Stop Telling Women To "Keep Our Knees Together"

A Canadian judge is facing removal after making accusatory statements in a rape case that put the blame on the victim. Judge Robin Camp reportedly asked the 19-year-old, "Why couldn't you just keep your knees together?" Yes, seriously. Camp had a hearing on Monday over his statement and will soon receive the final decision over his removal from the Canadian Judicial Council. I am tired of hearing these stories about people blaming rape and sexual assault victims for what happened to them. Stop telling women to keep our knees together, and start teaching men not to rape.

Records of the trial indicate that Camp asked the victim, "Why didn’t [she] just sink [her] bottom down into the basin so he couldn’t penetrate [her]" and suggested, "I don’t believe there’s any talk of an attack really." The victim shouldn't have to prevent her own assault. The person who committed a sexually violent crime should understand the impacts of his actions and should have learned how to practice consent.

In the end, the defendant was acquitted, and Camp warned him, "I want you to tell your friends, your male friends, that they have to be far more gentle with women. [...] And they have to be very careful. To protect themselves, they have to be very careful," according to the records. This narrative is problematic — perpetrators of sexual violence need to be held accountable if we are ever going to change the prevalence of sexual assault.

Yes, men should be more careful with women, but not to protect themselves from rape accusations. Men need to understand consent, not just when it comes to penetration, but any and all forms of sexual activity. If you're not sure if your actions are consensual, you need to ask your partner. Engaging in a sexual activity with another person who is not OK with what you're doing is violent.

I am tired of hearing about these stories, not because they are unimportant — quite the opposite. These stories are so important, but what is most important is that we take something away from them. It takes a lot of energy to know that with every passing sexual assault case, our society seems to have learned nothing.

JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images

The overwhelming response in such cases is too often to suggest that women keep their knees together, that we stop wearing revealing clothing, that we put a cap on how much we drink. That's exactly what Judge Camp did when he asked the victim why she couldn't keep her knees together. All people should be allowed to enjoy safe, consensual sexual activity.

But stop asking us if we said no, if we said yes, if we said stop, if we said anything. We are often told that what happened to us is our own fault for a variety or a combination of the above reasons. Women are taught from a young age how to prevent our own sexual assaults. We are told not to walk alone at night, not to drink too much, not to wear such tight clothing, too much makeup. It's time to stop having to focus on whether our knees are open or closed, and time to focus on teaching boys and men that no, you are absolutely not entitled to any form of sexual activity just because you want it, whenever you want it.

Image: Andrew Zaeh/Bustle (1)