I know I’ve been beating this one into the ground, but it’s been bugging me. I took a few days to think over why I’m so hung up on this, and what I came up with is basically: These narratives enable rape. There are numerous studies that show adherence to rape myths (men who commit rape are just confused, women bring rape upon themselves by sending “mixed signals,” acquaintance rape is just a miscommunication) actually increases rape proclivity. So when articles like the ones at GMP are published, they not only enable rapists or would-be rapists to justify their behavior, but they increase their propensity to rape. It’s not “just” starting a conversation when you send those kinds of messages. What I also found in the research is that when men with already-high acceptance of rape myths either see or believe that other men are coercing women into sex and perceive that sexual coercion is common, they interpret that as “normal” and are then increasingly likely to do the same thing. So publishing an unrepentant rapist? That makes the men who are already likely to assault even more likely to see their actions as normal and justified. These aren’t just “conversations.” This is playing with women’s bodies and our physical safety to get page views. And that’s why I’m so pissed about it, and so hung up on it. Over at the Guardian I detail why “we’re just starting a conversation” isn’t a good reason to write about sexual assault in a way that perpetuates rape myths. The GMP editors may have been well-intentioned at the beginning, and I’m even willing to accept that their defensiveness is a result of feeling attacked (although as an aside, some of them have had really obnoxious MRAs who I banned from Feministe long ago do the “heavy lifting” of going after me on Twitter, but that’s another story). But I hope they read this column and the linked research and see why this is important, and why good intentions and “just starting a conversation” don’t outweigh the serious damage done when you publish what they published. A bit of the Guardian piece:
“Gentleman and ladies, your hard work paid off. Tonight we demonstrated to the other party what happens when you sneer at rape survivors, birth control and equal pay for equal work.”
By all accounts, it shouldn’t have ended like this. The president running for re-election was supposed to be an enemy of American values, waging the real “war on women” by giving out free contraception on street corners, encouraging girls to become sex objects by sleeping with hundreds of men and covering themselves in venereal disease, having abortion after abortion as their birth control inevitably failed them, until they no longer had any respect for their own bodies or lives – thus destroying the Christian work ethic that once made America’s economy great. And that was on top of Obama’s takeover of healthcare, bailouts for the billion-dollar abortion industry, and attacks on religious institutions that believe they have a right to discriminate against the healthcare of female employees.