Goddamnit, Chrissie Hynde. Goddamnit. Just after I’d vowed to not leap to outrage, we get a huge serving of dumbass thoughts on rape.
The Pretenders’ lead singer and rock goddess Chrissie Hynde did an interview promoting her new memoir, and said a lot of really, really stupid things about rape. She started by discussing her own sexual assault when she was 21 by saying she takes full responsibility for it.
Technically speaking, however you want to look at it, this was all my doing and I take full responsibility. You can’t fuck about with people, especially people who wear ‘I Heart Rape’ and ‘On Your Knees’ badges … those motorcycle gangs, that’s what they do. You can’t paint yourself into a corner and then say whose brush is this? You have to take responsibility. I mean, I was naive. If you play with fire you get burnt. It’s not any secret, is it?
But maybe this is just Hynde’s way of processing her own assault? I’ve been lucky enough to have never been assaulted so I’m in no position to tell someone else how to work through it. If Hydne feels a sense of resolution and peace by taking responsibility for her individual assault, I might still disagree, but I wouldn’t argue with her. The problem is she doesn’t stop at just assigning responsibility for her rape on the victim.
If I’m walking around in my underwear and I’m drunk? Who else’s fault can it be? If I’m walking around and I’m very modestly dressed and I’m keeping to myself and someone attacks me, then I’d say that’s his fault. But if I’m being very lairy and putting it about and being provocative, then you are enticing someone who’s already unhinged - don’t do that. Come on! That’s just common sense. You know, if you don’t want to entice a rapist, don’t wear high heels so you can’t run from him.
If you’re wearing something that says ‘Come and fuck me’, you’d better be good on your feet … I don’t think I’m saying anything controversial am I?
Oh, for fuck sake. The answers to your question are: the rapist’s and yes.
This issue is that she’s discussing the symptoms and not the disease. In fact, most of the rape prevention campaigns focus on the symptoms (individual women being raped) and not on the disease (the existence of rapist). A woman who is drunk or wearing the “wrong” clothes or going to a party does not create a rapist. A decent human being doesn’t see a women who is incapacitated, and think, “Well, I didn’t want to rape anyone tonight, but now I guess I have to.” People only get raped when there is a rapist present. But we continue to focus on how individuals theoretically can stop from being raped instead of focusing on how to reduce the number of rapists. Telling women individually not to get drunk, not to run with the wrong crowd, not to dress provocatively, not to meet new people and not to live their lives the way they want to hasn’t decreased the number of rapists. Societal changes in how we understand and prosecute rape does.
So why does it matter? What’s the point of covering an aging rock star’s comments on sexual assault? Well for one because Chrissie Hynde was a pioneer for women musicians and a role model for girls who wanted to be rock stars. Having someone most people consider a feminist icon talk about sexual assault in such backward ways is a problem. And secondly, because her statements are both an endorsement and indicative of the kind of thinking that allows rapes to happen. This isn’t a simple matter of agreeing to disagree. Because her perspective on rape affects the way rape is viewed and prosecuted. It makes women like this question if she even was raped. And that makes things more dangerous for all of us.
Most rapists attack an average of six women before they are caught. Meaning every time we dismiss or refuse to believe a woman who was attacked, we’re allowing her attacker another chance to rape. In our misguided attempt to protect one woman (by telling her not to get drunk, not to wear revealing clothing, not to go out with new people), we’re creating the environment where rapists thrive. We place the blame squarely on the victim, and then are shocked when rapists keep finding ways to take advantage of that.
Telling individuals that they have the ability to protect themselves from an assault sounds empowering. It seems like a common sense way to keep people from harm. And it seems like something that we should be teaching everyone in order to keep them safe. But it only works when we’re also actively accepting that sometimes those defenses won’t work. A rape is the result of a rapist accomplishing something that he shouldn’t be. It’s not the result of a victim failing to do something that she should.
Source: The Guardian