It was just a few months ago that CBS war correspondent Lara Logan was nearly killed in Cairo, pawed at by men who each somehow felt entitled to an ounce of her flesh. Media Matters did the unenviable job of capturing some of the blame-the-victim ugliness that followed.
According to the Department of Justice, in statistics supplied by Just Detention International -- a group fighting against sexual abuse in detention -- ''at least 216,600 children and adults were sexually abused in prisons, jails, and youth detention facilities in 2008 alone.''
And on the Metro Weekly Facebook page, one poster responded to the shooting of Lashai Mclean, a transgender woman killed in Northeast D.C. during the early hours of July 20, with this: ''Not much good goes on in D.C. during the 'early hours,' so trans may have had zero to do with this. How about soldiers that were killed early this morning throughout the world? Can you post their names please?''
In other words, with so many noble soldiers being killed, why care about Mclean? A trans woman in that neighborhood around 4 a.m. was probably a sex worker and therefore, well, she was sort of asking for it.
That ''asking for it'' meme is insidious. And I include the mention of prison rape, because it's related: If you're in prison, well that's your own damn fault and you'll just have to take what you get. I blame our Puritan roots, though we Americans are certainly not alone in our punitive piety. ''Blame the victim'' also stems from men's fear of being wrongly accused of rape, which would seem far more the exception than the rule. Consider that there is need for a movement to change the FBI's definition of rape, which currently doesn't include someone being raped while unconscious, for example. Or rape of men. Not so long ago, and in some parts of the world still, there was no recognition of a husband raping his wife.
I've been thinking about these sorts of crimes lately because of a date on my calendar: Saturday, Aug. 13. SlutWalk D.C.
While some take the phrase on its derogatory surface, there's more here, something along the lines of the gay community reclaiming ''queer.'' And it's hardly a celebration of sex, but rather a defense of anyone to hold dominion over his or her body. It's a bold refutation of, ''She was asking for it,'' which is used in one form or another against anyone who defies repressed values -- the sorts of values that are as relative as the wind.
As a gay man, it's obvious why I would support fighting back in SlutWalk fashion against the sorts of sexual repression that have given us a nearly inexhaustible source of closeted, homophobic politicians. But I also do it for, say, Michele Bachmann, whose fashion sense would put her on the same footing as the whore of Babylon -- were she to make an appearance in Tehran.
Society has long told gay people they are sexual deviants, just as it has scorned that woman in the tight top for ''inviting'' an attack. In both instances society is wrong. In the words of the BDSM community, another pack of so-called deviants, any sexual contact that is not ''safe, sane and consensual'' is not welcome. When those conditions are not met, it does not fall to the object of desire to button up or tone it down. It falls to the desirous to keep his hands, his insults or his violence to himself -- and to seek help if that seems impossible.