BY DAVID YANDA
The vilification of victim blaming has broadened beyond its effective scope and silenced critical reflection. To be clear, I am not arguing that victim blaming is categorically appropriate. In a medical context, condemning victim blaming is principle to an expedient recovery of sexual assault victims, as the mental trauma weighs too heavy to hold without detriment to most, if not all, victims. If we can lighten this load by any ethical method, let us not hesitate. However, in the context of preventative education and critiquing gender roles with the goal of reducing sexual violence, the distinction and assignment of perpetrator and victim holds no ground, fails to empower women as dynamic individuals of our culture, sews the mouths of men shut with threads of guilt and forces a wedge between good-hearted men and women campaigning against the rampancy of sexual violence.
When examining the effects of the binary gender system, we must come to terms with the fact that we are not only all victims of our gender identities, but we are also almost certainly all perpetrators as well. In any moment where a man or woman has ridiculed a man or woman for failing to adhere and succeed in their respective gender role, such as calling a man a pussy or calling a woman a slut, it is easy to see the committed crime.
But furthermore, when we admire a man or woman for the sole reason of succeeding along carved gender lines and fail to correct the intent of another’s admiration, then we are also perpetrators. If I see a man’s sexually aggressive behavior result in a successful fling, and I admire it, perhaps even learn to imitate it, then I am a perpetrator of sexual aggression in men. If a woman sees another woman’s sexually submissive and agreeable behavior result in a successful luring of men, and she admires it, perhaps learns to imitate it, then she is a perpetrator of sexual submissiveness and passivity in women. The crimes in these acts of admiration are more difficult to see but are toxic nonetheless, because they specifically feed the submissive/dominative paradigm, which I cannot help but think seriously contributes to the vast majority of sexual assault cases.
In educated circles, where men and women are working towards ending sexual violence, it is too often the case that men wholly assume the act of perpetrator when they are also victims, and women wholly assume the act of victim when they are also perpetrators. Two clear blunders result: educated men are remaining silent out of sympathy for women, locking away valuable insight and criticism which could help reduce sexual violence, and educated women are failing to realize how much power they hold over sexual dynamics.
For example, take the issue of sexual dominance in pornography. Many people have condemned the amount of dominant acts which occur in porn as encouraging the male fantasy of domination. They then claim that men strive to make these fantasies a reality, encouraging aggressive sexual behavior and leading to depreciative views towards women, sexual aggression towards women and even sexual violence towards women. This suggests our fantasy choice bleeds into reality in potentially damaging ways and that we need to examine our fantasies as acceptable or not.
But few people mention the amount of women buying into this fantasy. According to the study, “What Exactly is an Unusual Sexual Fantasy?” (2014) published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, 65 percent of women have fantasized about being dominated sexually, and 29 percent of women have fantasized about being forced to have sex. The study also states that 60 percent of men have fantasized about sexually dominating someone, and 22 percent of men have fantasized about forcing someone to have sex. But no one wants to talk about women’s fantasies contributing towards sexual violence, and I fear it’s because no one wants to hold women responsible for their sexuality, as they are solely considered victims, stunting our own understanding of gender relations.