Author: has written 5281 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

146 Responses

  1. Jadey
    Jadey October 31, 2011 at 12:49 pm |

    I suspect that younger people are more likely to be the victims of crimes because of a combination of vulnerability and opportunity.

    Yes, exactly. It’s also partly an issue of reporting – people with diminished capacity who are assaulted by relatives and caregivers (which doesn’t describe all elderly people, but certainly more so than the 20-30 age demographic) are less likely to be in a position to be able to report, although they are also quite vulnerable and a caregiver who is inclined to assault them has an enormous amount of opportunity (this also applies of course to young children and to some people with disabilities who have a diminished capacity to protect themselves and report assaults). Even in the 20-30 age range, there tends to be less reporting of anything that doesn’t fit the “classic” (stereotypical) image of an assault, and because our cultural narrative is about sexy young women being assaulted (typically by strangers, although increasingly we’re acknowledging acquaintance rape as well), this means it’s harder for us to accept that many people are raped, even non-conventionally attractive people. The vast majority of known rape victims do not accurately represent the actual population of rape victims–it’s a much more heterogeneous crowd.

  2. Angry Black Guy
    Angry Black Guy October 31, 2011 at 1:10 pm |

    Why is it that in order to believe that rape is about power to a large degree, you have to ignore the fact that rape, to some degree, is about sexual urges and the inability of the rapist to control those urges?

    It does not follow that just because attractiveness is a factor, that the victim is somehow to blame. You can believe that attractiveness is a factor AND still believe that a woman should be able to walk down the street completely nude without being attacked.

    The crime of rape is a crime of violence but (unlike robbery or assault) there is often a sexual aspect of it that it seems illogical to ignore. Sexual assaults are often in their own unique category and pretending that they are the same as other types of crimes helps no one.

    That being said, (i) I hated Allen’s article, (ii) I disagree with the slutwalk tactic for reasons that have nothing to do with rape, and (iii) I understand that this article is a tough one to discuss objectively given the fact that the woman attacked Feministe directly, which I thought was in poor form.

    Still, very interesting topic and I hope this generates a comments from all sides here.

  3. Kathleen
    Kathleen October 31, 2011 at 1:11 pm |

    What would be nice is if a major national newspaper ran this piece by Jill as an Op-Ed instead of that one by Charlotte Allen!

  4. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil October 31, 2011 at 1:15 pm |

    I suspect that younger people are more likely to be the victims of crimes because of a combination of vulnerability and opportunity.

    Decision-making ability, specifically the ability to appreciate the long-term consequences of one’s actions is not really complete until your mid 20s. Part of that vulnerability is being in a peer group with people whose decision-making skills aren’t fully mature.

  5. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil October 31, 2011 at 1:34 pm |

    Side note: The comments over at the LA Times are generally pretty horrifying. (Just the thing for Halloween!)

  6. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil October 31, 2011 at 1:39 pm |

    OMG the one about the cats!

    That was, in fact, the comment that made me post the warning here. I…just…I can’t even…

  7. speedbudget
    speedbudget October 31, 2011 at 1:43 pm |

    Why is it that in order to believe that rape is about power to a large degree, you have to ignore the fact that rape, to some degree, is about sexual urges and the inability of the rapist to control those urges?

    Really? Rapists just can’t control their urges? So why do they wait until the victim is alone and vulnerable? If they’re horny and they just can’t “keep it in their pants,” wouldn’t more people be victimized in the streets? Why did my rapist wait until I was half asleep in my bed to begin? If he was that horny, I would have expected him to be trying to rip my clothes off right when we came back to the dorm instead of let me safely get in my own bed where I thought I was safe and THEN do his business.

    This is the same argument people give to excuse domestic violence: The man has uncontrollable angry urges that he can’t help. Yeah, right. They seem pretty able to control anger at work when their boss pisses them off. Well enough that they save all that up until the end of the day when they get home. Hmmm….

  8. WithinthisMind
    WithinthisMind October 31, 2011 at 2:09 pm |

    ‘Attractiveness’ is an issue, just not the way it is being described in articles like this. See, rape is in part about ‘putting the woman in her place’. Men also have a tendency not to ‘see’ women they don’t find attractive. Thus, it is more likely they will target a woman they find ‘attractive’ simply because they don’t ‘see’ other women.

    Of course, what a rapist defines as ‘attractive’ varies considerably. Some might find the vulnerability of a disabled woman to be ‘attractive’, some might find the thought of punishing a non-conventionally pretty woman for daring to exist to be ‘attractive’, so on, so forth.

    A woman is somewhat more likely to be attacked if she is dressed in sexy clothing, but that is mostly because society tells men it’s okay to punish a woman if she is dressed in sexy clothing, because obviously she is ‘asking for it’ and needs to be put back in ‘her place’. Since rapists are taught from birth that it’s on some level acceptable to rape an attractive woman in sexy clothing, yes, it’s probable that an attractive woman in sexy clothing is more likely to be raped.

    The solution to the problem, however, is not to keep acting like men have uncontrollable urges or that women in sexy clothing should have known what to expect. The solution is to do the exact opposite. Stop objectifying women.

  9. karak
    karak October 31, 2011 at 2:17 pm |

    IF Charlotte Allen is right, and men are unable to control themselves from committing violent crimes against drunk, unconscious, or hysterical women, then it follows that men are fucking dangerous animals that should be either put in institutions where they can’t harm anyone or given drugs to chemically castrate them.

    I never understand how “men are violent animals incapable of decision-making and thought” leads to “women are stupid and deserve to get raped”.

  10. 1ceuponathyme
    1ceuponathyme October 31, 2011 at 2:20 pm |

    Why is it that in order to believe that rape is about power to a large degree, you have to ignore the fact that rape, to some degree, is about sexual urges and the inability of the rapist to control those urges?

    I second speedbudget. Sexual assault, like domestic violence, is methodical, deliberate, and generally planned in advance after a process of isolation. It is not an anger management or sexual-desire-control issue. If this were true, there’d be a whole lot more sexual assaults occurring in public and not in opportune places, at opportune times.

    As for Allen’s argument that ‘attractiveness’ is a factor because, look! young ladies and rapists rarely target old people, it is simply false and dismissive of sexual assaults that happen to elderly persons. Elderly people are targeted for sexual assault by their husbands, caretakers, acquaintances, strangers and they are far more likely to be targeted than the general population if they have a disability.

  11. Florence
    Florence October 31, 2011 at 2:23 pm |

    karak: I never understand how “men are violent animals incapable of decision-making and thought” leads to “women are stupid and deserve to get raped”.

    Evolution, duh.

  12. Jadey
    Jadey October 31, 2011 at 2:23 pm |

    WithinthisMind: Men also have a tendency not to ‘see’ women they don’t find attractive. Thus, it is more likely they will target a woman they find ‘attractive’ simply because they don’t ‘see’ other women.

    Except there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that women who are not conventionally attractive or who are not dressed “sexy” at the time are also commonly raped, and that part of the motivation is that they ought to be complimented because someone deigned to assault them (see: “fat women can’t be raped” meme). I don’t think anyone’s been able to empirically establish that men are actually more likely to rape more attractive women–in real life situations, there are many more factors at play than just relative attractiveness. And if you’re going to define it so broadly as “any feature of any person that could by any degree draw another person to them for any sort of purpose”, then it becomes fairly meaningless and misrepresents the discussion which is absolutely focused on conventional attractiveness and “sexiness”.

    Also, I don’t think all men rape to punish women. I think lots of men rape because they can mentally justify the fact that “she really does want it”, “it’s not a big deal”, and “it’ll be fine”. You don’t actually have to be evil or malicious to rape someone–you just have to be willing to put yourself over another person and ignore their needs and your privilege. That’s why it’s so fucking scary.

  13. Florence
    Florence October 31, 2011 at 2:28 pm |

    1ceuponathyme: I second speedbudget. Sexual assault, like domestic violence, is methodical, deliberate, and generally planned in advance after a process of isolation. It is not an anger management or sexual-desire-control issue. If this were true, there’d be a whole lot more sexual assaults occurring in public and not in opportune places, at opportune times.

    Yeah, when people come here to put forth the “rape is about uncontrollable sexual urges!” theory, we need to punch them back to the study that near conclusively pegs rapists as methodical, predatory criminals, not just horny dudes who made a faux pas after too much booze and too little communication. No, people who rape know exactly what they’re doing, and how to exploit their victims social weaknesses to decrease their chances of getting caught and/or suffering consequences.

  14. EG
    EG October 31, 2011 at 2:44 pm |

    Angry Black Guy: Why is it that in order to believe that rape is about power to a large degree, you have to ignore the fact that rape, to some degree, is about sexual urges and the inability of the rapist to control those urges?

    When you show me a man who is unable to control his sexual urges at gunpoint, then I will believe that. The fact is that not only are many rapes premeditated, which means that no unbearable urges are involved, but that rapists would be perfectly well able to control their sexual urges if they felt they had a reason to do so. The fact that they don’t is about power and male dominance.

    karak: IF Charlotte Allen is right, and men are unable to control themselves from committing violent crimes against drunk, unconscious, or hysterical women, then it follows that men are fucking dangerous animals that should be either put in institutions where they can’t harm anyone or given drugs to chemically castrate them.

    Quoted for fucking truth. Can’t control yourself? Then you need to be controlled. That simple.

    Also, for those who like rabbit on about “nature” and suchlike–how does that square with the common knowledge in Western Europe prior to the 18th century that women’s inferiority was demonstrated by their uncontrollable horniness, whereas men were obvious the more temperate and self-controlled sex?

  15. WithinthisMind
    WithinthisMind October 31, 2011 at 2:49 pm |

    I was unclear.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if clothing is a factor simply because society has taught men that women who dress in sexy clothing are ‘asking for it’. Of course, because of the basic misogynistic origins of rape, I think it’s also just as likely that ‘unattractive’ clothing is a factor because men are also taught that non conventionally attractive women are worthless non-people.

    Thus, statistically, what you wear does not increase your chances of being raped, even though statistically, it’s a likely that whatever you wear will be considered a factor in your rape in order to justify the actions of the rapist. The only factor in whether or not you are in danger of being raped is the presence of a rapist. However, I feel that the emphasis on the body/clothing policing of women is a factor in how common rape/sexual assault is in today’s society. As long as what the woman does is held to be a factor in the rape, thereby giving men an ‘excuse’, we will continue to live in a rape culture.

    Basically, as long as the idea is ‘he raped her because she ______’ instead of ‘he raped her because he is a sick scumbag’, we will live in a rape culture. The ______ varies, but because a woman can never ‘win’, it always seems men have some sort of excuse for why they shouldn’t be held responsible for their actions.

  16. WithinthisMind
    WithinthisMind October 31, 2011 at 2:51 pm |

    I should probably clarify again that I’m not referring to all men in the above, just the type of men who commit/condone rape and rape culture.

  17. speedbudget
    speedbudget October 31, 2011 at 2:52 pm |

    It’s not about uncontrolled urges. It’s about specifically getting off on controlling a person the way you would an object. It’s about taking the hatred and objectification of women to the extreme.

  18. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar October 31, 2011 at 3:02 pm |

    Florence, if I can get the time, I’ll write it up.

  19. Esti
    Esti October 31, 2011 at 3:04 pm |

    I agree that rape is largely about control and power, and that often targets are chosen on the basis of opportunity and vulnerability, but I do question the idea that rape is entirely uncoupled from desire. For some rapists, sure. For others, I would guess that desire does play a role. Think of those studies in which men say they’ve never assaulted someone but when asked questions about specific actions admit to having sex with a woman who was too drunk to consent, or to using coercion, or to ignoring the word no. If they were just going to lie, they would have said no to the latter as well — that they didn’t is a sign that they thought what they were doing was a normal and acceptable way of interacting with someone with whom one wants to have sex. I’m sure some of those men would have acted the same way with women to whom they weren’t sexually attracted, but I bet some of them wouldn’t, because they didn’t set out specifically to rape someone — they set out to have sex with someone they were attracted to, and they ignored everything that told them what they were doing was assault.

    That absolutely does not mean that women should be blamed for looking attractive, or that only conventionally attractive women are raped, or that you’re more likely to be raped wearing a short skirt than a pair of baggy jeans. But I think there’s some value to acknowledging that the reasons people rape are complicated, and that it’s not as simple as wanting sex or as simple as wanting power. Sometimes it’s one or the other, and often I suspect it’s a combination of the two and probably of a bunch of other things as well. Sometimes, it may be that someone wants to gain power and control over a person because they are attracted to them — because it makes them feel weak to want someone who doesn’t want them, or who doesn’t want them right then. After all, if all you wanted was power or control, a lot of rapists might just go around punching women in the face. I think the fact that they use sexual assault to gain the feeling of power and control says something about how desire has been mixed in with their other motivations.

    The thing I really like about Jill’s response is the breakdown of opportunity. Because I think it’s absolutely true that a big part of the high rates of sexual assault among young people is the fact that they date more, and spend more time alone with people of the opposite sex, and that they are more likely to be drunk in both situations. I completely buy the idea that if every couple in the world broke up tomorrow, the resulting surge in dating among middle-aged people would lead to a lot more sexual assaults in that age group. The idea that rapists just lose their mind at the sight of 19 year olds in a miniskirt but are otherwise totally cool is ridiculous.

  20. Anon21
    Anon21 October 31, 2011 at 3:09 pm |

    Yeah, when people come here to put forth the “rape is about uncontrollable sexual urges!” theory, we need to punch them back to the study that near conclusively pegs rapists as methodical, predatory criminals, not just horny dudes who made a faux pas after too much booze and too little communication. No, people who rape know exactly what they’re doing, and how to exploit their victims social weaknesses to decrease their chances of getting caught and/or suffering consequences.

    That’s obviously a very interesting and eye-opening study, but it doesn’t “conclusively” prove anything about rape, and it doesn’t even claim to peg all rapists as anything. First, it’s only profiling the offender population that hasn’t been incarcerated; second, about 30% of the rapists who responded to their survey reported committing only one rape.

    Also, I don’t think your proposed dichotomy between “methodical, predatory criminals” and “horny dudes who made a faux pas” makes much sense. There are definitely methodical, predatory criminals in the rapist population, but there may also be rapists who are motivated by sexual desire, without that reducing their culpability to the level of “faux pas.” I don’t see how raising the possibility that some rapists are motivated by sexual desire trivializes or legitimizes the crime. Is it ok to mug a person because you need money? Is it ok to kill a person because they’re ahead of you for promotion? The mere fact that some terrible acts spring from base motives that are understood and even widely shared does not in any way excuse the terrible acts.

  21. Tony_
    Tony_ October 31, 2011 at 3:30 pm |

    I think there are a lot of interesting mind games going on here and it reminds me of that new book Better Angels of Our Nature by a certain proponent of a certain controversial brand of science, about the decline of violence. I have not finished the book, but the main thesis seems to be that violence is heavily variable and can be tamed by the so-called civilizing process, essentially a form of socialization.

    To me the problem with focusing on rape as the result of any one factor or even a fixed set of factors is not only that 1) we do not know what these are, because the science simply does not exist, as Jill pointed out and 2) that it assumes that these causes are constant and unaffected by what society deems the causes to be. It has been suggested by some comments above for example that if society deems X to be ‘asking for rape’ then by self fulfilling prophecy X will be a cause of rape by people who have socialized that message. It’s not much of a leap to that if society deems X to be ‘a cause of rape’ then by self fulfilling prophecy perpetrators who find themselves confronted with X feel less inhibitions about commiting rape, and thus are more likely to commit it. My other analogy is a civil servant who comes to a new, unfamiliar country, and is offered a corrupt business deal. He already knows corruption is wrong. But in one case, he believes that the country has almost no corruption, and none of his other civil servants is corrupt. In the other case, he sees that all of his colleagues accepted a similar corrupt deal. Clearly the latter civil servant is more likely to accept the corrupt deal, without any difference in his prior beliefs about the wrongness of corruption. That is, beliefs about the commonality of bad things in certain situations can affect participants’ willingness to engage in bad things, even if it is already known such things are bad and wrong.

    Which is why I feel articles like Charlotte Allen’s, who purport to identify a cause of rape as a response to behaviors of women, without necessary science, is playing with fire. For one it is shaming women who have no reason to be shamed with fear of rape, expanding the power of rapists. But it could also be a part of an endogenous system where societal expectations about rape actually do affect perpetrator’s willingness to rape. IMO we should never make careless assertions associating how a woman dresses with how likely she is to be raped and should focus on socializing potential perpetrators away from rape.

  22. Kathleen
    Kathleen October 31, 2011 at 3:35 pm |

    Jill — fingers crossed crossed crossed that it gets published — and not just as a “letter to editor” but as an answering op-ed. So many people have *never even heard* any challenge to these received ideas, it’s so important. Thank you.

  23. Jadey
    Jadey October 31, 2011 at 3:44 pm |

    Anon21: First, it’s only profiling the offender population that hasn’t been incarcerated; second, about 30% of the rapists who responded to their survey reported committing only one rape.

    That’s what makes it so interesting, actually – there’s a considerable amount of research on detected offenders (which is more correct than saying “incarcerated offenders”, as not everyone convicted is currently or has been incarcerated) in the forensic literature, but relatively little on undetected rapists, for the simple fact of their being harder to find! But the dissimilarities between the populations are not necessarily that wild.

    As for only reporting having committed one rape, that’s actually also common in convicted and incarcerated offender samples – sexual offenders have some of the lowest detected re-offending rates among all offenses (part of this is reporting bias), and it’s really not unusual for an incarcerated rapist to only have one incident on file. Sexual assault happens more than it ought to, but as far as criminal behaviour goes, it’s not like people are in a position to engage in it as frequently as other behaviours, like drug use, vandalism, theft, etc. As with the undetected rapists, the vast majority of assaults are committed by a relatively small number of repeat offenders.

    It’s true that sex offenders are not a homogeneous group, but there may be certain characteristics of the repeat offenders who commit similar kinds of crimes or select similar victims that make them stand out.

  24. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig October 31, 2011 at 3:51 pm |

    Tony_: I’ve heard of that book. My official opinion is that it’s probably bullshit. My unofficial opinion is that the author got into some heavy weed. Violence is an intrinsic part of human nature, it’s never going to go away. Also, in regard to the recent “drop” in crimes, that’s a masterpiece of statistic manipulation.
    I simply don’t hang out with unrelated men. I get out, yeah, but I try to stay sober and I don’t make eye contact or smile, or otherwise act in any way that might confuse people. Old male friends might get a ‘business’ smile, but I never drop the professional manner with them. I’ve got a life to live, and risk management ensures my life will be much longer.

  25. speedbudget
    speedbudget October 31, 2011 at 4:02 pm |

    I will tell you the one factor that causes rape: Rapists.

    Yet women are still tasked with fixing the problem.

  26. Angry Black Guy
    Angry Black Guy October 31, 2011 at 4:04 pm |

    speedbudget: Really? Rapists just can’t control their urges? So why do they wait until the victim is alone and vulnerable? If they’re horny and they just can’t “keep it in their pants,” wouldn’t more people be victimized in the streets? Why did my rapist wait until I was half asleep in my bed to begin? If he was that horny, I would have expected him to be trying to rip my clothes off right when we came back to the dorm instead of let me safely get in my own bed where I thought I was safe and THEN do his business.

    This is the same argument people give to excuse domestic violence: The man has uncontrollable angry urges that he can’t help. Yeah, right. They seem pretty able to control anger at work when their boss pisses them off. Well enough that they save all that up until the end of the day when they get home. Hmmm….

    Speed:

    Actually, that is exactly what I am saying. Most rapist, child molestors, serial murderers and other deviant personality types have the ability to control their anti-social behavior under the right circumstances. Mass murderers have the ability to be fantastic clowns at children’s parties (John Wayne G.) or interact with policemen in a complete rational way (Dahmer) or do any number of things to hide their deviancy. in addition, just as there is a psychological difference between the man who gets in a bar fight and kills someone with a pool cue and a man who kills a new victim every month (Son of Sam), there is a difference, IMHO, between a serial rapist and the date rapist that is very real. That is not to say that one is somehow better than another. They are both evil and horrible. But the psychological profile of the two shows clear differences in deviancy, motivation and urges.

    Feminist theory (at least a branch of it) would have us treating the serial rapist and the date rapist the same why, while psychologist and sociologists would make obvious distinctions between those two groups.

    When I hear feminist theory that says all rapists are the same, I am saddened because that’s pretty clearly untrue. Criminology and psych study after study tells us this. And even more importantly, we don’t need to fit every rapist into one category to combat rapists of all categories. It’s an overly simplistic way of viewing the problem, and one that relies on a prototype, nonsexual, power mad rapist to stand for all attackers.

    There are two dozen different types of killers with motivations from sadism to revenge to delusional self defense. Why should rape be any different?

  27. Tony_
    Tony_ October 31, 2011 at 4:04 pm |

    My official opinion is that it’s probably bullshit. My unofficial opinion is that the author got into some heavy weed. Violence is an intrinsic part of human nature, it’s never going to go away. Also, in regard to the recent “drop” in crimes, that’s a masterpiece of statistic manipulation.

    But have you read it? It’s okay to have an opinion, it’s just that you will find more than opinions in the book, you will find facts from a lot of different sources, times, angles, methodologies, time periods, and geographical locations. So you are saying the recent decline in violent crime is a mirage? That somehow, murders are not being reported in New York City, that would have been reported, say 20 years ago?

  28. speedbudget
    speedbudget October 31, 2011 at 4:04 pm |

    That should be victims, not women. That was thoughtless on my part.

  29. speedbudget
    speedbudget October 31, 2011 at 4:08 pm |

    Angry Black Guy, if you have read the thread or any research on rapists at all, you would know that date rapists usually ARE serial rapists. So now what?

    http://www2.binghamton.edu/counseling/documents/RAPE_FACT_SHEET1.pdf

    From the linked article:

    In addition, the majority of undetected rapists are serial rapists who also commit other forms of serious interpersonal violence. In a study of 120 undetected rapists in the Boston area16, 63% were serial rapists. These 76 serial rapists had, on average, attacked 14 victims,

  30. jill
    jill October 31, 2011 at 4:10 pm |

    So your admitting its not about politics,patriarchy, and male dominance?

  31. Angry Black Guy
    Angry Black Guy October 31, 2011 at 4:15 pm |

    EG:

    As I said, that is overly simplistic because, as I said to someone else, EVERY deviant personality type has the ability to control their urges under certain scenarios, particularly scenarios in which they might get caught. Almost every serial killer in history has been able to hide their deviation for a period until they are able to satisfy their urge. That’s a text book part of certain types of psycopathy: the ability to lie dispassionately in satisfaction of their desires.

    “Urge” doesn’t mean “animalistic”. Psychopaths with the strongest urges are often the most cool and calculating.

    It is easy to understand my point when you change the words “rapist” for “pedophile”. In many cases, pedophiles are not primarily concerned with power. They are more than happy with a non-forced interaction with their victims and the dynamic isn’t necessarily about power or control in those instances. However, if their desires are not fulfilled, many of them will find ways to satisfy their desires through power or control. There is undoubtedly a subset of rapist that is the same way. How big that subset is is unclear, however, I think it muddies the water to pretend that they do not exist.

    If anything, our society has learned that from sexuality to gender rolls to deviant behaviors, that the only certainty is that there is no black and white. There are broad continums. That’s why it is odd to see people who embrace the possibility of such things in gender or sexuality, then try to pigeon hole the bad person into one narrow type of evil.

    Our experiences should tell us that it’s clearly not true.

  32. Angry Black Guy
    Angry Black Guy October 31, 2011 at 4:18 pm |

    Speedbudget:

    You don’t know me or what I have read. I have read a fair amount in this subject and can give you equally supported references for my position as well. But instead of a battle of references, I get more out of just a rational and reasonable discussion.

    If you can’t make your point without assuming the superiority of your position, that’s a reflection on the weakness of your point. Not mine.

    Try that tactic on someone else. Won’t work on someone like me.

  33. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig October 31, 2011 at 4:29 pm |

    Tony: But have you read it? It’s okay to have an opinion, it’s just that you will find more than opinions in the book, you will find facts from a lot of different sources, times, angles, methodologies, time periods, and geographical locations. So you are saying the recent decline in violent crime is a mirage? That somehow, murders are not being reported in New York City, that would have been reported, say 20 years ago?

    Unfortunately, I haven’t read the book yet. But yes, I am saying that the recent decline is a mirage. I think murders might get reported more, unless they’re in a community that for some reason or other, are wary of interacting with the police. But police aren’t really interested in arresting rapists or domestic abusers, so unless the stakes are high, those crimes won’t get reported. Forthe record, police are pretty much stuck in a 1950s mentality, so getting them to take murders of non-white, non-straight people seriously is a crapshoot. And cops have a vested interest in under-reporting crime, so any stats that come from them are suspect.

  34. Angry Black Guy
    Angry Black Guy October 31, 2011 at 4:30 pm |

    Speed:

    1. Why do studies of prison rapes show that non-rapist often become rapists in prison, regardless of dynamics of power (i.e. rape occurs even in situations where power and authority are not at issue)?

    2. How do the sexual arousal tendencies of rapists support your position (studies regarding arousal in consensual and non-consensual situations)?

    3. Is it possible the the drastic declines in rape and the rise of internet porn, for example, represent evidence of an outlet for certain types of deviancy.

    Etc.

    No one knows all of the answers for certain because we aren’t omnipotent, but there are studies with respect to each of the points above that lead us to believe that sexual urges are part (size unclear) of the motivation for some subset of rapists.

    But more importantly, accepting that possibility doesn’t lead to excuse making for the menz, any more than it leads to excuse making for a killer or other sadist. It just means we are better evaluating the causes of a crime all of us are working to eliminate.

  35. speedbudget
    speedbudget October 31, 2011 at 4:32 pm |

    I wouldn’t have been raped but for the rapist being there. Blaming me or my actions is nothing but asshole doodbro bullshit, and you’re coming on a feminist blog telling me about shit I live every day.

    The superiority of my position is the CRIMINAL is responsible, end of story. The fact you can’t handle that and go on tone arguments is just childishness.

  36. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers October 31, 2011 at 4:37 pm |

    I’ve actually never heard feminist theory that states that all rapists are the same; perhaps I didn’t get the memo. :-) The feminist theory I’ve heard states that all rapists are fully culpable for their actions in raping, which is not the same as saying they all have the same motive.

    Criminologists have long known there are different “types” of rapists even among those who target and assault strangers. There are some who seem to want to hurt women and be violent to them; there are some who seem to want to pretend that it is consensual and they’re having a date. They all need to be taken seriously and treated as dangerous criminals; the rapist whose attacks on women in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square in the late 90’s kept being unfounded by the Philly police was of the type who seemed to be pretending the rapes were consensual sex, up until the point where one of his victims fought back and he strangled her to death.

    I strongly believe, based on the existence of rape porn, that there are people who do, in fact, rape out of sexual desire… a sexual desire to rape. They are aroused by the idea of having sexual power over a victim. Since nearly all these people are men, and most are heterosexual, they *do* target young women that they feel desire for, because what they desire is the pleasure of committing rape, not the pleasure of consensual sex.

    But first of all, this does not mean that dressing in a sexy way actually attracts those men and makes them want to rape. Too many women have been raped while wearing sweatpants, or footie pajamas, or *burkas*, for that to be even vaguely plausible. Men can be aroused by a woman’s face, or voice, or the way she walks, and if the man who was aroused is the kind who gets his pleasure out of raping people, then he’ll target the woman he wants no matter what she’s wearing. And he will generally do so methodically and carefully so as not to get caught, not out of a sudden overwhelming impulse.

    And second of all, it *would not matter.* No one should ever have to curtail their personal freedom to do something that harms no one, because it may lead other people to desire to do them harm. Some people feel inordinate irritation and anger toward hipsters, or men with goatees, or guys who belch a lot, but if someone walks up to a hipster or a man with a goatee or a guy who belches, and punches him in the face because he’s just so overwhelmingly irritated by that guy’s existence… the person who threw the punch is a criminal, and the victim is not advised that it would be best not to belch or wear a goatee in public.

    Even if rape was *only* ever committed against young women wearing sexy clothes, that still should never be a reason why women should not wear sexy clothes. Wearing sexy clothes is no more harmful an action than earnestly talking about how great Weezer is, and a person’s right to commit an action that harms no one trumps *any* consideration of how much doing so may make a potential assailant want to attack them. You just don’t get to commit an attack on a person who did you no harm, ever, for any reason. And, as it happens, we have so much evidence of women being raped while *not* wearing sexy clothes that it’s pretty apparent that that’s not a factor in a rapist’s decision to rape at all.

  37. Jadey
    Jadey October 31, 2011 at 4:39 pm |

    Politicalguineapig: Also, in regard to the recent “drop” in crimes, that’s a masterpiece of statistic manipulation.

    Across multiple jurisdictions in multiple countries for most crimes over several decades in a way that isn’t detectably statistically manipulated (i.e., no loss of natural statistical randomness)? That’s a pretty sophisticated mass conspiracy.

  38. Anon21
    Anon21 October 31, 2011 at 4:40 pm |

    speedbudget: I wouldn’t have been raped but for the rapist being there. Blaming me or my actions is nothing but asshole doodbro bullshit

    I definitely agree with your overall point. 100% of the fault for a rape falls on the rapist. I don’t think that acknowledging the possibility that some rapists are motivated by sexual desire needs to result in blaming the victim–indeed, you need to use some fairly fucked-up “logic” to get from point A to point B.

  39. Anon21
    Anon21 October 31, 2011 at 4:41 pm |

    Anon21: indeed, you need to use some fairly fucked-up “logic” to get from point A to point B.

    Sorry, let me clarify. The “you” here is not you, speedbudget. It’s the victim blamers.

  40. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers October 31, 2011 at 4:52 pm |

    Angry Black Guy, I think part of the problem here is that in your initial statement you said “the inability of the rapist to control those urges”.

    Most of what you’re saying is actually pretty reasonable, but that statement rankles… and actually, it doesn’t match the rest of what you’re talking about. Anyone who has the power to premeditate a crime can control their urges, because they control them into a direction where they are fulfilled at a time and place of the criminal’s choosing.

    What you want to say, I believe, is that the rapist *chooses* not to control those urges. The rapist feels desire linked to the thought of raping someone, and rather than doing the moral thing and saying “hell no I’m not going to ruin someone’s life just to get my rocks off”, he chooses to commit the rape.

    Rapists, mass murderers, serial killers, and pedophiles *can* control their urges, as evidenced by the fact that, as you say, they channel those urges so that they are released at a time and place of the criminal’s choosing. We all do the same thing, it’s just that our “urges” aren’t a desire to commit a criminal act. People *choose* to commit criminal activity. They are not unable to control their desire to commit such activity. They are able, but unwilling.

    I think a lot of your argument makes a lot more sense if instead of trying to argue the point that rapists may rape out of a sexual desire to rape by saying they can’t control the urge to rape, you argue the point by saying they *experience* a sexual desire to rape, and then choose to fulfill that desire. I think that’s actually what you’re saying anyway, but your language in your initial post does not express that.

  41. zuzu
    zuzu October 31, 2011 at 4:57 pm |

    Angry Black Guy: in addition, just as there is a psychological difference between the man who gets in a bar fight and kills someone with a pool cue and a man who kills a new victim every month (Son of Sam), there is a difference, IMHO, between a serial rapist and the date rapist that is very real.

    Date rapists tend to *be* serial rapists. And they get away with their predatory behavior because people like you draw distinctions between “real rape” and “date rape.”

  42. matlun
    matlun October 31, 2011 at 4:59 pm |

    I have actually always wondered why it should be necessarily be seen as victim blaming to say that rapists are more likely to attack attractive or sexily clad women. It might be factually incorrect, but why victim blaming?

    If there was a sect of murderers that sought out and killed only red haired people, it would not be victim blaming to point out that red haired people would be much more likely to be victims of this group.

    Why not just focus on that these kind of issues are in no way a mitigating factor when judging the rapist? (If you are in favor of hate crime laws, you could perhaps even argue that targeting a specific sub group of women should be seen as an aggravating factor)

  43. Jadey
    Jadey October 31, 2011 at 5:00 pm |

    Okay, so the problem with the psychological approach to ANYTHING is that psychologists (and I am one) generally focus on individual level factors. These factors can have valid explanatory power and contribute to our understanding of social phenomena, but they are also far too easy to interpret in a victim-blaming or responsibility-diminishing kind of way, and both psychologists as well as non-psychologists interpreting psychological research have often done just such a thing. The problem is that while many psychologists endeavour to conduct value-neutral work, the world is not value-neutral. It’s not to say that we shouldn’t try to understand phenomena at all levels, but when it comes to interpreting and disseminating our work, we have to be very careful about not letting it be misinterpreted into victim-blaming (which we can’t always control). It’s a serious ethical issue in the discipline (some psychologists take it more seriously than others). So, Angry Black Guy, I get where you are coming from, but the point that speedbudget is making goes beyond just questions of research – it’s about the context in which research is interpreted and acted upon, and it does have serious bearing on taking an individual-level approach to crime prevention.

  44. zuzu
    zuzu October 31, 2011 at 5:03 pm |

    matlun: I have actually always wondered why it should be necessarily be seen as victim blaming to say that rapists are more likely to attack attractive or sexily clad women. It might be factually incorrect, but why victim blaming?

    Because it puts the burden on women to change their appearance to stop rape, when the problem is the rapists.

  45. Jadey
    Jadey October 31, 2011 at 5:04 pm |

    matlun: I have actually always wondered why it should be necessarily be seen as victim blaming to say that rapists are more likely to attack attractive or sexily clad women. It might be factually incorrect, but why victim blaming?

    See my comment to Angry Black Guy just after yours. It’s because that’s how people actually interpret that kind of information – we attribute cause in very biased and problematic ways oftentimes, and in a social context of sexism and patriarchy, women (among other social groups) are vulnerable to being blamed.

  46. Megalodon
    Megalodon October 31, 2011 at 5:06 pm |

    Why is it that in order to believe that rape is about power to a large degree, you have to ignore the fact that rape, to some degree, is about sexual urges and the inability of the rapist to control those urges?

    You can argue that rape can and does involve “sexual urges” without saying that rapists have an “inability” to “control those urges.” Couching it in terms of uncontrollable urges makes it sound akin to some unstoppable, biological compulsion, like urination or defecation.

    The crime of rape is a crime of violence but (unlike robbery or assault) there is often a sexual aspect of it that it seems illogical to ignore.

    Okay. If rape is ever sexually motivated, I don’t think it’s a matter of the rapist being physically unable to control his urges. He simply decides that using force, coercion and violence upon another person is an acceptable method for him to gratify his urges. In that respect, rape may sometimes share something in common with robbery or assault. Some robbers want money to buy things that gratify themselves, and they think attacking someone to get that money is okay. Some batterers are angry, and they think attacking a person is an acceptable way to assuage that anger.

    Really? Rapists just can’t control their urges? So why do they wait until the victim is alone and vulnerable? If they’re horny and they just can’t “keep it in their pants,” wouldn’t more people be victimized in the streets?

    I second speedbudget. Sexual assault, like domestic violence, is methodical, deliberate, and generally planned in advance after a process of isolation. It is not an anger management or sexual-desire-control issue. If this were true, there’d be a whole lot more sexual assaults occurring in public and not in opportune places, at opportune times.

    The fact that many acts of rape are planned and premeditated does not negate the possibility that self-interest and gratification can play a role in rape, or any other crime. A mugger may want money to obtain things for his own gratification, like drugs, but he may still employ methodical and calculating methods to get that money, like choosing an isolated area where help is far away and selecting a potential victim who is alone and vulnerable, whom he thinks he can overpower, etc. Burglars may simply want money for short term gratification, but they may methodically choose their target, like a house that looks affluent, when the homeowners are not home, or when it’s dark, etc. Bank robbers may spend weeks or months planning a robbery, casing the location, rehearsing the robbery, having a getaway car, etc. But then they’ll spend all the stolen money on drugs and alcohol. Lots of malefactors plan their crimes and choose “opportune places, at opportune times.” That does not necessarily mean that gratification and base urges are removed from the equation.

    When you show me a man who is unable to control his sexual urges at gunpoint, then I will believe that. The fact is that not only are many rapes premeditated, which means that no unbearable urges are involved, but that rapists would be perfectly well able to control their sexual urges if they felt they had a reason to do so. The fact that they don’t is about power and male dominance.

    Yes, it involves male dominance and power, but their involvement does not disqualify or remove sex as a participating factor in acts of rape. Alas, a Blog had some post about this some years ago:

    Why do men rape women? It’s not because they hate women, by and large. Do hunters hunt because they hate animals? No, they hunt because hunting is fun, because they like the meat, and maybe because hunting is a way of male-bonding, They don’t hate the animal; they just consider empathy for the animal’s feelings irrelevant, less important than their desire for meat or fun. (I’m ignoring the ecological arguments for hunting for the sake of the analogy).

    Men who rape women don’t do it because they hate women, but because they don’t give a fuck about women (at least, not the women they rape). They want something, they take it, and they’re by-and-large indifferent to how the person they “take” it from feels.

    This is why the “rape isn’t about sex, rape is about violence” analysis falls short. It’s not true – not from the point of view of many rapists – and it denies the true horror of the situation. Many rapists don’t rape because they hate and want to hurt women; it’s not that personal. Rapists rape because they want sex; they don’t consider the woman’s feelings at all, because a woman’s feelings aren’t worth considering. They’re just women, after all.

    http://www.amptoons.com/blog/2004/02/11/what-causes-rape-anatomy-of-a-rape-culture/

  47. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. October 31, 2011 at 5:31 pm |

    Isn’t this sort of assuming that there are two distinct categories: people who seek to control of non-consenting people and people who desire sex from non-consentng people? It seems more likely to me that the people who desire sex from non-consenting people do so because they get off on controlling non-consenting people.

  48. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve October 31, 2011 at 5:35 pm |

    matlun: matlun 10.31.2011 at 4:59 pm
    I have actually always wondered why it should be necessarily be seen as victim blaming to say that rapists are more likely to attack attractive or sexily clad women. It might be factually incorrect, but why victim blaming?

    If there was a sect of murderers that sought out and killed only red haired people, it would not be victim blaming to point out that red haired people would be much more likely to be victims of this group.

    You tell me the next time the police get on the mass media and tell people not to buy expensive homes as they are attracting home invasions. Or that they shouldn’t buy a luxury car due to carjacking. Your argument about ‘sects of murderers’ is not only farcical but it is stolen from the plot of a Rex Stout novel.

  49. matlun
    matlun October 31, 2011 at 5:45 pm |

    zuzu: Because it puts the burden on women to change their appearance to stop rape, when the problem is the rapists.

    Perhaps.

    To use a classical analogy: I am more likely to be robbed if I look like I carry a lot of money (perhaps I flashed it at the bar) and also look inebriated and vulnerable. Some people would do some victim blaming if I was actually robbed in this situation (ie criticize my high risk behavior), but no one should see this as a mitigating factor for the robber.

    When discussing rape, the situation are sometimes different. There are old misogynist attitudes that “bad girls” (which can be variably defined) can not really be raped and you should not blame the men too much for taking advantage. So it is perhaps somewhat natural to defensively reject these arguments because of historical associations, but I think it is misguided.

    Again: The rapist is responsible for his actions. The rapist “inability” to control himself when finding an attractive victim should count for as much as that of the robber.

  50. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve October 31, 2011 at 5:53 pm |

    matlun: Again: The rapist is responsible for his actions. The rapist “inability” to control himself when finding an attractive victim should count for as much as that of the robber.

    So, how do you suggest a woman make herself a less ‘attractive victim’? Greet every man she meets with a firm kick to the balls?

  51. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. October 31, 2011 at 5:56 pm |

    So..you’re saying that some women appear to be carrying more sex?

    Look, you’re flat out wrong here and your wrongness is part of a pattern of behavior that causing actual women, actual harm. There is zero evidence that dressing a certain way increases your likelihood of being raped. And yet that rationale is constantly used to bludgeon women in to compliance with socially constructed notions of propriety. That rationale is used to make women culpable for their own rape. That rationale is used to deny that certain women have been raped. So stop helping people oppress women by repeating that idea.

  52. Z S
    Z S October 31, 2011 at 5:57 pm |

    Jill – Do you think there is any mileage in the idea that older women are also more likely to be married or with children, which signifies them as another man’s “property” hence off limits to rapists? Partly to not disrespect the deluded social hierarchy they tend to support, partly because her husband might be bigger than him.

    Certainly while I get the same level of street sexual harassment since marrying, I get fewer determined creeps who won’t take no for an answer at parties, now that I wear a wedding ring.

  53. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. October 31, 2011 at 6:08 pm |

    Z S: I get fewer determined creeps who won’t take no for an answer at parties, now that I wear a wedding ring.

    Interesting. I seem to get a higher number of creeps who have difficulty with no…and I’m constitutionally incapable of saying “I’m married” as a reason they need to leave me the fuck alone. I wonder if it would be different if I put on a ring. Must…test…hypothesis.

  54. matlun
    matlun October 31, 2011 at 6:24 pm |

    Fat Steve: So, how do you suggest a woman make herself a less ‘attractive victim’? Greet every man she meets with a firm kick to the balls?

    Very funny.

    For example not being drunk and placing yourself in unnecessarily dangerous situations?
    Obviously you could greatly decrease your chance of being a victim of many crimes by locking yourself in your cellar and not interact with the world, but this would not be seen as an acceptable trade off to almost anyone.

    Everyone has to choose what kind of risk mitigating efforts and compromises are acceptable to them. Personally, I tend to have the more fatalistic view that life is risk and often you just have to accept that. Still, some risks can be avoided at low cost (for example, I do wear seat belts).

  55. zuzu
    zuzu October 31, 2011 at 6:30 pm |

    matlun: For example not being drunk and placing yourself in unnecessarily dangerous situations?

    Hey, here’s a thought: How about we ask rapists not to rape? THAT COULD WORK.

  56. matlun
    matlun October 31, 2011 at 6:42 pm |

    @Kristen J: The argument that there is no evidence for the manner of dress being a risk factor is a good one. Whether or not this is true a simple matter of fact, and can (in principle) be resolved through the normal scientific method.

    What I was attacking was the argument that saying that provocative dress is a risk factor is by itself misogynistic and/or victim blaming. Which is a very different type of argument.

  57. matlun
    matlun October 31, 2011 at 6:42 pm |

    zuzu: Hey, here’s a thought: How about we ask rapists not to rape? THAT COULD WORK.

    No. Or do you think we could solve all crime the same way?

  58. zuzu
    zuzu October 31, 2011 at 6:50 pm |

    matlun: No. Or do you think we could solve all crime the same way?

    Do you run around telling shooting victims they should not be such delicious targets? Because I’m pretty sure I don’t remember you advising young men to stay home and not go out and hang out with other young men because they might get shot.

  59. William
    William October 31, 2011 at 7:01 pm |

    Why is it that in order to believe that rape is about power to a large degree, you have to ignore the fact that rape, to some degree, is about sexual urges and the inability of the rapist to control those urges?

    Seems this has been covered to death but, from a clinical perspective you can’t really bring rape down to sexual urges. Rape generally requires either threats, intimidation, physical restraint, or some other means of subduing the victim. It requires removing both your clothes and someone else’s. As an act it requires too many steps and too much directed activity to really fall into the uncontrollable urge category. I’ve worked with patients who have uncontrollable sexual urges. Most of them masturbate at inappropriate times, some of them have done things that rise to the level of sexual assault (like groping) but don’t really fit what most of us are talking about when we say rape. Maybe if you were talking about someone in a state of psychosis or mania you might be able to make an argument for incontrollable urge, but that kind of a case is going to be so rare that you’re going to end up with bad policy trying to make any generalizations from it.

    I don’t doubt that some rapists choose their victims based on perceived sexual attraction, but that isn’t what makes them rape. I like steak, so I am likely to eat steak when I am hungry if it is available. I like black so most of my pants are black. Liking steak isn’t responsible for my hunger and liking black isn’t why I wear clothes. The “uncontrollable urge” trope just doesn’t stand up to the reality of what actually happens in a rape. I’ve been raped, I’ve had sex, even though some of the mechanics are similar they don’t really bear much resemblance to one another.

  60. Tamara
    Tamara October 31, 2011 at 7:01 pm |

    BINGO!!!!

  61. Tamara
    Tamara October 31, 2011 at 7:04 pm |

    Obvously I was referring to comment 56 when I said the above. Must use refresh button.

  62. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. October 31, 2011 at 7:13 pm |

    matlun: @Kristen J: The argument that there is no evidence for the manner of dress being a risk factor is a good one. Whether or not this is true a simple matter of fact, and can (in principle) be resolved through the normal scientific method.

    Yes. And it has. There was a U.S. federal crime study conducted years ago that said that provocative behavior including clothing was involved in less than 5% of cases. You’ll have to find that one yourself. And since most rapes occur in the home…I doubt the women in question are wearing their clubbing gear. Unless you think rubbish people wear at home is hot.

  63. randiradio
    randiradio October 31, 2011 at 7:34 pm |

    Even if a particular rapist is motivated by sexual desire, that doesn’t make the crime somehow different. The rapist thinks he’s entitled to force himself on his victim. Like the Alas, A Blog post is saying, what the rapist wants is more important than a woman’s autonomy. This is wrong, and this is precisely what feminism is fighting.

  64. William
    William October 31, 2011 at 7:52 pm |

    Feminist theory (at least a branch of it) would have us treating the serial rapist and the date rapist the same why, while psychologist and sociologists would make obvious distinctions between those two groups.

    As many have pointed out, most date rapists are serial rapists. I think the distinction you’re aiming at is acquaintance rapists vs. violent stranger rapists. Its a valid distinction, but it misses an important point: whether an attacker uses a knife or a pill, whether he knows the victim or not, whether he is violent or merely insistent, power comes into play. People have a lot of ways of rationalizing it, but power is part of the interaction because one person isn’t consenting. Even when it comes to date rapists, to sweet rapists, to seductive pedophiles, there is always an element of coercion because thats how you make people do things which they do not want to do.

    I’m a therapist. If I see a woman in treatment, in my experience, theres a better than even chance that she will have been raped at some point in their lives. Usually that ends up being a big part of what we talk about in treatment. I’ve heard literally dozens of detailed descriptions of rapes and every single one at some point comes to an experience of powerlessness. I don’t believe thats accidental and I don’t believe that it isn’t something rapists know.

    Its not hard to get laid if thats what you’re looking for. You and I both know that there isn’t something magical about the urge to have sex that won’t be cured by masturbation. If someone is absolutely desperate there is no shortage of sex workers, meaning that men with means would have no real reason to rape. And yet they do. Men capable of masturbating rape. Men who have lots of consensual sex rape. Men who have the money to hire a prostitute rape. When you cut through all of the bullshit and rape culture and victim blaming and rationalization the one thing that all rapes have in common is an aggressor who satisfies some need at the expense of another human being. Every need, other than the desire to hurt or control someone else, is accounted for in all but the most extreme of outliers.

  65. superior olive
    superior olive October 31, 2011 at 8:42 pm |

    Kristen J.:
    Isn’t this sort of assuming that there are two distinct categories: people who seek to control of non-consenting people and people who desire sex from non-consentng people? It seems more likely to me that the people who desire sex from non-consenting people do so because they get off on controlling non-consenting people.

    I was about to post something along these lines exactly–if rapists wanted sex, there are a myriad of ways to get it. But the non-consent–sometimes, though not always as in the case of roofies, involving violence–is a feature, not a bug.

  66. Angryblackguy
    Angryblackguy October 31, 2011 at 8:46 pm |

    Alara made my point well. In reading these comments, that are all very good, it seems to me that the differences come from the fact that the causes of rape might be translated into victim blaming. I see the issues as very distinct. As a psychologist pointed out above, the justifications for rape are often used to blame the victim.

    My point is that that is completely true and a real problem. But we should not let the ramifications of evidence change the basic facts of what the evidence says. We should instead focus on making sure that the evidence isn’t twisted to victim blame.

    I think this is crucial because anytime that feminists are interpreted as having manipulated the evidence itself, all victims are hurt. So we can acknowledge that sexual attraction is a factor AND acknowledge that the victim shouldn’t be at fault for an attack in any way. If there are those that won’t do that, we don’t attack the evidence, we attack the twisted application of it.

  67. saurus
    saurus October 31, 2011 at 8:52 pm |

    Matlun says:

    Very funny.

    For example not being drunk and placing yourself in unnecessarily dangerous situations?
    Obviously you could greatly decrease your chance of being a victim of many crimes by locking yourself in your cellar and not interact with the world, but this would not be seen as an acceptable trade off to almost anyone.

    Everyone has to choose what kind of risk mitigating efforts and compromises are acceptable to them. Personally, I tend to have the more fatalistic view that life is risk and often you just have to accept that. Still, some risks can be avoided at low cost (for example, I do wear seat belts).

    Here’s what emphasizing “what women can do to prevent rape” accomplishes:

    + makes women who were raped after drinking, walking alone at night, etc feel like shit
    + makes women who were raped by an acquaintance but followed all the “safety rules” feel like shit
    + encourages others to make women and rape victims/survivors feel like shit
    + encourages women to keep an eye out for their own alcohol intake instead of the intake of men around them, which is a better predictor of rape
    + DOES NOT MAKE ANYONE SAFER
    + DOES NOT OFFER ANY INFO THAT IS USEFUL OR NOVEL
    + DOES NOT DO ANYTHING WHATSOEVER TO CURB RAPE

    So yeah, I’m gonna have to say that spending one’s words on that crap is misogynistic and anti-feminist. But of course, I know we’re all about science, so here you go:

    Rape tip: Don’t take stupid risks like getting in a car with a dude. Especially if he “parks”.

    “Variables that appear to be risk factors are the man’s initiating the date, paying all the expenses, and driving; miscommunication about sex; heavy alcohol or drug use; “parking”; and men’s acceptance of traditional sex roles, interpersonal violence, adversarial attitudes about relationships, and rape myths.”

    Date rape and sexual aggression in dating situations: Incidence and risk factors.
    Muehlenhard, Charlene L.; Linton, Melaney A. Journal of Counseling Psychology, Vol 34(2), Apr 1987, 186-196.

    Rape tip: Don’t take stupid risks like getting your period early or being lonely or unhappy.

    “Familial variables were not found to be significant predictors of unwanted sexual activity by dates/boyfriends. However, earlier age of menarche and sexual activity were significant predictors, as were more sexually active same sex friends, poorer peer relationships, and poorer emotional status.”

    Risk factors associated with date rape and sexual assault of adolescent girls. Judith R. Vicary, Linda R. Klingaman, William L. Harkness. Journal of Adolescence
    Volume 18, Issue 3, June 1995, Pages 289-306.

    Rape tip: Don’t take stupid risks like having traumatic experiences, being psychologically vulnerable or getting into a dicey situation. 75% – 91% of you women reading can ignore this tip: it does not apply to you.

    “Examined the accuracy with which rape and lesser sexual assaults were predicted among a representative national sample of 2,723 college women. A total of 14 risk variables operationalized three vulnerability hypotheses: (a) vulnerability-creating traumatic experiences, (b) social-psychological vulnerability, and (c) vulnerability-enhancing situations. [...] A risk profile emerged that characterized only 10% of the women, but among them the risk of rape was twice the rate of women without the profile. The concept of traumatic sexualization was used to explain this finding. However, the vast majority of sexually victimized women (75–91%) could not be differentiated from nonvictims.”

    Discriminant analysis of risk factors for sexual victimization among a national sample of college women. Koss, Mary P.; Dinero, Thomas E. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol 57(2), Apr 1989, 242-250.

    Rape tip: Don’t take stupid risks like having a boyfriend. Or dates. Or friends. Or acquaintances. Don’t be sexually abused, get trashed often, experience peer pressure or have bitchy parents.

    “Boyfriends were the most commonly reported perpetrators followed by dates, friends, and acquaintances. Individuals were more vulnerable to unwanted sexual contact if they had a history of sexual abuse, reported excessive alcohol use in the past month, scored high in peer conformity, or had parents who did not monitor their behavior closely or use an authoritative parenting style.”

    Unwanted Sexual Activity among Peers during Early and Middle Adolescence: Incidence and Risk Factors. Stephen A. Small and Donell Kerns. Journal of Marriage and Family Vol. 55, No. 4 (Nov., 1993), pp. 941-952

    Rape tip: Don’t take stupid risks like working for a boss who’s cool with rape.

    “Work and living environments where unwanted sexual behaviors occurred were associated with increased odds of rape. Officer leadership played an important role in the military environment and safety of women. Assailant alcohol and/or drug abuse at time of rape was notable.”

    Factors Associated With Women’s Risk of Rape in the Military Environment. Anne G. Sadler, R.N., PhD, Brenda M. Booth, PhD,2 Brian L. Cook, DO, MSc,3 and Bradley N. Doebbeling, MD, MSc4. American Journal of Industrial Medicine. 43:262–273 (2003)

    Rape tip: Don’t take stupid risks like being disabled, being a prior victim, not being from the area, or being homeless.

    “Of 881 victims screened, 51% had no observable risk factors while 49% fell into categories of variables that previous research has associated with increased vulnerability. Included were mental disability (psychiatric or developmental), a prior history of rape or incest, tourist or visitor status (site unfamiliarity), and homelessness.”

    Potential risk factors for rape in three ethnic groups. Clarissa S. Scott, Harriet P. Lefley and Dorothy Hicks. Community Mental Health Journal. Volume 29, Number 2, 133-141.

    Rape tip: Don’t take stupid risks like going anywhere near a drunk guy.

    “Koss (1988) reported that 74% of the perpetrators and 55% of the victims of rape in her nationally representative sample of college students had been drinking alcohol. [...] Ullman and Breklin (2000) reported that 100% of the incidents in which the victim was drinking involved perpetrator drinking. [...] Abbey et al. (1996b) found college men who had committed sexual assault when they were intoxicated had greater expectations that alcohol increased male and female sexuality than did college men who committed sexual assault when sober, suggesting beliefs of alcohol’s effects may have encouraged these behaviors.”

    Correlates of Rape While Intoxicated in a National Sample of College Women. Meichun Mohler-Kuo, George W. Dowdall, Mary P. Koss, Henry Wechsler; Journal of Studies on Alcohol, Vol. 65, 2004.

    Now let’s see if your perception of rape victims broadens at all, or if this is just like that Feministe thread about miniskirts in which you argued that women are “statistically” more likely to be assaulted when they wear provocative clothes, were called on it by Jill, backpedaled and admitted it was just your assumption and that you couldn’t actually find any evidence to support it, and then pop up again in some future thread to continually try to wrest stereotypical, harmful, unsupported and uncritical assumptions about rape victims into some kind of grey “inconvenient truth” area.

    Rape risk factors are fucking complicated and boiling them down to “drink less, wear more, fuck less” is both inaccurate and really really shitty thing to do.

  68. Angryblackguy
    Angryblackguy October 31, 2011 at 8:54 pm |

    Also, to be blunt, I do think there are people who cannot find a sexual outlet and do rape strictly out of sexual desire. Just as there are pedophiles who do not care about he consensual nature of their encounters and care only about having an encounter. It’s not popular in many feminist circles but I think that the rise of free and easily accessible porn has quenched the impulses of a subset of people with rape tendencies.

    I just don’t think acknowledging that is victim blaming or ignoring the fact that power is a key component of other rape scenarios.

    People are complex and motivated by millions of things. Rapists are no different. And I think it makes no rape more or less evil or any victim more or less innocent to believe that that may be the case.

    In my mind the most strident feminist can believe that to be true without violating their principles.

  69. Jadey
    Jadey October 31, 2011 at 9:12 pm |

    Angryblackguy: In my mind the most strident feminist can believe that to be true without violating their principles.

    You might make more headway if you stop talking about feminists like we’re all assholes. “Strident” is a pretty loaded term.

  70. Jadey
    Jadey October 31, 2011 at 9:12 pm |

    @ saurus

    Thank you for taking the time to do that.

  71. karak86
    karak86 October 31, 2011 at 9:16 pm |

    Angryblackguy: I do think there are people who cannot find a sexual outlet and do rape strictly out of sexual desire.

    I term these guys “loser rapists”. Loser rapists are the scariest forms of Nice Guy, and I was targeted by one of them in college. A loser rapist is someone so socially awkward he can’t get a woman to have consensual contact, so he waits for a woman to be vulnerable (usually drunk) before groping or assaulting her. They still know it’s wrong, they do it out of a sense of entitlement and self-pity, but I would argue its less about control and violence and more about jerking off.

    But loser rapists are still created by the following ideas:
    1. all men are entitled to sex
    2. in order to be a real man, you must be having sex
    3. women don’t have the right to object and say no
    4. the experience of your partner is not as important as yours

    I honestly feel if we made more of a effort to communicate to young men, “Look, sex doesn’t make you a man. Demanding sex from the world makes you a whiny shit and a rapist. You WON’T be Forever Alone, you CAN find a partner but only if you’re a good person.” then Loser Rapists would stop being so prevalent.

  72. Rich
    Rich October 31, 2011 at 9:19 pm |

    But misogynists like Charlotte Allen are happy to play fast and loose with statistics in order to shame and scare women. It’s not booty shorts and Sexy Halloween that’s getting women and girls raped, just like it’s not the overwhelming and undeniable physical attractiveness of men that gets so many of them beaten, robbed and assaulted. It’s rapists. It’s violent criminals.

    Well said, Jill. Stats can be used to prove just about anything, something I remember learning back in high school. Allen misses the point when she claims that rape mainly occurs in younger age groups; what about women over 50 who have been raped by violent intruders? I see stories like that all the time on the evening news. These women were raped because they were vulnerable and easy to prey upon, not because of their “desirability”.

  73. Rich
    Rich October 31, 2011 at 9:22 pm |

    The top paragraph of my last comment is a direct quote of Jill’s article, I should make that clear.

  74. JD
    JD October 31, 2011 at 9:25 pm |

    matlun: What I was attacking was the argument that saying that provocative dress is a risk factor is by itself misogynistic and/or victim blaming.

    Did you totally miss Jadey and Kristin J’s comments? Have you ever heard of fucking context? And is your ability to think logically so diminished that the sick logic of “dressing X way = higher chance of being raped” leading to “women are responsible for keeping themselves from being raped by not dressing X way” is really so very difficult for you to follow? Honestly, it’s not that hard. Finding BS ways that women supposedly can lessen their chances of being raped is not new, and is inherently victim-blaming because it asserts that the victim had some control of the situation and therefore is partly responsible for their own assault. Stop making it about how women can prevent themselves from being raped. The only choice that determines if someone gets raped is the RAPIST’S.

    Arguments like yours just reinforce the same old systemic pressure on women to not participate fully in public life and to not express themselves fully. The system that says that women’s rights and desires are less important than men’s and can me more easily sacrificed for the sake of convenience, power, practicality, or what have you. Don’t want to be raped? Don’t dress the way you might like to, don’t have a drink with your friends, don’t take a job that requires you to go back to your car alone in the middle of the night, etc. The limiting of women is equally behind the rape and the arguments that it was the dress or the drink or the what have you, not the rapist’s choice to act.

    You are not asking questions in a vacuum. You are rehearsing tired old misogynistic tropes whether or not you mean to be misogynistic and your desire to be able to argue things ‘in the abstract’ cannot erase the misogynistic history of those tropes. Trying to discuss them in the abstract only ignores the very real harm done to women by the continuing spread of those tropes. So please, just stop repeating them.

  75. JD
    JD October 31, 2011 at 9:33 pm |

    Thank you, saurus.

  76. megara
    megara October 31, 2011 at 9:36 pm |

    The majority of first-time rapes occur before the victim is under the age of 18. By the article’s logic, does that mean that children are at peak sexuality too?

  77. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig October 31, 2011 at 9:55 pm |

    Jadey: I can’t speak for other countries, but for the US, I’m sure a lot of jurisdictions find that they gain an advantage by under-reporting crime, or determining certain types of crime to be not crimes at all.

  78. William
    William October 31, 2011 at 10:08 pm |

    Also, to be blunt, I do think there are people who cannot find a sexual outlet and do rape strictly out of sexual desire. Just as there are pedophiles who do not care about he consensual nature of their encounters and care only about having an encounter.

    You don’t mean to be implying that some pedophilia is consensual, do you? Because, to be blunt, if thats the background of your thinking I’m not sure its worth continuing to engage with you using anything that doesn’t have recoil.

    It’s not popular in many feminist circles but I think that the rise of free and easily accessible porn has quenched the impulses of a subset of people with rape tendencies.

    I hate to be the turd in the punch bowl here but…you do realize that men (and women! and people who don’t easily fit into binaries!) have been rubbing one out since before cave paintings, much less easily accessible porn. Human beings are good at fantasy, and we like getting off. God knows I didn’t have any problems before the internet.

    People are complex and motivated by millions of things.

    There are millions of individual stories, but there really aren’t that many plots. The problem with your argument is that, again and again, you’re ignoring that in order for a man to fit into the category you’re desperately trying to invoke he has to not recognize rape as rape. Rape isn’t sex just as domestic violence isn’t a boxing match and running from a tiger isn’t the same as running in a marathon. For a man to rape because he’s horny he would have to either be too mad or too cognitively limited to recognize what he was doing as rape and, at the same time, too poor to hire a prostitute or too uncoordinated to jerk off. Any other scenario demands that the rapist in question either enjoy the act of rape itself as it is different from sex or care so little about other people that he is willing to rape another human being in order to have a “more optimal” experience.

  79. jennygadget
    jennygadget October 31, 2011 at 10:59 pm |

    “but I do question the idea that rape is entirely uncoupled from desire.”

    What Jill said. The argument that “rape is about power, not sex” is just that: rape is ABOUT power, not that rape is entirely uncoupled from sexual desire. It is the issues of power, control, and consent that make it rape, define it as rape, and motivate rape (over other forms of getting off). The “sex” part can be incidental (but isn’t always) while the power issues are never incidental (although they may vary in intensity and type).

    karak86

    This:

    “I do think there are people who cannot find a sexual outlet and do rape strictly out of sexual desire.”

    and this:

    “But loser rapists are still created by the following ideas:
    1. all men are entitled to sex”

    are completely contradictory.

    I get what you are trying to do, but in the end pretending as though the first statement makes sense in light of the second isn’t helping. If frustrated sexual desire caused one to be a rapist, I would be one too. (But I am not, because that isn’t what makes people rape.) Agreeing with the first statement just weakens the truth of the second.

    matlun

    fuck off. all that rape blaming shit boils down to is nothing more than “well, she should have known better than to go out and live in the world while also being all not-male like that.” Because there is no way to win that game. There is no way to be cautious enough. There is no way to dress demurely enough. There is no way to live and not be too-female or not-female-enough. There is no way to live and not have risk.

    There is, however, plenty of ways to live with an unhealthy amount of fear and shame and a huge lack of belief in the value of living life. Congrats on doing a bang-up job of pressuring women to live that way.

    Also, these breasts I carry around with me? The way that I walk? My shoulder length hair that signals to guys even in the dark while I am on my bike that I am female? THESE THINGS ARE NOT A WALLET THAT I CAN HIDE IN MY WAISTBAND OR LEAVE AT HOME.*

    asshole.

    *every time I hear this argument I think of Wanda Sykes excellent rape joke about detachable vaginas. The punchline, of course, being not just that such a thing is absurd and makes one giggly to think about it, but that it wouldn’t make a fucking difference because the point of rape is not to get at a thing but to get off on treating people as things.

  80. John Cale
    John Cale November 1, 2011 at 12:02 am |

    Yeah, of course power is involved. One gains power over another in order to attain something that one wants. I think the comparison to armed robbery is useful. in this case, one temporarily takes power over another in order to obtain something they desire. I don’t see why we have to assume that one rapes simply to obtain power rather than what power can get you. This seems to be an assumption with little empirical evidence to justify it. Of course the victim felt powerless, there power to control the situation and there body was taken from them. But that does not imply that the motive of the perp was to gain power over the victim.
    Gaining power over the victim was a step to obtaining what one wants. I think this is evidenced by date rape where in many cases the men expected the women to engage in sexual relations with them and when the women resisted they “took it” cause they were getting sex whether the woman consented or not. Some men will ask permission and try to seduce a women. When that tact does not work, coercion because the next strategy. These men may see women as “lesser” humans(but above animals and objects) whose purpose is in part to satisfy their sexual urges.Here, the man already presumes he has power over the women, the way he has power over lesser men, children, animals and even objects. (and this attitude is encouraged and promoted by patriarchal and misogynistic societies). The “getting off” on power motive behind rape may be true for many rapists but I hardly think that it’s a universal or even general attitude. This is may the case for serial rapists and rapists who target particular types of women, and I’m willing to bet that such men feel like they DON”T have power over others.
    The bro who rapes some girl he just met a party probably doesn’t feel this way. He feels entitled to something that in his mind is already his and the girl is unjustified for holding it out from him. I encounter such attitudes all the time among the young men I work with.
    So yes, choice plays a role, as does power and sexual desire. None are mutually exclusive.

    Also, finding that some women are more vulnerable to rape and that there are certain contexts where a woman’s (or man’s) chance of being raped is greatly increased and that such information should be communicated to potential victims in no way lets rapists, potential and actual, off the hook. No more than potential victims using safety bulletins, safety protocols and information about high crime areas to protect themselves lets thieves, robbers, and other criminals off the hook. Yes, we have to strive to change the cultural ethos that justifies rape and we have to do prevention on the “supply” side by identifying potential and actual rapist.(Btw, men grow up being taught that rape is wrong. However, many are also taught that women are the “weaker sex” and a real man can control a women and absolutely never lets a woman control him. They deal with this contradiction by redefining rape or claiming that she really “wanted it”and the sex was actually consensual) But simultaneously, we can help people by safe by giving them information that may help them protect themselves. There is no either/or, and screw the victim-blamers because victim-blamers are going to blame the victim no matter what the data shows. It could show that women who cover themselves head to toe and avoid men are more likely to be raped and they’ll still find a way to say that they were at fault or deserved it. Safety is safety and we shouldn’t let a@@holes avoid discussions about safety just to say F-U to the victim blamers.

  81. Tony_
    Tony_ November 1, 2011 at 12:26 am |

    Politicalguineapig: Unfortunately, I haven’t read the book yet.

    I would read the book before denouncing it. That goes for any book. As for your comments about the crime rate, it hasn’t convinced me. Police feel political pressures all the time, but that didn’t stop them from reporting increased crime rates for decades. It’s hard to fudge the numbers on murder because you have actual dead bodies that need to be disposed of.

  82. Jadey
    Jadey November 1, 2011 at 12:36 am |

    Politicalguineapig:
    Jadey: I can’t speak for other countries, but for the US, I’m sure a lot of jurisdictions find that they gain an advantage by under-reporting crime, or determining certain types of crime to be not crimes at all.

    Actually, the motivation is often just the opposite – if you stack your numbers then you can justify increased funding. I’m not saying reporting isn’t ever manipulated or affected by reporting standards because it surely is, but you cannot orchestrate the general downward crime trend on the scale as has been seen in the US (and in other nations) completely by manipulation and without anyone catching the problems in the data (manipulated data are statistically different because people can’t deliberately incorporate randomness when they forge data).

  83. Amelia ze lurker
    Amelia ze lurker November 1, 2011 at 7:23 am |

    I am not qualified to talk about rape, but I will say that I have found—in my own personal experience, and also from that of others (I read a lot of Holla Back)—that street harassers do not choose their targets based on what they are wearing, how attractive they are, or anything to do with aesthetic presentation. They choose their targets based (not solely, but primarily) on how easy the target is—how vulnerable. The times I have been harassed, I am certain it was because I looked like an easy target, both physically and mentally: not particularly imposing, mediocre posture, and, more importantly, off in my own world (while aware and vigilant, my world is internal and while walking on an empty street I will tend to get the glazed look of a daydreamer), and giving off a vibe of both approachability and a reluctance to make a fuss. A Hamlet-like tendency to think and not act (holy pretentious comparison, Batman!), if you will. I know one should scream—but I don’t have the sheer, not-even-having-to-think-it-through instinct of screaming.

    (Trigger warning)

    I was once harassed in broad daylight; the situation escalated until the harassment became a (non-rape) sexual assault. It began on an empty street, and they were behind me, so they couldn’t have seen my glazed eyes, so they probably picked me for no reason, because I was a girl and alone on the street; if they had any reason at all, it would have been because of my posture. As they escalated from aggressive pickup lines, to verbal harassment, to screaming obscenities, to getting in my space, to touching me, I proved myself at each stage unable to defend myself—that is, in this context, unwilling to scream at them to go away, to tell them I would call the police, to, in short, demonstrate my unwillingess to “make a scene.” I pushed them away physically and rebuffed them verbally, but not in the the way that “mattered.” By the time it got to the assault, they had already sized me up completely.

    Anyway, if I can be excused for comparing rapists and street harassers: if the assholes look for anything, it’s for someone vulnerable. And they’re doing it for sick kicks, not for healthy kicks they can’t control. A rapist doesn’t have an uncontrollable sex drive. S/he has a desire to rape. Same for street harassers. The guy who shoved his crotch against me in the subway turnstile and tried to drag me off while his friend laughed didn’t just want a date.

    P.S. Please excuse the victim-blaming language such as “unable to defend myself.” I know that I did nothing wrong, and that no one should ever be blamed for their harassment or assault. By framing it that way, I was trying to show the situation from their own disgusting perspective.
    P.P.S. I am in no way trying to apply my own circumstances to those of others. When I make guesses as to why this happened to me, I am not suggesting that this at all reflects the experience of others. I just wanted to say that I agree with those that have been saying that vulnerability is much more relevant than attractiveness.

  84. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve November 1, 2011 at 8:00 am |

    William: You don’t mean to be implying that some pedophilia is consensual, do you? Because, to be blunt, if thats the background of your thinking I’m not sure its worth continuing to engage with you using anything that doesn’t have recoil.

    I think he may be referring to the fact that some pedophiles convince themselves that it’s consensual, or even manage to ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ their victims to think it’s consensual. Which of course is no different than the rapist who thinks the rape victim was ‘asking for it.’ So you are possibly misinterpreting what he means, but it is just as repulsive a concept.

  85. Rob in CT
    Rob in CT November 1, 2011 at 9:26 am |

    Regarding what Allen said about “peak desirability” well, to the rapist “peak desirability” might overlap more or less perfectly with “peak vunerability.” Based on the stories I’ve read (some of which are in this very thread) and experience (with fairly typical schoolyard bullying, not rape, though I think there is some similarity), it’s clear to me that there are lots of people who get a rush from pushing other people around. Dominating them. Rape is the ultimate form of that.

    I really don’t understand why other people seem to struggle with this concept. Setting aside those who are actual unrepentant abusers, who have an obvious reason to deflect, why woudl someone go off victim-blaming? Why is it so hard to recognize the actual problem?

  86. attackfish
    attackfish November 1, 2011 at 9:46 am |

    Rob in CT: Have you ever heard of the Just World Fallacy? It’s the eagerness for people to believe that the world works in a just way. To maintain this illusion, people blame victims for their on victimization in an effort to make themselves think “Well they did something wrong, I’m not doing something wrong, it can’t happen to me/the people I love.”

  87. Rob in CT
    Rob in CT November 1, 2011 at 9:59 am |

    I haven’t heard of the specific term, but ok, yeah. It explains a lot of political stuff too (you deserve to be poor, etc).

  88. WithinthisMind
    WithinthisMind November 1, 2011 at 10:51 am |

    matlun: No. Or do you think we could solve all crime the same way?

    Except we actually could stop a lot of rapists that way, by simply eliminating all the ways society tells men that raping a woman is justifiable behavior.

    Sure, we will never eliminate all rape. But we will help eliminate most of the ‘dude bro’ rapists who simply can’t conceive that what they did was in any way wrong.

  89. Andie
    Andie November 1, 2011 at 10:58 am |

    attackfish:
    RobinCT:Rob in CT: Have you ever heard of the Just World Fallacy? It’s the eagerness for people to believe that the world works in a just way. To maintain this illusion, people blame victims for their on victimization in an effort to make themselves think “Well they did something wrong, I’m not doing something wrong, it can’t happen to me/the people I love.”

    On that same line of thought, I sometimes think that people would rather believe a victim would lie and/or misconstrue a situation than believe a person would rape someone. Lying sucks, but rape is horrifying so believing someone would lie is probably easier to live with without wanting to off yourself from lack of faith in humanity.

  90. matlun
    matlun November 1, 2011 at 11:05 am |

    @WithinthisMind: You seriously believe this? That many rapists are just poor, misguided fools that just do not understand that what they are doing is wrong?

    (Whether they understand that their actions should be classified as rape is immaterial. It would still take a huge lack of empathy to not understand that it is wrong to treat another human like that)

  91. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. November 1, 2011 at 11:45 am |

    @matlun,

    Reality check. Surveys have indicated that about a third of men would commit rape if they believed that they could get away with it. That substantially fewer than a third of men commit rape, means they are likely deterred from committing rape by the current consequences. Still, some percentage of men either (1) will commit rape regardless of the consequences or (2) do not find existing deterrent efforts sufficient. On the whole, I tend to believe that most rapists fall into category 2. Which means things like increasing social penalities for rapists, including for example not constantly justifying their behavior is likely to stop a non-zero number of rapes. And since its the ethical thing to do anyway, I’m voting for it as one of the stopgap measures on the road to utopia.

  92. matlun
    matlun November 1, 2011 at 12:10 pm |

    Kristen J.: Surveys have indicated that about a third of men would commit rape if they believed that they could get away with it.

    Are you referencing the Briere and Malamuth study (it was what I found when searching for this statistic)? I find this rather dubious. Both in methodology and it is also a very unrepresentative set of subjects (356 introductory psychology students at a single college).

    Obviously rape should not be socially acceptable, but how many of those who rape are moving in social circles where it is?

    Anyway: My belief is still that just “asking them not to rape” (zuzu’s original comment) will work for very, very few people who would otherwise have raped.

  93. Angry Black Guy
    Angry Black Guy November 1, 2011 at 12:59 pm |

    Megara:

    Many children are at a high level of sexuality as young as 9 or 10.

    Answer: yes. for some I am sure that rapes are a result of those urges.

  94. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. November 1, 2011 at 1:07 pm |

    @matlun,

    There have been multipe studies on that particular statistic, I’m at work so I can’t source, but I know there’s been commentary.

    As for the acceptability of rape…I think you’re somehow missing the fact that rape is socially unacceptable only in very narrow confines: a stranger, with a weapon, of a virgin wearing a chasty belt who never drinks fluids of any kind. Deviate from those criteria and suddenly its not rape, its a misunderstanding, she’s overly sensative, she’s lying, she asked for it (or in the case of a male victim, men can’t be raped).

    You are still looking at this problem from a distant, “objective” frame that does not reflect the lived experiences of women and victims of sexual assault. Most importantly, its a frame *created* to make people feel safe and good by denying that rape happens, blaming victims when it does and pretending to give a damn without actually doing something about predatory behavior by a group with more power.

  95. Rare Vos
    Rare Vos November 1, 2011 at 1:09 pm |

    You seriously believe this? That many rapists are just poor, misguided fools that just do not understand that what they are doing is wrong?

    “Many”? No. Some, definitely. This is in no way revolutionary. We’ve seen about a billion rape-apologists who deny clear examples of rape with that exact excuse ‘he just didn’t understand! he misunderstood! don’t ruin his life over it!”

  96. Rare Vos
    Rare Vos November 1, 2011 at 1:14 pm |

    My belief is still that just “asking them not to rape” (zuzu’s original comment) will work for very, very few people who would otherwise have raped.

    I think the point of statements like that is to point out how we don’t teach boys* not to rape, we teach girls not to “get” raped. That is, we victim-blame without ever bothering to try prevention.

    The point isn’t that telling someone not to rape is going to magically cure them of their rapeyness, but that, had this person received education on the subject before becoming a rapist, perhaps he might not have.

    Who knows if that’s true or not. Are there programs to reform rapists? What’s the success rate? What would have happened if he’d gotten the message “don’t rape” his entire life, instead of just in prison, after the fact?

  97. Angry Black Guy
    Angry Black Guy November 1, 2011 at 1:16 pm |

    William:

    To be blunt I am a bit smarter than your average dolt and think it is silly to play intellectual gotcha games, but if you must:

    1. Pedophilia can involve intercourse without coercive consent and often does. Again, that doesn’t make it right but statutory consent and personal consent are two different legal and ethical concepts. For purposes of this discussion, it makes sense to ignore the statutory consent angle because this discussion is about power v. urges, not capacity to consent.

    2. People that brag about how tough they are on the internet normally aren’t. I think it’s funny when an anonymous online poster who could be anyone puffs out their chests at another anonymous online poster who could be anyone.

    Funny.

    3. Porn, studies show, satisfies different urges than the imagination. If porn did nothing more for a person than masturbation, we wouldn’t have the porn industry. In short, their is a billion dollar industry that says your “porn doesn’t satisfy an urge that masturbation doesn’t already cover” is horse manure.

    4. For a man to fit into the category I am considering, I only need a man whose urges overcome either his morality, sense of right of wrong or logic. You ignore all kinds of factors: ignorance, inebriation, psycopathy (a lack of ability to connect with another’s emotions) etc.

    William because you seem to believe that I am an idiot, let me give you a real world example of the rapist that you do not believe exists. Psychopaths are be definition without the ability to feel empathy, remorse, etc. One theory of rape holds that there is a category of rapists that are psychopaths. For these rapists, power or control is not the issue. They are rapist because they do not care about anyone’s feelings or legal ramifications and care only about satisfying their base desires. If they are hungry and you have food they want, they will kill you for it. If you have the car they covet they will steal it from your and if you protest, they will kill you for it. If they desire sex, be it from a man or a woman or a child, and they cannot get it freely, they will take it by force or kill in the process.

    The key that the base cause of their deviancy is not power or even necessarily the impulse or their ability to keep their urges in check, it is their psychopathy.

    Now that is just one example of a rapist for whom power is not the core issue. There are plenty of others but that type is the most easy to understand in the context of our discussion.

    Is your argument that such people do not exist. Or are you arguing this is not the way psychopaths work? Either choice is wrong, but you are the smart one between us so have at it.

  98. matlun
    matlun November 1, 2011 at 1:23 pm |

    Rare Vos: I think the point of statements like that is to point out how we don’t teach boys* not to rape, we teach girls not to “get” raped. That is, we victim-blame without ever bothering to try prevention.

    Do we really?
    As much as we argue against rape culture, things have improved markedly in the last decades. This is already an ongoing process and sexual violence statistics are down.

    But while long term improvement of the world and culture we live in is important, we have to live in current society for now.

  99. Natalie
    Natalie November 1, 2011 at 1:26 pm |

    I’ve thought about posting a comment here, and I’ve been nervous because this is a hot-button topic and I fear that my experience is somehow unique (at least, I haven’t heard anyone say it before). However, I’m going to try to articulate what I mean here in as respectful a way as possible:

    First off, I totally get that the whole “don’t dress slutty” advice is misogynistic. I totally get that so-called “advice” for women on how to avoid rape just shames them and excludes them from public life. I read Feminist literature and I get it, and I’m 100% on-board with many of the commenters who echo this train of thought.

    Furthermore, I’d never tell a woman who was assaulted “Well maybe you could have [insert misogynistic behavior-controlling suggestion].” I know that takes away people’s power and I think it’s disgusting that some people think that’s helpful. Only rapists are responsible for rape.

    However, my personal experience – meaning the way I feel but DO NOT feel about others – when I hear the repeated mantra that “Women Are Not More or Less Likely to Be Raped Because of Their Behavior/Dress” is that, because rapists are indiscriminant in their choice of victims, there are no reasonable measures* I can take to prevent my own rape. Even though I totally, 100% agree with that mantra on an intellectual level and when it comes to other people (the fact that dress/behavior doesn’t affect “rapeability” has been demonstrated even), somehow with myself, I just find it disempowering. That feeling of disempowerment, in turn, makes me feel like a bad feminist. For example, I recently took self-defense classes from a martial arts instructor in my area (I could say that I also took this class to defend against non-sexual crime, but to be honest my major motivation was sexual assault prevention). Honestly, on an emotional level, it was a very empowering experience, even though I hated every minute of the physical activity itself. However, on an intellectual level, I felt like I was betraying feminism. Because every piece of feminist literature on rape has preached the “Altering Women’s Behavior to Avoid Rape is Misogynistic” doctrine, I felt like taking that class made me a bad feminist, even though it made me feel safer in terms of my ability to defend myself. Much the same way a feminist may feel like it’s a small kowtow to the patriarchy if she watches how much she drinks when she’s out with a new group of people, I felt like I was betraying feminists everywhere by dragging myself out of bed to take that class. And really, the two aren’t theoretically that different: I was altering my behavior to avoid assault. Furthermore, it was behavior that I did not enjoy and that I would not have participated in if the threat of assault were not ingrained in my consciousness.

    The main difference, at least what I tell myself, is that the self-defense class is empowering because it’s a non-rape-specific, proactive, positive behavior, rather than a rape-specific, reactive, exclusionary or self-limiting behavior, which is really what feminist literature preaches against. Deep down though, for me, I fear that the two behaviors are not that much different, and the whole “Women Are Not More or Less Likely to Be Raped Because of Their Behavior/Dress” doctrine is largely responsible for making me feel that way, even though I agree with it 100% for other people. For me personally though, it makes me second guess myself when I’m participating in an activity I find otherwise empowering. I start asking myself “Is taking this class buying into the idea that the burden is on women to prevent rape?” instead of “Is this helping me feel or be safer, happier or more confident?” (I would answer “yes” to both questions, which is the problem.)

    Has anyone else had similar experiences? If so, how do you reconcile what you know and what you feel about a given behavior?

    *I’d consider things like not leaving your home after sundown (Which is advice I’ve actually received!) to be “unreasonable measures.” Obviously, if you lock yourself away in your home or something you’re probably less likely to suffer things like street assault. I’d define “reasonable measures” as being aware of your surroundings when walking alone in the dark and other “low-cost” crime prevention strategies, most of which are not specific to the crime of rape.

  100. Rare Vos
    Rare Vos November 1, 2011 at 1:38 pm |

    Do we really?

    I’m confused by the question. Don’t know about you, but I started getting the non-advice about “preventing” rape before I’d even hit puberty. The message I received is that its my fault if someone rapes me, because I did or didn’t do something.

    The most any boy was ever taught about rape is that it something that happens to bad girls because the girls did or didn’t do something.

    As much as we argue against rape culture, things have improved markedly in the last decades. This is already an ongoing process and sexual violence statistics are down

    I have some serious doubts about this claim. However, if this is true, this would be thanks to . . . . . . . . . . . ?

    And this:

    I felt like taking that class made me a bad feminist, even though it made me feel safer in terms of my ability to defend myself.

    just breaks my heart.

    This is the degree to which we make rape a woman’s problem ONLY.

    For what its worth, Natalie, I think every *person* should take such classes, assuming the ability to do so. Its not about “preventing” rape, its about being prepared for whatever may befall you.

  101. matlun
    matlun November 1, 2011 at 1:57 pm |

    @Rare Vos: Ok, if that was your experience growing up it was drastically different from mine.

    Rare Vos: I have some serious doubts about this claim. However, if this is true, this would be thanks to . . . . . . . . . . . ?

    That is difficult to answer. There has been a decline in all violent crime and perhaps sexual violence has just decreased as a part of this general trend? The general cultural changes can also be seen as larger movement in society and while feminism has been part of this it is hard to prove causation. We also have the sexual liberalization which has led to a greater openness about these issues which might by itself have caused greater understanding and empathy.

    Natalie: … because rapists are indiscriminant in their choice of victims, there are no reasonable measures* I can take to prevent my own rape. Even though I totally, 100% agree with that mantra on an intellectual level and when it comes to other people (the fact that dress/behavior doesn’t affect “rapeability” has been demonstrated even), somehow with myself, I just find it disempowering.

    I think you are far from alone in this. Coming to this realization is emotionally difficult. That is why the “Just World fallacy” discussed by attackfish above is such a common phenomenon.

  102. Rare Vos
    Rare Vos November 1, 2011 at 1:58 pm |

    You might make more headway if you stop talking about feminists like we’re all assholes. “Strident” is a pretty loaded term.

    This is the difference between an ally and a faux ally. Which do type of person do you think comes to a feminist blog to call them “strident”, blatantly make up shit about what some “branches” of feminism believe, and repeatedly remind us how much smarter than the silly bitches he is?

  103. Rare Vos
    Rare Vos November 1, 2011 at 2:04 pm |

    Ok, if that was your experience growing up it was drastically different from mine.

    Can you elaborate? I’ve never met anyone who has a “drastically” different story, as we all grow up in the same culture.

  104. matlun
    matlun November 1, 2011 at 2:25 pm |

    Rare Vos: Can you elaborate? I’ve never met anyone who has a “drastically” different story, as we all grow up in the same culture.

    First a general point:
    Basically none of us grow up in the same culture except in the loosest sense. There are of course similarities but also vast differences between sub cultures even within the same country.

    What I think you are arguing here (and please correct me if I am wrong) is that this aspect of how boys and girls are raised is one of the shared similarities.

    I am born and raised in Sweden and perhaps explains the differences here (and I have just misunderstood this aspect of US culture), but at least here boys are raised to respect the limits. The whole “risk awareness” oriented instructions to girls are also there, and these risks are in fact often overblown (if not to pedophilia hysteria levels), but I would not say that “we don’t teach boys* not to rape” corresponds to my experience at all.

  105. Rare Vos
    Rare Vos November 1, 2011 at 2:28 pm |

    am born and raised in Sweden and perhaps explains the differences here (and I have just misunderstood this aspect of US culture), but at least here boys are raised to respect the limits.

    Now its my turn to be corrected if wrong – isn’t it Sweden that was just recently reported has having a huge underrreporting problem via a via martial rape?

  106. Tina
    Tina November 1, 2011 at 2:42 pm |

    For me personally though, it makes me second guess myself when I’m participating in an activity I find otherwise empowering. I start asking myself “Is taking this class buying into the idea that the burden is on women to prevent rape?” instead of “Is this helping me feel or be safer, happier or more confident?” (I would answer “yes” to both questions, which is the problem.)

    Has anyone else had similar experiences? If so, how do you reconcile what you know and what you feel about a given behavior?

    There is a HUGE difference between acknowledging that there are rotten people in the world and taking pro-active steps to prevent becoming a victim and victim-blaming. For example, most people lock their front doors. On the other hand, if someone breaks into a house, no one goes around saying how it’s the home owners fault for having stuff in their house or even just having a house in the first place or not pulling the curtains shut so of course someone is going to come around and steal their stuff. They tend to blame the thief who broke into the house and committed a crime. Even if someone forgot to lock their front door, we would still feel sympathy for the victim and know that there was no reason for the thief to try and open a door that didn’t belong to them and go into a house that doesn’t belong to them and take stuff that doesn’t belong to them.

    I don’t think that taking self defense class or locking your front door is placing the burden on victims to prevent theft or rape. All that does is hopefully make it a little harder for a thief or rapist to commit a crime. Just trying to protect yourself from criminals doesn’t make you complicit in their criminal activities. So as long as you aren’t thinking that A) taking self defense means you will never be a victim (doesn’t look like you do) or B) people who DON’T take self defense deserve some of the responsiblity for becoming a victim then I don’t see a conflict of interest between self defense classes and feminism.

  107. matlun
    matlun November 1, 2011 at 2:45 pm |

    No? I do not think so. There was another Feministe thread about Norway with whom we share a long border. But that was not specifically about marital rape (?)

    Anyway: The rape statistics of Sweden does seem (through victim studies) to be very similar to other western countries, so we do not really have anything to be especially proud about on that front.

  108. matlun
    matlun November 1, 2011 at 2:49 pm |

    matlun: But that was not specifically about marital rape (?)

    Well, actually it was (oops). Perhaps I should have went back to check that post again before responding?

  109. jennygadget
    jennygadget November 1, 2011 at 3:21 pm |

    “Yeah, of course power is involved. One gains power over another in order to attain something that one wants. I think the comparison to armed robbery is useful. in this case, one temporarily takes power over another in order to obtain something they desire. I don’t see why we have to assume that one rapes simply to obtain power rather than what power can get you.”

    1) because, unlike my wallet my body is not detachable from me. In other words, this “something” one is trying to gain access to is ME not some object. That rape is about power is a condition of it being rape not some random thing we feminists are trying to tack onto it. For power not to be the main issue, women themselves would have to actually BE objects, rather than simply someone wanting to treat us like one.

    2) corollary to 1) – one can rob without directly interacting with other people. One cannot rape without directly interacting with other people.

    3) corollary to 2) (I am not widely read on the subject, but based on everything I have read) people who robbed via armed robbery are a very different sort from people who rob in other ways; they often DO have power issues – just like rapists (especially serial armed robbers), just…different kinds of power issues.

  110. Natalie
    Natalie November 1, 2011 at 3:30 pm |

    Thanks Rare Vos, matlun and Tina! Your comments make a lot of sense. I particularly like the comparison of a burglar breaking into a house. I think that analogy is really useful in highlighting the ridiculousness of victim-blaming in general: No one says “Well you shouldn’t have such nice stuff in your house” to people who get robbed.

  111. matlun
    matlun November 1, 2011 at 4:13 pm |

    @Natalie: That seem like a good summary :-)

  112. zuzu
    zuzu November 1, 2011 at 4:33 pm |

    matlun: Do we really?

    Yes.

    We really.

  113. zuzu
    zuzu November 1, 2011 at 4:38 pm |

    matlun: I am born and raised in Sweden and perhaps explains the differences here (and I have just misunderstood this aspect of US culture), but at least here boys are raised to respect the limits.

    I wonder how effectively that is taught, given that Sweden still has a significant rape problem and still has violence against women.

  114. jennygadget
    jennygadget November 1, 2011 at 5:14 pm |

    Natalie,

    That was a great comment and I’m glad you made it. I also think those feelings you are talking about are a big part of why rape myths are so pervasive – we want to think there is something* we can do to make this not happen to us/the people we love.

    *there are things people can do to make rape less pervasive, and make yourself a less likely target. But they will not keep you 100% safe – and they tend to NOT be the kids of things rape myths are about. Such as: being assertive and confident makes you an unattractive target to many rapists (but very attractive to a small minority of extremely violent rapists, so….) Also, talking about rape being the fault of rapists not victims, calling out rape jokes, and the like all help to dismantle the cover/justification that many rapists use.

  115. WithinthisMind
    WithinthisMind November 1, 2011 at 5:26 pm |

    matlun:
    @WithinthisMind:Youseriouslybelievethis?Thatmanyrapistsarejustpoor,misguidedfoolsthatjustdonotunderstandthatwhattheyaredoingiswrong?

    (Whethertheyunderstandthattheiractionsshouldbeclassifiedasrapeisimmaterial.Itwouldstilltakeahugelackofempathytonotunderstandthatitiswrongtotreatanotherhumanlikethat)

    Yep. I think there are plenty of ‘frat boy’ type rapists who simply don’t think of what they did as ‘rape’, and therefore don’t think it was wrong. They’d be shocked and appalled that someone called them a rapist because they think their behavior is actually acceptable. They aren’t much different than folks like my grandfather who used to think slapping random women on the ass was okay behavior because society told him it was okay behavior.

  116. matlun
    matlun November 1, 2011 at 5:53 pm |

    zuzu: I wonder how effectively that is taught, given that Sweden still has a significant rape problem and still has violence against women.

    Right. We also teach people that it is wrong to steal and assault others, and yet we do have crime. Strange.

  117. zuzu
    zuzu November 1, 2011 at 6:03 pm |

    matlun: Right. We also teach people that it is wrong to steal and assault others, and yet we do have crime. Strange.

    Yes, but we don’t tell victims of theft that they deserved what they got by having desirable stuff, do we?

  118. matlun
    matlun November 1, 2011 at 6:07 pm |

    zuzu: Yes, but we don’t tell victims of theft that they deserved what they got by having desirable stuff, do we?

    Indeed no. You might get criticism that you were stupid not to have installed alarms or lock your door, but it would be very strange to claim that the victim deserved what they got. I think this makes a good analogy.

  119. matlun
    matlun November 1, 2011 at 6:15 pm |

    WithinthisMind: Yep. I think there are plenty of ‘frat boy’ type rapists who simply don’t think of what they did as ‘rape’, and therefore don’t think it was wrong. They’d be shocked and appalled that someone called them a rapist because they think their behavior is actually acceptable. They aren’t much different than folks like my grandfather who used to think slapping random women on the ass was okay behavior because society told him it was okay behavior.

    Maybe.

    I have read up a bit and the delusion that the victim actually enjoyed it seems to be fairly common (according to what I can find on the net). At least for the “Power Rape” category in the Groth typology.

    So I may be wrong, but I still have a hard time understanding how basic empathy and compassion will not tell you that what you are doing to the victim is wrong. (And therefore that the rapist simply does not care about this moral perspective)

  120. andie
    andie November 1, 2011 at 6:47 pm |

    matlun: Indeed no. You might get criticism that you were stupid not to have installed alarms or lock your door, but it would be very strange to claim that the victim deserved what they got. I think this makes a good analogy.

    To further run with this, if someone leaves their door unlocked, or neglects to install alarms, hell.. even if they have a party and someone steals from their house during the party… no one claims that they were actually giving away their stuff, and then had a change of heart and decided to scream ‘theft!’

  121. WithinthisMind
    WithinthisMind November 1, 2011 at 8:09 pm |

    matlun: Maybe.

    Ihavereadupabitandthedelusionthatthevictimactuallyenjoyeditseemstobefairlycommon(accordingtowhatIcanfindonthenet).Atleastforthe“PowerRape”categoryintheGrothtypology.

    SoImaybewrong,butIstillhaveahardtimeunderstandinghowbasicempathyandcompassionwillnottellyouthatwhatyouaredoingtothevictimiswrong.(Andthereforethattherapistsimplydoesnotcareaboutthismoralperspective)

    That’s the problem. We don’t teach young men to have basic empathy and compassion towards women.

  122. mim
    mim November 1, 2011 at 10:58 pm |

    Jill: Areyougettingthisinformationfromanywherethough,otherthanyourownpettheories?BecauseIhaveneveronceseenthe“womenaretargetedwhentheydresssexy”argumentbolsteredbyactualstatisticsorfacts.

    if I may venture, while I don’t agree with the point that the commenter has made (that women are more likely to be attacked because they’re dressed a certain way) i’d like to point out that their further point, about “… society tells men it’s okay to punish a woman if she is dressed in sexy clothing” might not be too far from the truth. people’s perception of another human is affected by that person’s image. (example: this study found that women wearing makeup weren’t perceived as trustworthy. go figure). rapists look for vulnerability, opportunity, and ability to get away with the rape. and any number of things can be used by a rapist to screen for victims. saying that a woman is perceived a certain way by others because of how she is dressed, is not, however, an excuse for rape.

  123. mim
    mim November 1, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
  124. megara
    megara November 2, 2011 at 8:07 am |

    The premise we are all rejecting is that “being sexy” is why some people get raped. I think others have made great points regarding how this is problematic for women and deters rape survivors from reporting.

    I would like to add out how demeaning the idea that men rape because they can’t control their sex drive is to MEN. The men I know are quite able to control their sexual urges and are not in fact uncontrolled animals who can’t master their desires. Let’s not bring men down to such a ridiculous standard.

    PS– prior comment re: children have extremely high rates of targeted and by the author’s logic must be awfully sexy was intended to show the ridiculousness of the argument. Really didn’t mean to throw a line to people who think pedophilia is actually about needing sex from kids,

  125. megara
    megara November 2, 2011 at 8:34 am |

    matlun: Maybe.Ihavereadupabitandthedelusionthatthevictimactuallyenjoyeditseemstobefairlycommon(accordingtowhatIcanfindonthenet).Atleastforthe“PowerRape”categoryintheGrothtypology.SoImaybewrong,butIstillhaveahardtimeunderstandinghowbasicempathyandcompassionwillnottellyouthatwhatyouaredoingtothevictimiswrong.(Andthereforethattherapistsimplydoesnotcareaboutthismoralperspective)

    Hi Matlun,

    My personal perpsective is also that there are rapists out there who are raping and don’t know it. Some of the work done by Lisak interviewing college men about their sexual activities is what makes me think this who quite openly describe having raped women to a researcher. However, I don’t think these men are poor, misguided, or stupid. I think that they have been socialized into entitlement to sex, and understanding that sex is about men going out and getting sex (and pressure, coercion, and even things that we would see as force are ok like standing between her and the exit or holding her back) are ways that men go get sex, b/c that’s what you do when you are entitled to sex. The corrolary socialization that goes along with this is that women are passive when it comes to sex. So the fact that the woman isn’t participating isn’t a red flag to them. In fact, the woman and her needs, desires, and gratification are irrelevant to them b/c they see sex as a conquest, not as an act between two people. Despite not knowing it’s rape, it’s still completely wrong, misogynistic and a CHOICE to violate another human being, but I do believe that because of their own entitlement they won’t see it as rape. I also don’t think teaching them that what they are doing is rape would stop them. You’d have to address the underlying issues of entitlement and justification of doing what they need to do in order to get sex.

  126. Florence
    Florence November 2, 2011 at 9:10 am |

    megara: However, I don’t think these men are poor, misguided, or stupid. I think that they have been socialized into entitlement to sex, and understanding that sex is about men going out and getting sex (and pressure, coercion, and even things that we would see as force are ok like standing between her and the exit or holding her back) are ways that men go get sex, b/c that’s what you do when you are entitled to sex. The corrolary socialization that goes along with this is that women are passive when it comes to sex. So the fact that the woman isn’t participating isn’t a red flag to them. In fact, the woman and her needs, desires, and gratification are irrelevant to them b/c they see sex as a conquest, not as an act between two people. Despite not knowing it’s rape, it’s still completely wrong, misogynistic and a CHOICE to violate another human being, but I do believe that because of their own entitlement they won’t see it as rape.

    I think this is a very charitable POV. Personally, I believe that a rapist is aware that he’s violating another person, whatever it is he calls it, “rape” or not. The problem is that he just doesn’t care how the violated person feels about it or him.

    The problem with naming it “rape”, to MANY people, is that we have a social construction of rape as a stranger-in-the-bushes violent rape with clear violations of consent and a clear victim and a clear perpetrator. Since we know that that scenario is far more rare than is believed, it’s a scenario that presses itself on the minds of people who are raped by friends, family members, and acquaintances, or who are raping friends, family members, and acquaintances. Most people are raped by people we know in places that are intended to be safe from predation — and the levels of expressed non-consent vary depending on our circumstances, age, assertiveness, level of ability or intoxication, and perceived level of safety/distress while under attack.

    So my thought is that most rapists think, well, I didn’t jump her, we’re friends, and she only said no once/twice/thrice/quietly/didn’t fight too much/etc so what I did wasn’t rape. I convinced her to have sex with me (because I’m so awesome/cunning) (she owed me anyway) (whatever).

  127. Caithyra
    Caithyra November 2, 2011 at 10:55 am |

    TRIGGER WARNING LIKE WHOA!! For rape and victim-blaming from an entire town.

    @matlun: Sweden isn’t a special snowflake. Remember Bjästa. An entire community rallied behind a rapist convicted twice over for the rape and went after his victim, a 14-year-old girl. Watch that entire clip. Watch as he hands out flowers in a ceremony which he leads during the end of year ceremonies. Flowers to people going to the same school in which, specifically, in the bathrooms, he raped a 14-year-old girl. This ceremony takes place three months AFTER he was convicted.

    Listen to the narrator: “[Description of rape...]and he has therefore been moved to another school. The 14-year-old girl, who still attends the school of Bjästa, should have been there but couldn’t because of fear.”

    Then the local priest: “It was incredibly beautiful, and the guy came and did a big demonstration (or “show”, I went literal with this one) and had flowers with him…”

    I’d translate the whole thing, but it isn’t anything no one hasn’t heard before in the feminist sphere of any country. Basically, it’s an entire community using baseless rumors to attack the victim of a rapist “She wanted it.” “Fucking teenyboppers/14-year-old valley girls [English doesn't translate fjortis or fjortisluder very well, think 14-year-old bimbo-whore. On it's own, 'fjortis' is a dismissive way to speak about tween-teenage girls who wears lots of make up and revealing clothes on top of a valley girl-like behavior. 'Luder' means slut or whore.] who wants money and attention.”

    At 2:25 the recording of the rapist’s confession to the police is played. In which the rapist explains that he told her “Sorry.” after jerking off in her face because he knew that it was wrong.

    He knew. Yet he still did it. He was then coddled by an entire Swedish community until Uppdrag Granskning (Mission Inquiry, a Swedish documentary program that often takes a look at the dark side of society) threw it up on national television.

    The stigmatization of victims of abuse and rape needs to stop. Both in Sweden and abroad.

    If the link didn’t work:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kP6FJymOzm4

    Trigger warning: End.

    Ugh! I feel dirty and nauseous just thinking about that case!

  128. WithinthisMind
    WithinthisMind November 2, 2011 at 3:40 pm |

    ifImayventure,whileIdon’tagreewiththepointthatthecommenter hasmade(thatwomenaremorelikelytobeattacked becausethey’redressedacertainway)

    That’s because when I made the comment initially, I didn’t finish the thought (that being that they are also more likely to be attacked if they aren’t considered ‘attractive’ to be ‘punished’ for that, and all the other ‘justifications’ offered, making it essentially a zero-sum game that means it doesn’t matter what you wear), thus the comment as it stands in my first post is incorrect, even if it does explain the misogyny behind the ‘well look at what she was wearing’ statements. I think I explained it a bit better in my follow-up.

  129. matlun
    matlun November 2, 2011 at 5:26 pm |

    Caithyra: Sweden isn’t a special snowflake. Remember Bjästa. An entire community rallied behind a rapist convicted twice over for the rape and went after his victim, a 14-year-old girl.

    Yes, as I stated above, I believe that Sweden can be seen as fairly typical on the international scene. The Bjästa case (which was widely discussed when Uppdrag Granskning did the above reporting) is an extreme example of how the victim is disbelieved by the community. (Note especially that the guy in question was actually also later convicted for another rape. A large portion of the village still believed him innocent)

  130. petpluto
    petpluto November 2, 2011 at 5:46 pm |

    matlun:
    Obviously rape should not be socially acceptable, but how many of those who rape are moving in social circles where it is?

    Almost everyone is moving in those social circles. Sorry, but it’s true. Whenever we as a group say, “Him? He’d never do anything like that”, we’re making rape socially acceptable by not holding those who rape accountable even on this most basic level of social interaction. And what’s more, the fear that friends will react this way keep rape victims from speaking up.

    Whenever someone is told to keep quiet about a sexual assault because the accused is a really good person and it could ruin hir life, they are moving in social circles that support rapists and do not support rape victims. Whenever someone is told to keep quiet about a sexual assault because it took place in the context of a political campaign or a protest movement, they are moving in social circles that support rapists and do not support rape victims.

    You may be very right that very few groups accept rape on an intellectual, theoretical, and philosophical basis. But you’re very wrong if you think that translates into practice when it comes to actual rapists and rape victims. And that’s the problem.

  131. matlun
    matlun November 2, 2011 at 5:59 pm |

    petpluto: Almost everyone is moving in those social circles. Sorry, but it’s true. Whenever we as a group say, “Him? He’d never do anything like that”, we’re making rape socially acceptable by not holding those who rape accountable even on this most basic level of social interaction. And what’s more, the fear that friends will react this way keep rape victims from speaking up.

    I disagree with this interpretation. I think it is partly just because rape is seen as an extremely heinous act that you get this reaction. Such bad acts can never be done be “one of us”, and so the testimony must be false. Facing the reality that rapists walk among us (as seemingly normal people) would be very emotionally uncomfortable, and so people strongly want to be able to disbelieve the story. Confirmation bias means that the evidence will not be objectively evaluated in this type of situation.

  132. petpluto
    petpluto November 2, 2011 at 6:18 pm |

    matlun: I disagree with this interpretation. I think it is partly just because rape is seen as an extremely heinous act that you get this reaction. Such bad acts can never be done be “one of us”, and so the testimony must be false. Facing the reality that rapists walk among us (as seemingly normal people) would be very emotionally uncomfortable, and so people strongly want to be able to disbelieve the story. Confirmation bias means that the evidence will not be objectively evaluated in this type of situation.

    So what you’re saying is that it doesn’t matter that people do it, as long as they’re not doing it with the idea that rape is acceptable in mind? You don’t think that rapists don’t get the message that they aren’t going to really get a lot of push back by society or even their group of friends because those people aren’t saying, “I think rape is a good thing!”, but instead just have a habit of not believing rape victims? At the end of the day, the actual impact on victims is the same.

  133. matlun
    matlun November 3, 2011 at 1:13 am |

    petpluto: So what you’re saying is that it doesn’t matter that people do it, as long as they’re not doing it with the idea that rape is acceptable in mind?

    I was not talking about the rapists but the wider community. Since this effect means that rapists have a greater chance to get away scot free, it is obviously a problem. The fact that getting evidence and convictions is difficult is a notorious problem in rape cases.

    Yes, the actual impact is similar.

  134. megara
    megara November 3, 2011 at 8:46 pm |

    Florence: IthinkthisisaverycharitablePOV.Personally,Ibelievethatarapistisawarethathe’sviolatinganotherperson,whateveritishecallsit,“rape”ornot.Theproblemisthathejustdoesn’tcarehowtheviolatedpersonfeelsaboutitorhim.Theproblemwithnamingit“rape”,toMANYpeople,isthatwehaveasocialconstructionofrapeasastranger-in-the-bushesviolentrapewithclearviolationsofconsentandaclearvictimandaclearperpetrator.Sinceweknowthatthatscenarioisfarmorerarethanisbelieved,it’sascenariothatpressesitselfonthemindsofpeoplewhoarerapedbyfriends,familymembers,andacquaintances,orwhoarerapingfriends,familymembers,andacquaintances.Mostpeoplearerapedbypeopleweknowinplacesthatareintendedtobesafefrompredation—andthelevelsofexpressednon-consentvarydependingonourcircumstances,age,assertiveness,levelofabilityorintoxication,andperceivedlevelofsafety/distresswhileunderattack.Somythoughtisthatmostrapiststhink,well,Ididn’tjumpher,we’refriends,andsheonlysaidnoonce/twice/thrice/quietly/didn’tfighttoomuch/etcsowhatIdidwasn’trape.Iconvincedhertohavesexwithme(becauseI’msoawesome/cunning)(sheowedmeanyway)(whatever).

    From my POV, we actually agree a fair amount, and maybe I didn’t do a great job explaning myself. I definitely think those types of situations are rape. I also think rapists are consciously violating another person and don’t have any compassion for that person. And in part because of how they are socialized to think about sex, and I agree with you, is that a big part of that is they are using different tactics to rape women than the stereotypical rape, so they think what they do doesn’t count.

  135. petpluto
    petpluto November 4, 2011 at 9:55 am |

    matlun: I was not talking about the rapists but the wider community. Since this effect means that rapists have a greater chance to get away scotfree, it is obviously a problem. The fact that getting evidence and convictions is difficult is a notorious problem in rape cases.Yes, the actual impact is similar.

    I still disagree with you about the wider community. I think you’re right that most people attribute the “one of us” mindset to accusations of rape, but I also think that being against rape in the abstract leaves a lot of room for accepting rape in reality.

    I have friends who insist on doing the “it’s terrible that she got raped, but – ” thing. These are people who self-identify as socially liberal. These are people who agree that rape is bad in the abstract. But once there’s a rape, or there are things like SlutWalk, they double back and add caveats. They’re still against rape, but that woman really should have known better than to wear that, drink that, be there. And those caveats are what make rape socially acceptable. Because there’s always a catch, and there’s never the perfect victim.

  136. It’s a Dress, Not a Yes : Ms Magazine Blog

    [...] to Allen’s politically negligent OpEd, writers such as Amanda Marcotte, Lindsay Beyerstein, Jill Filipovic, and Hugo Schwyzer lit up the feminist blogosphere with commentary and myth-debunking [...]

  137. Pummeled by the post-op! « Fraser Sherman's Blog

    [...] attention, some links: •As a codicil to my post about rape apologist Charlotte Allen, Feministe shows why Allen’s thesis that rapists target young hot women doesn’t hold up. •The Daily [...]

  138. Cirrus
    Cirrus November 6, 2011 at 10:48 am |

    Angry Black Guy:
    Why is it that in order to believe that rape is about power to a large degree, you have to ignore the fact that rape, to some degree, is about sexual urges and the inability of the rapist to control those urges?

    While I disagree that rapists ~just can’t control their urges~, is it not important to note that sexual feelings ARE part of what makes rapists work? Men are made to feel that their desires, in opposition to women’s, should not be stifled, that theirs are natural where women’s aren’t – which leads to feeling entitled to ignore women’s wishes to fulfil their attraction (e.g. doggedly pursuing women who have rejected them), which I think certainly becomes a factor in rape.

    If a man is unable to accept a woman who says ‘no’ to giving him her number, might he not be unable to accept a woman who says no, she doesn’t want to meet him again, or no, she just sees him as a friend? He’s attracted to her, thus he feels entitled and justified. That’s still very definitely about power, but I think it’s important to acknowledge rape as its own category, very different to other, non-sexual violent crime, and stems from very powerful, misogynistic, cultural values.

  139. Cirrus
    Cirrus November 6, 2011 at 10:49 am |

    Erm, I have no idea why my quote has no spaces or what happened there. @_@

  140. This one’s for you, Hitch. « Anna Louie Sussman, Outstanding Writer

    [...] Filipovic and friends over at Feministe, with a couple recent favorites here and [...]

  141. philosophe
    philosophe November 12, 2011 at 3:12 am |

    Yet another screed of this nature is hard to take. Allen nowhere disparages women as a class, so the misogynist description is somewhat puzzling. It is true that she offers no statistics or explicit evolutionary psychological arguments, to etc support her observations. On the whole however, her observations seem unexceptionable.
    Jill’s response evidently fails to refute the claim that sexual desire is a factor in sexual assault. At best is shows that male sexual assault of females is the purview of young males – which is consistent with either Allen’s claim or its opposite. If it is not at all about sexual desire but about that favorite trope of feminist orthodoxy, “power” why would the distribution be so skewed in favor of young female victims? Why wouldn’t we expect to see young males exerting their supposed power over females in a variety of demographics? Opportunity is not hard to come by, after all. There is plenty of exposure to females over the age of 40 (say). It would not be hard to manipulate them into vulnerable circumstances if incentivised by a strong desire to demonstrate power over females in general. Yet we see none of this. We see no indication that young males (the agreed major perpetrators of sexual assault) have any interest whatsoever in older females. On the other hand we know that males of all ages are sexually attracted to young females. We see some incidence of sexual assault by older males on younger females although the constraint of limited access is likely to dampen the numbers (in societies, if there are any, in which this constraint is missing, I would predict much larger numbers. I think there is some evidence for this in heavily patriarchal societies). We see little incidence of sexual assault by older males on older females. In other words older females do not get assaulted that much by any demographic.
    If we put our scientist hat on for a moment and try to infer the most likely explanation for this phenomenon what are the candidates? Well, we know as stated, that males experience a strong sexual desire for young women. This is evolutionarily wired in and not controversial. Such desire is a strong motivator (by definition). It drives much of the comportment of males towards females. It is surely uncontroversial to say that males desire sex from females far more than females are willing to offer it. Males will consistently put forth a lot of effort to secure it, etc. Why would any neutral enquirer discount this a priori, as a factor in the explanation? Simple Bayesian reasoning implicates it strongly. Ideology of course, will make a scientific fool of the best of thinkers.
    Let’s grant then, if only for the sake of argument, that sexual desire is a factor in sexual assault. How would one expect this to play out in the social domain? As Allen correctly pointed out, it is again (surely?) uncontroversial to say that such desire is inflamed in males by visual perception. Males are attracted primarily to female bodies (again uncontroversial: think pornography and strip clubs).
    Of course, this alone (sexual desire) – as several commentators have implied – is not sufficient for assault. I have maintained so far only that it is necessary. It is made sufficient when conjoined with a variety of other characterological traits distributed according to some unknown (to me) probability distribution – plus of course and critically, opportunity. Whatever characterological traits dispose a male towards sexual assault are amplified in potency by the presence of sexual desire and inhibited by its absence. No sexual desire equals no propensity to assault, etc. Scantily clad or “bodily exposed” females enhance and inflame male sexual desire (females know and use this fact, just as men know it and respond to it). It follows that such females are going to receive more attention by males than others. Now, this attention need not be implemented by any action, let alone assault. It may stop at looking and indeed, usually does. But randomly mix in some questionable character traits and you have a recipe not just for the standard volume of unwanted attention (an occupational hazard for young females: you have to just deal with it) but for more serious intrusion. The point being, that one does not know exactly whom one is dealing with and there are no guarantees of and no entitlement to, a risk free life. If one dresses sexily then certain kinds of risks are incurred or magnified. They can be managed, as most women amply demonstrate but they are there. This is the point that the Toronto cop and Allen are trying to make. It is bizarre and counterproductive to expect this reality to be erased merely by pounding on the same old ideological drum: “it ought to be different, it ought to be the way I want it to be”. Conversely, if dressing sexily were literally, entirely risk free, what would remain of its significance? Certainly it would not be sexy any more, for example. Again it is colossally deluded and feckless to deny the semantics inherent in the psychology of the species on pet ideological grounds.
    Note that this has nothing per se to do with rape statistics. Sexual assault I am construing as a far wider category than rape. I am interpreting it as any sexual transaction that has been clearly indicated to be nonconsensual. Rape I think, is much more sensitive to opportunity than assault. And giving a rapist opportunity is itself an equal opportunity misfortune and not one that plagues sexily dressed women in particular.

Comments are closed.

The commenting period has expired for this post. If you wish to re-open the discussion, please do so in the latest Open Thread.