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Rape is not about sex, orgasm, or pleasure It’s about power and domination

Rape is not about sex, orgasm, or pleasure It’s about power and domination

In this edition of the Sex & Love column I will be talking about sexual assault and abuse. Please take care of yourself and skip this column if you need to. There is 24 hour support for survivors through Durango’s Sexual Assault Services Organization (SASO) at 970-259-3074 or nationally through RAINN at 1-800-656-HOPE.

Rape is not about sex, orgasm, or pleasure. Rape is about power and domination.

Serial RapistA serial rapist is someone who seeks out people to assault. The vast majority of serial rapists are male-bodied people who perpetrate against female-bodied victims. The Toy Box Killer sexually assaulted womxn who were vulnerable in some way – drunk, drug addicts, sex workers, hitchhikers, etc. This is common among serial rapists – victims who are vulnerable in some aspect of their lives. They are easier to control and less likely to be believed.

Organizational RapeGovernments, militaries, cults, religious institutions, fraternities, and more use rape as a tool to control groups of people – control of the organizational group itself or control of another group the organization is trying to subjugate. The goal is fear and collective liability.

Date/Acquaintance RapeThere is no excuse for any type of rape. In date/acquaintance rapes the cause is most likely rooted in lack of communication, alcohol or drug abuse, or ignorance of consent. It is important to discuss this type of rape because it is nuanced. Perpetrators of date/acquaintance rape do not have the same pathology as a serial rapist. The intent to do harm is not the driving reasoning behind these types of rape. However, the harm done is no less than any other kind of rape. These types of rape are more closely connected to the work of sex education and teaching about consent. If there is hope in any of this, it is that we can shift the culture to respect bodies, ask for consent, and to openly talk about sex and pleasure. This creates knowledge and awareness that can help people stop behaviors before they happen – e.g. no sex when we are drunk; asking for clear, verbal consent before and during sex; and calling out bad behaviors rather than being a silent bystander.

When I think of how to prevent rape, I always come back to communication and consent. Changing the culture around how we view sex and how we seek out pleasure is all about talking about “it” – you know, SEX. We have to bring sex out of the shadows, dispel the myths that sex is to be taken, lost, or freely given to a romantic partner. Is this going to prevent rapists like the Toy Box Killer from doing what he did? Not necessarily, because David Parker Ray’s sexual pathology was deeply rooted in violence. There is a part of my soul that aches for that little boy who was violently punished by domineering, abusive people who were supposed to care for him. However, not everyone raised in violence becomes violent.

The work to tear down taboos around sex is meant to create conversation and a clearer understanding about consent. It is commonly accepted that children are asked to be kind to others – don’t hit, don’t kick, etc. There are consequences in society to address when kids hit each other. It should not be such a leap to teach youth that touching another person without their consent isn’t OK. It is not such a leap to teach youth to say no to hugs, kisses, and touching. Your body is your body. Sexuality education needs to be taught to all youth to begin to change the secretive, shameful nature of sex, which only helps to hide abuses rather than stop consensual sex.

We have created narratives to explain away behaviors that we are uncomfortable calling out.

Boys will be boys.

She was begging for it.

She’s so lucky to have his attention.

Men can’t control themselves.

Beyond the obvious stereotyping and refusal of responsibility, these narratives are formed in a heterocentric vacuum. A space where men are encouraged to take what they want and never have to accept responsibility. Where womxn can do nothing right and their only recourse is to become the bitch who is uptight and prudish, or to accept the violations as their duty. In this vacuum there is no space for discussion, solutions, or justice for sexual assaults and abuses within LGBTQ relationships.

So much of this changes when we remove gendered language and we hold everyone accountable for creating discussions about consent. If consent is not given, then a person has to find pleasure somewhere else, and I mean with themselves. Masturbation can be more than just a physical release. No one is entitled to another person’s body, ever. It must be repeated that sex is not meant to be taken, lost, or an expectation of a relationship. Consent requires all persons to engage in the discussion. There is no space for silence. Speak up. Respect your body. Take ownership for your actions. Ask for what you want and accept the answer you receive in response.

If you are a rapist, accept responsibility for your actions and change your behavior. Some of you can’t – and we don’t know how to fix your compulsion to take what isn’t yours. Society is currently trying medical suppression of the libido, labeling offenders, segregation of offenders, and extending prison sentences into required holds in mental health institutions. Effective solutions? Fair and just solutions? Hell, I don’t know, and there are great, ethical minds working on this problem.

If you are a survivor, it is not your fault – speaking up, asking for what you want...everything I just stated above means nothing when someone takes from you. It is the rapist’s fault and theirs alone. It is not your fault. It is not your fault.

This all feels bleak and depressing to me but I have hope. I look at the work to legalize sex work as a beacon of change and positive progress. I listen to survivors tell their stories and call out perpetrators despite the lack of accountability by the rapist and no path for justice. I weep when hundreds and hundreds of people stand up against an organization that aided childhood abuse for more than a century. I connect with other sex educators and know that we are making a difference. And I talk about communication and consent any chance I get, to all the people I connect with, in every space.

Erin Brandt (she/her/hers) has been a sexologist for 15 years. When she’s not spreading sexual knowledge, Erin can be found learning from her child, hiking with her partner, cuddling with her pitbull, knitting with her cat, dancing with friends, and searching for the nearest hammock and ocean breeze. Want more? Visit www.positivesexed.com