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Rape culture has been a hot topic as of late, and it’s about time.  Perhaps I was already thinking about it more, reflecting on my own experiences and wondering how we can really change things because of my participation in Slutwalk one year.

My friend and I ended up getting interviewed, forget for whom or what project, but stories came out that neither of us had heard from each other.  We don’t really talk about that sort of thing.  Perhaps it’s the culture of victim blaming, which we then internalize, which silences us.  If we can’t even talk to each other about it, how the hell are we expected to come forward about it?

And by we, I don’t just mean my female friends and I, I mean everyone.  Victim blaming is aimed at all rape and sexual assault victims.  The sooner that dialogue gets changed, the sooner people will feel more comfortable reporting crimes of a sexual nature.

Then, in my experience, there’s the bystander effect, which can really go either way.

Back when I was in my late teens, I had an older boyfriend.  He knew I was a virgin, but I don’t think he actually understood that being raised in a Roman Catholic household, I wasn’t about to just give it up because he thought I should.  The more it felt like I was being pressured, the less I felt like I wanted to do anything with him.  Then, one day, he voiced his frustrations in front of a large group of our friends, and joked about how he was going to drug me in order to get some.

…..most of the room was silent, some of the guys laughed.

I was absolutely furious.

Then, his best friend, who barely knew me (unlike the others in the room whom I had considered friends) turns to him and says “I would break your fucking legs.”

“Hey, I was just joking, man!” protests the ex.

“I don’t care.  I would break your fucking legs.” his buddy remains completely serious, obviously not impressed.

I will always remember that, and I will always smile at that memory.  That is what people should be doing to counteract rape culture.  Stand up, speak up.  It’s not okay, it’s not funny.

Needless to say, things didn’t work out with that ex, and I didn’t lose my virginity to him.  Thank the gods.

Even when I was younger, and another guy I dated told me about how a girl took advantage of him when he was really drunk, I knew that wasn’t right.  I didn’t fully understand, since it’s not something we’re taught in school in a concise way…. which I think really should change.  That “no feeling” bit we were taught just isn’t cutting it.  That guy didn’t think it was a huge problem what the girl did, even though he said he didn’t want to do anything with her.  Because no one ever bothered to tell him that he has the right to say “no”, that just because gender roles dictate that men are supposed to want it however and with whomever (which is fucking bullshit of course), that it’s not right if it’s not right for him.

The funny thing is, abolitionists will tell you that the sex industry is responsible for rape culture and enforcing patriarchy… this is hilarious to me, in a laugh and shake my head while wanting to hit things sort of way… dancing made me far more of a rabid feminist than anything else.  Dancing defined my boundaries, and made me far more vehement about my personal space and who was allowed in it.

When a stranger tries to put his arm around me and I smack his hand away and firmly state “don’t touch me”, that’s because of dancing.  Before being in that industry, I would have been too shy and too afraid of “being rude” to assert myself in such a way.

Too often, people are taught that asserting themselves and removing themselves from people and actions that make them uncomfortable is “being rude”.  This is absolute bullshit.  If someone is touching you and you don’t want them to, you have every damn right to firmly tell them to stop.  Why exactly should we be polite?

And decent people will listen and learn when you speak about these things.  Just like how I often talk about the sex industry and my support of sex workers everywhere, and speak out against discrimination that sex workers face, my friends have stood beside me, and given people silence and unimpressed looks to silence their discriminatory comments towards sex workers.

The more we all stand together and support each other, the faster we will reach our goal of eliminating rape culture.  And sometimes, when you ask for consent rather than just “giving it a shot”, you get much better results.  Everyone wins.

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