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.
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?"
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.