How Did We Get Here?

women’s place in history as it relates to sex, rape culture, #metoo + why we are still fighting back

BEFORE YOU START READING I WOULD LIKE YOU TO KNOW THAT ALL OF THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN THIS POST ARE MY OWN + I DO NOT SPEAK FOR ANYONE ELSE, JUST ME - MYSELF + I. IF YOU THINK THAT THIS MIGHT NOT BE THE BEST TOPIC FOR YOU TO READ ABOUT OR IF YOU HAVE ANY SENSITIVITY TO WHAT COULD BE EXPRESSED THROUGH THE ARTICLE, PLEASE READ WITH CAUTION + STOP IF YOU FEEL THIS IS NOT THE DIRECTION YOU WANT TO START YOUR DAY READING ABOUT.


I know that Rape Culture, Female Sexuality (including contraception + abortion) + the #MeToo Movement have become hot button topics. It’s taboo to talk about, it is uncomfortable, it ruins lives, and everyone wants to believe their loved ones would never do something so horrible to another or put themselves into such a position of vulnerability. It can NEVER happen to a man, ever, it’s just not possible; if it happens at a college party it was either playful fun or “someone” was acting in a way that made the other someone feel as though they had permission to do whatever it is they did; the homeless, sex-workers, strippers, provocative dressers are asking for it; members of the LGBTQ community are obviously sex demons. As a HUMAN BEING when I hear a statement like that, I feel like I jumped into a magical time machine + landed in the cartoon world of Charlie Brown + I’m trying to understand what ANY adult is trying to say. Rape Culture in our world has become so common that there are still people who can not acknowledge the fact that it is even happening. The excuses that are made are usually made with such a blind eye —- it isn’t always the case that the excuses are made to cover up inappropriate behavior or encourage misbehavior — the road is paved with good intentions, but is it enough? Rape Culture has led us to the time of the #MeToo Movement + has shined a spotlight on the actions + behavior of teens + young adults, and brought the topic of Abortion, Contraception + Women’s Sexuality to come steam rolling back into the middle of the political arena as well as becoming a divisive topic of our time + a feeling of a rolling back of the times.

I have been aware, for a long time, of the realities of sexual abuse, domestic violence, rape + the excuse that “we were drunk” as a popular defense. I felt that for the most part, as a society, we were trying to move forward on a lot of different ideologies - trying to gain equal rights for women + minorities; we made gay marriage legal, passed safety + equality bills for our transgender community. Now, please don’t get me wrong —- I was not naive about the situation, I mean I was, apparently, but I wasn’t wearing Rose Colored Glasses thinking that everyone was going to hug, be best friends + blindly accept different beliefs without question. However, I was naive enough to think that moving forward is a direction that we would keep going. Note —- this next comment is not a political statement!! I realized that the ball was rolling backwards when comments about sexually assaulting women were made public + turned into a joke + laughing it off as locker room talk. I can only speak for myself and to my own experiences, but one thing that I know to be 100% absolutely + undeniably true is that sexual assault does not always present itself in the form shown on TV and the victims of rape + sexual assault do not always identify themselves solely through their harrowing experience. Real life, in any form, is never reflected in TV or in movies in a 100% completely accurate way —- even reality TV has been manipulated, directed in some way, and been edited to create better content to encourage a larger audience. Why is it that it is so easy for us to understand this dynamic when it comes to almost any other topic, yet when it comes to sexual assault the only “acceptable” way for rape to take place is when a young woman, who is conservatively dressed (being deeply religious is an obvious plus), is walking to her car after leaving the library late at night —- she was probably deeply immersed in the book she was reading or studying so intently for an upcoming test that she lost track of time —- and on the way to her car, is ambushed by a man in a dark hoodie, wearing a face mask and wielding a gun, thus forcing himself on her leaving her NO choice but to submit to his will since she is concerned for her safety, possibly even her life…. THAT IS COMPLETE BULL SHIT! That line can be crossed with or without the threat of bodily harm.

Would a man be considered sexually assaulted if he got drunk and another BOY had sex with him? Would that be considered rape or would we blame the victim for putting himself in an unsafe position? Would we ask him how he was behaving, or if he was leading the boy on? Would we ask him if he actually SAID the word no? Would we accuse him of making up lies, because these kinds of accusations can ruin lives? Would we follow up that question by asking if he is sure, just one more time? Why do women get treated differently than men when it comes to sexuality and rape?

LET’S GET OUR HISTORY ON

Women have had a back + forth reputation regarding the proper etiquette when it comes to sexuality.  The pre-Christian world celebrated sex as a natural + a positive part of the human experience. It wasn’t shamed + in fact, the Ancient Greeks didn’t have specific laws regarding sexual acts + therefore sexual sin did not exist; of course, with any society, there were “unusual norms” —- Greek boys were taught not to see themselves as either homosexual or heterosexual + it was a common thought that you could have sexual desires on a varying degree for both sexes + the distinction or necessity to choose one or the other did not exist. Sex was a natural + celebrated act, so much so that it was prevalent in plays, literature, pottery, statues, etc. —- sexual pleasure was at the center of life in Ancient Greece —- taking multiple lovers, separately, or at the same time was typical + in Ancient Greece the practice of pæderastry (older men taking younger male lovers, usually 12-15 years old) was not only considered natural, but was the best way for young boys to complete their educational training with their mentor. Main takeaway so far —- sex in Ancient Greece, for adult men, is a lot of fun! READY FOR THE KICKER: Women, especially aristocratic women, were not allowed this freedom —- women, especially those of the upper class had a role + that was to bear her husband’s heirs + to manage his household; while the man’s sexual pleasure was addressed primarily outside of the marriage. 

“Surely you do not suppose that lust provokes men to marry when the streets are full of people who will satisfy the appetites, as are the brothels” —- Xenophon

Next stop in our very quick, very minimal, timeline of sexual history as it relates to our topic; Ancient Rome —- very similar beliefs, very similar practices, however the Romans were a tad bit uncomfortable with nakedness. Prostitution was common between men + women, prostitutes paid taxes + were registered with the state. Even though the Romans started off more conservatively, bathhouses were commonplace to engage in sexual acts both privately + publicly. Around 202 B.C., Rome was war free for the first time in a long time and the empire was enjoying wealth + power like never before, allowing for change in cultural + societal norms. Sexual encounters outside of marriage became more common for both men + women. (here we go, finally, equality, am I right?!) Roman historian Velleius Paterculus noted that without the fear of Carthage + the end of the war, “Rome gave herself up… to pleasure.” At this time, the freedom of sexual expression was “more important” than the freedom of political expression + the casual attitude of the Romans, regarding sex, would surpass those who believe in the freedom of sexuality + sexual expression today…. By the middle of the second century B.C., the traditional chastity of women had disappeared + abortion had become so common that it was rare to find a “well-bred woman” giving birth.

In both Ancient Greece + Ancient Rome, although freedom of sexual expression was commonplace + sinful sexual acts were not established at this time, it was still not accepted for 2 adult men to have sex with each other. It was frowned upon + considered emasculating — it was ok for 2 males to have sex, but one participant needed to be an adult, a mentor, to a young student under his educational guidance.

The early Hebraic law allowed for sexual pleasure, masturbation, prostitution, contraception, abortion, pornography, lesbianism, and premarital sex —- however, if a man has sex with a virgin, he is required to marry her + pay her father 50 shekels; there are no condemnations or rules against pre-marital sex between a man + a non-virgin woman —- thus resulting in the conclusion that the sins of Adam + Eve are not in correlation to sex, but rather a great disobedience of God. There are, however, Bible specified duties of husbands + wives to satisfy each other’s sexual needs; they were not shy about sexual pleasure especially within marriage, had no restrictions regarding oral sex or sexual relations between unmarried persons + had sexual “instructions” found in books of the Bible, instructing husbands to find rapture in their wives. Prostitution was not outlawed, but it was socially frowned upon + adultery could result in the death penalty, BUT ONLY IF COMMITTED BY A MARRIED WOMAN —- due to the fact that the wife is the husband’s PROPERTY (WTF?!)+ he has the right and need to protect the family’s inheritance from illegitimate heirs.

Moving on….. As Christianity starts to grow, the views of sex started to change. The manipulation of sexual freedom was tangled up with the values of this new religion. Jesus is thought not to have said much on the subject of sex —- he did not condone adultery, but he was sympathetic to adulteresses, he condoned divorce in the absence of adultery. About 50 years later Paul started to write about sex, in his letters he went so far as to say that lusting after a woman who isn’t your wife is equivalent to adultery + this is where sex outside of marriage is looked down on as sinful+ starts to become the norm. Christianity adopted the view that the sin that occurred in the Secret Garden was not that of disobedience to God, but rather once they bit into the apple, the sins of sexual desire washed over Adam + Eve creating the first mortal sin.


HOW DOES THIS EARLY HISTORY RELATE TO TODAY

I wanted to give a historical perspective to sexual practices + how ‘normal’ has varied throughout history. I am not suggesting that we loosen our sexual morals. Ancient Rome at the height of sexual indulgence is not the solution to rape culture that I am proposing + I am also not suggesting that our time is the first to include sexual assault, nor am I suggesting that throughout history all sexual activity was encouraged. Heterosexual + homosexual are relatively new terms designed to categorize ourselves to provide a clarity to the spectrum. As a western civilization in the modern world, we are obsessed with facts. We need a way to categorize everyone + everything, so that it fits into a box, clearly marked, so that we can understand it. I think that is why the queer community is so scary to so many people - a relationship between 2 men doesn’t follow the same blueprint that a heterosexual relationship has laid out — there is no “man” and “woman” there are only 2 men + the difference makes it hard to compute when we are trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. 

The idea that our sexuality could be fluid is scary since we have engrained our society to make a choice since birth. We dress little girls in pink + little boys in blue. We give girls dolls + make-up. We give boys trucks + action figures. We tell little girls how pretty they are + expect them to wear dresses, while we give little boys puzzles + tools hoping they will learn how to problem solve + to take control of situations. We tell boys to shake it off when they fall while coddle little girls with a scratch. We encourage boys to play rough, have sayings like boys will be boys + consider emotions to be a sign of weakness. From day 1, we set our children out into the world telling them that if they reach a fork in the road there is only 1 right way to go. We tell them that boys must be this way + girls must be that way. We created the idea of homosexuality + heterosexuality —- and we continue to pass it on, from generation to generation, creating a strength in an idea that can not be weakened. 

For women + men, I believe that there are multiple factors that go into making decisions about your sexual partners; gender + race play a part of the attraction but they are not the only way we make these choices. Just as we select the way we decide to express our sexuality in private, we should have the freedom to participate in sex at our own free will. Why is it ok to question the motives of women when it comes down to sexual assault? We allow the boys a free pass on their bad behavior, yet tell girls that they are the reason that boys are behaving badly. We expect girls to grow up to be “responsible” when it comes to sex, to wait until marriage, not to dress provocatively, to stay sober because drinking too much leads to promiscuity + sleeping around (even if it is without consent) because as a woman you should never put yourself into a dangerous position. The same goes for gay men, they are just weak + constantly exposed, plus a relationship between 2 men could never last + must be based on sex alone. Attacks on women + gay men always seem to be looked at through a negative light —- someone always watching in the back trying to protect those who can pass on their lineage to the next generation while not protecting those who are suppressed, those persons who bring life into a new world. 

The world is so concerned about birth control, abortion, and sex demons. There is a war on abortion, while viagra is a necessity for any man ‘of a certain age’. The contradicting ideas being, that men should have the right to continue having sex long after their body should naturally be able to, while women shouldn’t even be able to consider the termination of a

pregnancy. (Do you know anyone who is out there considering abortion? Topic for another time, but it is not a decision made lightly… I don’t know a single woman who has gotten pregnant + decided to go through with an abortion thinking “Finally, it’s Thursday; Abortion Day!!!”) The narrative is scripted to allow for certain sexual freedom yet condemn others + if the scrip is not followed, what is going to happen + what will the world become? The answer is… the same old world it has always been. The world didn’t end when the Greeks were being "sexual deviants” or the Romans were rushing the streets to get abortions. The world does not begin + end with what is happening inside your bedroom. Sex is a natural part of life - it is where babies come from - that’s a point that we can all agree on, regardless of any other views we may hold.

The truth of the matter is that women + men will never be the same - let me hit you with some truth from ‘Kindergarten Cop’ Boys have penises + girls have ver-ginas = truth! We have different body parts + our bodies are made to handle different things. I guarantee you I don’t have any sperm in my body waiting to fertilize an egg + I find it highly unlikely that we could find a man with a basket of eggs + a uterus chilling next to his fallopian tubes. That does not mean that we need to treat each other as completely different species. Historically speaking, the reason it was ok for men to be more promiscuous than women is the proof of paternity - since a man can not carry a woman’s offspring it was the only way to ensure that the children your wife bore to you, were biologically yours. Since we have paternity testing + birth control, I fail to see how this is a relevant point anymore. If the only difference between a woman + a man is anatomical, why should the way we regard sex differentiate between the two.

Until we can get past the idea that ‘we are all the same’ should apply to so much more than the topic of sex, sexual freedom, + the practice of safe sex —- but for now, in relation to this topic —- we all need to take a look at ourselves to see what role we play in the current state of rape cultural dominance. We need to stop encouraging girls to take the blame + we need to believe the victims of sexual assault as they come forward instead of questioning their motives. Taking a step in the right direction starts with a change in mindset, turning the questions from “what were you doing to encourage the attack” to “what happened” (period), with all follow-up questions asked for the sake of the investigation. If a sexual attack or rape happened to a straight man (by a man) the follow-up questions would not include “what were you doing to encourage the idea that you were interested.” We can not move forward toward a safer sexual world until we can start treating everyone the same when it comes to sex crimes, men + women from all walks of life should be equally protected.

The #metoo movement has brought attention to the community of women who have survived a sexual assault. A reminder that the number of women who have had their sexuality violated is more than we ever knew before + the connection between sexual violence + the women closest to us makes ME wonder why we are just now doing something about it… something to leave you with… if you are not on board with #metoo yet or if you are concerned about the movement leading to innocent accusations against young men, I would encourage you to think about this… how will you feel when it happens to your daughter?

~ Melissa ~


If you have a minute, check out my favorite clip from Kindergarten Cop! It cracks me up EVERY SINGLE TIME! I hope it puts a smile on your face after the deep read. Enjoy!


***As always, feel free to leave a comment. I am always open for discussion, even when our differences are so different. But please keep in mind that this is a topic for discussion not hate. Any comments deemed inappropriate will be taken down. Thanks!