Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Rape and unreason

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  • Isabel Hitchings, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    Consent is not like the golden rule. It's about genuinely listening to the other person without projecting one's own likes or dislikes. Do as you would be done by is a good place to start but a dangerous place to finish.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 719 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to Danielle,

    I couldn’t disagree more with that interpretation. The former has all the essentialist futility you’re talking about; the latter is all about education and culture change. It’s as if you’re arguing that Russell shouldn’t have been part of the “It’s Not OK” campaign because it implies that everyone in families beats each other up all the time. The point is that if you’re not beating up or raping people, these education campaigns ARE NOT ABOUT YOU.

    To be honest I always felt the "It's Not OK" campaign was somewhat the same actually, or perhaps just making us feel like something was being done - did it make a difference?

    The people who are the problem are probably pretty aware that it's not okay. There is however an issue of culture and turning a blind eye - those things do need to change, and perhaps the "Not OK" campaign had an impact on that - made victims feel empower and witness get involved.

    You say it's about culture and education - and I agree in a way. I don't think there's anyone that thinks rape is okay (with the exception of rapists I suppose) but there is a culture issue and that's with victim blame. I think that culture needs to change.

    I really do think that telling the entire male population that they must make an effort not to rape is suggesting that it should take some effort. I think it suggests that to rapists and to everyone else as well.

    (In a similar vein, I find Dry July to be ridiculous and an indictment on drinking culture - if we make a big song and dance about the "struggle" of going a month without drinking then surely we suggesting that such a thing really is a big deal, and frankly it shouldn't be. We legitimise the problem)

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to Isabel Hitchings,

    Consent is not like the golden rule. It’s about genuinely listening to the other person without projecting one’s own likes or dislikes. Do as you would be done by is a good place to start but a dangerous place to finish.

    I'm pretty certain that reasonable ideas about consent can be derived from the golden rule... Like I say, it's a more nuanced interpretation perhaps, but the fundamental concept still exists.

    I'm fairly sure if we start with the broad stokes on that concept first then it presents a great building block for the more complex issues later.

    I literally can not think of a moral quandary that can't be pretty reasonably resolved with a decent application of that ideal. Maybe learning to apply it is the trick?

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    I’m pretty certain that reasonable ideas about consent can be derived from the golden rule…

    The trouble with that is if one person wants sex, they may assume the other person does too.
    As noted above, many rapists don't think their actions are hurting anyone. They assume they know what someone else wants or likes WITHOUT ASKING.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    I really do think that telling the entire male population that they must make an effort not to rape is suggesting that it should take some effort. I think it suggests that to rapists and to everyone else as well.

    The thing is, it apparently does take some effort. The dude who doesn't understand that the girl he's with is too drunk to consent. The woman who won't take no for an answer, because men should always be up for it. The guy who can't help himself because she's said yes every other time, and why should now be any different. Or because she said yes to his friend. Rapists aren't always a scary guy in a black coat, they're people we know.



    It's all very well and good to say that it's our "perception" that many men rape. But many women will be assaulted. And most women will know someone who has been. So we avoid dark corners, and don't go to parties where that one guy is, and are scared in our own homes. And we behave that way because we're taught to believe that there is something we can do to prevent being attacked. There's not. What we _can_ do is prevent people being attackers.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1275 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    did it make a difference?

    I believe domestic violence rates went "up" as a result of increased reporting (but someone else probably knows more about it than me). So yes. Things percolating around in the culture - issues being discussed or reframed when they were ignored before - actually *do* make a difference. Otherwise what would be the point of any education campaign at all? You say "I don’t think there’s anyone that thinks rape is okay" but that seems kind of... obtuse when rates of sexual assault are so high and convictions are so low! It's clear that a significant percentage of people think it IS OK in certain circumstances.

    telling the entire male population

    You know, there's an entire female population being told what they should be doing or not doing to prevent this shit, and since THEY ARE GENERALLY NOT THE ONES DOING IT (with certain exceptions) AND ARE NOT ABLE TO PREVENT IT, perhaps we could concentrate on the other half of the equation for a while? Is that so totally batshit crazy?

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to Lilith __,

    The trouble with that is if one person wants sex, they may assume the other person does too.
    As noted above, many rapists don’t think their actions are hurting anyone. They assume they know what someone else wants or likes WITHOUT ASKING.

    I've always found this issue troubling. There are people who claim that a man in a relationship with a woman is sexually assaulting her if he makes attempts to initiate sex without specific and clear consent ahead of time.

    I don't think that's a reasonable claim - there definitely is a point where a person should have to make their lack of consent clear because, frankly, in some circumstances there are assumptions, signals and expectations that are not unreasonable and there is uncertainty.

    The legal concept, as I learned, is apparently that a "reasonable person" would believe they have consent.

    However once it's clear that someone does not feel the same way then I think the golden rule can be applied, it just has to be applied to feelings not sexual urges... "How would I feel if someone where trying to pressure me into something I don't want"

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • kmont, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    That is a really, really good point. I am taking it onboard. *ponders*

    wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 485 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    I’ve always found this issue troubling. There are people who claim that a man in a relationship with a woman is sexually assaulting her if he makes attempts to initiate sex without specific and clear consent ahead of time.

    I truly don’t understand this. Is it really that hard, when you’re getting busy, to check in and make sure everyone is happy?

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1275 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    The thing is, it apparently does take some effort. The dude who doesn’t understand that the girl he’s with is too drunk to consent. The woman who won’t take no for an answer, because men should always be up for it. The guy who can’t help himself because she’s said yes every other time, and why should now be any different. Or because she said yes to his friend. Rapists aren’t always a scary guy in a black coat, they’re people we know.

    Yeah, there's some education needed there, but I think it's more subtle than "hey men, don't rape" - although to be honest in most of those situations it should be pretty clear that it's not okay (per golden rule thing discussed before).

    It’s all very well and good to say that it’s our “perception” that many men rape. But many women will be assaulted. And most women will know someone who has been. So we avoid dark corners, and don’t go to parties where that one guy is, and are scared in our own homes. And we behave that way because we’re taught to believe that there is something we can do to prevent being attacked. There’s not. What we _can_ do is prevent people being attackers.

    Not saying it's perception that many men rape - that's certainly true. And many many women will be assaulted.

    I think, however, that the message (to men and women) that all men are "potential rapists" (as in every man has within him the potential to be a rapist, not that a given man within a group may do) just serves to created additional fear and stigma and, as I keep suggesting, empowers those that actually are disposed to that to believe that their feelings/thoughts/actions are normal in some way.

    Like I keep saying I think the really important change is to stop telling women (and society) that they are responsible in some way, or that their behavior in any way excuses the actions of others. I really really support that. But I think that the message that "all men are potential rapists" (in whatever way that is implied) is also a negative message overall. It tells those men who are potential rapists that they are normal in some way.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to Danielle,

    You know, there's an entire female population being told what they should be doing or not doing to prevent this shit, and since THEY ARE GENERALLY NOT THE ONES DOING IT (with certain exceptions) AND ARE NOT ABLE TO PREVENT IT, perhaps we could concentrate on the other half of the equation for a while? Is that so totally batshit crazy?

    I really think we should do everything we can to stop telling them that. The message should always be "you are the victim, this is not your fault, nothing you did can excuse the actions of the other party".

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    I truly don’t understand this. Is it really that hard, when you’re getting busy, to check in and make sure everyone is happy?

    Yes. In some ways it is. Simply sitting up and saying "would you like to have sex?" is often not practical or reasonable.

    Absolutely you should be acutely aware of signals one way or the other, but there legitimately is a grey area in there and both parties have a responsibility to be aware of that and communicate clearly if it seems that signals are being missed.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • kmont, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    Totally understand that. Sometimes I don't want to amplify the quiet voices because I want them to feel safe and not be exposed to 'The Internet' more than necessary...

    wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 485 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    that all men are “potential rapists” (as in every man has within him the potential to be a rapist, not that a given man within a group may do)

    OK, that is not, in fact, what anyone has said, or what any of these campaigns say. The "potential" for women is not that we think you all could, or do; it's that until we know you really well, we *don't know that you won't*, so assuming any given one of you won't is a bit dangerous for us. The campaign *would* have to be broad because, well, how do you narrow it down? But they're not saying "all men if given the opportunity will rape someone". That's what the "asking for it with a short skirt" brigade is saying!

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    Yeah, there’s some education needed there, but I think it’s more subtle than “hey men, don’t rape” – although to be honest in most of those situations it should be pretty clear that it’s not okay (per golden rule thing discussed before).

    We seem to be arguing at cross purposes, because _of course_ it's more subtle than "hey dudes, don't rape." It also requires a societal change to not treat women as property and a whole bunch of other things.

    The point we're trying to make is that women already get the message that all men are potentially rapists, and it's up to us to figure out how to prevent it. It's not up to us. It's up to you guys. Because yes. People who rape do take their cues from you. Every rape joke people laugh at. Every short skirt comment. Because more than one woman who comments here can tell you that those situations aren't clear.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1275 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to Danielle,

    OK, that is not, in fact, what anyone has said, or what any of these campaigns say.

    As a guy, it's a message I feel like I receive at times from these types of campaigns.

    I actually got yelled at, as a random passer by, at an "anti rape" protest in the Auckland CBD many years ago. I was distinctly made to feel that I, personally, was a threat to women.

    Whether that's the intention or not is certainly debatable, but I definitely think that's how campaigns focused in this way can be interpreted.

    The “potential” for women is not that we think you all could, or do; it’s that until we know you really well, we *don’t know that you won’t*, so assuming any given one of you won’t is a bit dangerous for us.

    I understand that fear and the risk involved (real and perceived), but is it reasonable to assume, on an individual level, that every new guy you meet is a potential rapist? If it's reasonable to take that kind of precaution (mental or physical) then isn't it similarly reasonable to simply not go anywhere that seems risky (out at night for example)? They seem like similar risk reduction ideas, only one gets directed at individuals.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    Let me get this straight.

    1. Your feelings “as a man” are more important than teaching people what rape is, and how to prevent it.

    2. Because of the way society preaches to women that it is our responsibility to prevent ourselves being attacked, we should not leave the house if we don’t feel safe. And that our not feeling safe is “unreasonable”?

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1275 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    We seem to be arguing at cross purposes, because _of course_ it’s more subtle than “hey dudes, don’t rape.” It also requires a societal change to not treat women as property and a whole bunch of other things.

    It may be more subtle than that, but it can easily be interpreted as that. I mean we're here talking about the idea that women have to view all men, until proven otherwise, as potential rapists... That's not an uncommon sentiment, and it's a message that guys receive.

    Whether you mean it or not (and I'm reasonably sure you don't) it's hard for me not to see that idea and interpret it as "it's assumed that I, being a male, am a rapist" - obviously I'm not, and I know that, but if I were I'd hear that message and things "...which means that my actions are normal".

    The point we’re trying to make is that women already get the message that all men are potentially rapists, and it’s up to us to figure out how to prevent it.It’s not up to us. It’s up to you guys.

    Women get that message, and so do men.

    Because yes. People who rape do take their cues from you.

    Like I say, I think those cues are just as much from this implied expectation that "men are rapists" - women hear it, and so do mean. People who rape hear it and believe it - in normalizes the behaviour.

    Surely it would be better if everyone, men and women, made it really clear that it's abnormal, that it's a broken behaviour.

    Every rape joke people laugh at. Every short skirt comment. Because more than one woman who comments here can tell you that those situations aren’t clear.

    Ultimately our communications both reflect and shape our behaviour. Jokes about rape (usually) aren't a justification or endorsement, they are a reflection. We laugh about things that are upsetting and distasteful, humour is a coping mechanism. To declare it absolutely unreasonable to make or laugh at a given topic actually removes a way of addressing and confronting these issues - there can be meaning and learning in humour.

    But I suspect that's a whole other tangent.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • Sue,

    REALLY?
    risk reduction and feelings?

    REALLY?

    why is this even a conversation? and i'm really sorry you were made feel a threat to women.

    Try growing up being taught how to protect yourself from being attacked. Try seeing how that feels. That it's normal that you walk with the keys in your hand a certain way. that you don't go to X place just in case, that you walk with your head down just in case, that you do EVERYTHING possible to reduce risk and yet you still get assaulted

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 527 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    1. Your feelings “as a man” are more important than teaching people what rape is, and how to prevent it.

    No, I don't think I said that. We should find ways to have these discussions, but stigmatizing half the population in the eyes of everyone doesn't seem productive basically.

    If I tell my kids that my only expectation of them is that they'll behave badly then I can hardly be surprised that they do. If we say that we expect men to sexually assault women (and that's a message that isn't uncommon, although varies in subtlety) then I think we're probably making things worse.

    2. Because of the way society preaches to women that it is our responsibility to prevent ourselves being attacked, we should not leave the house if we don’t feel safe. And that our not feeling safe is “unreasonable”?

    Don't think I said that either.

    But I do think that the argument that woman should "stay out of trouble" such as made by Bob Jones and, arguably, society at large is pretty much the same as the argument that women should view all men as a potential threat. I think both have the same basis in risk avoidance and both perpetuate an unhealthy view of the issue.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to Sue,

    REALLY?
    risk reduction and feelings?

    REALLY?

    why is this even a conversation? and i’m really sorry you were made feel a threat to women.

    Try growing up being taught how to protect yourself from being attacked. Try seeing how that feels. That it’s normal that you walk with the keys in your hand a certain way. that you don’t go to X place just in case, that you walk with your head down just in case, that you do EVERYTHING possible to reduce risk and yet you still get assaulted

    I am not arguing that the status quo is reasonable or right or fair or that it should remain.

    I am saying all these issues come from the same fear and feed into the same bullshit idea that rape is somehow a male animal impulse.

    I honestly don't see how telling women to dress differently is any better or worse than telling them to suspect every man they see. They both seem to stem from the same idea that men are animals with little control over the sexual urges. I think they both send the same messages to the men in question. They validate the perceptions of those men.

    Really I'm trying to be as up front and reasonable as possible here. I can't be more clear about this - no one should be sexually assaulted. It's not excusable, it's not okay and it shouldn't be accepted.

    My issue here is about the messaging to men, women and society. I honestly think that "she was asking for it" and "all men are potential rapists" are sending exactly the same signals whatever way they're presented.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve,

    Look, it's late and I need to sleep, but I've tried really hard to express my feelings and thoughts on this as best as I can. If I've failed to do so then that's on me I guess.

    I've written far more words on this topic in these comments than I'd ever really intended to but these are thoughts that I've had many times when I see discussions like this, so it just happened that I chose to share them this time.

    I really really really want to be clear on this. I've no interest in defending or excusing sexual assault in any way. I absolutely understand that for many people this issue is unimaginably difficult. The few times the issue has touched my life are indelibly etched into my memory. It's not okay - we all agree on that.

    But I think the culture that's at play it perhaps more complex than it seems, which is what I've been trying to express.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    Would this make you "feel" better? - from many women's perspective (and genderqueer/trans men), a man who is not well-known to them may be a potential threat.

    What you seem to be doing, in this part of the thread, is confusing an abstract but meaningful perception by most women as a particular animus against you personally (and men as a class). Your perception is pretty much incorrect, and now that 6 of us have told you the same thing, will you now get the message?

    Please READ the entire thing about Schroedinger's Rapist. And some comments. The first 50.

    And finally, for my particular issue, if you are over 5'8" and weigh more than 90kg, yes, I personally will find YOU threatening. And the bigger you are (not so much if you're lanky), the more threatening I will find you. I can't help that reaction, and if you think I enjoy flinching everytime my boss appears from behind me (he's a lovely bear of a man who I've now known the best part of a decade), you should have another think.

    And he also knows full well that I'm "the jumpy type" and somehow manages not to get butthurt about my involuntary reactions to him. Perhaps that attitude could go far with your perceptions of strangers who are NOT in fact accusing you of anything untoward.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    On another note, regarding the "triggering" thing, I personally find the term one of those slightly wishy-washy words that isn't as helpful as it could be.

    Firstly, you can't cover all potential triggers - me, I get triggered when people talk about kids reading under the bed covers. But I think we all accept that there won't be absolute emotional safety in what we read or hear.

    What I'd rather is if people just briefly highlighted what topics are mentioned that are of the often-triggering type. And leave out the word "trigger", because it actually adds nothing in that instance.

    Also, some things affect us less than others - I don't want to look at graphic pictures of animal abuse, but I might want to read the news story about a sexual assault. The words "trigger warning" alone give no context. Often they are qualified, but then that seems redundant.

    So, "Bob Jones opines ignorantly on sexual assault case". "Article on animal cruelty/puppy farming (graphic description, photos)." "News report on child abuse case", Etc etc. That approach works really well, I find.

    In that way, it's not relying on some phase that is in most common use in particular corners of the internet (ones I frequent too, as it happens). I'm all about using non-jargon terms (as it still is) when plain English really isn't overly cumbersome in this instance.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    I wonder, Dylan, if you understand what rape actually is. It would be surprising if you did. Even the Oxford Dictionary hasn't got it quite right. http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/rape?q=rape
    Most of our rape culture is around not understanding the term. Rape is nonconsenusal sex. Simple.
    In reading all your words, I sense that you come from a bit of a liberal bubble. That when you see the word rapist you have a certain image in your mind. Of a man, a very bad man with nefarious things on his mind. Most men I know have this image in their heads. Rape is a violent, and terrible, act. Not me. Not us. That's rape culture.
    I wrote a really long spiel, but then, I thought, I can't be fucked explaining rape culture again. And besides, others are more eloquent. So I wrote a blog post, especially for you, and men like you. I hope you read it. Rapists aren't bogey men. They're, mostly, just men. But we have a culture of entitlement around sex. No-one teaches young girls that all men are capable of rape, or sexual violence. We learn that all for ourselves, through our experiences.

    http://goodeyemcwoowoo.wordpress.com/2013/10/02/rape-culture-my-culture/

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

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