In response to Panthera's post below: this was the first example that comes to mind. In a post rather than comment, because it was getting long and unwieldy.
One week, my Violence Against Women professor passed around an article from an online "humor" "magazine" written by students at my university, as a "This Week in Rape Culture" thing. I can link on request, but that would require looking at it again, which I really don't want to. The headline was something like "Female student sues school after being raped by chemistry test," and the article was just as idiotic as you can imagine. Bonus: mocking the campus rape hotline! Super bonus: not even remotely funny! Like, as far as stupid "humor" articles about rape go, it was pretty bad. I was shaking and distracted through a good portion of class just from having skimmed it.
Well, I happen to know the guy, T., who founded and edited the magazine--we're in a writing workshop together--so I ambushed him at our next meeting and Confronted. T is a Nice Guy (sort of), and I did have the advantage of having a nearby ally, who helped me out. T was defensive at first, but later talked to our mutual (ally!) friend R. about it, and concluded the article was "in bad taste," said he understood why I was upset, and felt bad. (I only know this secondhand, through R; T has never talked to me about it again.) So... there.
Anyway! A few points that worked, in this one context:
1) Joking about rape contributes to rape culture (insert brief definition, such as "a culture that condones and encourages sexism, objectification, and sexual violence, through jokes, attitudes, etc., so that rape is not an abnormality, but the logical extension of a misogynist society").
(Predictable response: What, so you're saying that my joke about my exam makes people commit rape? That's ridiculous.)
2) No, saying, "My test raped me!" doesn't mean that someone is literally going to hear that and immediately go out and rape someone. However, it does minimize rape, implying that it's no worse than struggling on an exam, which certainly doesn't discourage perpetrators, and definitely minimizes real survivors' real experiences. It can be extremely upsetting for a survivor or friend of a survivor to hear someone talking about rape in a such a minimizing way. In the long list of things that Aren't Helping...
(Well, yeah, but it's not like I would joke about it in front of someone who had actually been raped.)
3) There are more survivors than you think. "1 in 4 women" is a real statistic, repeated in study after study. Odds are, you know a survivor.*
(No, I don't! I would know if one of my friends had been raped!)
4) Look, you're the kind of person who says "My test raped me," who believes that an extreme form of personal violation is the same as getting a C on a chemistry exam, and who, when confronted about this very upsetting belief, prefers to rationalize their douchebaggery rather than listen to someone else's thoughts and feelings. Do you think your friends who are survivors of rape and sexual assault are going to tell YOU?
*Note that the responses are phrased so that one can remain cagey about whether or not one is a survivor oneself. Naturally, just by confronting this kind of shit, there's a possibility of being asked flat-out, like Panthera mentioned in her post. If you're comfortable doing so, you can bring up "friends" or "people I've talked to," which seems to pre-empt and therefore discourage the "How would YOU know?" question (in my experience--I confront this stuff on a semi-regular basis, and no one has ever directly asked me if I've been raped). Sometimes I say, for example, "Many of the people I've talked to who are rape survivors have mentioned feeling upset when..." or "Some people who are rape survivors report..." That way, you're appealing to real people's experiences without outing yourself or friends.
On the other hand, I'm very open to comments and revisions to make this a more viable confrontation strategy for all people, survivors and allies alike, because (again, in my limited experience) it CAN work. Thoughts?
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