focusing on the perpetrators and holding men accountable for being decent humans. We should be making a systematic effort to unlearn these oppressive norms that serve men and unjustly restrict women.

RL: We have to educate ourselves on consent. We can’t base our teachings only on how to avoid rape, because it doesn’t force the rapist to take responsibility for their actions. We have to listen to what sexual assault survivors have to say while believing they were victims and not temptresses.

This article was originally published in the Oct. 19, 2018 issue.