No: Inheritance

Photo by Andy Tootell on Unsplash

I’ve been slowly listening through The Heart, which is a podcast of personal documentaries and essays. The episode ‘No: Inheritance‘ is a hard listen: it’s the sound of saying, and ignoring, the word “no”‘. The episode is a re-telling of two cases where the host’s utterances were ignored; one is dramatized, the other a recording of the event.

Throughout the episode the host ruminates on what consent is, and was, and how it was understood, and why her consent was ignored. It digs into the anger, shame, and strategies that she and other women adopt in response to men ignoring the word “no”. It sketches out why some women just let things continue and the mental traumas that follow.

These are the kinds of stories that men need to hear. They need to sit and listen, carefully, so that they can appreciate the concerns and traumas that many women have either experienced themselves or worry about experiencing in the future. It’s episodes like this that make it very clear how important it is to regularly obtain consent and to respect the decisions that are made by one’s partner regardless if they’re a partner for a night or for the rest of your life.

Rape Culture Is Surveillance Culture

Scaachi Koul has written a piece that draws on her own experiences of men attempting to prey on her because she is a woman and while she engages in socially normal behaviour. Men who sought to prey on her were explicit in attempting to determine how they could take advantage, drug, or otherwise use her body without attempting to secure her genuine consent.

Koul’s writing makes clear the very normal, human, experiences of being targeted by men and how the intent of those attackers and potential attacker is normalized in contemporary society. The result is that Koul — and other women just like her — must treat social scenarios as a possible environments for attack or abuse. Her lived reality thus turns even seemingly benign situations into ones filled with risk. Koul’s ability to write as clearly and powerfully as she does should make clear to anyone who absolves sexual abuse on grounds of drinking that alcohol is not the problem: men who have internalized their own privilege and power and treat women as objects around them to be used are the problem.


German woman who claimed rape fined $34,800 as judge rules she said no to the filming, not sex act itself

In Germany it isn’t enough to say ‘no’ during intercourse: a person must actively resist, and that resistance be overcome, for the person to legally claim to have been raped. As a result of this Germanic understanding of rape a woman who alleges she was raped was found by a judge to have falsely accused her attackers and, as a result, led to renewed calls in the country to update its sexual assault and abuse laws.


Canada has a rape kit problem | VICE News

This piece is excellent if incredibly depressing: for funding reasons (or, more cynically, failure of predominant male politicians to raise this issue on the political agenda…) women who are assaulted are often unable to access rape kits. These kits are used to collect evidence for potential criminal investigations pertaining to the assault.

But the end of the (very long, and detailed) article ends with an important reminder for readers who have gotten to the end:

Rape kits, ultimately, are only a small piece of a bigger problem with the justice system, says Hilla Kerner, a front-line worker at Vancouver’s Rape Relief Shelter.

She said rape kits are only helpful in cases that the attacker denies any sexual contact and DNA evidence can contradict that claim. It’s rare that this is a line of defense, she said—but when it is, the evidence gathered with a rape kit is vital.

Basically, if the accused’s DNA is found on the complainant’s body, it removes the line of defence of: ‘I don’t know her, I’ve never seen her before.’

“We shouldn’t fool ourselves that a rape kit is the solution to getting more cases through the criminal justice system,” Kerner said. “There is a need for urgent reform in the criminal justice system, and rape kits are just one element of the whole transformation that needs to happen.”

In other words, though we need to improve access to forensic services, we shouldn’t imagine that such access alone will alleviate the incredibly hostile approach the criminal justic system takes towards the victims of rape and sexual assault.