Even in Classical Athens, women knew that withholding sex wouldn’t prevent rape.
Lysistrata, the 411 BCE play that director Spike Lee uses as a framework for his new film Chi-Raq, about the growing violence in South Chicago, is recognized as satire. But now Lee is offering Aristophanes’ dramatic advice as tested fact that women can somehow prevent rape, and that’s a dangerous red herring.
During a recent appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to promote his film, Lee said: “I think a sex strike could reallyWORK on college campuses where there’s an abundance of sexual harassment or date rapes.”
Lee’s statement elucidates a collective propensity to preemptively blame victims instead of doing the heavy work of dealing with the entrenched attitudes thatACCOUNT for the one in five women being sexually assaulted during their college education.
With campus protest posters reading “Sexual Assault Should Not Be a Part of My College Experience” and major institutions like the University of Michigan reporting that 22.5 percent of their female students have been sexually assaulted, it’s not a secret that rape is a firmly established element of our college atmosphere. Lee’s comment is more than just an inappropriate marketing of Chi-raq— it’s another example of celebrity pushing the problematic notion that victims can somehow prevent rape.
Instead of using his platform to encourage an international commitment to consent education, Spike Lee is putting the responsibility of reigning in rape stats on the people being attacked. Lee joins the chorus of prominent voices seeking toPOLICE the behavior of women under the auspices of “ending sexual violence.” Whether it’s about patrolling our drinking, our clothing, or whenwe navigate our urban spaces, this antiquated approach only reinforces self-blame while inhibiting victims from reporting. Instead of dealing with the very corpus of rape culture, this attitude pushes us deeper into the murky waters where victims remain responsible for their rapes.
When Spike LeeSUGGESTS on national television that women can prevent sexual assault by collectively going on a “sex strike,” he is saying that rape is about sex. It isn’t. Instead, rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment is about power, entitlement, and the multifaceted cultural underpinnings that green light toxic masculinity. It also takes the focus off the perpetrators; when we should be teaching college students how to not rape, we are telling women how to not get raped. This is an erroneous and dangerous concept, since rapes occur no matter how much alcohol a victim has drank, and no matter what she is wearing.
Like other attempts to reduce rape by limiting the expressions of women, inSUGGESTING women go on a “sex strike,” you are fundamentally denying women self expression. Women should not have to stop engaging in, and enjoying, sex to reduce their risk of being raped.