This made my day. Tory leader David Cameron is proposing broad educational and service-based responses to sexual assault:
He pledged longer-term funding for rape crisis centres, to change attitudes towards rape through sex education and announced a Tory review of sentencing.
The government says it has taken action to improve conviction rates.
In a speech at the Conservative Women’s Organisation conference, Mr Cameron said: “Studies have shown that as many as one in two young men believe there are some circumstances when it’s okay to force a woman to have sex.
“To my mind, this is an example of moral collapse.”
He called for “widespread cultural change” and warned that society has become increasingly “sexualised” over the past decade, during which time treating women as sex objects has become viewed as “cool”.
He also called for compulsory sex education in schools to drive home the message that sex without consent is a criminal offence.
The whole “sexualization causes rape” thing frustrates me, but otherwise he’s right on the money. I’m especially pleased to see that he’s promoting a comprehensive approach to lowering the sexual assault rate, which includes resources for survivors as well as education for men. Acquaintance rape can be a tricky issue, because “no means no” just doesn’t jibe with all of the other messages that men and women received. The sexual power game puts a lot of women on a tightrope between virgin and whore; there’s pressure to have sex, messages that nice girls say no at least once or twice, imaging of sex as domination, assumptions that women will be the “brakes,” shame in giving an enthusiastic “yes” under certain circumstances. Men see the same thing — and they internalize the idea that “no” might mean “yes,” that women get off on being “ravished” and want men to take complete sexual control, that if a woman is in your bed it means she’s consented to doing pretty much whatever you want, that women exist largely for male pleasure.
“Teaching men not to rape” sounds like a silly proposition if your understanding of rape is limited to stranger attacks; it’s not nearly so silly when you recognize that there are men out there who genuinely don’t get it, and are thoroughly socialized into believing that forcible sex is not only “not rape,” but is fully acceptable and even normal. Education, coupled with broader measures to empower women to feel like they have the right to say no (and the right to say yes without shame), can go a long way in turning that around.
Thanks to Cecily for sending this on.
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