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Opinion | If rape were a man's issue, society would be different

Milam's Musings

By Brett Milam
On February 18, 2014

Sexism still permeates our society everyday and creates an environment where rape is trivialized. This creates a chilling effect on reports of rape.

A new short French film called "Majorité Opprimée," which translates to "Oppressed Majority," serves to play this everyday sexism out. It flips the male-female relationship dynamic; women hold the authority and privilege in society.

"On what seems to be just another ordinary day, a man is exposed to sexism and sexual violence in a society ruled by women," reads the blurb on the YouTube video.

In just a week, the viral short film has garnered over six million views and for good reason.

When women hold the power and privilege, they harass every man they encounter with catcalls and putdowns. In one case, a man is brutally assaulted, but the female police officer does not seem to believe his story. Moreover, she insinuates to him that he provoked the assault.

"Broad daylight and no witnesses, interesting, huh?" said the officer.

This line of questioning for a victim may seem inane to a rational person, but it does happen. Recently in Cincinnati, a woman reported she was raped by a taxi cab driver to police. She was arrested by Officer Adrienne Brown; instead of going to a medical center, she went to jail.

Cruiser cam video showed the victim in the backseat of the car demanding to be let out.

"You should never be in a situation where you don't know your limit because you're drinking too much," Brown yelled back at her.

After she was booked, she was held in a restraining chair with a bag over her head. Predictably, the victim is suing Brown and rightfully so. That is no way to treat a rape victim. This case is also interesting because a female police officer responded to a rape in this manner, which only demonstrates that women can also engage in rape culture.

In the French film, the assaulted man's wife is no better with her line of questioning. She blames him for his short-sleeve shirt, flip flops and short shorts. He wants to dress the way he wants, so she quipped back, "Then don't complain."

Director Éléonore Pourriat, in flipping gender roles, shines a necessary light on what women go through with everyday sexism. She was motivated to make the film because she wanted to "draw attention to the prevalence of sexual abuse and harassment in society and the victim blaming that enables it."

However, Sadhbh Walshe at The Guardian is right to point out that the film is obviously an over-simplification of a complex issue.

"Still the film makes an important point - that abuse flourishes where it is encouraged, tacitly or otherwise," she said.

There is a reason that, according to the Department of Justice, only 40 percent of rapes are even reported. Victims fear reprisal and character assassination. Moreover, of the 40 percent reported, only 10 percent lead to a rapist's prosecution and 3 percent to jail time.

On college campuses, the problem of reporting is even worse. Fewer than 5 percent of sexual assaults are reported to the police. When looking at example after example of objectification of women in campuses across the United States, it is easy to understand the low reporting figure.

For one example, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) found Yale under reported incidents of sexual harassment and violence "for a very long time."

Rape is trivialized on college campuses and it is fueled by a system unwilling to hold those perpetuating it in check. But rape culture is not just confined to the nation's college campuses.

Rape culture tells us that rapists are supposed to be monsters - identifiable somehow, but they can by anyone; a lawyer, a doctor, a businessman, a family man or an NFL football player

Former Saints player, Darren Sharper, was charged with drugging and raping two women in California. He is also suspected of doing similarly to women in Arizona, Nevada and Louisiana. There are 11 suspected cases since September, according to the USA Today.

The details of what Sharper allegedly did are disturbing, but equally illuminating. The first step to creating an environment on college campuses and society at large that is more conducive to helping rape victims is dispelling rape myths.

Jamilah Lemieux, the Senior Editor, Digital for EBONY, made a crucial point on her Twitter account following the Sharper story breaking.

"Darren Sharper is rich and gorgeous. I hope this horrible story teaches people that rape is about power, not the inability to 'get some,'" she said.

While the French film exaggerates the vitriol to make its point, the point is clear: Sexism goes largely unnoticed by society at large because men - the privileged class - do not experience it.

Even though men are raped, too, men seem to detach themselves from the issue of rape because they do not experience that everyday sexism and objectification. Rape is seen as a "women's issue."

Men need to recognize the role they can play in helping to end rape culture. Maybe viewing the French film will help.

Warning: The following video contains strong language, violence and nudity.

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