I am Over Rape Culture in the Progressive Jewish Community

HaBakhur, an anonymous gay Jewish young professional in the Northeast, writes about being a survivor of sexual assault and subject to physical violence, by an abusive (now ex-) boyfriend, and how he’s tired of witnessing victim-blaming and rape apologias

Content warning for accounts of sexual assault, domestic violence, and harassment.

I am over rape culture in the progressive Jewish community.

I am done with rape culture in the progressive Jewish community.

Okay, I am actually “done” with rape culture in general, but I’ve been burned a few too many times by it of late in the Jewish progressive circles I run in – because underneath all the condemnations of Orthodox sex abuse, non-egalitarian halakha, and sexist tendencies on the Israeli and American right wing, the same sense of dominion over bodies, disregard for victims of sexual violence, and entitlement to sex still permeate the left-wing communities from Washington Heights to North Tel Aviv.

What is rape culture? I would best describe it as the societal condition in which, due to the continued hegemony of the patriarchy, rape and sexual assault are normalized and condoned by a society with continued gender- and sexuality-based oppression. It is the fact that one in four to six women and one in thirty-three men are sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, yet only a tiny fraction of assailants are ever punished or castigated. Beyond that, it is the fact that victims are routinely blamed by their peers and media for their own attack, the lack of support for survivors generally, and a culture that romanticizes and reifies the dominion of bodies by some – especially that of straight men over women. Rape culture is not a thing that is solid and distant: it is pervasive, everywhere, the fungus that we as a society have constructed and feed within our midst.

This is more than a little personal for many of us in the community: I, like thousands of other gay Jewish men, am a survivor of sexual assault. I was sexually assaulted repeatedly, and subject to physical violence, by an abusive (now ex-) boyfriend. Even now, I have the “privilege” of having post-traumatic stress disorder, which almost certainly stems from the violence I was subject to. For very specific reasons of physical safety, I cannot be public about my own experience at this time. And in the Jewish community, in the wider world, and certainly in the progressive Jewish world, many people of all genders deal with the after-effects of assault. And those experiences are completely tied into rape culture.

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