“Acquiescing to terror” is the title of a blog post by Citizen Tom that sparked some discussion about sexual abuse and culture. His post really had nothing to do with S/A at all, but we are so inundated with the fear mongering of mediated reality and cultural narratives, we strayed a bit off topic, to the narrative of the day, the “#Me too” campaign, sexual abuse, politics, and a number of high-profile accusations of sexual harassment.
“Acquiescing to terror,” strikes me as a really good turn of phrase for what some of these “rape culture” narratives are doing to us. I feel really bad for actual victims and for sexual assault advocates right now, because the lines are being all blurred, sexual harassment which is a civil matter now being conflated with actual rape, which is a criminal matter.
We, meaning the media and social justice advocates, are now equalizing everything in the eyes of public perception, so an 89 yr old man in a wheel chair suffering from dementia, becomes a sexual abuser, a “rapist by identity” rather than by actions and by competency. “Manspreading” on a city bus has now become threatening, a sign of oppression, a form of intimidation.
Sexual confusion, blurred boundaries, and chaos rule the day.
Also, when everything becomes sexual assault, nothing is anymore. Somewhere among all the shades of gray, bad behavior becomes so prevalent, it gets perceived and dismissed as “normal.” That makes raising awareness and advocating for healing and justice for actual victims so much harder.
I also feel really bad for young women, women who may have been violated, women who are struggling to process the world around them and their experiences, who now have this mirror of perception held up that just exaggerates everything, that heaps on more shame and confusion, that won’t allow anyone to heal. There’s a big difference between “I was once the bug on someone’s windshield,” and “You better walk in fear at all times, everywhere, because we live in a rape culture and all men hate you.” Attempting to keep women in a perpetual state of terror and potential victimization is NOT okay.
It’s also really psychologically and emotionally abusive. Fear is nearly always about power and control, manipulation. Insisting women walk in a state of fear all the time is not an accurate reflection of reality or of statistics in the Western world. Safety is also an important state of being, mindset, attitude, and so writing a fear based social justice narrative in which the whole world hates you and is out to get you, is actually cruel. Rather then women being forced to acquiesce to politically correct terror, I’d like to see women acquiesce to healing, courage, strength, boldness, perhaps even joy.
I also feel bad for men, ALL men now being perceived as potential sexual predators, ALL men by their mere existence, perceived as the next bad guy about to be exposed, and about to be exposed by a culture that seems to be unable to distinguish between healthy sexual biology and inappropriate sexual behavior. It is as if we cannot see degrees and variations anymore. Promiscuity for example, is not good for you, it is not healthy, but that is so many miles away from the immorality of forced stranger rape.
Sexual harassment, threats, intimidation at work is ugly and dark, but that is also miles away from intentional, deliberate, consensual sex with a TV producer in exchange for furthering your career. I don’t wish to shame, judge, or hurt anyone here, but Miley Cyrus riding her wrecking ball and Beyoncé dancing in her leotard are making millions of dollars off of selling female sexuality. One cannot market female sexuality as a commodity to be sold and exploited, and then complain about how women are now being commodified and exploited.
Social mores were once taught and learned, they became innate, instinctual. In a culture rejecting all social/sexual mores, you sow and reap confusion among everyone.
Dump a huge pile of shame on the whole thing and you create a real mess. Ironically “healthy sexuality” becomes shameful while perversions and distortions of good boundaries become our source of entertainment. You see this dynamic on the internet all the time, “heteronormative” is an accusation, a criticism, something perceived as shameful……and then we all go home to relax and watch CSI, which is usually about pedophiles, rapists, and serial killers.
No wonder we are all confused.
I really wish I could do something beyond lament the fact that “I feel bad,” for the chaos we are sowing, for the harm we are doing. I wish I could stand on a street corner and tell young men and women, it is all going to be okay, you are created in the image of God, you are deliberately designed as a sexual being. Don’t acquiesce to shame and fear. There is this whole world of difference between sexual abuse and healthy relationships between men and women.
I wish I could stand there and tell people, don’t believe everything you think, and don’t acquiesce to terror, whether you be a guy deeply hurt by false judgements or a woman deeply hurt by poor behavior. If I could wave a magic wand, I’d kick the media out of the debate entirely, sprinkle everyone with some humility, and invite some actual discussion designed to promote common sense, create boundaries, and encourage emotional healing.
Alas, I don’ t seem to have magic wand.