*Trigger warning: discusses sexual assault*
I wanted to share this article because it’s one that’s preyed on my mind since the first time I read it–more than two months ago. It resurfaces every time I’m part of a discussion about rape culture at Denison, and every time I, or those around me, are faced with the choice of engaging in it. Lately, during class I’ve been thinking about the ways our choices affect what our body means to ourselves and to others. The author, by actively admitting he has, and does, participate in a rape culture, really drives home the ways in which we must consciously decide which structures of violence and conformity that we are willing to participate in, and what our bodies owe others, if anything.
It seems to me, at the end of the day, that what you choose to do with your body should not matter to anyone else. Being transgender doesn’t literally hurt anyone else, nor does consuming alcohol, at least in the very act of the thing. But it also seems to me that we are social bodies not just because our understanding of self relies on social constructs, but also because we fundamentally believe, as a species, that our bodies are ingrained with some kind of social responsibility. I’m just not sure how far that goes or how intrinsically valid that is.
As a feminist, the most fundamentally difficult question I’ve had with all body-related topics is this: if you should have autonomy over your own body, then who is responsible for creating change in the meanings of bodies? I absolutely understand that many transgender people may want to conform after the disunity they’ve felt with their bodies. Do I think a gender spectrum will come into existence nearly as quickly if more transgender people due conform to gender norms? No, I can’t honestly say that I do.
Another way of looking at it is this: as someone who generally feels comfortable in my gender role, do I have a responsibility to violate norms in order to create a safer, more accepting society? Well, maybe not, since I have autonomy over my body. But I’m still participating in a structure that supports the exclusion of bodies.
Rape culture for me hits harder though. Should we rather risk rape than quit partying, as the author suggests? How do we create change while participating in a culture that allows for violence, and at the same time feel that we have autonomy over our own bodies to do what we want? How do we create a party culture where the victims are not the catalyst for change?