Disclaimer: Rape is an intense topic that brings about strong emotions. I’m not intending to incite anyone today, I’m just expressing my opinions. 

If you’ve missed it (and I’m not sure how you can) the case regarding the alleged rape of Dylan Farrow by Woody Allen has resurfaced and been plastered across the headlines for weeks now.  I’m not going to weigh in and state what I think happened–because honestly it would all be conjecture and just be adding fuel to the media fire.

But it does get me thinking, specifically about how rape is handled (and has been handled) in our culture. When a case like this gets swooped up into the media hurricane I wonder how it makes other victims of rape feel. Why is their case any less important, just because they’re not famous or the child of someone famous? Was as much scrutiny given to their case as they have to this one?

For years we (I use the collective we here) made rape something that was the woman’s fault. It was the way she dressed, the way she acted. A woman had to prove her good character in order to prove that it was rape vs. consensual sex. We still do this today even while we pretend that’s not the case. And because of this many women don’t/won’t/can’t come forward. Also because of this there have been good men, non-rapists, that have had their lives ruined by a false accusation.

Rape isn’t a women’s issue, it’s a power issue. It’s about someone taking what they want and showing how in control of another person they are. It’s an issue that affects all sexes and how we react to it and prosecute it directly correlates with how we view gender. When I write the word rape I assume that most of you see the same image in your head as I do in  mine. A big man against a small woman. It’s horrific, it’s terrifying, it’s unbelievable and unequivocally wrong. But even that image is stating a stereotypical norm. It’s working on the assumption that rape is only rape if it’s a man against a women. But the word rape applies to any non-consensual sex. 

I won’t pretend I know what being raped does to a person’s psyche–those assumptions would only belittle those who have suffered. But I can see how our culture upholds so many stereotypes and reinforces rape culture. There’s the simple statement of “boys will be boys”. It almost gives tactic permission for boys to be raised a certain way. Men are supposed to be strong, no emotion, take no prisoner’s individuals. So if they “go a little too far” it’s not their fault. Girls are supposed to dress in frills and makeup. They’re shown from an early age that sex sells and they’re supposed to look a certain way to sell themselves as “real women”. And yet if they get raped it’s their fault because they were asking for “sex”.

If a man isn’t “manly” enough and is forced by a women, well that can’t be rape because really who wouldn’t want to have sex with a hot woman? And girl on girl–well that’s just a turn on so it can’t be rape. And man on man–that’s just disgusting so why would it ever happen anyway? All these thoughts feed into our culture and are reinforced by the media, the fashion magazines, our laws today.

I’m not saying I have a way to “fix” it, to change it. It’s something that’s going to take time, as all paradigm culture shifts do. I can see that there has been some change and the fact that we’re more willing to discuss such a sensitive topic is a step in the right direction. I just think that we, as men and women, whether we’re straight, gay, transgender or asexual need to all think about how we treat people. How we react to certain things and how that reinforces stereotypes. We just need to step outside ourselves and think before we speak, before we act.

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