We Need to Consider More than Universities

There’s a lot of really good stuff out in the blogoamorphia[1. Sphere, pshyeah.] about sexual assault on uni campuses. The focus is specifically on USian colleges and universities though Rape Culture exists pretty much everywhere with only slight variation. It’s worth reading, if you’re up to reading about sexual assault at all. (I’m not always.)

Predators are good at target selection. All of them. We see this in the uni rapists who repeatedly assault vulnerable young people. And the analysis of these assaults and assailants is valuable. I hope the attention being focused on this issue leads to real change in how sexual assault is treated by colleges and universities because the status quo is disgusting. Victims are made to undergo ‘mediation’ with their assailants in the name of ‘fairness;’ people known to administrations to be serial rapists face only the most cursory of punishments while their victims often leave, faced with an environment that could hardly be more obviously hostile; the government agencies tasked with reducing rape on uni campuses in the US have hardly bothered to appear to do anything at all.

But I’m a little uncomfortable that the focus is on the most privileged, most visible, most likely to be photogenic segment of sexual assault victims. Not that these people don’t need or deserve attention–they do. (And really I’d like there to be much more awareness that the things cis men do to each other are not HILARIOUS PRANKS but are sexual assault and should be treated as such. Cis men, you have a task: Even if you can’t be arsed to end sexual assault of other folk by cis men, you may wish to end assaults on yourselves by cis men. Hop to it.) I just worry that the pattern we see so often where the most privileged people are centered and marginalized people are pushed to the edges will repeat itself. That sexual assault victims whose circumstances differ will have a more difficult time being heard. That there will be a sense of “Well fuck we already had to care about these college [het cis probably currently non-disabled largely white largely middle-to-upper-class] girls getting raped and now you want us to care about you? Sorry, we’re all out of giving a shit.”

Because predators aren’t just at universities and colleges. All those uni students will leave school eventually. Not all predators even go to uni. They will all be looking for targets. Not only will they choose targets that are vulnerable and have a low risk of incurring negative consequences, they will seek out environments where there are large concentrations of their preferred targets. They will search for jobs where they will be in positions of authority over those targets. Predators that prefer children try to get jobs in schools or in religious settings. Predators that prefer disabled people, mentally ill people, or elderly people look for work in hospitals and supportive care facilities. Predators that prefer sex workers become pimps or police.

Part of the problem is going to be that people will be able to relate to the uni predators better. University-age women are often attractive people by accepted standards of beauty. Raping a pretty young cis woman is understandable–the rapist was attracted to her and wanted to fuck her and wanted to cut through all the preliminary bullshit and get right to the fucking. It’s harder for people to imagine wanting to fuck children or older people or disabled people or crazy people or fat people. Who’d find that attractive? (Who would rape you?)

It isn’t about sexual attraction. A predator’s preferred type of victim may not have anything to do with the sort of people xe finds attractive in non-predatory relationships (assuming xe has any) and may be of a different gender from xer orientation. Cis men who identify as straight and prey on children who read as male by ciscentric standards aren’t necessarily lying about their orientation, even to themselves. Predation isn’t about sex despite there being sexual gratification involved. (Though the predator xerself likely doesn’t understand this.) It’s about the predator making xerself feel powerful by stripping xer victims of power. It’s about the predator boosting xer self-confidence by humiliating xer victims. It’s about the predator feeling safer by making someone else afraid. It’s about hate. It’s about entitlement. It’s about controlling the behavior of others. And like all kinds of abuse, it’s about making the victims responsible for the emotions and actions of the predator.

Sex is just the mode of abuse. The choice of victim is about getting away with it.

So how do we not lose track of this? How can we address the issue of rape on university campuses without centering that experience of rape and marginalizing others? How can mainstream anti-rape activists not treat our experiences of rape as Other, as exotic, as something incomprehensible? Because that path leads to paternalism and patronization. It’s not good for us no matter how well-intentioned. It’s the sort of thing that leads to disabled people with ovaries being sterilized without their consent or knowledge at the behest of guardians who simply assume, with ample justification, that they will be raped in institutional care facilities. Since there’s nothing they can do about that (as we all know rape is a force of nature and not an act performed by humans capable of changing their behavior[2. MY SARCASTIC VOICE LET ME SHOW IT YOU.]) they can at least protect those people with ovaries from some of the potential things that could result from said rape. That one of the things they are protecting people with ovaries from is the possibility of bearing a child and being a good and loving parent–which happens even when a child is conceived by an act of rape–doesn’t occur to them. They know best, and they can’t imagine this person they’re placing in an institutional care facility being a good parent.

Cross-posted from my tumblr blog, Rabbit Lord of the Undead.

About kaninchenzero

Kaninchen Zero is a woman-focused social justice activist, queer, trans, poly, kinky, atheist, socialist, a gamer, happy in a legal interracial same-sex marriage in Texas, and nearly forty. She has an overlookable physical disability (she can walk but slowly, painfully, and with a limp) and mental illnesses she can't hide any more. Other blog-ish type stuff can be found at her LiveJournal, her Dreamwidth, and her Tumblr. Short-form fiction is mostly at her story blog. The official short form of her handle is k0, pronounced kaynull or kaynought. The avatar is her own drawing.

4 thoughts on “We Need to Consider More than Universities

  1. I worry that if people discussing rape try to be inclusive it will lead to those horrible “advice” things to prevent rape, only designed for PWDs. (And probably PWvisibleD, probably people who use wheelchairs.)

    My favorite rape prevention tip – don’t rape someone. Don’t drug somebody’s drink. If you think you may rape someone, have a buddy along to stop you. And on and on.

    I think that when it comes to rape and PWD, it ties into bigger issues, like getting our voices heard. “Oh, she’s bipolar, so we’ll blame that instead of booze. You must have been “crazy” then and now you regret it. And stop wearing clothing that shows off your body!”

    Rape culture is so ingrained… I have big breasts. I like them. They’re purty. Ever since I got them, I’ve liked shirts that show them off. But I still feel like I shouldn’t do that because I’m not looking for a man, I just feel like dressing for myself, and I’m sending out the wrong message. But it’s my body, why can’t I wear a shirt I like?

  2. “het cis probably currently non-disabled largely white largely middle-to-upper-class”

    Hmm, I think this is a bit of a generalization, and erases the millions of university students who do not fit one or more of these categories. I was raped in college, and I am queer and disabled. I don’t think it is accurate to assume that the majority of college students are necessarily privileged all across the board. (Of course, this will vary by region, type of school, etc)

  3. Raping a pretty young cis woman is understandable–the rapist was attracted to her and wanted to fuck her and wanted to cut through all the preliminary bullshit and get right to the fucking. It’s harder for people to imagine wanting to fuck children or older people or disabled people or crazy people or fat people. Who’d find that attractive? (Who would rape you?)

    I think this is a very thorny issue, because rape is really under-prosecuted for everyone, so it’s not as if people look at a young white girl and say, “Yep, pretty enough to rape… your rapist is CONVICTED!” It just turns into victim blaming about how she obviously wanted sex or she wouldn’t have gone out looking sexy. Obviously young cis TAB white women have a lot of privilege in almost every context, but in this area it doesn’t seem to translate into tangible gains.

    I don’t care if people talk more about what a problem rape is for people like me, I care if they actually do something to stop rape and to punish the rapist afterward, and with all the awareness I still see a lot of rape victims and not a lot of charges sticking.

    I think that the same problem is at work for all victims, the problem you’ve identified: the focus on sex, whether that manifests as saying “She was asking for it being pretty and wearing a short skirt” or saying “this woman in a care facility is unrapeable.” It’s a sex crime, but it’s not a crime about sexiness.

    I do wonder how the idea that disabled women are unrapeable works with your paragraph about sterilization because the assumption that rape will occur in care facilities, but it wouldn’t be the first thing our culture has cognitive dissonance about.
    .-= Gnatalby´s last blog ..Walker Family Planning =-.

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