Wow. I just finished reading a real piece of work on someone else’s blog. He had the nerve to post it to the Slutwalk Toronto Facebook page because he was taking a very novel approach to victim blaming (read: “not very novel at all”) and wanted everyone to see he was totally incapable of absorbing new ideas.
Our esteemed writer is a believer in what he terms the “Oleg Volk school of rape prevention.” Mr. Volk, however, is not a preventer of rape but a proponent of “gun culture.” Volk uses propaganda tactics to argue his point on firearm legislation, equating those who favour gun control to racists who would prefer all potential victims of crime be unarmed and defenceless. A similar tactic was used in Canada recently when Vic Toews said those who were not in favour of strict internet controls were on the side of child pornographers; the tactic is the same regardless of who uses it, and betrays the lack of understanding of an opposing argument as well as a penchant for fear mongering. Guns and self-defence, or counter-violence in response to assault, is an option not everyone chooses to employ, or is capable of employing. Mandating counter-violence of any kind, which is what the either/or fallacy amounts to in the context of self-defence, is highly problematic and can serve to call into question the authenticity of a victim of crime.
Back to our blog-writer. He starts off weakly with an anecdote to prove he isn’t a rapist (because rapists don’t drink coffee?), explains why he doesn’t think rationally when he discusses rape (apparently he can’t help but think of sexually assaulting and killing rapists), and then moves on to some advice for men on how to not be a rapist… All goes reasonably well until he gets to point 6 on his list:
Don’t take advantage. Don’t take advantage for two reasons. First, you are, or should be, a better man than than to cause someone distress in a situation that should simply be awesome and good. Second, for those men who aren’t better than that, there are legal repercussions — “taking advantage” isn’t rape, but a lot of women equate the two directly, and if you’re the kind of schmuck who pushes it, you’re a lot more likely to find yourself up on charges where your actual crime (of being a first-class jerk) is going to get you a reputation for being a social predator (aka, the kind of person most men would happily kill on sight without a shred of remorse if they thought they could get away with it — and some have gotten away with it).
Ah. So, many rapists are actually just misunderstood guys who “took advantage” of a woman who didn’t want to have sex. Gotcha. No, dear writer, men who have sex with unwilling partners are not simply “first-class jerks,” they’re rapists. If she’s not able to give consent for any reason, it isn’t “taking advantage” in any innocent sense of the term – it’s rape.
To his credit, the writer of this piece does go on to tell men about enthusiastic consent – though only when referring to men who have sex with women; the advice also applies to, well, everyone – but on the way to that advice he reminds men they may be accused, charged, and even convicted in the event a false accusation is made. He does not, however, identify just who would make that false accusation. Hint: False accusations of rape are about the same as they are for virtually every other crime out there: between 2% and 4%. False accusations are nowhere near as rampant as rape apologists would have you believe.
I would have given the post a pass had it not been for the next bit of advice, namely that which he directs at “her,” stopping along the way to deny the ubiquitousness of victim-blaming. Oh, silly blogger! Victim-blaming is real. Nobody has to say, “You deserved to get raped” in those words in order for victim-blaming to be real. “She shouldn’t have dressed like that/been there/acted that way, it’s no wonder she got raped!” is victim-blaming. So is spreading mythology about false accusations, denying the authenticity of the victim, or boiling rape down to biological imperatives. So is the “advice” given to women on how to keep themselves safe that just doesn’t work for beans. I’m going to dissect the advice, point for point, below:
1. “Asking for it” refers to not minimizing risks, or to taking stupid risks. Yes, you should be able to walk around in nothing or almost nothing, wherever you want, and not fear any untoward consequences whatsoever. And I should be able to walk around the “bombed-out” sections of Richmond, East Saint Louis, South Chicago, or Anacostia at night without suffering a very high probability of getting the everloving shit kicked out of me simply because I happened to be there. We don’t live in a perfect world: be realistic about the world you live in. (Why do a lot of folks look askance at clubs? Because a lot of predatory shit-heads hang out in clubs, that’s why)
There is no such thing as minimising risks when it comes to clothing. A rapist doesn’t typically prefer one style of dress over another, nor are certain bits of skin showing more or less likely to result in attack. Less than 4% of rapists remember what their chosen target was wearing, and of those who do the memory is anecdotal (he remembers ripping her shirt, etc.). As well, crime happens in every neighbourhood, and most crime involving interpersonal violence is perpetrated by someone known to the target. The perpetrator of sexual assault works to gain the trust of the victim in most cases. In the case of “stranger rape,” the victim is usually assaulted in or near their place of residence, work, or recreation. If we are to minimise risk associated with clothing, it is as reasonable to say, “Don’t wear clothing” as it is to advise not to wear a certain style. Similarly, “Don’t be in places” is as worthy a piece of advice as “Don’t be in x neighbourhood or at y.” We may as well add “Don’t trust anyone” to the list of helpful tips. Oh, wait, he added it.
2. Some monsters walk on two legs: 3-4% of the human population is made up of psychopaths. That is, one out of every twenty five-to-thirty people is incapable of feeling guilt for their actions, and feels absolutely no psychological difference between ordering a hamburger and shoving a Bowie knife into your eye. These are people who can literally disembowel babies, and not only not feel guilt, but not feel anything. Rape, algebra homework, genocide: it’s all the same to these people. The APA says that a somewhat-higher percentage of these people happen to be male. Be careful: there are a lot of good men out there, but there are also some very, very bad ones, and the bad ones are usually much, much better liars — sociopaths and psychopaths frequently fool the professionals. If you meet a man who’s “so slick he can slide uphill,” who’s awesome and amazing and always, always says exactly the right thing — step back and ponder that for a minute. “So smooth you don’t even realize it until later” is a warning sign.
Is it really good advice to not trust any men, including those who seem nice? This nugget amounts to “Be afraid. Be very afraid. And when you least expect it, expect it!” That’s crap advice. It denies the fact we are all equipped with instinct, and the real issue is we – as a society – teach women not to listen to theirs. Here’s a bit of advice: Know that feeling in the pit of your stomach you push down when you meet someone who gives you the creepy vibe? Don’t do that. Trust your gut. Human instinct has allowed us to rise to the top of the food-chain and maintain that position for almost 4 billion years.
3. Alcohol does not excuse a man raping you. But at the same time, alcohol doesn’t mean you get a free pass on your behavior, either. You do not lose your ability to give consent simply because you’ve chosen to drink and/or to get drunk — the sad truth is that a lot of women drink in order to give themselves permission to have sex. One survey in England (not exactly a Saudi-like bastion of sexual repression) that came out not too long ago suggested that a significant percentage of married women had never had sex, even with their husbands, while actually sober. Men know that lots of women drink to give themselves permission to screw, and many men will assume that if you’re drinking and dressed in a sexy way, that it’s perfectly reasonable to put 2 and 2 together and get 4. Don’t set yourself up for future emotional anguish if you don’t trust yourself when you’re drinking. Have a drinking buddy you can trust, and if you don’t want to get laid, make sure the guys you’re drinking with know that. It’s not rape if you get really drunk and get laid, but then regret the hell out of that the next morning, no matter how horrible you feel afterwards. Sorry — that’s about as politically incorrect as it gets. But you’re just as responsible for your actions as men are for theirs. (And if you use that as an excuse to take it out on the man by filing a false rape charge, you are officially A Bad Person.)
Actually, being inebriated does remove your ability to give consent. True for contracts, true for sex. If Person A is unable to give consent and Person B proceeds, that’s rape. Is there a breathalyzer for people who are under the influence and there’s a possibility of sex? No. But if Person A is unable to knowingly give enthusiastic consent, Person B isn’t just “taking advantage” if he/she proceeds without that consent. How about if they’re both really drunk? Are they raping each other? Don’t be absurd. The rapist exploits a power differential, and alcohol can contribute to that differential or even reverse it. The rapist may try to blame his/her actions on the alcohol, but he/she is just as culpable as the driver who gets behind the wheel while drunk. In order to add legitimacy to this point on consent, our blogger throws in the idea of the ever-so-popular false rape claim. Again. As for the claim of women never having sex while sober, I’d like to point out that six percent, while significant, is not an overwhelmingly significant number of women who have not had sex while sober (94% of women are not in that group), especially when we know nothing else about the women surveyed other than they fall somewhere into the range of 18 to 50 years of age and were part of only 3000 women surveyed. Also important is the context of the study: research was conducted in order to find out about body image, concluding women will drink before getting into bed in order to overcome their inhibitions about their bodies. Sounds like consent was already established long before sex occurred.
4. And a world in which women aren’t required to be responsible for their actions just like men are, drunk or not, is no world you want to live in…. unless you like being treated like a legal permachild the way 17th and 18th-century women were. Your mothers and grandmothers fought like hell to get out of that world and into a world of legal equality. You should honor their achievements.
Oh good, we’ve achieved equality among the sexes. Awesome. I had a hard time finding the advice in this point, but I think it’s “Honour the achievements of the feminists before you.” I think he’s telling women they’re equal now, so shut up. Yeah, that’s good advice. Hey, Ass-hat, bit of advice for you: If you’re going to tell a group of people how to solve their problems by telling them the problems are already solved, DON’T. Aside from that, this is just more nonsensical ramblings of a rape apologist. Women aren’t only responsible for their actions, victim-blaming like this ensures a woman is also responsible for his actions.
5. Just because you were drinking or because you said “yes” doesn’t mean you can no longer say “no,” either. Stand your ground, and don’t be afraid to prosecute — or to scream for help if necessary if you’re too impaired to get away. (On the other hand, men who use date-rape drugs on you, even if the assault doesn’t succeed, should always, always, always be reported to the police. If the bastard tried it on you, guaranteed he’s either succeeded or is setting up to succeed on somebody else. The answer to roofies isn’t self-doubt, but hard time in prison for the people who put women through that hell).
Another sinister form of victim-blaming is to tell someone future victims depend on her actions. Actions our faithful blogger has already gone through the trouble to inform us will result in the perpetrator (possibly someone known not just to the target but the entire family) will be “forced to stay in a little metal box” and be “forcibly sodomized for years or even decades without any hope or help.” That’s some motivation to report a trusted family friend to the police and be scrutinised as a possible false-rape claimant. But how is this victim-blaming? There wasn’t any discussion of blame. Well, it’s simple: victim-blaming isn’t just about those things I briefly mentioned before, but pretty well anything that removes blame from the perpetrator and adds the feelings associated with blame to the victim, in this case the guilt associated with action or inaction. I’ve said it elsewhere on this blog, and I’ll say it again now: Defence takes many forms, and can be counter-violence, can be silence in the moment, can be reporting to police, can be seeking counseling, can be talking to friends or family or religious leaders, can be many things, but needn’t must be anything.
6. Just because a guy has his pants off, doesn’t mean you’re no longer entitled to say no. You can say “no” any time you want, including ninety-percent through intercourse while both your eyes are bugging out, for any reason whatsoever. Yes, this can and likely will result in sexual frustration, confusion, and possibly even hurt feelings for the guy involved, just as it would for you if the guy suddenly bailed out and wanted nothing to do with you under the same circumstances. That’s unavoidable, and hopefully you’ll both be very gentle and understanding with each other….but you still retain the absolutely inviolable right to say “no,” “stop,” “wait,” or any variation on that theme, at any time. Anyone who says otherwise should never be allowed to take their pants off in your presence.
The essence of point six is alright, but, I’ll admit this one has me a bit confused. It’s “unavoidable” there will be frustration, confusion, and hurt feelings, but you may both be able to exercise gentleness and understanding..? But, if both are able to exercise gentleness and understanding, is the unavoidable not avoided? And then it boils down to “No means no,” which is a word a rapist has ways of not hearing, either because he chooses to not hear it when it’s said, or because he intimidates his prey into being unable to utter it. How about we move this one up the the “His” category and change it to be “Yes means yes and anything less than enthusiastic consent is no.” Aside from that almost insignificant (that’s sarcasm, by the way) point, I don’t have issues with this one as I believe open communication before, during, and after sex can make sex that much more fulfilling for all involved. Naturally, I would remove the heteronormative aspect from the equation.
7. There is no faster way to make a man hate all women, and to reflexively treat all every woman he meets like crap for the rest of his life than to subject him to a false rape accusation. Accusing someone of rape is every bit as serious as committing rape in the first place. And if you’re offended by that, substitute the word “murder” and see if you don’t get why. There is also no faster way to cause some men to doubt a victimized woman’s valid rape accusation than to bring a rape charge for a false or spurious reason. If you “cry wolf” and try to use a false criminal accusation as a weapon to hurt somebody, you deserve to do hard time in prison.
“There is no faster way to make a man hate all women….” Really? No faster way? And that’s absolutely the result that will occur? I take issue with the inflexibility of this particular formula, but I’m so glad he finally got to the false rape claim. First off, if a man hates all women because one woman made an accusation for a crime he didn’t commit, that’s just ignorant. Could he have trust issues afterwards? Sure. Especially with women? Maybe. Should a woman considering an accusation consider what it will do to the man she accuses? Not really. She is quite capable of making up her own mind on whether to proceed with a criminal complaint without the advice of a rape apologist clouding the issue. Should she be concerned about prison time if the prosecution is unable to secure a conviction? No. The false-rape-claimant-is-as-bad-as-a-rapist argument is a tool of the “men’s rights activist” (read: misogynist and rape apologist) that is designed to frighten victims of sexual assault into silence lest they be jailed for standing up and telling the truth about their abuser. There are already systems in place for protecting people from false accusations that deserve no greater attention with rape than they do with any other crime, and to bring those up as the female face of sexual assault is disingenuous at best. Of course, telling those who do report crime they may be damaging the chances of a similar crime being prosecuted if someone doesn’t believe them doesn’t help, either. Now all we need is some slut-shaming…
8. Sadly, some men hurt women because they’re just as clueless about sex and relationships as you are, and they don’t understand how women work at all. That sucks, and it happens surprisingly often — men and women are different. It’s also one of the reasons why, prudish and old-fashioned as it sounds, survey after survey finds that women who wait until they’re in a committed relationship to have sex tend to be much happier than those who aren’t. Men benefit from real relationships too, but being less emotionally sensitive, are less likely to suffer psychologically from a bad fling. A pickup gone bad lingers and never gets resolved — in a real relationship, both parties are still around to work it out. The Sexual Revolution was important — women have a lot more options and can make a lot more choices — but when you make those choices, make sure they’re choices you can not only live with, but look back on with a smile rather than a giant bucket of regrets.
Nothing denies agency (and points fingers) quite like some good old fashioned slut-shaming. Women are capable of making their own decisions about who they will or will not sleep with, and this entire point is nothing more than an attempt to restrict those choices, refocus attention on the false rape claim as something women do when their romantic feelings aren’t reciprocated, and insist again that feminist ideology is a thing of the past. Fail.
Our writer finishes off by addressing both men and women on the idea that society-as-a-person doesn’t exist, and therefor the things “society” says should not be taken to heart. Unfortunately, when police officers tell women to not dress like sluts, judges hand down light sentences for rapists because “sex was in the air,” and those who comment on news of SlutWalk say “Rape is not always just the fault of the man,” we are talking about real people. Not to mention you, dear blogger, a man who gives out crap advice about how women can prevent sexual assault, how men can be “real” men, and how we should all “walk the walk” (so long as it isn’t a walk against victim-blaming).
We should all “walk the walk,” and I do mean against victim-blaming. Winnipeg SlutWalk 2012 is slated for September, by the way. Hope to see you there.