#ThatsRape: A Campaign That’s like a Scream
Beginning a Campaign to Prevent Sexual Assault Involving Alchohol and Drugs
Editor’s note: The Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center is leading a campaign against sexual assault committed with the help of alcohol or drugs, called #ThatsRape. This 5-part series of articles explores the discussions held by the campaign’s planning committee, as well as their questions and recommendations for change.
Change your way of thinking about sexual violence
My decision to conduct a campaign to prevent sexual violence involving alcohol or drugs was an impulsive one.
In October of last year, the anti-misogyny group Magelia was in full swing, and the Internet was crowded with revelations about Soranet, a website that acted as a base for the circulation of hidden camera footage of women, and similar examples of male sexual culture. I, of course, was brimming with anger. But more than simply being angry, I had a sense of being angry together, with others. I didn’t want that feeling to disappear with the passage of time. Before a sense of powerlessness came, I wanted to meet people that I could work with to accomplish something.
So, I submitted a proposal to the Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center, and started a campaign to prevent sexual violence committed with the help of alcohol or drugs in November. When recruitment for campaign volunteers was announced at the KSVRC and 20 people signed up, I knew that I hadn’t been the only one with such a wish. We collected funds for the campaign, and got started with the financial support of 139 people.
These things that I want to say are not perfect, and are made of different, unruly strands of questions and feelings. I want to deliver this coil of words to the people with whom I shared anger about sexual assault. Just as our campaign started from some things said online, the things that I’m going to say may become points of departure for the people who read them, and if I can then build on their responses, I’ll be happy.
A misogynistic society causes and abets sexual violence
A shared rage became the basis for the #ThatsRape campaign. Misogyny is certainly not a new thing. But online misogyny has visibility and influence, and was affecting women in real life. For a long time, however, it was understood as the deviant actions of a few “loser” men who had failed in the dating market and confined to the particular community known as “Ilbe” (an abbreviation of “Ilganbesteu jeojangso”), and its influence was underestimated.
But once it was called out as misogyny and started to receive attention, it wasn’t long until it was revealed how densely this surrounds the sexual culture of men – or rather, of half of society. And when we learned, through online communities and social networking sites, how this online culture was linked with violence against women, my fellow women and I were shocked.
It was revealed that rape involving alcohol and drugs is happening countless times at the hands of boyfriends or acquaintances, or at random. The Internet is overflowing with illegal sites that sell drugs for use in committing rape, and rape stories that include evaluations of the drug used, as well as pictures, were shared on Soranet. On Soranet, a site which required no authentification to join, male users uploaded pictures of women’s genitals, taken when the women were incapacitated by alcohol or drugs, and posts seeking accomplices to rape, with titles like “Seeking an invited man,” appeared nearly daily. It was stunning how none of the men who left comments on these posts recognized these acts as crimes, and that this site, which boasts of having 1 million members, is South Korea’s most popular adult site.
Soranet’s homepage could be found through a public Twitter account that announced a constantly changing web address, and this account has 380,000 followers. After Twitter got caught up in outrage over Soranet, one user began to send the message, “Are you on Soranet?” to every single follower of this account. That user couldn’t have expected the response. Even though Soranet is a certifiably criminal site that shares footage from hidden cameras and recruits participation in rape, a fierce protest arose from men who argued that simply asking Soranet’s Twitter followers, “Are you on Soranet?” was rude, unfair, sexually Puritan, and a form of oppression.
A culture that doesn’t allow you to say, “Don’t commit rape”
That’s where this campaign starts from. In a culture in which sexual violence against women is widespread, the targets of requests to change behavior have always been women. Warnings like, “Don’t wear revealing clothes,” or “Don’t drink alcohol,” have been directed at women. Even though most forms of sexual assault, including rape involving drugs, could not be prevented by women being more careful, there exists a social resistance to ordering men around.
This process also allows a perpetrator of sexual violence to see himself as one of countless ordinary men instead of as an individual wrongdoer. Sexual assault is not something that happens between a perpetrator and a victim, but involves innumerable faceless accomplices, existing as a normal thing that is constantly authorized by and viewed on websites like Soranet.
This kind of cultural conspiracy does not exist only among men. The idea that it is hard for men to control their sexual desires and that not controlling these desires is “masculine” is reproduced in many ways. On the other hand, the idea that women must not reveal their sexual desires and that a woman appearing as a sexual being gives men the right to “follow their instincts” and have sex with her is shared even by police and courts. This is the reason that reports of sexual assault are often ignored or the perpetrator is declared not guilty or given a light sentence.
Education that naturalizes sexual assault as a male instinct and puts the responsibility to be careful on women is as ubiquitous and unnoticed as air, whether in school or in the home. Women are repeatedly told to be careful because they could be raped, and this idea burrows deeply into their conscious and subconscious mind. But to whom could we say, “Don’t commit or help commit rape”? Implying to someone that they might commit rape or that rape might happen around them may be seen as rude and aggressive.
No matter in what context it is said – person-to-person, in a group, office, store, or school, among friends or lovers – no one hears orders like “Don’t rape” or “Don’t allow rape to happen” as directed at themselves. People sweep them aside as perfunctory or even get angry at the implication that such commands could apply to them. They tell the speaker to go to the kind of place that such things happen and talk directly to the bad people.
“It’s not my problem, it’s between the perpetrator and victim”
It’s been a while since I became a feminist, but sexual violence was not an important topic for me during most of that time. It wasn’t because it was such a clear issue that it didn’t seem worthy of discussion, but because it is an unattractive topic that is very difficult to discuss. I didn’t want to think of it as my problem. “I’ve never had any real experience with sexual assault,” “I don’t normally feel very vulnerable to sexual assault,” “I don’t have confidence in my ability to empathize with a victim of sexual assault,” these were the kind of things that I thought but knew better than to say, out of shame.
It is only while running this campaign that I’ve realized that I was like that because I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable, and I became aware of my position as someone who had adjusted to living in a society that conspired to make me distance myself from sexual violence and see it as something that was between the perpetrator and victim. As long as men and women are divided into “the agent who tries to attain and who possesses” and “the object that is protected and that belongs,” there is a sense in which all people who are ordered to be one or the other are victims. And all those who depend on that division and help strengthen it are also perpetrators.
The planning committee, which of course belongs to this group, has gone through a lot of changes over the past two months. Talking about the necessity of tearing down this common wisdom was easy, but imaging what a person or group who had gotten free would actually be like was new and unknown terrain. That unknown terrain was a place that we could only have found together, through two months of meetings, discussions, and public forums. It may not be the terrain of a campaign whose message is clear and exact, but it is the terrain where this discourse grows and develops.
“Parade for Doing It with Consent” on Valentine’s Day
We didn’t want to do just another ineffective anti-rape campaign, because we knew that everyone agrees with that idea in theory but doesn’t really take it to heart. Instead, we wanted to do something that would make people feel uncomfortable by going against the common wisdom, and hoped that this would push them to discover the problem.
So the highlight of the campaign will be a Valentine’s Day march down Yeonse-ro in Sinchon. During the march, we will walk like we are drunk, collapse in the street, and let our skirts flip up to show symbolically that the problem of sexual assault does not lie with the victims. And we will shout in rejection of violent masculinity.
After the march, the discussion will continue. In the articles to follow in this series, I, a woman who couldn’t even recognize the damage before she had the words for it, a queer person who has been violently pressured to fit in the category “man,” a citizen who is not being protected by laws and systems, and a feminist, will attempt to become free of sexual violence culture and look for ways to change it. Every time a person’s position changes, a new method for doing this must be found.
It is only when everyone discusses in depth the responsibility for sexual violence and accepts it as their own that this campaign spurred by the Internet can have real results. I hope that until then, these people who have been angry together will not give in to a sense of powerlessness and will unspool and extend the threads of discussion.
Published: February 16, 2016
Translated by Marilyn Hook
*Original article: http://ildaro.com/7367
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