(With great homage to the brilliant bell hooks*, I offer these thoughts. They come from a brief speech I gave this week at my campus at an event aimed at eradicating violence.)
The rape, sexual assault, and interpersonal violence that plagues our culture are by-products of our patriarchal, militarized, and commodified world. Yet, such violence could not continue if we did not allow it
We like to act as if violence happens out there, beyond our control, yet violence is a part of most of our lives. For some of us, it happens regularly in our homes; for all of us, it happens in our neighborhoods, our schools, our cities, our nation, and our world. And, while US culture is good at convincing us we are powerless to change this, we are not – in fact, a key hope for change lies within our daily acts of resistance to violence
One place to begin the process of eradicating violence is within our own desires.
If as heterosexual women desire violent, aggressive men, we are perpetuating violence.
If as men, we are turned on by power, control, and domination, we are perpetuating violence.
If we as parents allow our children to achieve addictive adrenaline rushes by playing grand theft auto and other such games that glorify murder and rape, we are perpetuating violence.
If we as citizens accept war as an answer to world problems, we are perpetuating violence
One place we can begin to change our own immersion in violence and our attraction to it is in our response to popular culture – we can begin by examining how intertwined violence and sexuality are in contemporary society.
We, as citizens of the united states, our turned on by violence – yet, this need not be the case.
Currently, an entire army of 10 to 14 to yes even 40-year-olds are immersed in the Twilight book series, a series that romanticizes violent masculinity and presents sexual assault as proof of love. Vampire and werewolf legends are of course dripping with thinly veiled references to rape, violent sexuality, and sexually motivated murder – they are also predicated on a championing of violent masculinity. Yet, the messages about sexuality and violence these rabidly popular books contain are far from unique – the Hostel film series and other such pornified horror films repeatedly make violence seem sexy while simultaneously presenting violent sex as an extreme turn on.
When youth our encouraged to desire werewolves who sexually assault them (via books like Twilight) and teens are encouraged by Eminem to think homicidal misogyny is cool —and those of us who watch television are so inundated with violent sexuality that we become immune to it, we should not be shocked that our culture is one of extreme violence
We, as largely apathetic bystanders to this violence, must realize that we are actually not bystanders but accomplices- for if we, like bell hooks suggests, fail to refuse to be seduced by violence, we our culpable for all the violence that occurs in our culture.
A first step that we all can take is this – we can vow to be seduced by violence no more.
Whether that means refusing to enjoy films that glorify sexual violence or choosing not to play video games where you get extra points for committing gang rape, whether that means refusing to stand idly by while the ROTC plans to set up camp on your campus or whether that means intervening when you witness violence, whether it means refusing to listen to songs that construct women as rape targets, hoes, and tricks, or whether it means reshaping your own desires so you are no longer attracted to violent people, ALL of us can play a role in this – and I encourage all of you, from this day forward, to actively refuse to be seduced by violence.
*hooks, bell. “Seduced by Violence No More,” in Transforming Rape Culture, edited by Emilie Buchwald, Pamela Fletcher, and Martha Roth (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 1993).