Recently an associate of mine disclosed to me she was almost raped. In a situation where things were getting hot and heavy physically, she asked her date to stop and pull the breaks. However, he kept going. After repeating “stop” several times and having him dismiss her request, she managed to push him off her. Distraught and upset, she confronted him about his actions, only to have him laugh the entire thing off.
As she told me this story I began to cry. I was devastated by the thought of not only another woman, but someone close to me, being violated in such a way. However, she was quite surprised by my reaction, telling me that other people she had mentioned this incident to had made comments like “What did you expect getting yourself in that situation?” and “It’s like taking a horse to a lake to drink water, but then not letting it”.
Those responses to her experience are a part of the everyday cultural practices that excuse and tolerate sexual violence. By subtly saying that “girls allow themselves to be raped”, society not only further victimises women and their experience with rape and sexual assault, it also legitimises the entitlement and ownership men have to women and their bodies. And this is just one of the many forms of how gender oppression works.