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Sleeping Beauties (Rape Awareness Month)

"...when the king beheld Talia, who seemed to be enchanted, he believed that she was asleep, and he called her, but she remained unconscious. Crying aloud, he beheld her charms and felt his blood course hotly through his veins. He lifted her in his arms, and carried her to a bed, where he gathered the first fruits of love. Leaving her on the bed, he returned to his own kingdom, where, in the pressing business of his realm, he for a time thought no more about this incident."

From "Sun, Moon, and Talia", by Giambattista Basile.

* * *

If you've read my last book, you'll probably recognize Talia's name and backstory. There are a number of reasons I chose this piece of the Sleeping Beauty story to use in my own books, as opposed to one of the less unpleasant versions. One of the most important reasons was the paragraph above, because it's a story I've heard so many times before. Because this is something men* still do.

Not all men. Not even a majority of men. But too many. I know far too many women who were ripped awake by a man raping them. By a roommate. By a friend who crashed at her place after a party. Even by a total stranger, though stranger rapes are less common.

Men who then return to their own kingdom, thinking no more about the incident. Which forces me to ask, What the hell is wrong with us?

Let me make this as clear as I can, since so many of us seem unable to comprehend.

  • Letting you crash on the couch does not equal consent.

  • Drunk and passed out does not equal consent.

  • Roommate sharing a house/apartment does not equal consent.

  • Unconsciousness does not equal consent.
What's wrong with us that we see a sleeping girl and feel we have the right to gather the fruits of her love rape her? Where does that sense of entitlement come from? At what point did we learn that women exist as objects, not people, and that their only purpose is to satisfy our own urges? That sex is a game to be won ("Did you score with her?"), and consent is merely an obstacle to be overcome or ignored?

Often when I get to this point, people (men) will come back with "What if?" questions. "What if she was flirting with you before she went to sleep?" "What if you used to go out?" "What if...?" One after another, every question trying to chip away at the rules, to blur the boundaries and invent gray areas where those rules can be violated.

Consent means knowing what you and the other person want. Not guessing. Not assuming. Knowing. If you have to ask "What if?" it means you don't know, and if you don't know, the default answer is no until the other person says otherwise. You keep your hands to yourself unless and until you're invited to do differently. My four-year-old knows that. Why can't the rest of us get it through our heads?

In the fairy tale, it's not the man who rapes Talia who is the villain. The real villain of the story is the man's evil wife. (Oh yes, did I mention he's married?) The man did nothing wrong. Because he has a right to use whatever woman he chooses. Because it's the woman's job to stop the man from raping her, not the man's job to control himself. Because rape is a women's issue, and not our problem.

How long before men step up and take more responsibility to put an end to rape? Before we start teaching our children what consent means, and how to have a healthy relationship instead of a competitive/predatory one? Before we start calling one another out on the kind of sexist and abusive behaviors that encourage predation and assault?

Basile wrote this tale about 400 years ago. How sad is it that Talia's story is still so familiar today?




-----
*"Among all rape victims identified by the survey, 85.8 percent were women and 14.2 percent were men. Nearly all of the female victims (99.6 percent) and most of the male victims (85.2 percent) were raped by a male." -2006 Violence Against Women Survey, U.S. Dept. of Justice, page 26.

Comments

( 117 comments — Leave a comment )
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j_cheney
Apr. 1st, 2009 12:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Jim. It needs to be said, over and over.
suricattus
Apr. 1st, 2009 12:54 pm (UTC)
*sighs* Yes. That. Thank you.

My name is Laura Anne, and I'm a sexual assault survivor.
jimhines
Apr. 1st, 2009 01:37 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry, Laura Anne. It's not right. And unfortunately, LJ comments just don't do justice to any of this...
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brainstormfront
Apr. 1st, 2009 01:14 pm (UTC)
Important issue well addressed, Jim. Thanks.
renesears
Apr. 1st, 2009 01:15 pm (UTC)
Very, very sad. Thank you for speaking out about this. If enough people keep talking about it, maybe eventually this will sink in:

Consent means knowing what you and the other person want. Not guessing. Not assuming. Knowing.

The fact that people don't know this and try to rationalize anything different is terrifying in its prevalence.
threeoutside
Apr. 1st, 2009 01:16 pm (UTC)
Hear, hear!

Or is it "here, here!"? I never have known.

Anyway - You are so right.
jimhines
Apr. 1st, 2009 01:47 pm (UTC)
Wikipedia says it's "Hear, hear" ... if you trust Wikipedia.
thewallflower00
Apr. 1st, 2009 01:18 pm (UTC)
It seems to me that men who rape are sociopathological to begin with - they're trying to rationalize a deviant behavior. Which means its a psychological disease (in a way that serial-killer-ism is), and probably should be treated like one. Or is this not something you've found in your experience?
jimhines
Apr. 1st, 2009 01:59 pm (UTC)
That isn't something I've found, actually. I wish I could believe it. I *want* to believe that men who rape are different, that they're mentally broken. But when I've worked with men who raped or abused, they seemed normal. One of the scariest moments for me was being in a DV support group and listening to a man who had beaten the hell out of his wife and thinking, "He seems like a friendly enough guy." I couldn't tell.

It reminds me of child abuse. I used to think child abusers were horrible, broken, sick people, up until the first time I realized I wanted to hit my own child. I didn't -- I walked away, but the fact that I had gotten so tired and frustrated and angry, that it would have been so easy to cross that line....

I don't think most men who rape are psychologically all that different or deviant from the general population. Which scares me.
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queenoftheskies
Apr. 1st, 2009 01:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you for posting this.
cathschaffstump
Apr. 1st, 2009 01:27 pm (UTC)
This reminds me that I'd best get off the computer and get to my morning session for managing this very issue.

BUT before I go, let me say once again that your advocacy and voice on the issue, as always, ring true, and I am always appreciative that you have chosen to keep this issue as one of the issues you return to on your blog. With your credentials in this area, it packs a punch.

Gotta go.

Catherine
jimhines
Apr. 1st, 2009 02:34 pm (UTC)
You know, I wasn't even thinking about credentials on this one. (Just read arielstarshadow's post, where she talks about having to post credentials to prove you're allowed to talk about it.)

Sometimes it's Jim the former rape counselor, but just Jim the guy, or Jim who's really fucking tired of people he loves being hurt, you know?
(no subject) - cathschaffstump - Apr. 1st, 2009 03:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
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jer_bear711
Apr. 1st, 2009 01:28 pm (UTC)
Great post. These things need to be said again and again.

Off to plug this on Twitter....
jenniferestep
Apr. 1st, 2009 01:45 pm (UTC)
Here, here. A very thoughtful, well-done post about an important subject.

If you think about it, I'd say the majority of villains in fairy tales are women. Snow White's mother. Cinderella's stepmother/stepsisters. The witch in Hansel and Gretel. The witch in Rapunzel. Lots of witches. The Snow Queen. According to most fairy tales, older women with power and in positions of authority are just eeevil.

Not a lot of male villains I can think of right now, except Bluebeard, who was all about killing his wives for disobeying him.
sistercoyote
Apr. 1st, 2009 07:14 pm (UTC)
Also, lots of evil Mothers or Stepmothers, at least in western fairy tales.

Bluebeard set up his wives for failure; he chose them for their intelligence and curiosity and then punished them for being intelligent and curious.
(no subject) - lenora_rose - Apr. 1st, 2009 08:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
arielstarshadow
Apr. 1st, 2009 01:57 pm (UTC)
Your post got me thinking, and...

http://arielstarshadow.livejournal.com/451838.html

Well, there are my thoughts, if you've time and desire to read them.
jimhines
Apr. 1st, 2009 02:27 pm (UTC)
Thank you. That can't have been easy to write, and I think you bring up a lot of valuable points.
cat_mcdougall
Apr. 1st, 2009 02:09 pm (UTC)
I've linked to this post on several places, if you don't mind. It's one of the better ones that I've seen. Also, I pointed out in my own post that too many times rape is couched in terms to make it seem more polite.

Rape isn't polite. And it shouldn't be treated as something "polite".

Once again, thank you for a wonderful post.
jimhines
Apr. 1st, 2009 02:23 pm (UTC)
I don't mind at all, thank you.
sartorias
Apr. 1st, 2009 02:21 pm (UTC)
Excellent, excellent, only it's not "when did we start thinking of women as objects" but "when did we start realizing they are NOT?" This--rape of the weak (because it includes children of both genders) like care of the elderly, respect of the Other, what we do with those who transgress (prisons), are all part of civilization, a slow and painful process, beginning with awareness. That's why I feel that our world is an adolescent right now--way stronger physically than mentally, ramming around causing equal parts damage and good.
asakiyume
Apr. 1st, 2009 09:02 pm (UTC)
Did you read Enchantress from the Stars and The Far Side of Evil? Those stories--well, the second one, really--talked about a society in its adolescence.
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music_lover3
Apr. 1st, 2009 02:28 pm (UTC)
Well said.
sistercoyote
Apr. 1st, 2009 02:53 pm (UTC)
You are always eloquent on this subject. I wish you didn't have to be.

I hope you don't mind, but I submitted this post to the weekly Carnival Against Sexual Violence.
jimhines
Apr. 1st, 2009 05:43 pm (UTC)
I don't mind at all, thanks. And I hadn't come across blog carnivals before. I'll have to check that out more closely.
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(no subject) - sistercoyote - Apr. 8th, 2009 05:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
skylarker
Apr. 1st, 2009 02:53 pm (UTC)
Thanks for writing this. Sadly, some men listen better to other men.

Edited at 2009-04-01 02:54 pm (UTC)
rosefox
Apr. 1st, 2009 03:35 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Jim. You're my hero today.

My name is Rose and I'm a survivor of "grey rape"; I didn't say "no" because five minutes of sex I didn't want was more endurable than hours of convincing my boyfriend that I still loved him even though I didn't want to have sex with him. There are many kinds of force and coercion.

Don't Be That Guy, folks.
jimhines
Apr. 1st, 2009 06:26 pm (UTC)
"There are many kinds of force and coercion."

Yes. That.
raisinfish
Apr. 1st, 2009 03:36 pm (UTC)
Please do not take this as an excuse for rapists. There is NO EXCUSE for rape.

But you ask what triggers men to do this. Isn't rape one of the manifestations of a sex addiction?

http://www.medicinenet.com/sexual_addiction/article.htm

http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/display/article/10168/55141

This would explain why the men you met who were rapists were outwardly nice people. An alcoholic can be a nice person sober. A drug addict can be a nice person between fixes. But when the addiction takes over, it often triggers them to do all kinds of things that are outside their personalities. Things that are illegal or immoral or hurt other people.

Again, NOT an excuse. Addicts have a responsibility to manage their addictions in ways that don't hurt other people, and to get help to get themselves under control.

But it may be a root cause. Not that all men with sexual addictions rape, but some choose to let their addiction manifest in this way. If it is indeed a medical addiction, then, like with other addictions, the man would lose control of himself once he has decided to indulge in the demands of the addiction. This might make it easier to separate himself from his crime. (And all the more wrong of him to do it. It's despicable. It's disgusting. I condemn it. Please make no mistake about that.) Especially men who refuse to recognize that sex addiction is possible or is a problem they have might be prone to extending the denial of addiction to sexual consent.

It doesn't change things for the victim. There is no excuse for hurting another person in that way. But I think the picture is more complicated than men being selfish. I think there are deeper, darker forces at work.

raisinfish
Apr. 1st, 2009 03:40 pm (UTC)
Gah. Why is it that every time I complicate an argument on the internet, I live in fear that someone will take it the wrong way?

Let me make myself absolutely clear one more time, for my own peace of mind. My comment is trying to answer the question: what is wrong with us? from the post above. I believe this is what's wrong with many men who rape. Doesn't make it okay. Doesn't mean they're justified. They AREN'T! But I do think it is one thing that is wrong, which is deeper than selfishness or stupidity.

*sigh*


(no subject) - jimhines - Apr. 1st, 2009 03:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
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tygerversionx
Apr. 1st, 2009 04:15 pm (UTC)
Speaking as one of the people who has been through an event like that ... well, I appreciated Talia for reasons I guess I wasn't even fully conscious of until you laid it all out in this post.

Hugs to the girls, to you, and to everybody over there. And thanks again for a good book with protagonists I'd totally want to hang out with. :D
filamena
Apr. 1st, 2009 05:04 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
mt_yvr
Apr. 1st, 2009 05:11 pm (UTC)
I'm a male survivor of sexual assault. We were living on site at a camp we worked at, in the kitchen. He and I, and two other kitchen staff, lived in one cabin. So when he assaulted me all I did was hold still and silent because if people woke up.. it'd be my fault.

I'm gay as well so there was an underlying question of whether or not this sick sensation, this "oh gods this is wrong" feeling was something I had asked for because I thought I MIGHT like men. This was when I was 18.

I've dealt with a lot of this. In my journey I've also gone down the path of BDSM, finding that I'm a dominant who has one very hard limit. Consent.

Speaking as a gay male about other gay men... consent and so on is NOT as easy as all that.

We have, as a culture, a concept of no vs silence. In law we understand that silence is not consent. Why is it that culturally if no one is asked, and no one says no, it's in any way grey? I don't know. But it is.

We aren't talking about no vs yes. We're talking no vs tacit yes.

The single biggest excuse and channel through which rape can even begin to enter into our culture, personally, is that we have not - as a society, as a whole - said "enough". Enough of hiding behind taboos about subjects we all have or will or want to participate in : sex. Women and men, all of us, need to be socialized to talk openly, without fear or shame about sex. What we want. What we don't want. Games, sexually, that don't have clear and defined boundaries are a sure fire way to get hurt and to hurt.

Half of the stories I've seen here, alone, discuss how they didn't want to lose their boyfriends or disappoint. They didn't want to make noise or a scene. We need to stop that and openly discuss the implications of that when we talk about rape.

Because, damn it, this shit needs to stop. Rape needs to be something people look up in history books.

unwoman
Apr. 1st, 2009 05:21 pm (UTC)
A good friend lived with a boyfriend would would rape her while she was sleeping. She didn't love him anymore and I don't know why she stayed with him, except financially she didn't have a lot of other options.

It is possible to give one's partner carte blanche for sleep sex. I had it with a past partner -- he liked to be awakened to me molestering him. I've given that advance consent in certain situations with people I really like. The point of this I guess is that sleep-rape is possible even among couples, but sleep-sex can be really nice with advance consent.
rhondaparrish
Apr. 1st, 2009 06:31 pm (UTC)
Well said.
pnkrokhockeymom
Apr. 1st, 2009 07:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you. (s'all I got. triggery. but thanks)
melissajm
Apr. 1st, 2009 09:28 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Jim.
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