Why do they sound so bad?
The most famous image of a naked man on a bed isn’t that of a naked man. It’s of a young, beautiful woman having sex with him.
But the image that is most widely known is that of a young, beautiful woman, having sex with a male naked in a bathtub. The story is an old one, but the details are very simple: A young French woman was having sex on a hotel bathtub in the early 1990s when she was raped by her lover.
It’s a story with a modern gloss of irony: Women have always been sexual, but these rape victims now wear swimsuits and have their bodies covered up? The story is simple, as far as it goes: A woman had gone swimming outside with an attractive young man, and as the sun began to set she found herself caught in his arms. There was just one problem: she was naked.
There was a whole generation of men who had had nothing to do with this scene. They were in their teens or twenties, they were men, and they just had no concept of rape. And yet, the idea that women can’t have sexual relations without going without clothes, that’s a pervasive notion. The French story is a story that has played out in the American world for centuries: Men rape women, women run away and don’t go back, women become prostitutes.
The American image of rape is different. It’s not a case of a young virgin being raped. The young girls and young women who live most of their lives in America are raped, yes. Rape is an incredibly complicated, complicated crime. But it’s not a case of a teenage girl being raped.
I wrote a book, When Men Raped Women, that explores the complexities of the relationship between rape and rape culture. I think that American society has a very bad idea of what rape is and how it works. To a large extent, American society sees it as an act of desperation, a moment when a woman feels trapped and violated by her male partners. The stories that are told about rape culture often seem to show how women are victimized by men who have become predators because they haven’t yet caught up to the changing roles and roles of modern American society. It’s not just a simple case of rape being wrong. It is a case where women have become vulnerable.
My book was published in 1999. By 2007, when I was speaking at Columbia about rape culture,
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