We live in a rape culture: while what is commonly understood as rape is claimed to be despised by most (except as a joke, yanno, har har), what actually is rape is often times made light of, made to be unimportant, made to be sex. The term rape culture refers to how our culture’s ideas of sex acts, sexuality, courting and romance are all infused with an eroticization of violation and female/feminine submission (regardless of who’s being the “female”). Our culture, while it would never admit that this is the case, actually sees rape as sex and sex as rape; “rape” is the scruffy (brown?) guy in the alley, whereas manipulating someone to have sex with you or getting them really drunk in order to have sex with you is just Normal Getting It On. The reality is, of course, that pressuring someone, manipulating someone, or drugging someone in order to get sex is rape.
And in the post office today I saw a fine example of just that. In amongst all the cards were Valentines Day cards. One of them had a 1950s style photo of an elderly het couple. The caption read: “little blue pill for him, valium for her.” Open the card and it reads: “the recipe for a perfect Valentines Day.”
I was with my friend at the time and she initially took his pill as viagra, and her valium as a reference to what a pain in the ass men can be (she didn’t read the inside and didn’t catch the Valentine’s reference). But even if that’s what the writer meant this is problematic. If a man is a pain to be with, why should she drug herself to cope? I am all too aware of what kinds of lengths we as women go to to cope with living with obnoxious men. We are trained since birth to be Nice above all, and to Care For Your Man and Everyone Else first, rather than cut them loose. We have been told since birth, in ways too numerous for this post, in ways both subtle and overt, that women’s bodies exist for male entertainment, for male pleasure. If her husband is a pain her best option is to drug herself, rather than leave him.
Another way to read this card is to see women as naturally uptight and in need of sedatives to loosen up and thus be “ready” for sex. But this also just reinforces that “women are hysterical” stereotype as well as the “women never want sex” stereotype. Of course, maybe she doesn’t want sex with him because he’s an obnoxious git, and her social conditioning (along with the financial hardships that usually ensue when women leave) trains her pretty well to not even think of leaving him.
But when valium is so commonly described as being a drug to space people out, to leave them pretty stoned, and not as an aphrodisiac or sex-aid, how can this card be funny?
Clearly the “little blue pill” refers to viagra. Old dude needs an erection! That’s funny har har, etc. And for her? Well, give her some valium! She’ll be so out of it you can fuck her with your new erection! THAT is rape. Drugging a woman so you can have sex with her is FUCKING RAPE. Valium IS NOT AN APHRODISIAC. The pill suggested for her to use is not something that will put her in the mood and/or enhance her sexual experience but rather is something that will LOWER HER DEFENSES. But that’s the whole joke isn’t it? Who cares about her having a good time? Just make her semi-conscious so she can’t say no.
THAT is rape culture.