Are You Contributing To Rape Culture In the LGBTQ Community?
Before I begin, I want to acknowledge that this post may be triggering for many people; I completely get it. Please do whatever you need to do to guard your mental health - even if it means not continuing to read this post.
In the wake of national conversations about rape and the rape culture in Nigeria, I think it is important to recognize the different ways rape culture is perpetuated in our community - intentionally and unintentionally.
First of all, what is rape culture? Rape culture is more than just men assaulting women. According to UN Women, Rape culture is the social environment that allows sexual violence to be normalized and justified, fueled by persistent gender inequalities and attitudes about gender and sexuality.
I have put together 5 things many of us could be doing that contribute to promoting rape culture within our community. I hope this creates more awareness about how our actions affect each other, even with the best of intentions.
So, let's begin.
1. Not respecting people's boundaries - doubling down on something someone else has told us they don't like is at the core of rape culture. For instance, when your partner says "I don't like it when you touch me like this or call me this", but you keep touching them like that or calling them the same thing. This means you feel entitled to a person's personhood or body that you don't care about how they feel, even if it hurts them. Entitlement is the core of rape culture because it does not consider the need for consent, and that is very problematic. Instead, show respect for the other person by not doing what they just asked you not to do.
2. Using demeaning Language - Some people may say "No, now. It's just the way we talk", but language and words matter. Repeatedly using words that bring a person down, instead of lifting them up, could potentially reduce a person's self-confidence. A person with low self-confidence is easily susceptible to manipulation and control - two ingredients that fuel rape culture. Use affirmative words and speak kindly to a person, no matter what your relationship with them is. This helps build a person's confidence and makes them less likely to be a victim of control.
3. Endless "Begging" - No, I do not mean begging for money - that's different. I mean begging as a way of pressurizing a person to do something simply because you want to have your way. This is exactly how rape happens; apply pressure on a person until they succumb and let you do what you want. For instance, your partner says they do not want to have sex, but you "beg" them so much, even telling them how not having sex is causing you to suffer, until they unwillingly "agree" to have sex. That is not consent. Consent must be freely given without pressure or coercion, or "convincing". Always remember that "no" doesn't mean "beg some more".
4. Maintaining restrictive gender roles - We were all raised to view gender as binary - man and woman - and these come with the expected roles and stereotypes. For instance, many people in the community discriminate against stud and stud relationships because they believe in the binary. In femme and stud relationships, many people still believe femmes should cook and clean, while studs should "control" femmes. But the truth is that these roles and stereotypes create the perfect condition for rape culture to thrive. In addition, they are very restrictive, can lead to unnecessary conflict, and were not designed to include same-gender-loving or gender-non-conforming people. We need to find ways that accommodate everyone in the relationship in order for it to thrive.
5. Violence - violence does not have to be physical for it to be harmful. Research suggests that verbal and other forms of non-physical violence can be just as harmful, if not more harmful than physical violence because it is not seen. Someone told me that their partner does not "do as they say unless they yell at them". How many times have we heard stories of how studs(femmes too) beat up their partners for whatever reason? Somehow, we have learned that if we apply some level of force, either by yelling or physical force, we will get compliance. Even with the best intentions, violence is a power play and that is what rape culture is about. Instead, try to solve problems by learning better communication techniques and practicing active listening.
To recap, it is important to understand rape culture and do our part in stemming it out of our community and our world. We can do this by respecting people's boundaries, using uplifting language, remembering that "consent" after extended begging is not consent, letting go of restrictive gender roles, and using dialogue instead of violence.
Of course, this is not everything. So feel free to drop your suggestions in the comments. Together, we can make a difference.
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Till next time!
Pamela and the team at EH Online Store.
About the author: Pamela serves as Executive Director at The Equality Hub. She is a 2018 Obama Foundation Leader, a filmmaker, writer, and a proud LGBTQ-rights activist. Pamela is part of the content team at EH Online Store where she shares her views on creating a more vibrant and engaged LGBTQ community in Nigeria. Follow her on Twitter: @biwomdz