Tag Archives: Victim-Blaming

Jenna Marbles Picture

Last week, Youtuber Jenna Marbles posted a video called “Things I Don’t Understand About Girls Part 2: Slut Edition,” which is essentially nine minutes of horrible, hurtful slut-shaming.

Some other Youtubers, like Laci Green, Hayley G Hoover, and Chescaleigh have already posted some thoughtful responses deconstructing how Jenna’s video perpetuates rape culture. Check them out! (Trigger warning: Chescaleigh discusses her own experience with sexual assault). But we here at SACOMSS Media Watch wanted to break the video down for you folks as well, since it’s as good an opportunity as any to confront slut-shaming.

So let’s go over the ways this video is a problem.

Jenna states several times in the video that she just doesn’t understand why a woman would want to have a lot of sex with a lot of different people. But instead of using this as a starting point to acknowledge that hey, there’s a lot of sexual variation out there, or hey, we all have so much to learn about sexuality, she spends the rest of her video generalizing and making assumptions about “sluts.” Even though she acknowledges she doesn’t understand them at all.

She assumes that women who have a lot of sexual partners don’t respect themselves. But the thing is, how much sex someone has isn’t any kind of indicator of their sense of self-worth. Sure, it’s possible to have a lot of sex for unhealthy reasons, but it’s possible to avoid sex for unhealthy reasons too. What’s important is whether someone feels good about their sexual expression.

It’s worth noting that this idea, that sluts have no self-respect, like most of the bases for slut-shaming comments, is definitely gendered. Cis men who have a lot of sex are not generally accused of having low self-esteem, because men who have a lot of sex aren’t shamed about it a fraction as much as cis women are. That this video uses really gendered language is yet another reason why it’s a problem, since it erases the experience of queer and trans* people and expects different sexual behaviours from men and women, but it also underscores the fact that slut-shaming is in large part targeting straight, cis women.

Jenna goes on to say that monogamous women are more highly evolved than “sluts.” In fact, she compares sluts to her horny dog—to an animal—and then says that it takes more intelligence to decide to be with one person than to sleep around. By making this claim—which is based on nothing but her own preference for monogamy—she sets sluts up as a less-evolved, stupid, and animalistic other, different from smart, rational women like herself. When this kind of distinction is created, between the “good girls” and the “sluts,” it justifies a lot of the other slut-shaming that goes on in society. It allows people to treat women who have a lot of sexual partners badly—because hey, they’re stupid anyway. It stops people from seeing these women as autonomous individuals—because hey, they’re irrational, and deciding not to be monogamous isn’t a legitimate lifestyle choice.

At one point in the video, Jenna encourages viewers to ask a drunk woman being taken home by a stranger if she’s OK, to “help the sluts of the world make less bad, slutty decisions.” And looking out for the people around you, checking in with someone who looks like they might be in a risky situation, is an awesome thing to do. The problem is that a woman going home with a stranger and having sex with them when she’s black-out drunk isn’t making a “bad decision.” She’s being sexually assaulted. Someone who is drunk cannot consent to sexual activity. If someone does something sexual to a drunk person, that’s assault. And assault is never the survivor’s fault, no matter how much they had to drink, or what they were wearing, or how much sex they have.

The other problem with this suggestion is that, while unfortunately we live in a culture where it’s really important that we look out for each other to try and prevent sexual assault, the folks who are at a higher risk of being sexually assaulted—like, say, the ones who get called “sluts” by people like Jenna Marbles—really aren’t the ones who should be held responsible for rape culture. It’s the other people Jenna talks about in her video, the men who think it’s OK to have sex with a drunk woman, who need to be called out on their behaviour (again, note that this video makes assumptions about gender roles, casting women in the role of the victim and men in the role of the perpetrator). Perpetrators of sexual violence are the ones making bad decisions. They’re the ones who have the real power to stop sexual assault, because they’re the ones who actually make it happen.

But it’s also attitudes like the one on display in this video that perpetuate a culture where sexual assault is condoned and justified. Policing people’s sexual expression, implying that certain people are less worthy of respect than others because of how many sexual partners they have, is what gives some people the idea that they have the right to violate other people’s sexual boundaries. And that’s really just not cool.

Trigger Warning: This post references, but does not link to, a Reddit thread which contains detailed descriptions of sexual assault. Other articles linked here quote from and link to the aforementioned Reddit thread. 

Reddit recently asked its users to share the “other” side of sexual assault, that is the perspective of the assailant. Reddit wanted to know, “What were your motivations? Do you regret it?” In response, users provided detailed descriptions of their methods, motives, and common targets of rape and attempted rape. Jezebel outlined the various rationalities behind these rapists’ actions, which include “mixed-messages” from women, peer-pressure, and men’s sexual desire as motives for committing rape. Though they recognize what they did as rape, these posters do not see the incredible harm caused by their actions.

Survivors of rape also added their own stories and responses to the thread. Some connected with the victims described and found reading the stories to be a positive experience, while others were more disgusted than gratified after reading the story.

A chilling aspect of the reddit users’ accounts of rape is that it highlights just how easy it is to get away with sexual assault. One poster describes himself as “a good looking guy,” and thus was easily able to pick up girls he perceived to be weak or with low self-esteem. He also describes himself as protected by his connections with law enforcement and his school’s administration, whom he claims would take his side, had any of his victims come forward.

When their story does not fit the stereotypical stranger-in-the-dark-alley outline, victims will often find it much more difficult to be believed if they choose to come forward, a fact these perpetrators are apparently fully aware of. The perception that only certain types of men rape is dangerous as it not only allows many perpetrators to go unnoticed, but also puts the onus on women to avoid certain types of men. As one user says, “hopefully girls reading will be a little more wary of some of the tricks you’ve outlined with guys in future,” as though it is possible for girls to “avoid” being raped.

Reddit, an already notoriously anti-women site, has received media attention for posing the question to perpetrators of sexual assault. As reported by the Huffington Post, some have criticized the thread for providing an open forum for rape-apologists, while others have applauded its ability to start an open-dialogue on the nature of sexual assault. Alexis Moore of  Survivors In Action, Inc. believes the thread could provide continued victimization:

“This will perhaps be another method that will be utilized by cyberstalkers for what we call cybervengence to harass, intimidate and torture victims”

Gloria Allred, notable women’s rights attorney, sees the positive effects of the thread. Allred states that to fight sexual assault, all sides need to be engaged in the conversation:

“If we can understand those who have committed sexual assault, then perhaps we can help to engage them, the victimizers, in a conversation about the harm that it does to the victims and why they should never engage in another sexual assault again.”

The thread also provides an account of just how much rape culture can affect our daily lives, in particular the lives of women. Some posters expressed seeing value in these stories as it informs girls which guys to watch out for. But, as other posters point out, there is now way to pick out a rapist in a crowd, and to suggest that there is implies it is the fault of the victim, should she be raped. As some posters point, a pervasive rape culture means women must constantly be wary of what they wear, where they go, what they drink, etc, a mentality female posters say they hope will become clear to men after reading the thread.

 Thanks to Sonia for the tip.

Rapists Explain Themselves on Reddit, and We Should Listen [Jezebel]

Reddit Rapists Come Clean On Controversial New Thread, But Should We Listen? [Huffington Post]

On Thursday, Slate’s Emily Yoffe published an article describing three incidents of sexual assault she experienced as a child and a young woman, and, until now, never disclosed. In light of the current Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse trial, Yoffe states she has recently begun to think more deeply about her response to these assaults, and why she remained silent on them.

As the writer of Slate’s Dear Prudence column, Yoffe understands the power in speaking up. Nonetheless, she also understands her reaction to the incidents of molestation she experienced growing up. She writes that she was not traumatized by the abuse because they were isolated incidents; she was able to put an end to them in the moment, though they were undoubtedly crimes. Yoffe quotes director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, David Finkelhor, who says that “From a cost-benefit analysis, it makes a lot of sense not to disclose” when the incident is isolated, as it was for Yoffe. From a child’s perspective, telling an adult would potentially lead to further conflict with friends and family.

Reporting sexual assault can be an empowering act for survivors, but taking a case to trial can also, sadly, prolong the trauma. One of Yoffe’s assailants was a well-respected priest and congressman, and Yoffe recognizes the sad truth that ending her silence on his assault may have negative consequences:

If my 16-year-old daughter had experienced what I did, of course I would want her to tell me. I would also act. A teenager who tries to molest his cousin should at the very least get intervention. A father who touches the breasts of his daughter’s friend should be reported to the police. But as much as I hate to say it, I’m not so sure I would advise her, if she were a young adult, to report a groping by a powerful man. As we’ve seen too many times, coming forward in a case like that opens a woman up to character evisceration. Father Drinan died in 2007, and I’m aware that I’ll be assailed for besmirching the memory of a distinguished man.

Sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes. According to RAINN, 54% of sexual assaults go unreported and only about 3% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail. Yoffe spoke to an attorney who advised the importance of reporting such crimes, because “the likelihood is that the person who has done it will do it again.” Yet, despite the importance of preventing a perpetrator from causing further harm, survivors of sexual assault who do speak up are not always believed. When the Twitter hashtag #ididnotreport surfaced, many tweets cited fear of disbelief as one reason for remaining silent. Because of Sandusky’s status as a beloved coach at Penn State, one victim of his abuse says a school counselor did not believe him when he attempted to speak up. A family member of one of Yoffe’s abusers, Father Robert Drinan, released a statement that indicates some disbelief of Yoffe’s story. Due to these types of responses, Erin Gloria Ryan of Jezebel describes silence, social consequences be damned, as an act of self-preservation:

It’s a survival technique, silence; a tourniquet around a trauma. As the mind goes into shock, it’s not considering the social implications of self-preservation. It’s just trying to stay alive.

In the face of such disbelief, it is no shock that so few report sexual assault. To fight sexual assault it is crucial that more people speak up, but rather than simply encourage more survivors to speak up, we should also ensure that we are more inclined to believe them.

My Molesters [Slate]


Trigger Warning: This article contains quotations of harmful language made against survivors of sexual assault.

CNN reports a horrific pattern in the US military to diagnose women who come forward with sexual assault allegations as suffering from a “personality disorder.” This diagnosis not only completely contradicts the definition of a personality disorder as it exists in the DSM-IV, but denies these women any chance to seek support, press charges on their assailant, or continue their service, and can present them with a slew of financial burdens upon their discharge. This pattern represents a disgusting attempt to sweep sexual abuse in the military under the rug at the direct expense of these women’s health and careers, and to the detriment of anyone who ever has or ever will face sexual assault while in service.

The women pictured above all served in different branches of the military, but all faced a similar response when they made reports of sexual assault. Stephanie Schroeder (far left) was raped in a bathroom by a fellow marine in 2002, but when she tried to report the rape a non-commissioned officer told her, “Don’t come bitching to me because you had sex and changed your mind.” Anna Moore (second from left), a Patriot missile battery operator, was raped while alone in her barracks also in 2002. Her first sergeant told her, “Forget about it. It never happened,” and tore up her forms to file a report. Jenny McClendon (second from right) was raped by a superior while serving as a sonar operator on a Navy destroyer. All three were diagnosed with a personality disorder after reporting their assaults and discharged from service.

These women received this diagnosis in spite of the fact that the DSM-IV (the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) defines a personality disorder as a long-standing, inflexible pattern of maladaptive behavior and coping, beginning in adolescence or early adulthood. This diagnosis should not be made in the midst of a traumatic experience, such as the aftermath of a sexual assault, according to Dr. Liza H. Gold, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine.

The denial on the part of the higher-ups exacerbates the harm caused by sexual assault to these survivors. Panayiota Bertzikis (pictured at far right) was diagnosed with an adjustment disorder and subsequently forced out of the Coast Guard in 2006 after reporting to her superiors that a shipmate had raped her.

When she reported the attack, Bertzikis says the chief of her Coast Guard station ordered her and her attacker to clean out an attic on base together and told to work out their differences.

“I am the victim of this crime, and then you report it, and then I felt like I was the one on trial — I was the one who did something wrong,” Bertzikis says. “He got a free pass. I was the one fighting to stay in.”

Anu Baghwati, executive director of Service Women’s Action Network, likens the kind of betrayal these survivors face to the trauma survivors of incest experience.

“Very commonly victims will hear that they’re lying whores. It’s very common,” Bhagwati says. “That kind of betrayal deepens the trauma so, so much, and it’s hard to recover from that. I mean, it’s akin to incest where you grow up with a family, with someone you trust, admire and in many cases, salute, is your perpetrator. It’s a huge betrayal that often entails guilt, embarrassment, shame. You’re made to feel that you did something wrong and you could have prevented it from happening.”

In addition to further emotional trauma, these survivors can also face increased financial burdens with these diagnoses. According to CNN, a personality disorder diagnosis will hamper discharged service members ability to receive benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. A personality disorder is viewed as a pre-existing condition that does constitute a service related disability, and therefore does not lead to benefits to help with the trauma. Celeste Santana was also diagnosed with an adjustment disorder after she reported being sexually assaulted in the middle of the night while serving in Afghanistan. She was a navy lieutenant forced out of the military after seventeen years of service, just three years short of being eligible for retirement. Santana subsequently lost her pension.

There are survivors who are fighting back. Bertzikis started and to give survivors a space to speak out, and in addition founded and runs the Military Rape Crisis Center. Schroeder is seeking a PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) diagnosis. Moore has been diagnosed with PTSD and is now on full disability. Secretary of Defense Leon Pannetta announced that service members who filed a sexual assault report would be allowed to make an immediate request for transfer to a different unit, and also asked for an assessment of training that higher ups receive on sexual assault prevention and response.

Schroeder is skeptical, however.

“It’s all just talk. It’s for show”

In 2011 there were 3,191 reports of military sexual assault. The Pentagon estimates that unreported sexual assaults would push the actual number closer to 19,000. If the military continues to create an environment conducive to the abuse of its own service members then undoubtedly these numbers will rise, even if the trials these survivors have faced will cause the reported numbers to dwindle.

Rape victims say military labels them ‘crazy’ [CNN]

Military Rape Crisis Center

Related Articles:

Fox News Pundit Says Women in Military Should “Expect” to be Raped

The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters recently conducted a poll to gauge men’s attitudes towards women’s equality, and how men can better prevent violence against women. As reported by the Huffington Post, some of the answers reveal that a significant percentage of men, of the ones polled here at least, still possess all too common victim-blaming attitudes when it comes to rape and violence against women. 40% of the respondents agreed with the statement that: “If a woman wears provocative clothing, she’s putting herself at risk for rape” and 52% agreed that: “Most women could leave a violent relationship if they really wanted to.” When it comes to rape and domestic violence, these are perhaps two of the biggest prevailing myths, myths that make it difficult for women facing abuse to seek help.

Some answers reveal healthier attitudes, however. The statement, “Men and boys should speak out against violence against women” received a 9 out of 10 in terms of importance and 56% believed that men and boys are more aware than they were five years ago of the issues surrounding violence agaisnt women. The poll also says that “95% of men feel that violence against women and girls is a concern to them”, and “99% agree that ‘men can personally make a difference in promoting healthy, respectful, non-violent relationships.'”

The poll often takes a yes or no, agree/disagree, essentially black and white format. It is incredibly difficult to gauge attitudes towards violence in a poll, but it would be interesting to see a poll that used a different approach. Perhaps the men’s answers would be different if they were asked about violence against men and boys, or violence that is gender-based but not necessarily against women.

Nonetheless, understanding men’s attitudes towards violence against women is crucial in fighting such violence. As reported by the Huffington Post, the ACWS hopes to take the results to make an impact for the better:

“This is where we’re at,” ACWS provincial co-ordinator Jan Reimer told Postmedia News. “We’ve got a realistic appraisal here, so now let’s take what we know and see how we can make a difference to make things better.”

Full results of the poll here

Thanks to Andrew for the tip.

Violence Against Women: 40 Per Cent Of Men In Alberta Poll Say Women ‘Put Themselves At Risk For Rape’ [Huffington Post]

BuzzFeed posted this image that shows the barriers and prejudices rape survivors (of any gender) may face if attempting to bring their case to the police. Considering these common attitudes, it is no wonder that 60% of rapes and sexual assaults are never reported. Women may face slut-shaming if they report and have any past sexual history, while men are, according to RAINN’s stats, the least likely to report, as common notions of masculinity don’t allow “real men” to be victims. Any who wasn’t violently raped, virginal, white, sober at the time of the assault, or assaulted by a stranger is going to have a more difficult time winning a court case. Someone who does fit that bill is often construed as the “perfect” rape victim, when in reality there is no such thing.

Thanks to Yael for the tip.

If Mugging Were Treated The Same Way As Rape [BuzzFeed]

A recent Pentagon report reveals a huge increase in sex crimes committed by army personnel since 2006. The Huffington Post reports Fox News Pundit Liz Trotta believes this is a non-issue. The “close proximity” of soldiers means rape should come as no surprise. Trotta describes female soldiers as wanting to be both heroes and victims.

Now, what did they expect? These people are in close contact, the whole airing of this issue has never been done by Congress, it’s strictly been a question of pressure from the feminists.

Trotta’s attitude toward the issue is deplorable; she states that providing support to soldiers facing abuse is a waste of time as it is their job to protect us, not our job to protect them. The Huffington Post article includes a longer clip than the one shown above wherein Fox News host Eric Shawn alleges that perhaps the soldiers deserve to be protected as much as anyone from illegal activity. Trotta dismisses this as ridiculous.

Trotta stops just short of saying these soldiers facing rape and harassment are “asking for it.” If soldiers didn’t wear uniforms, perhaps she would say the female soldiers were simply wearing too short of skirts. No one can ask to be raped or assaulted or abused; in the case of the military, it is the organization’s responsibility to address this issue and provide support to all people in service. Everyone has the right to serve their country without fear of “getting raped”; Trotta’s attitude suggests it is their fault for joining the military, not the fault of the perpetrator or the fault of the military for not offering proper protection.

Jezebel recently posted a response from a former Marine to the ignorant and disrespectful remarks made by Trotta. Fox News is not known for its progressive stances, but Trotta’s attitude in the clip is remarkably backwards even by the network’s standards.

Fox News’ Liz Trotta On Women Raped In Military: ‘What Did They Expect? These People Are In Close Contact’ (VIDEO) [Huffington Post]

An Ex-Marine Explains Why Military Women Shouldn’t ‘Expect’ to Be Raped [Jezebel]

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