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Aug 30 2013

Rape culture Friday

It’s rape culture day in the neighborhood.

There’s Alex’s Shouting arson in a crowded theatre: rape, reputations and reasonable suspicion.

The statements we have don’t warrant certainty. They may or may not meet legal standards of proof. But they do meet what standards we need to ask ourselves, ‘Should this person attend our conference?’ or ‘Should we invite them to our group?’ – and to answer these questions reasonably, if provisionally. This does not amount to pitchfork-laden mob rule; it does not amount to vigilantism; and the evidence we have, while many no doubt would welcome legal procedures, should not in my opinion be deemed wholly meaningless in the absence of court action.

The ‘Take it to court, or else’ approach – the all-or-nothing suggestion that, until and unless a trial is held and a guilty verdict reached, no statement can ever be more than idle gossip or demand concern – is profoundly naïve and illogical. We know only a tiny percentage of rapes that occur end in conviction; refusing to entertain, even hypothetically, the notion someone may at some point have raped because no court has deemed them guilty is likely, in the real world, to mean ignoring almost every instance of rape. It evokes, too, the ‘Just tell the police’ response to conference harassment.

Personally, I wouldn’t want legality to be the sole requirement for conduct at my event, and reporters of harassment don’t always want punitive action in the first place (they might just want to be listened to; they might want organisers to look out for them throughout the conference, have a private word with someone who’s bothered them or keep an eye on that person; they might want to be placed with a friendly, reliable companion or group during social hours, so as to feel less stranded). But things like expulsion from conferences do not, in any case, require criminal convictions or the standards of proof that those demand. Innocent-till-proven-guilty, with no shades of intermediate, probabilistic grey is how court systems rightly work when incarceration or registration as a sex offender is on the table; it is not how the rest of the world has to work, where degrees of reasonable suspicion exist, and the idea accusations less than perfectly watertight can never be made is a dangerous, damaging one which silences a great many victims.

There’s Jason’s A Voice For Men: willing to publish libel to “prove” points about fake rape claims – part 1, math.

Today I woke up to a lovely morning — the birds were singing, a cat clambered up onto the bed demanding affection from my wife and me, it was reasonably cool and not terribly humid, and I had a phone notification buried in amongst the pile of work server notifications that I’d received a pingback on my blog from A Voice for Men.

I’m really moving up in the world, building a genuine rogues’ gallery of people hellbent on making my life miserable. I must be a real threat to some people’s blinkered worldviews now! My name is apparently splattered across the front page of their antifeminist conclave with the epithet “confessed rapist” attached. Two days ago it was r/MensRights, now it’s the Alpha Males themselves beating their chests and beating on my reputation.

Why? Because I believe Shermer’s accusers and believe that he’s probably a lot looser with consent than he should be, possibly up to and including being willing to rape unconscious victims. And that I’m willing to believe this even despite my having personally experienced a fake rape charge at 16. Instead of becoming an angry man shouting down those uppity feminists for advocating for clear consent, I sided with the feminists, and therefore I am the enemy. Therefore I am a monster. And I must be STOPPED.

And there’s Elyse’s hair-raisingly horrific post on what it’s like to be raped and report it and be dismissed. And then to be raped again, and then another time.

I was raped. I reported it. I was raped. I didn’t report it. I was raped. I reported it but I didn’t press charges. I was raped. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do so I told myself that I wasn’t raped.

 But I was. I was raped.

We have these conversations about rape, conversations that always include a question of “Was the rape reported to the police?” Women are taught that when they get raped, it is our duty to report it. We are obligated to press charges. We must crusade for justice. If the rapist is a real rapist, and he raped someone, it the victim’s duty to stop him.

And we think we know what rape looks like. We know there’s bushes or drinks involved. There’s kicking and screaming… or unconsciousness… and the word “NO!” can be heard from the next room or by passersby. And there’s crying. Crying during. Crying after. So. much. crying. And there’s blood. At least SOME blood.

And we know what to do when you know you’re being raped. If there’s a weapon, you don’t fight. If there’s no weapon, you do. And you make sure you scratch him to get his DNA under your nails. And you don’t shower. And you don’t change. And you go to the hospital. Right away. You’d be irresponsible to wash away evidence.

Even though women put a lot of effort into not getting themselves raped, we already have the script written. We have a plan. We know how we’ll handle it when someone finally thwarts our attempts to get through the night un-raped.

Funny thing about rape, though, is that sometimes your rapist doesn’t match what you thought your rapist would look like. Sometimes central casting sends in dudes that don’t match the type you were already planning to get raped by. And sometimes these guys go off script, ad libbing lines and their timing is off and sometimes it’s the script is edited so much, you didn’t even recognize that this was Your Rape because NONE of the shit that just went down was part of the original plan.

So that’s the neighborhood.

9 comments

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  1. 1
    Anthony K

    Why wouldn’t anyone automatically trust the police?

    (For those who don’t click on links: I have evidence that the Wisconsin Capitol police are a bunch of moron thugs. Do I take this evidence to them? I wouldn’t want to spread it around recklessly. I wouldn’t want to ruin lives with false allegations.)

  2. 2
    jenBPhillips

    My first response in reading Elyse’s post was to recall an incident from my past that I never categorized as rape, but, in retrospect, clearly was.
    My second response was to wonder how many other people were having that same revelation.

  3. 3
    jenBPhillips

    Don’t know what I did to trigger moderation, but whatever it was I’M SORRY!! PLEASE LET ME BACK IN THE CLUBHOUSE!!!

  4. 4
    Ophelia Benson

    Jen – NOTHING! – it was a site-wide hiccup. It is we who apologize to you. (Not that we meant to do that…)

  5. 5
    melaniemallon

    My first response in reading Elyse’s post was to recall an incident from my past that I never categorized as rape, but, in retrospect, clearly was.

    My second response was to wonder how many other people were having that same revelation.

    I am, and this keeps happening with the discussion of rape and sexual assault and sexual harassment, especially over the past three or four months. I acknowledge one event from my life for what it is, yet not the others. Then another post or discussion and I acknowledge one more. Then one more. It’s amazing to me how I keep rationalizing various events as not rape, not assault, not harassment when they happened to me, even though I have no problem calling them what they are when they happen to other people. It’s some kind of masochistic cognitive dissonance or something.

  6. 6
    sezit

    Not rape, but sexual assault. In reading and thinking on this subject, I have amazingly just realized that I have had several sexual assaults that I never categorized as such. In my mind, they were just “jerks being jerks”. I also have reprocessed some interactions from guys who l was in relationships with, and realized that their disrespectful sexual interactions with me (done without my permission, then told I didn’t want them to do it, then that cycle repeated many times) was continual microagression toward me. I’m really kind of depressed right now. How can I ever trust men when I feel like they don’t care if they act with honor?

  7. 7
    lee deLay

    Has there been a MRA bulletin that went out or something that I missed? Its like its been sexual harassment by customers day at work too.

  8. 8
    Ophelia Benson

    I think maybe there was.

  9. 9
    iknklast

    I was having a conversation with a friend at work, and we were discussing an indiidual that I have regular (too regular) contact with, always humiliating. He talks to my chest, talks down to me, instructs me on how science should be taught, in spite of the fact that he is not a scientist, and makes it very clear that, as a woman, I am inferior. She (my friend) was unsurprised by any of the conversation, and she said, yes, he does treat women like that. This is where it lay. The sense that it is simply what is, no one can do anything about it, he’s a sexist and treats women with no respect…it’s just who he is. And, of course, the awareness that probably 80% of the men at work are similar, but less blatant.

    This is where rape culture starts. No, I am not aware that this man has raped anyone, and am not accusing him of any such thing. But when there is such casual disregard for women as people, men begin to not take seriously the idea of women as having the right to autonomy. They are objects, and somewhat inferior ones. And of course, many of us are exhausted from fighting this, and from dealing with the humiliation of our boss insisting, year after year, that I grovel before this jerk to try to persuade him to put students in my class (which he is never going to do, ever, because I am not qualified to teach science. I have the wrong reproductive equipment.)

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