Kate Harding comes across as palpably frustrated in Asking For It. In a society where roughly 1 out of every 5 women (as well as 1 in 71 men) can expect to be victims of rape or attempted rape, there are a multitude of pernicious myths regarding the subject that continue to persist. You may see some of these pop up in comments sections for articles regarding sexual assault cases on a regular basis: Maybe she was asking for it? It's so difficult for men to understand what consent is these days! She wasn't actually raped, she's clearly lying to ruin his reputation. And so on.
The persistence of these sorts of myths that attempt to hand-wave away the gravity of sexual assault, along with the common occurrences of rape jokes (see all "don't drop the soap" remarks) and the ability for prominent perpetrators of these acts to remain unpunished, are some of the primary aspects of what has long been called a "rape culture." Rape culture, Harding and others have argued, causes the public to identify with those accused of committed rape over the actual victims. Even though it has been demonstrated that less than 10% of rape allegations end up being demonstrably false, the default reaction from much of society is to worry about the potential harm to the reputations of the accused.
Despite my familiarity with many of the statistics and some of the formal feminist terminology that Harding uses, I am still struck by her descriptions of how the falsehoods and victim blaming that surrounds this topic can affect simple, everyday events for women. Sometimes useless information about what women should do to keep themselves safe can make walking home at night or deciding to enjoy a few drinks into a stressful situation. Even though "acquaintance rape" (where the people committing acts of rape are already familiar with their victims) is the most common form of rape, society spends most of its rape-prevention energy on trying to equip women with tools to fight back against random people that might leap out from the shadows.
As a guy, I have no problem with Harding's argument that we need to do a better job of framing rape as a male problem. It's not anti-male in the slightest to note that 98% of rapists are men and that there is much more that needs to be done than conditioning women to be afraid of their surroundings. Developing better educational approaches to inform boys at an earlier age about the importance of consent in sexual relationships could pay great dividends. Most adult men are already quite capable of telling the difference between "yes" and "no," however, so the broader rape culture that makes it easier for people to get away with sexual assault needs to be challenged directly. There is also an increasing body of evidence that relaxing restrictions on prostitution can result in significantly lower rates of violence against women.
This book isn't "fun" to read. In fact, Harding wants you to get angry while reading this. She's definitely succeeded.