Discourse, male privilege, and women’s lived experiences
Men build discursive spaces and discursive norms based on their own experience. And for instance, in a male-built discursive space, a threat of sexual violence may be viewed by male participants as an obvious joke. After all, the vast majority of men will never experience sexual violence in their lifetime. (Fewer than 4% of men will be sexually assaulted.) And so within the context of a male discussion on a World of Warcraft forum, for instance, it may seem entirely innocuous to use ideas of sexual violence to express one’s views on the game, or to use “rape” as a verb to describe one’s gameplay skills.
Women as a group have a vastly different experience with the idea of sexual violence. One in six women will be a victim of sexual assault during her lifetime. (Yes, some men are also sexual assault victims. But the numbers are overwhelmingly female — about 90% of sexual assault victims are women.) Rape is not an abstract idea or an obvious joke. For thousands of women, it is an immediate and extremely painful reality.
The same goes for statements about violence in general. In a male-dominated discursive space, it may be viewed as normal to make aggressive, threatening statements. However, men’s and women’s experiences with violence are also vastly different. One in four women in the United States has been a victim of domestic violence. Suddenly, the joke about wanting to punch somebody else isn’t so funny.
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