"Lie back and enjoy it" RJ Regan said about rape. Rape is not bad sex.
Rape is not "bad sex" or "sex gone wrong." It's rape. Believing otherwise upholds and feeds into rape culture and dangerously downplays the realities of rape.
GOP Michigan State House candidate Robert “RJ” Regan convoluted rape with bad sex last week, ultimately downplaying rape, perpetuating rape myths, and simultaneously upholding and feeding into rape culture.
“Having three daughters, I tell my daughters, ‘Well, if rape is inevitable, you should just lie back and enjoy it,” Regan said.
Regan’s beliefs show his vast and deliberate lack of understanding about the realities of rape, rapists and victims, and furthermore, how deeply embedded his is within rape culture. His misrepresentation of the violence of rape showcases a belief structure that is a product of rape culture. Regan’s rhetoric makes him responsible for strengthening the roots of rape culture in our society.
In Regan’s mind, rape is merely bad sex. This completely wrong, and incredibly dangerous, belief is built up of rape myths. Rape myths are stereotyped and false beliefs about rape. They include phrases that we’ve all heard, including “no means yes,” “women want to be raped,” “you cannot rape a resisting woman,” “rape is inevitable,” and “that’s not a real rape.” “Rape is sex gone wrong” and “that was just bad sex” are both rape myths.
The “bad sex” and “sex gone wrong” rape myths obliterate the realities of rape. Regan and others who believe rape is just bad sex do not see rape as an ultimate violation. They see rape as being about sex, not violation. In reality, any unwanted, non-consensual sex is rape. To say otherwise is to deliberately downplay the seriousness of rape.
The “bad sex” myth overlaps with the rape myth that the only “real rape” is a stranger violently yielding a weapon in a dark alleyway as he chases down a woman. This false representation and stereotyped belief is one of the many ways that our society deploys disbelief in rape allegations, exonerating perpetrators and blaming victims. The false representation and subsequent beliefs of rape only see the “true” rapist as the stranger employing physical violence in dark shadows, and believe that some acts of forced sex are “not really rape.”
Therefore, those who say that rape is just “sex gone wrong” or “bad sex” also fail to see rape as a violence in and of itself. They believe the only violence happens in a “real rape” when a weapon is used, and leaves massive physical damage. The only violence and crime they see is the physical violence deployed with a weapon, not the rape itself. Rape itself is not seen as the violence or the violation in this structure of beliefs, for rape is just sex gone wrong.
The cruel downplaying of rape is blatantly apparent in Regan’s rhetoric and beliefs. His language directly serves to downplay the realities of rape and dismiss it, waving it aside as a teeny tiny moment of discomfort or awkwardness. This inherently upholds rape culture, and almost encourages it.
“Lie back and enjoy it” fails to recognize that for victims, the rape does not “end” at the physical assault. Rape and sexual assault survivors are forced to carry with them a lifetime of pain and trauma. Regan purposely neglects to understand how traumatic rape is. For aren’t women just making a big deal of it? Silly, hysterical women, crying rape?
Any survivor of rape or sexual assault can tell you, there is no lying back and enjoying it. It’s beyond disgusting to even suggest this. If Regan truly understood the realities of rape, he would never suggest it could be enjoyed. His belief that it could be reveals all you need to know about how he views gender-based violence and sexual violence. It’s abhorrent and inexcusable.
Regan’s words reveal that he does not see rape as a violence or a violation, and therefore, his beliefs discredit, blame, shame, and belittle victims, and completely exonerate rapists.
Undoubtedly Regan and fellow rape apologists will say it was merely a joke. Rape is no joke. Belittling rape into a “joke” is a way to undermine survivors and tell them that their pain, their trauma is not real, and that they need to “get over it.” This method is commonly used to make victims believe they are overreacting in order to exonerate perpetrators.
Dismissing and belittling sexual assault with jokes and excuses is rape culture. The continuous normalization of rape and sexual assault are so deeply entrenched in our society and our culture.
Regan is both a product of and a cause of rape culture. The issue neither begins nor ends with Regan. He is part of the overarching issue: Our society promotes belief structures in which rape and rape culture are normal. Regan is one of many who continue to normalize and encourage rape culture, deepening its roots within our society. We need to dismantle rape culture, not fuel it.