George Mason Law School

Behind Closed Doors: Activism, All the Time

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January 24, 2017

1:48 AM

So, we have an ignorant Cheeto sitting in the Oval Office. Not only is he simply an idiot fueled by his own greed, but he has also admitted to sexually assaulting women and even sexualized his own daughter. The next four years are a terrifying prospect for so many reasons and for so many marginalized groups. For survivors of sexual assault, the fact that a man who admitted to “grabbing women by the pussy” was able to become the leader of the “free world” is a stinging slap in the face. Now, more than ever, it is incredibly important to be critical of our actions, as survivors and allies – even if those acts occur behind closed doors.

It is undeniable that the Women’s March was an important and historical event, but it’s of course vital to remember the damaging effect of labeling the event as exclusively for “women.” Yes, my favorite color is pink and, as a self-identifying cat lady, I can’t deny that my initial reaction to the “pussy hat” was joy and slight jealously. But here’s the thing: language is vital. There is no denying that, as we enter into this presidency, access to abortions and birth control will be threatened.

But we have to remember that this is not a fear exclusively held by cisgender women. Not all women have vaginas and not all those with vaginas identify as women. Similarly, femininity isn’t just a characteristic exclusive to women and associating womanhood with the color pink can be infantilizing. Defunding Planned Parenthood won’t just be detrimental for those claiming female identities — it is a problem for all of us and our activism should reflect that. So next time you pull out your posters and markers for a little sign making, consider swapping out a cisnormative phrase for something more inclusive.

Always remember that if you’re a survivor of sexual assault, it is never your fault and you are far from alone.

A sign I spotted on Instagram really gets my next point across: “I did not survive rape so I could call a rapist my president.” Now, more than ever, we need to stand with survivors. Again, I think this starts with watching rhetoric. In the wake of the election, it feels especially inappropriate to use language that associates sex with violence. Referring to sexual encounters as “grabbing someone by the genitals” might seem innocuous, but it immediately calls to mind the soulless sack of skin currently serving as the leader of the United States.

While it’s all fun and games to sarcastically joke about Tomi Lahren and liberal snowflakes from time to time, it is incredibly important to make sure your friends and loved ones know that they can feel safe around you in a world where rape culture has made its way into the White House. Always remember that if you’re a survivor of sexual assault, it is never your fault and you are far from alone. Your voice matters and we are here for you.

Maybe you’re reading this thinking I sound like a bit of a broken record. You already understand the importance of inclusivity and standing with survivors. But have you considered the small ways you can dismantle patriarchal thinking in the bedroom? This might seem a little silly in comparison to what I’ve already discussed in this article, but hear me out. A lot of sexual encounters, especially those of the heterosexual variety, are focused on male pleasure and the male orgasm. Not to mention that a lot of sex, despite it being assumingly consensual, might not include a clearly expressed affirmative “yes.” So next time you go under the covers, consider the ways in which your sex life can improve. Set your sights on having sex that is pleasurable for both parties from foreplay to after-sex pillow talk.

I know there are many other ways to show solidarity besides these three things I’ve talked about. While I see so much value in speaking with your representative and donating to organizations like Planned Parenthood, it is important to make sure you live your values every single day.

Mallory Walker is a Behind Closed Doors columnist who is not a fan of Cheetos in the White House.

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