mardi 5 janvier 2010

Rape culture in France

I'd like to talk about the way rape and sexual assault are perceived here in France, and how it effects the people I know. I'm not a counselor, or a sociologist, so this will be about my experience of rape culture.

Rape has been recognized as a crime in France since 1980 (you can get up to 15 years in prison). The legal definition is as follows: "Any sexual penetration (otherwise it's categorized as assault and not as rape) imposed upon another person through violence, constraint, threat, or surprise, is a rape."

Marital rape was legally recognized in 1992. These dates tell their own story.

In the media, rape has two different contexts. "Rape in the suburbs" and "City rape". Suburbs in France are not middle-class havens: they are what I think Americans call the projets, or ghettos. Young people who come from the suburbs (especially the Parisian ones) tend to describe themselves as "ghetto members". A few years ago, gang bangs became the subject of many an investigation. Young Muslim girls who would not wear a headscarf had been raped by several young men (usually men they knew socially) or set on fire. This brought about the idea that only immigrant religious extremists would rape. Rape was the product of alienation and misinformation.

On the other hand you have the City rape. This is defined by walking home late at night and being assaulted in the street. Victims of City rape are mostly pitied, but sometimes you'll read an article describing how drunk/skimpily dressed they were.

This is what I would call mainstream rape. Everyone agrees it's rape. Voilà. You don't go alone at night in some areas, it's a fact of life. As a runner I avoid some parts of Paris if I'm running at night. It's automatic. You go against the rules, you will be punished.

Much more problematic is date rape. I'll take the Polanski example, not because I'm not tired of that polemic, because I am. Yet the reaction of French intellectuals to the rape was scary and illuminating. It wasn't a rape because the mother of the girl entrusted her child to a known womanizer to do nude pictures. (So she pimped out her kid, basically). It wasn't a rape because the girl was not a virgin. You get the idea.

If you know your rapist, good luck to get your rape recognized as such. You egged him on. You sent the wrong signals. He was drunk. You were drunk.

As a French girl, you're taught how to flirt, that is, how to go far enough without going too far. If you go too far, you might end up in a situation beyond your control. This will be your fault. Rape education is focused on girls. We can avoid rape. Little is done to prevent rapists from raping.

Do I feel afraid, threatened every day? No. Am I bothered every day by some random person in the street? Yes.

"Hey pretty girl, want to come over tonight?"
"No, thanks."
"Have a good day then!"

This would be the nicest version of the typical exchange. Usually it goes along these lines:

"Hey pretty girl, want to come over tonight?"
"No, thanks."
"You fucking slut, just die already."

When I complain about this, I mostly hear people telling me that I'll miss it when it stops. Middle-aged women sigh wistfully about how they enjoyed being complimented, how they feel invisible now. The same women who tell me that I would be asking for rape if I went to a man's apartment alone. That I'd be sending out the wrong signals. To me, rape is less about sex than it is about violence. When I ask these people if it would be my fault if I were beaten up by a guy in his apartment, they usually say no. Yet rape would be my fault, somehow.

What I can tell you about French rape culture is that regardless of how "good" I am, someone will blame me for being raped, if this terrible thing happens to me one day. It will always be partly my fault. If I'm not drunk, it's because I wore a short skirt in a dangerous area. And why was I out in the middle of the night, anyway?

One day I was explaining to X, who's Australian, that I was afraid of travelling on my own because of violence and assault. He looked at me as if I were crazy. I realized how much I had internalized the French message that I had to restrict the way I live in order to be protected.

It's my responsability never to be assaulted. Even if it means living less of a life than if I were a man.

12 commentaires:

  1. Men account for the majority of violent crime victims all over the world.

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  2. To the previous commenter,
    So just with that statement, everything she said is meaningless? Because of what you said, (I'd like to see proof, by the way) she should not worry about being assaulted? Either you are a man, or you are a very lucky woman to have never been harassed. You're as rare as a unicorn if you are. In other words, go fuck yourself.

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  3. I sooo agree with her. I know too many girls in Paris who have been agressed - mostly by stragers who quickly enter after her in the building after she has entered the code. Some men even believe to have her consent for sex if she allows him to pay for dinner! As a guy, we suffer the prejudice too. After a wonderful tender and passionate time with a girl (who has a boyfriend) in my hotel room, the next morning she found out about someone else in her circle and was so angry that she 'confessed' to her boyfriend but pretended she was forced! I have been charged, lost my job through it, it took one year for police to interview me (luckily i kept sms and emails) and almost 6 months since my 'interview' still no news from police, charges still hold so I cant save reputation and sue for job back or sue her until I hear from the. Guilty until proved innocent. She is from Bulgaria and I'm wondering if I should be investigating her past. WHAT a revenge, and soo unfair. Its crap to be a guy!

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  4. Rapists should be castrated, and an "R" should be branded on their foreheads. That way, all of their friends, their family, everyone who walks past them, all of their co-workers and future employers, everybody who looks at the horrible scar on their forehead will know exactly what kind of disgusting, worthless slime that they are.

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  5. Dear Writer,

    I was out at republique, last saturday. I wore a closed winter jacket, jeans and sneakers. Only 10 minutes from my house, about 2am so metro's closed, you should be able to walk that. Instead I got attacked and pulled of the main street. A man trying to cover my mouth and get my clothes off. Luckily I could scream, and some people came to my rescue. At the police station they were understanding, I was number 9 this week.

    The only advice I can give...... spend 5 euro on a Rape alarm. You can buy a proper one at Dune on Champs Elysees and whichever other weapon/defence shop. Every girl should cary one. All it does when pressed or pulled (you cary it in your hand or pocket) is make an amazing noise! This way you scare of your attacker perhaps/perhaps not. But at least no way nobody will hear you.

    Cheers!

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  6. Someday we'll have a flawless lie-detector machine, when tht day comes THEN we can castrate and brand foreheads. As per stats, 10 out of 100 people in France report being raped every year, assuming all victims are female, that's 10 out of every 50 women are raped once a year:O
    FxxK you France, this is your just desserts for inviting all the negroes and arabs into your country. Think about that the next time you're on your back in an ally being violated:>

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    Réponses
    1. These stats are complete bull, look at wikipedia (US rape stats are tripple what they are in France BTW)

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    2. Actually that stat is untrue as well. France has a lower report rate than in US and its EU neighbors. There is still an unfortunate stigma regarding rape in France, it seems to be improving, but lags behind the majority of other developed countries. I am a crisis counselor specializing in sexual assault and have worked in the US and EU.

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    3. Fact There is no typical rapist. Studies show that men who commit sexual violence come from every economic, ethnic, racial, age and social group. 85% of rapists are men known to their victims.

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  7. Hey pretty girl, want to come over tonight?"
    "No, thanks."
    "You fucking slut, just die already."

    LOL!!!!!!!1111

    I wish I were french

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  8. I know that you posted this eons ago, but I've been really frustrated with this this week. No, I haven't been raped or seen someone be raped recently but I've seen kids being bullied in the streets and a young man tied up to a street pole and beaten. Why do the French not feel a responsability to defend them or do something about what they see? HOW IS THIS OKAY?

    This terrifies me. I've come to the realisation that if I run into trouble one day I feel like no one would come to help me. Who wants to live in a society with this mentality?

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