Rape and Fear
Photo: Yuri Dojc/Getty
At the University of Arizona, a 'Take Back the Night' event was greeted by a counter-protest consisting entirely of Dean Saxton who carried a sign saying 'You deserve rape.' A junior studying classics and religious studies and who seems to want to be called 'Brother Dean Samuel,' Saxton attracted a lot of outrage though his noxious beliefs are, of course, protected free speech.
One of the values of maintaining free speech for all, no matter how horrible their views, is that it ensures that we are reminded that those horrible views exist. We can't pretend that they have gone the way of the dinosaurs. We can't pretend that horrible people aren't out there merely because they lack specific social or political power.
We are reminded that they really exist and we are forced to remind others why these people are wrong. Merely silencing them through the force of law is ultimately a lazy way of dealing with them, however satisfying it may be in the short term.
Saxton, a junior studying classics and religious studies, said his sermon was meant to convey that "if you dress like a whore, act like a whore, you're probably going to get raped."
"I think that girls that dress and act like it," Saxton said, "they should realize that they do have partial responsibility, because I believe that they're pretty much asking for it."
Saxton's sermon came ahead of the "Take Back the Night" event held Tuesday night, which aims to unite people against sexual violence. He said his decision to create the sign and display it was tied to the event and to the fact that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Source: Arizona Daily Wildcat
There's so much wrong with this it's tough to know where to begin. Do prostitutes "deserve" to be raped merely because they sell sex? Of course not. Are the only people who are raped those wearing "revealing" clothing? Of course not. Is a person "asking" to be sexually assaulted and violated merely by the length of their skirt? Of course not.
And what does it say about Dean Saxton that he thinks anyone "deserves" to be raped at all, regardless of anything else going on? Rape isn't even a punishment authorized by our criminal justice system, yet Saxton thinks that it's appropriate for women who haven't committed a crime to be raped merely because of what they are wearing.
This is why we can say that men like Dean Sexton are treating rape like an instrument of punishment for women who get out of line and an instrument of power -- specifically, an instrument for preserving male power against female challenges and imposing that power on the bodies of women as a reminder of their own second-class status.
"[Saxton] is part of a larger societal culture that tolerates rape, and that's exactly what the Oasis Program Against Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence is here to counteract," said Megan McKendry, a violence prevention specialist with Oasis, a program out of Campus Health Service.
"His message is an awful one that we condemn. No one deserves to be raped."
Tolerates rape? Tolerates? I think Megan McKendry is quite wrong here, though I understand her general perspective. This isn't about mere toleration of rape, it's about the encouragement and promotion of rape -- rape as a tool or weapon against women who are getting out of line in the eyes of men who feel entitled to exercise control over women.
Merely tolerating rape is perhaps what we have when the police fail to properly investigate rape allegations or when authorities refuse to provide adequate protection to women in situations that are known to be unnecessarily dangerous. Dean Saxton, in contrast, is presenting rape as an appropriate, legitimate, and so even moral response of men to women who are acting, behaving, and dressing in a fashion he disapproves of.