The Torch explores gender and religion in the Jewish community. Named for Deborah the Prophetess, "the woman of torches," the blog highlights the passion and fiery leadership of Jewish feminists, while evoking the powerful image of feminists "passing the torch" to a new generation. Disclaimer: All posts are contributed by third party authors. JOFA does not assume responsibility for the facts and opinions presented in them.
This past week I came across the most recent post on Rabbi Pruzansky’s blog about date rape culture on college campuses. Normally, words come rather easily to me when I feel passionate about something; but this time I found myself simultaneously overflowing with words while also at a loss for words. While I definitely believe that this post was about a man in power trying to assert moral superiority, I think this was not his entire motive. I see him as a man presenting an inability to acknowledge, learn about, and respect women.
I work professionally with women who are struggling to assert their needs and desires as females in today’s society. I have seen women, many of them not Jewish, who experienced trauma in their lives. These women can at times barely find ways to stay afloat. Additionally, I often give presentations on college campuses.
Last year at a New York City college during Sexual Assault on Campus Awareness week, I discussed the culture of objectification of women in advertising and the part it plays in creating a larger “rape culture.” I began to think that maybe rape culture is all around us in our daily lives without us even realizing it. At the same time last year, I came across this article regarding an awful Dolce & Gabbana ad campaign, which spurred a greater discussion during my presentations. Students participated in an exercise in which they were asked to identify advertisements that they felt were objectifying women. I showed clips from Jean Kilbourne’s” Killing Us Softly” videos, a series focusing on portrayals of women in advertising that promote a rape culture and violence against women.
I firmly believe that if women are advertised as objects with no wants, needs or desires, they could be taken advantage of in the worst way possible when it comes to sexual encounters. When women are objectified in ads, such as the Dolce and Gabanna “gang rape” ad, this is the type of objectification of women that continues to promote “rape culture” not only on college campuses, but in general as well.
According to Rabbi Pruzansky, women fabricate a rape culture on campus by being sexually promiscuous and not taking full accountability for it. He appears to have false ideas about women and men, by overlooking the strong sexual needs in women and the desire for connection. Meanwhile, he is actually hurting men by devaluing their need for connection and portraying them as solely focused on physical attraction.
Rabbi Pruzansky is also deprecating the male character in order to use it as a defense against culpability. He implies that men are not responsible for hurting women because women should know that men are just out for sex. He purports that men are not perpetrators; rather he paints them as victims in most scenarios, because he insists that women are falsely accusing them of rape.
Rabbi Pruzansky seems intent on critiquing the “outside world,” while pretending that he and his community are very far away from problems such as rape. His denial that this is a problem that the Orthodox community has to deal with is troubling and, unfortunately, untrue. We are not immune to it just because we identify as observant Jews. Rape can happen to women who, as the rabbi puts it, are “abstinent, self disciplined and chaste.” It can occur while just walking around a college campus, where women are now the majority of the student body . It can happen, believe it or not, in a marriage where, as in his words, people “waited to engage in intimate acts, and where the couple genuinely loved each other.”
So I am suggesting “a NOVEL IDEA to Rabbi Pruzansky. He needs to educate himself on women and their needs. Understand that by putting most of the blame on these supposed scorned women, out for vengeance, making false rape claims, the rabbi is thereby letting off the hook those men who are objectifying and raping them. By presenting men as victims rather than perpetrators in his discussion of rape culture, he is allowing the perpetrators to have no culpability at all for their actions.
Finally, Rabbi Pruzansky must realize that a woman has the right to say ‘STOP’, and it is the man’s obligation to respect her decision when it comes to sex. I think an education may be in order on how to deeply value and respect women and their bodies, and to value them as equals. Only then can people like Rabbi Pruzansky be part of the solution to ending rape culture on campuses and not the problem.