[guest post by Dana]
For daring to suggest that women can play a role in contributing to sexual violence by their actions and how they dress, Chrissie Hynde, front woman for the Pretenders, is now facing a backlash from the sisterhood.
During an interview published this weekend, Hynde, 63, openly discussed being raped by a biker gang at age 21. What is causing the feminist rancor isn’t the fact that Hynde was raped while a student at Kent State, but rather it’s that she assumed responsibility for the rape. Hynde, who was drunk and high at the time, freely climbed onto the back of one of a biker’s motorcycle and was subsequently taken to a vacant house and forced to perform sexual acts. Assuming responsibility for this, according to Hynde, is just “commonsense”:
“Technically speaking, however you want to look at it, this was all my doing and I take full responsibility,” she told the Times.
“You can’t f— about with people, especially people who wear ‘I Heart Rape’ and ‘On Your Knees’ badges,” Hynde added.
“Those motorcycle gangs, that’s what they do… You can’t paint yourself into a corner and then say whose brush is this? You have to take responsibility. If you play with fire, you get burnt. It’s not any secret, is it?”
She then pointed to women’s presentation in provoking attacks:
“You know if you don’t want to entice a rapist, don’t wear high heels so you can’t run from him.”
“If you’re wearing something that says ‘Come and f— me’, you’d better be good on your feet,” she continued.
Hynde offered this distinction:
“If I’m walking around and I’m very modestly dressed and I’m keeping to myself and someone attacks me, then I’d say that’s his fault,” said Hynde. “But if I’m being very lairy and putting it about and being provocative, then you are enticing someone who’s already unhinged — don’t do that.”
The blowback came quickly:
“Victims of sexual violence should never feel or be made to feel that they were responsible for the appalling crime they suffered, regardless of circumstances or factors which may have made them particularly vulnerable,’’ said Lucy Hastings, the director of the group Victim Support.
A columnist for Britain’s Independent newspaper, Holly Baxter, added, “This persistent belief that men are naturally inclined towards rape and that women have to dress or act or behave accordingly . . . is one that prevents so many assaults from being reported or prosecuted every year.”
Jackie Fox, lead singer of the Runaways, and rape victim, offered this:
“It bothers me, because I don’t know that she’s gone out there and talked to [other] rape victims. If you had seen the messages that people sent me, so many of them were about ‘I’ve always thought it was my fault.’ We already think that anyway. So this is just telling people who’ve recently gone through this experience of being raped or abused, ‘Yeah, you’re right, it is your fault.’ But there’s no such thing as asking for it. And poor judgment is not an invitation to rape, nor an excuse for it.
“I know so many women who were raped while they were drunk or high, and they all blame themselves. To say that a woman can’t misjudge how much she’s drinking, or dress in a way that makes her feel good about herself for fear that men aren’t going to be able to control themselves, or that she has to be able to know who is dangerous and who isn’t, is asking an awful lot of men and women — especially young people.”
Offering another perspective is Julia Hartley-Brewer, who recognizes that Hynde lives in the “real world” and understands people do not act the way we hope and believe they should:
Hynde was simply suggesting that women have to live in the real world, as it exists, and not a utopian paradise where sexual violence is a thing of the past.
There will always be rapists, just as there will always be murderers and thieves.
Pretending they don’t exist doesn’t make them go away.
You have every right to leave your front door wide open while you are away on holiday and assert your right not to be burgled, but most people (including your insurance company) might advise against it. Similarly, you are entitled to walk into an opposing football team’s local pub wearing your own club’s shirt and demand not to be punched in the face, but you probably shouldn’t be surprised if it happens.
In the same vein, telling a young woman she can wear what she wants, drink as much alcohol as she wants, go off with any strange man she wants and to hell with the consequences, is not a victory for modern feminism. It’s just irresponsible.
All Chrissie Hynde has done is recognise that the world is not always as we would like it to be.
That does not make her a rape apologist. It just proves she is the one living in the real world and it is the Sisterhood who are the pretenders.
Hynde is not excusing her rapists nor condoning what they did. She is not saying that rape should be decriminalized or that those who commit such a heinous act should not be legally prosecuted and face serious consequences. Rather she has attempted to learn and grow from her own personal experiences. Whether one refers to it as self-blaming or self-responsibility, she is using the opportunity to empower other women by reminding them that behaving responsibly is one of the greatest protections against those would seek to harm them. It should go without saying that this isn’t foolproof and I don’t think Hynde is foolish enough to believe it is. But what she is doing is using an ugly event in her life as a cautionary tale for women: To a great degree, you have the power to protect yourselves, so take care not to diminish that power by allowing yourself to get into an out-of-control situation where vulnerability is increased and decision-making becomes clouded. As much as is within your power, remain in control.