When rape is justified as sexual entitlement
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By Yasmin Bathamanathan

Have you ever wondered what is rape? Do you think rape is a feminist agenda to entrap and punish men? Do you think rape takes place because a woman is “asking for it”? Do you think that rape is only perpetuated by men against women? Do you think that rape does not exist within a marriage? Do you think victims of rape should be thankful that “someone is appreciating them”?

Apparently some people do think so, as I gathered from reading the numerous comments left by Facebook users on Bukit Bendera MP Zairil Khir Johari’s shared post of a digital rape awareness campaign.

Rape2 rape3

You’ve seen the campaign posters. “Rogol adalah Rogol. Tiada Alasan” (translation: Rape is Rape. No Excuse), launched by DAP’s Damansara Utama assemblyman Yeo Bee Yin in collaboration with All Women’s Action Society (Awam).

The campaign, which aims to alter public’s perception of rape, has done exactly that – it has exposed the various misconceptions and harmful ideas and beliefs people have on rape.

As a person, I find it difficult to process why some people would find a crime like rape as something that is open for debate; its parameters up for negation.

· If they did not say “no”, then it is a “yes”. So it is not rape.

· They were drunk and were flirting with me. It was not rape.

· They wore that shorts, they were obviously asking for it.

· They looked lonely; they should take it as a compliment

· When they married me, they agreed to sex at any given time. How is it rape?

As a person, I find it disturbing that there are people who think they entitled to sex. Case-in-point, this thread of comments from a certain person on Zairil’s aforementioned Facebook post of “Rape is rape. No excuse”:

“I agree with the exception of WIFE. Are you saying that if I have sex with my wife when she is half asleep is rape??? Eh, that is bull shit…” he begins, then adding “You should look at it from a POSITIVE PERSPECTIVE that your hubby still loves you and you still have ‘some value’ in his eyes Ha… ha…. ha….” when he was called out on for his line of logic, which is based on the premise that as a husband, he is entitled to sex.

In a Game of Thrones episode last season, the show runners decided depict a consensual sex scene from the book as a non-consensual one, or so it seemed to many of its viewers. Jaime forces himself on Cersei mere inches away from the dead body of their son. She could be heard saying “no”, begging him to stop but he continues on. That scene depicted sex that was anything but consensual, but post-release, the director defended the depiction by claiming, “It becomes consensual by the end.” Mind you, the scene ends with Cersei weeping, saying, “This isn’t right”.

It is this concept of “blurred lines” that rape deniers and victim-blamers cling on to, a fertile environment for rape culture to thrive. “I know you want it”, “you’re a good girl”, “the way you grab me, must wanna get nasty” and “I hate these blurred lines” are all lines from Robin Thicke’s 2013 hit, “Blurred Lines”. This song is still getting airplays two years later, in spite of its clearly problematic and rapey message that glorifies sexual entitlement and dismisses consent.

That we live in a rape culture has been discussed to length in feminist discourse. Rape culture, as explained by Shannon Ridgway in everydayfeminism.com, is:

“cultural practices that excuse or otherwise tolerate sexual violence… the way that we collectively think about rape. More often than not, it’s situations in which sexual assault, rape, and general violence are ignored, trivialised, normalised, or made into jokes.”

Much like the comments posted on Zairil’s Facebook post, that scene in Game of Thrones and Thicke’s song, don’t you think?

When someone tells you “the absence of consent is rape”, do you find yourself listing out reasons as to why you find that statement flawed? If so, ask yourself this one question: do you think you, or anyone for that matter, are entitled to sex? – April 26, 2015.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

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Yasmin Bathamanathan is a through-and-through Penangite – she likes her coffee with a heavy dose of heritage and a helping of poetry. While she also likes the smell of salt in the air and the meandering streets of George Town, what truly gets her stoked is discussions on gender, pop culture and feminism.

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