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June 18, 2005

Hating women

This week, bloggers started writing about that poor woman who not only disappeared in Aruba but - insult on injury - had the bad fortune to become the Fox News flavor of the week. And one male blogger who is prominent far beyond any justification his talent provides, and who had recently attracted the mild ire of feminist bloggers over his reaction to KosPieGate, let loose with the assertion that though he certainly didn't blame the woman for her abduction and probable rape, that it happened because she was stupid enough to go hang out with three guys.

Thank you for not blaming.

His commenters took it further. As quoted by Amanda Marcotte, one of them put it this way:

Want to talk accountability? I blame:
1) The parents for not equipping their daughter for the real world and failing to realize that she was ill-equipped for the temptations of Aruba.
2) Her "friends". A good friend wouldn't have let her get in a situation like she did. I've saved some drunk buddies from making bad decisions, and I'm sure they've helped me avoid trouble as well.
3) Herself. When all of the failsafes out there, parents, friends, society, fail you there's still the most important one left: yourself. She didn't get kidnapped... she went off with them willingly.

Amanda noted an omission that some of the guys might have missed:

"I blame someone who didn't make the list. I blame the rapist."

Feminist-leaning bloggers have been hashing this over for the past few days, with that regrettably familiar combination of world-weary fatigue and renewed outrage. Lauren has a good list of some of the blog posts that have been generated as a result. In the comment threads on most of them, the same rhetorical dance played out:

Feminist: "It's about time people put the responsibility for rape on the shoulders of the rapist."
Unfeminist: "Yeah, but it's really stupid for women to just go wandering around where it's unsafe."
Feminist: "We know it's unsafe. We avoid going out. Rape happpens anyway. We're tired of being blamed for it."
Unfeminist: "But what if you were walking through the poorest neighborhood in Calcutta covered with cash, carrying a boombox playing 'We're In The Money,' and with a big sack with a dollar sign printed on the outside? And wearing a hat that said 'Rob Me'? Wouldn't that be stupid?"
Feminist: "Um, what?"

And so forth. The whole of American society's response to rape, it seems, runs along the lines of the old bad joke in which the patient says "Doctor, it hurts when I do this."

Society's response: "So don't do that."

"Don't go out at night. Don't relax with your friends on vacation. Lock your doors. Don't be friendly with men you don't know. Don't trust the men you do know." It's a prescription for a very large prison, one that women are expected to carry around with them every minute of their lives.

And they're expected to do so while the behavior of rapists is - well, certainly not condoned, but explained away as some regrettable extreme right tail of the normal male sexuality bell curve.

David Neiwert, one of the best writers on prejudice now working in the US, wrote last August:

[H]ate crimes have the fully intended effect of driving away and deterring the presence of any kind of hated minority -- racial, religious, or sexual. They are essentially acts of terrorism directed at entire communities of people, and they are message crimes: "Keep out." ... Black people fear stepping foot in Idaho because of the presence of the Aryan Nations in the state's Panhandle. Gays and lesbians view driving through places like Wyoming and Montana with a palpable anxiety. If you get out a map of the country and put yourself in the shoes of a person of color or another sexual persuasion, and start looking at the places you would feel safe visiting, you'll suddenly realize that this can be a very small country indeed for people who are not white heterosexuals. This is what Yale hate-crimes expert Donald Green means when he says that hate crimes annually create a "massive dead-weight loss of freedom" for Americans.

Progressive men decry the effects of such crimes, and rightly so. And who among us would lecture a black couple victimized by a hate crime that they should have stayed out of Coeur D'Alene?

Is rape a hate crime? There are a few different definitions of hate crimes floating around. They share a few common features. The crime must be directed at a member or members of a particular social group: for instance an ethnicity, religion, sexual preference, or gender. (Check.)

The crime must be committed out of a feeling of hostility toward said group, with the victim chosen not for her individual characteristics but for her membership in the targeted group. (Check.)

Lastly, the crime must be intended at least in part to promote fear among members of the targeted group. This one's harder to pin down without direct interviews of rapists. Eldridge Cleaver, the late and unlamented ex-Black Panther who started his adult life as a confessed rapist, wrote in Soul On Ice of his intent to rape in order to spread fear among white women, and whites in general. He described "practicing" on African-American women until he felt ready to "cross the tracks." Rape is very commonly used as a terrorist tactic in wartime, a way to demoralize women in the civilian population. Can we extrapolate from examples like these to make guesses about the larger intent of the average rapist? Who knows?

But the effect is the same either way: a "massive dead-weight loss of freedom" experienced on a daily basis by more than half our population. And I have reinforced that loss, and you probably have as well. It is a normal and healthy response to encourage the people we love to stay out of danger as much as possible. I've done it myself, encouraged Becky and other women I love not to go out for urban walks at night. I'll probably do it again. So will other men, and other women.

But we do so out of a desire to create a personal solution to a mass problem. That kind of thing rarely works, and when it does in the short term, the unintended consequences are usually massive. With the best of intentions, out of a desire to protect the people we love, we have acted in complicity with the men who commit hate crimes.

What do we do instead?

Posted by Chris Clarke at June 18, 2005 05:29 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.faultline.org/cgi-bin/mt-tb.cgi/1138

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Comments

Well, thanks loads for getting me so pissed off as to leave angry comments all over half the web.

BTW, close your italics tag.

Posted by: craig at June 19, 2005 12:41 AM
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Fantastic! It occured to me reading over my comments at Pandagon that there was no run to tell gay men to restrict their associations after Matthew Shepard's murder and definitely no outpouring of advice to black men to avoid hitchhiking after James Byrd's murder. Only people asking--rightfully--how has our society failed that we create such monsters as these murderers? Shepard's murder, in fact, became and opportunity to address homophobia. Vicious rapes should generate discussions about sexism, not how women need to deal better with sexism.

Posted by: Amanda Marcotte at June 19, 2005 07:23 AM
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When I was 18 I was the victim of a sexual assault by a stranger. I did all the wrong things: I was hitchhiking. I was alone. I got into a car with a stranger.
Guess what? None of those things made me responsible for the horrific crime that was committed against me. I was innocent. I was the victim. And it happened so long ago that the court re-victimized me by making my sexual history a part of the proceedings. We live in a culture that not only permits the victimization of women, but fosters it. Women are denigrated for claiming their own sexuality, while our culture fetishizes and commodifies it.
There is no excuse ever for rape. None.

Posted by: Rexroths Daughter at June 19, 2005 08:04 AM
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A rape isn't a rape because of the intent or motive of the rapist but because of the intent and behavior of the rapee. So "rape" covers lots of things and far from always or necessarily a hate crime. We're deep into a nature/nurture gray area here. Besides eating and breathing, it's hard to think of anything more primal than the drive to reproduce, which fits with the observation that it's hard to curb or control. It's hard for society to control and it's hard for a person to control. Which of our convoluted neuroses and psychoses aren't about sex? Not many. Rape is liable to represent a bigger challenge than overeating and obesity, which society has no ready remedy looming. If you only approach either of these problems on the enforcement side, I doubt anything less than a totalitarian state would suffice. People binge and screw covertly. If you want to approach it only on the education and nurture side, we'd probably need free, high-quality mental health care on demand for everybody, including aliens, and a society so bereft of want and suffering that it would look like the imagined hereafter. I think the best we can do is to take both tacks in combination and hope for a synergy to give us...um...less banging for our bucks. In other words, we need to think of individual rights, responsibilities and enforcement, but we also need to think on a no-fault social scale in the style of public health. Note that we fault governments and the police for crowd control measures that lead predictably to confrontations and violence. In such circumstances personal responsibility gets placed on the back burner, until any fire-starting protestors are later arrested and abusive police disciplined. We serve ourselves better as a society sometimes by simply accomodating people's predispositions to otherwise unacceptable behavior. I'm not advocating accomodating anything in particular with regard to rape, just saying we shouldn't be fundamentalist about it.

Posted by: murky at June 19, 2005 08:09 AM
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Obviously, I don't believe sex is incidental to rape.

Posted by: murky at June 19, 2005 08:12 AM
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Not "always incidental," I mean.

Posted by: murky at June 19, 2005 08:13 AM
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murky---you are VERY murky here. please clear this up.

"A rape isn't a rape because of the intent or motive of the rapist but because of the intent and motive of the rapee." WTF are you saying?

the victim has "intent and motive?"???????

fool, the god damn rapist has intent to commit a crime!!!!!!!!!!!!

you telling us that YOU are justified in raping a woman because of your sex drive?

speak up!!!!!!!! let us all know.

Posted by: dread pirate roberts at June 19, 2005 08:29 AM
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how many women have you raped murky?

Posted by: dread pirate roberts at June 19, 2005 08:37 AM
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you telling us that YOU are justified in raping a woman because of your sex drive?

I'm confident that that's not what Murky is saying, but I'm as confused as you are about what he is saying.

As to the intent of the victim: Back when I was typing up Elissa's law school homework on her brand new 286, she learned a fair bit about the concept of mens rea, the mental state of the accused. As far as I know, there is no parallel concept to cover the state of mind of the victim, except when it comes to awarding damages.

In any event, were we to grant the notion that the existence of the crime rape depends on the state of mind of the victim, that's certainly not unique to that particular crime. I've been mugged. I've also been accosted by someone on the street, pulled out my wallet and given him everything in it, and walked away feeling very happy about the encounter.

I've never been carjacked, but I have given a truck to a complete stranger. (It was worth maybe two hundred bucks, I was trying to get rid of it, and the stranger was very cute.)

So yeah, all victimizing crimes rely at their base on the victim feeling victimized. So what? How's that a useful distinction?

Posted by: Chris Clarke at June 19, 2005 08:40 AM
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Let's simmer down, DPR. Anger is fine, but accusations of commissions of violent crime are a bit over the top. Let's let Murky clarify what he meant, and then maybe I'll help you start the fire under the big pot of tar I keep in the back room.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at June 19, 2005 08:43 AM
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sorry chris, i think your response is trivializing rape. comparing rape to giving your truck to a cute stranger? comparing rape to being accosted? i don't think murder victims are able to feel victimized.

your comment seems out of step with your post, which i think is great.

let's let murky clear up his comment.

Posted by: dread pirate roberts at June 19, 2005 09:04 AM
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comparing rape to giving your truck to a cute stranger? comparing rape to being accosted?

You know damn well that's not what I was doing, DPR.

I have been sexually assaulted. So have people I care about deeply. This isn't a remote or abstract issue for me: I write about it with a memory of being forced to suck a guy's cock as he held a gun to my head. And making a decision to fight back because at that point, I didn't fucking care if he killed me. OK? Is that untrivial enough? Or do I need to mention the part about how I bit his testicle off, knowing for sure that the pain would cause him to pull the trigger whether he wanted to or not? Or the part about spitting his gonad into his face as he lay there on the sidewalk, or the part about walking three blocks and puking my guts out on College Avenue as nicely-dressed families watched and made comments about "problem street people"?

Posted by: Chris Clarke at June 19, 2005 09:34 AM
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my deepest apologies chris. i didn't understand your comment. what did you mean? what was that about the truck? it did seem to be totally out of character. i was rash in the extreme. i know what side you're on.

went out and weeded the garden some. very grounding.

Posted by: dread pirate roberts at June 19, 2005 09:53 AM
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Weeding is good.. I have a bunch to do as well.

I was just trying to point out that murky's comment was a tautology. For those crimes that involve damage done to a victim, if you don't have a victim, you don't have a crime.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at June 19, 2005 09:57 AM
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Murky writes: "Rape is liable to represent a bigger challenge than overeating and obesity, which society has no ready remedy looming. If you only approach either of these problems on the enforcement side, I doubt anything less than a totalitarian state would suffice."

This comment is revealing. Overeating and obesity are under the control of the individual - rape is not.

Perhaps the point is that the state cannot effectively end obesity and that ending rape is even more difficult. But why is rape unique here? Why not make the same argument for any crime, from shoplifting to murder? Because unlike those other crimes, the victim of rape is suspect of being complicit in that rape. Not so for other victims.

It's this question of complicity, which comes up in virtually every instance or rape, that's the issue here. Inevitably, the victim is asked "did you fight back"? Or perhaps, "how could you say you were raped when you aren't bruised and bleeding... did you say no?" As though rape isn't real unless the victim isn't viciously beaten or assaulted in the course of being raped, as though refusing sex isn't legitimate unless you're willing to get beaten to maintain that no.

I'm not about to accept the justification that rape happens because it's just so hard to curb or control our desire to reproduce, as Murky suggests. That argument buys into the fallacy that rape is about sex, about "getting some". It ignores the reality that rape is about power and violence - that sex is just the instrument.

I can't believe this discussion hasn't progressed over the last few decades. I'm losing hope that it will.

Posted by: Kathy at June 19, 2005 03:03 PM
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How many white men did Emmett Till leave willingly with?

Oh, but that's different. He wasn't, like, violating the stupid local rules or anything, was he?

Posted by: MNOBserver at June 19, 2005 05:12 PM
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Rape is the unspoken epidemic. Do we really talk about it as a hate crime--not really and it is not considered one in most jurisdictions. Gore Vidal said it best, "Women really have no idea how much men hate them."

Congress did try to make it a civil rights issue and passed legislation along those lines, but the Supreme Court struck it as violative of their narrow interpretation of the interstate commerce clause.

We women are raised to live in fear. We are always told that we could be raped at any minute, any where. I tell my female students to get their keys out before they leave the classroom to walk to their cars.

It is an act of faith that I don't hate men. I married one but he was president of the local rape crisis center.

Just because a woman goes some where with a man does not mean he gets to fuck her. Or steps in his hotel room, or allows him to kiss her, buy her dinner.

If this poor woman is dead, and she probably is, may her death make women and men ponder how not one of us deserves to be raped and murdered. Not one. Not one person does something, gives some bastard a signal, permission, to rape and murder.

Posted by: jaye at June 19, 2005 05:38 PM
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KosPieGate?

Posted by: jaye at June 19, 2005 05:40 PM
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"Intent and motive" were my way into a response to Chris characterizing rape as somehow intrinsically terroristic. Sorry that wasn't clear. Maybe only some of the problem here is the word "rape" and Chris has led me into more problems with "terrorist," which can mean all kinds of things. It's probably also me wanting to make distinctions that others consider academic. I don't think there's only one kind of rapist or one rapist state of mind, is what I was saying. It's an obvious point but it gets lost when people start to label rape as "about X" while they are distinguishing from the traditional patriarchal perspective of "about Y." Rape and obesity are both under the control of individuals as well as under the control of the environment. A potential rapist is free to choose not to rape and a potential overeater is free to choose to diet or exercise. Social measures such as laws, policing and punishment keep rape down and they could keep overeating down too if a country wanted to go that route. Now given that our country still has rape going on, what do we do? My perhaps academic point is that 100% success by law, policing and punishment alone (no education, no public discourse, no effect on the minds of would-be rapists) is inconsistent with any kind of society we'd want to live in and that we can achieve in the near time. Why, because rape is about sex. By definition. About sex, about sex, about sex. I did not say "only about sex" or "above all about sex" or "about attraction to the person being raped."
When Balkan goons raped ethnic adversaries during the recent war, saying it was "about sex" explains almost nothing, but sex was there. War, politics and hatred generally don't harden dicks directly or necessarily. Something in the lizard brain hardens dicks, and in messed up men at messed up times unconventional motives pull on the lizard lever that controls sex. There's another lever that controls eating, which neuroses and psychoses can get a hold of. I think both of those levers control something powerful and are hard to let go of because the part of you that grips them is unconscious and tied in deeply to childhood development and who you are. Not that I rape or overeat or have psychoanalyzed people who do, but I know my own mind is complex and I don't doubt other people's minds are too. Even rapists.

Posted by: murky at June 19, 2005 05:50 PM
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If I'm going to be put on trial for war crimes I suppose I might as well explain what the "intent and motive" sentence was supposed to mean. It's saying "rape" is when the person being raped doesn't want sex and the other person knows it, end of story. Because in principle a variety of motivations are consistent with the classification of a crime as "rape," and because people are complicated, it's stands to reason that among the rapes that do occur, there exists a diversity of rapist motivations, and so to say "rape=terrorism" is way simplistic and therefore wrong.

Posted by: murky at June 19, 2005 06:07 PM
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Murky, I disagree. I do not believe that rape is about sex. Rape is about one individual exerting power and control over another individual. Sex happens to be the tool used in rape. When talking to convicted rapists, they will tell you that they forced sex on their victims in order to exert their wishes. Even if a rapist says he was horny and that’s why he raped his victim, the rapist is still admitting is that he wanted sex at that moment and felt he had the power to force his desire. His wishes were more important than the survivors. I’m sorry Murky, but in the end, rape is simply an issue of power and control, not about sex. This distinction is an important one to make because it makes the impetus behind rape one of selfishness and cruelty rather than one of basic human need. Also your statement:

“Because in principle a variety of motivations are consistent with the classification of a crime as "rape," and because people are complicated, it's stands to reason that among the rapes that do occur, there exists a diversity of rapist motivations, and so to say "rape=terrorism" is way simplistic and therefore wrong”

ignores the fact that even if a rapist claims a variety of reasons why he committed the rape, what he is actually doing is using his power to exert control over another human being. I know I keep emphasizing the words power and control, but its crucial when discussing rape that you understand the actual actions of the rapist and not just what they are telling you. And rape=terrorism is not an overly simplistic description. Its actually very accurate. If terrorism is defined as “The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence against people or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives”(google def.), then rape is ALWAYS a form of terrorism because the rapist is using unlawful force in order to achieve (at the bare minimum) ideological objectives. That ideological objective can be defined as the rapist’s belief that they should have their desires and wishes granted whenever they want. So I do not think it is wrong to make a link between rape and terrorism.

Posted by: Sydney at June 19, 2005 08:14 PM
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Rape is terrorism - even men who would not themselves be rapists benefit (I use the word sardonically) from the control it imposes on women. Our freedom is curtailed by the fear of rape - don't go in this neighborhood (even if you live there), don't go out at night (even if you need to earn a living or get an education), don't dress provacatively or be pretty (as though rapists only choose victims that way.

Men I have loved and esteemed have basically agreed with rapists - if a women is in a place where she is vulnerable, it's her own fault if she is raped. How are we to live in a world in which even our lovers and friends see rape as a result of opportunity, not as a real crime? When are women not vulnerable, when men will always have opportunity?

Posted by: Buffalo Gal at June 19, 2005 08:53 PM
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murky---thank you for not responding rudely, as i did this morning. i offered insult where none was warranted. i'm sorry for that.

"A potential rapist is free to choose not to rape and a potential overeater is free to choose to diet or exercise."

are you sure you want to stand by that?

the only way this comparison works is if the fat person is EATING OTHER HUMANS.

what part the distinction between self-victimizing obesity and rape of ANOTHER human is not blindingly obvious to you?

your lame response about confusing rape and terrorism cuts no ice with me.

chris--keep the tarpot hot. i'm sorry to muck up your blog here, but really, comparing the action of an obese person with that of a rapist?

murky--i'm rethinking that part obout offering insult where none was warranted. i do regret my over the top comment. makes it harder to critique your sloppy thinking.

Posted by: dread pirate roberts at June 19, 2005 09:01 PM
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Seems we're @ loggerheads.

Posted by: murky at June 19, 2005 09:37 PM
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Obesity isn't much of a choice to those with untreated metabolic disorders--which interestingly are often female--with no health care and prescription drug crisis. Bottom line many,many people eat poorly and don't workout because they are working for minimum wage and they aren't chosing to get all that fabulous information about what one should and shouldn't eat.

Ah it is so easy in the blame the victim world. And compulsively mentally ill--which some rapists are--are unable to control their mental illness, either.

The Frat Boy Date Rapists is, but doesn't care. And hates women. And that is his life style, his construct.

Obesity and Rapists--whatever you are tripping on isn't helping your reasoning powers much. Sounds like lame-ass justification. It is easier to blame the victim because we then have no responsibility to change the culture.

Sorry, gentlepeople, but I am angry.

We live in a rape culture and we go to great lengths to make it happen.

Posted by: jaye at June 19, 2005 09:43 PM
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jaye, sydney, kathy, and you too chris---you are all so much better at this than i am. thanks.

murky-- i agree that rape may not always = terrorism, and that we must change the culture to fully address the problem, but i'm not quite seeing how your comments further that agenda. i think that it is good for both of us to listen to the voices of the victims and the terrified, and to recognize the validity of their assertions.

Posted by: dread pirate roberts at June 19, 2005 11:14 PM
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When I was 26, I was raped and beaten in my home by the man who lived across the street. Does this mean that, in addition to not going out at night, not daring to take a walk, we should also not stay in our homes?

I blamed the rapist (and I put him in jail).

Posted by: River at June 19, 2005 11:24 PM
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"murky-- i agree that rape may not always = terrorism, and that we must change the culture to fully address the problem, but i'm not quite seeing how your comments further that agenda. i think that it is good for both of us to listen to the voices of the victims and the terrified, and to recognize the validity of their assertions."

Emotion is good for motivating change, but not so good for crafting the larger policy of preventing future incidents of victimization. I suppose I'm trying to further the agenda in part just by modeling how one might think and talk about rape with a cool head. I don't feel like it's working.

Posted by: murky at June 20, 2005 06:00 AM
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Murky said: “Emotion is good for motivating change, but not so good for crafting the larger policy of preventing future incidents of victimization. I suppose I'm trying to further the agenda in part just by modeling how one might think and talk about rape with a cool head. I don't feel like it's working.”

The problem with the above statement Murky, is that by trying to talk about rape from an unemotional or cooler head perspective, you are attempting to universalize the experience of rape. In order to get a firmer grasp on rape one must understand the way our society creates a rape culture. The only way to do this is to listen to the various testimonies and experiences of rape survivors no matter how “emotional” they may appear to be. Your above statement is also unacceptable for most women because it is as if you’re saying that your approach to solving rape is more valid than a survivors because you are seemingly outside the subordinating effects of patriarchy that contribute to a rape culture. In other words, you’re giving your beliefs more credibility than a survivors. One can also interpret that by taking this approach, you are removing yourself from any blame because you are assuming that your behavior does not in anyway contribute to the rape culture we live in and thus your opinions would be less emotional and much more rational than a survivors. I don’t think this is the message you want to be sending, although I could always be incorrect in my judgment of you.

Posted by: Sydney at June 20, 2005 06:44 AM
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We're deep into a nature/nurture gray area here. Besides eating and breathing, it's hard to think of anything more primal than the drive to reproduce, which fits with the observation that it's hard to curb or control.

What utter and unmitigated bullshit. Yes, the urge to have sex is there, but it's not uncontrolable any more than the urge to commit violence when angry, the urge to run away when scared, or the urge to eat when hungry.

If I'm hungry and a woman walks by with a hamburger, I don't grab it and consume it. If I'm horny, and a woman wanderd by in a tight dress, I don't jump her.

It's not excusable to think that some sort of inbred lack of control causes people to rape. We're not animals. Consent is part of the human experience, and we all learn it to some degree.

But the understanding of consent when it comes to sex is broken in a lot of men.

Posted by: Josh Jasper at June 20, 2005 09:25 AM
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Murky: "We're deep into a nature/nurture gray area here. Besides eating and breathing, it's hard to think of anything more primal than the drive to reproduce, which fits with the observation that it's hard to curb or control."

Yeah I don’t know how on earth I missed this comment, Murky. I agree with Josh- this is utter bullshit. And it’s pretty insulting to men as a whole. And its statements like these that make it clear why you need to listen to women’s testimonies and not remove the role of men in facilitating the existence of a rape culture bys designating them the “cooler heads”.

Posted by: Sydney at June 20, 2005 09:40 AM
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I dunno, Sydney. Some of the dispassionate rape research done by cooler heads is rather prestigious.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at June 20, 2005 09:44 AM
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People here are "playing the rape card" in the same way people "play the race card." Perhaps I think we need to hear more from the victims too, but that doesn't mean I have to say that's all we have to hear ever or that that's the best thing for us to be hearing on this blog right now. Maybe it's the best thing for here and now, maybe it's not. I was just exercising my right and responsibility as a blog reader to talk about what I thought was interesting and useful. I'm very sorry if anybody has mistaken this as support for rapists or lack of sympathy for victims. But I'm not going to be soluting any flags for anybody here.

Posted by: murky at June 20, 2005 11:03 AM
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You're right Chris- those Nazis really knew how to keep a cool head. perhaps we can learn from their stellar example.

Posted by: Sydney at June 20, 2005 12:40 PM
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Murky: “People here are "playing the rape card" in the same way people "play the race card." Perhaps I think we need to hear more from the victims too, but that doesn't mean I have to say that's all we have to hear ever or that that's the best thing for us to be hearing on this blog right now. Maybe it's the best thing for here and now, maybe it's not. I was just exercising my right and responsibility as a blog reader to talk about what I thought was interesting and useful. I'm very sorry if anybody has mistaken this as support for rapists or lack of sympathy for victims. But I'm not going to be soluting any flags for anybody here.”

Okay Murky there are just so many things wrong with this statement I don’t know where to begin. First off, “playing the rape card”. Now if you don’t want to piss anyone off but actually have a meaningful discussion, why on earth would you ever state anything like that especially when you know that survivors are reading this? That’s not going to win you any points here. Now, if by playing the race card you mean asserting that a survivor’s opinions might be more relevant than yours by virtue of the fact they are survivors, than I think is common sense and not playing any card. No one is saying your opinion isn’t important; what we (or at least I) am stating is that if you’re going to participate in a discussion about rape, perhaps you should avoid creating the impression that you’re an outsider to the effects of rape culture and as a result have a cooler head (or better judgment) then someone who was actually raped. If you’re doing that, you’re simply expecting that your privilege as a male will trump ours as women and (in some cases) survivors.

Also, I completely don’t understand why a criticism of your viewpoint warranted such a defensive reaction. All anyone was saying is that they didn’t agree with what you said and that you may want to try re-framing your perspective. Don’t get all pissy over it. If you want to engage in actual dialogue- meaning everyone offers their opinions and are praised/criticized accordingly- then you have to understand that your way is not always going to be viewed as the right way. So please, give us your opinions, but don’t close yourself off from our reactions. Otherwise, I’m going to think you don’t actually care to help solve the problem of rape, but rather you want a soapbox to preach from.

Posted by: Sydney at June 20, 2005 12:54 PM
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To be fair, Sydney, murky was asked in reply to his initial comment how many women he had raped.

That said.

People here are "playing the rape card" in the same way people "play the race card."

It's interesting that I've only heard the phrase "playing the race card" used to defuse an accusation of racism. (I'm not imputing any parallel behavior to you here, murky: just saying it's not a persuasive argument to me.)

Why, because rape is about sex. By definition. About sex, about sex, about sex. I did not say "only about sex" or "above all about sex" or "about attraction to the person being raped."

I've said this before, but: if you hit someone over the head with a banjo that's violence, not bluegrass. Using a sexual organ as a weapon doesn't make the violence "sex."

I don't think there's only one kind of rapist or one rapist state of mind, is what I was saying.

And a careful reading of my post will show I made a point of not making any such allegation.

War, politics and hatred generally don't harden dicks directly or necessarily. Something in the lizard brain hardens dicks, and in messed up men at messed up times unconventional motives pull on the lizard lever that controls sex.

This, to me, is the saddest part of this whole comment thread. I have never met a single radical feminist - separatist, Dworkinite, or otherwise - who had quite so uncomplimentary a definition of what it means to be male. They at least had the respect to grant the notion that rape is a free choice, freely decided upon by the rapist, and not some result of pseudoevolutionary programming.

I've been simultaneously angry and aroused once or twice in my long and varied life. Never once have I felt an overwhelming urge to coerce sex out of a second party.

Arousal and anger does not equal a desire to rape. In fact, a desire to rape does not equal a decision to rape. where is the humanity in your analysis, the assuming the best of men's souls?

Posted by: Chris Clarke at June 20, 2005 01:12 PM
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Chris: "To be fair, Sydney, murky was asked in reply to his initial comment how many women he had raped."

This is true, I didn't catch that. So I apologize murky for my lashing out at you--somewhat. But I do agree with Chris's analysis of your comments.

Posted by: Sydney at June 20, 2005 01:30 PM
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I'd think twice about arguing that horseshit that rape is somehow related to a lack of control or irrational, "instinctual" "lizard brain" action. You very seldom see a guy rape, say, a woman who's holding a gun on him, or in a place where his actions can be seen by people who are likely to stop him with extreme prejudice, or for that matter anyone whom he doesn't think he can get away with raping.

For similar reasons, I have strong reservations about "anger management" classes or groups. Generally, the people who use anger to get what they want manage it very well indeed.

Posted by: Ron Sullivan at June 20, 2005 02:08 PM
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To me, a penis in a vagina or other human orafice is about all that's required to constitute "sex." I mean the word "sex." In saying this I'm not making a sociological assertion, but defining a word as I use it. I am surprised, however, that this usage is so unfamiliar to others that nobody here seems to appreciate how I meant it. Regarding the "lizard brain," I don't know what part of the nervous system directly controls erection but it's not the cerebrum, and I have a hard time believing the penis has been rewired since our evolutionary lineage diverged from the ancestor we share with modern lizards. It's also not voluntary: A man can't raise his dick like he can raise his arm. Regarding "rape card" playing, my point is that people are inciting ire where none is due. I'm not saying no ire is do about rape. I'm saying I don't deserve your ire about rape being heaped on me just because I wrote something that you guys seem to have misunderstood. The criticism I would have thought more likely is that I was saying something trivial and obvious. I'm amazed that people here seem to think I've said anything factually wrong.

Posted by: murky at June 20, 2005 03:32 PM
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I'm saying I don't deserve your ire about rape being heaped on me just because I wrote something that you guys seem to have misunderstood.

I don't think you were misunderstood. I think you made a few sloppy arguments and some people objected to them, some of them in a far more hostile fashion than I would have preferred.

1) You framed your whole argument as a rebuttal to a statement that I did not make.

2) You conflated sexual arousal with rape.

Perhaps it would be illustrative to wrest a metaphor from the cold dead hands of the Second Amendment crowd: "Erections don't rape people: MEN do."

The criticism I would have thought more likely is that I was saying something trivial and obvious. I'm amazed that people here seem to think I've said anything factually wrong.

Well, trivial and obvious and rebutted rather exhaustively in a number of venues in the past, much as creationism has been leading to certain kinds of reception over at PZ's joint when people post the same old misapprehensions.

But I do give you points for persistence, and I know you well enough to know you honestly want to learn what the other side is thinking. So I hope this doesn't chase you away. I sure as hell don't have a monopoly on the truth, and I've learned a few things from your comments in other threads here.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at June 20, 2005 03:44 PM
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"You conflated sexual arousal with rape"

If I did, it was only fleetingly and it had no effect on my point. Note that when I posted this


"Obviously, I don't believe sex is incidental to rape."
Posted by: murky at June 19, 2005 08:12 AM


only a moment later I posted this:


"Not 'always incidental,' I mean."
Posted by: murky at June 19, 2005 08:13 AM


to make double extra certain that nobody would misconstrue me as arguing the stupid and long ago refuted notion you still seem to think I'm making. If so, you'll have to show me how, because I do not see it. I think this is a misunderstanding arising from my use of "sex" and from people being on hair trigger lookout for that traditional wrong-headed notion that I'm nowhere near to holding. If I'm holding an ignorant notion, it's my own, but mostly my actual assertions aren't being addressed here. Those that were ("lizard brain" "rape card" "voluntary") I backed up and stand by, and I'd be happy to consider arguments against them, though I doubt anybody will muster one.

Posted by: murky at June 20, 2005 04:23 PM
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Maybe we need to define "rape" better. If a father verbally pressures his young son or daughter to have sex with him, does it not constitute rape? I believe it does, and my firm hunch is that the psychology of such a rapist is different than the psychology of other rapists.

Posted by: murky at June 20, 2005 04:31 PM
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If I did, it was only fleetingly and it had no effect on my point.

So when you repeatedly talked about arousal being involuntary, and then skipped all the steps between getting an erection and deciding to rape someone, that was talking about something else?

I believe it does, and my firm hunch is that the psychology of such a rapist is different than the psychology of other rapists.

And once again, you are responding to an assertion I never made.

Because you seem to be reluctant to actually - you know - READ what I wrote, here's the relevant section clipped for your convenience:

Eldridge Cleaver, the late and unlamented ex-Black Panther who started his adult life as a confessed rapist, wrote in Soul On Ice of his intent to rape in order to spread fear among white women, and whites in general. He described "practicing" on African-American women until he felt ready to "cross the tracks." Rape is very commonly used as a terrorist tactic in wartime, a way to demoralize women in the civilian population. Can we extrapolate from examples like these to make guesses about the larger intent of the average rapist? Who knows? But the effect is the same either way: a "massive dead-weight loss of freedom" experienced on a daily basis by more than half our population.

(emphasis added.)

You went off into a long, scientificaly untenable fugue about the inner workings and lizard brains and intent of rapists as a rebuttal to what I wrote, and I specificaly said I didn't have enoughdata to make any judgements about the inner mental state of rapists.

My point was that the effect of the crime, regardless of the rapist's mens rea makes rape functionally identical to a hate crime.

And your very first sentence in reply?

A rape isn't a rape because of the intent or motive of the rapist but because of the intent and behavior of the rapee.

I figured, knowing you a bit, that you had just written that in an excruciatingly clumsy fashion. But that sentence reads as blaming the victim.

Writers need to choose their words carefully when writing about incendiary subjects. We also have a responsibility to read carefully what we intend to rebut, and to reflect carefully when feedback on our writing runs in a certain direction. If a roomful of men and women respond strongly and in like fashion to something you've written, and if you feel that reaction is orthogonal to your intent, it's counterproductive to assume the fault is with all the readers.

In fact, you might call it blaming the victims.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at June 20, 2005 04:48 PM
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"But I do give you points for persistence, and I know you well enough to know you honestly want to learn what the other side is thinking. So I hope this doesn't chase you away."

Thanks for looking out for my morale. I'm suffering the slings and arrows fine. My patience is a little stretched though, so I skim when I hit bits where commenters seem to be running off on tangents. There's only so much time I'm willing to spend arguing against things I feel I came no where near to saying with uncivil people I don't know and who seem intent on assuming the worst of me. Call me quirky.

Posted by: murky at June 20, 2005 04:53 PM
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"I believe it does, and my firm hunch is that the psychology of such a rapist is different than the psychology of other rapists.

And once again, you are responding to an assertion I never made. "


Chris, I haven't been responding to your post since my first comment, and since then I've been responding to attacks on what I wrote. Above I was trying to clarify my own position, which I think people have misunderstood...yes perhaps because of sloppy writing...mea culpa.

Also mea culpa for not working harder to connect my point to yours and for acting like you had missed a nuance that was central to your point. Still, I was at least literally responding to your post and in fact I think it's a legitimate response. You say mens rea doesn't matter. I say it does. I just said it incredibly obliquely with a "a long...fugue about the inner workings and lizard brains." I say you're wrong to label it " scientificaly untenable" though. I thought myself to be writing something scientifically very conservative, if not (as I said) trivially obvious. What's wrong with my science?

Posted by: murky at June 20, 2005 05:06 PM
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Why do I think mens' mens rea matters? Because people are people and not symbols, because I believe in human rights. I am not a priori opposed to using punishment to deter crime, under which circumstances motive becomes somewhat less important than if we're using punishment for retribution. But I don't want to forget the mens rea, because (perhaps among other reasons) I think we tend to think simply "rapists are evil" and leave ourselves ignorant of the understanding we need to address this societal problem by means other than enforcement.

Posted by: murky at June 20, 2005 05:19 PM
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"other than JUST enforcement" I mean. As I said in my initial comment, I think we need to do enforcement as well as pursue less direct measures if we hope to succeed.

Posted by: murky at June 20, 2005 05:21 PM
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Do yourself a favor, murky. Before you post another comment, go read what I actually wrote and think about it for a few days. You're just embarrassing yourself here.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at June 20, 2005 05:23 PM
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Fine, and a good idea, if undiplomatically stated. I hope you'll do the same regarding what I wrote.

Posted by: murky at June 20, 2005 05:45 PM
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ok. i was a hostile commentor here. i offer again my apologies to chris for my thoughtless characterization of his comment and to murky for not beginning by saying calmy what i thought he was saying and asking for clarification. i understand (too late) that my intemperance mucked up the discussion.

i think that other commentors confirmed my impression of the denotative meaning of murky's beginning comment and much of his followup. i see that chris and murky are working out their discussion.

i would like to offer my own observation on the lizard brain thing. i think that the most important and influential "sex" organ in our bodies is our brain, and i do not restrict that to the lizard part, tho that has its place. i can't imagine i am unique in discovering that i can indeed "get it up," and when i choose, "get it down," by using my cerebrum, or whatever is the proper term for my conscious thinking part. i can't imagine that i am unique in my awareness of when the lizard brain is causing arousal and in deciding where to go with that. a conscious decision. i'm not special. if i can figure that stuff out so can most men and women.

Posted by: dread pirate roberts at June 20, 2005 10:38 PM
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DPR, you have a long way to go before you use up the slack you've accumulated 'round here.

But thanks for the apology. Gladly accepted.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at June 20, 2005 11:14 PM
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For a breakdown of communication this profound, I thought it might be useful to bring in an opinion from a fresh source. At Neuroethics & Law Blog
(href="http://kolber.typepad.com/ethics_law_blog/) I stumbled on a mention of recent abstract from legal studies
(http://papers.ssrn.com/paper.taf?abstract_id=735224)
which states as its aim
"that the Supreme Court's resurrection of the notion of volitional disability coupled with the definition of that disability proposed in this paper will enable that discussion to begin."

The author is addressing the more extreme situation of repeat sexual predators, but he or she is speaking from the same perspective as I was advocating. It's a perspective that acknowledges the existence of the unconscious and that the unconcsious can be particularly intractable with matters connected to sex.

Posted by: murky at June 24, 2005 07:26 AM
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