Rape, consent and victim blaming are terms that are talked about but are often misunderstood.
In her new novel, ‘Asking For It,’ Louise O’Neill tackles these issues. She challenges the “two myths that [are] very dangerous in our culture; that of the perfect rape and that of the perfect victim.”
O’Neill’s main character, Emma O’Donovan, is not a sweet, lovable girl, but is conceited and obnoxious. O’Neill uses this to demonstrate that rape can happen to anyone and if they are not likable, it does not mean they deserve violence.
O’Neill also states that the way society treats boys, in a hyper masculine way, instils in them this idea that sex is what makes you a man. “I think that sometimes the way sex is framed that men are encouraged in their late teens and early twenties to have sex with as many women as they possibly can. It’s seen as a badge of honour or of masculinity and that can make them quite aggressive,” she said.
This is a dangerous way to view sex and O’Neill believes it can lead to an attitude that sex is not “something that should be shared or mutually enjoyed, but something that women need to be coerced into.” This is a point where relationships can veer into a detrimental area and we need to look at the way we are educating youths in order to fix this way of thinking.
There is a lack of good sexual education, one that teaches young people about respect and consent. When O’Neill was in school she had very little sex-ed, saying: “We had someone come into us when we were seventeen to give us a talk about chastity and staying virgins until we were married, which was already too late for seventy per cent of the people in the room.” Sex education has gotten a bit better in Ireland, but they still have a long way to go:
“I think it really needs to be about consent and respecting each other’s boundaries…A really quick, ‘are you okay with this? Do you want to do this?’ and if the other person says ‘no’ then that’s fine. That is something that really needs to be drilled into young teens.”
‘Asking For It’ is a fantastic novel that opens up the much needed conversation about rape culture, consent and victim blaming. If you or anyone you know has experienced rape or sexual violence there are helplines you can call. Click the Seeking Support link above for more information.
Blog by Tender Intern Seana Stevenson.