By Hermes C. Fernandes
The first step that needs to be taken to fight evil is to admit it. But, unfortunately, just a few weeks ago from the Olympic Games, when the country expects to receive thousands of tourists from all over the world, of which a significant portion is female, it is not easy to admit that there is a culture of rape installed in our society.
The international press is highlighting the unfortunate episode of collective rape to which a young woman of just 16 was subjected, and rightly criticizes the fact that the Brazilian press does not give due importance to the case, even trying to discredit the victim, raising suspicions that he had participated in a consensual orgy. A very different treatment was given to the episode that occurred in India in December 2012, when the young Nirbahaya also suffered a collective rape. The mainstream Brazilian media covered the episode in detail, labeling India as a dangerous place for women. This same biased media is silent on the case in Rio, and on another collective rape that occurred in Piauí just a week ago.
The case in India had such repercussions that it brought about changes in the law. With that in mind, what should we expect from a country where a deputy tells a colleague of parliament that he just wouldn’t rape her because she doesn’t deserve it? What to expect from a country where a religious parliamentary group decides to create a bill to boycott the law that guarantees free public health care for rape victims? What to expect from a country where the audience of a TV show cheers wildly for an actor who has just confessed to raping a woman after leaving her unconscious? This same actor has the courage to meet with the minister of education to give him suggestions for the management of his portfolio.
Hence, some patriots of occasion leave shouting that there is no rape culture in the country! Tell that to every woman who is raped every 11 minutes in Brazil, according to data released by the Brazilian Public Security Forum. Tell that to the 47,646 victims just last year. Would these numbers be sufficiently convincing for us to admit that there is a culture of rape properly installed in Brazilian society?
First, let’s understand the origin of the term “rape culture”.
This term was coined in the 1970s when American feminists were engaged in a campaign to raise awareness of society about the reality of rape. According to Alexandra Rutherford, the doctor in science and psychology, and a specialist in feminism and gender, before the feminist movement brought up this subject, little was said about it. Worse, it was believed that both rape, domestic sexual violence, and incest rarely happened.
The growing number of cases of rape in society, as well as the typical reaction of part of the population, highlights the existence of a culture of rape. It does not mean that rape is seen as normal, that it should be practiced and encouraged, but that the culture produces fertile soil for it to occur with worrying frequency.
Really, society sees the rape with some condescension, even if it says it is horrified. This condescension is revealed each time you try to blame the victim and exempt the perpetrator as if this were inherent to your own masculinity.
Parents raise their children to be predators, true stallions. Even if they do not admit it, but they are proud to know that their son is “passing the general squeegee”. The woman is seen as an object to be conquered, a wild mare to be dominated and tamed. Obviously this is not said openly, but between the lines, in the jokes, in the catchphrases like “lock up your goats that my goat is loose.”
The same culture that forges the figure of the “alpha male”, produces the ambiance conducive to rape. Boys grow up hearing that when a woman says no, she actually means yes. The “no” is just a charm. She wants to force herself. Be thrown against the wall. Forced. Women don’t like soft men. Show her who’s boss! Every woman has the fantasy of being raped. Women really like to be beaten … And so on … Does anyone still dare say that there is no rape culture?
Isn’t she trying to get the girl drunk and then taking advantage of her rape? Is what, then? But all of this is seen as perfectly natural. Nothing more. Crazy teen thing.
Many women have even convinced themselves that they were born to be easy prey in the hands of these crooks. There is a glamorization of cafajestice. Not that every crook is a rapist, but he is certainly a strong candidate since he has no qualms or moral restraint.
If, on the one hand, it seeks to naturalize the posture of the predatory man, on the other, it seeks to blame the victim. Something she did to deserve this!
In the case of the only 16-year-old girl raped by 33 men, social media was swamped with accusations that tried to execute her and discredit her testimony. Photos were posted in which she allegedly appears with rifles. I said “supposedly”, because it was proven that some of these pictures were not hers. Testimonies of alleged friends emerged that leaked through WhatsApp stating that she was used to having sex with several men at once. From one hour to the next, she stopped being the victim to be the slut, the brazen, who looked for what, who consumes hard drugs, who lives in funk dances, etc. Although all these charges were true, they do not justify the crime committed. She could even be a prostitute who has already had sex with 50 at once. If she said no, it has to be respected. And more: even if it had been consensual, she is a minor, and reportedly, she was doped. In fact, it was not the first rape he suffered. It was widely reported that she is the mother of a three-year-old child. Soon, she was a mother at thirteen and possibly got pregnant at twelve. The name of this is vulnerable rape! Sex with minors, whether consensual or not, remains rape.
However, our culture is so steeped in machismo, that we don’t even realize that by adhering to this discourse, we are reinforcing it, thus fertilizing the soil where the culture of rape flourishes. It doesn’t matter the size of the shorts you wore, the places you went, or the drugs you wore. None of this diminishes the seriousness of the crime.
There were those who pondered the fact that she had not gone to the police before the video went viral. Now, let us not be cynical. The reason is the same as why most victims prefer to be silent. They know the risk they are at being blamed. For this reason, most suffer from silence, being raped for years on end. And you don’t even need a promiscuous environment like a banning funk dance. Most are victims within their own homes, by members of their own families. Others, on their way to work or during work hours. There are even those who have been victimized in unlikely environments such as churches.
How to combat the culture of rape? It is not enough to guarantee severe punishment for criminals (chemical castration, for example). We need to resort to preventive measures. And that goes through the family and the school. And it will not be repressing the woman any further, making her a double victim. Increasing the length of the skirt, decreasing the size of the neckline, or something like that, are palliative measures that only reinforce the culture of rape. It is like saying that the rapist is right. That any woman dressed in the most attractive way is asking to be raped. Nothing more ridiculous than that, right?
So, what to do? Teach boys to respect women early on. Prepare them to be real men, not sex machines. Emphasize the feeling of empathy in them. Teach them, for example, which man also cries. That this is not a woman thing. That the woman is not a piece of meat ready to be eaten. She has feelings.
If the boy has no contact with his own feelings, he will not respect the feelings of others, not even of a woman.
The problem must be dealt with at its roots and for that, education is essential. Both at home and at school, children need to learn to respect both the similarities and the different. Hence the importance of the so-called “education for diversity”, which is so opposed by fundamentalist religious sectors, as they believe that it is a veiled apology for homosexuality.
Something needs to be made clear: rape has nothing to do with sex or sexual desire. This shameful practice has to do with a power relationship, in which men, through a process of intimidation, keep women in a state of permanent fear.
They say that a man’s greatest fear when arrested is being raped by his cellmates. I wish they knew that this is the greatest fear of women all the time. Even inside your own home.
As parents of two daughters, I wish to leave you a less hostile world than the one in which your grandmothers lived. And that my only son is the kind of man that every mother-in-law dreams of having as her son-in-law.
Say no to the rape culture, refusing to echo macho speeches that objectify women. Your daughters and granddaughters will thank you.