Feministing blogger Zerlina Maxwell is a survivor of rape. Last week, Maxwell appeared with Sean Hannity on Fox News and what she said on the show generated some racist, misogynist comments and both rape threats and death threats. Her “controversial” comment? She said, “I think we should be telling men not to rape women and start the conversation there with prevention.”
That’s not OK to say, apparently: it poked the hornet’s nest of our society’s long held, deeply flawed ideas about rape as well as squeamish attitudes when it comes to discussing it.
Zerlina Maxwell, we at The Frisky stand with you. Men should be taught not to rape. Here are three misconceptions about rape that she schooled Sean Hannity and his viewers on in the exchange:
1. The majority of rapes are not committed by strangers who leap out of the bushes; the majority of rapes are committed by people we know. There’s a huge misconception in this country that rapes are only committed by the bad guys lurking around corners. This was clear when Hannity continued to discuss “criminals.” The act of rape is a crime, of cours, but as Maxwell noted on-air, 80 percent of the time it not committed by society’s image of a rapist in a back alley. The vast majority of rape is committed by those familiar to the victim — an acquaintance, date, friend, partner. Our society has trouble grasping this point. Rape is rape anytime there was no consent.
2. Only “evil” men rape and you can’t teach these deranged men not to sexually assault women. ”Criminals will not listen,” Hannity repeats. Maxwell’s argument was that it may be true some people can’t be changed, but a larger problem is the culture surrounding men which says sexual assault is something you can get away with. Many men have been conditioned to see women as objects to fulfill themselves with sexually, objects whose own desires and needs don’t matter. All young men need more education about what sexual assault and consent are, not just to be told that only “evil” guys rape.
3. If women only had guns, we could protect ourselves from rape! Of course Sean Hannity attempted to connect rape with an argument for a broad Second Amendment. But the two are separate issues — yet overlapping issues — and should be addressed separately. Trying to say that if women are armed they won’t get raped continues to display a lack of understanding about the majority of rape cases.
Men must be taught to respect all women, not just their girlfriends, their wives, their sisters, or their mothers. Men must be taught that no matter how a girl dresses, or how much alcohol she consumes, she is a human being. Both men and women need to learn what consent is, what its limits are, and that it’s perfectly acceptable speak up.
Email me at Sarah.Gray@TheFrisky.com.