A year ago today (October 26th), I put out a play called Speak Now in honor of domestic violence awareness month. Although physical abuse is often thought of when we conceptualize domestic violence, sexual abuse is a component as well. So, Speak Now is important as women and men are faced with a lethal rape culture that negatively impacts both parties. Women face internal doubts about whether or not they "feel" raped because of how society treats those who come forward. Oftentimes, women are told they are lying about rape, which is why a significant number of victims do not come forward. As for men, they are too doubted because society does not want to accept that men, too, can be victimized by the stigmas around rape. Molina and Marvin, the play's two main characters, honed in on both perspectives about rape.
Grey Rape & Intimate Partner Violence
When are you going to get that sex is choice, not an obligation? Sex is a choice that's best when motivated by trust - not lust.
I want to first look at this from a global perspective. Recently, India ruled that sex with a child-bride is illegal, which is one step toward criminalizing spousal rape in India. Some might say that India is a little tardy when it comes to this issue, which is not a completely baseless argument. One criticism of modern feminism is that it focuses on first-world issues such as pay gaps when there are more serious issues in second- and third-world countries.
However, there are some antiquated policies affecting women in the US. Firstly, the regulation of birth control by a male-dominated board of governing is becoming a pressing issue. Additionally, America's rape culture is incubated and supported through macro and micro aggressions. Only since 1979 has marital rape been criminalized (38 years). Even with that, there were variations in the treatment of rape and marital rape; the two were treated as if they were separate entities. In Speak Now, Molina is in a relationship with Khalil and Khalil thinks that the relationship entitles him to Molina's body.
One of Molina's prominent lines is when she reminds Khalil that sex is not an obligation but a choice. The importance of this line lies in its premise. Molina and Khalil have been together a year and Khalil feels that, because of that, it is "time" for them to have sex. Yet, Molina is hesitant because she has trouble trusting Khalil to tell the truth, so she knows she cannot trust him to value her most precious gem (her virginity). Khalil coerces Molina into having sex with him, preying on her vulnerability and naivety. These are all defined as "grey rape."
There's an area of "grey" since the victim did say yes, but he/she was manipulated into giving consent, so it was actually not consent. I feel that's important because, many times, victims hear "you said yes" or "you didn't say no," which makes them feel that their claim rape is invalid. Nonetheless, rape studies reveal that if someone changes their mind midway through sex, then it becomes rape. This is tricky because victims don't often verbalize their discomfort; this leads to people questioning "if it was rape." From a criminal standpoint, it will be harder to convict grey rapes, but from a psychological standpoint, the scars will still be there.
The second stigma when it comes to rape is male rape. I want to first discuss men and domestic violence. Men are too affected by domestic violence and it's seen as "funny" when it should not be. With Speak Now, some of the scenes with Marvin were taken as humorous, which speaks to our limitations in society. Immediately, we react to women making claims of domestic violence with care while we expect men to "man up" and fight these issues when, oftentimes, they are dealing with a partner who is violent. The same way we should not callously tell a woman to "just leave" a domestically violent relationship, we should not tell a man to "just fight" his attacker.
Nevertheless, there's another side to this debate. Sometimes, I see men go under feminist posts and say, "Well are affected by this too." This is true and, as I said above, we should talk about men being affected by these issues, but what we should not do is try to "compare" plights. Maybe we should talk about why domestic violence is so prominent in our society and why we respond to callously to claims of domestic violence. Maybe we should talk about our tendency to sympathize with abusers.
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