Monday, April 19, 2010

A Response to an Earlier Post

I wrote a post over the weekend whereby I used language that I fully recognize could be interpreted to mean that I was resorting to victim blaming. That was not my intent, nor my desire. As I wrote the post I knew that I wasn't clearly articulating what I meant in ways that would prevent misunderstanding. That's my own fault and shows my limitations as a writer more than any objectionable viewpoint which I might espouse or believe.

This is the passage that caused so many passionate objections.
Modern Feminists are well-known for their desire to counteract rape culture by educating men about what constitutes informed consent for sex. In so doing they seek to highlight the numerous instances in popular culture where unhealthy views and attitudes encourage a blatant disregard for boundaries. Every now and then, one hears about news stories or personal anecdotes involving women who willfully ignored the unfortunate, but necessary proper precautions needed to protect themselves from sexual assault and ended up being taken advantage of as a result. I should state here before I am misunderstood that I never believe that placing full responsibility regarding rape prevention onto women is a good idea and that I believe that men should bear the ultimate burden of proof. Still, the world in which we live is imperfect, and such are the sort of unfair steps and extra effort woman have to take into account for protection's sake. I seek not to blame the victim here, since I am referencing instances where it is verifiable that women were aware of the risks well beforehand, articulated them beforehand, and yet still did not act in their own best interest.
I should have mentioned that I was responding in particular to a recent post on Feministing regarding a Kiely Williams video and song.

http://www.feministing.com/archives/020768.html

To quote from the original post,

"I am not interested in demonizing Williams, but I do think it is important to hold her accountable to her words and intentions. A catchy anthem that essentially says, 'I got drunk and I don't remember everything, but the sex was spectacular," is normalizing a violent and dangerous epidemic that we are still fighting to get recognized as, what it is, rape."

This is what I meant. And in this situation, a woman who disregarded the risks involved sadly ended up being taken advantage of. Should she be blamed for it? Of course not, but the second larger point I was making is that it's easy to reach for knee-jerk emotional responses when people act in ways that are not in their best interest. One could easily say, "What were you thinking! Didn't you use your head?"

If I, as a man, am aware of birth control techniques, and I disregard them, and as a result a pregnancy occurs from it, your instant response might very well be, "How could you be so lazy!? How could you be so thoughtless!?" Should I be blamed for it? Well, it's not like I'm being viciously attacked and brutalized in this circumstance, but your first response might be to blame me. And that was the whole point.

A commenter left a particularly interesting response to my blog posting, which I will include here.


Besides which, you're still framing it in terms of "bad decisions" and "foolishness" that we somehow should be trying to prevent (because if we don't then women will "either blame themselves for their own foolish choices, or with a shrug of the shoulders assume that such is the way of men"). You set up a false dichotomy here - either we encourage women to protect themselves using "appropriate" precautions or we adopt a "reluctant acceptance of bad decisions and worse outcomes". The rapist, of course, doesn't enter into the equation - it's all about what women should do to respond to a problem for women involving women.


Again, let me explain. The point is not to neglect the presence of the rapist or to speak to tactics that seek to discourage men from the violent act itself. Rather, this is a bit of social commentary and critique, since what we often do on Feminist websites is respond to a problem for women involving women. Regarding rape prevention, we're very good at articulating anti-rape strategies, but I often question whether these really speak to the man who rapes on terms that he can understand. Often we seem to be talking only to ourselves.

I also find it interesting that in all of the instances I cited, it seems as though privileged people are the ones debating what is offensive or what is best for minorities or marginalized people, when they themselves might not think as deeply about the matter as we do. This same thing goes for the constant arguments we have about what rapists think or what motivates them. I have no idea what they think. I couldn't begin to understand, no matter how many studies or hyperlinks I am requested to read on the topic. Those who are violent inevitably seem to be driven purely by impulse, and impulse and reasoned argument are not exactly similar. And again, this was another larger point I was making.

In conclusion, I recognize that I probably should have made the original posting about twice as long to explain myself more efficiently, and again, that's my fault. Moreover, if you take the original column as a whole and don't take one paragraph in isolation, I think it's possible to see my entire argument as a cohesive whole. I am trying to take a strong point of view that contrasts what is a very hard-line stance with many people, including many people in the Feminist community, while at the same time trying to make parallels to other sensitive topics, revealing in the end that it's very difficult to be consistent in our political beliefs when personal choice gets in the way, as it so often does.

5 comments:

A Sane Person said...

The rapist hears what we're saying, believe me, and when what we're saying includes laying at least part of the blame on women's actions the rapist hears us justifying his actions.

If you say: this woman exposed herself to this risk by doing this or that, of course I don't blame her, but... the rapist hears: this woman is responsible for what happend to her, I'm not.

Your unwanted pregnancy analogy is a great example. I replied to that already on my blog, but I will repeat it here because this is complete bullshit. You are equating the consequences of rape with consequences of what is a reckless but essentially a consensual act, and thus making it seem as if a woman who is raped behaved recklessly but essentially in a way that can be interpreted as consensual (because if she's not taking measures to protect herself in some way, she's "asking for it" - which is the standard presumption about raped women in our society and you're playing into it). In this case, then, the rape becomes a natural consequence of her actions the same way an unwanted pregnancy is a natural consequence of unprotected sex.

Whenever people engage in discussions such as this one, one thing is persistently missing - the rapist's role and the rapist's blame for the crime. It's all about what women do or don't do to protect themselves. And rapists see that and they take it into account. They know that there's a vast culture out there and many many people who will justify what he is doing by focusing on the woman's role in her own rape - a crime that is committed against her.

I don't know if you've followed the link in my post, but if you didn't you should read this about "predator theory" - it's about surveys done on thousands of men who were asked if they ever raped someone.

And while I'm handing out links, here's a great post by a rape survivor.

And while you're at it, read this as well: Why rape is not one big misunderstanding - it's about how a group of men interviewed in Australia think that women deny sex by sending subtle signs but also that women who are raped are raped because they didn't look their attacker in the eye and say NO clearly enough.

Comrade Kevin said...

A Sane Person,

Kindly please do not presume that you can make summary judgments about my intentions. You do not live in my head and I have never once thought that your opinions were bullshit. Your anger is leading you in directions that are not conducive to your understanding.

Geeze. I never once thought I'd be put in a position where I'd be having to use the word "rapist" or "rape" as much as I have, but let's lay this to rest forever. Another analogy I was making was that in all of the instances I cited, it seems as though privileged people are the ones debating what is offensive or what is best for minorities or marginalized people, when they themselves might not think as deeply about the matter as they do.

This same thing goes for the constant arguments we have about what rapists think or what motivates them. I have no idea what they think. I couldn't begin to understand, no matter how many studies or hyperlinks I am requested to read on the topic. They seem to respond to me based purely on impulse, and impulse and reasoned argument are not exactly similar. Again, another larger point I was making. I hope you really hear this one.

Again, you misunderstand, but I am beginning to think at this point that you always will. I am merely pointing out that we have a tendency to make instant, snap judgments assigning blame based on our own emotional response. You're reading way too much into this.

Remember, I didn't write this intending to justify or to validate rape apologists arguments. They're not defensible. Period.

You seem to think I am trying to defend it when I'm not, clearly. You think somehow I've found some little loophole that provides me some way to wiggle through and justify rape somehow, and again...this is not what I am trying to do!!!!

A Sane Person said...

Well your posts read as if you do and your failed analogies point in that direction, so maybe you should ask yourself why is that. As for the fact that "privileged" people shouldn't talk about whatever, who are the people who should talk about this then? On my blog, a rape survivor answered your comment. I have linked you a post of another rape survivor that I think would be illuminating to anyone interested in this issue. So, whose opinion on these matters will you accept, except your own?

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