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Jun 04 2009

When Is a Rapist?

If the point of Silence Is the Enemy is to get people talking, this post at Greg’s about whether there is a “rape switch” that can be triggered in warfare is doing the trick. Of course, much of the talk is debate over rape statistics and over this section of the post:

In the [genteel] society in which we imagine ourselves living (at least according to many of the comments on the above cited post) the switch is off, and stays off for most people’s lives. But there are circumstances in which most men’s switch is turned on. The switch being on does not mean that rape will happen. It simply means that the man (with the switch on) is now a rapist, whether he actually rapes or not (but he probably will), and when the switch is off, he is not (so he probably won’t). It is a bit of a metaphor, and a strained one (see comments by commenter Elizabeth) at that.

The first comment is from Rystefn, objecting to the classification of “rapist,” something he does throughout the thread. Finally, he wants to know, from me:

Oh, and while we’re on the subject, why is it that you’re so opposed to calling actual rapists monsters, but stand idly by and let innocent innocent men be called rapists without a word of complaint?

(Monsters is explained here.)

DuWayne’s first response is much less rejecting:

My gut reaction to this is that it’s total bullshit. I want it to be bullshit – almost need it to be. But I then consider the recent discussions about torture and my acceptance that while the circumstances are far-fetched (i.e. on a scale with getting struck by lightening three times, each time standing in the same spot) I can think of hypothetical situations in which I would not only condone torture, but wouldn’t hesitate to engage in it myself.

Eventually, however, he posted his response on his blog. Much of it is a very eloquent exposition of one part of why I don’t talk about monsters in general. I highly recommend reading it.

At the end of his post is his response to the rapist question:

Now a reasonable reading of this discussion will show that this is not something that Greg is saying as an absolute. Indeed, it is clear that he is willing to be convinced otherwise, though he strongly suspects that this is the case. I am going to answer the question in the title and respond to the idea in this quote with an emphatic and resounding; No, this is complete and absolute bullshit.

A person does not move from having the potential, to being the thing, unless they actually commit the act. The fact that a lot of people who end up fitting a similar set of variables commit acts of rape, does not mean that everyone who fits those variables is a rapist. It simply means that those who don’t rape, require a different set of variables to become a rapist. [...]

I’m sorry Greg, but unless and until a person actually commits the act, they only have the potential to commit the act. Until the specific variables that will cause them to act are met, they are in fact, incapable of committing the act.

Read the whole thing.

I understand where Rystefn and DuWayne are coming from on the questions of moral judgment and punishment. For those purposes, the presumption of innocence should absolutely be maintained. However, that still leaves me with a question.

As a potential victim in this situation, what do I gain from making that assumption of innocence?

There are a lot of benefits, to me, of treating that large increase in incidence of rape as a universal, particularly if my goal is to prevent my rape in a war situation or that of others in a potential war situation. If I avoid all male soldiers in war, I am much more likely to avoid being raped. If I can stop war from happening, I can keep many more women from being raped. If I assume that no man is a rapist, even in war, until it’s proven, there’s a very good chance I can’t do either. But both of those are the point of Silence Is the Enemy.

So, what outweighs the potential costs, to me, of acting as though Greg’s statement were untrue?

63 comments

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  1. 1
    DuWayne Brayton

    But there is a huge difference between assuming that a man may be a rapist and protecting yourself accordingly and saying that every man who is included in factor X is a rapist.The first is common sense and why I don't get offended by the idea that smart women who don't know me and are walking on the same deserted street as me at night, assume that I am an attacker and act accordingly for their own protection. The latter is absolute bullshit – I'm sorry, but until a person has actually committed the act, they simply aren't guilty. And until the actual variables are met that cause them to commit the act, they are actually incapable of committing the act.

  2. 2
    rystefn

    Categorizing risks is completely understandable and perfectly fine. Taking steps to minimize those risks is rational, and not doing so is irrational. No one is saying you shouldn't recognize the factors that increase risk and minimize them. We're saying no one is a rapist unless and until that person actually rapes someone.Avoid soldiers in a time of war. It's smart. But do it because they're more likely to be rapists than most categories of people are. Don't assume they ARE rapists. It's a subtle difference, but it's the difference between rational caution and bigotry.

  3. 3
    Stephanie Zvan

    DuWayne, you didn't answer my questions, and I already addressed moral judgment.Rystefn, I think you need to look up "bigotry."

  4. 4
    rystefn

    I did. "one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance"Unless you're going to say soldier in war aren't a group or that assuming innocent people must be rapists because they are members of that group isn't hateful and intolerant, you pretty much have to agree with what I've said. So… which part are you going to argue with?

  5. 5
    Stephanie Zvan

    The difference between a racial or ethnic group and soldiers in wartime is that soldiers in wartime share many more characteristics than members of a racial or ethnic group. Or are you telling me to avoid racial minorities at night because "it's smart"?

  6. 6
    DuWayne Brayton

    I don't think it's a reasonable question, as it assumes that there is only one thing you can do if you act as though Greg's statement is untrue.If the only way to act as though Greg's statement is untrue, is to assume innocence and put yourself in a position with a vet you don't know quite well, where he could rape you, then I would say it's a bad idea. But if by acting as though Greg's statement is untrue, you also assume that there is an elevated risk that a vet you don't know well (or even one you do) is a potential rapist, then there is no reason not to.The problem, the only problem I am having with this is the idea that by mere fact of having been in war, someone should be considered a rapist. I am not saying that anyone shouldn't assume that there is an elevated risk – there's no question that there is. But that isn't where Greg stopped and not where I saw you stopping either.I'm sorry, but someone isn't a rapist, until they actually rape someone. A combat vet is no more a rapist, than I am if I happen to be walking down a deserted street at night, where a lone women who doesn't know me is also walking. Common sense and statistics would indicate that she should, for safety sake assume that I'm a potential attacker. It doesn't mean that I actually am one.

  7. 7
    rystefn

    That's a dodge. Either soldiers in war are a group and qualify under the definition, or they are not. How homogeneous the group in question happens to be is not part of the definition.

  8. 8
    Jason Thibeault

    I'm going to keep arguing til I'm blue in the face that either basic training or the combat zone or both are turning on an aggressiveness switch in these soldiers, and they are also dehumanizing the victims of their aggression, so while rape itself may not *solely* be an act of aggression, two major variables in your example of "conditions w, x, y, and z need to be fulfilled", are being fulfilled. So the bar gets much, much lower. As for the whole linguistic prescriptivist argument that "rapist" means "someone who has raped or is trying to rape", well, you have to stretch that definition to "is capable of rape" as well, and that doesn't fit in with the agreed-upon definition. So like I said at Greg's, maybe we do need to tone down the "is a rapist" meme. Not because he doesn't have a point, that *something* is making men way way more capable of rape in these situations, but because the word is already associated with absolutes and there's nothing absolute about "is potentially".

  9. 9
    DuWayne Brayton

    The problem Jason, is that I think Greg's point is entirely wrong – not just the "potential" rapist part. And I also disagree with your assertion that there is an absolute aggression switch either, though that is probably hitting closer to the 100% mark.Again, the human mind isn't that simple and absolute generalizations about it are inherent logical fallacies.

  10. 10
    rystefn

    Jason, basic training is designed to turn on the aggressive violence switch in people. It's a necessary step in turning a non-warrior into a warrior. Being in combat will generally increase this effect. As far as dehumanizing the enemy… well, that's pretty much how every war ever has been conducted. It's a lot harder to kill some poor sod who's just trying to get by in this world than to kill some subhuman thing.The process does seem to have the side effect of increasing instances of rape. People with small, easily repressed inclinations to rape to begin with could suddenly find those inclinations less easily repressed. I think I'm phrasing this ineloquently, but I hope my point here is coming across.

  11. 11
    Jason Thibeault

    First off, I think my take is quite a bit more nuanced than there being an absolute aggression switch even. Here's my take, just posted at Greg's, probably should have put it in a blog post of my own but there you have it. http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2009/06/is_there_a_rape_switch.php#c1681528 Incidentally it happens to agree a lot with Rystefn's last reply to me, no matter how much I've disagreed with him elsewhere.Plus I posted this over at my place: http://www.lousycanuck.ca/?p=1056&cpage=1#comment-1235 It's relevant, but it came before what I posted at Greg's so it's not as refined.Stephanie: One way or the other, for erring on the side of safety, anything above your personal comfort level of probability (e.g. you might accept a 25% chance on each slider bar I posited in my post as being acceptably safe to trust the person), and you should assume the person is capable of rape and distrust them as such. If that means you consider them rapists while you do so, even though they haven't raped anyone, then as long as your conscience can live with the misnomer as the expense of your assured safety, then I don't personally see a problem with it. If you accuse them of being a rapist though, and they have never done so, don't be surprised if they take umbrage. Likewise, if you, knowing that I was once accused of rape, suspect me of being capable of this before getting to know me, then you're probably not the type of person I want to be friends with anyway.All that said, you have every right, and probably an obligation to yourself, to act as though every single person you meet might be a rapist. Ultimately though, you must understand that there are good people out there as well as bad (and I know you feel this way, or you wouldn't stick with any of your current friends).By the by, I also dislike the use of the term "monsters" because it likewise dehumanizes the rapist, and while their acts might be monstrous, they are every bit the carbon-based, bipedal sentient life form and a part of the same species as those of us who don't rape and pillage.

  12. 12
    Stephanie Zvan

    DuWayne, I've already said, or at least it's implicit in what I said, that considerations after the fact are just that. There are facts to base them on. But when I say there is a practical difference to me between thinking "might possibly rape me" and thinking "rapist" that there isn't for you, I mean it. There's a reason that the military and police are trained toward certainty, even when it isn't really there. In a situation where your safety is at stake, that certainty makes a difference in how you react.Jason, you're getting close to getting this. You're still speaking as though the labels in my head make a difference to who someone is, though. My conscience is troubled by that not even slightly.As for trusting individuals, I need to get a post up about that, actually. I've had a partial draft sitting for a couple of days. Short (and much too simple) answer, I tend to trust people more if they don't consider themselves the good guys.

  13. 13
    rystefn

    That certainty costs lives, Stephanie. Innocent lives. I've seen with my own eyes death stemming directly from this false certainty. You're 100% right that the certainty makes a difference in how you react. Both police and soldiers kill innocent people and commit barbaric atrocities because of that certainty. That certainty is part of what leads said soldiers to rape in such numbers as we've been discussing. Are you really sure that's what you want to teach yourself?

  14. 14
    Jason Thibeault

    Wait a tic. False certainty costs lives when you're talking about situations where you have a gun and are falsely certain that applying that gun to a particular situation is the only way you're going to get out alive or achieve your objectives. In the case of Stephanie being falsely certain that someone is a rapist (in the sense of "is capable of rape", as I happen to agree that her internal label applied to me may never even come up in conversation much less hurt me), the only real potential harm to her posed by false certainty is that she might be wrong, and might not otherwise befriend someone worth befriending.

  15. 15
    rystefn

    It's a habit. I could apply a thousand slippery slope fallacies to it, but I'm not going to. It would serve no purpose. It will probably never cause Stephanie to kill anyone. It will most likely never cost a life. It's still a habit that leads the people she specifically mentioned in defense of the habit to do terrible things from time time. Sometimes by accident. Sometimes not so much.I wasn't trying to imply it would make her a killer, only that she should think very carefully about which habits she wants to emulate.

  16. 16
    Jason Thibeault

    But that behaviour has evolutionary roots. If you look toward every rustling bush and prepare to run away, you're less likely to get taken by surprise by a predator. An overabundance of caution may have its own negative connotations, but in Stephanie's example, it's a matter of simple self-preservation to act as though she's in danger even when she isn't, until she sees evidence that she isn't. It's great and all to have some kind of sense ahead of time as to what actions are useful ones and what ones aren't, but since we humans are not good prognosticators, we're playing the odds on every decision we make. So if she's playing the odds that a person is dangerous, and defends herself preemptively, in subtle and not-socially-damning ways like distancing herself from people, or in sweeping generalities like locking herself in a steel cage for the rest of her life, who are we to tell her that the act was futile or that it was self-damaging? Even if it really IS self-damaging, e.g. if you lock yourself up "the terrorists win", she is taking the action she deems necessary. I fail to see an overreaction to a potential danger as explicitly overriding her desire for self-preservation, especially not if she's willing to revise her assessment of a particular person's threat level given time and more evidence.

  17. 17
    Stephanie Zvan

    Rystefn, you demand that I embrace the subtle distinction between someone who is likely to rape me and a rapist. You demand that allowances be made about when "no" means "no." But you refuse to allow me to make distinctions between a group based on skin color and one with common training and stresses. You tell TheLady how she can and can't argue. Uh, huh.Tell me, Rystefn. When did it become about winning for you. Now that it has, what other behavior are you willing to consider acceptable? Don't forget, I've seen what kind of treatment of others you're able to self-justify. Only before the fact, of course. Afterward, well, there isn't any excuse. But that doesn't undo what you've done or the harm it's caused.This whole line of discussion has made me wonder what you're really capable of justifying to yourself. I've seen you, in a discussion about the causes of rape, mind you, decide your exceptions to "no means no" were important enough to argue over. I've seen you worry more about a soldier who maybe didn't know that something should "count" as rape than about the young woman in question. You know, as a philosophical question. I've seen you classify being certain you have consent before sex progresses as mind reading and a mood-killer. I've seen you argue with a rape victim about the motivations of her attacker. Ditto with someone describing another rape with which she was conversant of the details. And throughout this entire thing, I've watched you be much more concerned with whether anyone was calling you a rapist, and with downplaying rape statistics, than with wondering whether serious contemplation of something like a rape switch metaphor might add anything to our understanding of how to prevent rape.Now you suggest that I should worry about whether my thinking "rapist" versus "highly likely to be a rapist" when deciding whether to take evasive action in wartime might cost innocent lives?!? What the hell are you up to?

  18. 18
    rystefn

    You can react to potential danger without being certain about it. I avoid crawling through bushes in the woods out here because I know there might be rattlesnakes or copperheads in there, not because I'm certain of it. I don't poke alligators with sticks because I know it might attack me if I do, not because I'm certain it will. I avoid dark alleys in bad neighborhoods because I know there may be violent people lying in wait there, not because I am certain of it. I could go on all day.

  19. 19
    gregladen

    We're saying no one is a rapist unless and until that person actually rapes someone.Avoid soldiers in a time of war. It's smart. But do it because they're more likely to be rapists than most categories of people are. Don't assume they ARE rapists. It's a subtle difference, but it's the difference between rational caution and bigotry.We are talking about capability, if a person is able to do something (is in that person's range of ability, mentally) or not. This is especially interesting in human rape because of the physical things that have to happen to make that occur. There is a difference between a man who cannot become sexually aroused — with a sustainable erection — at the immediate prospect of forcibly dragging a woman to the ground, cutting off her clothing with a knife, penetrating her, ejaculating, and then perhaps finishing off the act with a deep slice to the throat or a bullet through the brain.I cannot imagine being sexualy aroused under those circumstances. I think someone who can or is classifies as a very different kind of person than we think of for any normal male walking around in regular society. Don't you think? If not, get help now, please.The difference between a person who can do that and who can not do that … a person who can sustain an erection and achieve an orgasm while killing the woman (or man) he is fucking vs. not … is not a small difference. It is a big difference. It is the difference between a person who is a rapist and a person who is not a rapist. Why is it so hard to get this? To get that this cries out for explanation? To get that it does not matter if the person does or does not commit some hypothetical act. This is not political, or social. We do not need to be nice to anyone when discussing this. The argument that someone will feel affronted is absurd. If the ability to obtain a viable erection and achieve an orgasm while engaged in the act of violence does not seem a little odd … in other words, if it seems normal that rape simply equals a form of violence (Oh, I think I might punch you. No, maybe I'll kick you. No, maybe I'll get an erection and fuck you…) then please seek help.Oh, DuWayne, I agree with what you say in the first paragraph of your first comment, but I don't think anyone said that. The switch theory says there is a switch. It says if the switch is turned on, you ae capable of (see above). The condition under which the switch gets turned on may be variable, as you suggest, but certainly, warfare, or more exactly, certain kinds of warfare (for certain kinds of soldiers, training, whatever) constitutes one of those conditions. Heavans, if every single person in that state must have the switch turned on for the hypothesis to be viable, then we should also be living in a world in which if I burn two CD's fromthe same exact iso file, I should get two exact CD's. But sometimes I don't, even with the digital media (as happened to me moments ago!). People are not all going to respond identically.The key, useful part of the switch idea is that rape is simply an impossibility for a given man, then it is a possibility. Rape is not an extention of violence, a potential alwayas available option for violence (punch, kick,fuck, whatever … no, it does not work that way) and it is something that most normal average men on most days can't conceive of doing, even if one can conceive, for instance, of killing someone.

  20. 20
    rystefn

    No. A person who rapes is a rapist. A person who has never done so is not. A person who is physically and mentally capable of doing so but hasn't yes, is just that: A person who is capable. That's not the same thing.A person who can imagine having violent sex is not half the fucked-up freak you try to make him out to be in your post. It is not so very long ago that I forcibly grabbed a woman, pulled he to the ground ripped he clothes off (sorry, no knife), penetrated her, and had an orgasm. I didn't kill her afterwards, but I did choke her for a while. Now, I'm not sure you wanted such a detailed look into my sex life, but you brought it on yourself with this comment. You have now expanded from calling all soldiers rapists to calling a significant fraction of the BDSM world people in need of professional psychiatric help who should not be a part of the rest of society.If I didn't know better, I'd think you were going out of your way to insult me now, Greg.

  21. 21
    Becca

    Wow. Way to be Worst Advertisement for BDSM folks EVAR.

  22. 22
    rystefn

    I'm not an advertisement, nor a role model. I have no interest in becoming one.

  23. 23
    gregladen

    I am a more or less average guy. There are people that I know that objectively speaking I would certainly find sexually interesting. I can imagine circumstances arising in which sexual interaction could be a possibility (in terms of the surrounding circumstances) with this or that person, but since I am in a typical average monogamous relationship I would repress those feelings and at the very least ask my wife if it was OK first. She would probably say no, but whatever.Now, if I was potentially sexually aroused in an act like we have just had described to us, I would hope that I would only engage in such acts with totally willing partners. I would have the occasion, however, to engage in such an act with others … to carry out a violent dragging to the ground etc. etc. But I would not do that without asting the lady in the parking lot's permission. And she would probably say no. You seem to be saying that you area person aroused by the violent act of rape, and capable of doing it, and that you do in fact do it. You have not explicitly said that you only carry out such acts with a totally willing partner, but I suppose we are o assume that this is the case. You are a rapist. You happen to not rape innocent bystanders because you stop yourself from doing it, maybe you even stop yourself from thinking about it. But rape is something you are capable of, and that you do occassionally, under artificially highly controlled circumstances.This is as I thought. When you state in your post "I'm not sure you wanted such a detailed look into my sex life, but you brought it on yourself with this comment." you seriously misunderstand my intentions. My intentions with the comment to which you have responded were to trick you into admitting that you are a rapist. I think that pretty much clears everything up. Now, as promised (to some of you in a different setting) I'm off to bed now. kthxby

  24. 24
    rystefn

    You tricked me into exactly nothing, since I revealed nothing to you that's not already been made public on my own blog and several others. You were searching for an excuse to continue to call me a rapist. If it makes you feel better to do so, I think maybe you're the one who needs to seek help immediately. At least I only treat people badly who like it.

  25. 25
    Jason Thibeault

    Rystefn: that sounds a lot like "don't dress provocatively, don't go out after dark, don't be a prostitute, or you're asking to be raped". There's self-defense as a matter of course with all situations, and there's making excuses for why a rape happened. And I agree with Greg — it takes a special sort of person to be able to carry out a violent act like a rape. That special-ness IS that switch, even if it's a gradiated potential probability rather than an on-off switch.For those of you worried about being thought of as a rapist, when you're not being *actually accused* of being a rapist, grow the hell up. What a woman thinks when she's avoiding a situation that may lead to her being raped is none of your concern. Because all men and all women are capable of all manner of heinous acts, and everyone is forced to play the odds every time they decide to trust or distrust someone, how they decide to process the variables and what the end results of that processing happen to be labelled don't matter in the long run. Actions matter. In a decision matrix: / assume rapist / assume not rapistis rapist / avoided rape / got rapedis not rapist / avoided unnecessarily / nothing bad!(sorry – Blogger hates tables.)Doesn't seem that hard.

  26. 26
    Stephanie Zvan

    Bullshit, Rystefn. You've been treating people badly throughout this discussion. And none of us agreed to be your subs.

  27. 27
    gregladen

    Rystefn, one of the many things you are not getting is that it is actually OK to be a rapist. As long as you totally keep it to yourself.OK, off to bed now for real.

  28. 28
    Stephanie Zvan

    Or at least between consenting friends.

  29. 29
    Jason Thibeault

    Well that's a layer of complication I wasn't actually expecting, despite his earlier dropping of the "larger BDSM world"… I'd never looked at his blog, and I was spending too much time fiddling with tables (damn you Blogger).Ultimately, that's exactly what BDSM is, simulated rape by people who enjoy the idea of rape in a controlled environment. There's nothing wrong with participating in that within your own little sphere, because everyone's actually consenting and that's just a charade, but remember that outside that sphere, your actions are rape. Your arguments are arguing for the acceptance of rape. You are capable of physically asserting yourself over someone who truly does not want to participate, as opposed to just play-acting that they don't want to participate. I don't think you have any moral high ground to argue that legitimate instances of no-meaning-yes exist today outside of the sphere of your BDSM friends. And you don't have any right to argue that anyone should be applying different mental labels to you or anyone else while they are making calculations as to whether or not they can trust you, especially when those mental labels they've applied to you are in every respect correct save one minor one, that you have a "safe word".And just remember, with all of the other criteria having been fulfilled, what happens if something tiny changes in your brain and you stop caring that the person is saying a safe word? Or you look for newcomers to the field and don't bother to explain the safe word (e.g. the one you said was not aware of this practice)? Then you've crossed that line that you're only millimeters away from, and you're no longer a "potential rapist" that already acts out violent fantasies, now suddenly you're really doing them to an unwilling participant. And all it would take is a head trauma, or a bad reaction to a drug, or even lingering issues from your tours of duty. Do your best to control yourself so you don't become what you already pretend to be.

  30. 30
    Stephanie Zvan

    Jason, to be fair and to the best of my very limited knowledge, I'd say Rystefn generally has all that down. He also has the ability to grab onto an idea and let it carry him a very long way, probably passing signposts he wouldn't under his own power.

  31. 31
    DuWayne Brayton

    AARRGGHH!!! I think I just lost the war of attrition with Greg – I still disagree and I think you are engaging in an egregious logical fallacy that is ultimately self defeating, but I am giving it up.Stephanie -I understand and respect your position, but I do have to agree with ry about cops and soldiers doing the same thing – that's what gets innocent people dead. Cops and soldiers are engaged in a job that is inherently dangerous and should accept that they need that certainty to be real, before they pull the trigger – innocent lives are more important than their own – period.

  32. 32
    rystefn

    Jason, that's not quite how I intended it, and if it came out that way, I assure you, I did not intend that way in the slightest. I'm not worried about being thought of as a rapist, though I 'd really rather people not think of me that way. I'm concerned with being directly called one, which has happened repeatedly in the last few days.Greg, what you're not getting here is that it's not ok to call me a rapist. I'm not ok with this, and I'm not ok with you redefining the word to include me.Stephanie, I apologize, I missed one of your comments in everything that's going on, so let me go back and correct that now. It's rather long, so this will likely be as well:I do not demand that you embrace the distinction, merely that you recognize that there is one and that it matters to the people being called rapists. I do not demand that allowances be made about when "no" means "no," I merely point out that sometimes it doesn't. When I tell TheLady how she can and can't argue, I meant it in the sense that I'd tell someone they can't change the subject or they can't cherry pick.It's not about winning to me. None of the semi-intertwined discussions being referenced here are about winning to me. Well, unless you count getting an apology for being called a rapist winning. Small victory that would be, but it does matter to me, and has pretty much the start. Partway through the first comment I made on the subject, in fact. What behavior will I consider acceptable? No different than how I've been behaving for the last ten years or so, I'd say… though I'm not sure what harm I managed to cause here. Maybe you could point it out to me?You've seen me decide that the exceptions (not MY exceptions), to "no means no" are important enough to argue over because they were dismissed as nonexistant in the modern world. This is patently and demonstrably wrong, so I corrected the misconception. You have NOT seen me worry more about a soldier who didn't know something should "count" as rape than about the young woman. You saw me worry at all about whether or not we should accuse a man of rape when he honestly and sincerely believes that there was consent, and had a rational reason for that belief. I specifically agreed that it in no way reduced the trauma to the woman in question. You have NOT seen me classify being certain of consent as mind-reading. You've seen me classify getting consent and knowing the person in question felt it was coerced without giving any outward sign as mind-reading. You have NOT seen me classify being certain of consent as being a mood-killer. You've seen me relate an experience wherein stopping to explain that "no" in fact meant "yes" at that particular moment was a mood-killer.You have NOT seen me argue with a rape victim victim about the motivations of her attacker. You have seen me disagree with a person venturing a "perhaps" statement with an "I'm inclined to think" statement. Hardly an argument. To the extent that my discussion with catgirl could be characterized as an argument, it was merely over how much weight each of two influences carried. We both agreed that both influences were present. I never downplayed rape statistics, I merely pointed out admitted faults with the numbers. I participated with the discussion about the "rape switch" metaphor at great length. If you disagree with my stance, that in no way changes this fact. I am not concerned with whether or not anyone is calling me a rapist. I am concerned with the fact that a specific person is beyond doubt doing so, and has been for some time now. I don't think that's unreasonable.I am also NOT suggesting that you should worry etc… Just pointing out that training yourself to unwarranted certainty may not be something you rally want to do if you carefully consider it.I am up to approximately 6'4".Did I miss anything? Oh yes, the other comment you left after that. Unless you characterize disagreement as treating people badly, I really have no idea what you're talking about.

  33. 33
    DuWayne Brayton

    Oi, and I have to really disagree with you on the notion that there is no more difference between BDSM and actual rape, than a safeword. And I also have to take exception to the notion that people who are into BDSM are somehow mad rapists, barely contained by the fantasy outlet they enjoy.I am not into BDSM, but I have a lot of friends who are. No offense, but your assertion only shows your ignorance of that fetish and the community that enjoys it.

  34. 34
    rystefn

    So I missed a bit while I was typing in that long-winded post. Mostly a not-short one by Jason.First, to clarify an apparent misconception you have: BDSM is not necessarily simulated rape, though it can be. There's a wide swath of behaviors and mental processes that fall under that heading. Please try to be careful about generalizing.Second, there's a pretty large swath of people who do enjoy this specific set of activities who go very, very far out of their way to discourage anyone from referring to them as "rape," "simulated rape," "pretend rape," "rape play," or anything else that involves the word "rape." They have very valid reasons for this. Please be careful about referring to it this way.Third, remember the line between "rape" and "not-rape" is consent. So long as I have consent, nothing I do is rape. That is precisely the point I was making, and I stand by it. If you're interested, I could point you to a rather large discussion on the subject I had with JanieBelle over at UDoJ.Fourth, "no" means "yes" in far more cases than the narrow confines of the BDSM world, of which I am not enough of a part to characterize them as my "friends." With that statement you've mischaracterized most of my friends and probably offended quite a fair chunk of the BDSM world.Fifth, I don't have a safe word. I'm not submissive. "No" and "stop" are perfectly functional for me, I have no need of a safe word. In the case of legitimate confusion on that front, it is accepted and expected that physical force be used to stop any act of which I do not approve.Sixth, as I've said before, I understand that given the right (wrong) circumstances, I am capable of committing acts I would otherwise find unthinkable. The idea both horrifies and sickens me, but pretending the possibility isn't there is not on the table.

  35. 35
    Jason Thibeault

    I'd argue that, to victims of rape, to psychologists, to profilers and other professionals in law enforcement, etc., the sets of behaviours exhibited by that subset within the BDSM community that you've described, who take umbrage at such domination being called "rape play", would count as being close enough to rape to raise red flags. I don't think you're going to win on a semantic argument here. It may not be as DuWayne says that they're "mad rapists barely contained by the fantasies they enjoy", but in order to stop rapists from raping, one has to know who they are, and the set of behaviours has such a large overlap with actual rapists so as to be virtually indistinguishable save for the act itself.Granted, the actions of your average liberal or conservative activist have a huge overlap with the actions of a radicalized member of the same subset that it bothers me when governments go about spying on only the activists of the opposite political party. So I'm not advocating thought police. I'm saying semantics won't keep people from rightly suspecting that you're physically capable and have fewer barriers to the action than other people. Your own moral need to have consent ahead of time is the only barrier left where others also have barriers against exerting physical force over their partner, dominating them, hitting them, or being aroused by their pain or cries of anguish (even when the particular people involved also enjoy that anguish).So those people that need to keep themselves safe, those people that apply the label "rapist" in their thought processes in deciding whether or not to be safe, well, too bad. They have every right in using that label in their heads. That Greg is voicing the idea that this is possible — that there is a subset of people capable of rape and might therefore actually rape when presented the opportunity — may be heavy-handed in saying "let's call these people who CAN rape, 'rapists'," but that heavy-handedness only comes from stretching a term already agreed-upon to apply only to people who have committed the act.

  36. 36
    gregladen

    Greg, what you're not getting here is that it's not ok to call me a rapist. I'm not ok with this, and I'm not ok with you redefining the word to include me.If you want to offer a more nuanced terminology, that could be useful. But you have been arguing with semantics, rather than about semantics, which will not get you far with me.

  37. 37
    gregladen

    Oi, and I have to really disagree with you on the notion that there is no more difference between BDSM and actual rape, than a safeword. And I also have to take exception to the notion that people who are into BDSM are somehow mad rapists, barely contained by the fantasy outlet they enjoy.I basically agree with you on this.

  38. 38
    Jason Thibeault

    It seems to me I am being ineloquent when it comes to my positions on BDSM. While I could not participate in any of it myself save maybe light bondage, I don't have a problem with others doing so, nor do I think that makes them necessarily rapists or even necessarily capable of rape. What I'm referring to when I say that BDSM "is simulated rape", is that the behaviours overlap significantly with those necessary for rape, and that one subset of BDSM practitioners whose acts overlap very much with rape fantasies are particularly sensitive to having those acts called anything to do with rape because of the stigma associated with the word. The thing is, again, that subset overlaps far too significantly such that the only difference at that point is consent — and you'd best hope that your moral compunctions about consent are really really strong because you're already blurring the line of your own volition between acts of sexualized aggression.I guess my problem is that I can't personally combine aggression and sexuality. I suspect a lot of others are the same way. I think that indicates a shared prejudice against these acts, because they are so close as to be nearly indistinguishable from the actual acts of rape or assault.

  39. 39
    Lou FCD

    I've just finished reading the comments on Greg's first and second posts, as well as this one. Here's the way I see it, thus far.Labels:Rystefn and DuWayne are right about labels. People don't fit into neat little boxes as we are well aware, so labeling all men in particular circumstances as rapists is both unjust and inaccurate. I understand why they have taken Greg to task on this, and frankly I agree with them. The whole switch discussion went south the minute Greg overgeneralized in the original post. To say that people have a switch is one thing, to say that all men in war are rapists (which is really how Greg phrased it) is quite another.Does everyone have a rape switch? Maybe, I don't know. Probably, in fact. That doesn't make everyone a rapist.Switches:Everyone is capable of anything, under the right circumstance. I'm not sure why this is news. It doesn't help the conversation to continue conflating "having a rapist switch" with being a rapist.Causality of Rape:Several women have said basically that rape is all about power and not at all about sex or more about power than sex. Rystefn says that it's more about sex than power, and does make a point about most rapes being date-rape/friend-rape/acquaintance-rape. As most things in this universe eventually turn out to be, I suspect that rape occurs along a spectrum. It will turn out that there is no single cause or motivation for rape, only varying mixtures of multiple causes.BDSM and Becca:Similarly, Becca's comment to Rystefn regarding his sexuality (on this post) seems to assume that there is only one right way to enjoy BDSM sex. I found her snark rather simplistic, condescending, and uninformed. There are exactly two key words that are relevant here: consenting adults.Reading further into this thread.Greg, you know I love ya' babe, but:You're out of line, calling Rystefn (and similarly, me) a rapist. Rape by definition entails a lack of consent. Rystefn engages (to the best of our knowledge) in no such thing, and neither do I. You owe several of us a serious apology.Jason:"The thing is, again, that subset overlaps far too significantly such that the only difference at that point is consent — and you'd best hope that your moral compunctions about consent are really really strong because you're already blurring the line of your own volition between acts of sexualized aggression."The only difference between consensual sex of any sort and rape is consent. You'd best hope the same thing unless you're a virgin and intend to live out your life in that way.Finally, because it really is relevant to this discussion, the thread referenced by Rystefn regarding what constitutes rape can be found here at UDoJ, which itself references the story of Lucifer and Lilith called, The Lilith Obsession (immediately previous posts to that conversation).

  40. 40
    gregladen

    "What I'm referring to when I say that BDSM "is simulated rape", is that the behaviours overlap significantly with those necesWhat I'm referring to when I say that BDSM "is simulated rape", is that the behaviours overlap significantly with those necessary for rape, and that one subset of BDSM practitioners whose acts overlap very much with rape fantasies are particularly sensitive to having those acts called anything to do with rape because of the stigma associated with the word.sary for rape, and that one subset of BDSM practitioners whose actWhat I'm referring to when I say that BDSM "is simulated rape", is that the behaviours overlap significantly with those necessary for rape, and that one subset of BDSM practitioners whose acts overlap very much with rape fantasies are particularly sensitive to having those acts called anything to do with rape because of the stigma associated with the word.s overlap very much with rape fantasies are particularly sensitive to having those acts called anything to do with rape because of the stigma associated with the word.Jason, what you are saying makes sense. Now, I don't believe for a second that there is not a pile of actual research on this particular issue. Has anybody read any of it or are we just flapping around the belfry here?

  41. 41
    rystefn

    I don't have any numbers close to hand, but I'm about to start looking for them. I just want to say beforehand that I'm fairly certain the percentage of people who engage in violent consensual sex who ever rape is much lower than among the general population.If I turn out to be right, I think both Greg and Jason will owe a lot of people apologies for their statements here.

  42. 42
    Stephanie Zvan

    Get over yourself, Rystefn. Somebody brought up pedophiles in all this. A pedophile who never touches a child is a hero. Ditto for someone who is turned on by violence and arranges things so no one is ever violated. The fact that you can't tell the difference between someone who is using a word that others have used as an insult and someone who is insulting you is not their problem.

  43. 43
    Stephanie Zvan

    Let me clarify that last bit:The fact that you can't tell the difference between someone who is using a word that others have used as an insult–when they repeatedly specify how they're using that word and that there is no reason for the word itself to be an insult–and someone who is insulting you is not their problem.

  44. 44
    E.B

    In defense of rystefn:BDSM is not rape. Violent sex is not rape if both parties consent. It is only rape if one is unwilling. A person who commits real rape might do so violently, or more gently though intimidation. There is always a possibility of any sexual scenario turning into rape, but the risk is there whether you are kissing a boy in college, or meeting with a dom. Things can always escalate. Plus, Greg said himself that rape is not just (or always) about violence. Conversely, violence in sex is not always (or just) about rape. People react differently to different stimuli. Rape is a violation. Not only are subs in a properly arranged BDSM relationship "willing," they are actually fulfilling a desire. They are not letting the person choke or whip them (etc) they have asked them to.And the most interesting aspect in a D/s encounter to those uninitiated is that the balance of power actually lies with the sub, who sets boundaries, controls what and when, and when it stops. The dom is in fact generally working not just for his own pleasure, but to please the sub by fulfilling their mutually complementary fantasies.Rape does not equal violence and vice-versa. It has to do with being violated, and having someone forcibly assault you. BDSM is completely consensual.I'm not saying a dom would never rape, but I'm not saying your little brother or best friend wouldn't either.

  45. 45
    DuWayne Brayton

    Sorry Jason, but it just doesn't hold water. Yes, there is a subset of the population who are both into BDSM and are also rapists in fact. But there is the same subset in the rest of the population. And before you go blithely implying that the doms are somehow more likely to engage in rape, you are also implying that the sub actually wants to be raped, in point of fact.I have had a couple of partners who are into being dominated, included ridicule, punishment and with one the insistence of fighting (not hard) most of the time we had sex. The latter including the time she greeted me at the door naked and nearly had my pants off before the door was locked – her actions and sometimes her words were "no" while she wasn't only saying yes – she was demanding sex. I am not good at the role of a dom. Being forced to be cruel to someone I care about wasn't easy until I fully accepted that that is what they wanted and it was a roleplay that excited them. Trust me when I say that neither of them had the slightest desire to actually be raped. And trust me when I say that the only way I was able to find it arousing is that my partners arousal is all that makes sex worth having for me. Because without that factor, the actual orgasm part – I prefer what I can do alone, to masturbation using someone else's body.People are aroused by a lot of different things, things that others just don't find exciting. I used to hate any pain in a sexual context, but I have come to appreciate what the right sort of pain at the right intensity does for the sensory experience. I accept that some people appreciate pain the same way, at intensities beyond what I like – sometimes quite a bit. But then, some people like insanely hot foods.I will be writing a post about sexuality outside the context of what gender and/or sex one prefers in their partners, soon. It will hit on this in great detail – although I am thinking I may need to write separate posts for specific fetishes – or groupings of fetishes…Suffice to say that sexuality is not nearly as simple as some people think it is.

  46. 46
    DuWayne Brayton

    OOOh, EB, I really like your blog. I will be linking and writing a blurb post – I LOVE marketing – completely fascinates me in the abstract…

  47. 47
    DuWayne Brayton

    Or are you guys actually keeping it up anymore?

  48. 48
    E.B

    haha not so much but i've been meaning to start a new one. especially given the amount of posting i've been doing to facebook… it may be time to stop flooding my friends' news feeds. feel free to link, however there won't be any new content until i start my own. which i might do right about now…

  49. 49
    Jason Thibeault

    "And before you go blithely implying that the doms are somehow more likely to engage in rape, you are also implying that the sub actually wants to be raped, in point of fact."I don't think I'm doing that, in fact. I think what I said was pretty clear about it being entirely about the barriers for certain activities being down. Violent rape of the type we're discussing is not "merely" date-rape or grey-rape, but rape involving physical violence or physical force, the barriers against which are already non-existent in someone that actively enjoys BDSM activities that fall into the realm of "rape-play" (though saying that again will likely get me lambasted). And yes, violent or forceful rape is the specific topic at hand, not date-rape or grey-rape, despicable as either of those two topics are. So I don't think in point of fact I'm being prejudiced against BDSM participants in suggesting that being a person capable of sexual acts involving violence is a necessity for being a person capable of violent rape.

  50. 50
    E.B

    Why is violent rape the specific topic at hand? Regardless, I think the motivations are more important than the actions here. The barrier you're talking about isn't the one essential to rape. Rape dehumanizes another person, it uses them. BDSM is mutual. A man who caters to sexual desires not generally accepted as normal, whether he derives pleasure from it or not, is not really hurting someone. That man may or may not ever want to harm someone in reality. You may see his actions as violent, but to his partner, they are sexual. It is a mutual experience, not a selfish one.

  51. 51
    rystefn

    Stephanie, let me draw you a parallel. It's not 100% equivalent, but maybe it will get my point across here. I have petty broad musical tastes and good memory for lyrics. So one day I'm jamming out and singing along with any of a hundred rap songs as I walk down the street, when a young man stops me and angrily informs me that my usage of the word "nigger" even in that context offends him. Now, I could blather on and on at great length about how there's nothing wrong with what I said, and in the context of usage there, he is in fact, a nigger, and there's nothing wrong with that. That would an asshole thing to do, though. So I apologize, explain I meant no offense, and in the future, respect his desires in this regard and don't do it around him anymore.I most surely do not say to him: "The fact that you can't tell the difference between someone who is using a word that others have used as an insult–when they repeatedly specify how they're using that word and that there is no reason for the word itself to be an insult–and someone who is insulting you is not their problem."Does that make sense? And go babbling about how racism is different again. Look at the similarities, not the differences, please, and see if maybe you can understand a little the complete inappropriateness of what you just said.

  52. 52
    Stephanie Zvan

    Because, E.B., this is my blog and post and safety and fear we're talking about, whether anyone really wants to address that or not.

  53. 53
    DuWayne Brayton

    Jason – The problem is that what you imply about one person involved in BDSM, you are also implicating the partner or partners of that person. …the barriers against which are already non-existent in someone that actively enjoys BDSM activities that fall into the realm of "rape-play" (though saying that again will likely get me lambasted)I'm sorry but this is complete and utter bullshit! People who engage in BDSM, have the Exact same fucking filters that you or I do, that prevent us from being aroused by someone who is actually being raped. That is to say that some don't have that filter, but neither does everyone who doesn't engage in BDSM.You are making a huge logical fallacy in assuming that because someone is engaging in roleplays of violent sexual encounters with a consenting partner, are anymore inclined to such encounters with an unwilling partner. One does not dictate the other. Most people who engage in BDSM have the exact same reaction to actual sexual assault that we do – this includes going limp as a fucking hotdog at the notion.Again, the human mind and human sexuality are not even close to as simple as you seem to think they are.

  54. 54
    Jason Thibeault

    I still don't think what I'm trying to say is coming across right. I don't see any inherent fallacy in saying that, first, violent rape involves (say) the following behaviours:a) aggressiveness (in a sexual situation)b) willingness to impose your will on another personc) lack of need for consentOnly C makes you a rapist. A and B make you for instance a BDSM practitioner. For non-violent rape (though I'd argue all rape is to some degree violent), you'd only need B and C. A doesn't even necessarily factor into rape by coercion or by drugs or what have you, except via escalation. For me, someone incapable of conflating violence and sexuality, there is one extra barrier, A, against my becoming a violent rapist. Since we're only talking about violent rape in a wartime situation right now, would you not agree that all three conditions must be met, and that BDSM practitioners have one or two of them met already? I'm not saying they're any more capable of rape (because their need for consent may in fact be overdeveloped to compensate for the line they're skirting in conflating sexuality and violence to begin with), but I'm saying that they've already checked off an extra box or two in the checklist of conditions necessary before violent rape like the rape going on in warzones becomes even possible.Jeez, does it honestly sound like I'm just prejudiced against BDSM practitioners and think they're all rapists? I'm trying to make as much distinction as possible between violent rape and "non-violent" rape in my theorizing here, not only because I'm not a psychologist, but because I do know there are tangible psychological differences. While both behaviours are totally fucked up, immoral and reprehensible, it's the difference between "just" robbing a store and setting it on fire afterward. (And I'm sure I'm going to piss someone off with that analogy too…)

  55. 55
    DuWayne Brayton

    Jeez, does it honestly sound like I'm just prejudiced against BDSM practitioners and think they're all rapists?In all honesty, no, it sounds more like you really don't understand what you are talking about. In the interest of putting this tangent somewhere else (I will actually write a post there when I have time), unless Stephanie really doesn't mind this BDSM tangent continuing here, we can take it here…

  56. 56
    Jason Thibeault

    I moved my argument there out of deference to Stephanie, because nobody seems to be arguing the main thrust of her post. Which I happen to agree with, wholeheartedly. What internal mental label she applies in making the decision to be wary of men is of no import to anyone. If your ego is bruised by being mistaken for a rapist, but not bruised by being mistaken for a *potential* rapist, then you're splitting hairs with some mighty fine scissors.

  57. 57
    Will Shetterly

    I just read the post that you asked for no comment on, so for now, I just want to say I'm sorry. It's the internet, and everyone on it is kind of clueless.Later, I would love to have a discussion about how we talk about things that are hard to discuss online, because I've seen a lot of culture clash in this.But that's not an opening for a discussion now. Taking some time now is undoubtedly good. Right now, I just want to say I'm sorry.

  58. 58
    rystefn

    Internal mental labels are of no import to anyone externally, or at least of no significant import. To the person applying the label, they do. If that's what you have to do to be safe, or even to feel safe, that's your choice. I personally think it's not the best choice, but the most I'll do on that front is give a word of caution.The problem starts when you tell others that this is appropriate. When you encourage others to apply these same labels. When you conflate these internal labels with statements of fact and publicly defend them as such. At that point, it's no longer a purely internal mental label. It's an accusation. Now you're harming other people. Now it's perfectly valid for other people to concern themselves with it.

  59. 59
    the real meme

    rystefn: Bravo, I second this comment:"The problem starts when you tell others that this is appropriate. When you encourage others to apply these same labels. When you conflate these internal labels with statements of fact and publicly defend them as such. At that point, it's no longer a purely internal mental label. It's an accusation. Now you're harming other people. Now it's perfectly valid for other people to concern themselves with it."

  60. 60
    Stephanie Zvan

    Will, you've got nothing to apologize for. Seriously. Tell Emma I love you both.Rest of the world, I'll have something to say when I think my communication skills–reading and writing–are up to the task. Not even trying before then.

  61. 61
    rystefn

    Huh… going back and reading, it turns out Stephanie was a rather large part of that conversation back at UDoJ I referenced earlier. I had no idea. Funny coincidence, that. /tangent>

  62. 62
    Stephanie Zvan

    See the new blog post for something that is hopefully more coherent. And for fuck's sake, please ask if you don't understand part of it.

  63. 63
    rystefn

    I think I understood it, but miscommunications happen. I apologize if I mischaracterize your stance in any way.

  1. 64
    Too Ugly to Be Raped | Almost Diamonds

    [...] been presented yet, we spent quite a bit of time trying to get that same idea across. I had a stab at trying to explain the difference between a legal or societal presumption of innocence and [...]

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