November 11, 2011
Discussion of the recent revelation of events at Penn State has been happening everywhere, and a lot of people are saying really smart things on the subject. Plenty of people are saying stunningly ignorant and/or hurtful things, too, which is why I wanted to highlight one of the best things I’ve read on the subject. Guess what—it’s from the Onion:
Given the delicate situation, sportswriters said they felt the need to tread lightly and initially only asked victims how they thought Paterno might be feeling during this difficult time. They then followed up with more substantial questions about being exploited and preyed upon by a sexual deviant, such as how the victims thought their being pinned against a wall while Sandusky assaulted them might hurt Penn State’s 2012 recruiting class; how covering up a systematic pedophile victim-grooming pipeline, in the form of youth football camps, might damage the culture of winning Paterno worked so hard to establish; and whether they were worried about the mental state of the team heading into Saturday’s game against Nebraska.
That is some fiercely incisive commentary right there.
October 16, 2009
I haven’t spoken in this particular venue on the subject of Roman Polanski, largely because others have said what I think so well already. Furthermore, I find myself wondering, partly, what’s left to discuss? A 44-year-old man in a position of power drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl. There was a shitty plea bargain and some legal shenanigans, and the man served a little time, but fled the country to avoid serving any more, and has lived in Europe ever since. The fact remains, though, that he raped a 13-year-old girl, and justice was arguably not served on that point. Now he’s been re-apprehended, and what I’ve simply been dumbfounded by is the pundits and celebrities who want to discuss not whether the re-apprehension itself was shady, not the aforementioned legal shenanigans and/or the problematic nature of plea bargains, not whether California’s limited resources might be better spent on other things—but whether or not what Polanski did was really rape and/or was justifiable.
This week, William Saletan made a foray into the rape apologism surrounding the Polanski case. Now, I know that Saletan has given feminists every reason to ignore what he says outright, but I stumbled upon this round of garbage via a Think Progress e-mail and it incensed me enough that I had to write about it. Read the rest of this entry »
March 20, 2009
[ETA: I originally learned about this from Cara (to whom I should have given a hat-tip in the first place, but I got distracted by linking to another post of hers), who has now taken her post down. I don’t normally read Jezebel, so I didn’t realize I was tapping into a bit of a hornet’s nest there. I’m going to leave this post as it is for now, largely because I’m just not sure what to do about it, how best to edit it if I ought to, etc. In the meantime, though, I think this post from Ilyka is very much worth reading.]
= Any variation on “let’s not throw the word ‘rape’ around, hmm?” (With the obvious exception of when the subject at hand does not actually involve forcible sexual contact in any way, shape, or form.)
Is there a lifetime limit on the number of incidents one can refer to as rape? Does it really make sense to think that calling any non-consensual-sex rape will somehow cause people to take the “worse” acts of rape less seriously? (Because, honestly, does western culture even really take some of the more extreme cases all that seriously to begin with?) And in what universe does calling “surprise”-non-consensual-anal-sex rape qualify as “throwing the word ‘rape’ around”? D’you think that maybe the fact that feminists like me insist on calling non-consensual sex RAPE means not that we don’t take rape seriously, but that we take ALL non-consensual sex incredibly seriously and believe in calling a spade a fucking spade? Read the rest of this entry »
May 22, 2008
In my recent reading I came across a discussion of binaries. We humans often think in terms of binaries: black and white, good and evil, wrong and right, male and female, us and them, familiar and Other. When I took just a moment to consider those and other dualities, I thought of a post on rape I came across recently, via Cara. In it the author states that “Sociopaths do not rape women, men rape women.” It’s a simplification, to be sure (men also rape men, and women rape women, and women rape men), but the post itself is rebutting the idea that your average man doesn’t rape; only sociopaths do so — the idea that it’s insulting to the average man to put up posters encouraging men to “Man up, get consent” because rape isn’t simply a matter of sex without consent.
And so we’re back to the idea that the only true rape is a sociopath physically overcoming a woman in a dark alley, threatening her with a weapon, etc.
A couple of problems with that, though: first of all, rape is simply a matter of sex without consent. Is that necessarily the legal definition? No, not necessarily. Is that, at the very least, how feminists define it? Yes (obviously). Here’s Cara:
* Rape victims may be forced through threats or physical means. In about 8 out of 10 rapes, no weapon is used other than physical force. Anyone may be a victim of rape: women, men or children, straight or gay.
So, folks. I don’t care what the law is. I never said that penetrating a woman against her will with a finger fits the legal definition of rape. In some sane places, it does. In many others, it does not. I don’t give a shit. In many places, a man who has nonconsensual sex with his wife has not legally raped her. But he still raped her. In many places, a man who has sex with a woman who is unconscious has not legally raped her. But he still raped her. In most places, a woman does not have to say “yes” to give consent, but simply fail to say “no.” A situation where she did not say “no” but does not want sex and did not agree to it is still rape. No matter what the law says. Rape is the nonconsensual sexual penetration of another person. It’s not that fucking difficult to grasp.
Second, why do people go to so much trouble to defend men who have sex with unwilling women? In the comments of the aforementioned post, an anonymous commenter took exception to the idea that men (as opposed to sociopaths alone) rape.* Many of the standard arguments came out: women who call unwanted sexual activity like that described in the post “rape” are misandrists/man-haters who believe all male-on-female sex is rape, etc. Again, I found myself wondering why someone would put so much time and effort into trying to put down someone who’d been sexually assaulted, thus defending the man who assaulted her.
After thinking about binaries some, I think I might have an idea of what’s behind it. Feminism has had some effect on the rape culture, so that in the abstract, the average person considers rape to be evil. So I suspect there are men out there who think: “Rape is evil. I am not evil. Therefore I could never rape someone. Similarly, the average man is not evil, therefore the average man couldn’t commit rape. It must be something only truly evil people — sociopaths — do.”
Here’s the thing, though: my belief is that each of us has the potential to do harm to someone else. Sure, the average person is most likely not going to grab a knife and accost someone in a dark alley, but there are times when someone who falls well within the realm of “average,” “normal,” might put their needs above their partner’s, or feel like they need to show their partner, or that woman they just spent $289 on for a swanky dinner and the theater and she flirted the whole time and how dare she say she has a “headache” now, who’s in control (given that the general idea is that “Rape is not about sex to the rapist; it has to do with control and power”).
So with that in mind, why spend so much time and energy trying to decide just how far a man can go with an unwilling woman without calling it rape, and instead work toward making sure sex is engaged in with enthusiastic consent from both/all parties, and is safe and enjoyable for everyone involved?
*Please note that this is distinct from the statement that all men are rapists.
May 5, 2008
I like how Lauren always puts it: what you should read since I’m not writing:
- This is over a week old now, but I very much loved what Shark-Fu had to say about “the power of positive thinking”-slash-prayer-slash-karma: A pondering…
- Pam and Jeff Fecke on the actions of the principal at Hollis F. Price Middle College High in Tennessee
- Holly at Feministe on hierarchies, patriarchy, etc.: I Blame the Kyriarchy
- Liss: Death Toll After Myanmar Cyclone Could Reach 10,000
- Diary of a Goldfish: Blogging Against Disablism Day 2008
- Remembering Deborah Jeane Palfrey
- Remembering Mildred Loving
- Cara discusses that horrifying Johnny Vegas performance (trigger warning), which brings out the rape apologists, which leads to an excellent post “On ‘Real Rape’ and Rape Apologists”
- On the Kentucky Derby and Eight Belles: Gina Spadafori, before and after; Christie Keith; and Patty Khuly
- Finally, tigtog at Hoyden about Town discusses the new WordPress feature (and tells readers how to disable it, as I’ve done!)
April 9, 2008
Or, to be more accurate, across one’s chest.
Via Cara I came across this horrifying t-shirt, which reads, for anyone who’s wary of clicking through, “serial rapist.” The author of that post refers to other shirts, which confused me at first because whoever was selling the t-shirt pictured only has one other design available, one that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with rape. But then I saw that there’s a whole category of CafePress shirts relating to rape. Many of them are inspirational in nature, stating that the person wearing the shirt is a survivor, or that one should speak out against sexual violence. Some reference Darfur; others refer to rape as part of a larger point, such as in the statement, “Spreading democracy through war is like spreading virginity through rape.” Others, though…
Browsing through the t-shirts available, I found such gems as “I put the sensual back in nonconsensual,” “No means Yes,” and a picture of the chemical makeup of rohypnol (”roofies”—a rape drug). I don’t even know what to say. (from the SAFER blog, linked above)
And there’s worse. Oh, is there worse. I’m horrified that these shirts are available, and horrified further that there is apparently a market for them. And frankly, I’m a little stunned that there are companies, or at least one company, that’s willing to sell merchandise as blatantly offensive as some of the things found under the rape category. I poked around some and came across CafePress’s Content Disclaimer:
CafePress provides users complete e-commerce tools needed to create and sell a wide variety of products featuring their ideas, designs and art. All merchandise content is created by users of the CafePress Service and does not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of CafePress.com.
I appreciate that CafePress’s business model is essentially “we’ll put whatever you want on a t-shirt.” And I further appreciate that when that’s your business, your customers’ right to freedom of expression is essential, and censorship would be problematic, to say the least. Furthermore, I know that “offensive” is subjective; I know there are plenty of people who would take offense at the “Rebellious Jezebel” shirt I’ve been coveting. But — and this is that age-old question when it comes to the issue of censorship — is there ever a point at which a line must be drawn? Disclaimers aside, to what extent is selling a shirt that says “calm down — don’t make this rape into a murder case” promoting criminal activity?
What say you?
May 16, 2007
[And just to be on the safe side: yes, I actually am an XM subscriber. No, I don’t listen to the Opie & Anthony show, but I do listen to channel 150, the comedy channel with the “explicit” label, on a fairly regular basis, so I don’t think the “you’re just a stupid feminazi with no sense of humor” idea holds water here — not that it ever really does, of course…]
Kate Harding puts it (in the third post linked above) terribly well (emphasis in the original):
But the way [trolls responding to Melissa’s two posts, the first two above] choose to express their hate is worth taking seriously. It is meaningful. Because it tells us a lot about ourselves as a culture. . . . Read the rest of this entry »