Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Dull Area Between Rape Culture and Dating Culture

2017 is the year a lot of us would remember as the year women spoke out. It is a start. For many women, #MeToo was not just a hash tag, it was re-living certain painful moments over and over again. It was a striking number of women living the same experiences. We must acknowledge and appreciate these women who spoke out. It is nothing short of courageous and brave to be able to stand firm in the face of oppression.

The past year didn’t just slap us in the face with the realization that even seemingly nice men could be predators; it also made us aware of our shortcomings when it comes to addressing these issues. We built a society that revolves around sex yet any conversation around sex is almost taboo. That is what makes the situation with Aziz Ansari so peculiar. Once the story of Aziz’s misconduct broke out, a lot of us were faced with the realization that our society is crumbling. The intersection between rape culture and dating culture is the reason why we must find a way to discuss these situations without labels.

To start of, I would like to point out that what Aziz did in no way makes him a rapist as he believed what they had was consensual however, Aziz is a predator like many men. Sexual coercion is a common occurrence in dating culture. Right from childhood, a lot of us are taught that persistence is romance so a lot of women and men grow up with distorted ideas towards dating culture. Based on twitter opinion, a handle I will not name tweeted at me “Women like it when you try a little harder.” The ideology that women’s No, lack of interest and excitement is a call for men to find a way to coerce a woman into engaging in sexual relations is toxic. It is what brought us here and what put Aziz in the position he was put. Little girls in school are told that boys pick on them because they like them, this is the most tragic ideology I had to unlearn.

Right from the moment we are born, the demarcation between gender roles is drawn. We are taught to normalize sexual aggression as a comfortable part of dating culture. The objectification of women, which begins from childhood, reinforces and allows for the continuation of rape culture. Women are seen as pretty objects that need to be kept safe and pure until marriage while men are advised to take the reigns of the horse and ride into the night. This childhood socialization allows male children to grow up with a sense of entitlement and women as meek creatures. Sex is often discussed as something that is done TO women and not WITH women so a lot of us grow up with this warped idea of dating culture. Often times, sex is seen as something that can be taken from women. Rape culture is not only victim-blaming, it is anything that reinforces gender-roles stereotypes. So dating becomes problematic.
How do women let lose while constantly safety conscious especially when alone with men??

When the Aziz Ansari story broke out, too many of us were forced to face the reality of sexual assault and coercion. To successfully deconstruct the system of patriarchy, we have to start by addressing issues that fall into the gray area.
What is consent?
What is appropriate consensual behavior and what is not??
Is reluctance followed by mild/severe coercion into engaging in sexual activities predatory or not?? It is.
Any sexual engagement that occurs as a result of little to a lot of pressure from a partner is predatory and borderline abusive.
To accept this reality is to accept that many of us have been assaulted in one way or another. We have.

When rape culture, which is the normalization of toxic sexual violence, intersects with dating culture, the lines become blurry. Many women are left wondering what is what.

A lot of women usually find themselves in a bind when it comes to reacting to forced/coerced sexual advances from seemingly nice men who take them on nice dates and treat them well. Are these men exempt from the rules of morality and respect for personal choice?? They are not.

Often times, consent doesn’t come in verbal responses. When two people are ready to get intimate with one another, body gestures and excitement are the normal queues any person should look for.
Is my partner comfortable?? Does my partner want this? Many women are not able to verbally say NO because we know that men usually have more physical power so fear plays a big factor. How will he take my NO? Will he force me if I say NO? Will I be in danger for saying NO? These are all valid fears. More than half women killed in the US are killed by their partners, so this fear that women feel towards saying No is rightly justified.

Consent comes in different forms and once mutual respect for one another exists, picking up on body language queues become very obvious and easy.

Until men are forced to have to consider sex as something that happens WITH women not TO or FOR them, we will still be faced with the issue of these blurry areas. However, we can discuss them, we can find ways to provide support for victims. Men must be held accountable for their actions against women. We cannot keep normalizing sexual aggression as consensual sexual behavior when too many women have to live with the psychological trauma that ensues.
Dating Culture and Rape Culture are seemingly at a cross road but it does not have to be. We can discuss this issue as intellectuals and find a way to better our societies. 


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