I’m a Wesleyan, and I’m against rape culture.
I was raised in the Wesleyan Church. For those who aren’t familiar with it, the Wesleyan Church is a part of what is known as the Holiness Movement. Briefly, I was raised to believe that salvation doesn’t only mean being forgiven for the bad things you’ve done; it also means that the Holy Spirit begins to work in us, healing us from our bad habits and giving us the strength to resist new temptations that come into our lives. As far as doctrines go, it’s extremely proactive.
By now, most of us have heard of the Steubenville rape case. Most of us have heard the voices sympathizing with the perpetrators. Most of us have heard the cries of outrage against those same sympathizers. And it’s starting to dawn on some of us that we’re living in what has been called a “rape culture.” Julia Gazdag explained rape culture thusly:
The term “rape culture” refers to a culture in which attitudes about rape are tolerant enough to be an enabling factor in anything ranging from sexual harassment to actual rape. When a girl complains about being catcalled on the street because it made her uncomfortable, and you tell her to just take a compliment, you’re perpetuating rape culture. When a girl has one too many drinks at a party and is taken advantage of, and your reaction is that it’s her fault for not being more careful, you’re perpetuating rape culture. When you say that someone was “asking for it” because their skirt was too short, you’re perpetuating rape culture. When you assume that men are never victims of sexual harassment or assault, yes, you’re still perpetuating rape culture (not only because desexualizing one gender sexualizes the other by proxy, but because classifying one form of harassment or assault as valid over another is contributing to the problem).
Rape is the far end of the spectrum. You don’t have to rape someone to sexually assault them. When you verbally suggest the things you’d like to do to a girl, that’s sexual assault. When you grab someone somewhere you ought not, that’s sexual assault. When you joke about and make fun of sexual assault, you’re perpetuating a culture of sexual assault. These things are unacceptable. These things are sin. They make God angry, and they ought to make us angry too.
Growing up, I was taught not to drink, smoke, chew tobacco, do drugs, swear, lie, or take the Lord’s name in vain. No one ever actually sat me down and said, “Don’t rape people.” But it’s getting to that point. Last year, I saw someone on Twitter mention that their college freshman orientation class had a segment on how not to get raped. And I get that, I guess. It goes along with classes on self-defense and on protecting your identity online. But why aren’t we making sure that in some way, shape, or form, that there’s a “How not sexually assault someone” class? Why are we focusing on those who are victims and not on those who do the victimizing. Why is the unspoken question, “What did I do wrong?” rather than “Why would someone do that?”
As I’ve said, I’m a Wesleyan. That means I’m a free-will kind of person. When I hear someone suggest that a girl was “asking for it” because she was flirtatious, or because she dressed a certain way, I get very offended. The implication is that she triggered the sexual assault and that the perpetrator was somehow sucked into the act by surprise. It suggests that I, as a male, if I keep my head down, if my co-workers don’t dress too provocatively, if none of them look my way, I might just, possibly, maybe, if I’m lucky, make it through the day without raping someone. And that’s ridiculous.
Holiness means trusting the Holy Spirit to be an active part in my life, but it also means taking responsibility for turning away from temptation and helping others to do the same. It means shutting down crude jokes about rape. It means telling my guy friends that they need to have respect for women. It means teaching my daughter’s guy friends what kind of behavior, humor, and attitudes will not be tolerated in my house. It means understanding that the beauty God created is not an invitation, but a demand for respect.