Monday, March 21, 2011

Rape Culture: Defending the indefensible.

Comments sections on the Internet have a strange sort of entropy, in the literal sense of reverting to lower and lower states unless they receive a constant input of energy. And if the lowest state is a seething morass of "FIRST" and "TL;DR TROLOLOL", the second lowest is the tendency of comment arguments, no matter the original subject, to revert to one of just a handfull of perpetual controversies.

Any article on science, for instance, can be relied upon to spawn one commenter who argues young-Earth evolution, fifteen who disagree but don't actually understand evolution, ten who disagree by saying "see, religion makes you stupid," and it goes on merrily from there. Any article involving a crime committed by someone with a non-white-sounding name will provoke an immigration and racial debate regardless of the actual citizenship/race of the person in question. Any article touching on sexuality or sexual health will quickly become a seething morass of "gay people: are we going to just let them get away with that?" and/or "in my day girls kept their legs shut and we didn't have all these problems."

And any article on rape will attract the predictable victim-questioning, victim-blaming, and rapist-sympathizing reactions. And this is not just on the Internet--the Internet produces easily referenced written records of these arguments, but I hear them at work and from family and some of my crappier friends and sometimes on the freakin' bus. I've written before about what these reactions are. Now I'm wondering why they are.

Most of the people expressing the "that poor accused rapist, this must be so hard for him" and "you know she acted very provocatively" viewpoints are not rapists themselves. Most of them aren't knowingly friends with rapists. They're not exactly pro-rape itself. But they have this tenacious, surprisingly emotional attachment to, if not precisely defending rape, enforcing the narrowest and most skeptical view of rape. Why is this? We'd expect rapists to be emotionally invested in this debate, and rape survivors and their loved ones, but why do apparent third parties get worked up? What's in it for them?

I have some theories. And a "bullet point" hotkey. (Alt-8.)

• The Just World Fallacy.
This is the idea that everyone gets what they deserve, good things happen to good people, and bad things only happen to bad people. This is crucially emotionally important because it means that people have complete control over their destinies. Or more specifically, that if I am pure of heart and say my prayers by night, nothing bad can happen to me. Unfortunately, to maintain this feeling of safety, you have to insist that anyone who did suffer a bad thing must've done something terrible.

An important feature of this fallacy I noted when I wrote about bullying earlier this week: the idea that these totally fair punishments and rewards are handed out by the universe itself, and are entirely based on the victims' choices. This means that any choices that the attackers may have made aren't significant, and the attackers can't really be blamed for doing the universe's dirty work.

• The Male Gaze.
This is the way our society tends to lock us into seeing things from the point of view of a heterosexual male. It's sort of assumed that you'll find "sexy" women appealing and "sexy" men funny or gross, that anyone will want to follow male role models but female ones are only for girls, and that the public discourse in general is aimed at straight men unless specified otherwise. And of course all this is tremendously magnified if you are a heterosexual man; with an effort a woman can find female perspectives, but men are almost never forced to take on a female viewpoint. Marie Curie and Amelia Earhart are never held up as heroes for little boys.

The relevant end result of this is that when someone--particularly straight men, but not only them--sees a story about a woman accusing a man of rape, they put themselves in the place of the man. They don't think "wow, what would it be like if I were raped?", but "wow, what would it be like if I were accused of rape?"

Well, I certainly wouldn't commit rape! So if I assume that this person I'm empathizing with acts the same way I would have, he must be innocent, and dealing with this false accusation must be tremendously frightening and frustrating for him. As long as you see the alleged rapist as the protagonist, the "you" of the story, the furthest you're able to stretch is "maybe he raped her for a really good reason?"

• The "Consent as Contract" Model.
I believe that consent consists of wanting to have sex or do another activity. In practical terms, when you're with a non-telepath, consent requires expressing that desire, but the expression still isn't the important part; the desire is.

Unfortunately, a lot of people don't seem to see consent this way. Instead, it's a binding contract: generally in exchange for something, a woman commits her pussy as payment. She isn't really expected to enjoy the sex; she's expected to tolerate it, and enjoy the dinner or jewelry or hugs or however the fuck this is supposed to work. Therefore, a woman in a situation that seems to be leading up to sex who then refuses to have sex is in breach of contract (and frankly being a little unreasonable), and letting her off the hook is an act of grudging generosity on the man's part. And a woman having sex without making the consent contract is being ripped off, but not really violated, because pussy is just a tool women wield dispassionately anyway.

This mindset doesn't just justify and trivialize rape; it also makes for some really shitty consensual sex, based on the "you're not supposed to like this part, you're supposed to like the dinner and this part is for me" mindset. Which ultimately doesn't even work out that great for guys, because "here, fine, have my pussy, you've earned it" isn't exactly a recipe for brutally passionate lovemaking.

• The Plain Old Fashioned Assholery.
There's also a certain contingent of people, both on the Internet and sadly also in reality, who think that being mean and narrow-minded makes them totally cool hardasses. (One of a billion examples: the recent Twitter trend #waystopissoffafatperson, in which "pissing off" is somehow equated with "winning victory over," as if simply showing aggression to someone proves your superiority to them.) There's nothing to be done for these people except hope they grow the fuck up one of these decades, and try not to give them any money or attention--or God help us, votes--until they do.


  1. There's also an element of being unable or unwilling to mentally process the act. At best, it's an awkward response to the tragic (e.g., "I'm a little nervous about my flight -- I have a layover at the World Trade Center"); at worst, it's absolute denial (e.g., "the Holocaust is a myth perpetuated by our Zionist overlords"). I think some of those people can be expected to behave better when they're affected personally.

  2. "They don't think "wow, what would it be like if I were raped?", but "wow, what would it be like if I were accused of rape?""

    When I read that, I finally got the connection between women as 'other' and rape culture. We really aren't seen as 'people people' but 'kinda people, I guess, when it's not too inconvenient' when we're the 'other' sex. That's kind of terrifying.

  3. Arguing on the Internet is like competing in the Special Olympics. Even if you win, you're still retarded.

  4. Another theory for you -

    Litigious Society With Western (particularly American) Society's exposure to, and familiarity with a prominent legal system, where pretty much everything in your day-to-day life can be subject to some kind of court case; are people taking the narrow view of rape as a pre-emptive attempt to rationalise it in beyond-a-reasonable-doubt terms? Are they trying to simplify a messy, complicated, emotional issue into simple, black-and-white choices? After all, society's contempt for convicted rapists is pretty clear-cut.

    All your other points work, too.

  5. I know a lot of men who are terrified that they might be falsely accused of rape, and who know that there is little a man can do when faced with such an allegation. This leads the to make the erroneous conclusion that because some women falsely accuse men of rape, and since it is very hard to tell when an accusation is false, most accusations should be assumed to be false. Consent doesn't leave physical evidence, and many rapes don't leave physical injuries (or they are never documented, or they are excused as "just" rough sex).
    When a woman hears about sexual assault it is easier for her to picture herself in that position and to empathize with the victim. Men don't typically think of themselves as vulnerable in that way, it's a lot harder for them to empathize. It's been my personal experience that giving more details about a situation, and particularly about how the victim felt helps initially unsympathetic listeners understand that what happened was "really rape." I really hate this. It isn't a victim's job to emotionally relive an assault for the benefit of others. No one has the right to that kind of private information - but sometimes sharing it is the only way to be herd. It should be enough to just say "this happened to me" and be understood, but it's not.

  6. Personally, I think people (women people) do it because it creates a fairy story they can tell themselves that will keep _them_ safe: "SHE was raped because she does (this thing I don't do) = I won't be raped. It's not about blame or denial, it's trying to find some kind of pattern or indicator that you can avoid. I think.

  7. Another possible addendum, which might go under the male gaze aspect: the bunk "boys will be boys" mantra. It seems this belief can go multiple ways, all sort of bad ideas about gender roles. Evolutionary (well, y'know cavemen/medieval knights/historical male X were hardwired for rape like activity), religious (god made women to be uncontrolled forces of desire, so it's not the male's fault), and cultural (the fraternity system has always been about a little fun, so it got a little out of hand).

    I used to think this was just a trope designed for villains in Law & Order episodes.

  8. I think you missed...

    * Misunderstandings Happen

    Can you imagine a situation where she feels like she's been raped, but he feels like he acted with her full consent. Some women say "Please fuck me now," but lots don't. They hint. Sometimes those hints are misunderstood. Sometimes they're not hints, but they're taken to be hints in the absence of any other indicators. There is a big fat area of grey.

    1. There's a word for this: bologna. I'm a man, I've had sex with women, I've never been accused. If there's any question, you can simply ask. That's what I do.

  9. Holly, while I agree that any implication that the victim's actions make the crime their fault, I've always taken issue with how rape is a crime where 'innocent until proven guilty' constitues an attack on the victim. Given that context is it really surprising that there is a backlash by some members of the pool of potential accusees?

    (love the blog by the way, a friend introduced me to it recently)

  10. I like Anon @ 12:02's points, especially about being forced to explain the situation in detail to get unsympathetic parties to understand. I have considered doing this countless times to make my parents understand that it wasn't "just another fuck (because I am a whore), and I wanted to take it back." I haven't, because you're right, I don't deserve more emotional pain to cure their stupidity.

    Anon @ 1:36: Uhhh, you're totally playing into rape culture. "But I THOUGHT she wanted it! There's NO WAY I could be expected to ASK for CLARIFICATION! It's HER job to tell ME!"

  11. @Leah Misunderstandings never happen? Ever?

    Misunderstandings happen every day, about the most ordinary things (I had one the other day about shopping), never mind emotion-laden dynamics like first-time sex.

  12. @ anon-12:36
    The fear you bring up is legitimate...until you think about ways to clear up the misunderstanding. The phrase "may I?" combined with movement of the hand is simultaneously reasonably unambiguous and non-awkward enough to avoid killing the mood.

    Then again, I am generally oblivious to awkwardness. And I've had people jokingly call me a vampire for asking if I could enter their rooms when it was implicitly obvious from the situation that I may.

    "They don't think "wow, what would it be like if I were raped?", but "wow, what would it be like if I were accused of rape?""

    My thought tends to be along the lines of "What would I do if a woman in my dorm was raped?", which then briefly prompts a "fight" response, quickly tempered by concern for rule of law, due process, presumption of innocence, etc.

  13. For what it's worth, I've never worried about being accused of rape. No idea why that is, of course, but my concerns (imagined, thankfully) have always been more along the lines of what armorsmith42 mentioned: How could/should/would I care for a friend or acquaintance who was hurt?

  14. Misunderstandings? I can understand going up to someone's bedroom with a misunderstanding in place. But I can't understand unzipping your pants and getting on top of them while still misunderstanding. Getting alone with someone is possibly ambiguous, but it seems like between then and actual penetration there's got to be some kind of clarification. Do you really just whip it out and stick it in on a hint?

    Banni - You are not a court of law. Also, if you want to pretend you're a court of law, there's a difference between playing judge and hearing both sides, and playing defense attorney.

    Also, really, you're not very much in the "pool of potential accusees" if you don't rape people.

  15. @Anon "Misunderstandings never happen? Ever?

    Misunderstandings happen every day, about the most ordinary things (I had one the other day about shopping), never mind emotion-laden dynamics like first-time sex."

    Ok, but at the point where the woman feels she's being raped, I think "I didn't realize she didn't want me to shove my dick in her" becomes a convenient, bullshit excuse. If she says no, you stop. Even if you think it might be a "yes" in disguise, you don't risk completely violating and abusing someone. Sure, misunderstandings happen, and I can see leaning in for a kiss maybe... but how that could evolve into fucking someone who feels they're being raped, and you have no idea whatsover that they feel that way or at least didn't want to have sex, is so ridiculously hard to fathom that it's not even worth discussing as a legitimate excuse.

  16. I have to admit, I've never understood the fear of being falsely accused of rape. Given society's general tendency to victim blame and the very low conviction rates for rape cases (as well as the very low number that even *make it to court*), being falsely accused in any way that matters seems incredibly unlikely. Then again, I identify as a woman, so I'm more in the "I'm afraid of someone raping me" camp.

    As for misunderstandings: There's an easy solution that Holly has always promoted on her blog! If you clearly ask if your partner wants sex, and your partner won't give you a clear go-ahead, *don't have sex.* Problem solved! "But I thought that she said yes in woman-language" doesn't fly.

  17. Also, really, you're not very much in the "pool of potential accusees" if you don't rape people.

    This would be a more believable statement if there were not people like Twisty Faster in the world who throw the "All men are potential rapists" line around like PETArds with a paint store inventory at a fur coat convention.


    I think your "Male Gaze" idea has much merit to it. It is much easier to empathize with people who are more like you yourself are.

  18. I think the average man is actually at significantly higher risk of being sexually assaulted himself than of being falsely accused.

  19. perlhaqr - Not to defend Twisty Faster, but "all men are potential rapists" usually means "as a woman, I have to assume all men are potential rapists." It's a personal security mindset, not an accusation.

  20. It's a personal security mindset, not an accusation.

    Exactly. It frustrates me when guys misunderstand this idea (and/or get offended when a strange woman isn't super-duper friendly to them)...mostly because it underlines for me just what different worlds we live in.

    It seems like men pretty much never have to deal with rape if they don't want to. For women, on the other hand, it's the proverbial elephant in the room (and in the underground parking lot, and following us down the street at night, and making lewd comments at us on the subway, and groping our asses in nightclubs...).

    Same planet, different worlds.

    1. I agree with the female posters here, and am embarrassed by the misogyny of males in our society. But, men do have to deal with rape--men can be victims, too

  21. To name one just well-published exhample, Julian Assange is being accused - how many men are being pushed towards the said male gaze?

  22. Holly, I love you. That is all. <3

  23. "Holly, while I agree that any implication that the victim's actions make the crime their fault, I've always taken issue with how rape is a crime where 'innocent until proven guilty' constitues an attack on the victim." How is this true? If anything, the opposite is the case. In all criminal trials, judges and juries must hold the accused to be legally innocent until evidence has shown them guilty. That's to prevent a situation where the accused is called into a courtroom and told "prove you've never committed treason/stolen anything/driven drunk!" Guilty until proven innocent makes no sense. On the other hand, testimony from victims or eyewitnesses CONSTITUTES the sort of legal proof of guilt courts are looking for. When you've heard an eyewitness account of a someone's crime, you don't, like, go around pretending you didn't hear it & waiting on an omniscient deity to pronounce them Guilty.

    People in the legal system accuse defendants are innocent until proven guilty, but they also assume witnesses are telling the truth unless proven otherwise. If you call the cops & tell them you were mugged, burglarized or identity-thefted, they will believe you. So will all your friends. Sex crimes are the only area where that rule tends not to hold.

  24. Not to defend Twisty Faster, but "all men are potential rapists" usually means "as a woman, I have to assume all men are potential rapists." It's a personal security mindset, not an accusation.

    And it's a very logical and sane one that I endorse heartily. Nonetheless, "potential rapist" and "potential accusee" go hand in hand. We cannot be saddled with one without us thinking of the other.

  25. I can actually sort of understand the male gaze thing.

    False accusations happens - I agree that they are not that common, but they do happen. And despite all the victim blaming that society does (which is horrible, no doubt), society is fairly quick to decide that accusation=guilty.

    And such a accusation tend to hit the media, and guys having their lives destroyed by the accusation alone is a very real thing.

    Within the last two years I can name at least three cases that happened - they got accused, got fired, people started hating them, commenter's on the online newspaper started calling for their immediate castration with a dull axe. Then police then cleared them completely, said flat out that it simply wasn't the right guy. Those guys still don't have a job, no one hires someone that got accused of rape, it's bad publicity, and at least two of them still can't go out in public without getting beaten up.

    I can name another case where a 16 year old guy actually got sentenced to three years, his two mates got two years each for being accomplices. More than a year after sentencing she got caught on a tape, laughing about how she had totally got them with a false accusations, and that would teach them to be more polite.

    So yeah, I can understand that fear. Because it doesn't take a court sentence to ruin my life, it takes a accusation and a gal with good enough nerves to go to the media and lie to them.

    If I'm playing into rape culture by this, sorry. But even then, the fear is real, and I can definitely understand why some guys feel it.

    1. Really? I can't think of any

  26. Ulc - I guess I'm just not as sympathetic as I should be here because I work in an emergency room. So if we're comparing personal anecdotes, I guess I see about as many sexual assaults on a Friday or Saturday night as you've seen false accusations in a couple years. And really, most of the rapes that come in to us, no one's accused at all. The patient refuses to talk to the police, or they don't even know, or they're not capable of saying--most often the first. Sometimes they're not capable of saying because they're three years old. (Other times it's just because they're completely unconscious.)

    I know this isn't actually an answer to your question but I hope it's a convincing explanation of why I just don't give a crap about answering it for the eight millionth time.

  27. Holly - We're not comparing personal anecdotes, because I know you're right. The number of sexual assaults are staggeringly high, but the number of false accusations are really quite low.

    And I know that in most rape cases no one ends up in court, much less found guilty.

    It wasn't a attempt to make any of the above less true, nor was it a attempt at making it seem like false accusations are common.

    I wasn't posing a question either, I was merely pointing out, that rare as it is, there is actually a reason that some men have that fear of being falsely accused.

  28. I don't know. In my experience, the men who are terrified of being falsely accused of rape are the same men who ask things like, 'but if you don't actually fuck her it's okay to feel her up when she's passed out, right? I mean, it's not like she would know.'

    In other words, predators who are afraid of getting caught. And I have to say, in a world where an entire town will apparently come together to defend the character of men who videotaped themselves raping an 11-year-old, I'm not really all that convinced false accusations are nearly as prevalent or destructive as rapes that never get reported at all.

  29. It's not so much "they have no reason" that's the problem as "they stop at the problem they can imagine having and bring it up in every single discussion about rape ever".

  30. Banni said...

    I've always taken issue with how rape is a crime where 'innocent until proven guilty' constitues an attack on the victim. Given that context is it really surprising that there is a backlash by some members of the pool of potential accusees?"

    From a recent story about an 11 year old girl gang raped.

    "an attorney for some of the suspects described the girl as someone who had a "desire to be a willing participant." That was followed by the arrival in town of a Houston-based community activist named Quanell X who stood before a group of local parents and exclaimed, "It was not the young girl that yelled rape!"

    Given this context, is it really surprising that the backlash is met with cries of BULLSHIT!

    Seriously, when blaming the victim is just as easily used against an 11 year old as it would be against a 35 year old then there's something seriously wrong with the argument.

  31. Three years ago, I made the mistake of talking publicly online about my own rape at the hands of a female acquaintance. The victim-blaming, rape denial, sexism and rape mythology was unreal. I felt like I was drowning and for a little while, just wanted to disappear.

    I was treated to several ugly facets of rape culture by both knuckle-dragging alpha male wannabes and bigoted women. The men who acted out against me were clearly "policing the herd" to stomp out any weaknesses and ensure they could sleep secure at night knowing that they'd never have to fear being victimized themselves. Children in men's bodies.

    The women who acted out against me did so based on ugly stereotypes, bigoted preconceptions and a shameful impulse to ensure that no one could ever be seen as a rapist.

    Sorry to tell both parties, but three years later I'm still not shutting up. I've been speaking out on behalf of ALL survivors as part of the Speakers Bureau organized by RAINN. I am also a trainer for a local organization, in addition to serving as a moderator for one of the largest mixed-gender survivor forums online.

    Those men and women who perpetuate rape culture may have a problem with people like me and prefer our silence and shame, but they are gonna have to deal with people with us more and more in the coming years.

    We will no longer sit quietly in the corner.


    You don't do yourself any favors by citing such obviously biased articles as this. When right in the headline they start by denying reality just because it's inconvenient or distasteful, you know the story won't have an ounce of fairness.

    The really ridiculous part is that is that getting people to take the side of an 11-year-old girl over 18 men and boys who allegedly raped her isn't exactly challenging.

    She could point out that some of the men allegedly threatened to beat the girl up if she didn't have sex with them, or remind us (as if anyone didn't know) that even in the unlikely event that she was willing, it would still have been illegal. But no, apparently anything that was too challenging for at least one reporter. Why not just leap straight in by denying there is any possibility the other side could be right, and then spend the rest of the article pondering exactly how wrong they are?

  33. "But I thought that she said yes in woman-language"

    Exactly. If there's a gray area, just get rid of it. Quit whining about being confused. That's not to say that men are completely at fault with the hints game, but culture has dictated women be quiet and take it. If you want to avoid it, ask.

  34. Anon - Exactly what is your problem with that article? It's, um, biased against gang-raping children. I'm okay with that particular bias.

  35. I'm a hopeless geek. I want to do a study where you present rape stories with the rapist as either male or female and gather responses. See if the participants tend to identify with the rapist more when the rapist is male or not (and if there's an interaction with regards to sex-of-participant, as well).

  36. Buried at work and can't write much right now, but kudos on this post and the message...we have to keep sending it till it gets through.

    And for the Anonymous "miscommunications happen", I give you this meta-review of current study literature by Thomas Macaulay Miller that concludes that people of both genders are very good at parsing out "no's" and refusals, even when they don't specifically include the word "no":

  37. I guess I don't understand what difference it makes whether you're in the "I'm more worried about getting raped" or the "I'm more worried about being falsely accused of rape" camp. The solutions to both are the same: change the culture.

    If things like this: weren't floating around the interwebz, if men (in all-male settings, anyhow) weren't expected to find it kinda funny rather than gross, disgusting, and offensive, it would certainly be more difficult to falsely accuse them. As well as being less likely that some few idiots will decide that date rape is a good idea and another woman or girl will be victimized.

    If women didn't consider the mindset "all men are potential rapists" to be necessary for our own personal security (given statistics to indicate that a large percentage of us will be sexually assaulted at least once in our lives), we wouldn't keep thinking that way. It's not like it's a generally life-enhancing stance.

    When women are treated as the "other", we are also encouraged to see men as the "other", which perpetuates the problem on both ends.

  38. On wrongful accusals of rape:

  39. Anon:

    "When right in the headline they start by denying reality just because it's inconvenient or distasteful, you know the story won't have an ounce of fairness."

    This is the headline, "11-year-old girl can't be 'willing' in sex" and you really said that?

  40. @Kaija: That article was AMAZING, thank you for sharing. I'm passing it on as well :)

    @Rosie " will be difficult to falsely accuse them."

    Maybe that was just poorly worded, but if (generally) one accuses another of rape, they think it's rape, and it was rape. There isn't any gray area there. "I thought he raped me, but I guess he didn't" is not really a valid statement.

    Otherwise, I kinda get what you're saying, and I agree that culture IS the problem. And that's what we're discussing!

  41. Leah, I totally agree with you. If one person thinks it was rape or experienced it as rape, it was rape.

    When I said "falsely accused" I meant to indicate a hypothetical scenario where there was no rape, only an accusation. (I grew up in a Bible-thumping family, so the mythological tale that comes to my mind here is Genesis 39, the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife.) I seriously doubt this is common, but I also think that "not at all common" cannot be taken to mean "never, ever happens."

    And this is where rape culture comes in:

    It is much harder to falsely accuse someone of doing something that is almost never done than to accuse them of doing something that happens all the time (even if they are not an actual perpetrator). It is much less believable to accuse someone of doing something they find unspeakably horrifying than of doing something they laugh about at times.

    Anyway, I hope that clarifies some. I'm not always good at getting my feelings and thoughts into coherent paragraphs. I just meant to say that I think it's silly to argue over who is hurt more by rape culture when *everyone* benefits by changing it. And if some men can't look beyond their fears of being falsely accused, I mean to point out to them just how rape culture is bad for them too, to encourage them to work on changing it.

  42. Rosie: Thank you, that was a good clarification :) I'm not the most articulate person either, and what you said is a good way of thinking for the future!

  43. This is one of the best, most concise explanations of the male gaze that I’ve ever seen. Also, I agree with you.

    In general, I think people have a hard time empathising with things that they don't believe will happen to them, personally. So, your comment that at least some men probably say "wow, what would it be like if I were accused of rape?" instead of "wow, what would it be like if I were raped?" rang true for me.

    It's not that I wish our culture would put the fear into boys that they'll be raped in the same way it does with girls, but I definitely think the idea we have that being raped is somehow a feminine activity plays into this.

  44. "I believe that consent consists of wanting to have sex or do another activity. In practical terms, when you're with a non-telepath, consent requires expressing that desire, but the expression still isn't the important part; the desire is."

    I showed this post to a friend and they were offended by the suggestion that desire (as opposed to a conscious decision) constituted consent. I do not think that is what you meant, but you may want to keep the distinction in mind.

  45. Yeah, there's nothing wrong with that article at all, I don't understand the point about bias someone else was trying to make.

    As for getting on the defense attorneys, though, they have a job to do (a crappy one, but a job none the less) so I can't get too worked up about what they say. Everyone else who's out there trying to justify what happened needs a reality check, though.

  46. "This means that any choices that the attackers may have made aren't significant, and the attackers can't really be blamed for doing the universe's dirty work."

    I know. It's like people think rapists are vigilantes against human (usually female) weakness and naivete.

  47. I do not support rape. I do not support rapists. I defend neither.

    ...But honestly, I'm tired of being treated as a rapist or as one of the 'rapist caste' because I am a man.

    Not to say that this post expressed misandry at all, but this feels like the appropriate place to express the "please don't punish men because some are assholes" sentiment.

  48. Anon - The vast majority of rapists are men.

    The vast majority of men are not rapists.

  49. ...and the vast majority of men who have been raped do not report it and it is believed to be at even higher percentages than women who don't report. Also, the FBI and many law enforcement organizations who report sexual violence statistics intentionally exclude male rape survivors from stats with the label of rape. These stats are then picked up by non-profit orgs as gospel and seldom questioned. Usually, our attacks are downgraded to sexual battery or other unwanted sexual contact, while less often labeled as rape. The stats from the FBI report that ZERO men have been raped. Ever.

    I speak as a male rape survivor who finds the constant use of inaccurate and intentionally skewed stats offensive and minimizing. One survivor of any type is one survivor too many. I was raped by a woman 20 years ago. A man attempted to rape me on a separate occasion.

    Statistics do nothing to comfort me and when people make comments like "most rapists are men" it is a form of secondary wounding to male survivors and female survivors who've been victimized by women. It unintentionally (but certainly) contributes to that portion of rape culture that tells male survivors that what they experienced was not "real rape" based on numbers. I know that is not what you were trying to say, but it is the ultimate effect and something we should try to deal with in a different manner.

    Statistically, some orgs claim 1 in 33 men are rape survivors (which equals TENS OF MILLIONS worldwide), while others say 1 in 6 to include CSA survivors. Either way, that is a much bigger number than most people realize given they tend to view rapes reported through law enforcement agencies (which intentionally skew the severity downward) as the sole source of information on male sexual victimization.

    Don't get me started on how men are treated when we do report it. Laughed at by cops and told to "man up". Accused of lying about rough consensual sex or told we must have wanted it by emergency department physicians who ought to know better than to use the erections = consent argument. If a woman is the perp, those responses only become more blatant and ugly.

    Anyway, I did enjoy your blog entry, but I wanted to share some of my own thoughts.

    Thank you.

  50. James - You're right about a lot of things--rape of men is underreported and treated hideously lightly. I am completely with you there.

    However, I do have to object to this:
    when people make comments like "most rapists are men" it is a form of secondary wounding to male survivors and female survivors who've been victimized by women
    No, that's statistics. The harm done by female assailants is absolutely real, but it's also not, in terms of sheer number of cases, anywhere close to 50-50. And although I'm not accusing you of doing this, speaking as if it were a 50-50 situation can be a barrier to addressing the role of sexism in sexual assault.

  51. I understand your point Holly and I understand how stats work, but I disagree. Given how many orgs use the biased FBI/DOJ stats, I have a real difficult time trusting any organization's numbers unless they make it clear that they are not engaging in selective downgrading based on either the gender of perp or victim. I don't think anyone (credible at least) claims that it is 50/50.

    However, the way stats are often used can be very minimizing, especially when they are worded in a way that makes male survivors (and female survivors of female offenders) appear to be a rare aside or even an unfortunate distraction. This is my point - we number in the millions - which is something that the flawed stats (which several organizations now take issue with - not just me) do not convey when examined at face value and without the knowledge of how many agencies intentionally exclude certain types of survivors (both male AND female) from the stats. I believe the Feminist Majority Foundation, ACLU and several other civil liberties and policy organizations are currently taking the FBI/DOJ to task for it's complicity in promoting this hierarchy of survivorhood. That was my point and it is one that is finally starting to get some real attention by advocacy orgs.

  52. I'd like to throw in my own theory that came to mind reading your other posts, esp. "Rescripting Sex" :

    Just how many people are out there having sex that teeters on the lines of consent?

    I bet if you asked around (anonymously), there would be a lot of guys admitting to coercive behavior, not accepting the first "no" (a well known PUA tactic), or physically pushing the woman into position without any clear go ahead, and a lot of women on the receiving end of that behavior. I don't necessarily think these things are always rape but they're definitely manipulative and crappy, and common, and it sets the stage for empathizing with "oh maybe there was just a misunderstanding." And the way our society presents sex precludes any of them realizing that their communication skills need improvement, or that the active partner needs to stop assuming things, or that maybe pushing past "no" into, "well, OK..." does not make anyone a Manly Man.

    1. Hershele OstropolerFebruary 29, 2012 at 8:58 AM

      No "I bet if" needed, the TMM post cited upthread addresses exactly that.

  53. The contract theory you identify was sadly part of the common law that held that martial rape couldn't happen, you were deemed to give consent as an implied term of the marriage contract. And this was only repealed 20 years ago.