Smoothly treading a path that avoids sensationalism and stereotypes, Kate Harding guides readers through the murky territory of America’s rape culture. Yes, she knows the terminology “rape culture” is pretty off-putting, but please hear her out!
Asking For It proves a surprisingly swift and enlightening read. Broken into three arcs:
- Slut Shaming, Victim Shaming, and Rape Myths
- Law and Order
- The Culture of Rape
Harding picks apart the lies (both the naïve and the intentional), criminology, and societal and religious expectations that cling to sexual identity and responsibility in the United States.
“[C]alls for increased awareness too often implore the listener to empathize with the feelings of an impotent bystander, not a victim. ‘Imagine it was your wife who was raped. Imagine it was your mother or daughter or sister.’” Instead, Harding entreats readers to do better than that. “I’m asking you to imagine it’s you who was raped. And I’m asking you to get angry about it.”
I am pleasantly, rather absurdly, pleased to say that I love this book. I wish it had been available back when I was in high school or college. Informative, without being thoroughly depressing. Entertaining, without ever losing its sense of urgency. Even as an average American woman who has endured the unwelcome, but entitled, hands of boys and men on my body since age eleven, I experienced several Ah-ha! Moments while reading.
Harding, who is herself a survivor whose rapist never faced official charges, raises all the right questions. Why is rape a crime? What is the difference between mixed signals, bad sex, a change of plans, and rape? How do false accusations of rape effect the big picture? How can a perfectly normal person with no documented history of violence or depravity become a rapist? Harding provides dynamic, meticulously-researched, and well-rounded answers and solutions.
Overall, this scarlet book (I see what you did there!) with the scary title left me hopeful of a better tomorrow for both our daughters and our sons.
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