It’s an alarming fact: An estimated 16% of women and 3% of men in the United States alone have been victims of a rape attempt or an actual rape. I’m not entirely sure what the worldwide totals are, in part because a good portion of these rape survivors have been shamed into keeping quiet, whether by their abuser(s) or their society at large. The lines get even fuzzier when we’re talking about attempted rape. When does it count as a rape attempt and when does it count as an unsuccessful pass made?
Sara Li and the staff over at Project Consent are working to make it a little easier to understand. Their motto is so simple that it should be common sense:
Consent is simple. If it’s not yes, it’s no.
But, unfortunately, it’s not common sense – at least not yet. Project Consent wants to change that. Their team of staff volunteers wants to make it easier to talk about consent and rape culture as a whole. As a rape survivor myself, this is a topic of great importance to me personally – but it should be important to everyone. Even if you haven’t been personally affected by rape and rape culture, statistically, you know at least one person who has been affected. This is not a situation that will go away on its own, and ignoring the problem won’t make it disappear.
What Is Rape Culture?
Simply put, rape culture is the end result of a society that places the blame for sexual assault on the victim, rather than the abuser. This describes a society where sexual harassment is often dismissed as a joke; a society where the victim of rape must prove that she didn’t secretly want to be abused; a society where someone who dresses provocatively is said to be “asking for” sexual abuse. By denying the micro-aggressions that lead up to these greater violations, the power is taken from the victim and given to their abuser. There is no other crime where the victim must prove their own innocence.
Changing the idea of rape culture isn’t something that can happen overnight, or without support. One person alone cannot put an end to these negative trends. But one person can start a conversation that inspires a change. By raising awareness of the issues of rape culture and breaking down the stigmas associated with speaking up, you can do your part to challenge the status quo. Everyone deserves to have full control over their own body, every time. No one ever deserves to be sexually abused, harassed, or pressured.
Project Consent wants to help turn “rape culture” into “consent culture”. This means, in short, promoting the idea of consent – every time, no matter what the circumstances. If we want to move past all of this and let people keep their own body autonomy, we need to completely destroy the idea that anyone else has any rights over your body. The idea that your right to consent can be removed under certain situations (such as when you’re intoxicated, when you’re dressed provocatively, or when someone has done nice things for you) undermines our fundamental human rights – and more than just destroying the victims, it’s destroying the perpetuators, too.
The Harmful Reach of Rape Culture
Unfortunately, the existence of rape culture is not a myth, as some dissenters might claim. There is a logical progression of the thoughts that are enforced by the idea of implied consent – the biggest enemy of consent culture. True, it might not always progress in exactly the same way.
“Implied consent” is not consent – it is an assertion of dominance over another person. No one is obligated to have sex with someone, under any circumstances – even if they have had sex with that person in the past, or if that person has done nice things for them. The only person who has the right to say what happens with your body is you.
Your clothing does not indicate consent. Sexual arousal does not indicate consent. The only thing that counts as consent is consent – so let’s destroy the idea that there is another option.
Project Consent is always looking for people to help spread the word, so if you feel it’s a mission you can get behind, you’re already part of their team. It really is as simple as getting the conversation started, and passing it along to others. The project’s website lists numerous ways you can get involved, as well as resources for those who have been abused. Of course, these are all small components of a much bigger issue, but that’s all the more reason to get started small. Check out the Project Consent website to see what you can do to help – and don’t forget to tell your friends and family.