Book Review: Asking For It – Kate Harding

Title: Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture – and What We Can Do About It

Author: Kate Harding

Genre: Non-fiction, feminist

Publisher: Da Capo Press

Pushlishing Date: 2015

My rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Asking For It is an incredibly in-depth look at what ‘rape culture‘ is, how it is perpetuated, and the consequences of it. The book is split into three main sections: the first goes into depth about what rape is, clearing up any ideas about ‘grey areas’ that readers might have, and looks at the many myths surrounding incidents of rape. It also looks at the issues with stigma, backlash, blame, and discusses how the general population seems to view rape.

The second section goes into detail about rape and the law, from research carried out with police officers (for example, the study on 11 police and sheriff’s departments in the USA which found that 22.7% of the officers agreed with the statement: ‘any victim can resist a rapist if he or she really wants to’), to discussing the laws surrounding rape, and how rape cases are dealt with at trial – if they ever get there. The final section explores the more ‘pop culture’ or everyday side of rape culture and how it affects our everyday lives, and discusses subjects like online gaming, trolling, and examples of backlash when celebrities have been accused of sexual assault.

This book is essentially about two things: the issues surrounding masculinity as an identity and as a goal (which encourages violence and dominance, often sexually), and the issues within our culture and within our legal system that mean that most rapes go unreported or unpunished.

Now, after that extremely serious synopsis, the first thing I want to point out is the writing style: it’s fantastic. Kate Harding has such a strong and relatable voice which comes through clearly in her writing, so it feels like we’re being informed of all this by a friend. She manages to keep the tone light with sarcastic jokes (because, unfortunately, some people are so horrendous all you can do is laugh at their stupidity)(Note: I don’t mean I’m laughing at rapists, I mean I’m laughing at the guy who said that if a woman gets pregnant by her rapist then it wasn’t a real rape, as women have ways of ‘shutting that whole thing down.’ You can’t help but laugh at that ridiculous stupidity.) Yet, of course, the tone is always appropriate and doesn’t make light of anything that shouldn’t be.

Another thing I love about this book is its heavy usage of facts and statistics from actual, scientific research. Much feminist literature is purely anecdotal, and, while I love a lot of those books as they are good in their own way, I feel like the persistent and frequent use of real numbers in this book really hammered home the point. Don’t let that fact scare you off, they’re explained in completely simple and understandable ways, this book never felt like a chore to read.

The author shares her own rape story right at the end, which I think was a great choice and I applaud her for it. I feel like waiting until the end to share her story meant that I could put everything I’d just learned into practice – in a sense. When she described feelings of guilt, I knew why. When she described how others reacted, I knew why. When she described why she didn’t report, I knew why. It kind of showed me just how informed this book had made me.

The reason I didn’t give this book 5 stars is because of the editing, not at all because of the content. Sometimes the writing felt a little sloppy, with long sentences and multiple clauses which sometimes made it difficult to understand. It’s not too much of a major thing, and I certainly wouldn’t want that to put anyone off reading it as mostly it was fine, but I do feel like it should have been better edited.

Ultimately, the problem with a book like this is that everyone needs to read it – but not many people will. For me personally, I feel so much better informed of this issue, everything that goes into creating this issue, and the consequences of it. The book is more than just about rape, it’s also about masculinity and femininity and how that’s presented to us by our culture, which I feel is relevant for a general understanding of feminism. If you’re interested in expanding your knowledge of feminism and of rape culture I would definitely pick this up. Even if you feel like you’re a little lacking in knowledge, this book works for total beginners even if you’ve never read a feminist text before.

This book took an extremely difficult and important topic and managed to expertly inform of the facts from so many different angles, while keeping the entire book easy to read and – well, as enjoyable as a book on rape culture can be.






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