March 23, 2019
THIS is that moment when my position on an issue leads me to agree with a political personality I do not particularly support.
I have no love lost for Leni Robredo, and I sometimes find it hard to make sense of her incoherence, or her sophomoric take on issues. Recently, she even had the audacity to push for electoral reforms, particularly on the use of social media during election campaigns. This, coming on the heels of her own election that is tainted by allegations, many of which are supported by evidence, of irregularities and fraud. Worse, she is advocating for state regulation of social media, perhaps forgetting that she is fighting for the freedom of speech of Rappler and Maria Ressa.
However, when Robredo was quoted to have said that rape exists because of rapists, and was being attacked for it, I had to take her side. After all, this one goes beyond partisan politics. I am doing it not for her, but for all women who have been raped or have been sexually assaulted.
The derisive posts attacking Robredo made fun of the statement she made. The main contention is that it appeared silly. But of course, her critics say, rape exists because of rapists.
But this has to be said, and it makes a lot of sense. It is actually to counteract the dominant narrative that makes it appear that rape survivors could also share the blame, and that women, and some men, somehow acted in ways that caused the rape to happen. In a world where women are expected to behave in prudish and restrained ways, rape survivors are often painted as women who transgress moral conventions.
It is therefore not uncommon for people to comment on the looseness of the morals of a woman who is gang-raped by men with whom she had a drinking session, the way the 16-year-old girl from Tondo is now imaged. Reading the comments made by people on the news article featuring the unfortunate incident is a painful experience of how the girl, already gang-raped by six men, is raped once again with unkind accusations of being a woman of loose morals.
It is as if any woman in her right mind will ask to be raped. But in our patriarchal world where misogyny silently creeps into the subconscious, women who are survivors of rape or of sexual assault are being taken to task and blamed for many things, from dressing seductively, to being a flirt, to being outright promiscuous. It is precisely because of this straitjacketing of women that they become the object of control and policing not only by their families but even by society.
And this cuts across cultural and national boundaries. Women everywhere are clothed and veiled and bound. Their bodies become the templates upon which societal control is painted. And the justification used is usually presented as a protective mechanism to shelter women from the unbridled but natural sexual urges of men. And when they transgress the moral boundaries imposed by society, they are shamed and are called promiscuous and loose. The tragedy is compounded when these myths that objectify women are perpetuated with active complicity by other women, by mothers who rear their children to imbibe these stereotypes. In fact, many of those who blame the 16-year-old girl who was gang-raped are women.
What is established here is the fact that the reason why women are admonished to be modest is that if they behave otherwise they became prey to male sexual advances. A protective father would be more strict with his daughters than his sons because he is afraid of a world full of men who are ruled by their genitalia and their sexual urges. And this is a fear shared by mothers.
Of course, this stereotype of men as sexual predators is as bad as stereotyping liberated and playful women as moving sexual targets. But if there is anything that should be impressed on people, it is the fact that no matter how liberated a woman is, she can only be raped or sexually assaulted when there are men who would not be able to control their urges.
After all, how can you explain the case of nuns being raped, or of young girls and infants being sexually molested? Certainly, they could not be accused of having acted loosely, or having dressed up seductively.
Indeed, rape exists not because of women’s behavior or actions. Rape exists because there are men who become rapists. Leni Robredo is right. And I agree with her.
Some people attack the logic of the statement simply because it is uttered by Robredo, someone that they image as allegedly not being too bright.
However, many people also attack the argument armed with their misogynist misunderstanding of gender politics associated with rape and sexual assault. Somebody even had the temerity to liken women who are raped after going out at night, partying with the boys, or dressing up seductively, to unlocked cars or houses that are robbed.
And yet, these are the very same people who erupt with rage when persons high on drugs rape young girls. It is simply beyond comprehension that someone who is appalled when children are raped could also argue that rape could not solely be attributed to their perpetrators, and that the victims have somehow asked for it.
It is bizarre that those who vigorously defend the President’s war on drugs, even wishing that his critics would not feel the pain of their loved ones being raped by drug addicts, would be so insensitive to the plight of rape survivors. And it is odd that someone who wants to impose the death penalty on rapists would blame the 16-year-old girl from Tondo who was gang-raped by six men, as if it was her fault.
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