Fictional Portrayals Of Sexual Assault

Well YOU find a better image to go with this headline that’s neither upsetting nor NSFW.

I don’t exactly keep it a secret that I am an enthusiastic fan of strong female characters. Whether they’re high-powered businesswomen, vampires, mothers, superheroes, sorceresses, or commanding armadas of interstellar warships, I love these characters. I love identifying with them (the vast majority of my favorite fictional characters tend to be women) and watching their stories unfold.

Unfortunately, part of the grim reality of our world is sexual assault. It happens and, unfortunately, not everyone who commits sexual assault is immediately fed to sharks and/or set on fire (if I were running for office, changing that would be one of my campaign platforms, though).

Sometimes, to create drama, to help readers or viewers to sympathize with one character (or to detest another), or as a part of character development, storytellers will put a sexual assault (successful or otherwise) into a story. A character’s backstory may involve being a survivor of sexual assault, or having witnessed it (especially happening to a family member). Or, a sexual assault may happen during the course of a story.

There can be very good reasons for having this as an element of your plot—I understand that. But I think that it is completely valid and usually preferable to have a female character be in physical danger that is not inherently sexual.

There are a few rules that I would like for everyone to please, please follow if this happens in a story (whether it’s a book, a show, a film, a video game):

1) Sexual assault is not sexy. It should not be sexy. It should not be titillating in the least. No one, including a preteen for whom anything related to sex is potentially exciting, who follows your story should find anything about the scenario appealing.

2) Why is the sexual assault happening? I mean this from the perspective of character-driven storytelling (why does this person want to rape this other person?), but I also want to know how and why this serves the story. If it’s purpose is to provide motivation for a male character to rescue and/or avenge the female character, then please stop being an ass and maybe stop writing. That may sound like I am overreacting, but that kind of story in which female characters lack agency and seem to exist only to provide various types of motivations and goals for male characters is not only overdone—it is toxic.

3) I hate to even mention this one, but it needs to be mentioned—please look at what sorts of people are involved. If you are having, for example, a black man sexually assault a white woman (literally or symbolically—though the use of certain alien species or fantasy races to represent different human ethnicities is a rant for another day), you probably should not. That kind of scenario obtains a gut reaction from certain readers or viewers because it plays into some disgusting racist beliefs and fears.

Beyond those three rules, there are a few things to consider when you wonder if you should write that into your story:

1) It is almost inevitable that sexual assault survivors will be exposed to this story. If this is going to be a widely-consumed work (like a major motion picture), millions of survivors will be exposed to it. Trigger warnings exist online for a reason. Do you really want to do that to your readers? Even if you include the event in your story, there are ways of including a rape in a story that will be easier on certain readers.

2) Is this going to change the way that viewers see the character who is sexually assaulted? I do not mean readers or viewers who will victim-blame or see the survivor as “dirty;” those people can go jump into a volcano. But will readers, viewers, and even other characters see this character in a new way, possibly wanting to baby her, or seeing her as less powerful because they have also seen her in such a vulnerable state? Is that really something that you want?

It is important to note, however, that a storyteller who has a sexual assault, even one that is not handled as well as I would like for it to be, is not necessarily a bad person. At all, even.

In fact, have you guys seen Hansel And Gretel: Witch-Hunters? It’s not the best film in the world, but it’s a thrilling and goofy film with a lot of easy gore (some films are gore films and undesirable, but I did not once cringe or wince at the blood and guts in this film—it was pretty fun).

There’s an unsuccessful sexual assault during the film. It was completely unnecessary and decreased my enjoyment of the film.

But it was not a remotely titillating scene. It’s a really upsetting and violent one.

However, and I won’t spoil who or how, but the way that the sexual assault is interrupted is the best. And I honestly think that that was a big part of why the scene was written into the screenplay. Because we get to see a bunch of rapists get beaten up and killed in various ways, including one whose head just gets crushed.

That I could watch all day long.

And a lot of writers will put people who commit horrible acts into stories with the intention of destroying those people within the story. Sometimes it’s a little unsophisticated and juvenile, but unlike a rape depiction, a scene of revenge against a rapist is always a treat to read or watch.



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It’s Not the Man It’s the Miniskirt

In Swaziland, which is in South Africa, they’re saying “It’s not the men, it’s the miniskirts that cause rape.”  Yup, they are enforcing an 1889 law against “immoral” dressing—aka miniskirts, low-rise jeans, or crop tops.  Police spokesperson Wendy Hlelta said, “We do not encourage that women should be harmed, but at the same time people should note acceptable conduct of behavior. The act of the rapist is made easy because it would be easy to remove the half-cloth worn by the women. I have read from the social networks that men and even other women have a tendency of ‘undressing people with their eyes’. That becomes easier when the clothes are hugging or are more revealing.”

Right, because rapists don’t attack women in mom jeans. It’s the sexuality of the dress, it’s not the screwed up mindset of the man! Don’t you see? Women should learn how to “not get raped”—you don’t need to teach man to not rape.

To that end, women are also being instructed on how to bend over and pick things up properly:  “For females it is polite that when you have dropped something, squat with your upper body still upright and pick up the item rather than bending half your body head first to pick up the item.”

Don’t bend over or men will rape you!  And I thought America was behind in the progressive country movement. Hell, we might just be on par with a country you never heard of in South Africa.  This is insane, this is insulating and this is sad.

It’s not the miniskirt, it’s not the red lipstick, it’s not the CFM heels—it’s the man. I’ll even go one further, it’s the man the culture that protects him by blaming the woman. Enough.



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Review: The Invisible War

photo of the invisible war pictures
The documentary “The Invisible War” should be mandatory viewing for everyone currently living in the United States of voting age. “The Invisible War” talks about sexual assault in the U.S Military and the system that protects rapists and punishes victims. This documentary is disturbing it is heartbreaking it is disgusting. It is by far one of the most important documentaries that any American can see. This is happening to people that serve our country. This is happening to men and women who are willing to give their life for our freedom and we’re not protecting them.
Let me share a few facts from this documentary:
• Over 20% of female veterans are raped while serving.
• 47% of homeless female veterans have been raped while serving.
• 25% of servicewomen don’t report their rape because the person they would report it to is their rapist.
• Women who have been raped in the military have a PTSD rate higher than men that served in combat.
• The Army Criminal Investigation Division is told to treat victims like criminals and told to interrogate until you “got the truth out of her”.
• Air Force Security Police says rape cases were only given to men not women they were told women were too sympathetic and couldn’t see what was really going on because woman always take a woman’s side.
• 200,000 women in the military reported being sexually assaulted in 1991.
• 15% of incoming recruits have attempted or committed rape BEFORE entering the military.
• According to the Department of Defense 3,230 women and men reported assault 2009 the DOD admits that 80% of assault survivors do not report because of retaliation.
• Single women who report rape, if their rapist is married, will be charged with adultery.
• 1% of males had been victims of sexual assault in the last year that equals 20,000 men.
• In units where sexual harassment is tolerated rape rates triple.
• Most rapists in the military are heterosexual males.
• According to the DOD 3,223 active members reported being sexually assaulted, out of those only 175 did jail time in 2010.
• Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office campaign slogan is “Don’t risk it…ask her when she’s sober”.
• In 2008 the Department of Defense instructed the Director of SAPRO to not testify before congress.
• The final decision in sexual assault cases in the military lies with Command. Not with legally trained experts.
• AN assailant was awarded the Air Force ‘Airman of the Year’ award during his victims rape investigation.
This documentary focuses on the fact that once a victim is raped they are raped again by the system. Watching this documentary I was blown …

Continue reading



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Still Not Asking For It

photo of topless still not asking for it pictures
I recently saw a picture online of a woman who, though her nipples were covered, was topless. Written on her torso were the words: “Still Not Asking For It.”

For years, I have been saying this, outraged. Usually during episodes of Law & Order. A woman can pole dance up and down a deserted street at midnight, clad only in a belt and . . . tassels . . . and she is no more or less asking to be sexually assaulted than a nun in a cloister.

Dancing, even if it involves grinding (what else is there? Ballroom dancing?), is not an invitation for sexual assault. Nor is it permission to have sex with you while you sleep.

The same goes for lap-dances. For being naked. For grooming yourself. For wearing a shirt that frames your figure. For wearing a top that exposes your cleavage. For leaving your door or window unlocked. For asking someone to help you to move something. For accepting a drink from a friend, a coworker, or even a stranger. For smiling at someone, or talking to someone. For existing. For going inside with him or inviting him into your place after a date. For each and every conceivable human activity on the planet that is not explicitly consenting to a given sexual activity, you are not “asking for” that given sexual activity.

Can we use the “house” analogy for a moment? Even though, obviously, while a burglary is a violent, traumatic, and intimate invasion, it does not really come close to a sexual assault.

Whether you let your lawn and your home’s exterior deteriorate and age like a neglected grandparent or you have a carefully manicured lawn and are fastidious about your home’s upkeep, you are not asking for your home to be burgled. Because . . . obviously. You just have a nice home and yard, you are proud of it, and want to show it off.

But there is more to it than that. Leaving your doors unlocked or a window open? That is not an invitation for a burglary. There are places where it is dangerous to do so, but you are still not inviting the danger. I think that most people understand that.

Unfortunately, society has a tendency to treat potential victims of sexual assault (that’s women and men, by the way) as the ones who need to do all of the work. As if avoiding sexual assault is like avoiding frostbite or mosquito bites.

That is not the case. Even if we ignore everyone who thinks that people are “too sensitive” about rape jokes, the pernicious lies that try to mitigate the culpability of rapists, or vicious attacks upon those who have been assaulted—as if it were possible for them to be at fault for someone else’s actions. Even if we ignore all of these elements that come together to form rape culture, there is still something severely wrong with a world in which we teach people to not get raped, but do not teach men to not rape.

That might sound absurd. I mean, I never had to be taught to not commit sexual assault. It should be obvious to everyone. But, since there are still rapists out there in the world, it is not. To a lot of people—people who operate in social circles in which survivors of sexual assault are very unlikely to report it or tell their friends and families, especially if the rape was committed by an acquaintance—rape is a hypothetical crime, like mugging. And surely there must be something that those targeted for sexual assault do to attract people. There must have been a misunderstanding.

There is not. The culpability lies with the assailant, and not with the victim. The culpability in crimes like this lies with the person who committed the rape. There are cases in which accomplices are also responsible, but ultimate responsibility belongs to the person who ignored the word “no” or never even allowed for an opportunity for an answer.

Unless they are literally asking for it, no one is “asking for it.” No matter what.



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