What Rape Myths Are Really Saying

Disclaimer: this article refers to the rape of women by men. I acknowledge that men can be raped and that people can be raped by members of the same sex, but choose to deal with this kind of rape for a variety of reasons, including its recent prevalence in the media.

Content warning: references to rape, rape apologism/denial, victim blaming, and objectification.

Myth 1: A woman who is raped asked for it if she dressed “provocatively”.

In other words, if a woman gave the impression that she might be interested in sex at all*, she forfeited the right to choose with whom, when, where, what kind of sex, or to change her mind; if a woman is interested in sex at all, she is no longer a discerning human being, but a sex object for the indiscriminate use of any man.

Myth 2: A woman who is raped asked for it if she was “flirtatious”.

In other words, if a woman gave the impression that she might be interested in sex at all, she forfeited the right to choose with whom, when, where, what kind of sex, or to change her mind; if a woman is interested in sex at all, she is no longer a discerning human being, but a sex object for the indiscriminate use of any man.

Myth 3: A woman who is raped asked for it if she on previous occasion consented to sex with the rapist.

In other words, if a woman gave the impression that she might be interested in sex at all, she forfeited the right to choose with whom, when, where, what kind of sex, or to change her mind; if a woman is interested in sex at all, she is no longer a discerning human being, but a sex object for the indiscriminate use of any man.

Further to these myths, there are also myths which claim a woman asks for rape by moving unchaperoned outside the home (aka the “walking alone” myth). Sometimes a woman is also said to ask for rape by being unchaperoned in the company of a man (going back to his house, or sleeping in the same room at a party). A woman is often supposed to have asked for rape by engaging in the social ritual of drinking alcohol.
In other words, even the woman who is not said to give the impression that she might be interested in sex at all forfeits her status as a discerning human being by showing an interest in autonomy and life beyond the home, in socialising and joining in.

So, a woman may avoid being raped by hiding herself from society; by hiding her body, her sexuality, her unchaperoned, autonomous presence; by keeping to the home sphere.

But then of course there is a final category of myth (actually no – I wish it was the final category, but sadly there are probably more) which holds that a woman cannot be raped by her husband or equivalent figure (e.g. live-in partner). In other words, there are NO spheres of life in which a woman may be a discerning human being and make choices about the use of her own body.

What rape myths are really saying, is that women are not human, they are sex objects.

*Whether this impression is given is not, of course, arbitered by the woman herself, but by the rapist and the society in which he operates.

1 Comment

  1. I love the way you write, so strong and clear (especially because I am apt to become a bit incoherent whenever I am arguing about this topic) thank you for this.

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