Trigger warning for discussions of rape and rape culture.
I’m a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and this message was written on one of the stalls in a women’s bathroom on our campus. I’m writing this article as a student on a college campus, specifically a UC. I’m calling you out. I’m calling you out because not many other people did, and when they do, they’re faced with silencing and violent sexism.
“Rape should be legal.” Let’s break this down a little bit. First, let’s talk about the whole sentiment. Rape should be legal. Rape, the forcible violation of a human being, sexually and physically, should be legal. Rape, the destruction of a person’s inner well being and mental stability, should be legal. Rape, the manifestation of violent patriarchy, should be legal.
I can’t really imagine that anyone could wholeheartedly agree with this. That makes this world a very scary place for me. Scarier than it already is because of the clear existence of such a abhorrent act. Because I’m more terrified of rape than I am of death, and “murder should be legal” would never be found so prominently featured on a bathroom stall. And if it was, it wouldn’t be taken seriously. It wouldn’t be internalized, because despite the fact that the people who write these messages are walking around every day next to survivors living in the shadows of these experiences, murder and death are still shied away from more than rape. I wonder why! Oh right, patriarchy… misogyny… there it all is again.
Second of all, let’s talk about how while there is this minority (hopefully) that believes rape should be legal, it almost is. Because getting away with rape is easy. And that’s what stuck out to me mostly about this message – because a more acceptable message than “rape should be legal” would be “rape might as well be legal.” Because we live in a world that refuses to stand with those on the other side that rape, sexual assault, and sexual violence, might as well be legal. What stood out to me most about this message was not how terrifying it is (which it is) but really, how close to unfortunate reality it is.
I stand next to survivors every day who have never had their experiences validated. I stand next to women, women of color, and members of the queer community, that have been sexually assaulted and have never received the justice they deserve. And never will. Because rape isn’t legal, but it might as well be. Slut-shaming, victim-blaming, and misunderstanding the experiences of those who have been raped can be copyrighted by US college campuses and governments. So we can write messages that say “rape should be legal” all over bathroom stalls – invalidating the experiences and paranoia of human beings, exerting overt control of their bodies, but we can forget to address the real problem. And that is that these messages are winning because in my community, I stand next to people who have raped and live successful lives and I stand next to others who have gotten drunk a few times and have gone to jail for it.
Priorities need to be checked. And reality needs to be addressed. Rape should not be legal. Violence in any way should not be legal. But the real needs of those attacked are not addressed so you know what? It basically is.
Written by Anisha Ahuja