Monday, August 24, 2009

Drowning in rape culture: victim-blaming and women's bodies as sexual objects

I have written previously about the atrocities committed by George Sodini, and as difficult a subject as this is to address, I thought I'd delve back into it, given the comments I'm still receiving from the first post.

A cursory glance through George Sodini's online diary is nothing less than disturbing. The support of Sodini's actions by other men is frightening.

First off, the victim-blaming is just...astounding. Sodini knew none of the women he murdered, and somehow we're to believe that if a woman does not give men the sex they apparently deserve, any woman can be justifiably killed as retribution.

What this effectively does is remove any semblance of autonomy from women. We have to consistently state that "no means no"; we have the same conversations over and over regarding consent, and what is and is not rape. And just when we think we've gotten somewhere, something like this happens and we're reminded of how little the world thinks of us and our bodies.

And it isn't just about a man desiring the sexual use of our bodies (though Sodini's diary is riddled with dismay at not having had sex in decades, he clearly felt that this was something he deserved--he wasn't frustrated or sad due to a lack of intimacy with another human being). In Sodini's diary, there are many instances where he views women as possessions that legitimize masculinity:

A man needs a woman for confidence. He gets a boost on the job, career, with other men, and everywhere else when he knows inside he has someone to spend the night with and who is also a friend. This type of life I see is a closed world with me specifically and totally excluded.
While he was clearly lonely, it's quite evident that he viewed women as status-boosters. In one entry he mentioned he had a date with a woman, but gave no details. He rated women; he read about teenage girls having sex, and seemed angry that none would have sex with him. More than once he mentioned his looks, his cleanliness, citing these as reasons why women should not have rejected him.

And in response, there have been men who say women should "put out," so this sort of thing won't happen. And there are those that cite this act is reason enough to legalize prostitution. But these arguments, if they can be called such, are weak at best, and seem to be forgetting that 1). men do not have any right to any woman's body without her consent. It doesn't matter how clean or good-looking said man is. It doesn't matter how many drinks he bought her. It doesn't matter how expensive dinner was--nothing gives a man claim over a woman's body. For further information on this, I direct you to bike groggette's "Dear Het Men." And 2). Sodini was obsessed with possessing a woman, not just having sex with someone. He saw other men, especially black men, as competition.

And though we like to tell ourselves that this is just a lone man with issues that do not reflect those of "the rest of us," I can't help but wonder what caused this man, and the scores of men supporting his horrific actions, to view women in such a way.

Women are not to blame; but in a sick way it's not surprising that many are quick to blame us for having the audacity to reject a man, because we live in a rape culture, where women's bodies are constantly on display, where women are portrayed as available, as fuckable, as objects for the heterosexual male gaze, where men assume no means yes, women's bodies are there for the taking, and all it takes is a little persistence coercion.

Because, apparently, we're supposed to have sex out of obligation, not because we like it or have authority over our own bodies (oh, but that would make us sluts).

And saying something as ignorant as "put out or die" is part of the problem, and is not justification to abuse women in any way. Saying, "but men have needs," is not an excuse. And it's not our problem. These attitudes are a small step toward justifying similar horrors against women, and so long as we hold onto these attitudes that women are fuckable objects rather than human beings, then it it'll just breed more of the same.



Phira said...

Hey, I've just started following your blog (I'm from Shakesville), and I really wanted to comment on this particular post. I also blogged about Sodini, and I touched upon similar issues. But I had a huge, "Ugh, yes, THANK you" moment when you commented on how the reactions that legitimize Sodini's actions essentially say that if one woman "offends" a man, all women's lives are forfeit.

That was one of the most disturbing things about Sodini; he himself believed it, and so it follows that other men (and women) must believe it, too. But it's still a frightening thought, and a painful, terrible reminder that women are constantly viewed as not-real-people.

Anyway, just wanted to comment. Awesome post.

FilthyGrandeur said...

thanks for commenting. this was something that bothered me from the beginning--he was rejected, and somehow it's every woman's problem? where is the logic here?

it certainly is frightening, and only further illustrates the need for a change in attitudes toward women.