They Don’t Want Us to Fight Back, Unless We Lose

Addendum to last night’s post:

Now I remember what the point is of all this talk about “self-defense” in preventing rape.

They don’t really want us to fight back effectively enough to make an attempting rapist think twice before he tries the same thing on someone else. They want us to fight as hard as we can, and still get raped. The idea is that fighting back is proof of rape, not prevention.

In this scenario, the victim may get beaten to a pulp, she may suffer permanent injuries, or she may even be killed, but at least we know she really wasn’t consenting and the rapist is a really bad guy. We may be willing to believe someone who fought like a mad dog and has the injuries to show for it, but of course even then, the goalposts are always shifting on what it means to fight back hard enough. If someone is upset and traumatized, but mostly uninjured, we’re only too happy to call her a liar.

The idea is that we use our defensive wounds to prove that rape is the worst thing that could happen to us. Here’s the thing, though: it’s not the worst thing that could happen. There’s always something worse than a completed rape. Getting beaten nearly to death is worse. Being disfigured is worse. Dying is definitely worse. Rapists know that we know it can always get worse, and they use this to their advantage.

Behind the idea of rape being the worst thing that could happen, though, is the obsession with female purity. This makes sense if we’re expected to be virgins until marriage, and everyone is expected to marry if at all possible. The social order demands that all women either be virgins until marriage, or become martyrs. The injuries of fighting back, no matter how painful, permanent or life-threatening, are the price we’re expected to pay for having failed to defend our purity.

We shouldn’t have to be martyrs. Rape is a bad thing even when it doesn’t ruin our lives. We should be able to live and fight another day.


Adventures in Victim-Blaming

ArtParasites ran an anonymous article by a single woman detailing some of the violence she’s encountered from casual sex partners, and, it’s pretty bad. Here’s my Content Note and Trigger Warning for what is best described as “rape.” This is about victim-blaming as much as it’s about the initial violence, and sure enough, cue the continued victim-blaming in comment sections.

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Dr. Ruth has forfeited the right to be a sex expert.

Oh, fuck, no. No no no no no. We should expect much, MUCH better than this from our sex experts.

I am very worried about college campuses saying that a woman and a man—or two men or two women, but I talk right now about women and men—can be in bed together, Diane, and at one time, naked, and at one time he or she, most of the time they think she, can say “I changed my mind.”

No such thing is possible. In the Talmud, in the Jewish tradition, it says when that part of the male anatomy is aroused and there’s an erection, the brain flies out of that and we have to take that very seriously, so I don’t agree with that.

You cannot comprehend the size of the Fuck I Do Not Give about what the Talmud says about arousal and sexual consent. If that is indeed what the Talmud tells us about consent, then the Talmud can fuck itself with a frozen pineapple.

More of her wrongness from the Washingtonian:

I’m saying people who think about when they want to go and have a sexual experience to make sure they’re protected from sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancies and that they cannot say at one time at the height of arousal just when he is very aroused, strong erection, when she’s very aroused, either he or she cannot change their mind.

I know it’s controversial. But I have to stand up and believe for what I believe in. I know it has something to do with Title IX, the money that goes to universities. I’m very worried about that. And people like you and me, who have this power, especially you right now on NPR, of the airwaves, do have to talk about that.

People like Dr. Ruth who have this power, do have a responsibility NOT to blame victims and apologize for rapists while millions of people are listening.

She actually says, in so many words: “The idea of consent is nonsense. Except consent before they are naked in bed.”

No. No. No no no, Doctor, how many times must I say NO before you understand? “Consent is nonsense”? And if you think for one misbegotten moment that you are so very brave and revolutionary for complaining about universities encouraging their students not to rape each other, you can just forget about having any credibility on matters of sexuality for the rest of your natural life. I don’t want your advice, and I don’t want your book!

Okay. That’s out of my system.

It is possible for two (or more!) people to get naked in bed together and have some intimate interactions, but not others. It’s possible for them to say out loud what they want to do, and for that not to include penetration! It’s possible for either or both parties to change their mind partway into the process! Is it frustrating, disappointing and annoying to get all hot and bothered and then have your partner change their mind? I’m sure it can be frustrating. But if your brain flies out of your erogenous zones the moment you get aroused, then you should not be allowed to run loose. Deal with your frustration like an adult member of society. Failure to respect your partner’s change of mind is rape. Don’t do that.

They still want us to cross the street.

PZ Myers picked up this…humorous…new meme, but I refuse to put another copy of the unaltered image into Google, so I’ve done my part with it:

Original meme shows compact car hitting female pedestrian on roadway. Text was: "FEMINIST LOGIC" "Don't tell me when to cross the street. Teach drivers not to hit people."  I have super-imposed new text: "ARE YOU FUCKING SHITTING ME? DO YOU THINK RAPE IS JUST LIKE AN ACCIDENTAL COLLISION? WHO ACTUALLY THINKS THIS WAY? WHO?"

Original meme shows compact car hitting female pedestrian on roadway. Text was: “FEMINIST LOGIC”
“Don’t tell me when to cross the street. Teach drivers not to hit people.”

Short version: there is no universe in which this analogy is not completely fucking inappropriate in every possible way. This is another one of those analogies that say more about how anti-feminists think of men than about how feminists think of women.

As PZ points out right away, we actually DO have a system of education aimed at preventing motorists from running over pedestrians. Some countries might be more lax than others about enforcement, but here in the US, you need a license to drive. You can be criminally prosecuted for driving without a license. Part of the licensing process is demonstrating that you know how to watch out for pedestrians. Not everyone has the right to drive a car. Some people are not eligible for driver’s licensing because they do not meet the conditions for operating a motor vehicle without putting lives in danger.

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While we’re on the subject: they still want our nudie photos.

Like I said yesterday, all the “advice” aimed at women to keep ourselves “safe” isn’t really serious. Nobody genuinely, truly wants us to behave in such a way that we have no vulnerabilities for predatory people to exploit. Folks love to scold us not to drink so damn much, but they don’t actually want us to take it far enough that rapists and other abusers would be unable to attack us.

Right now the news of Women’s Personal Safety is about nude photos. Unless you live under a rock, in which case you probably aren’t reading my blog, you’ve heard about all the famous women whose intimate photos were stolen from their iCloud accounts and shared with the entire Internet. And I’m sure you’ve heard some of the commentary about what those women should have done so that they couldn’t be violated like this. “Don’t take nudie pictures with your phone!” “The Internet isn’t safe!” “Nothing you put online is ever really secure!” “Use stronger passwords!”

I’m somewhat more sympathetic to the people who now preach the gospel of Not Taking Pictures Of Yourself Naked, but that’s mostly because the Internet is a fairly recent invention, cellphones with cameras are even more recent, and yeah, okay, the advice is pretty straightforward. It’s a lot less socially revolutionary and personally restrictive to refrain from putting nekkid photos of yourself online than it is to avoid rape by eschewing alcohol.

Even so, it’s worth asking why these women took these photos and stored them in iCloud accounts. If we were to sit down with Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Ariana Grande, etc. and ask sincerely, what were their reasons for taking and uploading those photos, their answers would probably all be variations on a particular theme: there were men who wanted to see them naked. They took those photos, and uploaded them, because some guys asked them nicely to do so.

This is different from revenge porn, in that the guys who asked for the photos to be taken do not appear to have been involved in stealing those photos and sharing them without the women’s consent. Both violations are similar in that they, admittedly, would not have been possible if those women had declined to take photos of themselves unclothed.

So, this is a question that I want feminist-allied, women-loving men to ask themselves: Do you really want nubile women to stop sharing nudie pics with their men? Do you want your next girlfriend to be afraid to give you a picture of her naked self?

Do you want to live in a world in which nudie pics are never taken and shared between intimate friends and partners, because there are too many people who fail to respect boundaries and privacy?

What if we really DID stop getting so wasted?

Sometimes I like to think about what would happen if women (all people who are at risk of rape victimization, really, but the advice is primarily aimed at women) really followed all this “personal safety” advice ostensibly designed to prevent rape? Of course it’s really about making sure they rape someone else, but still: what would happen if we really did what the unending Greek chorus of comparing women’s bodies to unlocked cars were constantly shrieking at us to do?

“Don’t walk alone at night!” “Have a buddy with you at all times!” “Don’t stay out so late!” “Stop getting so wasted!”

“Guys like this don’t pick on the SOBER girls!”

I want to share another issue I have with all this finger-wagging at women to avoid rape by not getting drunk: this is not serious advice.

I’ve already said a lot about how inappropriate it is: rapists target their victims, and they make good and sure their targets drink too much. Drunk victims are seen as less sympathetic, while drunk rapists are seen as less culpable.

I’ve already gone on about how unproductive it is: if drunk girls aren’t available, rapists choose their victims based on other vulnerabilities.

But there’s something else that I don’t see in the discussion about the “personal safety” approach to rape prevention: all these people constantly scolding us not to drink so much, not to “let” rapists find us vulnerable, not to leave our proverbial cars unlocked in bad neighborhoods? They don’t mean it. Not really.

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#YesAllWomen are blamed no matter what we do.

Here’s a tale of girls having guns pointed at their heads, and still treated like they’re the aggressors.

When I was a freshman, my sister was in eighth grade. There was a boy in two of her periods who would ask her out every single day. (Third and seventh period, if I remember correctly.) All day during third and seventh she would repeatedly tell him no. She didn’t beat around the bush, she didn’t lie and say she was taken—she just said no.

One day, in third period, after being rejected several times, he said; “I have a gun in my locker. If you don’t say yes, I am going to shoot you in seventh.”

She refused again, but right after class she went to the principal’s office and told them what happened. They searched his locker and there was a gun in his backpack.

The boy was arrested, but the girl was left at school with her friends telling her it was her fault the boy brought a gun to school, her fault the school was put in danger, and why couldn’t she just give the kid a chance? She made him lose his temper because she said no so many times. So selfish of her, not to give this kid what he wanted.

Years later, when I was a senior, I was the only girl in my Criminal Justice class. The teacher, who used to be a sergeant in the police force, told us a story of something that had happened to a girl he knew when she was in high school. There was a guy who obviously had a crush on her and he made her uncomfortable. One day he finally gathered up the courage to ask her out, and she said no.

The next day, during an assembly, he pulled a gun on her in front of everyone and threatened to kill her if she didn’t date him.

He was tackled to the ground and the gun was taken from him.

I don’t want to quote too much, but what happens next is…special. All the boys say the girl was to blame for the boy’s actions. The way one kid reasons is:

one boy raised his hand and literally said; “But if someone were to punch me and I punched him back, who is at fault for the fight? He is, not me. It’s self-defence. She started it, so anything that happens to her is in reaction to her actions .It’s simple cause and effect.”

“She started it” by refusing to go out with a boy who made her uncomfortable. Refusing a date is the same as punching someone in the face.

I’ll admit that we’re talking about very young kids here. Their life experience is very limited and they might not yet have the mental sophistication to keep in mind that a boy who’s horrible enough to pull a gun on a girl who says no to him will probably not be a good partner to a girl who says yes. He’s already demonstrated a capacity for violence. That doesn’t bode well for a romantic relationship. But maybe these kids just don’t know enough to think that far ahead! They’re only thinking of their own discomfort, and they’re just looking at what the girl could’ve done to spare them the stress of seeing a gun pulled out at school. Maybe they don’t respond to the news of a woman getting killed by her male partner with “But why didn’t she just leave him??!!”

Even so, they’re already propagating the message that a girl doesn’t have the right to say no to a boy’s advances. They’ve already gotten the idea in their heads that if a boy desires a girl, that desire is important enough to warrant threatening her with serious harm and putting other youngsters in danger. They’re already treating (female) refusal as a provocation to (male) violence.

Not all men are violent. I haven’t yet heard anyone suggest they are! Most boys never go anywhere near bringing a gun to school. Most boys don’t respond with violence when girls turn them down.

And yet, for every boy who threatens to shoot a girl for refusing his advances, there are plenty more young people who think “WHY COULDN’T SHE JUST GIVE HIM A CHANCE?” is a better response than “WHY COULDN’T HE JUST LET HER GO?”

Most men will never be in the ranks of those who murder women who don’t want to be with them, but then there are those who tell us that withdrawing contact is an act of violence.

I don’t want to hear any more about why women should stop lying about having boyfriends. I don’t want to hear any more about the evils of giving fake numbers. I don’t want to hear any more finger-pointing about how women aren’t sufficiently direct in telling men they’re not interested. I don’t want to hear any more jabbering that the latest woman to be killed or nearly killed by an abusive partner should have JUST left him earlier. No. I see violent men and boys getting their targets coming and going. She says no at the start, he gets homicidal. She says yes and gets involved, he puts her through months or years of violence. She stays with her abuser, he eventually kills her or drives her to suicide. She leaves, he comes after her. She goes back to him, he keeps on battering her. She refuses to go back, he kills her. No matter what she was up against, somehow she should’ve responded differently.

With that in mind, I am totally done with any discussion of what women might do differently to protect ourselves from violence. I’m done. There are no legitimate critiques of women’s behavior as targets of male violence. If everything we do permits male violence, and everything we do elicits victim-blaming, then all criticisms are meaningless.

I don’t want to hear any more objections of “Not All Men are like that!” You want to be seen as one of the good guys? Then act like a good guy.