Ask it – Pakistan
Last year a short clip by comedy trio Muriel She’s Asking For It became the most watched BBC3 video on Facebook and Twitter, totaling 45 million views in just 10 days. It shows two British boys in a cafe as one of them puts a local tabloid on the counter. “It’s awful,” he said, pointing to the headline, “He said she said, college sex scandal,” with a vivid image of a full-breasted young woman in tight jeans. Her friend laughs mockingly, “Yeah, but look what she’s wearing.” She asks for it.
This insensitivity exasperates waitresses who begin to imagine “asking” for something without saying it. One bursts into the conference room of another company in a red pantsuit, expecting a promotion; the other starts her vacation in the middle of a working day because she is wearing a sarong. The camera then returns to the offensive boy whose slice of chocolate cake is knocked off his plate by his server. “You won’t want that then,” she said, gesturing to her Arsenal top. “I’m not a footballer,” he protests before the girls reply: “Well, what did you want us to think when you wear this! Are you asking? “
Nothing our PM said was wrong, just incomplete.
The connection between sexual assault and dress is a heated debate in patriarchal societies, but it turns out that even one of the most liberal needs media reminders to state the obvious: Women never ask to be raped.
The fury over our Prime Minister’s responses to questions posed by of Axios Jonathan Swan reflects some of this justifiable outrage. But what was overlooked in the reactive conversation that followed was that the Prime Minister was right about some of the causal pathways of rape: the scripts and the sexual beliefs of society. In his signature straightforward and open style, he explained how safe exposures in some societies are dangerous in different cultural constructs. Despite a warning that his choice of word ‘purdah‘did not refer to the’ veil ‘but to its Islamic meaning’ to avoid immorality ‘, an uproar ensued.
Part of some unfair criticism has stemmed from the public’s reluctance to distinguish between an acknowledgment of the existence of certain erroneous sex scripts and a belief in their veracity. One can, for example, believe that certain delinquents see in the choice of the dress code an incitement to rape or a signal of sexual availability, but do not tolerate these myths.
Confusion also arises due to over-reliance on the teachings of Western feminist literature of the 1970s, particularly Against Our Will by Susan Brownmiller, who cited misogyny / power play as the only factor behind rape. While this has undoubtedly benefited the cause of gender equality, it has remained incomplete as to why men attack women. Scientific literature today offers multiple links, including the neurophysiology of an abuser, alcohol consumption, psychopathology, personality, attitudes towards gender, socialization taught by families, schools and religion, the media watched (violence on television, pornography) and the sexual scenarios (men as aggressors, women, guards) taught by cultural mores.
Richard Felson of Penn State and Richard Moran of Mount Holyoke College say most rape victims in the United States, where one in three women is assaulted, are young women, which means the motive for sexual gratification cannot be sidelined. “Most rapists force victims to have sex because they want sex,” they conclude. Even within the network of contemporary feminist scholarship, more nuanced and empirical studies are published. Beverly McPhail of the University of Houston said that rape “occurs for multiple reasons … sexual gratification, revenge, hobbies, power and attempts to achieve masculinity.”
Protective measures help to minimize rape in any society, especially those with problematic male socialization. These include recommendations for dressing modestly, educating children about safe and dangerous contact, and tips for not going out alone. ‘Purdah‘for men, it means refraining from watching indecent media and looking down.
Moving towards protection systems against sex crimes involves realizing that acknowledging the existence of rape myths does not mean believing them. Recommending protective measures never negates the importance of other prevention strategies. A rape causation theory is not an attempt to explain all forms of sexual violence.
Nothing our Prime Minister said was wrong, just incomplete. Understanding the multiple factors behind assaults is imperative if we are to design effective strategies: establishing awareness programs for reformed police, rescue and response, more juvenile courts, and prohibitive criminal penalties.
The hot discussions need to be covered by layers of scientific facts and theories. Otherwise, like bodies on display in ignorant societies, speakers can expect to be publicly mutilated. And they would ask.
The writer is an award-winning journalist and heads a child protection advocacy group, Kasur Hamara Hai.
Posted in Dawn, le 28 June 2021