Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Rape and talking to men

"I don't think that we should be telling women anything. I think we should be telling men not to rape women and start the conversation there with prevention." - Zerlina Maxwell, 2013
What follows is my take on the above sentiment, an not a complete discussion on rape or sexual assault. Much of what I say here I've said before.

I don't know a single man who has or would rape anyone. I certainly wouldn't. And yet, according to the above quote, I should be told not to rape women. The problem with this mentality is that the guys listening are not the guys who need to hear it, and the guys who need to hear it are most likely not listening (or are listening but don't care).

Should we take this approach with other crimes? Tell pedestrians to walk however they want to because the law says they have right of way, and teach people not to hit pedestrians? It's OK to leave your house unlocked, we need to tell people not to break in to the homes of others. It's OK to write the PIN for your ATM card on your ATM card, we should be sternly telling people not to use other people's ATM cards. We really need to sternly talk to people about all the crimes they are committing...

So you, the person reading this, stop killing pedestrians, breaking into homes, stealing money from ATMs. You're a person, and it's people who do these things. (How effective was this?)

We need to take reasonable steps to protect ourselves from crimes. If we have been the victim of a crime, it's OK for people to give us suggestions for things we can do to make ourselves safer (whether the crime is home invasion, ATM fraud or rape). That's not victim blaming. It's helping people to cope in a world that has bad people in it. I mean, we tell our kids to look both ways before crossing the road, and not to take sweets from strangers. Of course, talking to victims has to be coupled with actually doing everything possible to catch the criminal. Both are important parts to the process.

The thing with the law is that it offers absolutely no protection against crime of any sort. All it provides is a vehicle for justice (and restitution if you're really lucky) when a crime has been committed against you. Claiming that you had your rights violated provides little comfort when someone empties your bank account. It provides even less comfort when you've been raped.

Problems with law enforcement and persecuting authorities not wanting to pursue rape cases is another problem. And that too isn't as simple as it sounds. Unless there is a witness to a rape it often becomes a case of "he said she said", and that boils down to who looks like the more trustworthy person, which has very little to do with justice being served, or society protected.

Upworthy has an article with some comics,  My wife and I have done pretty much all of the things in those cartoons to each other at one point or other, and it wasn't unpleasant or a big deal. Being married, though, we know and respect each other, which does change things. I could see it being a big deal if it were a casual encounter (in terms of the cartoons as well as sex), but then, I am a firm believer in abstinence before marriage (and fidelity afterwards). Casual sexual encounters are always going to be fraught with mistakes and misunderstanding. Is it really fair on anyone to have a person permanently labelled as a sex offender because of a mistake during a casual encounter?  Are casual sexual encounters structured, planned and executed in a way that makes mistakes and misunderstandings trivial and infrequent?

The thing most people don't get is that rape is not always about sex itself.  This is one of the huge reasons why chemical and surgical castration is mostly ineffective in dealing with sex offenders. Sometimes, rape is about control. Sometimes it's about mental compulsions, and sometimes misunderstanding or miscommunication. And then sometimes it's about sex, but there again, sometimes it's predatory and sometimes it's opportunistic. You probably haven't heard of these distinctions before because they shoot this entire "tell men not to rape" thing in the head.

In fact, the only group that "talking to men" would help is the misunderstanding group (which, technically, isn't rape since the perpetrator presumably believed they had consent), but this is the least prevalent and least violent group in general. Well, that's not entirely true, since this group jumps to the top of the list for the middle to upper class in first world countries.  If, however, we are worried about ALL women in ALL circumstances, and not just a small, vocal group, then this ranks pretty low.

For everyone else living in a first world country, predatory and opportunistic rape is generally predominant, followed by mental compulsion.

Worldwide, especially in slums, war-zones, and areas that law enforcement cannot or will not police, it's control rape that is the most prevalent form of rape - men raping women (and men) to show dominance and to force submission and obedience. And sometimes just because they can (for a variety of reasons, including 'miracle cures'). No amount of talking to men in general, not even talking to the men specifically performing the rapes, is likely to be effective here. Although telling the women (and girls) to be careful how they dress, who they go out with, where they should and shouldn't be, what they should and shouldn't drink, what they should or should not be wearing (can someone use it as an excuse to rape because they can justify it by saying the women was asking for it?), and when to stay indoors, while placing an unfair burden on the women, is more likely to keep them safe. To be clear, I'm not suggesting that the women are asking for it in the least if they don't 'take precautions', and I'm not absolving the rapist of even a smidgen of criminal responsibility in the slightest. In this instance I'm saying that sometimes it's about keeping yourself safe, and not about asserting your rights.

Of course, if you disagree with me, feel free to leave your door unlocked this evening, because people should damned well be told and understand that they are not allowed to just walk into your house and take your stuff.


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