"Rape Culture" or "Russian Roulette"?

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This is an excerpt from my recent interview for HEEB Magazine. Defining rape culture is one of those questions that in some ways feels very tricky, but its also very simple. Kind of like my film. The context is complex, the message is simple: communicate and respect each other. I thought I did a pretty good job with the answer, and gave Judaism some props for the groovy sex-positive tenants in our marriage contract.

A rape culture is one that assumes violence will happen during sex. It says: ‘Watch your drink’ or ‘men are pigs’ or ‘what did she expect?’ It asks women to live in the narrow roles of either virgin or whore, and tells us to be fearful. Jewish girls get somewhat of a break here, thanks to Dr. Ruth and our sex-positive roots in the Judaic marriage contract, but for men, rape culture expects them to be dogs and tells them they have to trick or coerce girls into bed. If given the choice, most people want to have good sex, where both parties initiate, are into it and are begging for more. A rape culture tells us that sex is bad, so you either have to steal it, rush through it, or get punished for doing it, or—God forbid—liking it.

Today, someone piped in to disagree with me on the site. I would roll my eyes if it wasn’t such a typical and disturbing response. In addition to misreprenting recent sex crimes in the news (its a wide net, only Kobe Bryant is missing), this person’s “solution” dictates that women be the gate keepers for male behavior. In its essence, it is exactly what rape culture is all about!

I will reserve final judgment until I see the film, but it also strikes me given the number of women like Laura Garza and Natalee Holloway who meet horrible ends by getting drunk and then leaving a bar with a strange man they have just met and of whose character and history they know nothing about; we would better served with fewer cliches about society as a whole, and more small scale, common sense campaigns advising women not to play Russian Roulette with their bodies.

How do you feel about being told not to play Russian Roulette with your body? Is it better to be safe than sorry?

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5 Comments on “"Rape Culture" or "Russian Roulette"?”

  1. 1 Tweets that mention where is your line? » Blog Archive » “Rape Culture” or “Russian Roulette”? -- Topsy.com said at 5:11 pm on October 9th, 2009:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nancy Schwartzman. Nancy Schwartzman said: @jaclynf thanks for the post, it must be in the air! http://bit.ly/yLBsz [...]

  2. 2 Alara Rogers said at 8:43 pm on October 9th, 2009:

    If interacting with men is playing Russian Roulette, then perhaps we need man licenses. 10-day waiting periods before you can interact with a man. Training courses in how to safely handle men. Meanwhile, the men, being dangerous weapons, would all be held behind locked and barred doors until some woman who had obtained a license to interact with a man released them; of course, for the safety of other women, she would always be required to lock up her man again when she was done with him!

    I don’t think these assholes even think about the view of *men* they’re promoting, or the fact that in every other situation where a certain group or item is defined as inherently dangerous, there are either strict regulations on their freedom (ie, tigers), or, if they’re a human group that is thought to be violent, it is constantly used as an excuse to constrain their behavior (ie, racist attacks on black men being excused because “blacks are violent”.) It’s only when we’re talking about *men*, the only category of human that is demonstratably and statistically more violent than the categories excluded from it, by an order of magnitude no less, that the concept that “violent creatures should be restrained” gets lost.

    Either men are naturally violent, in which case they should all be treated the way we treat dangerous animals, or men are human beings with free will who can choose not to be violent, in which case it’s not on *women* not to “cause” male violence, it’s on men not to commit violence. They can’t have it both ways.

  3. 3 Blerg said at 10:44 am on October 10th, 2009:

    “Either men are naturally violent, in which case they should all be treated the way we treat dangerous animals, or men are human beings with free will who can choose not to be violent, in which case it’s not on *women* not to “cause” male violence, it’s on men not to commit violence. They can’t have it both ways.”

    I vote for the option A and the subsequent euthanasia.

  4. 4 Nancy said at 11:06 am on October 10th, 2009:

    I go with free will!

  5. 5 raphael a said at 4:56 am on October 11th, 2009:

    Dear Ms. Schwartzman,
    I have just learned that it was pointless to respond in earnest to your article, for you have reduced my comments to a caricature. Kobe Bryant was guilty in my eyes, which is why I didn’t mention him. In the recent Hofstra case, the woman who charged the young men with rape confessed that it was consensual, after being shown a cellphone recording of what transpired. Yet you refer to both as sex crimes, even though one was an admitted false accusation. You also accuse me of misrepresenting sex crimes without getting specific. Not a nice thing to do.
    You also did not include or address my point about the victims not being your obligatory “white Christian virgins.”
    Next, you caricatured my phrase “Russian Roulette, as meaning “to dictate women be the gatekeepers of male behavior.” It was a simple recommendation that bars tell you nothing of a person’s character. Single women should take simple precautionary measures in the same way people arrange for a designated driver or take emergency kits on a trip. People you think you know can still be unpredictable. Double for people you don’t know. Yet mentioning this obvious point gets twisted into somehow absolving men from responsibility and placing the burden on women.
    Well ok then. Next time I won’t even bother to respond.
    Then you won’t have to roll your eyes and can hang out solely with those who “get it” like the cheerful Alara and Blerg, and the merry band of hipsters over at Heeb Magazine.


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