A Declaration of War against the Culture of Hidden Rape

Anti-rape campaign #ThatsRape (5)

Doctor W 2020-10-05

Editor’s note: The Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center is leading a campaign against sexual assault committed with the help of alcohol or drugs, called #ThatsRape. This 5-part series of articles explores the discussions held by the campaign’s planning committee, as well as their questions and recommendations for change.

 

Expression “fuck a sea snail” is a joke?

 

One day, I got a call from a close friend. She had been drinking with a man who had expressed interest in her, and then there was a gap in her memory before she woke up lying naked in a motel bed. I was furious, but my friend simply sighed that there was nothing she could do because she didn’t know the man’s name or phone number. In the end, she decided to consider it her own drunken mistake and bury the painful memory. And I decided to participate in the #ThatsRape campaign.

 

▲ “Sexual Assault of a Drunk Person is a Crime”: A picket sign seen at the ‘Parade for Doing It With Consent’ held in the Sinchon area of Seoul on Feb. 14   ©Korea Sexual Violence Relief Centerd caption

I live in a society in which the expression “fuck a sea snail”[“Sea snail” (golbaengi) is a slang term, based on the vulva’s appearance, for an unconscious woman], is thrown around like a joke, with the context of rape removed. The victim of “fucking a sea snail” was my friend. To her, and to me, that expression isn’t funny at all.

 

While working on our campaign to prevent sexual assault committed with the help of alcohol or drugs I’ve looked at ‘reviews’ of rape drugs posted on the Internet, and they are astounding. One poster wrote, after secretly putting a rape drug into the drink of the woman he was with, “The sex was consensual because she got excited and came onto me. Neat and clean.” The drug’s seller replied, for others’ benefit, “Feed her the drug in total secrecy.”

 

It seems we are living in a society that is insensible to the crime of rape. Because of these experiences, women are required to live in fear, wondering “Is he a potential rapist?” about the majority of men.

 

Why are there men like this? All of the men I know seem okay, but during the campaign I’ve been plagued by uncertainty that they too are potential rapists. Do they consider raping a woman who’s been given drugs “consensual sex”, or toss out the term “fucking a sea snail” to describe the rape of a drunk woman?

 

Determined to rape as long as they go unpunished

 

On the basis of this fear, I did a small experiment on the men around me. I made a questionnaire on the topic of “the sexual culture enjoyed by men”, and spend four or five hours administering it to a group of three coworkers. The results were shocking.

 

They said that it’s instinctual for men to have fantasies of committing rape, and that all men have them. They confessed that among men there exists a kind of culture of “verbal rape” of women. The clearest example of this was talk about sharing rape fantasies about female celebrities during their military service, saying they’d like to strip the woman and do this or that to her.

 

In the most extreme cases of verbal rape, it may target someone like a female university classmate listening to the same lecture as the perpetrator, and take on a cruel and sadistic form that is vindictive of the woman in question.

 

▲ The final presentation of the the #ThatsRape campaign, on February 25   ©The Korea Sexual Relief Center

I asked them – if they found a drunk woman passed out, and knew that they would never face legal consequences, would they rape her? All three men said “probably”.

 

But there was an ironic conclusion to all this. I asked them what we should do to stop widespread sexual assault, what kind of action would be effective. All three forcefully asserted that you can’t remove men’s instinctual desire to rape, and so argued that you can’t expect a change in their morality or thought. Therefore, they asserted, convicted sex offenders must face harsher legal punishment.

 

It was a conclusion that brings up a lot of questions. Even as they think about it every day and enjoy rape culture without a care, they argue that the penalty for rape must be strengthened?

 

Rape culture produces rapists

 

Men’s sexual culture otherizes the action of rape, as if it were something only other people do. They reason, ‘Rapists are mentally ill and brutal criminals, so I’m nothing like them.” By otherizing rape and making it taboo, I felt they were rationalizing away the guilt they naturally should feel about the verbal rape and other sexually violent behavior that they do engage in.

 

“I too want to rape a woman, and I’d do it if I could get away with it, but I’m different from the psychopaths who actually do it and get prosecuted.” In this way, men as a group express disgust with rape but also want to commit it.

 

Actually, many studies into the characteristics of rapists have found that they are not very different from ordinary members of society, are in fact more similar than not. Sexual assault committed by men merely reflects the particularities of the society in which they live, and (according to research by Sarah Brown published in 2005) some of it has even been explicitly taught.

 

Ultimately, the problem is not individual rapists, but the rape culture shared by our entire society. Social messages like “aim for a sea snail to score easy sex”, or “conquer a resistant woman with rape drugs”. Shared notions about rape such as “rapists are mentally ill” and “a woman’s silence is consent”. These social values and beliefs – they are raising men who intend to commit rape as long as they think they won’t get caught!

 

In a context in which rape is othered, we consider behavior to be “not that bad” if it isn’t overly cruel or grotesque, and enforce silence about some types of sexual assault. We make a category called “hidden rape” for these unrecognized types of rape – of women who are unconscious or who have been fed aphrodisiacs – and thus reinforce rape culture. This culture ultimately makes even victims unable to recognize or respond to sexual assault. When you consider this, you see how vast the gap between reality and how we perceive it might be.

 

▲ The final presentation of the the #ThatsRape campaign  ©The Korea Sexual Relief Center

Destroy the myth of “hidden rape”

 

Therefore, we need a new culture to replace rape culture. Rape is occurring as if is a trivial thing, but we need to make perpetrators realize that their “trivial deviances” can be sexual assault. We need a culture that recognizes and continually reminds us that anyone can become a perpetrator of sexual assault.

 

Throughout the #ThatsRape campaign, we’ve thought about what that new culture could be. One relatively successful case that was mentioned was Korea’s ongoing “etiquette education” for university events involving alcohol. At the schools where this is happening, when there are signs of sexual violence, students at least say, “You’re going to get hauled off by the sexual assault prevention brigade if you keep that up,” jokingly using words that encourage caution. 

 

But in society at large, it’s much harder to say “don’t rape” to the perpetrator than it is to say “be careful” to the victim. Societies that otherize rape are extremely reluctant to point out harmful sexual behavior. I think that the alternative for stopping rape culture may thus take the form of society fastidiously pointing out its members’ deviances. 

 

At the final presentation of the #ThatsRape campaign, after our long period of fierce debate and contemplation, we considered what to say to ensure that the feelings and thoughts that we had shared did not end with our movement but lasted into the future for the sake of continued sexual assault prevention.

 

The first steps are to destroy the myth of “undetected rape” like that occurring with the help of rape drugs, and to reveal the criminality of rape culture. We need to put a stop to men’s otherizing of rape that causes them to see it as something that only other people do. In rape culture, women are taught from a young age to internalize a fear of rape. I suggest that we need to teach men to be aware that anyone can become a rapist and to be sensitive to the possibility that they are sexually abusing someone.

 

Furthermore, this movement must be accompanied by legal and structural changes. Unlike the West, where all sexual activity without consent is defined as sexual assault, Korea only recognizes as rape that which can be proved in court to have taken place under violence or threat, or when the victim was unconscious or otherwise “unable to resist”. Attempts to instill sensitivity to rape will lead to a change that allows sex without consent to be legally recognized as rape.

 

While writing this article, I heard news of another friend. On the previous weekend, she had suddenly passed out in a bar and been rushed to the emergency room. This reinforced to me the importance of campaigning to prevent sexual assault committed with the help of alcohol or drugs. I’ll close, then, by making a declaration of war: our fight is just beginning.

 

By Doctor W

Translated by Marilyn Hook

 

*Original article: http://ildaro.com/7415

기사입력 : 2020-10-05

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