From the article:
"When will it end?" asked Phumla Matjila, a columnist in the Times of South Africa. "How can it end when our children hear adults say: 'Some women enjoy being raped' or 'They asked for it'? Why do we shudder when they repeat the words they have heard us say?"It is clear here that there is little respite for women from sexual violence. The worrying part is that it seems to have become more of a culturally acceptable thing. There is the assumption that can be found in other cultures that when a woman says 'no', she really means 'yes', an assumption that is being fed to us through mainstream media. When you watch television for instance, start thinking about how many sexual violence (both men's and women's) include some kind of implication to sexual violence. Someone slamming the other against the door, forcefully holding their hands down; or why not the old she turns his advances down, but he doesn't take no for an answer and he repeats his advances. In both scenarios the woman usually submits and she is quite clearly enjoying it, feeding into this assumption that in the bedroom women are naturally timid and need to be told how they like it.
The Sonke Gender Justice Network, a campaign group, attempts to tackle the crisis at root by working with men and boys. Bafana Khumalo, its international programmes manager, says: "We certainly have a major problem in South Africa. There is a culture permissive of sexual violence. In a society where people can get away with it with impunity, they are encouraged to feel there is nothing wrong with it.
"Apartheid was predicated on violence – the army, the security establishment, the state apparatus used it to dominate for decades. That became a culture in our society. Violence was seen as a normal part of life."
The criminal justice system is seen by many as ill-equipped to meet women's needs. Khumalo says: "Sometimes a raped woman who goes to the police is not believed . . . Sometimes they are raped by the police."
This problem is not isolated to South Africa, it is found wherever women's virginal status is being held as something next to sacred, where the sexual liberalisation has not yet been fully completed (and as I have written before, I don't believe it is anywhere). Because women have to guard their innocence, they are required to refuse sexual advances as first in order not to be seen as sexually promiscuous, or in fear of being branded as a whore, as many people today mislabel sexually promiscuous women. This is where the myths of "she says no, but means yes" and "if you try hard enough, she will come to her senses" come from.
A continued rhetoric along the same lines is dangerous. It erodes barriers of self-determination and reproductive rights. If courting a woman becomes connected with violence or an expectancy of having to repeatedly come on to her for her to 'give it up', the line between sexual assault and persistence become increasingly blurred. And blurred lines make for easier crossing.
If a woman declines your advance, whether romantic or sexual, she declines it. There is no hidden yes in the 'no', and it is under no circumstances acceptable to take the decision for the woman. This is essentially what happens when a man (or in the reverse, a woman) continues to adamantly pursue someone who has said no. The implication of this continued pursuit is that she (or he) doesn't know her (or his) own good, so suitor will make the decision for her (or him). In what other aspects of society would this be acceptable for a mentally capable adult? Surely people would be reluctant to go up to other people and tell them what to eat, how to dress, where to go and what to do? What is it, then, that makes it all right to determine what lovers other adults should have or how and when they like to have sex?
Once again, I would like to make the point that the responsibility of sexual assault, in all forms, should be laid on the perpetrators, not the victims. A no is always a no, regardless of what situation, and regardless of how innocent one's advances are.
The rhetoric needs to be changed in order not to reproduce false assumptions about women's agency or lack thereof. There is no such truth as "women like it rough" or "they are all the same; they say no, but mean yes." This does not extend beyond the individual. So let's do it a bit different this time, shall we? Let the woman tell you how she likes it instead of deciding it for her.
This article, published at the Guardian website 25/11/2010, tells of some very disturbing statistics, to say the least.
One in five men in South Africa believe that sometimes women want to be raped and nearly one in three has raped someone. Barely half of the people asked in the survey thought that it is possible for a husband to rape his wife, probably reflected by the nearly 40% of men and 30% of women who thought that women cannot refuse their husband sex. Sexual violence and patriarchy being reproduced in society is showing in the statistics.