Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Why Do Young People Think Forced Sex Is Acceptable?

Written by: Fenna Vlekke

Sometimes I feel like we're making progress. There are so many articles about rape culture and so many survivors speaking up courageously. Those times I feel empowered and strong. I feel like we're fighting a good battle and that there is a shift taking place. That we're moving to a future where people who've been raped at least get the acknowledgement and the help they deserve. That's why I got really sad, angry and frustrated when I read the Huffington Post article about the #YesAllDaughters campaign. They showed statistics about how young people view forced sex and more than half of the participants felt that "forced sex is acceptable under some circumstances". I couldn't help but feel that young people view forced sex this way, because they see women reduced to objects in the media all the time.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here's the quote with the statistics:

"The Louisiana study also found that the majority of boys (60%) found it acceptable in one or more situations for a boy to force sex on a girl. In a national report on high school students, 56% of girls and 76% of boys said they believed forced sex was acceptable under some circumstances."

I can't say I was necessarily shocked by this, but seeing it in print was nonetheless quite painful. I also realised that probably most of those young people wouldn't think I was raped, let alone if it happened to them, or if they did it to someone else. How can it be that we evolve and talk about these issues over and over again, and it still won't stick? As laws change from 'did (s)he say no?' to 'did (s)he say yes?', does the actual society change too? 

In trying to answer this question, I keep coming back to the 'sexual liberation' of women. We can have sex wherever, whenever we want. We don't need to be married or even love the person we're having sex with. We can watch and make sex videos. We can post them online and share them with the world. We can put naked bodies on billboards, in magazines, on numerous websites. I really do think that this 'sexual freedom' was once meant to set us free. But it didn't. It gave people a new way to exploit us. A way that was frowned upon before, but now broadly accepted. 

What's more amazing than a woman who can choose to use her own body any way she wants? I think this is an essential right. It's your body, and what you want to do with it, is your business. But how can it be that it doesn't feel like we're freed? That it doesn't feel like we have a choice? Why does it feel like this 'liberation' gave sick minds so many more opportunities to exploit us without anyone going against them?

Now, to go back to the teens. Is it really that strange that they think some forced sex is okay? When they probably see pornographic videos from a very early age, where women are tossed around like objects? I'm not saying all porn is bad and abusive. I'm saying a lot of it is, and you can't filter them out. So our teens see it all. Why stop when your sexual partner is in pain, if you think that's part of it? Why feel like you're doing something wrong when you coerce someone, if you see it happen in videos all the time? Why think women's bodies belong to them, when they're so often public properties in the media? It's your only reference. I'm not saying this excuses rapists, not at all. What I am saying, is that we're creating a really unhealthy environment where even more than 50% of girls think it would be okay for someone to force sex on THEM. Schools, and society as a whole need to keep up with teenagers and put what they're seeing into some much needed context. Or we'll create a whole new generation of rapists and victims who believe that raping someone is acceptable.

Written by: Fenna Vlekke
Country: The Netherlands
Social media:
Twitter: @FennaVlekke
Facebook: www.facebook.com/fvlekke

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