Sexual Assault And Why The Personal Is Still Political

The feminist slogan “The personal is political” has referred to many “women’s issues” that were once swept under the table, thought unfit to be in the public eye because they were “just” something women had to deal with, ranging from contraception and birth control methods, to menstruation, to the pay gap between men and women that still (sigh) exists.

The slogan also applies to sexual assault; the need to consider the ways in which our very society enables sexual assault remains pressing. The notion that it is the victim’s “fault” for being assaulted still is prevalent, which is obviously very, very problematic. Even if people are beginning to acknowledge that sexual assault is a widespread problem, and it’s not just a problem that survivors should silently and privately deal with, there are still situations that challenge the very question of how to deal with sexual assault that affects people in the public sphere.

Take, for instance, this report of a cheerleader who is being kicked off the high school squad for refusing to cheer for her rapist by name. The details of the situation are all too common: a survivor of sexual assault is forced to remain in the same community or social circle as her attacker (a frequent occurrence because rapists are so often acquaintances, even friends, not just strangers), and it becomes the survivor’s problem of how to deal with repeated contact and lack of support from her community (in this case, the school’s administrators, who told her to make herself scarce around the school). This tactic of shaming the victim is sad, but not uncommon.

We shouldn’t need stories like this to remind us that sexual assault–and indeed, all aspects of sex, from accessing contraceptives to communicating about sex on the internet–are political in nature. Sex is one of the most important arenas where the personal meets the political, and open, frank discourse about sex–like the kind we promote here at MSP–is a significant contribution to improving the world we share.

(thanks to Kevin for the link to the report)

MSP is taking a closer look at sex and politics this month.

About Jeana

Jeana

Jeana Jorgensen, PhD recently completed her doctoral degree in folklore and gender studies at Indiana University. She studies fairy tales and other narratives, dance, body art, feminist theory, digital humanities, and gender identity.