So the approach is going to be to pretend that talking about sexual harassment is exactly the same thing as making a formal, criminal accusation of rape – is that it?

That seems to be Dawkins’s approach as of today at least.

Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins · 10h
Raping a drunk woman is appalling. So is jailing a man when the sole prosecution evidence is “I was too drunk to remember what happened.”

One, that isn’t the sole prosecution evidence. But two, who is talking about jailing anyway? What people are talking about, as far as I know, is in-house, organizational stuff – better harassment policies, better enforcement, and above all less secrecy protecting serial harassers. But jailing? Not that I’ve seen.

Dawkins seems really convinced by his story though.

Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins · 11h
.@faufcb Yes. And there’s also a presumption of innocence till proved guilty. Too drunk to REMEMBER is evidence to put someone in JAIL?

What do you mean JAIL, Richard? Who said anything about JAIL?


  1. says

    Well… sexual assault is a crime that, should a conviction result, comes with jail time. And it’s pretty clear, despite Dawkins’ flailings and wailings, that having sex with someone who is inebriated to the point of incapacity to consent is a sexual assault.* It’s likely that anyone who is to drunk to later remember what happened in detail (i.e. remembers only flashes of where they were or who was on top of them or that someone/something was penetrating them), was too drunk to consent. So yeah, I think I’m calling for jail time for rapists who rape. In this particular case, I don’t know what the statute of limitations is or what the law is where Shermer committed the rape on Smith, but in principle? which is what Dawkins is tweeting about–yes. absolutely. If Shermer were to do the same thing today to someone else, why wouldn’t we call for him to be jailed?

    *It is, morally speaking, everywhere. It is, legally speaking, in my jurisdiction (Canada).

  2. Rabidtreeweasel says

    Oh but you see, he is also being helpful because he is telling rape victims how they should respond to being raped if they wish to ever discuss having been raped in public. So you see, he is really doing us a service. Just like the Republicans.

  3. hoary puccoon says

    For the gazillionth time– the presumption of innocence until proved guilty is strictly the standard the state must abide by in a criminal justice proceeding. It doesn’t even apply in the civil courts, let alone in deciding who can or cannot attend a convention or which speaker to invite. And no one is threatening Shermer with a criminal prosecution. In fact, the only threats of legal action have come from Shermer, not against him.

    Dawkins knows all this perfectly well. He’s now entered Thunderf00t territory in disingenuous arguing.

    It’s time to admit it– Dawkins is a write-off.

  4. Uncle Ebeneezer says

    I’d love to know just how many men are currently in prison based on convictions where the only evidence considered was drunken lack of consent. I’m guessing the number is damn near zero. Otoh, how many violations went unpunished or even never pursued because the victim was drunk? The she-was-drinking-get-out-of-jail-free card is indeed a problem but not in the way that Dawkins presumes.

  5. says

    I don’t have time to look up the relevant laws in the UK and Nevada, but I happen to have the Canadian Criminal Code handy:
    This is what it says with regard to consent in cases of sexual assault & aggravated sexual assault (NOTE: there is no separate crime of rape per se in Canada), emphasis mine.

    Meaning of “consent”
    273.1 (1) Subject to subsection (2) and subsection 265(3), “consent” means, for the purposes of sections 271, 272 and 273, the voluntary agreement of the complainant to engage in the sexual activity in question.
    (2) No consent is obtained, for the purposes of sections 271, 272 and 273, where
    (a) the agreement is expressed by the words or conduct of a person other than the complainant;
    (b) the complainant is incapable of consenting to the activity;
    (c) the accused induces the complainant to engage in the activity by abusing a position of trust, power or authority;
    (d) the complainant expresses, by words or conduct, a lack of agreement to engage in the activity; or
    (e) the complainant, having consented to engage in sexual activity, expresses, by words or conduct, a lack of agreement to continue to engage in the activity.
    (3) Nothing in subsection (2) shall be construed as limiting the circumstances in which no consent is obtained.

    273.2 It is not a defence to a charge under section 271, 272 or 273 that the accused believed that the complainant consented to the activity that forms the subject-matter of the charge, where
    (a) the accused’s belief arose from the accused’s
    (i) self-induced intoxication, or
    (ii) recklessness or wilful blindness; or
    (b) the accused did not take reasonable steps, in the circumstances known to the accused at the time, to ascertain that the complainant was consenting.

    Moreover, the Supreme Court has ruled that a person’s capacity to consent must be present throughout a sexual activity because one has the right to withdraw consent at any time.

  6. Sunday Afternoon says

    Dawkins’s comments remind me of Mr. Deity’s oh-so-funny skit from just over a year ago, also concerning Shermer. There needs to be a clearing of the old guard.

  7. Anthony K says

    So, if we can’t talk about all those unprosecuted priests, ISIS beheaders, and female-genital-mutilating imams who’ve never set foot in a court of law, with what is the atheist movement going to use to browbeat theists into accepting our moral and intellectual superiority?

  8. Maureen Brian says

    So Dawkins really does believe he’s above he law!

    There is no statute of limitations for sexual offences in England and Wales, The definition of rape is

    (1)A person (A) commits an offence if—
    (a)he intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person (B) with his penis,
    (b)B does not consent to the penetration, and
    (c)A does not reasonably believe that B consents.
    (2)Whether a belief is reasonable is to be determined having regard to all the circumstances, including any steps A has taken to ascertain whether B consents.
    (3)Sections 75 and 76 apply to an offence under this section.
    (4)A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for life.

    Among the reasons in Sections 75 and 76 where there is deemed to be no valid consent are these

    (d)the complainant was asleep or otherwise unconscious at the time of the relevant act;
    (e)because of the complainant’s physical disability, the complainant would not have been able at the time of the relevant act to communicate to the defendant whether the complainant consented;
    (f)any person had administered to or caused to be taken by the complainant, without the complainant’s consent, a substance which, having regard to when it was administered or taken, was capable of causing or enabling the complainant to be stupefied or overpowered at the time of the relevant act.

    There is no mention of exceptions to any of this for retired Oxford dons!

    (Sexual Offences Act 2003)

  9. Blanche Quizno says

    So, let’s see – by RD’s thinking, it’s perfectly *fine* to rape an unconscious woman, or one who’s in a coma, or one who’s got dementia or Alzheimer’s and thus can’t remember or give witness testimony.

    Isn’t that why we have forensic investigations?? To catch and convict the dirtbags who attack women who can’t possibly fight back under these circumstances? In the notorious Steubenville rape case only a coupla years ago, one of the rapists, Michael Nodianos, is caught on video stating, “And is it really rape if you don’t know if she wanted to or not? She might have wanted it. That might have been her final wish.”

    Sure! Why not give the scenario of HER giving consent the benefit of the doubt?? Why not assume FIRST that’s what SHE wanted, regardless of her state of consciousness or not? Isn’t that how “presumed innocent” is supposed to work? That the guy gets to demand that the rape victim PROVE she DIDN’T say “Great – let’s do it!”, even if she can’t remember? Even if she can’t talk? Because without that, we should just trust that he had only the most noble and gentlemanly of intentions and we should throw those mean accusations right out the window.

    It’s strange thinking, to be sure. And really nasty.

  10. Jessica Meier says

    Looks like many accusations were fabricated, just look at Shermer`s statement and the included pictures/email. That`s not how rape/sexual harrasment victims act.

    This is really hurting the advancement of women in our society. So shame on Alison and Pamela for lying, making it harder for real victims to be believed.

    (Btw. yes, english is not my first language)

    And Sam made one statement in a Q&A (after being tired for talking nearly 2 hours) and this blows up to this huge drama (he even said that this is not what he thinks).

    But since there is too much money to be made playing the victim and getting “outraged” (as we see in the Fox News crowd) and the big leader PZ is envious of Sam`s success, his followers will continue this spectacle.

  11. Corvus Whiteneck says

    He’s like the first Little Pig. There’s straw construction, huffing, puffing…

    Most people that I talk to about this issue are primarily concerned with 1) rape and harassment prevention, 2) disassociating causes, cons, & orgs from rapists and harassers, 3) combatting rape culture and sexism. Who is primarily focused on jail time? Who does he think he’s arguing with?

  12. Corvus Whiteneck says

    I realize my above comment just re-iterates Ophelia’s post, so let me say this:

    could Dawkins please provide us with the name and/or twitter handle of someone with whom he’s had a serious conversation about this matter whose primary goal/top priority is jailing Shermer? Just one will suffice for starters.

  13. says

    Ditto hoary puccoon@5! I would add: outside of criminal court proceedings, the police regularly assume guilt. If they did not, hardly anyone would ever be arrested for anything. If several witnesses give corroborating reports to the police that person X committed crime Y, then it’s likely that the police are going to be knocking on X’s door.

  14. qwints says

    Relevant statute for TAM incident:

    Nevada Revised Statute 200.366

    1.  A person who subjects another person to sexual penetration, or who forces another person to make a sexual penetration on himself or herself or another, or on a beast, against the will of the victim or under conditions in which the perpetrator knows or should know that the victim is mentally or physically incapable of resisting or understanding the nature of his or her conduct, is guilty of sexual assault.

    There is no statute of limitations for sexual assault if a written report was filed with law enforcement within 4 years of the incident. Nevada Revised Statute 171.083 Otherwise, the statute of limitations is 4 years. Nevada Revised Statute 171.085

  15. says

    Jessica Meier @ 13 – that’s a revolting comment. You don’t know that Alison and Pamela are lying, so don’t assert that they are.

    What’s this bullshit about “there is too much money to be made playing the victim”? You must have been hanging around with the yay-harassment crowd, who love to keep repeating that ridiculous lie. (Yes that is an actual lie.)

    Piss off.

  16. sambarge says

    I’ve made thousands of dollars playing the victim from the comfort of my own home and you can too…

    Said no one ever.

  17. Jessica Meier says

    Of course no money was made by all these new website visitors, backlinks, Twitter mentions,… .

    So even after seeing the cozy pictures of Pamela and Shermer even after reading Alison`s friendly email with the smiley, you are still giving them the benefit of the doubt.

    But when anonymous accusations against Shermer came up you immediately asserted they were true.

    Looks like this truly is the atheist Tea Party here

  18. S B F says

    Good grief, money from “playing the victim”? What actually happens is that women who report or comment on harassment in the skeptic community get disbelieved and further harassment. Where’s the alleged profut in this?

    Oh, and the old ‘jealousy’ fall back. Very telling of someone with no actual argument.

  19. leni says

    Jail? Who was talking about jail?

    I thought there was going to be pitchforks and angry mobs :/ I was planning to get rich filming myself getting a jab in, dammit! There was going to be dramatic torchlight and Eric Satie and everything.

    I guess I’ll have to do what everyone else does to get rich and falsely accuse someone of rape. Grrr this whole jail just plan sucks.

  20. leni says

    PS Eric Satie is Erik’s lesser known nephew. He’s more edgy and a little bit darker. It would have been awesome.

  21. says

    Jessica Meier @ 21 –

    Of course no money was made by all these new website visitors, backlinks, Twitter mentions,… .

    All what new website visitors? You’re assuming what is not in evidence. What are backlinks, and how does one make money from them? And how on earth does one make money from Twitter mentions? Are you joking?

    Seriously, you don’t know what you’re talking about (if you’re serious and not just bullshitting). It’s a popular trope with shitty people that talking about harassment=$$$ but that’s just not true, not even a little bit true.

    Twitter mentions. Honestly.

    But when anonymous accusations against Shermer came up you immediately asserted they were true.

    I did no such thing. You have no idea what you’re talking about.

  22. John Morales says

    Jessica Meier @21, your initial insinuation is vitiated by your subsequent claim; also, the overall vacuity of your entire comment is succinctly expressed in your last sentence.

    (I grant that were it true that cupidity was the motivation for posting, it would entail foolishness to pass up opportunity for the sake of engaging in hypocrisy)

  23. HappyNat says

    @ Jessica Meier

    So to prove the allegations against Shermer are flase we should turn to . . . Shermer’s statement? Using this tactic how many people in jail would be innocent. This is like the people who say the bible is true because the bible says it’s true.

    So a smiley in an email and posing for a picture with someone means no sexual assault took place? Please do some research on sexual assault and how victims react and respond and get back to us. Or don’t and go away.

  24. John Morales says

    At the risk of seeming levity, @30, @29, @28, perhaps the answer is “huge drama”?

    (Perhaps Jessica will clarify)

  25. says

    My impression is not that Dawkins is making errors in logic or is not understanding.

    My impression is that he is being deliberately dishonest.
    I think he’s engaging in the common, everyday dishonest tactic of deliberately spreading misinformation.
    I believe he is deliberately misrepresenting the controversy, deliberately misrepresenting the position of his critics, so that his larger audience will get the wrong impression of what’s going on.

    A form of lying, in other words.
    I’m not in his head of course, and I do think he has a bias, but I don’t believe for a moment that he’s incapable of basic reading comprehension.

    He’s just full of BS.

  26. eddiejones says

    Hey, I got an idea… check this out? Let’s STOP LISTENING to Dawks on anything outside of evolutionary biology or, maybe genetics? I think that might be a good idea. The guy just has no clue on any subject that involves interaction between human beings.

  27. says

    That`s not how rape/sexual harrasment victims act.

    How do they act?
    How many different ways could they possibly react?

    Wanna know how *I* acted?

    By not telling a single person for over three decades. By not even admitting it to MYSELF for that long.
    By STILL feeling strange saying that it happened to me, by feeling literally guilty for saying it because I know others had it worse… by still questioning my “right” to use those words for what was done to me because I wasn’t actually physically damaged like others have been… so I had it easy, right? No real harm?
    By still feeling defensive and guilty for typing this despite the fact that the impact on my life is undeniable… approaching 50 years old and I have given up all hope of intimacy because I still dissociate like I did when I was a kid and it was happening.

    By still not having named names.

    Needless to say, there is no recorded testimony, no forensic evidence, no arrests, no convictions, no sentences were handed down.

    So I guess what happened to me never happened to me, huh?
    Or wait… is it the other thing? That other thing that I’ve seen hurled at victims? Am *I* the bad person because I didn’t dutifully report it to the police?

    How do victims act? How do they NOT act?

    Please, tell me which CSI or Law & Order episodes you’re referring to so it will be clear.

  28. dshetty says

    @Jessica meier
    So even after seeing the cozy pictures of Pamela and Shermer even after reading Alison`s friendly email with the smiley, you are still giving them the benefit of the doubt.
    Hmm did you follow the Ray Rice story? The woman he assaulted married him.
    People react variedly to incidents and not always as you would expect.

  29. Corvus Whiteneck says

    Did Dawkins have any sort of significant professional entanglement w/ Shermer before the Dear Leader Commission after-dinner photo op? And speaking of money and ulterior motives, where was the money for the org supposedly coming from and going to? I mean, I know privileged white male assholes tend to stick together, but I wonder if there isn’t an even more banal explanation for Dawkins involving himself in this matter.

  30. dshetty says

    So is jailing a man when the sole prosecution evidence is “I was too drunk to remember what happened.”
    So believes half the story but not the other half? Per Shermer everyone was sober right?

  31. Who Cares says

    I doubt Jessica Meier will answer. Good thing too for her seeing whatever would be said would be countered in the next post.

    So here are the things I was going to use.
    Here in the Netherlands they altered the statue of limitations with regards to rape & sexual assault since the average term of people reporting was longer then the period in which action could be undertaken.
    And then there is the anecdotal evidence, in this case about me (I won’t talk about others but you might want to see if you can still find the grenade thread over at Pharyngula there are others talking about how the handled it).
    Also read up on this seeing that I’m male.
    To me it happened at the start of puberty. I’ve always loved computers so once a week I was helping out an old guy who ran a C64/Amiga secondhand software (payment in games). One day he invited me to stay overnight the next week since he’d go to Germany for software/computer(parts). That night I was assaulted. The next day I went with the guy to Germany as if nothing happened. Then I went home and acted normally. When I finally broke down several years later and told/reported what happened my family told me they’d never noticed me behaving differently, with 1 exception: I never went back to that guy.

  32. Jessica Meier says

    All what new website visitors? You’re assuming what is not in evidence. What are backlinks, and how does one make money from them? And how on earth does one make money from Twitter mentions? Are you joking?

    Seriously, you don’t know what you’re talking about (if you’re serious and not just bullshitting). It’s a popular trope with shitty people that talking about harassment=$$$ but that’s just not true, not even a little bit true.

    Twitter mentions. Honestly.

    Do you act stupid or are you really that dumb?

    But to help you out a little, since you seem to have no idea how the internet works.
    1. More website visitors = more money (either from book sales, talks, invitation to events, ad revenue,…) Got it?
    2. So more backlinks (other sites linking to yours or the network here) means better Google rankings in the search results = more visitors
    3. Twitter mentions also contribute to ranking and gets you visitors (why do you think Deepak Chopra posts so often)

    So these scandals do bring more money (hope even you realize that by now).

    Nothing wrong with making money, but when the scandals are fabricated (like in the above case). C`mon, looking at these pictures tells you enough.

    And this email 2 years after he supposedly behaved so badly is surprisingly friendly.

    This here is the reason, why so many men behave like idiots when they just hear the word “feminist”.

    You and PZ’s hivemind are hurting us women and should be ashamed of yourselves. You don`t deserve to call yourself feminists, just attention seeking scumbag.

  33. says

    I wonder if Jessica has read Richard Dawkins’ account of his own molestation during his childhood, and his own reaction and feelings about it.
    I wonder if Jessica feels that the way Dawkins has acted, how he responded and feels about his experience is “not how victims of sexual abuse act.”

    *I probably need to point out before false claims are made, that while ppl on FTB disagreed with Dawkins’ projection that his own reaction must be how others react, the “groupthink” here was to accept his individual reaction as his own genuine experience, at his word, and to criticize those few others who attempted to second-guess the veracity of his statements about his reaction to his experience.

  34. Anthony K says

    I wonder if Jessica is telling Dawkins that he and Christina Hoff Sommers are a hive mind who are hurting us women.

    I wonder how much money they earn being attention-seeking scumbags on Twitter like Deepak Chopra? If Jessica Meier can’t tell us, Barbara Drescher, Internet Accountant™ must surely know.

  35. HappyNat says

    My wife was sexually abused by her father for much of her childhood. I’ve seen many pictures of them smiling and hugging, both looking perfectly happy. My wife told me one of the pictures was taken after he assaulted her while she was getting dressed to go out to a nice dinner. According to Jessica I should not believe my wife and instead believe the picture of a happy father and daughter.

  36. Kevin Kehres says

    I officially apologize to anyone who ever disagreed with me when I was willing to give Dawkins the “benefit of the doubt” about being merely clueless instead of actively a real-and-true sexist asshole.

    You were right. I was wrong.

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