Get Real! Rape Is Not Her Fault

Heather Corinna

No one is responsible for "making someone horny." In fact, much of the time, none of us has any control at all over whether or not someone experiences sexual desire.

James asks:

Hi
Heather, I just found a question from ‘samy-baby’  on Scarleteen concerning rape. I’m afraid you appeared all too eager to label the bloke as unsafe and
‘stay well away from him’, given that the girl openly admitted within
the first words of her sentence that she gets her boyfriend
stupid-horny then says "no sex", that’s just cruel, and I doubt many
men would tolerate it. I’ve made it abundantly clear with my girlfriend
that if she makes the effort to turn me into a horn-monster, she should
finish through or I’m usually very pissed off; not to say that I’d go
ahead and have sex with her anyway. All I’m saying is you failed to
advise this girl that if she doesn’t want to have sex, then she
shouldn’t get her boyfriend horny.

Heather replies:

When
a person, behaving in a healthy way, chooses not to tolerate a certain
dynamic in a relationship they dislike or which makes them unhappy,
what they choose to do is set a limit. If that limit is not respected
by a partner, they then terminate the relationship and potentially
contact with that person. If the young woman asking the question had
indeed been cruel to her partner in any way, the appropriate response
from her partner would be to either address that cruelty with her and
come to some agreement on how to be assured it would not happen again,
or for her partner to choose to leave the relationship to end that
cruelty.

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A healthy, humane response to a cruelty is not to be cruel in your
own way back. A healthy, humane response to wanting something from
someone which they do not also want is not forcing them to give it to
you, or making them feel that they are obligated to provide it — or
face your anger — when they do not want to do so.

No one is responsible for "making someone horny." In fact, much of
the time, none of us — not you, not me, not Samy, not your girlfriend
— has any control at all over whether or not someone experiences
sexual desire.

If we could actually have that kind of complete control, a whole
genre of books and magazines for men and women alike which pull in a
bundle in profits every year, all about endless strategies on how to
arouse desire in others, written for masses of people very frustrated
that they do not have that magical ability, would be wiped from
bookstore shelves. And that, my friend, is a LOT of books which would
be missing. It’s silly, for sure, that by now people don’t realize that
even when they want that power, they can rarely have or harness it, and
it’s silly for people to spend untold dollars trying to get that
elusive power, but here you are, among their number.

My telling someone not to "make her boyfriend horny" would be a
really ineffectual and ridiculous thing to say. Not only does any of us
have the vaguest idea how to avoid doing that, given how arbitrary and
random sexual desires among people tend to be, it’s also far beside the
point, and how her boyfriend behaves around her in terms of his sexual
desire is not her responsibility. It’s his. Nothing she can do,
sparing taking his hand and putting it in her pants, makes what his
hand does her responsibility, and none of us — of any gender — are
not the person in complete control of how we choose to behave around
other people.

The fact that young women often feel responsible has an awful lot to
do with the fact that men tell them they’re responsible to deny or
evade their own responsibilities. And it’s very typical, in any kind of
abusive dynamic, sexual or otherwise, for the abuser to blame the
victim routinely in order to refuse accountability. In a physically
abusive relationship, for instance, after a man hits his partner, he
might often say to her, "If you’d only do what I ask you to do, I
wouldn’t have to hit you like this." His partner hears that often
enough, and she starts to believe him. Given it seems like Samy is
expressing a history of parents who have not been healthy when it comes
to sex, she likely thinks a lot of things are in her control which
aren’t, because these kinds of tactics are very common with abusive
people, and she’s probably heard them before. That same kind of belief
despite reason — Samy’s or yours — can also happen through cultural
indoctrination with certain ideas. The idea that women are responsible
for male desire or arousal, however ridiculous — especially since much
of the time, that desire is aroused when women not only don’t intend to
do so, but when arousing it is the last thing we’d want to do — is
pervasive because men feeling entitled to women when they want them,
entitled to sex with women when they want it, and entitled to call all
the shots when it comes to getting what they want is pervasive.
Thankfully, plenty of men are smart enough, strong enough and
compassionate enough — and see sex as mutual pleasure, not
masturbation on someone else — to see the profound error in that way
of thinking and resist that baloney. Thankfully, over the last few
decades, we’ve had more cultural awareness about rape, sexual abuse and
attitudes which enable rape so that even those who once thought that
way — and perhaps still fight feeling that way — are dedicated to not
behave in alignment with those kinds of ideas which harm and devastate
all of us.

Even the way that you’ve said you’ve addressed your girlfriend
speaks to the kind of projection of responsibility and entitlement I’m
talking about. The fact that something she does arouses your desire
does not obligate her to perform a given sexual activity you want or to
bring you to orgasm, or justify you in being angry with her if she does
not share that same desire. The way you’ve summed up Samy’s post is
pretty inaccurate and telling. She did not, in fact, say she makes a
habit of "turning her boyfriend into a horn-monster," then telling him
they can’t have sex. She described one situation in which she felt
responsible for her boyfriend’s sexual desire, but was not interested
in a certain kind of sex he wanted, declined that sex, and he did it to
her anyway, while she continued to decline it, then later rationalized
what he did then and how he has done this to her before, by telling her
what she likes and that she likes this. You appear to be trying very
hard to make this her fault and take the responsibility away from her
partner and other men like him.

I’m not sure what you think went on here, but based on the years I
have spent talking to young men and women alike about sex, usually when
someone says they "made someone horny," they do not mean they came out
in lingerie, gave them a lap dance, told them all the sexual things
they were going to do with them, then turned around and said "Psych!"
(In the event that is what happened, I, in fact, DID address that using
sex as a manipulation is not sound, safe or kind.) Rather, what they
usually mean when they say that is simply that they were around that
person, or doing something like making out with that person or doing
another sexual activity which they both wanted to do, which aroused
their sexual interest.

But it’s pretty easy to show up the double standard when it comes to
the idea that any of us creates desire and are obligated to meet it:
when you say this, you don’t mean this applied to any of us. You likely
mean it about women and men, and not in a vice-versa kind of way. If I,
as a woman, am around a man who arouses my sexual interest and he does
not feel the same interest for me, or wish to indulge my interest
sexually, do I then have the right, somehow, to force my hand into his pants?
To continue doing something to him sexually while he is telling me no?
If you, as man, aroused another man’s sexual interest in some way,
would he then have the right to do sexual things to you against your
will? Really? To be angry with you when you refused to do whatever he
wanted?

If you and I were sexual partners, and you felt sexually finished
after one or two activities, but I didn’t feel at all done and forced
you to give — or insisted on you giving — me every kind of sex I
wanted for another couple of hours, even some you didn’t want or like,
even if you no longer found me attractive but creepy as hell, even when
you felt done and did not want to anymore, even if it was physically
painful because you were not aroused or interested, with no regard for
your boundaries or what you wanted, that would be okay with you? Would
that be understandable: as in, you’d understand why I did that to you
and feel that I had every right to treat you that way? If so, I gotta
tell you to adjust your thinking, because if anyone ever does that to
you, for the sake of your own well-being, mental health and safety, I
hope you do not try and justify or enable that kind of abuse.


Did you see how I bolded that bit about you not wanting or
liking something sexual? I did that because this can often the The
Great Brain Stopper for some men when it comes to these issues. Some
men feel strongly that there is no kind of sex they wouldn’t want or
like given the opportunity. Now, that’s likely not true: most of those
guys just haven’t yet had an experience where that’s happened yet. A
lot of men have a tough time understanding that when a partner is
raping you, forcing sex on you you don’t want, or exerting their power
over you abusively, even if they were attractive to you before, they
very quickly are not usually attractive any more: they become
repulsive. Some men will also state that they want sex so much that
even sex by force, with someone they aren’t attracted to, would be
alright by them. Gotta call bullshit on that one, too, but let’s
pretend it IS true that there is no kind of sex, with anyone, in any
dynamic, which wouldn’t be something you wanted. Even if that’s so?
That’s NOT so for most people and not so for most women. So, in trying
to understand this, you have to make a point of doing your level best
to envision scenarios in which what was going on was not something you
would want, where what was being suggested or happening was acutely,
intensely, something you did not want to do.


You say you wouldn’t force your girlfriend to have sex with you if
you got turned on, but you would be pissed off, and have made clear to
her that you fully expect that when you feel that desire around her she
should know she’s expected to satiate you to your satisfaction. What if
we were talking about you here? If you "made" your girlfriend horny,
and she wants a kind of sex to feel satisfied you don’t want — let’s
say, forcing her fingers into your anus, or her genitals unto your face
— do you think it would be reasonable for her to be pissed off at you?
Do you feel like it would be reasonable for you to expect that if you
aroused her desire in any way, including intentionally, that her
fingers were going into your bum because she wants to do that, even
when you don’t? If you answered yes to either of those questions, I
have to call your bluff, since it’d be pretty unlikely you did. And
even if you did, I’d have to tell you that whether we’re talking about
men or women, that’s just not a healthy sexual dynamic based in mutual
pleasure and care.

Agreeing to make out or agreeing to be near someone is not an
agreement to have any or every kind of sex that person might want, or
even to continue the agreed-upon activity past the point of wanting to
do so. Engaging in one sexual activity with a partner never obligates
anyone to engage in any or all of them, until the other person feels
their wants are met — in conflict with the wants of the other — nor
negates the validity of someone’s no. The partner who wants sex is
never the one whose needs are put first: if we’re earnest about wanting
to have sex with someone else, not to them or on them or at
them, earnest about wanting a partnership, not a dictatorship, then
whenever our partners are not interested in doing something sexual we
want, we defer to them. And after all, we can always tend to our sexual
needs with our own two hands.

You might also notice a particularly telling dynamic in Samy’s
story. What her boyfriend did to her was not even about his own need
for a physical, sexual release: he put his hand down HER pants forcibly
AFTER they had already had sex together (presumably consensually).
Doing so would have been very unlikely to bring him to orgasm, or
alleviate any physical sexual frustration on his part. Rather, what he
did was make a clear demonstration that she is not allowed to deny him
what he wants, when he wants it, and that her no — when he wants a yes
— is meaningless. He doesn’t ask her what she likes: he tells
her. His actions make clear that he feels that her sexual desire, if
and when it is present, is a non-issue. What he did was not about his
feeling horny or wanting to get off, and he may well have gotten off
already with the sex they already had: it was about his need to make
clear who is in change, and that it very much is not her. This is
textbook sexual abuse.

It’s not overeager to let someone know that a person who forces sex
— especially more than once, as Samy stated has happened — unto them
while they are saying no, declining that sex, is not a safe person to
be around. In the event that I’m wrong, and he is safe, it’s still a
win-win. Not staying with him won’t harm either of them. In the event
that you’re right, my whole idea about this situation and all of what I
know about rape and abuse is totally backwards, and the cruelty here is
hers or some other woman’s, leaving spares that guy more cruelty,
doesn’t it? If not, why not?

I have a tough time swallowing the idea that if you were to be in
the position where someone was going to routinely not take no for an
answer from you sexually, and force you to do sexual things you did not
want to do, or when you did not want to do them, continuing to do so
while you were saying — and meaning — no, that you’d feel like that
was a safe situation to you, and that were you in that position, did I
not posit that wasn’t safe — or tell you you asked for it — you’d
feel like I was responding in the best interest of your well-being.

Here’s hoping, for your sake, for your girlfriend’s sake, and for
anyone else you may interact with, that you consider adjusting your
thinking on this. And I don’t just say that for her sake, especially
since she’s got the option of finding someone with healthier sexual
attitudes to be with — you, on the other hand, are stuck with you. The
way you’re thinking tends to not only be detrimental to her (if you
care about her, and another men around her feels he arouses her desire
and owes him like you feel she woes you, will it seem like such a great
idea then?) and other women, it also really hinders you and other men
from experiencing bonafide partnership with women, real character and
real masculinity, and sex that is really about shared desire and pleasure, which blows the freaking roof off of the alternative, emotionally as well as physically.

To be frank, any woman who writes on rape or interpersonal abuse
issues at all, and who advises women to merely keep themselves safe by
getting away from men who endanger or harm them gets responses like
this. I get letters from men somewhat regularly explaining to me, as if
I were just a foolish child who did not understand the world despite 38
years of living in it, why women deserve to be raped, why women make
men so miserable or unhappy that men "have" to rape us or abuse us, how
we could protect ourselves by just structuring the whole of our lives
in response to what men want from us (despite the fact that men vary
widely and that doing so it a literal impossibility, on top of an
absolute insult). I have also, of course, gotten plenty of emails over
the years letting me know all of the ways in which I and other women
deserve all manner of abuses, and how men are excused in doling them
out. These kinds of responses — including your own — are constant
object lessons which only tend to demonstrate exactly the kinds of
dynamics we’re working to help people escape, break free of and change.

Oddly enough, we do not tend to get these kinds of responses, ever,
when we advise men on how to be safe from other men, from abusive women
in their lives, nor do we get these kinds of responses from women no
matter who we’re advising to keep themselves safe. Male writers on
these issues also do not tend to get these kinds of responses as often,
which is hardly a shocker. And I generally do not answer these kinds of
responses. In part that’s because there are a lot of them, and if I
published them all, I’d scare and depress the hell out of a lot of
people when it came to men: I love men as much as I love women and
don’t want the women who would read them to get the impression that
these kinds of responses are sound representations of all men. They’re
not: many, many men — maybe even most men — are bigger than this,
kinder than this, smarter than this, better men than this. (They also
tend to feel less of a need to tell women "how it is" like this, or to
pretend to be friendly with me when they’re saying things which enable
violence and inequality towards me and other women.) Plus, more times
than not, it’s an exercise in futility. This may well be one too, for
all I know, but I’d love for you to prove me wrong.

But I like to think that if I do every now and then, someone on the
fence or struggling with these attitudes might see that there are
healthier alternatives which are better for everyone, not just for the
partner who is made to feel responsible for other’s actions or
feelings, obligated to have sex when that’s not what they want, or who
is assaulted because someone decided they are entitled to have dominion
over that person.

Heck, even if nothing I say in response has any merit to you or
anyone else, your own words might help someone out simply by showing up
these attitudes for exactly what they are, for as pervasive as they
are, and for as flawed and tragic as they are.

I’m tossing out a couple links here, both to material on the site,
as well as at other sites which maybe — just maybe — might clue you
in a bit more.

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