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Apr 14 2007

Credibility and the Duke Rape Case Fiasco

DukeI was going to chime in on the weird fucked-up-edness of the whole Duke University rape case fiasco. But the SmackDog Chronicles already said pretty much what I wanted to say about it. So I’m just going to point you to his blog instead. The quotes that really struck me:

But what really saddens and angers me about this case is that it simply reimposes all the usual memes and biases about sexually proactive women and women who do sex work voluntarily; in effect, if you are overtly sexual and happen to be violated in any way, you can expect to have no support or sympathy from the general public and damn near little or no support from the “feminist community”
especially if you happen to be a person of color, poor, or a sex worker or sex entertainer. And especially if your perpetrator just so happens to be either White or a person of privilege who has the full weight of his privilege behind him.

and

All of this makes my duty as a sex radical, a radical Black man, a feminist sympathizer/supporter, and a sex-positive activist that much tougher
but also that much more important. If there ever was a time for a sex-positive Left perspective, it is now.

Rainbow_fistAll this is reminding me of the Lynn Griffiths case. (I tried to find a link about it, but it happened in the pre-Internet days, and I couldn’t find anything on the Web.) Back in the ’90s in San Francisco, there was a very public, all-over-the-news incident of a lesbian named Lynn Griffiths who had been badly queer-bashed. The gay community and the gay press was all over it, in a “See, this is what homophobia looks like, this is what we have to be afraid of” way. And when the police started commenting that there were holes in her story, the community got irate about police insensitivity.

CrazypersonExcept it turned out that there were holes in her story. Because it didn’t happen. She turned out to be kind of a nutjob — she injured herself, and claimed she was gay-bashed to get attention. When the holes in her story started getting impossible to ignore, she actually did the same thing a second time — and then, in the face of increasing anger and incredulity, fled the state.

Which just made it harder for everybody. Because it’s not as if queer-bashing didn’t — doesn’t — happen. But after this incident, everyone who really did get queer-bashed — or who fought against anti-gay violence — suddenly found themselves a little less credible.

And it’s not as if African-American women, and sex workers, and African-American sex workers, don’t get raped by privileged white guys. But now the ones who do are going to have a much harder time of it. There are thousands of times that this happens, and it never makes the papers — but this is the case that people are going to remember.

But… oh, just go read the piece on the SmackDog blog. He says it better than I can. And it’s a really good blog generally, and worth checking out.

4 comments

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  1. 1
    Tracy Quan

    Greta, thanks for commenting on this disturbing case. As you can imagine, it’s a difficult topic for sex workers’ groups. I have avoided it on my blog beecause I just don’t know enough about what really happened. I feel very sad for the woman at the center of this.

  2. 2
    Anthony Kennerson

    WOW….may I humbly bow at your feet, Greta, at the gracious endorsement of my little blog entry. I didn’t really know that people other than me (and Renegade Evolution, and Nina Hartley, who relayed me your compliments) actually were reading up…but it’s nice to hear such rosy words from such an authority as you are.
    Now, I’m not necessarily as hard on the accuser as you might be, because I still believe that even if she wasn’t necessarily raped at that party, she was still violated in a less violent way with the racial epithets….and the response of the usual noise factory of the “Poor Rich White Kids” (both the MRA and KKK factions) was so typical…even before the prosecutor tanked the case for his own political gain.
    Nevertheless, the aftereffects of this tragedy will be that it will be that much harder for sexually assertive women and women of color and poor women who are legitimate victims of sexual assault or battery to be able to obtain justice for their plight…since the “bitch/slut asked for it and got what she deserved” and the “Black/Brown bitch just wanna get paid at the expense of White folk” cards will be offered in earnest.
    There’s more than enough real rape and slut-baiting and anti-Black racism happening for real. We really don’t need to be feeding that that much more with placebos. “Innocent until proven guilty in a court of law by the totality of the evidence” is a principle that is not dependent on ideology; once we as feminists or progressives abandon that principle, we become nearly as bad as the actual rapists and racists we oppose.
    Anyways…thanks for the props…I need to update my blogroll now. :-)
    Anthony
    (Your humble SmackDog)

  3. 3
    Greta Christina

    Thanks, Anthony. And while I am pissed off at the accuser in this case, I do also have some sympathy for her. I just thought you said that better than I could have — that’s why I pointed people to your blog.
    As to “‘Innocent until proven guilty in a court of law by the totality of the evidence’ is a principle that is not dependent on ideology; once we as feminists or progressives abandon that principle, we become nearly as bad as the actual rapists and racists we oppose.”… damn. Yes. Exactly. I talk about that sometimes with science — that we can’t reject evidence or theories just because we don’t like them — but that principle applies to justice and morality too, and this says it perfectly.

  4. 4
    Eclectic

    Let’s remember the etymology of “prejudice”. It means judging prematurely. Based on incomplete information.
    You don’t even have to bring courts of law into it, although they are established institutions that operate with the goal (not always achieved!) of considering all the relevant evidence before judging.
    A false accusation has to resemble reality to be believed. The boy who cried wolf did so because wolves were a threat. There wouldn’t have been a story if he had cried “gerbil!”
    And there is some truth to the association between sports players and assault. They’re both fueled by aggression and competitiveness.
    The lesson that people should take home is that prejudice can lead you into grave error.
    But there’s a long way to go, and exceptional outliers like this don’t help the more common subtle issues. As Bella Abzug said, “Our struggle today is not to have a female Einstein get appointed as an assistant professor. It is for a woman schlemiel to get as quickly promoted as a male schlemiel.”

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