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The Not Rape Epidemic
December 23, 2008 6:41 AM   Subscribe

My friends and I confided in each other, swapping stories, sharing out pain, while keeping it all hidden from the adults in our lives. After all, who could we tell? This wasn’t rape - it didn’t fit the definitions. This was Not rape. We should have known better. We were the ones who would take the blame. We would be punished, and no one wanted that. So, these actions went on, aided by a cloak of silence. From Racialicious.
posted by Navelgazer (348 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow.

.
posted by schyler523 at 6:49 AM on December 23, 2008


.
posted by a lot is two words at 7:01 AM on December 23, 2008


Teenaged girls need to know that dating an older man will not make them cooler

"Cooler" in the eyes of other teenaged girls, I assume.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:03 AM on December 23, 2008


Wow, that was powerful. My guess is many people have no idea how many Not Rape stories are out there, even in the history of just one girl. If the floodgates open on this one, the water will never stop.
posted by iamkimiam at 7:10 AM on December 23, 2008


Yeah, wow:

Fighting him was out, as he had already proved he was stronger than I was. I considered telling some of my guy friends, but I quickly realized I had nothing to tell them. After all, I wasn’t raped, and it would really come to my word against his. As I was the neighborhood newcomer, I was at a disadvantage on that front. Telling my mom was out as well - I’d only get into trouble for opening the door for boys while she was at work.

So let's review: the guy forces his way into your apartment, knocks you down, jams his hand down your pants, but you can't tell your guy friends because you weren't raped. If he simply robbed you instead, a crime with no sexual dimension, would you also have to remain silent? And does she realize that the fact that she hasn't told anyone about the incident will convince the attacker that he can probably go further next time? In other words, when the attacker hears nothing about his attack from his common circle of friends, he'll realize he picked a good victim, i.e one who was powerless before he showed up.

And the last sentence of that paragraph is priceless. She couldn't tell her mom because she'd get in trouble for opening the door for boys while she's out. Maybe the reason she created that rule was to prevent you from getting raped? Naw, parents just don't understand, et cetera...

Yes, a lot of men are scum. You know that. Now what?
posted by Pastabagel at 7:15 AM on December 23, 2008


And does she realize that the fact that she hasn't told anyone about the incident will convince the attacker that he can probably go further next time?

I think she realizes this very much.
posted by lunit at 7:20 AM on December 23, 2008 [8 favorites]


I see the official Metafilter Blame-The-Victim Patrol is already out in full force. Good work, guys!
posted by schroedinger at 7:28 AM on December 23, 2008 [41 favorites]


Pastabagel: Yes, a lot of men are scum. You know that. Now what?

Let me take a stab at that. Educate communities about sexual harassment. Work to change cultures that consider dating far outside the sketchiness curve to be just fine and dandy. Make men realize from an early age how horrible sexual harassment is. Put in place structures which make it easier for young women to speak up.

That would be a start.
posted by Kattullus at 7:28 AM on December 23, 2008 [7 favorites]


I for one sincerely hope the corresponding Those-Rape-Activists-Just-Hate-Men and I've-Never-Raped-Anyone-Why-Should-I-Think-About-This Teams make their appearance soon. Hey guys, sound the alert, it's a post about women's issues! What about the male foreskin holocaust, huh?
posted by schroedinger at 7:32 AM on December 23, 2008 [7 favorites]


And the last sentence of that paragraph is priceless. She couldn't tell her mom because she'd get in trouble for opening the door for boys while she's out. Maybe the reason she created that rule was to prevent you from getting raped? Naw, parents just don't understand, et cetera...

Yeah, why wasn't that 14 year old molestation victim behaving more rationally? She should know better than to succumb to shock or panic in the face of an event beyond her maturity level. After all, victims of sexual assault never face crippling shame, and they certainly never attempt to rationalize the assault in a way that gives them some small feeling of control.

The author brings up all your points at the end of the paper, and tries to suggest how to remedy them. And somehow does it in a way that's not dismissive and cold.
posted by Benjy at 7:33 AM on December 23, 2008 [49 favorites]


Pastabagel: Her point isn't that men are scum, it's that girls aren't given the conceptual tools or the social support to understand or report their experiences of sexual assault. Sorting out the dimensions of personal responsibility for any conflict is very difficult when you're that young, and in the case of sexual assault it's complicated by the fact that girls get two strong messages about rape: first, that it's a well-defined act that involves violence which leaves physical evidence, and second that the responsibility to avoid rape falls primarily on the girl. Her interpretations of those two messages at the age of 14 are what you've quoted.
posted by carmen at 7:33 AM on December 23, 2008 [26 favorites]


Nearly every close friend of mine (a diverse group) has been "not raped" at some point.

I think the likelihood of most women, at some point or another but more often during the teenage years, finding themselves in situations where their power is rapidly slipping away in the company of a male, whether he is conscious of the coercion or not, is significant- even a fact of life that we don't like to examine.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 7:34 AM on December 23, 2008


(Since I've commented on the essay, I realized the the blog is run by a Carmen, so I guess I'll just point out that it isn't me, on the off chance that you were wondering)
posted by carmen at 7:39 AM on December 23, 2008


Yes, a lot of men are scum. You know that. Now what?

There's no need to get defensive. Sexual abuse and assault is a real problem, and in many ways it defies solving through traditional criminal justice methods, particularly when it occurs between acquaintances. The difficulty is simply that it's not clear whether a single complaining witness's testimony, if uncorroborated by other evidence and contested by the defendant, can ever give rise to proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Even if it can, the defendant's need to be able to call into question the complaining witness's credibility is at its apex in such cases, but at the same time, we want to shield victims from further trauma. The problem seems intractable.

The solution, it seems to me, must come in the form of a shift in thinking--not just among the left-wing, over-educated, civic-minded elite, but among everyone. Almost everyone has some lines that they will not cross, even when no one is watching. What's needed is a cultural shift that makes sexual abuse and assault one of those lines.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 7:40 AM on December 23, 2008 [30 favorites]


Fighting him was out, as he had already proved he was stronger than I was. I considered telling some of my guy friends, but I quickly realized I had nothing to tell them. After all, I wasn’t raped, and it would really come to my word against his. As I was the neighborhood newcomer, I was at a disadvantage on that front. Telling my mom was out as well - I’d only get into trouble for opening the door for boys while she was at work.
Pastabagel, I read that as a description of her thought processes as a young teen. Later in the essay, she describes her thoughts when she was two years older, in the courtroom where the brutally raped victim's photo had been shown and her character smeared.
And yet, a part of me wondered if I should have spoken up. If I had told someone, anyone, could I have prevented this from happening? I regarded the girl’s picture once again. It is pretty rare to see the expression “beaten to a bloody pulp” illustrated in real life. I should have said something, I thought to myself, I should have tried.
I really doubt that the author would advise any teenage girl now to open a door as she did, because if anything happened it would be that scummy man's fault. Nor would she advise a girl assaulted as she did to say nothing, as she did. Here's her conclusion ten years later:
I am twenty-four years old now, ten years removed from my Not rape. I still think of the girl who was assaulted and hope that she was still able to have something of a normal life. As I matured, I came to understand more about the situation. As the years passed, my shame turned to anger, and I began learning the tools I could have used to fight back.

At age fourteen, I lacked the words to speak my experience into reality. Without those words, I was rendered silent and impotent, burdened with the knowledge of what did not happen, but unable to free myself by talking about what did happen.

I cannot change the experiences of the past.

But, I can teach these words, so that they may one day be used by a young girl to save herself.
posted by maudlin at 7:41 AM on December 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


Good god, how is someone being 19 or 25 having sex with an 11 year old girl not pedophilia? We have pretty strong laws around that now but I guess they don't often get reported.
posted by mathowie at 7:42 AM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Hey guys, sound the alert, it's a post about women's issues! What about the male foreskin holocaust, huh?

Trivializing issues important to other people is obviously a fantastic way to get them to stop trivializing issues important to you.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 7:42 AM on December 23, 2008 [20 favorites]


It is a bad thing to think you're unqualified to speak about something bad that happened to you, regardless of whether we're talking about anything to do with sex. Therefore children need to be educated about how to discuss bad things in general. Getting teenagers to say anything about the stupid shit that goes on all day at high school is part of the same problem.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:43 AM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well, luckily enough for any guys who are going to get defensive, it's actually pretty easy to avoid not-raping someone, because the vast majority of examples of not-rape from the essay are, in fact, rape. Statutory rape, specifically. So there's no need to worry that women are shaming normal male behavior or whatnot. Just avoid "dating" any 11-year-olds when you're in your twenties and you should be fine.
posted by Amanojaku at 7:47 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


That essay illuminates part of why it's so infuriating to hear men causally say, "Men are always going to want younger women. It's just biology!" How joyful a life they must lead, not having to take any responsibility for their actions!
posted by chowflap at 7:49 AM on December 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


Therefore children need to be educated about how to discuss bad things in general. Getting teenagers to say anything about the stupid shit that goes on all day at high school is part of the same problem.

It requires more than just education. Reporting bad things is a nasty collective action problem, as the linked essay illustrated. The cost of you, individually, not reporting will be distributed among all the bad person's victims, while the cost of reporting (in the form of retribution and breaching social mores) will be borne by you.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 7:49 AM on December 23, 2008 [21 favorites]


When I was twelve, my best friend at the time had met a guy and lied to him about her age. She told him she was sixteen and she did have the body to back it up. Some “poor hapless” guy sleeping with her accidentally would make complete sense - except for the fact that guy was twenty-five. He eventually slept with her, taking her virginity, even after he figured out how old we were.

When a physically mature female is interested enough in males to actively dissemble in pursuit of them, I feel the issue of consent has entered a hopelessly gray area. Of course, ideally, no one would ever take advantage of someone else's inexperience or immaturity. But to lump this in with the other stories of harassment and assault is undermining the author's argument.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:50 AM on December 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


Pastabagel, the author's assailant has a "friend" who later ends up on trial for beating a school-aged girl to a bloody pulp and then gang raping her-- and when she inadvertently ends up at that very trial a few years later his defense attorney promises to show how the vicitm in that case "wasn’t such a good girl after all. You will hear that she skipped school. You will hear that she smoked marijuana. You will hear that she willingly skipped school to go smoke marijuana with two boys she had just met."

As the author goes on to say,

That day in court was the day I fully understood the concept of being raped twice - first during the act and then later during the court proceedings. That was also the day I realized that telling someone about my Not rape would have netted a similar, if not more dismissive response. I had no evidence of the act, no used condom wrapper, no rape kit, no forced penetration.


Every defendant deserves a rigorous, adversarial defense in a court of law-- I don't know that it will ever be the same for a crime victim to report a rape as it would be to report a simple robbery. But this kind of defense works because jurors--i.e. average Americans--buy into it. And so I don't know how unrealistic it was for the narrator to fear that she'd be questioned about why she opened the door, was she pleased by the attention, did she like it, had she flirted with him in the past.
posted by availablelight at 7:50 AM on December 23, 2008 [6 favorites]


Powerful, powerful stuff. Thanks for posting it.
posted by magstheaxe at 7:52 AM on December 23, 2008


Yes, a lot of men are scum. You know that. Now what?

I think that in the last 30-40 years we've done a lot in the way of educating and empowering women (still more work to be done, sure), but what we haven't done so well is educate men. We need to spend time with boys just as we do working with girls or else we're just going to raise more conflict between uneducated men and empowered women and never reduce the number of scummy men.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:52 AM on December 23, 2008 [10 favorites]


I for one sincerely hope the corresponding Those-Rape-Activists-Just-Hate-Men and I've-Never-Raped-Anyone-Why-Should-I-Think-About-This Teams make their appearance soon. Hey guys, sound the alert, it's a post about women's issues! What about the male foreskin holocaust, huh?

BOYZONE
posted by squorch at 7:54 AM on December 23, 2008


It's very strange that the author lumps such a range of behaviors into a category called "not-rape." These are disparate activities ranging from statutory rape (actually-rape) to assault and groping, to vicious harassment. Then of course, there's just the creepy come-ons from older men in the mall, which could be countered with a loud, "Excuse me sir, I'm only 15 years old, I am not interested in an old guy like you!" that would cause everyone in the vicinity to leer at him and shame him.

I don't know of a solution, but I think it would help significantly if the dialogue could be defined in terms other than "rape" and "rape-like."
posted by explosion at 7:58 AM on December 23, 2008 [15 favorites]


Pollomacho: what we haven't done so well is educate men

Even as a kid I had dim ideas that there were such things as rape and that it was a really, really bad thing. As I've grown older I've become more and more aware of how pervasive sexual harassment in all its forms is. It took me a while. It wasn't until a couple of years ago I fully understood why it is that many female friends of mine don't like walking outside by themselves after dark, why some would never go into a park or other dimly lit area after dark even with a group of friends. I didn't realize how many forms sexual violence took. I don't think I still fully understand, I probably never will, no matter how hard I try. I remember, a few years ago, reeling when a friend of mine told me that she had been repeatedly raped from the age of 4 until the age of 9 by a boy who was 5 years older than she was. I had never even considered that something like that, child on child rape, happened. I have had a sheltered life. I grew up in a safe community where sexual violence was talked about in schools. Not that rape or harassment never happened, but it was never treated lightly. But still... it's taken me years to even approach an understanding.

Articles like the linked essay are important. As much as it weirds me out to "favorite" it, The Not Rape Epidemic helped me understand.
posted by Kattullus at 8:04 AM on December 23, 2008 [8 favorites]


When a physically mature female is interested enough in males to actively dissemble in pursuit of them, I feel the issue of consent has entered a hopelessly gray area. Of course, ideally, no one would ever take advantage of someone else's inexperience or immaturity. But to lump this in with the other stories of harassment and assault is undermining the author's argument.

I can feel some sympathy for a near-peer, say, a 16 year old kid, who is young enough and dumb enough to take a lie at face value. But the guy in this case was 25 AND he actually did know she was underage. Look at this section again:

When I was twelve, my best friend at the time had met a guy and lied to him about her age. She told him she was sixteen and she did have the body to back it up. Some “poor hapless” guy sleeping with her accidentally would make complete sense - except for the fact that guy was twenty-five. He eventually slept with her, taking her virginity, even after he figured out how old we were. After all, it’s kind of a dead giveaway if you’re picking your girlfriend up at a middle school.

Lies between adults can create a gray area. But an adult who is, at best, truly lazy and foolish enough to think that someone who claims to have just achieved the age of consent must be telling the truth is a careless dumbass who might end up causing a lot of damage to his own or someone else's life. An adult who knows that the girl he is having sex with is actually underage is just scum.
posted by maudlin at 8:06 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


which could be countered with a loud, "Excuse me sir, I'm only 15 years old, I am not interested in an old guy like you!"

Have you read Persepolis? [SPOILER] Not to reveal too much, but this is one of Satrapi's (often somewhat humorous) methods for avoiding the morality squads in post-revolution Iran.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:07 AM on December 23, 2008


And does she realize that the fact that she hasn't told anyone about the incident will convince the attacker that he can probably go further next time?

No, not at the time, which is typical with kids. There are many things they don't understand.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:09 AM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Joe Beese: When a physically mature female is interested enough in males to actively dissemble in pursuit of them, I feel the issue of consent has entered a hopelessly gray area. Of course, ideally, no one would ever take advantage of someone else's inexperience or immaturity. But to lump this in with the other stories of harassment and assault is undermining the author's argument.

Well, I don't buy the claim that it continues to be hopelessly gray once the guy discovers that he's flirting with someone in middle school. At that point, to me, the ethical warning bells and sirens should be yelling, "run away, run far away" and at that point, I just don't buy the "oh shucks, I just didn't know, and even if I did, could you really blame me?" defense.

Which is the side of the argument that never fails to bring the inexplicable accusations that men are being called scum. Men have the power and maturity to say, "no, not going there."

explosion: I don't know of a solution, but I think it would help significantly if the dialogue could be defined in terms other than "rape" and "rape-like."

Well, I don't agree. Far too many of these kinds of discussion have focused on trying to define some mythical line that defines what one can get away with in terms of sexual ethics and not on what we need to be doing to make every sexual encounter safe, sane and consensual. And on the other hand, there isn't a bright day-glow yellow line that separates the harm from sexual harassment and sexual assault either.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:18 AM on December 23, 2008 [15 favorites]


There is a socioeconomic undercurrent here that I find interesting, explicitly expressed when she talks about taking the bus to the "nice mall." Also, I'd be more shocked at the seeming acceptance of statutory rape type behavior, but I recall girls from my junior high years who did exactly the same thing. The older guys had cars, beer and dope, so by a certain definition they were "cool." At the time I shrugged it off because I guess I didn't know any better and because I guess I thought I was more mature than I actually was. Now I wonder what the hell they're parents were thinking. In exactly what American subculture is a 19-year-old man dating your 11-year-old daughter even remotely acceptable? Why aren't these guys in jail?

Anyway, I think it is a powerful essay. If I had a teenage girl, I'd make her read it (assuming I could make her do anything)...
posted by lordrunningclam at 8:20 AM on December 23, 2008


An adult who knows that the girl he is having sex with is actually underage is just scum.

An exploiter, certainly. But in this particular case, as I see it, not a rapist. And I think to call him one only exacerbates the problem that the author is lamenting.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:21 AM on December 23, 2008


Well, I don't agree. Far too many of these kinds of discussion have focused on trying to define some mythical line that defines what one can get away with in terms of sexual ethics and not on what we need to be doing to make every sexual encounter safe, sane and consensual. And on the other hand, there isn't a bright day-glow yellow line that separates the harm from sexual harassment and sexual assault either.

This. Yes. Thank you.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:27 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


what we haven't done so well is educate men (...) reduce the number of scummy men.

I just want to take issue with the phrasing of this point, pollomacho, because it makes it sound as though men are this "scummy" way as a default and I desperately want to believe that's not true. I think we educate them into their scumminess as much as we might educate them out of it. And if that just stops and we educate everyone equallyu and openly with regard to personal rights, powers and gender relations, then we'll reach the best possible equilibrium.

Also, I have to say this article makes me aghast and incredibly grateful that I never suffered such harassment. I was putting myself all the way out there by about 14, and getting hit on on the street and anywhere else, but never encountered someone who took advantage.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:28 AM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


The solution, it seems to me, must come in the form of a shift in thinking--not just among the left-wing, over-educated, civic-minded elite, but among everyone. Almost everyone has some lines that they will not cross, even when no one is watching. What's needed is a cultural shift that makes sexual abuse and assault one of those lines.

I am by no means a social conservative, but it's worth pointing out that this is exactly one of those kinds of things a social conservative might say used to be much less of a problem when we had a more traditionalist society. Say, the 1950s. I'd be curious whether there's any research to provide evidence either way. Anyone know of any?
posted by Xezlec at 8:29 AM on December 23, 2008



There's no need to get defensive. Sexual abuse and assault is a real problem, and in many ways it defies solving through traditional criminal justice methods, particularly when it occurs between acquaintances.


I'm not being defensive. What may have unintentionally come across as cold and dismissive is my frustration with the mental processes at wok here. I find it infuriating that with so much emphasis on rape over the last 20 years that there are so many examples of women "smil[ing] demurely, always waiting until the man had gone before throwing their number away."

Why would young girls smile demurely when a guy creeps them out unless they were taught to do so. This is my frustration. Not that women aren't being educated to watch out for rapists, but that somehow and from somewhere, they are also being taught to be powerless - to not to stir up trouble, not to enforce their wider boundaries and personal space, etc. The men giving the girls in the mall their cards know in advance of doing so that they will suffer no negative consequences for doing so. How can this be, unless there is a widespread cultural norm that women continue to maintain, and that parents continue to teach, that women are to accept any sexual advance politely provided you aren't physically threatened.

My complain with how the author of the essay reacted to her assault is not that she failed to act rationally, my complaint is that she tried to act rationally instead of acting irrationally. She says herself "I remember wanting to take a shower, but instead taking a seat on the couch trying to process what had happened and what I could do next."

What the hell does "process" mean? It means to make sure she doesn't do anything stupid like cause trouble for the man. "Process" means to give all the behavioral norms about internalizing the assault time to work. The normal response to a sexual assault is to act irrationally. To scream, scratch, punch, kick. The normal response to a teenage girl getting hit on by a creepy 30-yr old guy is to say "Ew, gross." The responses in both situations are learned behaviors. They are the result of some other education that's going on that is circumventing the overt rape-awareness education that has saturated the culture.

This is why men continue to assault and rape. They know how to pick victims who know how to behave. You can't train men not to rape because most men already know this. Rape is not a failure of men's impulse control. Most men don't want to conflate sex and violence. The male who does is defective already and in a way that education about harassment won't help. Many rapists of women who go to prison become rapists of men. It isn't about sex, which means that it isn't about women. It's about finding a victim. In other words, it's about finding someone who already is a victim before the attack even starts.

There will always be thieves, murderers and rapists. No matter how many tablets you bring down from the mountain or how much training you try to give them. What you can do is teach people that regardless of their age that they have power and how to use it to protect themselves.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:30 AM on December 23, 2008 [25 favorites]


Tangentially: I'm old enough to remember when "pimp" was one of the most demeaning insults you could apply to a man. When hip-hop culture transformed it into a compliment, it was Not A Good Thing.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:34 AM on December 23, 2008 [7 favorites]


That essay illuminates part of why it's so infuriating to hear men causally say, "Men are always going to want younger women. It's just biology!" How joyful a life they must lead, not having to take any responsibility for their actions!

I don't know about the biology of it, but there definitely is a societal tendency for men to date younger women and vice versa. Aside from anecdotal evidence, just go to any online dating site that lists what ages a person is looking for, the majority of women seem to opt for "my age or older."

It could be argued that this tendency is at least in part due to the patriarchal structure that exists in our culture, but it still leaves a male just above the age of consent in an awkward position. Obviously having a hard time getting a date doesn't compare with rape or sexual assault, but it's worth looking at the social aspects that play into it rather than just focusing on the individuals directly involved.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:35 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Joe Beese: An exploiter, certainly. But in this particular case, as I see it, not a rapist. And I think to call him one only exacerbates the problem that the author is lamenting.

Well, there are two big holes in this argument. The first is that, assuming the story is true, he's guilty of statutory rape.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:36 AM on December 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


>>An adult who knows that the girl he is having sex with is actually underage is just scum.

An exploiter, certainly. But in this particular case, as I see it, not a rapist. And I think to call him one only exacerbates the problem that the author is lamenting.


By this particular case, you mean the 25 year old guy who knew the girl was in middle school? He's committing statutory rape. That's rape. That's a crime. Again, a 16 year old kid who was genuinely fooled by a young girls' lies is worthy of some sympathy, but a grown man who knowingly has sex with a 12 year old is both a criminal and scum.

Why does calling scummy men (obviously, the subset of all men -- I don't ever default to "all men are scum") what they are exacerbate the problem? They are going beyond being foolish to being exploitive criminals who could seriously affect a young girl's life. He's exploiting whatever mixture of motivations made this child lie and chase him -- any or all of lust, boredom, desire for status, craving for approval, potentially some pre-existing psychosexual problems from earlier abuse -- and he deserves to be called on it.
posted by maudlin at 8:36 AM on December 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


An underage "seducer" is a rapist, without a doubt. The author shows such detail that young girls can't live with/don't comprehend the consequences of their "choices". There's a reason for consent laws. Adults, parents, are supposed to protect kids from making bad decisions, sometimes even if the child doesn't understand why the "choice" is bad.

Come on, how is it good to have had a baby at 11 years old? Eleven-year old girls think babies are cute, but what preteen can understand what it means to be a mother?

Geeze.
posted by bonehead at 8:37 AM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]



Guys that fuck around with children are not men and never will be
.
And in a perfect world would be caught by a father.
posted by notreally at 8:39 AM on December 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


When a physically mature female is interested enough in males to actively dissemble in pursuit of them, I feel the issue of consent has entered a hopelessly gray area. Of course, ideally, no one would ever take advantage of someone else's inexperience or immaturity.

I totally, totally disagree with this. You know, we've come a long way as a culture over the past 40 years in starting to recognize that adult women actually have their own sexual agency, and that female sexual desire isn't just about screwing some guy to get a ring or have a boyfriend or make someone happy. We've really, really failed to stretch that understanding to teen and pre-teen girls, though. Sexual desire, for women and for men, is complicated and sometimes contradictory and I wish most of us could realize that it's possible for someone to be horny, to want certain sexual experiences (or some sort of sexual relationship without maybe recognizing exactly what the boundaries of that would be, particularly if one lacks experience) without necessarily wanting ALL sexual experiences.

Hell, as a 26-year-old in a committed relationship I've tried things with my partner that I realized halfway through I definitely didn't like, or didn't want to continue doing. I would never think it would be okay for my partner to continue and later justify it by saying, "Well she said she wanted it before she really tried it, so she couldn't just say no later on!" Yet so few people are willing to extend the same right of sexual exploration to teen girls, without falling into the idea that it's a binary virgin-whore sort of deal. I can't figure out why that is; I think it's because we don't (can't?) allow ourselves to think about 12- or 13-year-old girls as sexual beings who are looking for a way to scratch that itch, who know they want something but aren't sure exactly what it is.
posted by iminurmefi at 8:47 AM on December 23, 2008 [16 favorites]


Pastabagel: a widespread cultural norm that women continue to maintain, and that parents continue to teach, that women are to accept any sexual advance politely provided you aren't physically threatened.

Many girls and women object forcefully (many stories from Hollaback NYC come to mind), only to find that the men targeting them escalate the harassment and intimidation. This is why 'there are so many examples of women "smil[ing] demurely, always waiting until the man had gone before throwing their number away."' These micro- and macro-aggressions happen so often to many girls and women that it's exhausting to object forcefully every fucking time, and that doesn't include the complexities involved in deciding whether it's dangerous to say something, or say something more forcefully. The phrase "that women continue to maintain" puts the responsibility for the status quo and the onus for changing it on the women.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 8:47 AM on December 23, 2008 [43 favorites]


By this particular case, you mean the 25 year old guy who knew the girl was in middle school? He's committing statutory rape. That's rape. That's a crime. Again, a 16 year old kid who was genuinely fooled by a young girls' lies is worthy of some sympathy, but a grown man who knowingly has sex with a 12 year old is both a criminal and scum.

Yes, the law considers that man a rapist. The law also considers the marijuana smoker mentioned in the author's piece a criminal. I personally believe the law is wrong on both counts.

What the man is guilty of is a kind of confidence swindle. Perhaps a particularly detestable and damaging one - although it would be the girl grown up, not you or me, to decide that. But not "rape" - if we want that word to retain any usefulness for its original purpose.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:48 AM on December 23, 2008


The normal response to a sexual assault is to act irrationally.

There is no such thing as a "normal" response to a sexual assault.
posted by lysistrata at 8:48 AM on December 23, 2008 [11 favorites]


burnmp3s, I know I'm making a bit of a leap here. I'm just remembering an EX-boyfriend defending his uncle who was convicted for owning child porn, with the argument "men will always like young women, as they're more fertile" -- which, in his mind, was the same thing as "men will be irresistably attracted to nubile preteens because they're hard-wired to want to impregnate the most fertile females in the herd." I would hope most men would think "hey, you know what? I'm 19. Having sex with a 12-year-old would be really, really icky. Maybe I should keep my dick in my pants until I can find a girl who isn't still playing with dolls." But it seems like some men don't want to shoulder that kind of personal responsibility. We often blame the girl in this situation for having developed a woman's body at an early age and the hormones to go with it, which isn't giving the guy in the story any credit for having a functioning brain and a sense of morality.
posted by chowflap at 8:50 AM on December 23, 2008 [6 favorites]


At that point, to me, the ethical warning bells and sirens should be yelling, "run away, run far away" and at that point, I just don't buy the "oh shucks, I just didn't know, and even if I did, could you really blame me?" defense.

No, no, no! This is not how it works!

At that age you're balancing a lot of things at once. And you're not all that good at balancing anything. You're trying to understand and wield your power as a young woman, with new visible parts and shapes that are attracting attention. You're trying to be cool. And invisible. And visible. You trust those older than you and you give them credence to know what's what and to do what's right and to keep you safe...because generally that's what they've done. You don't trust adults and you're taking on these newly discovered bits of independence and trying to draw new boundaries with them. You're dealing with your changing internal world and headspace. And the new way you're looking at the external world, and discovering that other people in their heads have whole different agendas.

So when the 30+ year old guy at the fair in front of the PTA booth stuck his tongue down my 12 year old mouth, I didn't immediately run screaming. I had no ethical code manual to consult. I'm trying to keep everything in check and not drop my purse. I'm processing 50 things at once. Is this how these things go? Am I doing this right? Who's watching? Who is this guy? Where is my friend?

All of the movies I've seen, from the swept away romances to the after school specials are running through my head. I've never been this close to a man. It feels horrible. Why? Because it's foreign? New? Wrong? YES! This is wrong! Fuck. This is wrong. What do I do? Is this how these things go? Am I doing this right? Who's watching? Who is this guy? Where is my friend?

You run away Not screaming, like a 12 year old girl. You don't want to draw attention to yourself. You want to figure out what happened and deal with your shame. Alone. Of all the things you've been taught to do, this is often your best option.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:52 AM on December 23, 2008 [64 favorites]


The normal response to a sexual assault is to act irrationally.

There is no such thing as a "normal" response to a sexual assault.


Actually, let me expand on that a bit so it doesn't sound as if I'm leaving some sort of snarky one-liner. Many, many victims of sexual assault have had their reactions called into question both in court and in the press as well as, unfortunately, among family and friends. You weren't angry enough. You didn't cry. You weren't hysterical. You were too hysterical. You didn't shower. You did shower. You told everyone. You didn't tell anyone at all. If someone is determined to believe that you were not assaulted or that you somehow "deserved it" then any reaction is the wrong one. You cannot win.
posted by lysistrata at 8:53 AM on December 23, 2008 [21 favorites]


I think the author makes two really good points. First, that not only narrowly-defined-rape is harmful, and second that for many teenaged girls there is a pervasive atmosphere of sexual predation that is really difficult to navigate one's way through.

But I think her lumping of everything from statutory rape to sexual assault to pedophiliac come-ons into "not-rape" is a mistake. All those things are bad, and they form parts of what you might call a broader culture of sexual violence. But to say that they are all bad, and are all connected in that they happen to and affect young women disproportionately, doesn't mean that dumping them into a big, catch-all "not-rape" category is helpful.

I certainly knew girls when I was in middle school who were dating much older men, and in high school I knew guys of 18 and older who were dating those middle school girls. It's one of those things that perpetuates because no one tells -- there was a culture of silence about it when I was young. Everyone knew it wasn't ok, but no one that I knew ever told a parent, teacher, or police officer.

And I have no idea (because no one I knew tested it) what would have happened if someone had told. Perhaps the girl would have been blamed, or the guy charged with a crime -- no one told, so I'll never know. It may be that keeping silent was the most rational thing to do, given the circumstances at the time -- but at the same time, maintaining that silence was what allowed those "relationships" (if one can call statutory rape a relationship) to continue.
posted by Forktine at 8:57 AM on December 23, 2008


Darn meant to hit preview, the second is that the author makes the strong case that because rape was presented as something that only happens to women who walk down the dark side of the street, or who leave their drinks uncovered, that they didn't have the tools to complain about or fight back against the sexual harassment and violence they experienced from their peers.

Pastabagel: This is why men continue to assault and rape. They know how to pick victims who know how to behave. You can't train men not to rape because most men already know this. Rape is not a failure of men's impulse control. Most men don't want to conflate sex and violence. The male who does is defective already and in a way that education about harassment won't help. Many rapists of women who go to prison become rapists of men. It isn't about sex, which means that it isn't about women. It's about finding a victim. In other words, it's about finding someone who already is a victim before the attack even starts.

Except that we know from multiple anonymous and confidential studies that rapists are not just a handful of defective men. We know that a significant minority of men believe they are entitled to sex if they pay for a date. We know that a large minority of men believe that a woman is asking for it if she dresses provocatively. And we know that a substantial minority admit to having sex with a woman after she has refused sex.

It certainly seems that you are in agreement with the conclusions of this piece, that young teen and pre-teen women need to be given the concepts of sexual autonomy and the skills to defend themselves against men who would victimize them. But I don't think that necessarily means that we don't need to change men's attitudes in regards to sex and sexuality.

Joe Beese: What the man is guilty of is a kind of confidence swindle. Perhaps a particularly detestable and damaging one - although it would be the girl grown up, not you or me, to decide that. But not "rape" - if we want that word to retain any usefulness for its original purpose.

Well, the original purpose was to describe the literal abduction of women as sexual chattel and spoils of war. Thankfully we've come a ways since then, and at least second-wave feminist theory has suggested that literal rape is part of a spectrum of sexual violence, abuse, and exploitation.

iamkimiam: Just to make it clear. I think the man in question in that relationship should have driven screaming away rather than pick up a girlfriend at a middle school.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:01 AM on December 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


You can't train men not to rape because most men already know this.

Maybe the violent rapists. But the men in the article committing Not Rape can and should be trained. Behavior like theirs should be considered shameful, not impressive or cool. And it's kind of revolting to place the responsibility for that training on pre-teen and teen girls. The girs, the girls' parents, the boys, the boys' parents should all be engaged in making sure this boys and men know this kind of behavior is unacceptable.

And ths: It means to make sure she doesn't do anything stupid like cause trouble for the man. Again, you're putting a lot of responsibility on a young girl. The author later says she thought she should have told. But there's another consideration. What could have happened to her if she had? Look what this man eventually did to another girl. A lot of women respond demurely to "minor" sexual aggression to avoid the risk of something more serious happening. I always always want to tell street cat-callers to fuck off, but I rarely do because of the very real chance that the situation would escalate. It's an internal dialogue that every girl and woman knows. A woman can be taught to embrace her own power and still make a realistic assessment of who is more likely to get hurt if she uses it. Be real.
posted by Mavri at 9:03 AM on December 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


When a physically mature female is interested enough in males to actively dissemble in pursuit of them, I feel the issue of consent has entered a hopelessly gray area.

Agreed. I had a friend (M) who had an extremely mature physique by the eighth grade. (I was at the drugstore with her once buying candy when some strange man approached us, told her he was a photographer for Playboy and gave her a business card. She attracted that kind of attention all the time.) When she was babysitting for her niece and nephew at her older sister's condo one time, the 31-year-old neighbor stopped by. He complimented M on how pretty she was, and went on to say his wife was frigid, yada yada, and the two of them ended up in bed. But M was flattered, not upset - this older man thought she was beautiful and sexy! How cool was that?! I was the one who was "weird" because I thought it was gross for a 30+ year old man to have sex with a 13-year-old girl.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:03 AM on December 23, 2008


joe beese: What the man is guilty of is a kind of confidence swindle. Perhaps a particularly detestable and damaging one - although it would be the girl grown up, not you or me, to decide that. But not "rape" - if we want that word to retain any usefulness for its original purpose.

?????????? Huh? So the girl can't even decide if it's a confidence swindle until she has the judgment and perspective of being a grown up, but this isn't rape?
posted by snofoam at 9:03 AM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


It took me a minute after reading this to realize I had a song playing as background music to my thoughts: the Pixies' "Where Is My Mind?" With Kim Deal's eerie, disembodied voice and those lyrics...

"With your feet in the air and your head on the ground ... try this trick and spin it, yeah. Your head will collapse when there's nothing in it, and you'll ask yourself: Where is my mind?"
posted by limeonaire at 9:07 AM on December 23, 2008


I've had the bad fortune to know three men who have committed sexual assault. All of them seemed to be ordinary, responsible and reasonable schmoes except that, of course, they decided to assault an unwilling person.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:08 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


it makes it sound as though men are this "scummy" way as a default

That was certainly not my intent. My poor phrazing was actually trying to express pretty much what you said better. I don't thin men are born rapists, I think they learn to be and learn that they are somehow entitled to sexual power over women. I think that we should do more to level the sexual power playing field for everyone and that includes education for everyone. Its the male side of this education equasion that I don't think presently gets enough attention and therefore we end up with men who are taught the opposite lessons.

An exploiter, certainly. But in this particular case, as I see it, not a rapist.

I'm not sure I understand your distinction. A rapist doesn't have to use a gun or physical violence to commit a rape. A minor of 12 years of age is legally, and for pretty good reason, not considered able to make adult decisions, they are not able to give rational consent. A 25 year old is. If that 25 year old uses his or her decision making power to coerce a minor into sex, that would then be non-consentual sex, aka rape, no?
posted by Pollomacho at 9:09 AM on December 23, 2008


I would hope most men would think "hey, you know what? I'm 19. Having sex with a 12-year-old would be really, really icky. Maybe I should keep my dick in my pants until I can find a girl who isn't still playing with dolls."

And most men do think that, the problem is the small but significant minority that don't. And added to that, the much trickier situation of less distant age gaps, such as 19-year-old and 16-year-olds.

A simple "Don't do it" message isn't very helpful for the same reason that "Just say no" isn't very helpful in stopping illegal drug use. The reality is that various people have various complicated reasons for doing what they do, and there aren't always easy answers for how to protect young women from being exploited or abused.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:11 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


second-wave feminist theory has suggested that literal rape is part of a spectrum of sexual violence, abuse, and exploitation.

I happen to agree with that. But just as part of the light spectrum is visible and part isn't, part of the spectrum of the exploitation of women is rape and part isn't.

So the girl can't even decide if it's a confidence swindle until she has the judgment and perspective of being a grown up, but this isn't rape?

That is my position. As an adult, she might conclude: "I made painful mistakes but they taught me valuable lessons." Or she might decide: "I had no idea how in over my head I was and that louse totally exploited my naivete to get his rocks off." But if she said "I was raped", I would not agree with her.

The people who are citing the statutory rape laws as if they were some infallible guide might want to consider the unintended consequences of letting a male-dominated society define the parameters of a woman's sexual agency.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:18 AM on December 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Joe Beese: I don't think anyone is suggesting that statutory rape laws are an infallible guide. But the underlying principle that relationships based on such a severe imbalance of power are ethically problematic is quite sound.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:25 AM on December 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


a widespread cultural norm that women continue to maintain, and that parents continue to teach, that women are to accept any sexual advance politely provided you aren't physically threatened.

And how do you know that a physical threat isn't about to happen? Back when this kind of thing still happened to me, a guy walking by me on the sidewalk made "hey baby" and kissy noises as drew up alongside me. I was tired and cranky and I muttered "Fuck off" - I did not smile at him or ignore his remarks. He lunged at me as if he was about to hit me - and maybe he was - got in my face and berated me for being a slut bitch.

Times when I've ignored the remarks? On some of those occasions, the guy has gotten more aggressive - "What's the matter with you, stuck-up bitch? Smile!"

As cybercoitus interruptus points out, the mental energy required to figure out, in each split-second encounter like that, what the "proper" response should be is incredibly draining, and there's absolutely no guarantee that the choice you make - respond in a nice way, in an aggressive fuck-off way, no response, etc. - will keep you from being threatened with violence.

I was certainly not taught to "accept any sexual advance politely," but I was taught (like most girls in North America, at least) and socialized to be polite, to give the benefit of the doubt, to not make a fuss. These were not lessons my mother taught me either explicitly or implicitly, but I absorbed via media, school, friends, and so on.
posted by rtha at 9:32 AM on December 23, 2008 [30 favorites]


Why would young girls smile demurely when a guy creeps them out unless they were taught to do so. This is my frustration. Not that women aren't being educated to watch out for rapists, but that somehow and from somewhere, they are also being taught to be powerless - to not to stir up trouble, not to enforce their wider boundaries and personal space, etc.

Pastabagel, i hope you can see that this is the same frustration the author feels, and that she seems to be trying to do something about by writing this very article.

i'm having some difficulty understanding part of where you're coming from, here, man. I get the frustration, obviously. But it seems like you're angry at the author, or that you're advocating some kind of tough love "harden up, ladies" approach to the problem.

what I'm getting at is that, yes, these women are being brought up to see themselves as powerless and to act powerlessly. often by their parents (who, despite decades of progress in our culture are likely still old enough to have been raised to see women as powerless themselves) but almost always by everyone else around them. to be honest, i imagine you wouldn't really disagree with me that there has been, and remains, in our culture a strong social message to women that they are powerless, and that their value as people lies almost wholly as sexual objects rather than as complete empowered people. Obviously, there are also other more positive messages out there, but the old terrible ones still exist and still retain significant power in our emotional landscape.

If I'm right that you would agree with me that this is the case, I hope you can see why comments like yours seem pretty unsympathetic, and seem pretty strongly to work at cross purposes to actually fixing this problem. When a 14 year old girl is afraid that people will see her behavior as having encouraged the problem, and will be upset with her for putting herself in that position, I think it's fairly obvious that responding by saying "well maybe your mom didn't want you opening the door for boys so that you wouldn't get raped" and getting angry at her self-perceived powerlessness is precisely the reaction she's afraid of, from her mom and from everybody else in the world. part of the problem, as i said above, isn't just how she was raised, but how society reacts to people in her position. part of the problem is that we teach other people to treat women this way by reacting as you have. I hope you can see this, or at least can understand why your comment would come off this way if that's not how you wanted your comments to be read.
posted by shmegegge at 9:38 AM on December 23, 2008 [10 favorites]


The people who are citing the statutory rape laws as if they were some infallible guide might want to consider the unintended consequences of letting a male-dominated society define the parameters of a woman's sexual agency.

Children, Joe, not women. Nobody's talking about women's sexual agency, we're talking about protecting children from sexual exploitation by predatory adults.
posted by The Straightener at 9:38 AM on December 23, 2008 [17 favorites]


The people who are citing the statutory rape laws as if they were some infallible guide might want to consider the unintended consequences of letting a male-dominated society define the parameters of a woman's sexual agency.

The statutory rape laws do (at least in theory) apply to under-aged males as much as they apply to under-aged females. That our culture is extremely unwilling to allow the notion that men can be raped as well, or that women can be rapists is a tangent to this discussion that probably won't be welcomed.
posted by explosion at 9:40 AM on December 23, 2008 [6 favorites]


The confusion over what is and is not rape is why I very much prefer the phrase "sexual assault" for the things being described in the article and this thread as "Not rape". Because it's very much an assault, and it is very much sexualised by the perpetrator.

Other than that, it's always horrifically interesting to me to see the responses of people who have not been sexually assaulted, who have never had that boundary broken forcibly by someone who can't see that the object of their fascination is a human being who will then have to go on with the psychic scars of such treatment. Sometimes people surprise me, and I'm grateful for them and look at them with eyes full of wonder and appreciation. Usually, though, it's otherwise. Sadly, disappointingly otherwise.

So much of what the author described, I can nod my head to or feel an echoing thud in my chest to match her own. And that's true for nearly every woman I know. We are not special or unique, and that's actually one of the sicker things about it. It should be rare. It shouldn't be happening so often. It shouldn't be such a common thread between us, as if we were stuck in some form of the Dark Ages where females of any age are looked upon as livestock instead of as equals worthy of the same self-determination as the people who choose to exert their poorly controlled impulses and violent urges upon us.

And then there are the males this sort of thing happens to - they don't even get the invisible support network women develop, usually, because they often aren't allowed to talk about it without being humiliated further (or worse).

The commonality of this type of experience is vile. Anyone involved in making it more difficult to stop this, to see it for what it really is, to punish it as it should be punished, is a villain and part of the problem.

Interesting find, Navelgazer.
posted by batmonkey at 9:40 AM on December 23, 2008 [13 favorites]


A minor of 12 years of age is legally, and for pretty good reason, not considered able to make adult decisions, they are not able to give rational consent.

But the exact opposite logic is often trotted out to hold children accountable for other things, such as putting minors on trial as adults for crimes. I personally agree with the law that children below a certain age should be given more protections, but other people argue that minors should be fully responsible for their own actions.

I was certainly not taught to "accept any sexual advance politely," but I was taught (like most girls in North America, at least) and socialized to be polite, to give the benefit of the doubt, to not make a fuss.

I don't think it's even gender specific though. Most people avoid confrontations and ignore people who do aggressive or unwanted things. As a male, if I'm at a bar and some random drunk guy insults me trying to pick a fight, I'll probably just ignore him. In my experience insulting people back or making a big scene isn't very productive.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:44 AM on December 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Some people see an 11 year old as a child, some see an 11 year old as a potential partner. Not right in my book, but there are lots of other books.

In other countries, 15 or younger is marrying age. You know why that is? Because biology says its OK. As gross as it may be to me personally, if they can do the deed, then it doesn't matter if they do it with another 15 year old or a 90 year old. There's no difference. Rage all you want, Mother Nature doesn't give a shit.

The argument these days is that they are "children" and not "developed" enough to handle a mature idea such as sex or relationships. That's a relatively new concept and, as pointed out above, somewhat hypocritical when considering other legal arguments we make.

In the cited example above, there is not an indication that anything was nonconsensual except that maybe society pressured her into it, in which case, welcome to the club. We all do things we don't like because society says we have to. For all the author knows, the boy was a really immature 19 and the couple were a great match. You might think it is wrong, but it worked for many years...with parental approval. Some marriages don't last as long.
posted by BeReasonable at 9:50 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hey guys, sound the alert, it's a post about women's issues! What about the male foreskin holocaust, huh?

With one notable exception (which turned into a decent conversation starter and not a fight) this hasn't happened in this thread. Let's give everyone a chance to exceed our expectations without making a handwavey big deal about it. I appreciate everyone's sincere contributions, this is a tough topic to not get really angry and upset about, for me and for a lot of other people.

the mental energy required to figure out, in each split-second encounter like that, what the "proper" response should be is incredibly draining

As someone who, as a child, got my arm broken by another kid because I "guessed wrong" at the best way to defuse a touchy fifth grade situation, I'm painfully aware that not setting off volatile people is something that men and women alike have to deal with. While male-on-male, female-on-female and female-on-male rape is a reality of our world (and I'm right there with batmonkey, the lack of even an invisible support network in those cases is isolating and terrible) it's not a creepy epidemic the way the incidents the author describes are and that's why we have these conversations over and over.
posted by jessamyn at 9:51 AM on December 23, 2008 [7 favorites]


The people who are citing the statutory rape laws as if they were some infallible guide might want to consider the unintended consequences of letting a male-dominated society define the parameters of a woman's sexual agency.

You're really suggesting that rules designed to prevent adults (male or female) from entering relationships with children (male or female) somehow unjustly undermine the sexual empowerment of women? That's messed up. Statutory rape laws are far from perfect - few laws are - but their base concept is a good one.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:52 AM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't think anyone is suggesting that statutory rape laws are an infallible guide. But the underlying principle that relationships based on such a severe imbalance of power are ethically problematic is quite sound.

I never argued that the man wasn't unethical. Only that his unethical behaviour did not qualify as rape.

Other unethical situations involving an imbalance of power: A) a professor who takes advantage of a student's crush on him. B) an emotionally needy adult vainly waiting for her married lover to leave his wife. In both cases, however caddishly the men might act, even the author is not going to call their having sex with the women "rape". [If she would, I'm afraid we've irrevocably parted company.]

I don't see any clear-cut way of distinguishing those situations and the one under discussion except by saying "Before age X, you are incapable of giving consent." And then you are using a statutory rape law as an infallible guide.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:52 AM on December 23, 2008


The people who are citing the statutory rape laws as if they were some infallible guide might want to consider the unintended consequences of letting a male-dominated society define the parameters of a woman's sexual agency.

Laws defining the age of consent are not gender-specific.

I was one of those (unlucky) girls who developed early. I clearly remember being at my dad's work picnic when I was 12 and hearing two of his coworkers make comments about me when I participated in the kids' games. "Physically under 13, heh heh..." I did not experience pride in my new body - I just felt burning shame. This progressed to my youth pastor rubbing up on my in a pool. I of course, did not tell anyone because I felt shame instead of outrage. When I was pressured into having sex for the first time (I was 13, he was 21ish), I was branded a slut. When I was beaten and forcibly raped a year later, it was plead down to assault because I was drinking and known to be promiscuous. In my case, my reluctance to say anything was well-founded in reality. Even as an adult, I think back on my experience with the court system and wish that I could have kept my rape a secret.

So why am I writing this? Obviously the not-rape essay really hit home with me. I'm sure there are 12 or 13 year-old girls out there who really feel empowered by attention from older men. But there are also lots of us for whom this attention is like a weird societal grooming that takes our power from us - at least temporarily.
posted by shrabster at 9:53 AM on December 23, 2008 [14 favorites]


"But if she said "I was raped", I would not agree with her."

I might suggest, politely, that you never share that disagreement with her.

What about a woman in a coma? She can't consent. What about, to get closer to the crux, a developmentally-disabled woman? The developmentally disabled can be horny, can want to have sex, but can't fully appreciate the consequences of their actions. Is it rape to have sex with one, even if you know she's disabled?

What about animals?

In each case, the ability to give meaningful consent—consent that appreciates the situation and the consequences at a reasonable level—is the issue, no matter how much the woman (or animal) may want it.

In each case, I can't help but believe that the only way to remove the moral problem is if the partner has an equal appreciation of the situation and consequences. While I think that eleven-year-olds having sex with each other would be a practical problem, it's far removed from a 25-year-old or even 16-year-old doing the same thing.
posted by klangklangston at 9:54 AM on December 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


"As cybercoitus interruptus points out, the mental energy required to figure out, in each split-second encounter like that, what the "proper" response should be is incredibly draining, and there's absolutely no guarantee that the choice you make - respond in a nice way, in an aggressive fuck-off way, no response, etc. - will keep you from being threatened with violence."

In an ideal world, the "proper" response would always simply be a tazering.
posted by klangklangston at 9:55 AM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


In other countries, 15 or younger is marrying age. You know why that is? Because biology says its OK.

Actually, it's usually more because the paternalistic theocracy in many of these countries says it's okay for girls to be traded between families like livestock.
posted by The Straightener at 9:56 AM on December 23, 2008 [28 favorites]


Joe Besse: I never argued that the man wasn't unethical. Only that his unethical behaviour did not qualify as rape.

Well, at this point, you are arguing semantics rather than ethics since the essay didn't call it "rape" either. Ms. Peterson's case is that regardless of what you call it, it was an example of the harmful sexual violence and exploitation that she and her peers experienced, and the failure to recognize it as potentially harmful left her peers without the skills to fight back.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:59 AM on December 23, 2008 [7 favorites]


Children, Joe, not women. Nobody's talking about women's sexual agency, we're talking about protecting children from sexual exploitation by predatory adults.

That's what you're talking about. It may not be what your local prosecutor is talking about. The Canadian anti-pornography laws weren't written to ban Andrea Dworkin's books - but that was their unintended consequence. If you want a statutory rape law for the general welfare, know in advance that it will inevitably be used to punish a 16 year old black male from having consensual sex with his 15 year old white girlfriend.

I also submit that other than an arbitrarily defined number that may vary when you cross state lines, there is no way to define "child" in your statement.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:05 AM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


BeReasonable: Rage all you want, Mother Nature doesn't give a shit.

What does nature have to do with anything here? Nature didn't care that Jeffrey Dahmer murdered, raped and ate a bunch of people, but society did, and for a good reason. Nature doesn't have any agency, people do, society does. A lot of things are biologically possible but that doesn't make them alright. Wanton killing happens all the time in "nature" but that doesn't make it okay in society.
posted by Kattullus at 10:07 AM on December 23, 2008 [14 favorites]


other countries, 15 or younger is marrying age. You know why that is? Because biology says its OK

You're overly simplifying the issue. First of all, biology doesn't "say" anything. For instance, people are made of edible meat. So by your logic, biology "says it's okay" to eat people.

Secondly, no one disagrees that many individuals are able to become pregnant or impregnate other individuals often at young ages. Most nations are guided by some form of rule that tries to create social boundaries where biology provides none. For instance, you can agree that having sex with an unwilling person is wrong I assume. Implicit in that statement is the idea that one must be able to give consent to enter a sexual relationship.

Do you think that a baby can give consent? Is the only reason it's wrong to marry a baby because the baby can't get pregnant... yet? Of course not. Molesting a baby is wrong: they can't give consent. At what age can you give consent? The youngest person ever to give birth was 5 years old. Do you think it's fine for a 21-year-old to marry her? Biology says it's okay, afterall... but obviously it's wrong. That's a power imbalance, even a sexually mature 5-year-old isn't mentally mature enough to enter an equal and consenting sexual relationship.

So law has to establish at what point one can give consent. It's clearly not the moment one is sexually mature, because that doesn't often go with mental maturity.

Arguing over the exact age is another matter, but hopefully you can see what's wrong with the idea that "the 12-year-old is physically mature, so there's no problem with him/her having sex with a 24-year-old!"
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:13 AM on December 23, 2008 [8 favorites]


That's what you're talking about. It may not be what your local prosecutor is talking about. The Canadian anti-pornography laws weren't written to ban Andrea Dworkin's books - but that was their unintended consequence. If you want a statutory rape law for the general welfare, know in advance that it will inevitably be used to punish a 16 year old black male from having consensual sex with his 15 year old white girlfriend.

Hey, Joe, I've been having a lot of difficulty following your train of thought, here, but now I've commpletely lost it. Did you start off this discussion with the intention of comparing the sexual assault of underage girls to the accusation of statutory rape based on racial bias, or is that an unintended consequence? for real, I'm completely at a loss to figure out where you're heading with this.
posted by shmegegge at 10:14 AM on December 23, 2008


BeReasonable: The argument these days is that they are "children" and not "developed" enough to handle a mature idea such as sex or relationships. That's a relatively new concept and, as pointed out above, somewhat hypocritical when considering other legal arguments we make.

Not hypocritical on my end. I'll gladly make the argument that conversion of juvenile to adult cases should be considered under extraordinary circumstances. And likewise, I don't see a problem with a general rule with exceptional cases and circumstances to be considered on an ad hoc basis.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:15 AM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


You're right, Joe, we should rollback our protections for children because they're too messy and imprecise. Because, you know, rolling back legal protections always works out great for vulnerable, poor and minority children. Thank God that one 16 year old boy won't suffer.
posted by The Straightener at 10:18 AM on December 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Having said all that, if someone knows of a feminist critique of statutory rape laws I would be interested in reading it.
posted by The Straightener at 10:21 AM on December 23, 2008


And it is at all possible to agree with the author that teen women are vulnerable to a range of morally and ethically wrong forms of sexual exploitation and violence, with violent gang rape at one end of that spectrum, without getting bogged down into the age-old pissing match regarding the problems and limitations of laws intended to protect underage women?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:23 AM on December 23, 2008


we're talking about protecting children from sexual exploitation by predatory adults.

... and predatory children, as the story cited.
posted by electroboy at 10:28 AM on December 23, 2008


Wow this article hit home unexpectedly. I'm really glad she wrote it.

and rtha's I was tired and cranky and I muttered "Fuck off" - I did not smile at him or ignore his remarks. He lunged at me as if he was about to hit me - and maybe he was - got in my face and berated me for being a slut bitch. has happened to every girl I've known including me.

I'm very shocked that it's generated any debate at all in this community, but since it has I'm particularly glad you posted it, Navelgazer.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:32 AM on December 23, 2008


If you want a statutory rape law for the general welfare, know in advance that it will inevitably be used to punish a 16 year old black male from having consensual sex with his 15 year old white girlfriend.

It's possible to draft a system that defines and criminalizes statutory rape without drawing a single arbitrary line that criminalizes sexual behavior among similarly aged peers.

New York uses an age window approach to avoid the sort of case you describe. An individual is guilty of Rape in the Third Degree when, being 21 or older, he or she has sex with an individual under 17, is guilty of Rape in the Second Degree when, being over eighteen, he or she has sex with an individual under 15, and Rape in the First Degree when, being over the age of 18 he or she has sex with an individual under the age of 13.
posted by Phlogiston at 10:40 AM on December 23, 2008


Having said all that, if someone knows of a feminist critique of statutory rape laws I would be interested in reading it.

I think Judith Levine's Harmful to Minors qualifies.
posted by Phlogiston at 10:41 AM on December 23, 2008


This is a powerful essay. I hope that the pendulum is swinging back in favor of women's rights with respect to sexual harrassment and boorish behavior by men.

It is almost eight years since President Clinton left office and more than a decade since the impeachment proceedings. That should be time enough that everyone can agree again that Not-rape is unacceptable under any circumstances.
posted by Slap Factory at 10:47 AM on December 23, 2008


I am by no means a social conservative, but it's worth pointing out that this is exactly one of those kinds of things a social conservative might say used to be much less of a problem when we had a more traditionalist society. Say, the 1950s.

I have no research, but I think it's more likely that the problem was worse then, in that while the author points out that the tools her peers were given were limited to a clear set of rape scenarios, which left them unequipped for and vulnerable to a lot of not-rape scenarios, back in the 50's, the tools her peers would have were limited to a far more limited set of rape scenarios, leaving them unequipped for and vulnerable to a lot of rape scenarios, as well as the not-rape scenarios.

The message I get from people who lived that era was that the same (or more) shit happened, but nobody talked about it - you kept up appearances.

By the same token, I think teens of today are probably somewhat better equipped for not-rape than they were in the author's day, and that this will continue to improve over time, due in no small part to the efforts of people like this author.

Civilisation is a never-ending process of refinement and improvement and progress.
posted by -harlequin- at 10:49 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I tend to believe we are still living in the psycho-social dark ages. The “epidemic” might not be one of incidence but of outrage as taboos and superstitions crumble. This discourse is human evolution albeit micro-social-evolution.
posted by Jode at 10:51 AM on December 23, 2008


Hey, Joe, I've been having a lot of difficulty following your train of thought

My original point was: A 25 year old who accepts the advances of a biologically mature 12 year may be unethically exploiting her naivete - but he is not raping her. And to lump that story in with tales of psychological and physical assault - which, KirkJobLuder's disagreement to the contrary, I believe the author was doing - is to do the victims of that assault a disservice.

This was met with: "Of course it's rape. The law says that a 12 year old can't give informed consent." This shift from an ethics consideration to a legal one led to some tangents. Feel free to ignore them.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:52 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm very shocked that it's generated any debate at all in this community, but since it has I'm particularly glad you posted it, Navelgazer.

I'm not surprised at that. I am surprised at how uniform the condemnation of the Not-rape has been in this thread. Compare some of the comments in this old Glenarlow Wilson thread with the comments here. I think this thread is a refreshing change.

It seems like the morality of it all is entirely situational. In the cases of Glenarlow Wilson and President Clinton, there were popular male causes celebres who were accused of non-consenting sex acts with nameless, faceless, or basically dehumanized women. In the linked essay from the FPP, we have a first-person, deeply personal account of a woman who suffered a non-consenting sex act at the hands of a nameless, faceless man. Like I said, I hope that essays like this help the pendulum swing back.
posted by Slap Factory at 10:57 AM on December 23, 2008


Through word of mouth, I had learned that T had been sentenced and he would not be eligible for parole until he was forty-six years old. (I have since learned that T should be released by the end of this year. His victim should be about 21 years of age.)

So now that she's grown-up and familiar with the criminal justice system, couldn't she communicate with his parole board and finally tell her story to someone who has a practical use for the information that T is a habitual child molester? I understand that the article is about how these assaults trap their young victims in their own passivity but it's ten years later and she wouldn't have to confront her attacker, she can just send the parole board a letter or make a phone call.
posted by nicwolff at 11:07 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


nicwolff: T didn't attack her. T was a friend of hers, prior to the gang-rape, at least. T's buddy Puffy attacked her.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:13 AM on December 23, 2008


In other countries, 15 or younger is marrying age. You know why that is? Because biology says its OK.

Biology has nothing to say about the age of marriage. Sociology or anthropology, maybe, but not biology.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:16 AM on December 23, 2008


it will inevitably be used to punish a 16 year old black male from having consensual sex with his 15 year old white girlfriend.

Factually wrong: most states in the US anyway have provisions exempting people within 2 or 3 years of age from statutory rape prosecution.

Though I hate to participate in the derail here. I thought the article was very powerful, but faltered in one area very important to me as the father of two preteen girls: what precisely can we do to empower girls in advance to handle these situations, and the general gamut of somewhat coercive sexual advances theywill face?
posted by msalt at 11:19 AM on December 23, 2008


Ah - thanks for the clarification, Navelgazer.
posted by nicwolff at 11:19 AM on December 23, 2008


Teenaged girls need to know that dating an older man will not make them cooler...
Teenaged boys should be able to help as well, trying to keep their friends away from predators. (My male friends did this for me a few times if they were around, coming to my aid of some guy started acting up. For some reason, the simple presence of another man is enough to make these kind of men leave.)


Dudes, nota bene. There is a time and place for your patronage.
posted by eustatic at 11:23 AM on December 23, 2008


Come on people, Joe's point is that enthusiastic and consensual sex can be unethical and/or a crime when a power/age difference is present that can overwhelm the basis of that consent, but that this kind of abuse is it's own animal and not the same thing as rape. Using provincial legal logic (enthusiastic consent that has been legally invalidated creates a determination of non-consensual sex) to lump them together as the same animal is a crutch for clumsy ethical thinking.

Like Joe, the author seems to put it into her not-rape category. Enthusiastically seeking sex from a man, when your enthusiastic consent is not legally valid, doesn't fit the framework of rape that she was taught, and as with the other not-rape abuses she details, the solution is not to endlessly expand the meaning of rape until it becomes meaningless, but to give a broader framework that gives people an understanding of the range and breadth of sexual transgressions, abuses, and crimes.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:26 AM on December 23, 2008 [9 favorites]


To respond to points brought up by Kattullus and Solon and Thanks is that laws are mutable and if you look at the one standard that doesn't change, can he/she or cant's he/she, you'll get a clearer understanding of what must be done.

To be more specific wanton killing doesn't happen all the time in "nature." A lot of things in nature get killed, but it's not the same. I would argue that the same thing happens in society and society makes not a peep. War is what it's called, and society may disapprove of it, but it doesn't do much to stop it.

Also, right now we say it's not a good idea for an older guy to sleep with a much younger girl. In fact we consider it reprehensible, criminal even. In times past, that wasn't the rule and was even counter-productive to our survival as a species.

However, times changes and so do our social mores. As it was pointed out, now society has built up a rule making that not the standard operating procedure any more. Great. Fabulous. Is it right? I can't say it is.

The argument posited is that because the younger girl in question is younger, she cannot give consent for such an act. I say that is ridiculous. We define the "too young to give consent" limit at so many different levels in so many different places that you can't honestly expect people being led by their hormones to respect it. It's an artificial rule that doesn't make a lot of sense. A rule based on biology is more sensible and allows us to stop drawing artificial lines that are continuously going to be crossed for good and ill.

We should instead make rules that change the thing we can. We make it so that girls who don't want to have sex don't need to. We make it so that girls and women feel safe to blow a guy off without fear of assault or denigration. We need to make girls feel like they don't need to put out to be popular or trade sex for security or to make someone happy.

That's a tall order, but if we stopped worrying about the rules that change depending on where you live or when you live, we might be able to make a little progress...

Upon preview, Blazecock Pileon, I was trying to nicely refer to the putting of his wee-wee in her waa-waa which is the primary reason for marriage in many cultures and that is definitely a biology thing
posted by BeReasonable at 11:26 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


In other countries, 15 or younger is marrying age. You know why that is? Because biology says its OK. As gross as it may be to me personally, if they can do the deed, then it doesn't matter if they do it with another 15 year old or a 90 year old. There's no difference. Rage all you want, Mother Nature doesn't give a shit.

Actually, mother nature will abort all of us if we don't slow our reproductive rate down.
posted by eustatic at 11:29 AM on December 23, 2008


msalt: I'm in the middle of the new Malcolm Gladwell book Outliers, which spends some time discussing a parenting study done a few years ago by Annette Lareau, of the University of Maryland. Following the families of twelve different third-graders of different races and classes, her conclusion was that the main difference in parenting, the one that ran straight down the socioeconomic faultlines, and the one that made the biggest difference in the end, was one of Parental involvement. Shocking, I know.

Going deeper into it, however, the book talks about the effects of making a child feel "entitled" (in the best sense of the word) and feel like his/her parent will be willing to go to bat for them in the face of authority. The "entitled" children feel a greater degree of self-respect, and feel that they deserve (are entitled to) respect from their peers and from other adults.

This might be the secret here. If you can be open with your daughters about the subject, then you can teach them the lesson that it's their lives, their bodies, their health and welfare, and that they are entitled to it, and nobody else is.

They'll still have to navigate the minefield, of course, but hopefully this can give them some protection in dealing with the gamut of mental and emotional coercion they are liable to face.

Good luck.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:38 AM on December 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Joe Beese, there's a reason the law says children can't give consent. Their brains are still developing. You seem to assume that there's nothing more to a child's development than the maturity of their sexual organs.

In any situation, the responsibility to act in accordance to the law mostly falls on the adult. If a 12-year-old doesn't want to wear a coat to school, his parents can still be accused of negligence when that child gets hypothermia. Saying, "Oh, but Bobby said he didn't want to wear a coat!" doesn't fly. Adults should know better.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:43 AM on December 23, 2008 [10 favorites]


A rule based on biology is more sensible and allows us to stop drawing artificial lines that are continuously going to be crossed for good and ill.

So you conclude that whoever had sex with this girl was completely within his rights to do so, and that any attempt by the law to stop such a thing from happening is too messy and not worth it. Huh.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:47 AM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


BeReasonable writes "You know why that is? Because biology says its OK."

what

Please. There is a long list of scary complications that are more likely to happen when the mother is underage. If 'biology' is sending a signal, the signal is saying to wait until you're developed properly.
posted by mullingitover at 11:47 AM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


mental energy required to figure out, in each split-second encounter like that, what the "proper" response should be is incredibly draining, and there's absolutely no guarantee that the choice you make - respond in a nice way, in an aggressive fuck-off way, no response, etc. - will keep you from being threatened with violence.

It frustrates me to see this because it makes me think that women are not being taught that there are going to be really difficult decisions that exist in our lives, decisions which require both the ability to respond to stress and perhaps mentally and physically resist or actively flee, decisions that may or may not be right. Whether it is mentally draining or not, the most effective step is always going to be to teach the victim that they can fight back. The fact that fighting is difficult does not mean that it shouldn't be taught. Boys are constantly socialized to this--we are shown over and over again in the media situations like this and we play "guns" and are constantly encouraged to display what is described to us by coaches, teachers and parents as "mental toughness." It usually involves the teaching of how to respond to aggression of all kinds. Reading these stories made me wonder if we are not doing our girls a disservice by teaching them to respond to such aggression directly, in the manner that men do. Although in general, women statistically are weaker then men, the reality is mixed--some men are smaller, slower and the like. My reaction as a man to the person pushing the door opening would be to physically resist. I might lose, but I would punch him in the face.

Obviously, it is very important to change the cultural socialization of men as well. Part of the problem is that moderate levels of sexual assertiveness in males is considered by our culture to be optimal--according to our TV shows and novels, men are supposed to initiate romantic approaches and men who do not are looked down upon by both females and males, at least in cultural sources, if not conventional wisdom. The problem is that men are commonly taught to approach problems with a "more" paradigm. If the first approach succeeds, then be more aggressive, etc. Men need to be taught to understand the impact of all of this.

It seems to me that we have made far more progress in the employment/general cultural areas of advancing womens' equality then in the sexual areas. That would make sense because humans rarely want to frankly discuss their sexuality.

The other thing that strikes me is that at least for the women in this essay, the message that they are sexual beings and that they are going to have responses to men that they might enjoy but that acting on those responses might not be in their best interests. This is where older men are able to cause real damage.(I'm especially thinking of the comment regarding the early-developing 8th grader who welcomed the attention from a much older man). A young woman is socialized to want romantic attention from desiriable males. And older males can be more attractive because they are more able to provide that attention due to greater experience. What might be lacking is some important perspective on the consequences of becoming involved sexually with these men. I wonder if these issues are not presented enough in our schools or our culture. We generally don't like to acknowlege the sexuality of our youth, so it is no surprise.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:48 AM on December 23, 2008 [6 favorites]


A 25 year old who accepts the advances of a biologically mature 12 year may be unethically exploiting her naivete - but he is not raping her.

The problem with this Joe is that the 25 year old is a freaking adult. He should know, regardless of how "into it" the 12 year old seems, she's still a kid. Adults refuse to help kids do things they shouldn't all the freaking time. That's what you do. As an adult.

Say my 15 year old cousin really, really wanted to get drunk off her ass at a concert. She's with me and wants me (the adult) to buy her beer. It's my responsiblity, regardless of how much she wants to get drunk, to tell her no. Regardless of the fact that I started drinking by 15, or that I think it might be okay in some situations for a 15 year old to drink, it's still against the law. Therefore, as an adult it's my responsiblity to say no. Just as it's the responsibility and duty of a 25 year old man sexually approached by a 12 year old girl to say no. That's why adults have more responsibility in these situations. It's not up to the teenage girls to figure out how to navigate this scary sexual waters, it's up to the adults around them to behave like freaking adults and help them navigate. It's the adult's responsibility to not muddy the waters further by saying shit like "She wanted it." or "She looked full grown."
posted by teleri025 at 11:49 AM on December 23, 2008 [9 favorites]


* Assuming, for hypothetical purposes, that the 5-year-old gave some form of verbal consent, you would see no problem with the situation.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:50 AM on December 23, 2008


as the father of two preteen girls: what precisely can we do to empower girls in advance to handle these situations, and the general gamut of somewhat coercive sexual advances theywill face?

I'm no expert but I have a few suggestions based on my own experiences and the experiences of many other women I know:

Don't ever teach them to be ashamed of their bodies. Build up their self-esteem every chance they get. Do not force them to engage in physical contact if they do not wish to do so (like making them give Aunt Edna or Uncle Charlie a kiss at Christmas if they don't want to -- you're teaching them that they must accept unwanted physical contact in order to be polite and keep the peace.) Know who their friends are. Keep the lines of communication open at all times. Give them plenty of boundaries. Make sure they receive proper and comprehensive sex education. Be a strong, stable, loving male figure in their lives. Teach them that they are valued for more than physical attractiveness. Do not teach them that girls are "supposed" to be quiet and sweet and polite at all times. Encourage them to speak up when something makes them uneasy or upset. Encourage them to find a physical activity or sport that they enjoy. The more in touch they are with their own bodies and the more ownership they feel over their physical person the less likely they may be to let others invade their space. Make your relationship with your significant other, if you have one, a model for them. They will learn what is acceptable by watching you. And if they ever tell you that they are being treated in way that makes them uncomfortable take them seriously. Do not tell them that "boys will be boys" or that "it will go away if you ignore it." They need to know that they can come to you with problems they can't handle on their own and that you will back them up when they DO try to deal with messy situations.
posted by lysistrata at 11:50 AM on December 23, 2008 [25 favorites]


This is something of a derail and probably has been discussed in other threads ad nauseum, but ...

Why is rape considered a far worse crime than other types of physical assault? Personally, I feel it is, but the exact logic of why this is eludes me. Do people think a change in
society's attitude toward sex would that affect how we view rape versus other forms of assault?
posted by batou_ at 11:50 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


My experiences were not as extreme as those in the essay (two older men - one related - shoved their tongues down my throat), but I never told anyone because I didn't think it would be received well. My teenage mind thought that the men had some "right" to do this, because of the twisted logic that they were much older and therefore must have a better knowledge of proper behavior than I would.

When a similar incident happened with a same-age coworker, I reacted very differently. We worked in a restaurant, and after the third or fourth time he "accidentally" rubbed up against me, I yelled 'FUCKING STOP THAT RIGHT NOW YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE!" The entire restaurant heard me. Both of us were hauled into the manager's office, and he was summarily fired.

In my 20s, I was again harassed by an (older) coworker at a different job, but it was a small company with no HR and saying anything risked getting fired. The guy in question brought a lot of money into the company and would have been difficult to replace, whereas I could be replaced in a heartbeat. The harassment was relatively minor (no physical contact, just inappropriate remarks and namecalling), so I kept quiet. Other male coworkers excused his behavior. He was "just joking" and I shouldn't overreact.

There have been other incidents of catcalling and unwanted advances by strangers (public transportation is a breeding ground for this, since you're essentially trapped). You have no idea when it will escalate.

Different circumstances merit different responses. It IS difficult to know how the other person will react, and it is often much easier to stay quiet. I did NOT develop at an early age, did NOT dress provocatively, did NOT seek male attention, did NOT drink or do drugs. I am not attractive in a conventional sense. It really doesn't matter - if you're female, unwanted attention is inevitable.
posted by desjardins at 11:51 AM on December 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


Is it legally not rape if she's a minor, but you have a note from her parents/guardians giving you their permission/consent?

Second question, same scenario, but this time the child does NOT want to have sex, and struggles against it?

I realise the answer depends entirely on where you happen to live, but ouch.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:52 AM on December 23, 2008


Man. Fucked the fuck up.

I guess the best thing you can do, if you're a parent or educator, is try to build a level of trust with your kids. Let them know that it's okay to talk to you about stuff.

I guess the hard part would be not freaking about about "normal stuff." Like, if you freak out when your 12-year-old daughter kisses a 12-year-old-boy, she may not tell you about the creepy 19-year-old who's been hitting on her (and whom she may not be suspicious of, because she doesn't know any better).

This is probably really hard to do. Nobody wants to think of a 12-year-old girl smooching with any boy, even if he's her own age. Especially if she's your daughter.

Parents and educators here - tell me - how do you deal with this situation?
posted by Afroblanco at 11:55 AM on December 23, 2008


BeReasonable: It's an artificial rule that doesn't make a lot of sense.

It makes plenty of sense when you consider that a lot of people (especially those ruled by their hormones) have unprotected sex and that in Western society, having a baby when you're 14 tends to severely limit your ability to succeed in education and career. In other countries, it doesn't matter as much because fewer people go to high school anyway.
posted by desjardins at 11:56 AM on December 23, 2008


Solon and Thanks that's taking it to a bit of extreme with an obvious aberration. We don't legislate based on extremes.

mullingitover, great what is developed properly? What age is that? Is it the same for all of us? No? Hmm. That's a bit of a problem then.
posted by BeReasonable at 12:05 PM on December 23, 2008


Why is rape considered a far worse crime than other types of physical assault? Personally, I feel it is, but the exact logic of why this is eludes me. Do people think a change in
society's attitude toward sex would that affect how we view rape versus other forms of assault?


I don't think a change in societal attitudes towards sex would change how we view rape. Like the saying goes, "Just because a woman likes to have a glass of wine, doesn't mean she'll want a jugful of muddy water forced down her throat." Even in countries where there is little stigma surrounding being a single mother, about premarital sex, and about having several sexual partners, even simultaneously, rape is still viewed as an acceleratedly humiliating form of assault on the body and mind. Societal attitudes about sex effect how rape is viewed in the same way that societal attitudes about hands effect how punching someone in the face unprovoked is viewed.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:06 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


batou_: I can't say for sure, but I believe the archaic reasoning for rape being so much worse than other forms of physical assault (a confusing term in it's own right. Legally, "assault" just means the threat of an unwanted touching, whereas the touching itself is "battery.") is from the time when a woman's "honor" was so sacrosanct as to be the majority of her social identity. In modern times, there are still vestiges of that mentality, to be certain, but now the reasoning has more to do with the unmistakable emotional injuries involved, above and beyond other types of battery, the continuation of the power-imbalance between the sexes, and the threat to women's sexual empowerment altogether.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:07 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Damn am I glad I'm not having kids.
posted by flipyourwig at 12:11 PM on December 23, 2008


the continuation of the power-imbalance between the sexes, and the threat to women's sexual empowerment altogether.

I'd have to disagree with you on these points, as same-sex rape carries the same emotional trauma and psychological scarring.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:12 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I read this whole thread waiting for one guy (or girl) to speak up and actually admit they dated someone younger than them, and there's not one person. I grew up in a small, small town in northern Arizona where it was very common to see 18-20 year old guys going out with 14-16 year old girls.
When I was a Senior in High School, I had my very first girlfriend, a freshmen. We dated for four months before we broke up. It took me a month to work up the balls to kiss her, and we never slept together. I dated several freshman that last year of high school, probably because freshmen and sophmores thought I was pretty cool where as people my own age still considered me to be an afro-headed, pimply poor fat kid. But yeah - I was 18 dating 15 and 16 year olds. Falling in love, writing bad poetry and painting angsty valentines. I absolutely never once thought I was doing something wrong, but, then again, they were in high school WITH me. I never dated someone from jr. high or middle school... not when I was that age, not when I was in high school, not ever.
I can think of at least two close friends of mine who, like most, never got out of the White Mountains (the area encompassing Pinetop-Lakeside, Showlow, Snowflake, and other small towns). Most of them, like my friends Shawn and David, were in their early 20's when they started dating the 16 year old girls they BOTH went on to marry. It's pretty hard to find a girl your own age up there that's single with no children, to be honest, but that's probably not a great justifier for dating someone underage either. Parents on both sides knew and were ok with it. Also, since the town is pretty mormon-intensive, a lot of these couples didn't actually get really physical for a long, long time, sometimes until, you know, they got married.
There's no defense for anyone really dating a 11 or 12 year old except for maybe another 11 or 12 year old. If I were a father, which I someday hope to be, I'd pray my children were still into their imaginations, video games, camping, shit like that when they hit that age. Most of the situations presented in the essay are awful, abhorrent, terrible, and discusting, and I hope you guys don't read what I've written as a defense of that. I just think there really is a grey area that should be mentioned. Or maybe I just wonder wtf is wrong with me that I didn't think it was wrong at 18 to date a 15 year old.
posted by Bageena at 12:12 PM on December 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


Solon and Thanks that's taking it to a bit of extreme with an obvious aberration. We don't legislate based on extremes.

You're ducking the question. You argue that it's too complicated to have consent laws based on mental maturity rather than simple sexual development. Yet when I present you with a case of a sexually mature female having sexual relations, you seem bothered by the fact that she is 5. If mental maturity doesn't matter, why does it matter there?

Furthermore, at what age does it stop mattering? 6? 7? 8? 9? 10? 11? 12? You seem to be against the idea of settling on an age of consent, but you think a 5-year-old is too young to consent. Therefore, there must be an age of consent in your mind. Or, if not an age, a test of mental maturity for consent. I'm simply carrying your logic to its fullest conclusion.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 12:13 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I remember when I was maybe 14 or 15 and a large portion of the extended family had gotten together for a summer barbecue/pool party. I was wearing a very staid one-piece swimsuit (not a bikini, and this was years before those high-cut legs were in vogue). Nevertheless, one of my uncles remarked to my parents that "Oriole is growing up to be a fine-looking young woman" and that made my Dad tell my Mom that I was not to appear in a bathing suit for the rest of the picnic. Somehow it made me feel as if I'd done something wrong; I felt ashamed and embarrassed. For many years afterward, if a male made an inappropriate advance (including various gropings and tongues down the throat), I always blamed myself - they wouldn't be doing this if I hadn't somehow invited such behavior. Luckily it never got as far as actual intercourse, but for many years I was always afraid to call out men on their aggressive advances, because I thought it was my fault that they behaved that way.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:14 PM on December 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


Joe Beese: A 25 year old who accepts the advances of a biologically mature 12 year may be unethically exploiting her naivete - but he is not raping her. And to lump that story in with tales of psychological and physical assault - which, KirkJobLuder's disagreement to the contrary, I believe the author was doing - is to do the victims of that assault a disservice.

Well, I just don't understand this objection. How is objecting to one end of the spectrum of sexual harassment, violence, and exploitation doing a disservice to the other end of the same spectrum?

Personally my "not-rape" included both assault and harassment, and I certainly agree that the two were linked. So I come to this article with a certain bias towards reality, which Peterson does a better job explaining. And it feels rather weird nit-picking one case out of several that she presents as being painful to her friends.

Marisa: I'd have to disagree with you on these points, as same-sex rape carries the same emotional trauma and psychological scarring.

I don't think it's the same. Similar perhaps, but there are a whole mess of gendered implications.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:22 PM on December 23, 2008


Yes, a lot of men are scum. You know that. Now what?

Now men need to get involved in stopping rape. Women have obviously been trying to get rapists stopped for a long time, while a large percentage of men sit on the sidelines, knowing what other men are doing and not interfering.

Men have to start getting seriously involved in combatting rape.
posted by electrasteph at 12:39 PM on December 23, 2008 [13 favorites]


Well let's see, as I recall it growing up male I was constantly bombarded with these "directives":

1. If you are biologically male you must Be A Man, all the way.
2. Men are by definition strong, tough, willful and competitive.
3. Until you have had sex with a girl you cannot call yourself a man.
4. Actually, not until you've had sex with lots of different girls, because it's a competition, like everything else, and to be a man you have to be a Winner.

Now that I'm a bitter old man, some observations:

A. Men seek out young girls because they are naive, gullible, easy to manipulate.
B. Men in their twenties are still (for the most part) heavily invested in The Rules, outlined above, and for that reason really shouldn't be regarded as "mature adults." In a pack of wolves, or a pride of lions, there is an alpha male, just one, and all the other males (presumably) spend their whole lives thinking about how they can become the alpha male, until at some point they realize it's never gonna happen. Or, against all odds they become the alpha male and spend the rest of their lives sleeping with one eye open. True emotional maturity is achieved only when you realize The Rules are stupid.
C. Men are the problem; the responsibility lies with men to fix the problem. But as it is when government allows corporations to regulate themselves, there's no incentive to change bad behaviors. Bad behaviors persist.
D. Women shouldn't have to live in fear of sexual assault. I think a lot of the sexual activity that males engage in is technically masturbation--that is, the objective is orgasm and how you reach that objective may or may not involve the body of another person. During sex with another person, pheromones and hormones and stuff may trigger feelings of endearment that may be misplaced and inappropriate. It is often confused with Love. It is not Love. I think men need to ask themselves, when engaging another person in a social exchange, What is my primary objective? If the answer is Orgasm, stop; step away from the human. Consensual mutual masturbation is seldom as clean and trouble-free as we'd like to think it is. In my experience there's no such thing as "friends with benefits." Somebody always gets burned. Truly there can be no consensual sex without honesty, respect, and trust.

Finally, I propose that automakers retool and begin mass-producing sexbots immediately.
posted by Restless Day at 12:45 PM on December 23, 2008 [14 favorites]


Re: same-sex rape - it is undoubtedly as horrific and traumatic as heterosexual rape. However, I know very few men that have a constant background fear of it. To wit: my husband was in downtown Chicago very late at night, and instead of transferring trains, he chose to walk a mile to a different station. I said, isn't that a sketchy neighborhood? Would you want me to walk through there alone? He said no, you might get raped. And that is always constant background noise in my head, if I walk alone at night. But it didn't occur to him that he could be a victim; he might get mugged, but he felt perfectly safe from that, at least.
posted by desjardins at 12:46 PM on December 23, 2008 [7 favorites]


Re: same-sex rape - it is undoubtedly as horrific and traumatic as heterosexual rape. However, I know very few men that have a constant background fear of it.

An excellent point, and I thank you for that.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:58 PM on December 23, 2008


C. Men are the problem; the responsibility lies with men to fix the problem.

As long as adhering to The Rules results in real-world sexual advantage (which it does), the problem cannot be fixed. It's a social issue, not just a problem with men.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:01 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


I was trying to nicely refer to the putting of his wee-wee in her waa-waa which is the primary reason for marriage in many cultures and that is definitely a biology thing

You are confusing the instinctual desire for sexual intercourse with your assertion of a biological imperative for (single-partner) marriage.

If marriage was "biology thing", whatever that strange phrase means, there would be virtually no infidelity and no divorce.

The reality is that the primary motivation for marriage in many cultures is to conduct a property transaction. The notion of property is more of less entirely cultural in basis.

Marriage and its ritualization themselves are all cultural constructions.

Handing a 12-year-old girl off to a 25-year-old male for sexual gratification is wrong to me, but even if that might be okay to others, using marriage as a defense for this, because of a "biology thing", makes no sense whatsoever.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:03 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


However, I know very few men that have a constant background fear of it.

This extends also to the fact that many men (possibly women too but this is my experience) do have a background fear/concern about this happening to their female partners or even friends. The first time I drove cross-country with a boyfriend, we had a sort of bull session about how to deal with eventualities, doing something we'd never done before, at 18-19 years old. He confessed to me that one of his very real fears was not that we'd run out of gas or get into trouble in any of the normal ways but that we'd be someplace unfamiliar and get into trouble and I'd wind up the victim of some sexual assault. It worried him at a constant background level, more than he worried about his own safety.

There was no rational reason for this, but it was a nagging concern he had, for my safety as well as his own, that didn't really occur to me as an issue. I mean I was worried we might run into trouble, but I didn't worry that something terrible would happen to him "on my watch" that I'd somehow feel responsible for. I've had other boyfriends who have confessed similar things to me. I think the spectre that rape carries with it makes many people constantly fearful in nagging sometimes hard to pin down ways.
posted by jessamyn at 1:05 PM on December 23, 2008 [7 favorites]


This might be the secret here. If you can be open with your daughters about the subject, then you can teach them the lesson that it's their lives, their bodies, their health and welfare, and that they are entitled to it, and nobody else is.

They'll still have to navigate the minefield, of course, but hopefully this can give them some protection in dealing with the gamut of mental and emotional coercion they are liable to face.


True -- but there needs to be some equal but opposite education going on here directed at young men about keeping their hands and other body parts to themselves, and respecting the autonomy of their peers.
posted by electrasteph at 1:06 PM on December 23, 2008


electrasteph said "Men have to start getting seriously involved in combatting rape."

I wish I could favorite this a hundred times. One of the things I do in my spare time is lead a Bible Study/discipleship group for high-school guys. Among the topics we've covered is sexual ethics. I made a point of doing this because I believe that aren't enough men verbalizing out loud that it's a reprehensible thing to do to pressure a girl into having sex.

Combating rape is less about laws and jails and arrests than it is about teaching young men to respect women.
posted by DWRoelands at 1:10 PM on December 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


That is my position. As an adult, she might conclude: "I made painful mistakes but they taught me valuable lessons." Or she might decide: "I had no idea how in over my head I was and that louse totally exploited my naivete to get his rocks off." But if she said "I was raped", I would not agree with her.

She might also have severe post-traumatic stress and be unable to carry out a successful relationship in the future, or hold down a job, or be able to be a successful parent. She might get into trouble with the law, and end up incarcerated or even be killed or kill herself. She might end up sexualizing every situation she's in. She might end up being a stripper or a prostitute because her sense of self-worth is dominated by what men think about her body and not her mind or personal autonomy.

These are all common situations that happen to children, both boys and girls, who were victims of statutory rape or "relationships" that have a severe power imbalance. They're psychologically damaging to young people.
posted by electrasteph at 1:15 PM on December 23, 2008 [14 favorites]


"Men have to start getting seriously involved in combatting rape."

A friend of mine works on the Men as Partners initiative at EngenderHealth that does exactly this all throughout Africa and elsewhere in the third world. There's a lot of leverage to be gained by constructively engaging men in this kind of dialog, and it seems to work very well within the cultural and institutional constructs of the various African villages she's set up workshops in.
posted by The Straightener at 1:19 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why is rape considered a far worse crime than other types of physical assault? Personally, I feel it is, but the exact logic of why this is eludes me. Do people think a change in society's attitude toward sex would that affect how we view rape versus other forms of assault?

Yes, I think so. I think this conversation possibly creates a sesne of devaluation of other brutal, forceful, assaults of overpowering. I think that is what makes rape so horrific, but it is also a trait of some other assaults.

A friend of mine, a skinny 6'4" trekkie was just jumped and badly beaten in front of his wife and friends by some coked-up freak for absolutely no reason, and he's really feeling scarred by the feeling of victimization and the shame he didn't "fight back." He was sucker-punched by a stranger who walked up to him while he was tipsily walking home, and then kicked repeatedly in the face. He doesn't even remember going down, but he feels like less of a man or like he should have known better or something. Best we can tell, he was assaulted BECAUSE he was a tall target with a nice suit jacket and a pretty wife.

I think that part of the trauma in a case like that or in a rape comes from the sense that you're being overpowered for the sport of it. Your being overpowered is the whole point, and since you were not magically able to escape this vicitimization, you are less than whole, weak, lacking autonomy, will, or intelligence. That isn't true.

So, clearly, if sex/gender and their myriad attendant power dynamics are examined and retooled, sexual and gendered violence will diminish. This is why feminism, for example, is important. Women's cultural, systemic disempowerment feeds the monster that is their rape. This is also why a men's movement against violence is crucial. If men are no longer socialized to view violence as their power and birthright, we'd see an overall decline in violence, including gendered and sexual violence, and eventually a better general response to it, from the culture, and from the survivors, whose wounds are as cultural as they are physical. That the culture seems to take men's violence in stride, treating it as natural and unavoidable, without serious action against it is insane.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:19 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America wrote...
Trivializing issues important to other people is obviously a fantastic way to get them to stop trivializing issues important to you.

Taking other people's concerns seriously doesn't work either.

Trivialization of sexual rights runs very much in two directions around here.
posted by tkolar at 1:23 PM on December 23, 2008


.
posted by kalessin at 1:24 PM on December 23, 2008


Taking other people's concerns seriously doesn't work either.

Neither does comparing MetaTalk to MetaFilter.
posted by jessamyn at 1:30 PM on December 23, 2008


Ironmouth: It frustrates me to see this because it makes me think that women are not being taught that there are going to be really difficult decisions that exist in our lives, decisions which require both the ability to respond to stress and perhaps mentally and physically resist or actively flee, decisions that may or may not be right. Whether it is mentally draining or not, the most effective step is always going to be to teach the victim that they can fight back. The fact that fighting is difficult does not mean that it shouldn't be taught.

You're not getting the "all the time, everywhere" part. Your "physically resist or actively flee" point I agree with and think that self-defense instruction like martial arts would be helpful for kids and teens especially girls to become confident in their bodies. You're right that for far too many girls, open discussion of these decisions never happens, and it damned well needs to become normal instead of the exception. But the mental drainage isn't simply from the decisions' difficulty. It's from the unrelenting frequency. Not for all girls and women, no, but it's far more common than not.

on preview: why rape is considered far worse, I think the violation of bodily integrity (having something unwanted in you) is fundamental.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:35 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


These are all common situations that happen to children, both boys and girls, who were victims of statutory rape or "relationships" that have a severe power imbalance. They're psychologically damaging to young people.

I said "children" in that sentence because I tend to think of teenagers as children, so let me be more clear - young people ages 10-18 who are the victims of statutory rape exhibit post-traumatic stress, self-esteem issues, issues with healthy sexuality and problems with relationships in the same way that children under the age of 10 do.

There is real, lasting damage done to young people as a result of these power imbalances. It's not simply a matter of "being the victim of a confidence swindle."
posted by electrasteph at 1:37 PM on December 23, 2008


Solon and Thanks, I think you just subverted yourself there. I'm not sure there's a lot of difference between carrying my logic to its "fullest conclusion" and its ridiculous extreme.

However, truthfully, the thought of sex with a five year old seems "wrong" to me. But, the thought of sex with a sixteen year old (at my age) seems "wrong" to me. You can also throw in having sex with a man and having sex with anything that's not human.

But...several states disagree with me on the first point, a good percentage of women disagree with me on the second point and a goodly number of men. And on the third point, if it doesn't hurt the animal, vegetable or mineral, is it really wrong? Maybe not. My point on that is just cause I don't like it doesn't make it wrong.

I didn't duck the question, I'm actually trying to show that the question itself is wrong. There is no sound basis for a legal age of consent. Not one based on mental or physical constraints. Your five year old shoots down the physical issue (in my book) and I think the notion of a mental age of consent is just foolhardy. What test do you apply? I can't honestly think of one.

So what's the option then? Let's take the issue off the table and let the laws deal with what they can handle. Fraud, coercion, assault, etc. These are things that are easier to prove and no one gets as emotional about them.

Then with all the money we save from enforcing these laws we can implement some of the suggestions above.
posted by BeReasonable at 1:48 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Your five year old shoots down the physical issue (in my book) and I think the notion of a mental age of consent is just foolhardy. What test do you apply? I can't honestly think of one.

How about this -- in general, young people who have sexual relationships with adults where a power imbalance exists exhibit psychological trauma and difficulties with relationships and self-esteem as adults. So we draw an arbitrary line at an age where most people are able to handle sexual relationships successfully, with a window of consent for young people of similar ages. Where does that leave us?

Oh, look what we have here -- most age of consent laws in the U.S. fit into those parameters. Problem solved.
posted by electrasteph at 1:56 PM on December 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


There is no sound basis for a legal age of consent.

Please respond to my assertion that teenage pregnancy has a very detrimental effect on the girl's life and future prospects. Not to mention STDs. Lots of adults have unsafe sex; teenagers are even more prone to risk-taking.
posted by desjardins at 1:56 PM on December 23, 2008


I have a couple of anecdotes. The first: three of the four girls I've been intimate with had been raped or sexually assaulted at sometime in the past. One was a 19 year old dating a 12 year old situation. It would not surprise me at all if the fourth had also been and we just never got to the point in in the relationship where she felt the need to tell me. I've heard similar stories from pretty much every female friend I've been close enough with to have such conversations. Considering how few women I've been that close to, this seems pretty endemic.

Second anecdote: in high school, the boyfriend of a friend of mine was accuses of rape. I believe he was eventually convicted, though I don't know for sure; it was his senior year and my friend and my junior year, and I know he was still in prison when we graduated. He wasn't a friend of mine; he wasn't, to be generous, that bright, and had a macho testosterone thing going that made my geeky self instinctively distrust him. However, his girlfriend loved him and was adamant in her claims of his innocence. The girl who accused him of raping her was widely known to be vindictive and was not widely liked at my school, though she certainly had friends. She was also known for flirting enthusiastically. Several times she even came on to me, and considering how oblivious I was at the time (and still am, really), the fact that I was not only aware of it but made uncomfortable by it is an indication of how strong she came on.

A couple weeks before the accusation, both the accused and the accuser were at a party, as was the accused's girlfriend. In the aftermath of the accusation, I heard from at least half a dozen people of how they saw the accuser, and I'm pretty much quoting here, throw herself at the accused, even though his girlfriend was around. He shot her down, or so I'm told, more than once during the evening, and eventually she and the girlfriend got in an argument, and the accused and girlfriend left.

Now, I'm not saying that the guy didn't rape her. Certainly, he struck me as the sort of guy capable of such a deed. But the widely prevailing belief at my school was that she'd accused him to get even with him for shooting her down and to get even with his girlfriend for getting up in her face, and that struck me as something she was capable of doing. I don't know whatever happened with this story in the end; I lost touch with all involved when I went to college, which was fine by me.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that this issue is a goddamn mine field.
posted by Caduceus at 1:58 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


There is no sound basis for a legal age of consent.

How about the undue psychological damage done to a minor who has sex with an adult? Do you attribute that to society believing it's wrong, so the minor ends up feeling ashamed?

This reasoning gets more tired every time I hear it.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:58 PM on December 23, 2008


Why is rape considered a far worse crime than other types of physical assault?

In addition to being a physical assault, rape is also a perversion of many good things. It's a perversion of the pleasure of sex. It's a perversion of the emotional attachments usually attendant to sex. By perverting the process by which babies get made, it's a perversion of parental love. By taking a whole set of things that should be wonderful and turning them into suffering, it does more than a simple slap to the face or punch in the gut does.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:00 PM on December 23, 2008 [13 favorites]


BeReasonable writes "great what is developed properly? What age is that? Is it the same for all of us? No? Hmm. That's a bit of a problem then."

We're all the same species. The age of sexual maturity is not the same as the age where reproduction is safe for the mother and infant. Slight variations in the rate that individuals mature is not carte blanche to claim that because an individual is capable of reproducing, it's not a bad idea.
posted by mullingitover at 2:02 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


But the widely prevailing belief at my school was that she'd accused him to get even with him for shooting her down and to get even with his girlfriend for getting up in her face, and that struck me as something she was capable of doing.

It's easy to believe that a woman with a reputation for vindictiveness is lying. It doesn't mean she IS lying. Certainly, false reports of rape are made, and certainly rape actually does happen. I don't understand your larger point; it's NOT a mine field, because rape is unquestionably wrong. Either he did it or he didn't, and that's for a court of law to figure out.
posted by desjardins at 2:09 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


BeReasonable: Fraud, coercion, assault, etc.

Well, there also we have legal protections intended to protect a child from potential fraud and coercion. Unemancipated children can't sign mortgages for example, or drop out of school without parental permission before a certain age.

Coercion is exactly what we are suggesting the legal system should take into account. The differences in age between a legal adult of age 25 and a minor child of age 12 come with a whopping number of advantages that can be used for coercion and exploitation. I don't feel that law is wrong for taking those huge differences in relative legal, social and economic power into account.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:10 PM on December 23, 2008


amended: certainly rape actually does happen to people who are jerks
posted by desjardins at 2:10 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is a very interesting conversation. I don't have a whole lot to add aside from this comment:

One of the most intelligent people I've ever met once remarked to me that, since our individualist and rights-oriented society has taught us to revere our personal will and desire above all else, we believe that the worst things you can do to a person have to do with subverting their will and desire. This is why many high-minded people can feel as though rape is perhaps the greatest crime while misunderstanding the actual harm that it does to the victim, and why the central issue for us often isn't that harm and the good of the victim but rather 'whether it was consensual.' My friend pointed out that, while it's hard to understand, there might be things that others do to us that do us as much, if not more, harm that are consensual.

I think that's actually one of the most difficult things for those children who experience what the linked author calls "not rape:" the fact of consensuality seems to diminish the real seriousness of what happened. Kids want to believe that they have the capacity to choose their sexual relationships; in fact, believing and acting as though we are capable of making our own decisions in the world is how we develop that capacity and grow up. Consensual relationships between adults and children are so wrong because they subvert this learning by introducing doubt at a key point: these children know that what happened to them is wrong, but they need to believe that they're making their own decisions and believe that they chose it. I can't think of a better way to kill a kid's confidence and eagerness for learning about themselves and growing up than to introduce such a heartbreaking kind of self-doubt and shame by convincing them to do something that is so hurtful in a way that they can't understand yet.

The women I know who've had to recover from rape tell me that one of the most important stages is letting go of the natural but incorrect sense of shame and guilt about what happened - the sensation that 'I brought this on myself.' Every victim of rape must come to understand that they are not the cause of the harm that came to them, that it's not their fault. I believe that this is just as true in the case of children who are sexually assaulted in some way; but it's so very painful in their case because they often don't yet have the faculties needed to understand that, while they were the ones who invited that man into the house while their parents weren't home or called the older guy they met at the mall who gave them their phone number or let that uncle into the bedroom, it's not their fault.

I believe that one of the greatest sins is this subversion of a human being's confidence in themselves and their ability to make choices.
posted by koeselitz at 2:24 PM on December 23, 2008 [16 favorites]


So much of what the author described, I can nod my head to or feel an echoing thud in my chest to match her own. And that's true for nearly every woman I know. We are not special or unique, and that's actually one of the sicker things about it. It should be rare. It shouldn't be happening so often. It shouldn't be such a common thread between us, as if we were stuck in some form of the Dark Ages where females of any age are looked upon as livestock instead of as equals worthy of the same self-determination as the people who choose to exert their poorly controlled impulses and violent urges upon us.

God yes. It's like there are two worlds. There's the bright daylight where I feel as if I've enjoy the greatest privilege and freedom -- access to education and professional work and legal rights that wouldn't just leave some distant female ancestor speechless, but that I've seen stun my own grandmother, and very poignantly so -- and then the dark corners, where I'm still meat. History comes from there too, but it seeps out in stories never publicly told, in statistics never recorded, in bad dreams. Every woman I've ever got to know well enough -- every last one -- and I have shared a conversation about that place, if merely with a grim allusion. Then you figure out your mom has those stories, and your grandma -- and that means that maybe your dad does too, and your brother, and the other men who you trust and love. It's grim. In the daylight I generally deal in the facts, the stats, in the hope that if I'm dispassionate and smart enough I will make this comprehensible and real to people who don't get it. But I don't think it works. Brave and clear-eyed writing like Latoya Peterson's does much more, but only if widely read and comprehended. The limitations are obvious.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to the women and men alike who refuse to condone sexual violence, even tacitly. Don't ever stop, no matter how difficult it gets -- and it is truly one of the most difficult, most painful things I know.
posted by melissa may at 2:26 PM on December 23, 2008 [14 favorites]


I'm going to say in advance that this is definitely going to make me sound like a jerk and I'm perfectly alright if you guys hate me a little for saying it.

When it comes to relationships, I'm completely submissive. I never take action on my own. Stories like this, that illuminate the girl's point of view in sexual interactions with unbalanced power dynamics, are a large part of why I'm almost completely unable to initiate anything romantically or sexually with another person. I'm always afraid that, in the event my advances are unwanted, I wouldn't get the message until I'd gone too far.
posted by tehloki at 2:26 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


to my male friends: you do something like this, you get a kick in the nuts from me. this will be a life-changing event for you and your (permanently) unborn children.
posted by klanawa at 2:39 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


tehloki: Stories like this, that illuminate the girl's point of view in sexual interactions with unbalanced power dynamics, are a large part of why I'm almost completely unable to initiate anything romantically or sexually with another person. I'm always afraid that, in the event my advances are unwanted, I wouldn't get the message until I'd gone too far.

Well, that's why I say that 'consensuality' isn't the only or even the central factor in rape. It's hard to be confident that you're acting in someone else's best interests and not hurting them, that you have their needs and desires at heart, but it's necessary when we're intimate with others. That confidence has to overcome the fear that we're going to do the wrong thing.

I don't hate you, anyway. I know how you feel. And it's okay to be passive if you want to. But there's nothing wrong with being confident in yourself and your ability to respect someone else, so long as that confidence is warranted.
posted by koeselitz at 2:42 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


If marriage was "biology thing", whatever that strange phrase means, there would be virtually no infidelity and no divorce.

I don't want to get too much into this minefield, but I believe there exist monkey studies that directly contradict this statement. (Alphas want exclusive access to females (exclusive polygamy), females want to increase genetic diversity, so their children don't end up looking like Hapsburgs (infidelity).)

My probably flawed understanding of the relationship between biology and marriage in humans is thus:

Once upon a time, many adults didn't live past thirty. (Actually, pretty much anytime,anywhere before the mid-20th century, if Wikipedia is to be believed.) Additionally, many children didn't live past the age of five. A quick internet search claims pre-20th century infant mortality at ambient levels of 20-40% before age 1, and probably much higher in areas with malaria or newly introduced diseases. (This admittedly might be a large drag on the life expectancy of the overall population.) But it seems that there was a large biological imperative to reproduce early and often for the sake of survival of the species.

This set of situations undoubtedly sucked for the women involved.

I read marriage in this circumstance as a way (in an ideal situation) for a family to pass off a daughter to another trusted family for procreation and some degree of protection. If 14 year olds are under societal pressure to procreate (given the above argument), and they aren't capable of making rational decisions themselves (which we still seem to believe today), it logically falls to their parents to decide who their children will procreate with. And that's called an arranged marriage, which we might or might not agree with. It might also lead to defacto rape, given that the consent of the child isn't necessarily obtained in arranging said marriage. Which, again, undoubtedly sucked for the women involved.

Luckily, though, we live in better times and can work to create safe spaces for children to become fully actualized women, who can make their own decisions regarding procreation, relatively free of societal pressure. We're under different biological constraints, and can afford a bit of enlightenment.

Lastly, I would like to point out that the legal system blows for everyone involved, under pretty much any set of circumstances.
posted by kaibutsu at 2:46 PM on December 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


tehloki: i think there's a huge middle ground to be had where you can initiate things but also leave plenty of room for the other person to feel they can say no, or back away, or get the hell out or just take things slowly.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:47 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


KirkJobSluder, I think the point you are missing here is "can" be used for coercion and exploitation. As things are currently, any event of this nature that takes place is automatically wrong. Period. That's not right. Nothing is that black and white.

Also, as an example of why your argument needs a little work, consider the example of a 25 year old woman called "Brenda." Brenda has snuck across the border from Canada. She's determined to leave Moosejaw behind and make it big in New York. Brenda is new in the city, she's got no friends, no legal standing, and little to no money. Now if anyone sleeps with Brenda while she's in this state is that a crime? What if they talk about how much money they have? Or their friends in the INS? Or even how they love to work out and they are sooo strong? You don't have to be a kid to feel coerced by various inequalities. If you want to make laws about coercion stronger make them strong for everyone.
posted by BeReasonable at 2:47 PM on December 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


I don't hate you, anyway. I know how you feel.

Ditto, and this is one of those merciful things about getting older generally. It's easier to know how to give and receive clear signals. You can be more certain that whoever your prospective love/sex interest is, that they're aware of their own sexuality and know how to both get what they want and not get what they don't want.

This is sort of one of the reasons that age of consent laws, though admittedly imperfect, get my support. I feel totally confident in a "yes please" or a "no thank you" indication from my 39 year old partner (and my ability to respond appropriately) much more so than I can remember feeling about my own similar indicators (and partners' receptions of same) as sixteen year old me.

I remember a boyfriend I had in the early nineties when we were just out of our pretty PC-ish hippie college and he was really trying to do the right thing but he'd sort of learned that the right thing was to make sure you ask before you'd do anything so it was all "is it okay if I touch you here?" "can I take this off?" etc and I felt so bad for him and for people in general just trying to sort of make each other feel good but having all this fear going along with it that not only might you just fail at good sex (something I think most sexually active people worry about at some level) but you might also be considered a rapist if you did it wrong.

One of the things I pretty much never have to worry about as an adult female [who doesn't have a predilection for super young men/boys] is that I will ever mistakenly be called a rapist. Not something to jump up and down about, but it is something I think about when we talk about gender stuff.
posted by jessamyn at 2:52 PM on December 23, 2008 [11 favorites]


The women I know who've had to recover from rape tell me that one of the most important stages is letting go of the natural but incorrect sense of shame and guilt about what happened - the sensation that 'I brought this on myself.'

When it is your own body which has, like some strange betrayer, changed in ways that bring you this unwanted, uncomfortable attention, it's hard to feel that you haven't "brought it on yourself". It's because of your self--your very own body--that this has happened, and continues to happen. Those new breasts that the boys stare at, the newly round hips, the period starting. The way everyone is now reacting to you in completely different ways: your father is reluctant to touch you, your mother gives you elliptical warnings about getting into cars with people you don't know. You are dragged into the world of being a young woman, instead of simply being the human being who believed you were, a few years ago. So of course you feel you brought it on yourself; if it weren't for your body, it wouldn't have happened.

I'm channelling my 12 year old self here, basically.
posted by jokeefe at 3:35 PM on December 23, 2008 [6 favorites]


BeReaonsable: As things are currently, any event of this nature that takes place is automatically wrong. Period. That's not right. Nothing is that black and white.

Well there are two different problems here, ethics and legality.

Ethically, of course nothing is black and white, and I don't think anyone is saying that it is.

But I don't think that it's unreasonable to have a higher level of skepticism that a 25/12 relationship is just as consensual as a 16/15 relationship. Do kids sometimes hustle adults? Certainly. Do adults sometimes take advantage of their privileges to abuse kids? Certainly. As the latter seems to be more common than the former, I don't see a problem in putting the onus of ethical and legal responsibility on the adults. Certainly adults have that responsibility in regards to most of their other interactions with children.

I'm not that interested in trying to craft a water-tight legal statue that takes account of every possible permutation of circumstance. I'm more interested in supporting the author's case that those relationships were exploitative and harmful to the teen girls involved. In this case I'm inclined to take her at her word that those relationships were problematic.

You don't have to be a kid to feel coerced by various inequalities. If you want to make laws about coercion stronger make them strong for everyone.

Well, the ethical gotcha here doesn't really work because I believe that yes, illegal immigrants should be protected from many forms of exploitation. Furthermore, explicitly or implicitly demanding sexual favors in exchange for other benefits is known as quid pro quo harassment in sexual harassment law. I don't think that wrongness is limited to just supervisor/employee relationships.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:50 PM on December 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


I think age of consent laws (with exceptions for things like a 16 year old boy with a 13 year old girlfriend and vice versa) make lots of sense and that prosecuting kids as adults-- no matter how bad the crime-- makes none. Kids brains are not mature yet and adults have the responsibility to protect them from themselves (and society has the responsibility to protect them from adults who don't recognize this).

Yes, men evolved to desire pubescent females-- but that doesn't mean it should be legal for them to have access to them. And certainly, a 20 year old going after a 12 year old should know better and be prepared for legal consequences if he does it. You will have issues with mentally subnormal men who are chronologically older than they are developmentally-- but that's a different circumstance and the whole point of having a legal system that conducts individual trials is to look at varying mitigating circumstances if they exist.

But it still seems to me that you commit an especially violent act, when you are below the age where you are legally allowed drink, vote, etc--- why should you get the responsibility but not the rights? If anything the act shows that you are *less* mature. The trying kids as adults thing comes from our desire for vengeance, but it's not just or fair or sensible in terms of deterring future crime. Kids who are charged as adults are *more* likely to re-offend, not less.

While I certainly share the desire for vengeance against teenage boys who commit violent gang rapes, charging them as adults is not the way to deal with it.

I also think one of the best things parents can do is keep lines of communication so open that no kid ever makes the mistake that they can't tell mom they got sexually assaulted because they opened the door when they shouldn't have. The problem there is not with the daughter, but with the way the mother disciplined her.

A child should always know that they can tell the truth without consequences when things go wrong. Of course, some kids just don't want to tell anything and will use that idea to rationalize that-- but ideally, you should be in close enough emotional contact with your kid to know when something awful like this happens and to get them to tell you. I think kids get things out of proportion-- so a good talk about how you care more about protecting them, not punishing them if something goes wrong is very important, I think and needs repeating for emphasis.
posted by Maias at 3:54 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


BeReasonable, I hope you don't mind if I take some time to answer your points.

BeReasonable: In other countries, 15 or younger is marrying age. You know why that is? Because biology says its OK. As gross as it may be to me personally, if they can do the deed, then it doesn't matter if they do it with another 15 year old or a 90 year old. There's no difference. Rage all you want, Mother Nature doesn't give a shit.

Scientists nowadays seem to agree that one of the central reasons why humans are family-builders is that our young are born so undeveloped; almost any young animal can fend for itself days after birth, at least in most of the fundamental ways, whereas human babies can't do much of anything at all for a good few years. This is, in turn, apparently because we walk upright and therefore can't carry a larger, more developed fetus in our bellies. Moreover, pregnancy requires real strength, strength that most 15-year-olds simply don't have.

That's the scientific argument, and it makes sense. Nature does indeed distinguish between marriage at 14 and marriage at 20.

By the way, this is something I'll return to, but you might want to consider the fact that, though there's a diversity of opinions among the different cultures, it's possible for some of them to be flat wrong.

The argument these days is that they are "children" and not "developed" enough to handle a mature idea such as sex or relationships. That's a relatively new concept...

First of all, it's not really very new - at least the core of what it's trying to communicate. Plato's Athenian Stranger was making good arguments against pedophilia around two and a half millennia ago in his Laws, and he is certainly not the only one; pedophilia was against the law in nearly every Greek society, though it was popular amongst the upper class, and there existed arguments against it. To be blunt, parents seem to have a natural concern for the 'development' or 'education' or 'raising' of their children, no matter what you call it. It is a very real thing.

... and, as pointed out above, somewhat hypocritical when considering other legal arguments we make... In the cited example above, there is not an indication that anything was nonconsensual except that maybe society pressured her into it, in which case, welcome to the club. We all do things we don't like because society says we have to. For all the author knows, the boy was a really immature 19 and the couple were a great match. You might think it is wrong, but it worked for many years...with parental approval. Some marriages don't last as long... as an example of why your argument needs a little work, consider the example of a 25 year old woman called "Brenda." Brenda has snuck across the border from Canada. She's determined to leave Moosejaw behind and make it big in New York. Brenda is new in the city, she's got no friends, no legal standing, and little to no money. Now if anyone sleeps with Brenda while she's in this state is that a crime? What if they talk about how much money they have? Or their friends in the INS? Or even how they love to work out and they are sooo strong? You don't have to be a kid to feel coerced by various inequalities. If you want to make laws about coercion stronger make them strong for everyone.

There is a good point hidden behind all this strange furniture. It's the point I was trying to make above: that volition and will are more vague and difficult to pin down than people would like to believe, and that 'consent' is a tricky beast.

But I suspect you're being disingenuous; you're right that it's difficult to pin down a precise age of consent, and you're right that there will be exceptions to any rule like that given that human beings differ greatly, but just because it's difficult doesn't mean it's wrong. Just because everybody reaches the moment when they're ready and equipped to deal with having sex at different times doesn't mean that that moment isn't real, and while it might be arbitrary to pin down a precise year when people are expected to, it's necessary. You can just as well argue that it's silly to hand out driver's licenses at the same age when some kids are ready sooner or later, you can just as well argue that it's silly that the law books have recommended sentences for murder or rape since every murder or rape is different, but it's just as silly to remove all guidelines and act arbitrarily. The fact of the matter is that most rapes and most murders should be punished with certain severity, and almost every child of 14 is most certainly not ready for sex.

To be more specific wanton killing doesn't happen all the time in "nature." A lot of things in nature get killed, but it's not the same. I would argue that the same thing happens in society and society makes not a peep. War is what it's called, and society may disapprove of it, but it doesn't do much to stop it.

I suppose going to war and killing another human being in the name of freedom or justice or country or what-have-you is very much like having sex with a thirteen-year-old girl. Except, of course, for the fact that pedophilia hurts another human being and impedes their growth and education for absolutely no purpose beyond the pedophile's own physical pleasure, whereas war, at least in the eyes of the warriors, is for the purpose of doing some good, whether it actually does good or not. So, well, going to war is actually nothing like having sex with a thirteen-year-old girl.

However, times changes and so do our social mores. As it was pointed out, now society has built up a rule making that not the standard operating procedure any more. Great. Fabulous. Is it right? I can't say it is.

Yes, mores change. That doesn't mean that some things aren't wrong, and it doesn't mean that pedophilia isn't intrinsically wrong.

The argument posited is that because the younger girl in question is younger, she cannot give consent for such an act. I say that is ridiculous. We define the "too young to give consent" limit at so many different levels in so many different places that you can't honestly expect people being led by their hormones to respect it. It's an artificial rule that doesn't make a lot of sense. A rule based on biology is more sensible and allows us to stop drawing artificial lines that are continuously going to be crossed for good and ill... We should instead make rules that change the thing we can. We make it so that girls who don't want to have sex don't need to. We make it so that girls and women feel safe to blow a guy off without fear of assault or denigration. We need to make girls feel like they don't need to put out to be popular or trade sex for security or to make someone happy. That's a tall order, but if we stopped worrying about the rules that change depending on where you live or when you live, we might be able to make a little progress...

Rules are by definition artificial. They are created by us to run a society; they're agreements we all make in order to keep it moving along. It might be silly to say that it's intrinsically wrong to kill another human being, given the range of things that can happen in the world, but it's against the law anyway because that way we can feel safe from indiscriminate murder. We examine each case of murder carefully because each one is different; but the law exists because we each ought to have a reasonable expectation of what's going to happen in our interactions with others.

I'm going to quote this little bit that I find extremely execrable again just for emphasis:

We define the "too young to give consent" limit at so many different levels in so many different places that you can't honestly expect people being led by their hormones to respect it.

To be blunt: do you find it difficult to remember not to have sex with girls who are under the age of 18? Do you really have a hard time reminding your hormones of this simple number that everyone everywhere in the United States seems to understand? The age of 18 is known throughout our society to be the age of consent, though people often aren't even aware of what laws their particular state has. You think it's artificial; of course it is. Of course some people are ready to have sex at 16 while others aren't ready at 32; people are very different from each other. But we all picked 18 because it gives kids at least a bit of a chance, an opportunity to grow without that crowding in yet.

I'm sorry, but your 'hormones' argument is just so hideous to me: if we all lived based on our 'hormones,' we probably wouldn't have a civilization at all; most of us would be dead. 'Hormones' dictate that we do all sorts of ill-advised and risky things; but we're more than a collection of hormones. Hell, that's probably the whole point of keeping kids safe from sex-seeking adults for a few years; kids deserve a chance to discover that sex is about more than just fluctuating hormones, and they deserve to discover that with people of their own age so that the power that adults have over them doesn't destroy it.

If you have a hard time reminding your hormones that it's good to stop at stoplights that are red or that stabbing your worst enemy seventeen times is not only stupid but against the law, then I really don't know what to do for you.

Upon preview, Blazecock Pileon, I was trying to nicely refer to the putting of his wee-wee in her waa-waa which is the primary reason for marriage in many cultures and that is definitely a biology thing

I was going to argue against this, but it just seems so obviously wrong that I haven't the energy now. I'll just discuss briefly the comment which was probably the very worst you've made so far.

However, truthfully, the thought of sex with a five year old seems "wrong" to me. But, the thought of sex with a sixteen year old (at my age) seems "wrong" to me. You can also throw in having sex with a man and having sex with anything that's not human.

But...several states disagree with me on the first point, a good percentage of women disagree with me on the second point and a goodly number of men. And on the third point, if it doesn't hurt the animal, vegetable or mineral, is it really wrong? Maybe not. My point on that is just cause I don't like it doesn't make it wrong.


And my point is that if the only mechanism you're equipped with to determine what's right and wrong is whether you find it icky, you're a less-developed person than I would have thought. Amazingly, you're actually making an argument that's worse than its similar counterpart well-liked by Evangelicals who argue that homosexuality is like pedophilia simply because it grosses them out; at least those Evangelicals have the moral fortitude to be against things that they think they feel are wrong, whereas you seem to be arguing that pedophilia should be allowed simply because you find it icky but can't say why.

To be more precise: do you seriously and sincerely feel the same way about the wrongness of pedophilia and the wrongness of homosexuality? I am no sadomasochist, and I'm even inclined to think that in some cases it can be really unhealthy, but I know very well in my heart that it can be consensual and healthy even if it's something that would probably make me uncomfortable. But pedophilia isn't just 'gross;' I can discuss cogently the very real reasons why it's wrong: it takes away a human being's chance to discover sex on their own terms without the power of adults subverting its pleasure.

If you really and truly decide moral issues by considering whether they make you feel icky, I have no idea how you deal with the tougher ones. When I watched a friend of mine get punched by her dad, I felt the exact opposite of icky about shooting him in the head; in fact, the idea gave me an amount of pleasure. Does that mean it would have been right? Hell no. I had to think about the good of my friend and of all those involved. And that has nothing to do with what I find kind of gross.
posted by koeselitz at 3:56 PM on December 23, 2008 [12 favorites]


But the mental drainage isn't simply from the decisions' difficulty. It's from the unrelenting frequency

I wish that the frequency was less, I do. I think men and women can take steps to cut it down.

But that does not change the fact that these things exist. Either you leave girls defenseless by not educating them in the skills needed to deal with aggression in anyone, or you teach them a new way of doing things.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:59 PM on December 23, 2008


Every victim of rape must come to understand that they are not the cause of the harm that came to them, that it's not their fault.

They are not morally at fault. However it is important to note that in some of these situations, the victims made poor decisions which put them in a position to be hurt. Our education system needs to emphasize that all persons will be better protected when the victims are taught good decision-making skills.

I think the whole subject needs a complete rewrite in our minds. We are not living in our granparents time.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:10 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


This whole thread is troubling.

I went through this as a young girl-unable to speak up when a boyfriend put his hand places it wasn't supposed to go...I'd try to push it away, say stop, but he wouldn't listen...

I can't talk about what happened later. To this day I can't think of it as rape, although to this day I can't think of it as anything else, either. And I couldn't tell anyone. That was the day I went numb inside, and stayed that way, for years and years and years.

And it hurts my heart to think of so many other young girls going through similar things....
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:24 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


When a physically mature female is interested enough in males to actively dissemble in pursuit of them, I feel the issue of consent has entered a hopelessly gray area. Of course, ideally, no one would ever take advantage of someone else's inexperience or immaturity. But to lump this in with the other stories of harassment and assault is undermining the author's argument.

Kids do stupid things. It is up to the adults to protect them from the potentially horrible consequences. Our society sexualizes girls at a very young age, are we then to punish them with epithets like "slut", or to blame them when they are victimized for their poor or immature choices and actions?

I think it would help significantly if the dialogue could be defined in terms other than "rape" and "rape-like."

When your older boss refuses to let you leave your place of work late at night until you kiss him, it feels like rape. I won't go into some of the other Not rapes I've experienced, because too many people in the blue know me, but it feels like rape. I say call it rape and make the society understand that shaming someone sexually is a heinous and vicious act, whether penetration, or indeed physical contact, occurs or not. Having carefully vetted words and "degrees" of awfulness dilutes the very real feelings of horror, shame, confusion, disgust, and trauma that all sexual assault, both physical and psychological, brings.
posted by nax at 5:31 PM on December 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


Ironmouth: I wish that the frequency was less, I do. I think men and women can take steps to cut it down. But that does not change the fact that these things exist. Either you leave girls defenseless by not educating them in the skills needed to deal with aggression in anyone, or you teach them a new way of doing things.

And teach boys new norms for what it means to be a "man" too, of course. It just wasn't clear to me from what you wrote earlier that you grasped just how ubiquitous the micro- and macro-aggressions are towards girls and women, but it sounds like you really do, so I think we're actually on the same page.

This thread went much better than I expected. I actually read this piece on Racialicious last night and thought, "Hmmm, should I post this to Metafilter?" But remembering how the most recent thread about rape went, I decided to sleep on it. Thanks for posting it, Navelgazer. I do wonder why so many in that older thread trashed the general principle of teaching boys and men about sexual ethics (as opposed to trashing the weaknesses of existing programs while supporting the idea and ideal of improving them), whereas here, that principle seems to be supported. At least, it isn't being called out.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 6:57 PM on December 23, 2008


Bageena: You're not the only one.

I'm a male, and when I was in my third year if college, when I was 21, I began dating a 16 year old. She was also a student there, and I figured she was 18 or so, being a freshman and whatnot. The relationship lasted about 5 years, and she's someone I'm still friends with. I was briefly weirded out, mostly because that, until recently, I dated women who were usually a bit older. No one that I knew who was aware of the situation found it strange, mostly because we met as peers, and they were also aware I had never made it a habit to troll the playgrounds.

As to one of the subjects of the article, I remember when I was a teen, I was pretty disgusted with the concept of girls my age dating significantly older guys (the reverse never happened to anyone I even heard about,) but never made much noise about apart from some male friends and some female friends who weren't interested, as far as I was aware, in those kinds of relationships. I kept mostly to myself about it because I felt that any protest on my part would be seen as sour grapes. This was partly true, because I felt that my own dating pool was being invaded by these interlopers. I thought the older guys were self-evidentially scummy, and that the girls were fooling themselves thinking they were somehow more mature or sophisticated because they were dating 20-somethings who liked to date 15 year olds.

How would my circle of friends felt about or dealt with some of the guys from the article? I'm not sure exactly, but I'm pretty sure that they would have not been popular. Two cases spring to mind. The first was when I was about 14 or 15, and involves an acquaintance who had been accused of raping a friend of mine, and if I recall, my other male friends and I ended any association we had with him, and we had a few bull sessions about pulling some kind of petty revenge on him, (not so much a physical violence, more along the lines of slashing his tires or public humiliation,) and kept solidarity with our female friend, even if we never mentioned the event. (In my case, it was because I was told "Don't let her know I told you," the usual teenage scuttlebutt.)

The second case involved me, when I was 16. A girl I had been seeing for a few weeks over my spring break (I went to boarding school, and so only had met her recently,) had had become sexual with, accused me of raping her after I had more or less broken off contact with her. (Long story short, she asked me to call her, I said "Sure!" Never did, because I began to find her mildly creepy and had lost my sexual attraction to her, which was rather notable for 16 year old me. Thoughtless and hurtful on my part.) Several days later, my best friend calls me, angrily, telling me what she said to him and her friend (who my friend was dating,) and I protest my innocence, telling him my side of the story. He believes me, tells her girlfriend, and his girlfriend and the my accuser eventually have a falling out. The whole thing blew over fairly quickly, and I didn't (and don't) think much of it. I like to think that the difference between these two situations was based on the good sense of my friends and myself, but enough time has passed for my memories to be not as exact as I would like.

My point is, that for teenage boys, dealing with teenage girls, especially ones we may be interested in, can be confusing enough that we sometimes may not act for fear of their reaction. Much like the authors fears, I believe.
posted by Snyder at 6:57 PM on December 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


I for one sincerely hope the corresponding Those-Rape-Activists-Just-Hate-Men and I've-Never-Raped-Anyone-Why-Should-I-Think-About-This Teams make their appearance soon. Hey guys, sound the alert, it's a post about women's issues! What about the male foreskin holocaust, huh?

BOYZONE


Yeah, can I brand these kinds of sentiments "girlzone?" Because I'm sure made to feel uncomfortable, excluded, and attacked on account of my gender when reading things like that. What's more, I have no idea why this story, which is anecdotal evidence by definition, should be received as some kind of telling point against the men on this site who challenge feminist orthodoxy. First of all, it's something I read on the internet; I have no way of knowing whether it's true or not. Second, even assuming it's all true as stated, this story constitutes evidence based on a sample size of one.

More importantly, I'm always very confused when I hear the drumbeat about undervaluing the harms associated with rape and ignoring the plight of victims because that is in no way consistent with my experience. Just examining colleges and universities, without even accounting for governmental expenditures, untold sums of money are spent on rape crisis centers every year. Source cited in fn. 47. Our federal government has an Office of Violence Against Women despite the fact that men and women are equally likely to be victims of violent crime, and men comprise the overwhelming majority of homicide victims.

At my undergraduate school, students were ineligible to spend nights or weekends on campus until they had attended a "Rape Awareness Seminar" sponsored by the Residence Life office and supported by the Women's Studies Department. All students, male and female, were required to attend but we were split into different groups based on sex. I can't speak for what happened at the women's seminar, but the men's seminar was the most demeaning, insulting, degrading lecture I've ever been subjected to. We were harangued for the better part of two hours by campus police, RA's, sociology faculty, and representatives from women's groups about the (debunked) "1 in 4" statistic, how it was men's fault, how we needed to always take care to make sure we weren't forcing ourselves on our partners, and so on. We were even forced to watch a skit that depicted a date rape to make sure we "knew what rape was." I was never more insulted in my life. It most certainly did not place responsibility for the problem of rape with women, that much is certain.

And as far as problems with rape go, I've seen people in this thread dance around the problem of false allegations. I'm just going to ask-- if women's interests concerning rape are so undervalued in favor of men's, why is so little attention paid to the problem of false allegations? Independent research into the phenomenon of false rape accusations puts the ratio somewhere between twenty percent, forty percent, or even as high as sixty percent. The vast majority of exonerations for wrongful convictions stem from charges of rape. Women who bring false accusations of rape almost never face any kind of serious punishment. See, e.g., here, and also Crystal Magnum, the stripper who falsely accused the Duke Three of rape. She has yet to face any consequences that I know of.

And in terms of victims' rights, if the dialogue surrounding the issue of rape really disservices women in favor of men, why is it that so little attention is paid to the phenomenon of prison rape in male penitentiaries? Statistics reflect rates of male prison rape to exceed 1 in 5, and prison rape in U.S. prisons is viewed by the international community as a human rights crisis. Neverthless, we just can't stop making jokes about it. I can't remember the last time I saw a board game, T-Shirt, or website devoted to mocking female victims of rape.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 7:04 PM on December 23, 2008 [8 favorites]


An important part of this is the mindset of the typical 10 to 16 year old. Most kids this age operate on the premise that the thing to avoid is being embarrassed - your parents kissing you in front of school, not knowing the answer when called on - early teen years are a minefield of potentally embarrassing moments. It almost seems like this state of mind is developmentally appropriate, a way of learning and adjusting to societal norms.

There are predator mentalities that take advantage of this. I remember being this age, and as others have attested to and Latoya Pterson writes aboutm you are at a disadvantage precisely because the rules are unknown to you. You know the basics about sex and don't want to come off as a child or immature and AT ALL COSTS AVOID EMBARRASSMENT. Having children in that age group has brought this back to me, an almost physical feeling i cringing in embarrasment when you are caught out as not "cool".

I avoided reading this at first as it brings back painful memories for me as well - being a fourteen year old hippie girl and Jesusy looking hippy guys, asking you if you want to smoke a joint, then acting all huffy if you refused to have sex with them - being "uncool". Then you became a non person to them and they would act all disdainful. And of course there was worse, but I'd prefer not to dwell on it.

But, twas ever thus. The only way to deal with it is to make sure girls know that this has always happened, and if it happens to you, some role playing or suggestions of what to do. And boys should also learn these same things so as to recognize it in themselves or their peers. I think if other 21 year old guys mocked a friend they saw going after a 14 year old, they couldn't really get away with it. Trying to fit within societal norms overrides biological urges. Even though this behavior is technically illegal and "icky", those that see it as a gray area can make excuses for their own shortcomings trying to position the girl as willing, and themselves as just doing what comes naturally, ignoring the coerisiveness, calling it seduction.
posted by readery at 7:22 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Our education system needs to emphasize that all persons will be better protected when the victims are taught good decision-making skills.

I think I have a fairly different perspective than most of the other women who've spoken up in this thread, but I think it's an equally important side to this equation.

I've never been sexually assaulted. None of my friends have been sexually assaulted (or, perhaps more correctly, none have told me). So far, I have been lucky.

But when I was in seventh grade, they went through a special "personal safety" segment in PE. They had us draw maps of how we go to and from the bus stop, pinpointing the places where we were the most vulnerable to attack and what would be the best way to escape. In other words, we were told to take the streets where our friends and family lived, where we lived and conceptualize them as danger zones. For me, the most dangerous place was a road two blocks from my home, with grass and beautiful, flowering trees growing in the median. For me, I had to think about how unlikely it would be for me to run for help there, how I could best run away from any vehicle that might stop by me. When I walked down that road, I had to think about what would happen, if someone were to hurt me. What about that car that just turned down the road -- was it an attacker? Was it coming for me? Or how about that man, walking the opposite direction? He could so easily reach out an arm -- at what point should I scream? At what point should I run away?

And then, another part of this "personal safety" lesson involved us learning self-defense moves. They separated the boys from the girls. (I may have written about this previously in Mefi.) They started out by having all of us girls sit down with one of the PE coaches -- I have no idea what the boys were being told. The coach pointed to the first girl in the first row of us. He counted, "One, two, three, four -- stand up." The fourth girl stood up. Then again: "One, two, three, four -- stand up." Again, fourth girl stood up. He continued this all the way through the group. Then he said, "That's how many of you will be raped."

I wasn't even one of the girls who were told to stand up -- I have no idea what it was like for them. But I sat there, looking at my peers who'd been told to rise, and it was chilling. It wasn't just a horrible possibility -- like dying in a car crash or getting an incurable disease. No, by making actual girls around me stand up, the coach made it a promise, an actuality, a fact. One in four of us would be raped. One in four of us would be sexually assaulted by a man. Does this mean one in four men I'd ever encounter are rapists? Does this mean that one in four encounters I may have with men -- from the kindly old cashier at the grocery to the kid listening to loud music on the bus -- might end in rape?

They tried to teach me how to be safe, how to make good decisions, how to look out for myself. But in doing so, they made me conceptualize the world in terms of sexual assault. It took me a long time to realize that, for instance, when I walk down the street and there's a male walking near me, the fear that I feel is me acting like a victim-in-waiting. I was taught to conceptualize how I might be sexually assaulted, so the world is just one big assault waiting to happen.

I hate this.

Of course, I'm not at all saying that proper education about personal safety is a bad thing. Dude, of course not. The problem is that the education I received wasn't proper education, and I bet a whole lot of the "education" is similar to what I received. I have no idea what "proper education" would amount to, but I wish so much I hadn't been taught while growing up, from a thousand different sources like my 7th grade PE class, to be so afraid.
posted by Ms. Saint at 7:30 PM on December 23, 2008 [11 favorites]


Law Talkin' Guy:

I don't know why you would feel "uncomfortable, excluded, and attacked on account of my gender" when reading that women encourage men to take part in combatting rape. Why should you personally feel defensive that brutish behavior is attacked? And I also don't understand where this "sample size of one" is coming from - this is one person's story, yes, but you cannot be seriously suggesting that you're unaware that many (if not most) women either experience what this woman recounts or come close to it.

Yes, resources are being made available to combat rape. I think the point of contention is whether or not it's enough.

As for false accusations, how do you see this as a "problem" when the lion's share of sexual assaults don't make it to the police, let alone to the courts, and the burden of proof remains heavily upon "innocent until proven guilty"? I'm not contending someone should be sent to prison based solely upon one person's word against another's - I'm just pointing out that the legal system still seems to weigh on the side of the accused when it comes to sexual assault.

I do agree that prison rape is an ignored issue, and has even been accepted in many ways as a part of the prison sentence. There's nothing funny about it, and more should be done to combat it.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:31 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Law Talkin' Guy: can I brand these kinds of sentiments "girlzone?" Because I'm sure made to feel uncomfortable, excluded, and attacked on account of my gender when reading things like that. . . .

The discussion has been (with a minor exception, which schroedinger has apologized for) breathtakingly civilized. "-zone" as historically used at this site hasn't been created by a whole two comments (by one person, at that).
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 7:45 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


The vast majority of exonerations for wrongful convictions stem from charges of rape.

From the article you yourself linked to:
Yet DNA evidence can do more than free the innocent. In many cases, it also identified the person who actually committed the crime.

In 40 percent of the cases handled by the Innocence Project, Mr. Neufeld said, DNA not only exonerated the innocent prisoner but also provided evidence that helped identify the person who committed the crime. “In every single one of those cases that perpetrator had committed violent crimes in the intervening years,” he said.


In other words, these women did not lie about being raped. The wrong person was convicted for the crime, but it never says anywhere in the article that the crimes weren't committed.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:55 PM on December 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


I can't remember the last time I saw a board game, T-Shirt, or website devoted to mocking female victims of rape.

I just found out about Rapeman (trigger warning) yesterday (via feministing), which started out as a comic book, got turned into a movie series, and inspired a band name.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 8:07 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think sometimes it doesn't occur to men like law talking guy that men's vulnerability to false accusations correlates very closely to women's vulnerability to rape. The steps that a a man needs to take to avoid a false accusation, ie, avoid being alone with any woman he doesn't trust not to accuse him, is pretty much all that women can try to do to avoid being raped, avoid being alone with a man (or men) that you don't trust to rape you.

Except, of course, in the case of rape accusations, there's a whole justice system to sort through the allegation and evidences, and a presumption of innocence, whereas with a rape (or not rape), there's just the perpetrator and his moral compass. Given that that justice system, where a conviction for an actual rape is often a pie in the sky dream, the chances of an allegation, even one actually taken to the police, leading to a conviction are slim.

So of course, false accusations suck. But it's hard to work up my sympathy on this issue too high, since men are not even nearly at much at risk for false accusations as women are for rape/not rape, and yet they seem to think it's a MUCH bigger problem.
posted by Salamandrous at 8:09 PM on December 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


Marisa, etc.:

My response about feeling attacked was limited to the derisive remark I quoted in the beginning of my post. And yes, I am seriously suggesting that I do not believe that "most" women undergo experiences like the one related in the article.

My point in referring to the "resources being made available to combat rape," is that society takes the harm wrought by rape very seriously. Maybe it's not enough. But the amount of resources already committed belies the argument that rape victims are ignored or written off.

As for rates of false accusations, I don't agree that the problem of false accusations can be brushed aside with an oblique reference to "unreported rapes." I contend that rape is simultaneously the most overreported and the most underreported crime. The DOJ study you link to, which did not include an explanation of its methodology that I could find, suggests that rape is often underreported. I won't disagree with that as a general principle, though I'm not entirely persuaded that the exact numbers are sound without a chance to look at the methodology to see who was classified as a rape victim that didn't report the crime, and why.

Conversely, Kanin's study, which found a 41% rate of false allegations, relied on voluntary recantation as its criterion for "false" accusations; that's pretty hard to argue with. In addition, Kanin inquired as to the reasons for the false accusations-- the biggest reasons, from the very mouths of the false accusers, were to provide an alibi, to exact revenge, or to gain attention and sympathy. That's transparent methodology I find very credible.

As for your contention that "the burden of proof remains heavily upon innocent until proven guilty," I don't know what to say. Even if that were true in my experience (and it isn't, as I'll discuss in a minute), I wouldn't see a problem. The criminal justice system exists to protect the rights of defendants from wrongful conviction, not to maximize rates of punishment so accusers will feel vindicated. "Better to let 100 guilty men go free," and such.

What's more, while the criminal justice system pays lip service to "innocent until proven guilty," in my experience that's hardly the case where sex crimes are involved. I've watched men go to prison for upwards of a decade based on literally nothing more than the allegation of rape, even when there was evidence that the accuser had a motive to lie about it. In my estimation, this was hardly proof beyond a reasonable doubt. For a more high-profile example, take the Amirault defendants in the Fells' Acres Day Care molestation case. But, that's anecdotal evidence just as much as this article was.

More to the point, if what you say is true and the burden of proof skews the criminal justice system so heavily in favor of male defendants, why is it that post-conviction exonerations for wrongful guilty verdicts are overwhelmingly based on rape charges? Either there's a serious problem with the structure of our criminal trial process or there's something else going on. My personal experience tends to suggest the latter.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 8:11 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


. First of all, it's something I read on the internet; I have no way of knowing whether it's true or not. Second, even assuming it's all true as stated, this story constitutes evidence based on a sample size of one.

Couldn't the same be said about your comment?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:12 PM on December 23, 2008


From the article you yourself linked to:
Yet DNA evidence can do more than free the innocent. In many cases, it also identified the person who actually committed the crime.

In 40 percent of the cases handled by the Innocence Project, Mr. Neufeld said, DNA not only exonerated the innocent prisoner but also provided evidence that helped identify the person who committed the crime. “In every single one of those cases that perpetrator had committed violent crimes in the intervening years,” he said.

In other words, these women did not lie about being raped. The wrong person was convicted for the crime, but it never says anywhere in the article that the crimes weren't committed.


You're (unintentionally?) confusing my cites. The Eugene J. Kanin study about false rape accusations, conducted at Purdue University, supports my claim about false rape allegations. The Innocence Project's statistics support my claim about wrongful convictions. They are separate issues.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 8:16 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


koeselitz:
pregnancy requires real strength, strength that most 15-year-olds simply don't have.
wrong. 22 of every 1,000 teens 15-17 in 2006 (http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/07/10/teen.pregnancy/index.html) say you are mistaken.

though there's a diversity of opinions among the different cultures, it's possible for some of them to be flat wrong.
Maybe mine and maybe yours.

First of all, it's not really very new - at least the core of what it's trying to communicate. Plato's Athenian Stranger was making good arguments against pedophilia around two and a half millennia ago
And here's where you go wrong. Pedophilia is only part of what is being talked about here, and really it isn't even being talked about. But people go straight to that don't they? Right to the acts that "everyone" can agree on. But what about the margins where some hardcore wrongs are committed?


'consent' is a tricky beast. ... But I suspect you're being disingenuous... Just because everybody reaches the moment when they're ready and equipped to deal with having sex at different times doesn't mean that that moment isn't real, and while it might be arbitrary to pin down a precise year when people are expected to, it's necessary.
No it's not. It hurts us because you focus on the age and not the problem. For driver's licenses, for the drinking age, voting age and yes, the age of consent, the age was determined by people and so, it could be a wrong number. If we can put in place laws that don't rely on the artificial number shouldn't we?


almost every child of 14 is most certainly not ready for sex.
By what definition? The one we agree on now or the one we agreed on last century? Or the one we'll agree on next century. The one in America or the one in Europe? or the one on the moon? Did you ask the 14 year olds? I bet some of them might disagree and maybe they might be right. A lot of history seems to agree with them.

I suppose going to war and killing another human being in the name of freedom or justice or country or what-have-you is very much like having sex with a thirteen-year-old girl. Except, of course, for the fact that pedophilia hurts another human being and impedes their growth and education for absolutely no purpose beyond the pedophile's own physical pleasure, whereas war, at least in the eyes of the warriors, is for the purpose of doing some good, whether it actually does good or not. So, well, going to war is actually nothing like having sex with a thirteen-year-old girl.
Same thing again, pedophiles, always pedophiles. I'd argue that the person in the example, the 19 year old guy with the 11 year old, wasn't a pedophile. I'd argue that a crapload of the people getting burned by these laws you seemingly claim are natural and necessary aren't pedophiles either, but you don't care about them apparently.

But we all picked 18 because it gives kids at least a bit of a chance, an opportunity to grow without that crowding in yet.
No, "we" didn't. Some parts of America did ... officially. Some parts seem to ignore that based on certain criteria that maybe I agree with and maybe I don't. This is what you're missing all over. When and who can have sex is legislated differently all over the world, and a winking eye is turned to even those limits in many of those places.

Hell, that's probably the whole point of keeping kids safe from sex-seeking adults for a few years; kids deserve a chance to discover that sex is about more than just fluctuating hormones, and they deserve to discover that with people of their own age so that the power that adults have over them doesn't destroy it.
Interesting, but how about keeping kids safe from other kids? How about keeping kids safe from themselves? That's what these laws are being used for and I just can't help but think there is a better way. And also, holy shit, sex can be about more than just fluctuating hormones, but even when it's just about "scratching an itch" as it were, it is a hell of a lot of fun and if I may get a little personal here, scratching that itch with someone a little more knowledgeable than you is quite enjoyable indeed.

And my point is that if the only mechanism you're equipped with to determine what's right and wrong is whether you find it icky...
Really? How do you determine what is right and wrong? Is there a flowchart you use, or is there an emotional component as well? Also, did I say icky? I don't think I did. I said wrong. Wrong has got a lot of possible meanings and each of the aforementioned groups brings up some meaning of wrong for me, but, and here's the important part, just because I think it's "wrong" doesn't necessarily make it so.

Sex with men is enthusiastically endorsed by lots of people I know, and so I can see quite clearly that even though it is wrong in my head, it isn't wrong in theirs. I have to respect that difference and on certain days, I can even see where the relationship part might even be better, but the actual sex still just seems wrong...for me.

Ditto for 16 year old girls. Sex with them seems to happen a fair amount here and abroad and the world hasn't ended yet... Fair enough. It's wrong for me, but maybe not so for other people.

Sex with nonhumans. Kind of fucked up, but who are they really hurting? So who am I to try to make a rule against it? Especially when I can make other rules that address the clear parts of the problem and leave the rest out.

But pedophilia...
And here you are again. I'll say it again, it's not all about pedophilia. This is what people do every time. Throw fucking someone too young into the conversation and all rational discussion about everything else goes out the window. I might as well compare you to Hitler and be done with it. So much of this thread is about people on the edge of consent, and it is there that our laws really screw us up. Why do they screw us up? Because they're meant originally to stop pedophiles, but people twist them to suit their own purposes.


As for your last part, I would hope that you chose to do something. I respect that maybe you felt it was wrong to shoot him, I can get behind that. You did not mention whether you chose to pick up a bat and beat the shit out of him or turn him in to Child Protective Services or something. If you didn't do something, then you were wrong. Maybe not in your eyes. I'm sure you had your reasons. I'm sure it made complete sense to you. However, in my eyes, your lack of action would be, what's the word, execrable. And that is my point .
posted by BeReasonable at 8:17 PM on December 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Marisa, I'm gonna go out on a limb on this one and say I think that reading phrases like "men are the problem" might just conceivably make some males feel attacked. And the legal system should weigh on the side of the accused when it comes to sexual assault or any other crime. We're still in an "innocent until proven guilty" country, right?

There's this strange idea that "education" is gonna make it happen on this one, but I do not believe it will. I'm not a rapist, I don't believe any of my male friends are rapists. I've seen men come to blows with other men when a third party was accused of rape and there was a disagreement about whether or not it happened (it didn't). That's how strongly most men feel about it. You're just not gonna grab a hundred men off the street and find many who say "rape is okay by me."

And the key word is say.

I believe that the guys who are rapists (or proto-rapists) just attend whatever lectures, seminars, training sessions, nod their heads in the right spots while they're wondering where they can score some GHB. People lie about their behavior, to others and to themselves, when they're involved in crime. People are complicated, and until we drop the notion that rapists just somehow missed that class period in health education and also fell through the cracks in getting the HR seminar, the efforts will be largely misguided.

Part of the whole situation is the urge to create a purely binary raped/not-raped situation when reality isn't as clear-cut. Statutory rape laws are an excellent example of this, but if you do not care for that example, relationships are rife with power imbalances of other sorts. Some might have a great deal more money. If Marilyn vos Savant was single, and she dated someone with a 100 IQ, wouldn't that constitute a massive power imbalance? Power imbalance as a primary component of rape is problematic for me for these reasons; I believe consent is more important.
posted by adipocere at 8:19 PM on December 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


I'll say it again, it's not all about pedophilia. This is what people do every time. Throw fucking someone too young into the conversation and all rational discussion about everything else goes out the window.

Don't want to wade too deep into this, but you original point was about how age-of-consent laws are arbitrarily decided, and thus useless or perhaps unjust. All this is about is pedophilia. We're not talking about pedophilia and bunnies, or pedophilia and golfing. We're talking about "fucking someone too young." That's all there is that we're talking about.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:33 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


And yes, I am seriously suggesting that I do not believe that "most" women undergo experiences like the one related in the article. . .

So, the women of metafilter who are commenting here that they and their friends have had experiences similar to those in the article are outliers? Or just liars?

The men's seminar was the most demeaning, insulting, degrading lecture I've ever been subjected to. . .

This come up in the last rape thread where some guys were trying to explain how awful and offensive they found attempts to educate men about rape. I admit that I still don't understand why. If you are a good guy, not going to rape anyone, and not going to force yourself on your partner, then you, as a good guy, are probably aware that there are not good guys out there. Why on earth is it a bad thing to try to reach the not-good-guys through education campaigns? How does this harm you? How does this insult you? Maybe you feel like you should not have your delicate ears sullied with such talk. Well, how do you propose reaching the men who do need to hear it?

You compare the rape of women to prison rape. (Incidentally, I don't think I've ever seen a joke about prison rape on metafilter that didn't get a response of, "that is not cool," so if you were trying to shame the group with our hypocrisy--try again.) Would you object that it's demeaning, insulting, and degrading to all the non-rapist prisoners if this country began to take steps to eradicate this serious human rights violation? After all, some of the non-rapist prisoners might have to listen to lectures about how prison rape is a crime.

Someone on the other thread compared it to being forced to watch a loss-prevention video when you start your new retail job, and how offensive it is that the employees are assumed to steal. Frankly, it never occurred to me to be offended by those videos because I don't steal and knew they weren't for me. I also knew that people do steal, and why shouldn't the owners make efforts to stop it? Seriously, I just don't understand the defensiveness some guys have about educating men about rape.
posted by Mavri at 8:42 PM on December 23, 2008 [7 favorites]


Law Talkin' Guy: I added your post as a Favorite; it could have made a pretty good thread on its own. I don't think that what you wrote and what most of this thread has been about are at all incompatible, though.
posted by Amanojaku at 8:48 PM on December 23, 2008


Howdy, Navelgazer. I disagree and I think you're doing it too.

"Pedophilia is a psychological disorder in which an adult experiences a sexual preference for prepubescent children." See that there? Prepubescent children. Not pubescent. My whole freakin' point is that our laws don't quite match up to biology, and so they're always going to be flawed, ignored, in some places denounced, and in other places misused horribly.

If we looked at the problems through a different lens we might come up with a different solution. A solution that works better than what we've got now, because it seems like the problem is growing despite all the laws we're throwing on the books.

Also, even if I disagree with you, this is a good post. Thanks for making me think.
posted by BeReasonable at 8:50 PM on December 23, 2008


I don't think I've ever seen a joke about prison rape on metafilter that didn't get a response of, "that is not cool,"

Yeah and we have a tendency to delete them as beyond the pale non-jokes if we see them. </mod hat>
posted by jessamyn at 8:53 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


By what definition? The one we agree on now or the one we agreed on last century? Or the one we'll agree on next century. The one in America or the one in Europe? or the one on the moon?

I propose we use the definitions in use in 12th century Japan. I mean, what kind of argument is this? We use the definition that we, as a people, have decided on. And we've decided that having sex with children should be illegal.

I'll say it again, it's not all about pedophilia.

There are some statutory rape cases that I think a lot of people here would agree are edge cases where the statutory rape laws fail, but a 19 year old having sex with an 11 year old is not one of them.
posted by Mavri at 8:53 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


And maybe tomorrow we'll redefine what "children" is like we've done continually over time and we're back to square one.

"We" is an awfully subjective term. Which is what I'm saying.

Her parents didn't seem to have a problem with it. Also, was there a mention of sex? Would this be any better if they just dated? Went to the movies a lot, talked on the phone. Is it only the sex that makes it bad? What if he abused her emotionally and made her his de facto house servant? Does he get a pass for that just because there was nothing physical?
posted by BeReasonable at 9:09 PM on December 23, 2008


The DOJ study you link to, which did not include an explanation of its methodology that I could find, suggests that rape is often underreported. I won't disagree with that as a general principle, though I'm not entirely persuaded that the exact numbers are sound without a chance to look at the methodology to see who was classified as a rape victim that didn't report the crime, and why.

The study says that sexual assaults go unreported most of the time; not just often. And there's a URL in the beginning of the report I link to, which goes here, which is where you can find the full report in pdf format as well as the sources for the data, if you have doubts as to the methodology of a PhD working for the Department of Justice on this.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:19 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think I'm getting a better idea of what you're saying, BeReasonable, but my thing is that if laws had to match up with biology, there wouldn't be a hell of a lot of point to them. Also that I think most people here would consider 11-years-old to both imply "child" and "too young for fuckin'," hence a lot of the hostility towards your remarks.

Here's the way I see it:

1. Adolescents will start puberty at different ages.
2. They will also come to terms with their sexuality at different ages.
3. These will rarely, if ever, come at the same time.
4. People, particularly teens and adolescents, will be prone to thinking they know a lot more than they do, particularly about "risky" subjects which make them seem cool to their peers.
5. There is a vague point in everyone's life, before which they will be unprepared mentally and/or emotionally for sex, and after which they can be reasonably expected to know enough to make their own mistakes.
6. This point will be different for everyone.
7. But 11-years-old is sure-as-shit on the "unprepared" side for damn near everyone.
8. The power-differential between an adolescent or young teen and someone in their early twenties or older is so completely one-sided as to make "consent" meaningless. The younger partner in this case cannot consent to the action.
9. There thus must be a line drawn at some point so that legally, we can determine when we will respect that consent was given freely.
10. This line will be arbiitrary by nature, but will be decided on by the current norms of society.
11. That the line is arbitrary does not make it either useless of unjust, because there's absolutely no governmental or societal interest in making sure that 11-year-olds can get access to the dudes in their twenties with all of those sexual skills, nor vice-versa. The kids in question are not fully legal citizens, it is the job of the state to protect them, and in these circumstances it is absolutely okay for the state to err on the side of caution, even.
12. As long as states continue the common practice of carving out exceptions for partners of similar ages, I've got absolutely zero fucking sympathy for the older partner getting convicted in statutory rape violations. They have the duty to not fuck every child that may or may not come on to them, which is likely happening primarily in their wishful imaginations to begin with.

That is all.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:37 PM on December 23, 2008 [6 favorites]


I wonder if there has ever been a case of a 15-year-old overpowering and raping a 17-year-old. Would the statutory laws still apply?
posted by tehloki at 9:40 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


This come up in the last rape thread where some guys were trying to explain how awful and offensive they found attempts to educate men about rape. I admit that I still don't understand why. If you are a good guy, not going to rape anyone, and not going to force yourself on your partner, then you, as a good guy, are probably aware that there are not good guys out there. Why on earth is it a bad thing to try to reach the not-good-guys through education campaigns? How does this harm you? How does this insult you? Maybe you feel like you should not have your delicate ears sullied with such talk. Well, how do you propose reaching the men who do need to hear it?

"Men" don't need to hear it, boys do. And -- no offense -- not from people who have trouble understanding why treating other people like criminals who simply haven't been caught yet might be off-putting. Every father should tell his sons: "Real men don't behave that way." They'll listen.

Someone on the other thread compared it to being forced to watch a loss-prevention video when you start your new retail job, and how offensive it is that the employees are assumed to steal. Frankly, it never occurred to me to be offended by those videos because I don't steal and knew they weren't for me. I also knew that people do steal, and why shouldn't the owners make efforts to stop it? Seriously, I just don't understand the defensiveness some guys have about educating men about rape.

I'd compare it more closely to "driving while black." More importantly, it doesn't really matter whether you understand it or not; just as men need to realize that they don't have to personally understand everything about rape to support and respect how women feel about it, it would behoove more women to accept that the more abrasive education models often do nothing but make those good guys you mentioned feel unnecessarily shamed and defensive, while the sociopaths feign insight and continue on their merry way.
posted by Amanojaku at 9:46 PM on December 23, 2008 [7 favorites]


if what you say is true and the burden of proof skews the criminal justice system so heavily in favor of male defendants, why is it that post-conviction exonerations for wrongful guilty verdicts are overwhelmingly based on rape charges? Either there's a serious problem with the structure of our criminal trial process or there's something else going on. My personal experience tends to suggest the latter.

I'd suggest the first. It's entirely possible that the false conviction rate in general is very high -- if we think of the justice system as a sorting mechanism that grabs people and sorts them into piles labeled GUILTY and NOT GUILTY, including all those suspects that get dropped along the way, then standard Bayesian logic would indicate that some terrifyingly high proportion of convicts are in fact not guily of the crime they were convicted for.

The difference between rape and many other crimes is that for rape, DNA tests can exonerate people who were convicted using other evidence so long as the physical sample from the victim survives, but for crimes that don't involve bodily fluids there is often no analogous test that can be performed.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:49 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


I just don't understand the defensiveness some guys have about educating men about rape.

When I hear about re-education, I think of the Ministry of Love, and given my experiences with rape education; that's not terribly far from the truth (exceedingly one-sided, completely at odds with what I witnessed with how people interact in relationships, and a complete dismal of opposing concerns).

Just as my friend commented "only white people talk about multi-culturalism... everyone already knows what the dominate culture is", and dismissed sensitivity training as creating more stereotype problems than it solved; I think the same could be said with rape education: it's an agenda posturing as public service, and the whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I'd also add that not much has been said about a culture where 12 year old girls can trade sex for access to booze, drugs, and that pre-ultimate "being cool" (where the fuck are her parents, and why aren't they going to parenting school?); and very little about the double-speak of wanting to promote sexual agency while at the same time keeping safe.

And on and on and on and on. Rape is less of a problem than symptomatic of a very fucked-up sexual culture. And instead of laying the entire thing at the feet of men and saying "fix it", it might be good to examine why so many girls are getting involved with older men. That abuse goes both ways.
posted by quintessencesluglord at 9:55 PM on December 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Marisa, I'm gonna go out on a limb on this one and say I think that reading phrases like "men are the problem" might just conceivably make some males feel attacked.

Um.... if we're talking about rape and sexual assault, aren't these crimes that are overwhelmingly committed by men? So why wouldn't it make sense to state that? It doesn't mean that men as a whole are the problem; but that the actions perpetrated by a group which is statistically almost entirely male can be defined as a problem that men are responsible for, no?

When I hear about a mother who has abused or beaten or killed her child, I feel pity and grief, but I do not, as a mother, feel attacked: just because another mother has committed such heinous crimes does not taint me by proxy. You know?
posted by jokeefe at 10:03 PM on December 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Every time this topic comes up, my heart breaks over and over again.

Rage wells up from deep within me whenever I think about what women have to put up with in this world. Story after story of women being assaulted, groped, cat-called, threatened, coerced, shamed...when will it ever stop? What is it going to take?

I have felt feminist rage like this since I was 12 years old, although I wasn't able to name it at the time. I'm now 41. Just last weekend a man made catcalls toward me while I was out walking alone, and all the familiar fear and rage on behalf of all women - a rage that lives deep in my bones - came rushing back.

It's exhausting to carry this kind of burden around for so many years. And every new incident only adds to the burden.

I think personal stories are one of the most effective ways to drive the point home about how widespread and horrific this is, so I want to thank everyone who courageously posted their stories, and Navelgazer for this post.

When I was 13, the 40-year-old security guard in my apartment building cornered me and tried to kiss me. The security guard. This was after many weeks of staring at me in a creepy way and making me profoundly uncomfortable. Fortunately, when I told my mother what happened, she was appalled. She took action, filed a complaint, and got him fired. Many women aren't so lucky, and are told they must have brought it on themselves.

That same year, a strange man approached me, distracted me by asking for the time, then yanked my skirt down on a busy public street corner and ran away before I even knew what was happening.

I once stood up to a group of men in a truck who were catcalling at me and my teenage friends by angrily yelling "Fuck off!" The only reason I dared to be so bold was that we happened to be passing by in a car going the opposite direction, so I didn't have to face them directly. Even then, the minute the men heard my words, they let loose with the verbal abuse. I only heard "you fucking bitch cunt whore!" before they were out of earshot, but the raw aggression in their voices chilled me to the bone, and it haunts me to this day. I shudder to think of what might have happened to my friends and I if I'd stood up to them under different circumstances.

My childhood best friend was repeatedly sexually assaulted by her stepfather. She never told anyone except me. Another friend was gang-raped by high school boys when she was eight years old.

I could go on and on and on. And that's just me and the women I know personally.

When I started reading feminist writings and realized just how widespread and unrelenting all this is, I made a commitment to myself that I would fight for a feminist world until the day I die, even if it cost me every penny and every friend I had. Sadly, this commitment has already cost me two long-term relationships, several job opportunities, and an entire social circle.

But I will never stop fighting. Never.
posted by velvet winter at 10:10 PM on December 23, 2008 [16 favorites]


Um.... if we're talking about rape and sexual assault, aren't these crimes that are overwhelmingly committed by men? So why wouldn't it make sense to state that? It doesn't mean that men as a whole are the problem; but that the actions perpetrated by a group which is statistically almost entirely male can be defined as a problem that men are responsible for, no?

Most rapes are also overwhelmingly committed by bipeds, vertebrates, and aerobes, but it doesn't really makes sense to say "bipeds are the problem," does it? It implies that the whole is responsible for the part; if you don't mean that, then men aren't the problem. Rapists (who are often, though not exclusively, male) are. So no, men are not the problem, because most men are not rapists, even if most rapists are men.

When I hear about a mother who has abused or beaten or killed her child, I feel pity and grief, but I do not, as a mother, feel attacked: just because another mother has committed such heinous crimes does not taint me by proxy. You know?

Consider that since all mothers are women, it would make as much sense to say, "Ugh -- women are the problem" every time a mother kills her child. Surely that's more obviously unacceptable.
posted by Amanojaku at 10:25 PM on December 23, 2008


I once stood up to a group of men in a truck who were catcalling at me and my teenage friends by angrily yelling "Fuck off!" The only reason I dared to be so bold was that we happened to be passing by in a car going the opposite direction, so I didn't have to face them directly. Even then, the minute the men heard my words, they let loose with the verbal abuse. I only heard "you fucking bitch cunt whore!" before they were out of earshot, but the raw aggression in their voices chilled me to the bone, and it haunts me to this day. I shudder to think of what might have happened to my friends and I if I'd stood up to them under different circumstances.

On the off-chance it makes you feel even one iota better, those guys are total fucking cowards; they behave like that precisely because they're in a vehicle and will never have to face the repercussions of their actions.

When I started reading feminist writings and realized just how widespread and unrelenting all this is, I made a commitment to myself that I would fight for a feminist world until the day I die, even if it cost me every penny and every friend I had. Sadly, this commitment has already cost me two long-term relationships, several job opportunities, and an entire social circle.

If I may offer a tired bit of unsolicited advice, as one recovering angry person to another: you have to let it go. Not the cause -- just the bit that's hollowing you out. It really is true: "they" win if the fight destroys you. So don't let them.

But I will never stop fighting. Never.

Don't.

Thank you for sharing.
posted by Amanojaku at 10:36 PM on December 23, 2008


quintessencesluglord,
I do not hear much of this thread laying the entirety of rape at the feet of men and saying "fix it". I hear, rather, women saying "We've tried to fix it on our own. That has not worked. Won't you please help?"

and "rape education: it's an agenda posturing as public service" is honestly the most offensive piece of drivel I've heard in ages. I'm trying to be polite. I've stepped away and taken a shower to calm down. Still quite angry, honestly. I'm trying hard to decide if you have made an honest comment, are trolling, or if this statement is an art project, with callousness and privilege as your medium of choice.

Stopping men from raping women is not a public service? Surely you are not arguing for more rape? Are you stating that the programs are demeaning? It's a shame that it's so hard to avoid offending the delicate flowers of men's sensibilities. We can't ask them to help. That's "laying it all at their feet". We can't mention that some of them are *actually* the problem - that's offensive.

Hey! I have an idea! Instead of just whining about how bad the programs are, why don't you get involved and try to make them better?
posted by BethanyAnne at 10:42 PM on December 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


It really is true: "they" win if the fight destroys you. So don't let them.

Thanks for the encouragement. Though the burden can be heavy, I have no intention whatsoever of letting "them" destroy me. The energy generated by the rage can be transmuted into other forms, and used in the service of justice whenever possible. That's what I've been doing for years.

The worst part of the rage was the early years. That's when the scope of the problem first became clear to me, and I started to realize how much resistance I would face by making the commitment I did, and what it was likely to cost me. Fortunately, I've mellowed somewhat with age, but my commitment remains as strong as ever.
posted by velvet winter at 11:12 PM on December 23, 2008


So no, men are not the problem

Your takeaway from this thread is that people overall are saying "Men are the problem"? Here I was feeling all pleased that people were concluding that this problem would be best addressed by open discussion, by women and men, of norms and expectations re sexual ethics, and teaching by men and women about current vs healthier norms to boys and girls.

Of course the problem is that while most of the girls and women I know talk about this stuff anyway, as part of figuring out sex and relationships and our bodies and emotions, among boys and men (I gather) "sexual ethics" and such just...aren't. It's a no go zone, except for some (hopefully growing) number of fathers with their sons.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:15 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Instead of just whining about how bad the programs are, why don't you get involved and try to make them better?

I'm one that believes that rape-education by itself does nothing. With it or without it, you are going to have men and women who rape, and men and women who don't.

It was mentioned earlier, but rape is not about sexual gratification. It is about power and control over another. Education will not change those people. Those people are, for lack of a better term, defective. You cannot fix them.

Now where I do believe that education works, is informing preteens and teens about what is legal, what to look out for, what they can do to protect themselves. They also need to know that if they are abused who they can go to to both report the abuse, and have someone that will provide emotional support for them.

I hate the terms "rape" and "non-rape"; I am more for "sexual assault" because that term covers your "traditional" penis-to-vagina penetration, and also includes oral and anal sex and digital penetration, the state of mind of the victim, the age of the victim, the relationship of the victim to the perpetrator, etc.

And for those who are convicted of sexual assault, they need to serve LONG prison terms. No probation. No parole. Period. How many people like Brooke Bennett would still be alive if that were the case?
posted by C17H19NO3 at 11:35 PM on December 23, 2008


In other countries, 15 or younger is marrying age. You know why that is? Because biology says its OK.

The Straightener: Actually, it's usually more because the paternalistic theocracy in many of these countries says it's okay for girls to be traded between families like livestock.


Nice. So Germany (14-16), France (15), Iceland (15), and a host of other heretofore "progressive" nations are now to be dismissed as theocratic hinterlands the very instant they clash with a lower bound on sex and drinking. Because it's just not possible that they got it right, and we wrong, is it?
posted by kid ichorous at 12:08 AM on December 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


-Um.... if we're talking about rape and sexual assault, aren't these crimes that are overwhelmingly committed by men?

-Most rapes are also overwhelmingly committed by bipeds, vertebrates, and aerobes, but it doesn't really makes sense to say "bipeds are the problem," does it?


No. Because what you're actually doing is akin to saying "creatures of Earth swim in the ocean" as opposed to "fish swim in the ocean".

So let's not play word games here. Women have gone from taking every precaution not give off any of the number of byzantine signals that could possibly be interpretted as "asking for it" to standing up to say "no means no". And now we're talking about situations wherein some men, fully aware of the power they have over a woman in some situations, sometimes exploit that power for their own gain. Yes, I don't think it's asking a lot to ask that men help combat rape or Not Rape (and that's not to say efforts aren't being made, guys, alright?), and can't possibly see how that can be interpretted as an attack on all men in general. When most women who've been sexually assaulted can't even bring themselves to go to the police about it, something isn't working - it means both sexes needed to communicate, and one needs to do a lot more listening.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:17 AM on December 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Your takeaway from this thread is that people overall are saying "Men are the problem"? Here I was feeling all pleased that people were concluding that this problem would be best addressed by open discussion, by women and men, of norms and expectations re sexual ethics, and teaching by men and women about current vs healthier norms to boys and girls.

Context, friend, context. I was disagreeing with a somewhat flawed defense of a particular turn of phrase. No more, no less, and certainly no commentary on an otherwise impressive thread.
posted by Amanojaku at 12:29 AM on December 24, 2008


@ BethanyAnne

Your anger does nothing to dissuade me.

Specific to rape education, if it is primarily to re-educate men, as in:

I just don't understand the defensiveness some guys have about educating men about rape

how is it not putting the entire problem at men's feet? I'm noting another gender completely absent there.

"We've tried to fix it on our own. That has not worked. Won't you please help?"


And as other have pointed out, education isn't working either. Won't you please help?

I'm trying hard to decide if you have made an honest comment, are trolling, or if this statement is an art project, with callousness and privilege as your medium of choice.

Would that callousness and privilege also extend to forcing an entire gender to be educated in not doing anything that could be misconstrued as rape?

All I am saying is that I think the problems are way deeper than can be adequately addressed by education alone, and I also have reservations as to what that education entails.

People have differing ideas as to what constitutes legally actionable rape, what is reasonable action (the infamous Antioch College sex contract), or even how to best address the situation. Clear cases of assault aren't what is at issue, and in any case, it is doubtful education would have really made a difference to Jeffery Dahmer.

Rape eduction that I've witnessed does nothing to foster open dialogue, and neither does equating concerns over education as a tact approval of rape.

Hey! I have an idea! Instead of just whining about how bad the programs are, why don't you get involved and try to make them better?


I have a better idea! Why don't you try to work with men to devise better methods to end sexual violence.
posted by quintessencesluglord at 12:34 AM on December 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


C17H19NO3: And for those who are convicted of sexual assault, they need to serve LONG prison terms. No probation. No parole. Period. How many people like Brooke Bennett would still be alive if that were the case?

Hmm. But many of them are already subjected to considerably worse than this - rape in prison, psychiatric commitment upon release, chemical castration, indefinite status as second-class citizens thereafter - and yet these sorts of crimes still occur. In theory we could ratchet up punishment on an infinite line, ignoring all Constitutional limitations and legal precedence, but even still, there are limitations to the power of general deterrence in preventing crime. Especially if, as you say yourself, the agents of crime are not rational nor receptive to argument:

C17H19NO3: Education will not change those people. Those people are, for lack of a better term, defective. You cannot fix them.

Perhaps some lives will be saved, but inevitably people like Brook Bennett will still die to some madman's hand, and in their memory we'll have built distinctly un-American monuments to punishment.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:40 AM on December 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


kid ichorous, the perpetrator in my example was convicted of kidnapping and rape in 1993. He served 4.5 years in prison, then was released early from state supervison because he completed "sex offender treatment." Before that he was convicted of lewd and lascivious conduct in 1985. Now he is facing a slew of charges, including aggravated sexual assault and kidnapping.

I'm not talking about general deterrence. This isn't about making an example of anyone. This is about protecting the public.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 12:53 AM on December 24, 2008


Also, Morphine: From a psychological perspective, I'm curious as to how you conclude that someone convicted of a sexual assault is automatically defunct, and beyond the reach of any sort of therapy or treatment, because it seems strange that any one area of the law should perfectly coincide with intractable mental illness. What about people who violate animal abuse laws, or commit arson? A number of violent crimes carry higher recidivism rates than sexual assault, or a similar coincidence of mental illness, which I think might imply that they, too, are incurable.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:55 AM on December 24, 2008


( quintessencesluglord, the @username convention is strongly discouraged )
posted by ryanrs at 12:56 AM on December 24, 2008


kid ichorous, I apologize that my earlier statement was way to broad. In my mind, I was thinking of the more dangerous offenders. Obviously there is a difference between Michael Jacques and a 20 year-old that fingered his 15 year-old girlfriend.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 12:58 AM on December 24, 2008


Well I'd hesitate to draw conclusions about an entire criminal population from one example, but I'll admit I'm not sure what a just society does with such a person.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:58 AM on December 24, 2008


FYI, C17, that last statement was a response to your 12:53 post and wasn't made on preview. On re-reading it seems kind of rough. I'm pretty much in agreement with your last post. I do however feel that we have a tendency (on pretty much all fronts, not just sex crimes) to legislate with the Michael Jacqueses of the world in mind, even if they did turn out to be the rarer cases.
posted by kid ichorous at 1:25 AM on December 24, 2008


I hear ya, kid. I do not think it's an issue of legislation, I think it's an issue with the judicial system. It's quite broken and needs some fixin'.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 1:34 AM on December 24, 2008


quintessencesluglord,
I do not expect my anger to dissuade you.

"Won't you please help?"
Sure. How?

"I have a better idea! Why don't you try to work with men to devise better methods to end sexual violence."

Such as?
posted by BethanyAnne at 1:36 AM on December 24, 2008


I just want to add a male voice that agrees with navelgazer, mavri and others who can't understand the defensiveness by a few male posters -- unfortunately the only ones apparently speaking up anymore -- about education of men about rape and sexual assault.

This problem is real, it's pervasive, and it exists on a wide spectrum, from mild constant coercion to groping to forcible penetration. Several women have offered anecdotes where they DID in fact call out someone harassing them and the result was escalating aggression or violence. I'm not sure exactly how, but I think something deep about the nature of this problem is contained in that.

Attacking women who don't speak up as a source of the problem? That's kind of idiotic. A drunk stumbled out of a bar tonight, brushed against me and said "Hey, fucker." I ignored him and he stumbled on. Was I condoning and encouraging drunken aggression? Or being a pussy? Or just wisely picking my battles? Confronting him almost certainly would have led to a fight - who would be better off from that? You honestly think he would even remember?
posted by msalt at 2:19 AM on December 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


BethanyAnne

For starters, how about not completely dismissing concerns raised over rape education?

The problem as I see it is too many women use sex as commodity, and men use violence as commodity. Convincing both men and women to make better choices in their associations, to be alot more tolerant of differences (and not simply subscribing those differences to gender), and attempting to be more equitable in power sharing would do more to lessen sexual violence than even more rape education.

I also think more permissiveness would go a long way, but I tend to hold the Bonobo as an ideal and doubt many folks would be down with that.

Utopian ideas aside, I'm also open to suggestion.
posted by quintessencesluglord at 2:57 AM on December 24, 2008


Hmm, interesting. So now "I think the same could be said with rape education: it's an agenda posturing as public service" is simply "concerns raised over rape education".

Really? I thought it was dismissing the idea completely. Sorry to misread you - I didn't "get" that you were merely concerned about effectiveness. Seemed that "posturing as a public service" was designed to dustbin it as completely illegitimate.

All snark aside, I am actually open to how to get less people hurt. I understand that offending people that could become allies is not the way to go. However privilege is very very real. Many men will take any suggestion that this is a problem that involves them to mean that they themselves are being called rapists. What do you do with them? How do you break through that wall? Frankly, I have no idea. I don't know how to change this. I think you have to make it uncool somehow to act badly, and most of this deeply annoying sick society around me seems to mistake immaturity and bad behavior as signs that one is powerful and strong.

I don't know if the broken windows theory is all hogwash, but that really tends to inform how I think about this issue. I think if the people who catcall and grope *knew* deep in their bones that everyone who noticed them would express disapproval in some way, things would improve.
posted by BethanyAnne at 3:44 AM on December 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Specific to rape education, if it is primarily to re-educate men, as in:

I just don't understand the defensiveness some guys have about educating men about rape

how is it not putting the entire problem at men's feet? I'm noting another gender completely absent there.


Because women are involved in rape education practically from the moment we are born. We spend our entire childhoods being taught all of the things we are and are not supposed to do to protect ourselves from sexual assault. We are taught where to go, where not to go, which choices are "safe" and which choices are not, what we are supposed to wear, what sort of sexual behaviour makes us "good girls" and what sort of behaviour gets us branded "sluts." We hear it every day of our lives and not just from parents and teachers but in the messages we receive from the culture in which we live and in the way we are treated by men. Prevention of rape has been laid almost entirely at our feet for many, many years. So I'm not going to get all teary-eyed and beg for forgiveness because you had to go to a few rape-prevention seminars or sensitivity training sessions. You want things to change? Then be the change you want to see and encourage other men to do the same.
posted by lysistrata at 4:38 AM on December 24, 2008 [24 favorites]


I just want to add a male voice that agrees with navelgazer, mavri and others who can't understand the defensiveness by a few male posters -- unfortunately the only ones apparently speaking up anymore -- about education of men about rape and sexual assault.

Same here, and I'd like to apologize for my gender; apparently we can't let a single thread about girls being raped and Not-raped go by, no matter how horrific the instances in the link, without letting everyone know that men are the real victims because we have to sit through sex-ed classes and worry about unfair rape accusations. Ah well, at least the thread went well for quite a while.
posted by languagehat at 5:24 AM on December 24, 2008 [8 favorites]


kid ichorous: "In other countries, 15 or younger is marrying age. You know why that is? Because biology says its OK.

The Straightener: Actually, it's usually more because the paternalistic theocracy in many of these countries says it's okay for girls to be traded between families like livestock.


Nice. So Germany (14-16), France (15), Iceland (15), and a host of other heretofore "progressive" nations are now to be dismissed as theocratic hinterlands the very instant they clash with a lower bound on sex and drinking. Because it's just not possible that they got it right, and we wrong, is it?
"


Actually, being allowed to marry at 15 doesn't mean that your consent isn't required. Thanks for the great post, I'll go back to the blog for further reading.
posted by nicolin at 5:38 AM on December 24, 2008


I wonder what, if any, the statistical data is on amounts of reported rape in places where prostitution is legal. Obviously, some or maybe even most men commit the act out of desires much worse than just sexual congress, but... I just wonder if there would be less rape if prositution was legal.
posted by Bageena at 7:20 AM on December 24, 2008



Nice. So Germany (14-16), France (15), Iceland (15), and a host of other heretofore "progressive" nations are now to be dismissed as theocratic hinterlands the very instant they clash with a lower bound on sex and drinking. Because it's just not possible that they got it right, and we wrong, is it?


Oh, fucking please. Reread the original comment:

As gross as it may be to me personally, if they can do the deed, then it doesn't matter if they do it with another 15 year old or a 90 year old.

Where do you think the greatest incidences of underage girls being married to elderly men occurs, in fucking Iceland or Saudi Arabia?
posted by The Straightener at 7:21 AM on December 24, 2008


I think about this-- is this enough to make you understand what women go through? Really, can you imagine someone filming a crotch-grab of a male presidential candidate, or that it would have the same implication of power and humiliation? When I saw this I saw millennia of sexual threat used to keep women down. These guys are you, Metafilter-- educated, liberal, committed to gender equality. And yet they thought this was funny, and further, thought it entirely appropriate to photograph and post publicly.

So go ahead, be offended by rape education. But remember that just as women must work hard to overcome centuries of a cultural imperative that says be quiet, lie back and take it, men must work to overcome centuries of accepting their sexual dominance and using it to oppress.
posted by nax at 7:30 AM on December 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


BethanyAnne

Well, when you completely omit the first part of the sentence

Just as my friend commented "only white people talk about multi-culturalism... everyone already knows what the dominate culture is", and dismissed sensitivity training as creating more stereotype problems than it solved; I think the same could be said with rape education: it's an agenda posturing as public service, and the whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

ignore supporting parts

Rape eduction that I've witnessed does nothing to foster open dialogue

(exceedingly one-sided, completely at odds with what I witnessed with how people interact in relationships, and a complete dismal of opposing concerns)


conflate different ideas

Rape is less of a problem than symptomatic of a very fucked-up sexual culture. And instead of laying the entire thing at the feet of men and saying "fix it"
(in relation to the sexual culture)

All I am saying is that I think the problems are way deeper than can be adequately addressed by education alone, and I also have reservations as to what that education entails. (also in relation to the sexual culture)

yeah, I could see how I could be completely misread.
posted by quintessencesluglord at 7:34 AM on December 24, 2008


I have this thought experiment:

"Innocent until proven guilty" no longer applies to accusations of sexual assault. As long as the accused cannot show that the accusation is impossible, ie, he was not in the place at the time, there were witnesses the whole time, etc, he will be convicted of sexual assault and punished.

This would so neatly reverse the burden of the risk of rape and the work of rape prevention. Instead of women being at the mercy of unscrupulous men, men would be at the mercy of unscrupulous women. Men would have to worry about how they should behave, who they should be alone with, where they go when, whether it's worth the risk to be out and about alone and unaccounted for, how well they know someone before they'll be alone with her, the fact that you can never really know someone well enough to really know, the uncertainty about how angry he can make her or what he can say to her before she'll consider using this handy tool that's available to her for significantly damaging his life, etc.

Yeah, men would end up in jail who hadn't raped, but as long as that number isn't higher than the number of women who are raped, we're not really any worse off, communally.

Is that terrifying? It should be. But not more so than the world that women live in now.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:43 AM on December 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


in some of these situations, the victims made poor decisions which put them in a position to be hurt

While on its face this is true, there is so much of the broader context that you're missing in making this statement. For example, the fact that it is fundamentally unfair that some actions are "poor decisions" for women and not men - like walking alone at night. The reason that this is a poor decision lies with the threat of rape, which does not come from the victim - so why should that victim be less "protected" because of it?

Similarly, the cultural mores and socialization that lead victims to make "poor decisions" (not fighting back, for example) are also not of the victim, and again, something I would argue the victim should not be made to answer for.

I hope I don't cross the line into being glib, but in essence the foundation of your logic is that if each person who finds themself in a situation like this - what is almost always a frightening situation where thinking clearly is difficult to begin with - does not somehow muster the wherewithal to overcome a lifetime of socialization, then they should not be entitled to full recourse. You say our education system needs to emphasize that all persons will be better protected when the victims are taught good decision-making skills, but is it the victim's fault if they for some reason weren't taught that? Certainly everyone should learn how to limit the chances of their being victimized, but the happy circumstance of having had that shouldn't make some people entitled to "better protection" than others.

I think that overcoming all of this in what is frequently a split-second and fraught decision is more than we can reasonably demand of victims who are by definition vulnerable. You are dead on when you say I think the whole subject needs a complete rewrite in our minds. However, it's those who wield the power - those who sustain and benefit from the cultural hegemony - who are in a better position to make the change; and therefore it's fair to look to them for that change, and to expect a little more vigilance from them in the process.
posted by AV at 7:43 AM on December 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


I am soooo baffled by the Jon Favreau pic you linked to, Nax. I've seen it on news sources EVERYWHERE. It. Is. So. Obviously. PHOTOSHOPPED. Look at that hand!!! I don't get it. I really don't. Somebody please, please explain why its become ok to ruin this man's reputation over a bogus photo?
posted by iamkimiam at 7:44 AM on December 24, 2008


I don't want to get too much into this minefield, but I believe there exist monkey studies that directly contradict this statement. (Alphas want exclusive access to females (exclusive polygamy), females want to increase genetic diversity, so their children don't end up looking like Hapsburgs (infidelity).)

FWIW, what you are saying actually repeats what I said. Polygamy and infidelity disprove marriage as a "biology thing".
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:55 AM on December 24, 2008


Um.... if we're talking about rape and sexual assault, aren't these crimes that are overwhelmingly committed by men?

Unfortunately, this will change as gender equality takes hold. I don't believe it will ever come anywhere close to being equal, but women will be charged more and more often. You'll start to see a more complete understanding by men then.

Let me tell you a couple of things that happened to me that really opened my eyes. I'm a guy.

The first was a drunken, tearful admission by my friend's girlfriend that while working as an aide at some sort of facility or home, she had masturbated to climax a man suffering from very severe dementia or something like it. The man was essentially unconscious, and at no time gave any consent, or indicated that he was aware of what happened. My friend's girlfriend was indeed a troubled soul, an alcoholic with serious problems. She was also stunning, so it was certainly a question of power, not of sexual release.

Amazingly, I didn't feel angry or offended when she confessed this to me, despite the fact that she had described first-degree sexual assault. Frankly, it was rape, pure and simple.

The second story happened to me. I used to run an hour a day in Washington, DC's Rock Creek Park. As I was running one day I saw some chunky guy stopped 200 feet ahead of me pulling up their shirt. I remember thinking "why is that guy pulling up his shirt?"

As I ran closer, I realized it was an overweight woman who was fondling herself up top. She made a direct appeal for something which I knew I wasn't going to do. I burst out laughing and ran on by. Frankly, I left the scene feeling guilty for laughing. I wondered if I had hurt her feelings. Technically I had been the victim of indecent exposure, but I never felt threatened.

I'd bet there are a lot more stories like mine out there. I felt totally unharmed by the experience, but I'm certain there will be a sensational story of some other men who were seriously victimized by a woman or women in some situation. It is only going to take one henious case to start to open men's eyes on this.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:09 AM on December 24, 2008


quintessencesluglord: how is it not putting the entire problem at men's feet? I'm noting another gender completely absent there.

No, because saying that we should be educating men about rape is not an exclusive statement that we should ONLY be educating men about rape. And in fact, the linked article advocates giving young women the skills to recognize, fight back, and report sexual violence, exploitation and abuse.

All I am saying is that I think the problems are way deeper than can be adequately addressed by education alone, and I also have reservations as to what that education entails.

Certainly. And I don't see that anyone has been pretending that is the case. But the basic facts of the mater are that confidential interviews and surveys continue to reveal that an astonishing number of men believe some misconceptions about rape: that they are entitled to sex if they pay for a date, that it's permissible to have sex if the woman refuses, that drunkenness equals consent. As these myths are much less prevalent among women than among men, it seems there is gap that can be filled with some form of public awareness advertising and education.

Just as we target advertising and education in regards to AIDS at the populations that seem to have the most misconceptions. Just as we target advertising and education in regards to DUI at the populations that are at greatest risk. Just as we target advertising and education towards teen men regrading their legal requirements for selective service.

People have differing ideas as to what constitutes legally actionable rape, what is reasonable action (the infamous Antioch College sex contract), or even how to best address the situation. Clear cases of assault aren't what is at issue, and in any case, it is doubtful education would have really made a difference to Jeffery Dahmer.

Which highlights part of the problem. So much of these discussions focus on the boundaries of what people can get away with legally. There are many things I dislike about Dan Savage but his observation that straights really need to do more talking about sex is an important one. Which leads directly to what I see as morally and ethically bankrupt caterwauling about the Antioch College suggestion. From my perspective critics of the suggestion come across as annoying and uptight church ladies, complaining about one of the best, and potentially kinkiest forms of foreplay. I suspect that the words "wanna fuck?" will turn me on until the day I die.

But there is an interesting conflict that keeps coming up in these discussions. It seems that many men are concerned about ethical boundaries that, in the worst case scenario, could lead to an accusation of sexual misconduct to varying degrees, including rape. But at the same time, these same men are strongly resistant to adopting behaviors that can clarify those ethical boundaries: having frank conversations with parters about sex, having sex when sober, and knowing your partner. To me, it seems that these arguments swirl around wanting to have your cake and eat it too: the privilege of risky sex without the potential consequences.

I have a better idea! Why don't you try to work with men to devise better methods to end sexual violence.

Pardon, but isn't that exactly how these education efforts have come about?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:46 AM on December 24, 2008 [6 favorites]


Rape is less of a problem than symptomatic of a very fucked-up sexual culture. And instead of laying the entire thing at the feet of men and saying "fix it" (in relation to the sexual culture)

All I am saying is that I think the problems are way deeper than can be adequately addressed by education alone, and I also have reservations as to what that education entails. (also in relation to the sexual culture)


You think these supporting statements make your arguments stronger or less offensive? You think you're being misread? What I read you as saying is that you see women laying the entire thing at men's feet and saying fix it. On what planet? Women--lots and lots of women--have been trying very very hard to fix this for a very very long time. We've now gone beyond thinking (hoping?) that just teaching girls and women will fix it, because it obviously won't. And, yes, we want men to help. Why wouldn't good men want to help? The answer to that question is that they do want to help, as several men in this thread have piped up to say.

On the other hand, I can see how a man who thinks that it is "callousness and privilege . . . to forc[e] an entire gender to be educated in not doing anything that could be misconstrued as rape" would not want to help. How callous of us women to want men to stop doing things that can be "miscontrued" as rape. Again, am I misreading you? Because the use of the word "misconstrued" reads to me as, "Oh, honey, you weren't raped, you were [being a slut/asking for it/dressed provactively/using sex as a commodity/saing yes with your eyes]. You misconstrued the situation."
posted by Mavri at 8:49 AM on December 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


And, just to be clear, I think it is the situations where something may have been "miscontrued"--the woman was assaulted and the man didn't know it--are the ones where education is necessary and helpful. No, education won't help Dahmer. But KirkJobSluder just posted a list of common misconceptions about rape held by men. Those are the situations where education will help.
posted by Mavri at 9:04 AM on December 24, 2008


As I ran closer, I realized it was an overweight woman who was fondling herself up top. ...Technically I had been the victim of indecent exposure, but I never felt threatened.

Well, that's kind of the nub of it, dontcha think? If men never beat or rape women, flashing, groping, and insulting women wouldn't really be that significant either. Because women would be free to hit, kick and insult the perp back.
posted by msalt at 9:14 AM on December 24, 2008


For example, the fact that it is fundamentally unfair that some actions are "poor decisions" for women and not men - like walking alone at night. The reason that this is a poor decision lies with the threat of rape, which does not come from the victim - so why should that victim be less "protected" because of it?

A couple of things--first, I did not say that the woman should be less protected and I don't think working to help people make smart decisions is saying that. There's not a reason on Earth to not help people make decisions that make them safer. No ideology should ever trump this.

Second, the fact that it is inadvisable for women to walk in certain places has nothing to do with the moral culpability of anyone. In July, a male friend of mine was shot twice and robbed walking through a bad neighborhood. It isn't blaming the victim to say that it was not a smart idea for him to be walking through that neighborhood, late at night while drunk.

That has been the thing that struck me about the main link of these posts--that many of the situations described involved situations where a series of very poor decisions were made by the women in question. Those decisions did not make them morally culpable in the least. In the short-term, foccusing more on women's abilities to make smart decisions in these matters is going to do more than anything else. Frankly, that is exactly what boys are taught--to actively resist the violence and aggression boys and men engage in every day. There is almost no emphasis on the institution of collective protection from that aggression. We were not told to tell a teacher when we are bullied. We were told to suck it up and fight back, even if those who were aggressive were bigger, stronger or faster than us. Moms, Dads and coaches everywhere taught us the basic fighting stance, how to ball a fist, how to guard our face with our fists and how to hit hard. We are taught both by experience and our peers and elders how to actively resist. In other words, how to engage others with aggressive intent. I'm not saying that women need to be taught how to put their dukes up, but the stories linked to often seemed to have a decision point where the women's ability to resist was overcome by the pressure of difficult decisions needed to be made quickly in the face of aggression. I don't think it is a question of genetics, but of training. Women need to get some more training in these situations. Maybe they do need to be trained in boxing--making decisions while being physically struck by other women in controlled circmstances--it really teaches you to think.

That's why I was blown away by a comment above: "These micro- and macro-aggressions happen so often to many girls and women that it's exhausting to object forcefully every fucking time, and that doesn't include the complexities involved in deciding whether it's dangerous to say something, or say something more forcefully." The problem is that these are exactly the things which aggressors depend upon. They are putting people in difficult situations, hoping to overwhelm them. For that, the lessons of the playground and the gym provide excellent training for the far more difficult situation of being the subject of an assault while an adult. Being tired of it isn't an issue. The stakes are too high.

So it is strange to me to see the power imbalance situations being entered into in the linked essay. My reaction would be to fight, even if the man was bigger and larger.

That's why I think part of the problem is that women are often socialized towards conflict avoidance too much when it comes to this.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:27 AM on December 24, 2008


I'm going to ignore a lot of the above, especially the "WHAT ABOUTS THE MALE RAPES?" jive that gets thrown out too often when dudes are momentarily out of the spotlight and respond to one of the things raised: that anti-rape education is condescending bullshit, basically.

Which, y'know, it kind of is. I totally understand the frustration, and the tendency to dismiss it, similar to sexual harassment workshops or anti-theft videos. The unfortunate fact is that from filmstrips on, nearly every overtly didactic educational program is earnest and boring and most of it is what you already know. That's not to say that anti-rape education isn't a good thing, or a good goal, or that plenty of people couldn't use it, it's just that I think that because of the inherent seriousness and ugliness of the topic, most attempts to educate fall into a sort of weird production group-think, where the SERIOUS BUSINESS aspect is magnified to the point of self-parody.

I don't really have a solution to this, except that folks involved in making these should probably try to screen them to 13-year-old boys, who will be the most callow audience and thus the ones most likely to give honst feedback.
posted by klangklangston at 9:49 AM on December 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


Well, that's kind of the nub of it, dontcha think? If men never beat or rape women, flashing, groping, and insulting women wouldn't really be that significant either. Because women would be free to hit, kick and insult the perp back.

But the funny thing is that the woman was way bigger than me. I weighed about 150 at the time and she must have had 70 pounds and an inch or two on me. But most men (and I suspect most women) are taught to believe than any man can physically overwhelm any woman. Therefore it never occured to me that she would harm me.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:50 AM on December 24, 2008


That has been the thing that struck me about the main link of these posts--that many of the situations described involved situations where a series of very poor decisions were made by the women in question.

What women? Almost every single story in the linked article involved underaged girls.
posted by lysistrata at 9:52 AM on December 24, 2008


KirkJobSluder

Forgot the nice shoes part.

For the most part I agree, but again it goes both ways. Everyone contributes to the sexual culture, and as men may feel entitled to sex after dinner or whatnot, so do some women. Everyone else is caught in-between.

Something like enthusiastic consent might help to reduce instances of miscommunication, but that isn't being advocated also as a means of reducing sexual violence, and again, not everyone practices it. Further, I have misgivings of a codified courtship process, and even more with how I've witnessed rape education transpire (ex. if both parties are drunk, neither can consent, but it is portrayed as the man raping the woman) and the inanities it sometimes produces, like the Antioch contract, caterwauling or no. Not everyone wants to buy into that.

And again, if people have differences as to what constitutes rape, educating them as to the gray areas of law really isn't helping to change the culture, and may actually reinforce beliefs which lead to sexual violence. The disagreement is more fundamental, and besides I haven't noticed the DARE program has been anymore successful in reducing drug use.

And education efforts evolve. Not addressing concerns raised is the surest way to make the information fall on deaf ears.
posted by quintessencesluglord at 10:08 AM on December 24, 2008


'm going to ignore a lot of the above, especially the "WHAT ABOUTS THE MALE RAPES?" jive that gets thrown out too often when dudes are momentarily out of the spotlight

Google News results for "woman rape victim" (11,697 hits)

Google News results for "rape 'male victim'" (4 hits)

Google News results for "'prison rape'" (65 hits, and most of them deal with male perpetrators of rape against female victims)

The reason for the lack of parallel searches is because "man rape victim" produces 8,500 hits which discuss male perpetrators of rape against female victims. It's more or less impossible to craft a news search that produces any significant number of links or stories devoted to male victims of rape. "Momentarily out of the spotlight," indeed.

I'll try to respond to some of the other comments later, especially the one that seems to suggest excusing men being in jeopardy of false accusations of rape because women are in some kind of comparable jeopardy of being raped.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 10:30 AM on December 24, 2008


I'd like to apologize for my gender; apparently we can't let a single thread about girls being raped and Not-raped go by, no matter how horrific the instances in the link, without letting everyone know that men are the real victims because we have to sit through sex-ed classes and worry about unfair rape accusations. Ah well, at least the thread went well for quite a while.

Repeated for emphasis.

Merry Christmas, freedom fighters.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:37 AM on December 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's more or less impossible to craft a news search that produces any significant number of links or stories devoted to male victims of rape.

Wow, dude. I think you and I are often on the same "side" during these discussions, but are you actually suggesting that the scale of male victims is comparable to female victims? And that the reason there are less google hits about male victims is some social conspiracy?
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 10:45 AM on December 24, 2008


iamkimiam it doesn't matter that it was photoshopped. Someone thought it was appropriate to photoshop it. If this was dirty tricks, I am very sorry that the young man was also victimized, but it doesn't change the fact that someone thought an image charge with sexual violence and humiliation was a good way to target Hilary Clinton.

However, point taken.
posted by nax at 10:46 AM on December 24, 2008


are you actually suggesting that the scale of male victims is comparable to female victims? And that the reason there are less google hits about male victims is some social conspiracy?

I'm not who you are responding to, but it wouldn't surprise me if the incidents of violent rape were comparable so long as you include rape in prisons, which we mostly don't. And yes, I consider the almost complete indifference to rape in prisons to be a form of social conspiracy against those most unable to defend themselves.
posted by Justinian at 11:27 AM on December 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'd like to apologize for my gender; apparently we can't...

Please don't. You don't speak for men anymore than the douchebags who conflate mandatory sexual harassment seminars with being sent to the gulag.
posted by electroboy at 11:28 AM on December 24, 2008


Sure it targets HRC, and makes Favreau a victim too. It also makes him the perp, which is very different. There are better examples out there. I just wanted to point this out because I like the idea of a young extremely talented 27 y/o becoming Obama's chief speech writer. I don't want to see him fired or his name tarnished, and Obama's message of hope and good faith undermined in the process.

Also, the Favreau example is an extreme gray area. Sadly, it's bringing out the worst assumptions in people. Truth is, we do not know context or motivation...hell, we don't even know if that hand was merely holding the poster or a misaligned attempt at a simulated sexual grab. We don't know what the hand was doing before it was photoshopped. Or the motivation for the picture being posted on the internet. And then promptly taken down. Or who posted it. Or photoshopped it. We don't know Jon Favreau's relationship with HRC. His apology to Clinton, and her statement about the situation should both carry some weight. It's interesting that her statement dismissed the incident, and she wants us to believe that she was not offended, thinks the whole thing was funny and harmless. So why do so many come to her defense, saying that her interpretation of the situation was wrong, and that he should still be punished? Is it possible that she knows something we don't? That she sees the situation differently? I think so. Perhaps we should take her lead on this one.

And nax, I hope you are not taking this personally. I'm not attacking you and I mean no offense. That picture is just a hot button issue for me. It symbolizes all the quickfire negativity and jaded cynicism I've been seeing so much of lately. It's harshing my Festivus mellow. But I'm glad you posted it, because it allows us to look at the situation closely and tease apart all the factors, seeing a little bit more about how American socialization and expectations and standards play into all this. Especially for the gray area cases.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:32 AM on December 24, 2008


Please don't.

Tell you what, you don't tell me what not to say and I won't tell you what not to say; does that work for you?
posted by languagehat at 11:50 AM on December 24, 2008


Tell you what, you don't tell me what not to say and I won't tell you what not to say; does that work for you?

Take it how you will. I just think that offering one's apologies on behalf of a group are more to differentiate the apologizer from the group than for any sincere reason.
posted by electroboy at 12:44 PM on December 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Four results

Seriously, it's totally bullshit to try to argue any thesis based on the number of google news results, especially regarding a relative paucity; to attempt to do so because you're not feeling properly appreciated in a thread about sexual violence directed at women is tone-deaf and gauche, and you shouldn't have to be told that.
posted by klangklangston at 1:47 PM on December 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Best poem ever.
posted by Restless Day at 2:00 PM on December 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


The Straightener: Where do you think the greatest incidences of underage girls being married to elderly men occurs, in fucking Iceland or Saudi Arabia?

Nonetheless, my point was simply that if 15 constitutes underage to you, you're indicting more than a fair piece of progressive Europe along with the rest.
posted by kid ichorous at 3:14 PM on December 24, 2008


And Utah, a state undoubtedly steered by theocratic influence, sets one of the highest ages of consent in the US (18), which again flies against the idea that lower ages and religious atavism are intertwined.
posted by kid ichorous at 3:19 PM on December 24, 2008


Restless, that is gross!
posted by kid ichorous at 3:20 PM on December 24, 2008


Funny incident today--im staying with family and my little cousin was watching tv and he kept repeating "no you're not my mom get away from me" and "no you're not my dad get away from me!" So I asked him (he's 4 going on 5) and he said that they taught him to say that if a stranger tried to grab him and then hit the stranger on the arm and run away and hide. If that's what they are teaching the kids today, that's great. As I said up thread, I think that some active resistance is needed--aggressors are emboldened by a failure to resist. Let's hope this spreads far and wide.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:29 PM on December 24, 2008


Kid Ichorous, actually, Utah's example is the exact opposite. It has to do with mainstream Mormons wanting to be able to prosecute polygamous Mormons-- who *do* have high numbers of underage marriages. The main Mormon church wants to forget its polygamous past-- and so they do everything possible to distance themselves from the polygamists, including claiming that they aren't even Mormons and making these kinds of laws.

But there are 10,000 FLDS members alone, mostly living in Utah and on the AZ/Utah border-- and thousands of Mormon polygamists who are not connected with that particular group but not in the main church either and who do often engage in underage marriage.

Regarding rape education, the problem is by the time people are being mandated to have the kind of classes some are complaining about here, it's way too late.

If you teach empathy early in life, you can dramatically reduce all forms of aggression. Rape is one of the many crimes that result from a failure of empathy. If you emphasize forms of parenting and education that produce empathy, you will still certainly need good sex education as well but the whole concept of rape is alien to people who care about what their partner is experiencing. "Empathetic rapist" is an oxymoron.
posted by Maias at 7:40 PM on December 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


The male population of the US is 148,407,279. According to this, reported rapes in 1995 numbered 97,460. It lists unreported rapes as 649,733. Neither of these figures are a good thing.

However, using the unreported rape total, and assuming that each rape was committed by a single individual male, we see that .4 percent of the male population are rapists. Less than one half of one percent.

Just something to keep in mind when you wonder why some men get upset when they hear things like "men are the problem."
posted by theroadahead at 2:12 AM on December 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mavri

If you really can't understand how distasteful it is to force someone into accepting something they do not wish to take part in (or find to be egregious bullshit), then we really have nothing to discuss.
posted by quintessencesluglord at 5:18 AM on December 25, 2008


If you really can't understand how distasteful it is to force someone into accepting something they do not wish to take part in (or find to be egregious bullshit), then we really have nothing to discuss.

Given that this is a thread about rape, I hope you can see the irony in your statement.
posted by Forktine at 8:15 AM on December 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


I understand that offending people that could become allies is not the way to go. However privilege is very very real. Many men will take any suggestion that this is a problem that involves them to mean that they themselves are being called rapists. What do you do with them? How do you break through that wall?

That's trivial; if women sexually rewarded guys for knocking down sexually aggressive attitudes in their peers, to same of greater extent to how women sexually reward guys for having and acting on those attitudes, the world would change overnight.

But (for example) as long as society deems promiscuity to be so massively, terribly the-worst-thing-you-can-possibly-be bad, then a lot of women will continue to rationally respond by sexually rewarding only men who are aggressive enough to give lip service to the lie that she wouldn't normally do that. She can't risk being "easy".

So if we can reverse social condemnation of promiscuity... and celebrate it instead!

I'm phrasing it like a joke, because it's kind of funny in a way, but I wonder if people might be surprised at how many young men who were raised in the last 30 years, come to resent having been being brought up without aggressive attitudes only to discover the hard way that in the real world, they're at a disadvantage because of this. Some of whom then set about becoming more aggressive - and are often quickly rewarded for doing so.

I think the bigger problem with the current educational approach is that it's assumed that because it's education, that it's building a fence at the top of the cliff, but it's really just another ambulance at the bottom of the cliff - it's targeting symptoms instead of causes.
posted by -harlequin- at 9:53 AM on December 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


if women sexually rewarded guys for knocking down sexually aggressive attitudes in their peers, to same of greater extent to how women sexually reward guys for having and acting on those attitudes, the world would change overnight.

Sexually reward? Sexually reward?? You have got to be kidding me. Women have every right to use our sexuality for our own pleasure and not as a tool of social engineering! For fuck's sake! It's the very idea that women's sexuality exists for any other purpose than our own use and enjoyment that partially underlies the entire problem!
posted by Salamandrous at 10:15 AM on December 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


Given that this is a thread about rape, I hope you can see the irony in your statement.

Gee, would you also like to point out the irony that Dahmer raped and murdered men too?

ironies abound
posted by quintessencesluglord at 10:33 AM on December 25, 2008


Salamandrous: You misunderstand me.
posted by -harlequin- at 10:53 AM on December 25, 2008


To the guys upset about being "forced" into rape education: have you really thought through how women and girls might feel kind of constantly hounded by men, both strangers and acquaintances, whose intentions can't be fully known in the moment but clearly include some aggression and/or violence?

Imagine an alternate universe where about half the population are very butch, muscular creatures much bigger than you, who you know want to penetrate you anally (you can imagine them to be gay men, or space aliens or gorillas who speak English, it doesn't really matter.) You are propositioned, leered at, brushed up against, groped or insulted EVERY SINGLE DAY. You know rapes happen, it's not clear how often because people don't want to talk about it, but friends have told you their horrifying experiences, and maybe you've been a victim yourself. You also know that people who complain about this harassment are often screamed at, not infrequently beaten and sometimes raped as a result.

Now imagine if some of these creatures told you it was your fault for not complaining more, or that you should be more careful, or that it was unfair to educate the harassers in an attempt to reduce problems, since most of them are not rapists. Do you think you would find that reasonable? Can you see how that might seem a bit clueless and self-centered?
posted by msalt at 2:09 PM on December 25, 2008 [7 favorites]


harlequin: That's trivial; if women sexually rewarded guys for knocking down sexually aggressive attitudes in their peers, to same of greater extent to how women sexually reward guys for having and acting on those attitudes, the world would change overnight.
[...]
I'm phrasing it like a joke, because it's kind of funny in a way, but I wonder if people might be surprised at how many young men who were raised in the last 30 years, come to resent having been being brought up without aggressive attitudes only to discover the hard way that in the real world, they're at a disadvantage because of this. Some of whom then set about becoming more aggressive - and are often quickly rewarded for doing so.
Favorited, I wish I could favorite this a hundred times.

As a man raised in the last 30 years, harlequin's comment about "resenting having been brought up without agressive attitudes only to discover... they're at a disadvantage because of this" really resonated. I am the child of a family with a very strong, feminist mother and two older, feminist sisters, and as such I wouldn't remotely consider rape, or even aggressiveness, as attributes to be desired. There's too much "Free to Be... You and Me" in me for that kind of nonsense.

So yes- it is frustrating to hear "men are the problem" in any shape, or to suggest that I have any more responsibility to preventing rape than I do to prevent muggings by attending "You shouldn't be a mugger!" seminars or educational sessions. Bad things happen, but the world is not made of all bad people. As Jessamyn said above, both men and women simply have to learn that some people are easily set off, and that sucks, and you hopefully avoid it, de-escalate, or otherwise learn to handle it. And as noted above, even if there's a 1:1 relation between rapes and rapists, that still means that less than half a percent of men are rapists. That's a brush 200 times too broad.

Quite frankly, as much as people like to paint the "nice guys are actually the worst bastards of all because the niceness is a facade" picture, some people are genuinely just nice. And it seems they may be punished for it. There are genuinely nice guys who a) don't rape, b) don't sexually assault, and c) cannot fathom why a guy like "Puffy" in the linked post wouldn't be shunned to the point of utter and complete celibacy and isolation after even one inappropriate grope. No wonder he's aggressive- has anyone told that guy "no" until he was put in prison?!

That girls and women do encourage- for whatever reason, even if through silent complicity- the kind of Sleazy P. Martini tactics and maneuverings does make some of us ask "Well what else can I do?". I'm not acting that way, and I'm certainly not rewarded for it. I've known sleazy guys, who I don't think are rapists, but who I do think are flat-out sleeeeeazy... and it's not hurting them, or at least far less than my own passivity is. Why should they change, when it's- to put it bluntly- not costing them one iota in the punani department?

Salamandrous, what you're missing is harlequin's point that whether you like it or not, the way girls and women react and respond to men is inherently social engineering. You choose to make choices, and if you choose the sleazy douchebag just because he's "cool" or "bad" or "confident" or what-the-fuck-ever, you're only reinforcing a) his continued douchebaggery; if he's getting laid despite- or because of- his childish narcissism, why would he change, b) overall douchebaggery, because plenty of male fence-sitters might think "I guess that's what women want", and c) the outlier of the bell curve will, because of a) and b), become more extreme or more prevalent to the point of being rapists.


I'm painfully, desperately, suicidally alone, and the number one thing I hear from women if the topic is me is that "Hey, you're a great guy- you just need to be more confident!" I have to ask: why is confidence sexy? And what is confidence? Is it an air of entitlement, believing you're God's gift to women? Is it a Don Draper-esque assertiveness?

I'll never understand the women liking confidence thing. That's like saying "I only buy products with the most thorough advertising, regardless of their actual merit!" Women reinforce male aggressiveness by rewarding it, or by suggesting that "boys will be boys" whether it's playground fighting or sexually inappropriate actions. If acting like the alpha male or the "strong, masculine type" gets a guy laid, he will continue to do that. If the quieter, more polite guys were knee-deep in pussy, other guys would start acting that way, too. Proof of that can be seen in the way women adjust to attract men- makeup, clothes, behavior, "The Rules", the anti-rules, playing hard to get, playing easy to get- it's all social engineering, Salamandrous. And everyone does it, whether they realize it or not.
posted by hincandenza at 2:46 PM on December 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


Salamandrous, what you're missing is harlequin's point that whether you like it or not, the way girls and women react and respond to men is inherently social engineering. You choose to make choices, and if you choose the sleazy douchebag just because he's "cool" or "bad" or "confident" or what-the-fuck-ever, you're only reinforcing a) his continued douchebaggery; if he's getting laid despite- or because of- his childish narcissism, why would he change, b) overall douchebaggery, because plenty of male fence-sitters might think "I guess that's what women want", and c) the outlier of the bell curve will, because of a) and b), become more extreme or more prevalent to the point of being rapists.

Whoa, hincandenza, way to blame your own feelings of inadequacy on the entirety of the other gender. Sorry, but the only person, uh, kneedeep in my punani (and how nice of you to use that terminology) is polite, thoughtful, generous, and generally horrified by people around him who act sexually aggressive. I have a feeling that's the case for tons of metafilter women. Telling us that it's our job not to "reward" sexual aggression would be akin to telling men that it's their fault that Rules women exist, because you reward their behavior by having sex with them. It's a ludicrous way to avoid holding the person who's acting out-of-hand accountable.

Look, sexism is a complex social institution in which many of us, mostly unthinkingly, participate. But saying that only women encourage sexually boorish behavior, through the "reward" of sex (and, as Salamandrous says, it's pretty absurd to suggest that we need to use our sexuality for a tool of social engineering) is just insane. Yes, sexist attitudes exist, in both men and women. Pinning it entirely on either gender is clearly not going to solve the problem. Instead, we need to work together to eradicate these attitudes. Don't like it when a woman says "boys will be boys"? Well, then, speak up! I definitely would, and I would admire a man who would do likewise.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:23 PM on December 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


educate the harassers in an attempt to reduce problems, since most of them are not rapists

"educate members of the group from which most harrassers come," or something, I would submit. (Since "educate the harrassers" could be interpreted as "all men are the problem," which is a blanket generalization that I don't think anyone here has actually made, but it's obviously a raw nerve, and I don't doubt that guys encounter such statements point blank elsewhere.

I've been thinking about how to phrase things to make it clear that

all men are not the problem;
some men, to varying degrees, are the problem;
it's impossible to mandate sexual ethics classes in schools, which would be the most efficient way of teaching girls and boys healthier ways of thinking about what it means to become and be sexual;
therefore, most women and men could contribute to bettering norms by initiating and participating in open discussions like these;
however, (I gather) talking about this kind of thing just isn't done among most boys or men;
it's impractical to distinguish guys who would never sexually harass or assault, from those who are clueless about social cues and body language (or overly invested in alpha-male type ideas of how men "should" behave sexually) and so may not realize that what they're doing is harassment or assault, from those who would never "rape" but think "it's ok to have sex with a woman if I paid for the date even if she protests,";
so, how else is there to put the topic on the table in the first place, except by educational programs in, say, college, or by HR?
yes, such programs are bound to be clumsy if not periodically reconceptualized and better executed so as not to alienate the "guys who would never";
and, re-tooling norms for girls and women has to happen too, and the foundation for that is open discussions amongst them on blogs and IRL, about concrete ways to re-tool, like Ironmouth's advocacy of physical training;
so what can we come up with that could make it normal, or at least not freakishly bizarre, for open discussion of these kinds of topics amongst men, not just on blogs but IRL?
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 3:39 PM on December 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm painfully, desperately, suicidally alone, and the number one thing I hear from women if the topic is me is that "Hey, you're a great guy- you just need to be more confident!" I have to ask: why is confidence sexy? And what is confidence? Is it an air of entitlement, believing you're God's gift to women? Is it a Don Draper-esque assertiveness?

Confidence is sexy because it is an indication that the other person values his/herself and hence can value you. Honestly, I think it's pretty much that simple -- self-confidence indicates that you are a complete person who won't need handholding at every moment, and can take care of yourself. And it's polite -- being able to say "I want X" (to go on a date with you, to eat Chinese food tonight, to never see that band again) is socially a lot easier than the person who demands others come to them, guessing and fishing for what they want.

I'll never understand the women liking confidence thing. That's like saying "I only buy products with the most thorough advertising, regardless of their actual merit!" Women reinforce male aggressiveness by rewarding it, or by suggesting that "boys will be boys" whether it's playground fighting or sexually inappropriate actions..

Your conflation of confidence and aggression is completely, 100% wrong, I think. (In fact, I think aggression is often a mask for a lack of confidence, in the way a cat backed into a corner will hiss and puff up its fur to look bigger.) When people say to act confident, they aren't saying "be aggressive," and they certainly aren't saying "be inappropriately aggressive." They are saying that you should have pride in yourself, act like an upstanding person who owns the space he is standing in, and use that strength of self to treat people well and fairly.

If acting like the alpha male or the "strong, masculine type" gets a guy laid, he will continue to do that. If the quieter, more polite guys were knee-deep in pussy, other guys would start acting that way, too

How on earth is "strong and masculine" incompatible with "quiet and polite"? I guess you and I have very different ideas of masculinity, but I tend to think of ("traditional" or stereotypical) masculinity as like the cliche "feo, fuerte, y formal," which I think loosely translates as ugly, strong, and dignified. Meaning, not narcissistic, focused on others more than self, and self-confident.

If what you are doing isn't getting you laid, or at least flirted with on a daily basis, then you are doing it wrong. Are you sure you are being "quiet and polite"? Or are you being a total wuss, to put it harshly? Even the politest and milquetoast-ish guy needs to be willing to take a risk, ask someone out, and lean in for a kiss at some point. Or, to find ways of finding and attracting women who enjoy having a totally passive partner, for that matter. But either way, if what you are doing isn't producing good results, the only way to change that is to change what you are doing.

Sure, in a perfect society just using a classy phrase like "knee-deep in pussy" would get you laid on an hourly basis, because you are a nice and polite guy and you deserve it. But it isn't, and it won't. The only thing you can change easily and on short notice is yourself.

And this: I'm painfully, desperately, suicidally alone -- I hope you are getting the help you need. That's a call for help if I ever read one, and I hope someone hears it in your life.
posted by Forktine at 4:09 PM on December 25, 2008 [6 favorites]


hincandenza: I'm painfully, desperately, suicidally alone, and the number one thing I hear from women if the topic is me is that "Hey, you're a great guy- you just need to be more confident!" I have to ask: why is confidence sexy? And what is confidence? Is it an air of entitlement, believing you're God's gift to women? Is it a Don Draper-esque assertiveness?

I'll never understand the women liking confidence thing. That's like saying "I only buy products with the most thorough advertising, regardless of their actual merit!" Women reinforce male aggressiveness by rewarding it


Confidence in my book is not aggression or swagger or arrogance. Ick. Many people confuse them though. Your analogy with advertising is accurate, there.

Confidence is being sure in yourself, knowing your strengths, knowing your weaknesses, having the guts to face weaknesses and faults and working through them, knowing the fabulous stuff you have to offer (to, ideally, a partner who honours those things in you and helps you work through weaknesses instead of making you feel like shit for having them at all). Knowing the fabulous stuff you have to offer is key to genuine confidence, and then of course practice in asking people for social time adds other layers of confidence.

And speaking of picking partners, reading your comment gave me flashbacks to all the years I was dateless (never free from being sexually harassed, I might add, though I didn't experience it nearly as often as many women here have) until my early 20s and sporadically through my 20s, wondering why in the hell the nerdy guys were yearning (very vocally, making comments revealing what attributes they considered "beautiful") after the popular flighty flashy girls many of whom went through guys like kleenexes. When I think of all the time I spent assuaging my sex drive all by my lonesome, my God...anyway, I just wanted to say, I hear you, and wondering if perhaps you're interested in women who habitually go for arrogant asshole men, then there might be women you're overlooking, and I'm sorry to hear you're suicidally alone and I hope things improve for you.

on preview, what Forktine said too.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 4:17 PM on December 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


that you should be more careful

There is no reason for people not to modify their own behavior in the face of a threat. As was said by me and others, regardless of moral responsibility, not taking measures to defend yourself actively encourages misconduct by increasing the actual pool of persons to be victimized, and reducing the cost to the perpetrators.

As for this being a "male" problem, I don't think anyone really thinks that males are collectively guilty or responsibile for rape. That's like saying that black people are responsible for all crimes committed by black people.

In terms of women "sexually rewarding" agressive behavior somehow being reponsible for rape, that's simply ridiculous. Women can be desirious of a man who confidently asserts what he wants without raping a woman or sticking his hands down her pants. There's nothing wrong with drawing a line there. And there's nothing less confident than a man who believes the only way he can get a satisfying relationship is to disregard the will of women. The man who knows that even if one woman isn't interested, that they will meet another who is, will do just fine with women.

I think that with this type of topic, people bring their own baggage. Its hard to cut through our own feelings regarding sexuality to talk about this stuff.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:34 PM on December 25, 2008


The linked essay is not about rape. it's about, in the phrase of the author, not-rape. Unwanted groping & kissing, threatening words & behavior, cat-calling & rude gesticulating. Less than half percent of all men in the US may be rapists, but more than that have put their hands on women who didn't want it, attempted to kiss women who were trying to avoid being kissed or threatened women sexually. I have never witnessed a rape but I have seen some pretty bad things (I've intervened when I've realized what was going on and so far it's never cost me anything more than some rude words and angry stares and I'm by no means physically imposing so don't assume that the worst will happen). These kinds of incidents go on all the time and one would need very restricted tunnel vision not to notice. There's a difference between hitting on someone who's not interested and sexual harassment and knowing the difference isn't that hard. It is an obvious and self-evident truth that most cultures in the world treat the sexual aggression of males towards females leniently. Different cultures draw the boundaries in different ways, but no culture I know of says that all sexual aggression is forbidden, even though many societies forbid even the least bit of female sexual assertiveness. Having to sit through a short lecture on rape and other kinds of sexual aggression is no big imposition. I've been at a few and never did I come away with the feeling that "all men are the problem" but rather that certain behaviors that many consider okay are, at a closer look, very not okay. It made me consider sexual behavior from a different perspective and helped me understand society better.

And prison rape is a hideous, awful thing which, frankly, speaks badly of our society that it gets treated lightly and even invoked gleefully. But good goddamn invoking this terrible specter doesn't nullify the incontrovertible fact that most sexual assaults are by men (both on men and women). That doesn't mean that the reverse never happens (it's not all that uncommon that men in their early teens get taken advantage of by their babysitters) but treating any discussion of sexual aggression as an affront to all men is, frankly, childish.
posted by Kattullus at 9:00 PM on December 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


Ironmouth: As for this being a "male" problem, I don't think anyone really thinks that males are collectively guilty or responsibile for rape. That's like saying that black people are responsible for all crimes committed by black people.
Actually that's a good analogy. It would be incredibly insulting to suggest black people need training to prevent crime by black people, or that they bear any additional responsibility, especially if it was .4% of black people who committed crimes. It would be however accurate to recognize that there are systemic and social causes of that crime that can be addressed by all people in looking at how we build societies. By coincidence, a friend of mine is a sister to Brian Beutler, the subject of a recent MeFi front page post. He was shot in the street by a young black man- and decidedly did NOT decide that young black men as a collective were responsible for his being shot, nor did he call for training courses among young black men.

The solution to rape or not-rape is to fight, flee, and report it. It's not complicated. It's the same as any other violence in schools or on the streets- and actually, like violence in the schools, the biggest problem is the lack of communication from victims to authority figures, and the sad apathy of authority figures. Still, if you're assaulted and can flee, flee. If you're forced to fight, you fight. If lethal force is clearly being used, do what you can to survive and then IMMEDIATELY contact law enforcement. Aren't we overthinking a plate of beans? If any education is needed, it's apparently with the OP author to be more assertive.

When I got sucker punched a few times by four drunk assholes on Broadway a few weeks ago who were out looking to just attack someone, I called 911 immediately but sadly they were unable to find the guys who'd run off. I don't let it define me, it didn't force me to question my identity, I don't dwell on it, and I don't walk in fear at night because that was a random, sucky event that had never happened in some 12 years of living on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Brian Beutler had a far worse evening than I ever have, and he refuses to let it define him either.
PhoBWanKenobi: Sorry, but the only person, uh, kneedeep in my punani (and how nice of you to use that terminology) is polite, thoughtful, generous, and generally horrified by people around him who act sexually aggressive. I have a feeling that's the case for tons of metafilter women. Telling us that it's our job not to "reward" sexual aggression would be akin to telling men that it's their fault that Rules women exist, because you reward their behavior by having sex with them.
Metafilter women are- like Metafiltereans in general- a decidedly non-normal subset of the population. The world is filled with monsters- cruel, selfish, unempathetic monsters. Life is quite simply learning to navigate around these monsters so they hurt you the least.

There was a reason I used the Don Draper comparison- see, I've been watching "Mad Men" season one on DVD this holiday weekend. And I do think that men that date the Rules women do reinforce Rules women, so it cuts both ways. No one wants to be alone, and we go to extraordinary (or extraordinarily stupid) lengths to avoid that. The outdated social and cultural mores portrayed in "Mad Men" seem shocking to us, but the Joans and Bettys embraced it as much as the Dons and Rogers. Then women came along and challenged those roles, and demanded a different kind of man to fit their different kind of women. Rape and sexual assault/sexual harassment is far less prevalent now than it was in the "civilized" society of "Mad Men". Progress has been made- and more progress still needs to be made- but we each can do only our own part, of which overly didactic course do nothing to help.

Oh, and for christ's sake, "knee-deep in punani" was meant as a flippant comment. Don't give me shit for it, you can't judge or value me on one turn of phrase like it gives you a window into my soul. I know you disagree with me and therefore wish to find me evil, venal, or horrifically broken but you'd be wrong.

I still think this notion of "confidence" is utter bullshit, a sugarcoat of a less admirable desire with a fake justification. It's like women who say they like "a sense of humor"- which has been easy joke fodder for some of the funniest stand-up comedians around as they recall the bitterness of isolation.

In any case, those of you who quoted me think you know me. You probably think I'm utterly quiet and "milquetoast", or secretly seething with misogynistic fury, or socially awkward. I'm not- I'm usually the center of attention in every room. I can be hilariously funny, as affirmed by just about every friend, acquaintance, and co-worker I've ever had. I've been told by men and women, straight and gay, young and old that I'm a fun guy, a great conversationalist and someone who's interesting to talk to. I've had it remarked that I'm kind and thoughtful almost to a fault, that I have terrific manners and although I certainly have people I dislike, am generally not impolite or rude. I fancy myself a bit rusty but otherwise a fairly skilled piano player, a more-than-middling sketch artist, good with language and quick of wit, I make a pretty good income at a steady job at which I excel, and have diverse interests.

Heck, even though I was mocked in the "your bartender hates you thread", actual bartenders and waitstaff mostly seem to love me. It helps that I'm also a fantastic tipper, but I'm regularly invited to hang out with these people outside of their workplaces, in their homes or elsewhere. They tell me I'm a great guy, the absolute highlight of their evening behind the bar, that I "really seem to get" the service industry and it would be awesome if only every customer was like me.

So if you'll forgive my explosion of narcissism, I don't think I lack confidence or am not outgoing. Yeah, I guess I'm arrogant for thinking I actually "deserve" to have someone in this goddamned world love me and someone to love, to be treated like a human being, to not feel like the runt of the human litter. How awful of me!

Apparently it's a sales problem- an advertising problem. And I ask "why". I'm outgoing and I can talk as easily to women as to men and do so- without ogling them lasciviously or not listening to what they say and responding. So why if people seem to like me are women not making a move? I guess I should make a move... wait, what's that you say? Now I'm "pushy"? I know the look- the look in the eyes when you try to talk to someone and they are screaming in their eyes for you to go. away. I get that look all the fucking time.

Oh right- probably because I'm ugly. Shoot- did I not mention that? Yes, I'm probably among the 10 most physically ugly people in Seattle. Ah, but I guess it's really "confidence" or a "sense of humor" or some other drivel that matters, and not the fact that I'm grotesque. My bad. I should just shuffle back to my hole now, "confident" in knowing that I'm not part of the human race, "confident" I understand my place in my world.


And if you think I can stay sane much longer with this kind of isolation, untouched and unwanted, you're crazier than I'm becoming. I tried my damnedest to hold on, but I really can't. It hurts to be alive. It's killing me to be alone. I have to die because christ I can't be alone any more.
posted by hincandenza at 9:14 PM on December 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


You need to talk to someone, hincandenza. I don't mean make an appointment with a psychologist (though therapy has helped me, I should mention) but you should call someone. Family, friends, someone you can trust. I'd offer to talk to you on the phone myself but I'm in Iceland right now, not Rhode Island. You are deep in a vicious cycle of depression and you need to break out of it. I've been there often myself and the only way I know to get out of it is to reach out. Trust me, your friends and family would much rather you called them, even on Christmas, especially on Christmas, in fact, than to have you spiral ever lower.
posted by Kattullus at 9:30 PM on December 25, 2008


Mavri

If you really can't understand how distasteful it is to force someone into accepting something they do not wish to take part in (or find to be egregious bullshit), then we really have nothing to discuss.


Oh, you poor poor thing. Forced into a seminar against your will! How ever do you sleep at night.

Seriously, it's clear we have nothing to discuss. It's sad to me that anyone would think that men shouldn't be educated about situations that can be "miscontrued" as rape, and it's sad to me that a man would think a thread about the actual sexual violence that many women experience in their lives is a good place to whine about attending a seminar. Boo fucking hoo, world's smallest violin, call the waahhmbulance, etc. The fact that you are an utterly lost cause doesn't mean I'm not going to call you on the offensive things you've said in this thread. "Miscontrued as rape." Good lord.
posted by Mavri at 9:57 PM on December 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


hincandenza: I agree with Kattullus - you sound severely depressed. Is there anyone you can reach out to? If most of the people around you seem to perceive you as fun to be around, interesting to talk to, funny, and so on, maybe they honestly have no idea how isolated you feel and how much you're suffering.

Oh, and one more thing:

Metafilter women are- like Metafiltereans in general- a decidedly non-normal subset of the population.

That's one of many reasons I love this place.
posted by velvet winter at 10:51 PM on December 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mavri: Oh, you poor poor thing. Forced into a seminar against your will! How ever do you sleep at night. [...] It's sad to me that anyone would think that men shouldn't be educated about situations that can be "miscontrued" as rape

Well, there's realistic, probabilistic fear, and then there's disproportionate dread, paranoia, enervating phobia. And the cross of any political cause (my own cherished causes certainly not exempt) is almost invariably to be carried by the latter: fear of rape, fear of terrorism, fear of war, fear of sex or, alternately, of alienation, fear of moral decay, public anomy, of government abuse, corporate abandon. For my sake, I can say that my resentment of the whole college "seminar" experience was in coming in contact with, and under the supposed tutelage of, this ashen-faced element.

Other than a thousand little indignities, such as being asked to sign my name to a pledge vouching that I would not ever commit a sexual assault, or the obligatory law-enforcement presence (really, why?), the punchline was being lectured by a fellow student on how she simply could not walk down the street without being afraid, and that this was somehow our (my?) fault for enabling a "rape culture." It probably wouldn't have gone over well had I pointed out that, statistically, I'm more likely to be violently assaulted or murdered than she, or that her constant fear seemed as much reinforced by her peers in ideology as by actual threat.

But it wasn't all that bad, and maybe, against all life has to offer, this itself doesn't sound too bad or insulting. But is it productive?

Imagine being seated to a mandatory seminar. The title is Your Responsibilities as a US Citizen Vis-a-Vis Terrorism. It is run, overall, by well-meaning (if ideologically uniform) people, but certain strident and interested parties have taken the stage: DHS goons, bereaved victims, Neocons. Powerpoint. The speaker invokes two minutes of silence for the victims of 9-11...

The point: this isn't true education. It's not a dialogue. You're not there to be heard. You're not there to think. It's not even art, because art isn't this passive. No, it's indoctrination.

I see nothing wrong with the idea of education about rape, provided it actually lives up to the standards implicit in the word. But I think some of the men in this thread are speaking against the experience of the thing rather than the spirit of it: not against men and women who are concerned about rape, but rather a fringe of rape-phobic (or even sex-phobic, even speech-phobic) hyper-conservatives who, in their crisis mentality, don't see this issue as admitting a thing so two-minded as education.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:06 AM on December 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


...it's sad to me that a man would think a thread about the actual sexual violence that many women experience in their lives is a good place to whine about attending a seminar.

Repeated for emphasis.
posted by velvet winter at 12:49 AM on December 26, 2008


Here's the thing -- this stuff IS very murky. Women do like confidence, and strength. In my experience, women like guys who make a move, and if you wait for an obvious signal or permission it just won't happen most cases. You have to know when to move in for the kiss, and some women will love a dramatic grab (but others will be frightened or angry), and some like you to pull their hair a bit in bed, but others say "ow! WTF?", some will run, etc. There's always a risk making the move, timing is important, "reading" your partner and communicating (but not always talking) is crucial.

Then there's alcohol and drugs. You ask me, ANY time you get a girl drunk or high in order to get laid, you're on the slippery slope of coercion. Even if she wants to get drunk to tamp down her anxiety over sex. Even if you're doing the same. But most pickups and dates involve alcohol, and I think weed is a true aphrodisiac for many women.

Someone said it very well up above -- a teenage girl's motives are murky, if she likes the guy she probably wants some kind of kissing plus, and may not be exactly sure where she wants to stop when she starts. She may want (or need) some encouragement; when does it become uncool coercion? How do you know when to stop when people rarely can verablize all of their feelings? It's all tricky and needs discussion.

So maybe you had a bad class. You want to throw out all education on this stuff worldwide in favor of what? Women are gettin raped, they are getting assaulted and harrassed and goosed and called dirty sluts for complaining, every day. What's your alternative? What are you doing to change things other than bitching about a seminar you took in college?
posted by msalt at 1:14 AM on December 26, 2008


Sorry, Velvet, I'd noted that a late subset of this discussion was about the value of rape education, and, specifically, dealing with men's resistance to the idea. A number of other posters had already voiced on the matter, and I thought adding my own experience might be helpful. If it's not welcome, I have no problem with its removal, though I'd question the rather narrow parameters you want to impose on the conversation at this stage of the game.
posted by kid ichorous at 1:19 AM on December 26, 2008


And we know that a substantial minority [of men] admit to having sex with a woman after she has refused sex.

Here's part of a transcript of just such an assault:

The answer is no - Ooh baby, it's cold outside
This welcome has been - I'm lucky that you dropped in
So nice and warm -- Look out the window at that storm
My sister will be suspicious - Man, your lips look so delicious
My brother will be there at the door - Waves upon a tropical shore
My maiden aunt's mind is vicious - Gosh your lips look delicious
Well maybe just a half a drink more - Never such a blizzard before

posted by msalt at 1:29 AM on December 26, 2008


msalt: So maybe you had a bad class. You want to throw out all education on this stuff worldwide in favor of what? Women are gettin raped, they are getting assaulted and harrassed and goosed and called dirty sluts for complaining, every day. What's your alternative? What are you doing to change things other than bitching about a seminar you took in college?

Who said anything about throwing it out? Is anyone allowed to articulate a problem, or do we just get to pick sides, go twenty steps, and draw? I'm not "bitching" about a seminar, I'm resorting to memory and anecdote to make a point that you're actually doing a fine job of illustrating in the present tense: that education is not a shrill call to arms; that the audience is not a flock of idiots and children; and that some people are so envenomed that I truly question their capacity to teach, inspire, or communicate. Don't care?
posted by kid ichorous at 1:39 AM on December 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Kid ichorus: I apologize if I've misread your point. You seem to alternate between an immediate "this happened to me" specificity, and a broad brush "many men find...." kind of generality. I don't think anyone disagrees that any class (on any subject) should be intelligent, open-minded, not strident, etc. but you seem to be suggesting something more than that.

So please elaborate: are you saying there are problems with rape education generally, or just with the one seminar you took? And what do you suggest be done to deal about the underlying problem (sexual harassment, not your tedious seminar)? For that matter what should be done to improve education about sexual harassment?
posted by msalt at 2:11 AM on December 26, 2008


Msalt: I'll Mefi Mail you; it's getting a bit long and I'm not sure if this is the place for it. Thanks for the opportunity to elaborate.
posted by kid ichorous at 3:49 AM on December 26, 2008


You have to know when to move in for the kiss, and some women will love a dramatic grab (but others will be frightened or angry), and some like you to pull their hair a bit in bed, but others say "ow! WTF?", some will run, etc.

Wait, msalt, are you saying that women are like, these individual people, each with their own set of preferences and feelings, who need to be approached on a singular basis and can't be grouped into a generalized population? I find your ideas new and exciting--tell me more about this "females as individuals" concept.
posted by schroedinger at 6:47 AM on December 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


And if you think I can stay sane much longer with this kind of isolation, untouched and unwanted, you're crazier than I'm becoming. I tried my damnedest to hold on, but I really can't. It hurts to be alive. It's killing me to be alone. I have to die because christ I can't be alone any more.

hicandenza, please call someone. Don't be alone today, feeling like this.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:19 AM on December 26, 2008


alright, I'm getting seriously worried here. does someone have hincandenza's contact info? check out his profile. was that there before recently?
posted by desjardins at 9:18 AM on December 26, 2008


was that there before recently?

Not there a few hours ago.
posted by prefpara at 9:54 AM on December 26, 2008


are you saying that women are like, these individual people, each with their own set of preferences and feelings,... I find your ideas new and exciting--tell me more

That's a bit too easy, don't you think? This topic has been pretty great about getting past reductive slogans (such as "women are individuals" or "men are the problem") to the tricky realities of sexual politics.

And no, actually, that's not what I'm saying. As a general (but obviously not absolute) rule, and coming from my personal experience as reinforced by many women and men, and by literature and pop culture, etc. -- hincandenza has a kernel of truth. Sexual aggression or assertiveness (depending on your definition) IS the most successful strategy for men, and waiting for a woman to make a move or tell you to do so will rarely succeed. (Believe me, I tried.)

Yes of course it's individual, but that's only one of many reasons this is so hard to work out. Others include peer pressure, youth and emotional immaturity, drugs and alcohol, hormones, media, etc. That was my main point.

Apparently you were ultra-wise about women at 17, and knew exactly how assertive (and gentle) guys should be in the clinch. (Or maybe you're a woman and it justs seems so obvious, why do guys get confused?) Well, bully for you! No need to mock us mortals trying to help each other sort through the murk.
posted by msalt at 10:17 AM on December 26, 2008


kid ichorous: it's getting a bit long and I'm not sure if this is the place for it. Thanks for the opportunity to elaborate.

I'm very interested in your elaborations too.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 10:35 AM on December 26, 2008


kid ichorus, my repeat of Mavri's comment wasn't directed at you personally, though I can see why it came across that way. I actually agree with some of your points. My intent was to express my general sense of dismay at the turn this thread took when it had started out so well.

Here's the thing. I've been a feminist for many years, and I've seen this pattern more times than I can count. Women speak out openly and powerfully about their experiences with sexual violence, harassment, etc., and sooner or later the discussion gets derailed and ends up in the same territory so many of these discussions do: focused mostly on men's issues, problems, thoughts, feelings, needs, etc. It isn't that we don't value men's input. It's that women see this so often that a lot of us roll our eyes and think, "oh, no, here we go again."

Sexual violence is a systemic problem, not just a problem with individuals who have gone astray. Yes, individuals should be held responsible for their behavior, but individuals act within a social context. We are doing ourselves (and feminism) a disservice if we overlook this. And the social context - including discussions like this one - often functions in a way that privileges men and their issues to the detriment of women.

Regardless of the benign intentions of an individual participating in discussions like this one, the cumulative effect of these derails upon women - and their willingness to break the silence and speak up about their experiences - is not benign. Once you've seen enough of these discussions follow the same tired old pattern, you begin to notice a disturbing effect. That is what I intended to comment on.

Analysis of the content and effect of rape education seminars is worthwhile, but I question the appropriateness of such a discussion in a thread like this. Not because it's inappropriate in general, but because of its overall effect on women, who are so often silenced in insidious ways.
posted by velvet winter at 10:39 AM on December 26, 2008 [8 favorites]


velvet winter: It's that women see this so often that a lot of us roll our eyes and think, "oh, no, here we go again."

This annoys a lot of us guys too.
posted by Kattullus at 11:00 AM on December 26, 2008


"I'll be gone soon."

That's more than a little worrisome. Has anybody heard from hincadenza?
posted by languagehat at 11:59 AM on December 26, 2008


He just e-mailed me, thank Jebus.
posted by Kattullus at 12:05 PM on December 26, 2008


And no, actually, that's not what I'm saying. As a general (but obviously not absolute) rule, and coming from my personal experience as reinforced by many women and men, and by literature and pop culture, etc. -- hincandenza has a kernel of truth. Sexual aggression or assertiveness (depending on your definition) IS the most successful strategy for men, and waiting for a woman to make a move or tell you to do so will rarely succeed. (Believe me, I tried.)

msalt, sure, women like confidence (are we calling that sexual aggression now?), just the way men like confidence, and anybody likes confidence. Insecure people are not attractive, you know? My point was to your comment about judging to what degree you express that. That is something that differs from woman to woman. My reaction to being randomly grabbed by a man is strongly negative. Other women like being swept off their feet and being kissed all dramatic movie-style (though I wouldn't recommend you do it with someone you've just met). It is important you don't treat dating a girl and approaching issues like you're running through a flow-chart.

I think a large degree of confusion during the teenage years comes from thinking that the other gender is this weird, strange sex that cannot possibly have thoughts and feelings like your gender does, and so we search desperately for some kind of rubric to follow to guide our interactions. But it's not that easy.

And for what it's worth, I'd hardly consider myself ultra-wise about anything.
posted by schroedinger at 12:18 PM on December 26, 2008


anybody likes confidence.

I'll go on record as finding what's called confidence unattractive. 99% of the time it's merely arrogance, especially if it's unearned, which it usually is. As I said, once before, if you don't posess at least a smidgen of self-loathing, you have too high an opinion of yourself.
posted by jonmc at 12:33 PM on December 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


on christmas eve, my 9 year old, precocious, fiercely intelligent niece, who is training to be a dancer (like 4x days a week, something insane that she's committed to), told me about how her and her mom had a conversation about "the things that are going to be happening to me when I get older." that was accompanied by some very deliberate eye-rolling.

So I said, "wow, it's hard to talk to your mom about stuff like that, isn't it? i used to feel really embarrassed."
she laughed with a little relief. "yeah, it is hard."
"I just want you to know, if you ever need to talk to someone about that stuff, you can always talk to me - or to your other aunt - any time, about anything, you don't have to feel embarrassed. You should always talk to your mom, but if you don't feel comfortable or want to talk to someone else first, we are always here."
She came over and gave me a hug.

My sister is a fine person but I know that teenage girls do not always want to talk to their mothers.

And if I'd had an older female say that to me when I was younger, maybe I wouldn't have my own stories of bad situations and poor choices.

That is another way that we can all help change the dynamic. Reach out to children if you have a chance.
posted by micawber at 12:40 PM on December 26, 2008 [5 favorites]


Confidence and arrogance are two separate things...I've known guys who are reserved but seem secure with themselves.
posted by brujita at 12:41 PM on December 26, 2008


Confidence and arrogance are two separate things

Ideally, but not generally, in my experience. YMMV. And telling someone who isn't confident to be confident will result in their seeming arrogant.
posted by jonmc at 12:45 PM on December 26, 2008


I'm with you, jonmc: I find vulnerability (by which I mean openness, honesty and a willingness to risk losing face) much more attractive than confidence. I guess you could say it takes confidence to be vulnerable, but that minces words more finely than I like.

I think there's more than a grain of truth in hincandenza's posts -- at least from the vantage point of my anecdotal experience. I was raised to be a Feminist. I spent years being Mr. Sensitive, having tons of friends who were girls but no girlfriends. My female friends all told me how nice I was and how lamented that their boyfriends weren't "more like you."

Maybe I was misreading signals, but it sure seemed that I was being sent a message that if I wanted a girlfriend, I needed to be more aggressive. (NOTE: THIS IS NOT AN EXCUSE FOR RAPE OR ANYTHING RAPE-LIKE.) In the end, I didn't listen to that message, because... because it's not me. I'm just not an aggressive guy, so I can't play one convincingly.

Things got better in my very late 20s. I think by that time the women around me had been burned so many times by dating Mr. Caveman, they started looking for something different. (Let that be a ray of hope for all you "sensitive guys" (and girls) out there. It gets better. That's not just my experience. Many of my childhood friends found love later in life, but when they found it, they REALLY found it. The more popular kids are now mostly divorced and single.)

In my experience, both men and women tend to have double standards. The male ones (e.g. Madonna/Whore) are more well-known and discussed. What hurt me more than the fact that girls weren't interested in me was the fact that my female friends refused to fess up to the way they were acting. They kept running after the bad boys (and getting hurt by them) but they refused to admit that they were more into bikers than bookworms.

I think most men feel pretty comfortable saying, "Yeah, I know I should be into Betty, but Cindy is hotter." Women seem less comfortable saying that, even when it's true.
posted by grumblebee at 12:48 PM on December 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


No, telling someone how to act isn't a good idea...but a social coach can help with how one presents oneself.
posted by brujita at 12:51 PM on December 26, 2008


hey, i was not-raped when i was growing up, too. maybe i should have said something, but the article is right about the blame game that goes on with young girls. if i had said anything, i would have gotten in trouble, and the neighborhood would have just shrugged and said "boys will be boys". i just moved away and waited for the inevitable backswing of karma to hit him.
posted by big open mouth at 1:04 PM on December 26, 2008


As someone said, it's hard to sort out the baggage we each bring to this subject. I come out of the "nice guy, no dates" camp (like Hincandenza and Grumblebee apparently), which was in part not wanting to be one of those asshole guys you see all around.

Some of the problem is a lack of confidence, sure -- I had some self-esteem issues and was way too "in my head". But there is a general social rule that some of us didn't get the memo on -- as a guy, you DO have to make the move, in most cases. We may define this word differently but there is some aspect of sexual aggressiveness or assertiveness in doing that, and talking too much often ruins the mood.

I don't think there is the bright line separation between the reality that men need to be somewhat aggressive, and the risks of depersonalized, coercive sexual situations, that we would like there to be. It's inevitably murky.

Hincandenza and some others personalize this as women "rewarding" bad guys, which is clearly unfair, but there is a dance here that is social as well as individual. Seduction works best with tons of non-verbal communication and intimacy. But the reality, esp. for many teenagers, is awkwardness, self-consciousness, and getting wasted to blunder through the confusion. It's a bad setup that some don't grow out of.
posted by msalt at 1:31 PM on December 26, 2008


as a guy, you DO have to make the move, in most cases.

There's a problem with making the first move, whether you're male or female, and I'm not talking about the problem of being rejected (which is a problem, just not the one I'm talking about). The problem is that you can never be one-hundred percent sure your move won't offend.

Yes, you can get very good at flirting and "reading signals," but no one is a perfect mind reader. Which means that if you're the type who makes the first move, you either have to (falsely) believe you CAN read minds or you have to not care too much if you occasionally offend someone. (At least you can't care so much that you swear off making moves.)

I'm not saying that all people who are -- shall we say -- assertive are rapists or "not rapists". But if you're going to make moves, you do run the risk of "not raping" someone. If you're good at social cues, it's a small risk, but it's still a risk.

On the other hand, if you never take that risk -- if you never make a move because you're terrified of the possibility you might offend someone -- you're going to be lonely for a while.

I'm sure this hand-wringing post seems silly to some people. "Jesus Christ! Just be respectful and if someone says 'no,' take them at their word." This is the sort of confident person that does well. He isn't boorish, but he makes moves when he feels pretty sure they're wanted. And yes, he screws up sometimes (it's inevitable), but that doesn't cause him to lose sleep at night, because he knows he didn't mean any harm.

My aim here is to call a spade a spade. You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs.
posted by grumblebee at 1:43 PM on December 26, 2008


I think a large degree of confusion during the teenage years comes from thinking that the other gender is this weird, strange sex that cannot possibly have thoughts and feelings like your gender does...

Actually, as a guy whose girlfriends complain that I like to process relationship issues TOO MUCH, I think the opposite. IMHO, men and women are more different from each other than we realize, esp. in relationships, and we project the way we feel onto each other. Leading to lots of "Duh! How can he not understand something so obvious!!"

It's like I'm wearing purple tinted contacts and don't realize it. I can describe some things at length with eg my brilliant fiance, and it sure sounds like we're talking about the exact same thing, but in subtle ways we seem to perceive them differently. Not a bad thing, I'm endlessly fascinated by it, but important to realize.
posted by msalt at 1:43 PM on December 26, 2008


How did we get on the topic of liking bad boys? It's just another version of blaming women for the problem. Read through the thread: how many instances of rape or not-rape are attributable to what kind of man the poster prefers? Most of the instances mentioned are NOT "I liked this bad boy and he did this bad thing."
posted by desjardins at 1:44 PM on December 26, 2008


dejardins, I'm sorry if I contributed to hijacking the thread. It's because I sincerely believe that all of our sexual problems are intertwined. And that we can't solve one without tackling them all. You may disagree with that.

I do NOT think that women are to blame when they get assaulted. The only person who deserves blame is the person who commits the assault.

I do think that men like me are second-hand victims of this. Basically, I am (or was) terrified of making a romantic move because I was taught that male assertiveness is bad. (While, at the same time, I noticed assertive guys attracting girls.)

I am not claiming that my problems were remotely on par with getting raped or harassed. My point is that our culture is deeply pathological when it comes to sex and gender issues. And this leads to many people being hurt. In my opinion, it's VITAL that we openly discuss ALL facets of the problem, including how men are affected.

To be honest, I don't have any interest in placing blame -- on men or women. My interest is in ensuring that women feel safe, respected and free. And that both men and women feel that their sexual desires are not shameful.
posted by grumblebee at 1:53 PM on December 26, 2008


Let me put this another way: our culture sends mixed and confusing signals to men and women about how they should act around each other. This is a problem because it makes unbalanced people more unbalanced; it makes it more likely that women will be assaulted; and it makes it more likely that men and will be ashamed of their sexual feelings.
posted by grumblebee at 1:56 PM on December 26, 2008


I don't know if this is a generational thing or a function of the kind of social groups I move around in but I've had women make the first move about as often I've made the first move myself. I suppose the trick is recognizing a "move" for what it is.

And I've known plenty of people who've dated scum, but never anyone who set out to date a bad boy/bad girl. Scumbags travel incognito.

Oh, and confidence is sexy, but arrogance is a libido-killer, that's how I know the difference.
posted by Kattullus at 2:19 PM on December 26, 2008


desjardins, I hear you, and I completely understand the frustration - it's certainly true that the notion that women prefer aggressive men is bandied about too freely, and too often it is used as a rationalization for questionable behavior or a way to lay blame at the feet of women once again.

But if I understand them correctly, I think hincandenza, msalt, grumblebee and others are trying to get at something that ties in with the "not-rape" epidemic - something very relevant and important, in fact. Let me see if I can unpack this.

Our cultural ideals of what's "masculine" and what's "feminine" when it comes to sex and dating are organized around an underlying dynamic of power, control and dominance. We all absorb countless messages from the social milieu about what is considered sexually desirable, and those messages influence us long before we're old enough to think critically about them. Men and women alike are taught that a "real" man is heterosexual, sexually aggressive, and always in control, and a "real" woman accepts these terms and relates to men on this basis. This is the path of least resistance, so to speak.

People who reject this model struggle even harder than normal to navigate the treacherous waters of dating and mating, because our culture doesn't give us a blueprint for how to build feminist sexual and romantic relationships. We have to hash it out largely on our own. A certain subset of the population has become more sensitive to these realities as a result of the feminist movement, but the culture as a whole hasn't caught up. (That's part of what I was trying to get at in my earlier comment that sexual violence is a systemic problem rather than just an individual one).

There is a great deal of confusion, particularly among men, about what kind of behavior is harassment and what isn't. Combine this kind of uncertainty with the way women are called sluts for asserting their own sexual agency, and told they're "asking for it" if they don't conform to an arbitrary set of narrow standards, and the stage is set for gross misunderstandings. Then there's the persistent human need for touch, closeness, and intimacy - which men are, sadly, taught to suppress, deny, or redefine as a need for sex as something they "get" as a prize from women in order to affirm their masculine ego ("knee deep in pussy," as hincandenza put it). Put all these together, and you have a recipe for a fucked-up culture, to put it mildly. Instead of being given the tools to build genuine connections, men sometimes seem to feel as if they're left with a kind of Hobson's choice between sexual deprivation on one hand, and going along with the path of least resistance on the other.

Under these conditions, it becomes difficult to see and expose sexual violence and all forms of "not-rape" for what they are, and when we try to discuss it we get overwhelmed with emotion and end up talking right past one another. The "not-rape" epidemic hurts people of all genders, though in different ways. So this path of least resistance needs to be laid bare, revealed for what it is, and grappled with. This is, to say the least, quite a challenge, and we as a culture (and as individuals) are responsible for taking up the mantle and doing what we can to forge a better model of sexual relationships.

If we can set aside the blame game long enough to hear one another out and talk about what feminist relationships might look like (hint: it ain't Mars-and-Venus), men and women might just find that we have more common ground than we thought.
posted by velvet winter at 4:19 PM on December 26, 2008 [10 favorites]


There's such a big difference between sexual and emotional clumsiness and the deliberate exploitation of vulnerability and attempts to humiliate that characterize all these 'non-rape' stories.

It surprises me how much men who worry about their 'smoothness' identify with victimizers. I want to say go back and read those stories again. How many do you really think could *possibly* have been a result of confusion?

I do agree that all the factors you described lead to a messed up culture, one in which men assert their power and 'masculinity' through the degradation of women. I also agree that romance is difficult terrain to navigate for anybody. But no one should seriously consider putting sexual 'success,' in terms of sex 'partners' OR relationships 'scored,' above being a decent human being. It alarms me when men who characterize themselves as nice guys go on to justify deliberately lowering their standards of humanity towards women for the sake of sexual scoring. Yes, it may be hard to figure out how to be an ethical human being AND have a romantic life, but there's no way one can excuse oneself from that task and consider themselves 'nice.'
posted by Salamandrous at 4:43 PM on December 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Velvet Winter pretty much nails it. Beautifully put.

One thing -- yes, I guess the "not-rape" epidemic hurts people of all genders, but I would never equate the emotional stunting or frustration of men with what women endure. There's a big risk of false equivalency there.
posted by msalt at 5:05 PM on December 26, 2008


It alarms me when men who characterize themselves as nice guys go on to justify deliberately lowering their standards of humanity towards women for the sake of sexual scoring.

I'm not sure who you're talking about (someone in this thread?), but I certainly didn't do this. velvet winter elegantly describes the forces that confused me as a young man. I couldn't figure out how to be respectful and sexual, so I chose respectful. I didn't excuse myself from that task. And I agree with you that being respectful towards others is more important than getting one's rocks off.

But for me the result was years of agonizing loneliness. I don't think it had to be that way, but there was certainly no one guiding me. My male friends were either as stunted as I was -- or they were womanizers who didn't care who they hurt (or they were guys who somehow attracted women without being boorish, but it came naturally to them, and they couldn't explain it).

My female friends talked about me as if I was the ideal male -- and then dated other, less "polite" guys. They complained about those guys TO ME and told me how happy they were that I wasn't like them, but they still dated those guys and not me. (The closest one or two of them got to being honest with me was saying, "Why can't I learn to like guys like you?")

As I wrote, this changed as I got older, I think for a couple of reasons: it was partly because I matured into a more complex being and learned how to be a bit playful and flirtatious without being offensive. Mostly, it was because the women around me seemed to get tried of Biff and Chet, especially after the tenth time those guys treated them like shit. Also, all these women bent over backwards denying that they were attracted to guys like Biff and Chet. Yet they dated them anyway.

So when I meet younger guys who are the way I was, I coach them to wait it out. But it strikes me that that's shitty advice, even though it may be the best advice I can give. Yes, I'm happily married now, but I'll always be scarred by those years of loneliness.

WE ARE FUCKED UP BECAUSE WE'RE VICTORIAN. We can't talk about sex or gender in an even remotely open, honest way. Even as a 43-year-old guy with liberal friends, there are huge aspects of my life -- aspects that don't hurt anyone -- that I can't talk about (or feel like I can't talk about, which amounts to the same thing). That is extremely unhealthy.

We will NEVER solve the problems brought up in this thread via band-aid approaches, like telling men that no means no. (Yes, we SHOULD tell guys that, but we shouldn't just stop there. That's like telling kids, "Drugs are bad. Don't use them" and then walking away.)

We need to be open about sex. We need to be open about how we feel as men and women. Women need to feel that they can talk openly about their fears and desires AROUND MEN and that the men will listen and take what they say seriously. Men need to feel the same way around women. We need to demystify each other and become buddies.

It's a BIG PROBLEM that my young female friends couldn't be honest with me and say, "Look, I like guys like you as friends, but I'm sorry, I'm more attracted to really masculine guys." (I know not all women are like this and that not all the ones who are lie about it. But many of MY young female friends happened to be this way. Maybe they weren't dishonest. Maybe they were just confused. Either way, it's a problem.)

It was a problem for them, because they didn't feel comfortable being honest about their sexuality. It was a problem because they thought they would be judged negatively for being honest. It was a problem because they didn't want to hurt my feelings, so they withheld info that might have helped me -- that might have helped them and me have a more honest relationship. It was a problem for me because it confused me. I tried to shape myself into "a good man," and the lesson I learned was that good men don't attract women and that I could either be a bad man with a mate or a lonely good one. That's not acceptable. That's sad.
posted by grumblebee at 5:16 PM on December 26, 2008


One thing -- yes, I guess the "not-rape" epidemic hurts people of all genders, but I would never equate the emotional stunting or frustration of men with what women endure. There's a big risk of false equivalency there.

How is it important to worry about who is more hurt?

Yes, it's worse to have cancer than an amputated arm. So what? We should work to help both cancer patients and amputees. And that's not even a good analogy, because those two sorts of damaged people aren't connected. Whereas men who are screwed up sexually are -- unfortunately -- deeply interconnected to women who are screwed up sexually (often because of things the men do).

We have two huge problems to solve in this culture -- in my opinion bigger than all our other problems, except ones involving the environment and poverty: race and gender problems.

Both involve oppression. And when people are oppressed, they naturally get angry. I understand that. And I understand it's important to vent and place blame. Unfortunately, both venting and blaming don't solve the problems. In fact, they make the problems worse. If there's any chance of solving these problems, it will come via honest communication between all parties.
posted by grumblebee at 5:23 PM on December 26, 2008


I would never equate the emotional stunting or frustration of men with what women endure. There's a big risk of false equivalency there.

Good point, msalt. And thank you kindly for the words of praise.
posted by velvet winter at 5:23 PM on December 26, 2008


One thing -- yes, I guess the "not-rape" epidemic hurts people of all genders, but I would never equate the emotional stunting or frustration of men with what women endure.

It's funny that you wrote this, because I was thinking about this thread while eating dinner and had one of those minor little "ah-ha!" moments where a connection is made.

Basically, like most kids I was bullied once in a while, but it wasn't an everyday, brutalizing experience for me. But the forms it took when it happened were identical to a lot of what the author is characterizing as "not-rape." For example, I can remember in high school getting grabbed by a group of jocks in the hallway, slammed against a locker, and having some big dude grab my nipples and twist them like radio dials until I screamed. (And I was comparatively lucky -- when they did the same thing to a kid in the drama club, they twisted until his nipples bled. As I recall, they called it a "titty twister," charmingly enough.) Even someone like myself, where this kind of bullying and harassment was pretty infrequent, could come up with a list like this as long as my arm, involving highly sexualized grabbing, taunting, and hurting.

I guess I'm trying to make two points here.

One is that for the abusers, or assaulters, or whatever we want to call the people (mostly men) who commit these sorts of actions, sexual assault is both a tool of power, and is rewarding on its own terms, too. The assaulters are drawing on a limited repertoire of techniques, and they use them on anyone they want to victimize.

And second, I think that many of the women here would be surprised at how many men -- even big, "masculine" guys -- have been recipients of what would, in another context, clearly be labeled "not-rape," "sexual assault," or what have you. Because it is male-on-male violence, we call it "bullying," "tormenting," and other words like that. But when it involves grabbing genitals, names like "fagot," and so on, perhaps we should acknowledge the sexual component of that violence.

There are clearly differences, too -- for example, outside of all-male institutions like boarding schools and prisons, my impression is that male on male penetrative rape is comparatively rare. (But then, in college I had a gay friend who told me once that he had spent a couple years in high school being forced to provide blowjobs to ostensibly heterosexual tormenters, and I'd bet his story is not unique.)

Comparative victimization isn't at all a productive direction here, nor is there a simple equivalency in what boys and girls face. But thinking about how both men as a group, and individual men, can be simultaneously victims and perpetrators of sexualized violence might help to clarify how anti-rape (or anti-"not-rape") education might be more effectively conceived and conducted.
posted by Forktine at 6:09 PM on December 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


The "not-rape" epidemic hurts people of all genders, though in different ways.

Well, let me just qualify this: if being aggressively hit on or physically assaulted by an older man is an instance of "not-rape," then plenty of men are "not-raped" in their preteen or teenage years. The two perspectives are not always necessarily different.
posted by kid ichorous at 6:11 PM on December 26, 2008


However, I really don't understand why "nice" guys would be confused about this. I mean, how hard is it not to yell at people on the street, grab random strangers on crowded buses, avoid gang-raping and groping teenage girls and back off if you've misread the signals on a date?

Sure, some women go for dominant guys-- but that doesn't mean they typically go for assholes who yell in the street and grope us. Truly dominant guys know how to get women without any of that kind of stuff: think someone like Gordon Ramsay. He might yell at his subordinates and be terrifying and an asshole in that way, but he's not yelling "hey baby hey baby." The men who do that are usually low status men who are the ones getting yelled at by people like him, and what they are after is humiliating someone who has even less status than they do, not necessarily sex.

The "too nice" guys seem to be blaming their timidity on the anti-rape/anti-sexual harrassment stuff-- when in fact, it is their own fear that is getting in the way and this has nothing to do with that. In my experience, many of the guys who think they are "too nice" are actually extremely hostile and angry and passive aggressive-- and it is that that puts women off, not their inability to make the first move (though that doesn't help).
posted by Maias at 6:19 PM on December 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Truly dominant guys know how to get women without any of that kind of stuff: think someone like Gordon Ramsay.

Had to look him up on Wikipedia. Interesting example: "Ramsay has declined to describe his father as an alcoholic; however, his autobiography, Humble Pie,[7] describes his early life as being marked by abuse and negligence from this "hard-drinking womanizer". ... In the late 1980s, he worked as a commis chef at the Wroxton House Hotel, then ran the kitchen and 60-seat dining room at the Wickham Arms, until his relationship with the owner's wife made the situation difficult. ...

In late November 2008, the British tabloid News of the World published a news story wherein Sarah Symonds, author of the book Having An Affair? A Handbook For The Other Woman claimed to have been involved in a secret affair with Ramsay for a period of seven to ten years.[61][62]. Symonds further notes that Ramsay had been involved with at least two other women, as well. Amidst the allegations, the family put off a holiday vacation in Mauritius[63], and Ramsay, initially ignoring the allegations, denied them on a BBC television cooking program, Good Food Show.[64][65] An Australian woman has also made similar claims, while Ramsay denies even knowing the woman."
posted by msalt at 6:54 PM on December 26, 2008


The "too nice" guys seem to be blaming their timidity on the anti-rape/anti-sexual harassment stuff

No doubt some stupid people think this.

I don't blame anti-rape stuff. I blame a culture who thinks "anti-rape" stuff and placing blame is sufficient to solve deeply entrenched, complex problems.

My problems didn't come from anti-rape stuff. They came from having ZERO models for good male behavior. I certainly didn't get good models from my peers or older guys. I certainly didn't get them from Hollywood. And I got very confusing mixed messages from girls.

I DON'T BLAME THE GIRLS FOR THIS. (Even if I did, how would that solve anything?) How could they be anything but confused, growing up in the same confused culture I grew up in.

However, I really don't understand why "nice" guys would be confused about this. I mean, how hard is it not to yell at people on the street, grab random strangers on crowded buses, avoid gang-raping and groping teenage girls and back off if you've misread the signals on a date?

Yeah. That's easy. Guys who do those sorts of things are horrible. I think our culture incubates that sort of horribleness, but I've gone on enough about that.

Maias, if I was still a young guy, I wouldn't ask you how to avoid grabbing strangers. I knew not to do that (and as a kid who was bullied, I would have found the idea horrifying). IF I had felt comfortable talking to you have stuff that I was never comfortable talking about with anyone, I would have asked you how I can ever kiss a girl and be 100% sure I wouldn't offend her?

Perhaps you would have talked to me about getting to know her first and gauging her level of interest in me. At which point, this fictional open and honest young me would have said, "Yes, but even if she and I are good friends and I really think she likes me, how can I be ONE-HUNDRED PERCENT SURE that if I kiss her, she won't be offended?"

You probably would have said something about how one can never be completely sure of anything and that one has to take some risk in life.

But how could I risk BEING A BAD PERSON? Because that's what I believed. I believed that a man who sexually offended a woman -- even if he didn't do it intentionally -- was a bad person?

I'm not saying that all kids feel that way. If they did, there would be much less harassment. My pathology was just one manifestation of the confusions our culture creates. It was the way I -- as a sensitive kid with many female friends -- interpreted what he'd been told. And I had no one to set me right. And I had tons of girls telling me how great I was for being respectful and polite. And the other guys I observed -- the ones who weren't like me -- were frequently upsetting women.

So we have guys like me and guys who harass. Clearly, if we have to choose, we should choose guys like me. But both are sub-optimal. We can do better.
posted by grumblebee at 7:06 PM on December 26, 2008


Salamandrous, I hope I made it clear that I am not making the claim that those heart-wrenching stories or the "not-rape" epidemic in general can ultimately be attributed to confusion.

I'm saying that I think it's useful to look deeply at the social, cultural and psychological components of violence against women, how they manifest differently in men and women, and see them as interrelated in ways that are difficult to tease out. Regardless of whether any individual man actually commits acts of violence and harassment against women, they are certainly connected to, and influenced by, a culture in which other men do. The dynamic of sexual power, control and dominance I mentioned above contributes to normalizing male sexual aggression as a default behavior pattern (ranging from mild to extreme), even for men who don't rape, assault or harass women.

One of the ways this dynamic rears its ugly head for men is through pressure to conform to the path of least resistance, lest they face the kind of agonizing loneliness grumblebee describes. This kind of pressure is not directly comparable to the horrific and systemic ways this dynamic impacts women. However, I see it as relevant to the problem of sexual violence, and useful for rape education, because it helps get us out of the blame-and-defend rut and highlights the systemic nature of these problems (which is very often overlooked or obscured).

On a related note: if we expend untold amounts of energy defending ourselves and staking out territory in these discussions, that's energy we're not spending on looking critically at the model of relationships we absorb in this culture, which I believe is a necessary step toward a culture of more feminist relationships. (Perhaps this is a subject best addressed through another thread, though).

Is there a way out of this mess? I honestly don't know, though I remain stubbornly optimistic even in the face of disheartening realities. In any case, I suspect that approaching the problem of sexual violence by looking at the systemic relationship between individuals and their social context is a step in the right direction.
posted by velvet winter at 7:15 PM on December 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


Hold on a sec, Grumblebee, I think it's a fair thing to point out that you're not necessarily the normal guy, and that while guys usually have some of this fraught sexual relationship navigation, the extreme Manichean view of no sex versus bad guy is definitely not a normal adult thing to deal with. I realize that you're just speaking from your experience, and I don't want this to come across as unnecessarily harsh, but your Asperger's is definitely influencing your perceptions here, and the problem may be less society at large and the mixed messages inherent, and more you.
posted by klangklangston at 9:55 PM on December 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


I agree with klang, grumblebee. You do seem to talk as if your own experiences were somehow representative, and I'm pretty sure they're not. Sure, everyone's confused about sex and gender relations when they're young (and sometimes forever), but I think your "extreme Manichean view of no sex versus bad guy" is your personal thing.
posted by languagehat at 6:46 AM on December 27, 2008


Well, I'll bow out if that's the consensus. It wouldn't be right for me to waste space here on my personal oddities. But I'm certainly not the only guy I've met -- even in this thread -- who has said similar things.

I'm willing to buy that my reaction to certain cultural forces is somewhat unique to me. But I believe very strongly that those forces exist and that the affect most people badly (though maybe not in the particular bad way they affected me). And that we need to solve the way they affect PEOPLE -- as opposed to the way they affect just women or just men. Because even if, for some reason, we just care about one gender, that gender is deeply affected by the way the other gender is fucked up.
posted by grumblebee at 7:03 AM on December 27, 2008


My problems didn't come from anti-rape stuff. They came from having ZERO models for good male behavior. I certainly didn't get good models from my peers or older guys. I certainly didn't get them from Hollywood.

Really? Is there really such a dearth of models for good male behavior? To be honest, I find this perplexing.

Because even if all your male relatives were shits, and all your male friends were turds, books alone have explorations and depictions of ever type of masculine behavior imaginable. And although the portrayals are narrower, movies also have a reasonably wide range of masculine portrayals.

And a lot of the extreme negative portrayals are just mirror images -- a good man is everything those negative portrayals are not.

So yeah, I agree that you are taking a really extreme stance here, and trying to generalize from it. There's a lot of resonance between what you are saying and a lot of the "but wait, I want to know what the rules are!" comments that one sees here on MeFi and the internet in general, but that's probably reflective of the non-representativeness of the population here.

And finally, whenever I read the "when I was young all the girls would only date bad boys" motif (which has come up in this thread alone two or three times), I just have to assume that we were living in different worlds. And even if you were surrounded by women who indeed insisted on dating "bad boys," why on earth would you not, say, get to know some other women? This sort of thing has the sound to me of a really reductionist view of gender relations, and my guess is that this worldview has a lot more in common with not getting dates than does some supposed preference by young women for "bad boys."
posted by Forktine at 7:30 AM on December 27, 2008


Um ... I don't know grumblebee, and I feel like I've stumbled into some kind of Christmas Party awkward moment where hugs are being given, (and I love the word "Manichean" for excessive dualism), BUT...

I don't think it's necessarily a symptom of Asperger's to think that American culture has a systemic problem with gender relations -- including persistent encouragement of sexual aggression in men (without clear limits), excessive sexualization of many parts of life, reducing women to sexual objects, constant pressure to drink and get high, and celebration of teenage buffoonery -- that arguably contribute to the various incidents, from small to severe, that make it frightening for women to walk around in public at night.

Perhaps we can keep discussing this, which I think is probably the best potential way to improve things. Or maybe other people have better ideas, which would be cool too.
posted by msalt at 10:48 AM on December 27, 2008


I think I'm going to respectfully bow out of this thread, since we're now knee deep in "men's problems" territory, following the pattern I pointed to earlier. Though I remain keenly interested in discussing the deeper, systemic nature of patriarchy and its relationship to sexual violence, I don't think this is the right place for me to do it, especially because I'm starting to get an all-too-familiar heavy and burdensome feeling. I know from previous experience that this is a clear sign that I need to take my leave, at least for the time being.

Before I bow out, though, I'd like to offer some links to resources for pro-feminist or feminist-identified men. Guys, we need you!

The Gender Knot: Unraveling our Patriarchal Legacy by Allan G. Johnson
I can't recommend this book highly enough, especially for those interested in the systemic nature of these problems and how this plays out on an individual level. This book gave me the tools to identify patterns and articulate issues I've struggled with all my life.

Men Speak Out: Views on Gender, Sex, and Power edited by Shira Tarrant (review)

The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help by Jackson Katz

There are also some great blogs, including The Uncommon Man and Feminist Allies.

On a related note: I'm especially interested in readings and discussions of how to build healthy feminist relationships, so if anyone has resources to recommend, feel free to MeFi mail me.

Thank you to everyone who is working to end sexual violence and advance feminist goals.
posted by velvet winter at 1:13 PM on December 27, 2008 [11 favorites]


I'd like to thank velvet winter for clear elucidations of the issues here, and for calm and insightful posts.

Because I don't know if I'd be able to react in such a level-headed manner to assertions like the following:

I don't think there is the bright line separation between the reality that men need to be somewhat aggressive, and the risks of depersonalized, coercive sexual situations, that we would like there to be. It's inevitably murky.

I honestly don't know what world this comes from. How is it murky? How hard is it to tell if you're forcing your attentions on someone who doesn't want them? How can you not tell the difference between asserting yourself in socially acceptable ways (like asking somebody out) and sexual assault? And this canard about "women" all liking "aggressive men". It makes about as much sense, and is as just, as saying that "all men" want 22 year old blonde girls with breast implants. I would never insult the men I know by incorporating something like this into my real life understanding of men, let alone allowing it to guide me in how I behave towards them.
posted by jokeefe at 1:52 PM on December 27, 2008


I'd also like to link to this essay, "What’s wrong with saying that things happen to men, too?", and then I'll quietly bow out as well.
posted by jokeefe at 2:07 PM on December 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


Thank you very much to everyone who has expressed appreciation for what I've written in this thread. I'd like to add a clarification and a few concluding remarks, for the handful of folks who are still following this thread.

I wrote above that I bowed out of this thread because I identified a common derail pattern, wherein a group starts out with women sharing their experiences, and ends up focused on "men's problems." That was not meant to imply that sexual violence is a "women's issue" or that men's perspectives are unwelcome. Quite the contrary, in fact. Sexual violence is something we should all be concerned about, and I think men's efforts are essential in reducing sexual violence. There is an important place for this kind of discussion. However, it is my contention that a thread about women's "not-rape" experiences is not that place. Others may disagree, of course.

I decided to bow out of this thread out of respect, and a desire to avoid repeating the derail pattern and drawing attention further away from the main subject matter of the thread.

That said, I am still interested in thoughtful discussion of the deeper, systemic nature of these problems, and how sexual aggression becomes normalized as a default behavior pattern for men. That is what I was trying to address in one of my earlier comments. I'll quote from The Macho Paradox by Jackson Katz, who explains this better than I:

"[M]en continue to grow up with, and are socialized into, a deeply misogynistic, male-dominated culture, where violence against women - from the subtle to the homicical - is disturbingly common. It's normal...you don't have to look far to see evidence of the pain and suffering men cause. But it is rare to find any in-depth discussion of the culture that's producing these violent men. [...] It is rarer still to hear thoughtful discussion about the ways that our culture defines "manhood," and how that definition might be linked to [violence against women].

"I [am] part of a growing movement of men...whose aim is to reduce violence against women by focusing on those aspects of male culture - especially male-peer culture - that provide active or tacit support for some men's abusive behavior. [...] It takes time to change social norms that are deeply rooted in structures of gender and power. Even so, there is room for optimism.

"Make no mistake. Women blazed the trail that we are riding down. Men are in the position to do this work precisely because of the great leadership of women. [...] My work is dedicated to getting more men to take on the issue of violence against women, and thus to build on what women have achieved. The area that I focus on is not law enforcement or offender treatment, but the prevention of sexual and domestic violence and all their related social pathologies."

I have great respect for Katz's work with men. One of the areas he focuses on is how men experience social pressure to act "manly" in order to get dates or win sexual favors from women, and how this shapes men's behavior in ways that give rise to a culture of violence against women. This is what I think some of the commenters above were trying to get at, albeit rather crudely at times.

I think Katz is right about the rarity of thoughtful discussion of our cultural norms of maleness and how they are linked to violence against women. That's the kind of discussion I was hoping to encourage above. But again, I don't think this thread is the place for it. Might be a good subject for a FPP, but I'm not quite courageous enough to post it myself.
posted by velvet winter at 11:04 PM on December 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


Velvet, I think we've come to very different conclusions about the culture and community standards of Metafilter. Let me try to explain.

Every topic worthy of the name seems to involve some push and pull of contrary viewpoints. For example, neither of us could make an FPP about, say, the human consequences of terrorism, without admitting counterpoints about people falsely labeled as such, nor on the deficits of religious home-schooling without contradicting testimony, nor on the tactlessness of a set of photographs without welcoming some defense of the work. Unless the FPP is an inert puff of hypertext, there will always be someone who strongly rejects it, or whose personal experiences reframe it.

Now, sometimes, the free-for-all annoys the hell out of me: threads which begin in literature but take a swift turn into politics; or every thread which, at the utterance of the word libertarian, dissolves into a cloud of recycled jeers and canned abuse; and every thread on art or music which spirals into accusations of "hipster." Imagine how those of us who care just as much for other subjects as you do for this feel about this sort of constant dilution.

One way to look at it would be that no one subject or viewpoint takes priority, that all are in the same common class. But it does seem to me that more care is taken to protect and insulate discussions of Feminism against contrary viewpoints and perceived derails than a half-dozen others I could name offhand. Try finding the same levels of derision casually leveled at Feminists as at Libertarians, or Christians, or someone who happened to read the wrong book, or listen to the wrong band. It isn't tolerated.

In light of that, I share your hatred of pointless derails, recurrent distractions, and flames, but I don't understand the sense that that's what's happening here. It seems to me that most people (most men especially) are already treading on eggshells (and skirting the edges of patronizing gallantry) in these sorts of threads, and that to further efface their presence would mean, for many, staying silent or staying out entirely. To ask for that seems to be asking for more than anyone else gets, or has a reasonable expectation of.

Does this make any sense?
posted by kid ichorous at 1:22 AM on December 28, 2008


Having read velvet winter's and kid ichorous's latest posts, I'll (annoyingly?) reappear after claiming to bow out. I find I have one more thing to say.

I've had gracious memail exhanges with velvet winter and jokeefe. I hope I won't undo that good will by stating that I visited jokeefe's link and was deeply disturbed by it.

Here's what upset me:

What it boils down to is this: Men, not women, need to be the ones creating the spaces to discuss men’s issues. [Emphasis NOT added.]

This upsets me for two reasons, a personal one and an ideological one. On a personal level, it upsets me because it seems to be saying "you men should..." which assumes that I, a person with male anatomy, am part of a group called "men" and have certain allegiances and responsibilities as such.

Granted, many men and women do feel this well. Many women feel specially connected to other women; many men feel specially connected to other men. I find it fascinating that this connectedness (and exclusion of "the other side") affects both ends of the political/social spectrum. Of course, there's the conservative view that "the women folk should go talk about children and housekeeping while the men folk smoke cigars and talk politics." But there's also the more liberal view that women are empowered by being with women and men are empowered by going all Robert Bly and beating drums in the woods.

I'm not knocking that. (If you look at the animal kingdom, it's hard to escape the view that the gender-based groups are at least partly instinctual, which is morally neutral -- instincts can be good, bad or a mixture of good and bad.) I'm saying that I personally feel no special connection to men. Most of my close friendships, throughout life, have been with women. And my male friends are friends -- they're not MALE friends. I don't classify myself as a man, except anatomically. So I don't buy that I should go off with people in "my group" and do whatever, because men are not my group. If I'm going to discuss my problems, I want to discuss them with my group: people. Okay, that's it for the personal issue.

The larger issue is that -- as velvet winter says -- sexual violence isn't a female problem. It's just a problem. Saying "Men, not women, need to be the ones creating the spaces to discuss men’s issues" is like saying, "Black people, not white people, need to be the ones creating spaces to discuss black issues." NO! If there are problems that affect black people, they affect ALL people. Saying "black issues" ADDS to the problem of racism.

There are not black people problems and white people problems; there are not male problems and female problems. There are just PEOPLE problems. Saying that men should solve men's problems makes things WORSE, not better. Our goal should be to stop partitioning people. If a man harasses a woman, the problem is NOT that a MAN harassed a WOMAN. The problem is that a PERSON harassed a PERSON. And as people, we should all be concerned about it.

Having said all that, I acknowledge that (a) people have the right to congregate in whatever groups they want (regardless of how I may personally feel about it) and (b) if men are allowed to speak in a mixed-gender conversation, it often happens that they dominate -- or try to dominate -- the conversation.

How do we deal with that? I'm not sure. But I am sure that the way NOT to deal with it is the easy way. The easy way is to ban men from the conversation, suggest that they go off and discuss their own concerns alone or to compel them to keep "on topic" if on topic means to not bring male thoughts and feelings into the conversation. (There are not MALE thoughts and feelings. There are just HUMAN thoughts and feelings.)

Our challenge is to FULLY include both men and women in these conversations in such a way that all people feel fully represented and fully heard. This means we somehow need to let men have their say without alienating women. This is very difficult, but it's the only worthwhile goal.

It's bad that I felt the need to bow our, because I was skewing the subject in a too-male direction.

It's bad that some women felt the desire to bow out, because the subject was -- once again -- being skewed in a too-male direction.

The solution -- whatever it is -- needs to solve both these problems at once or it's not a useful solution.

Telling men to go to their own club and discuss things there may help in the short term. But it's one step forward and two steps back. In the end, it creates more separation between the genders. That's not what we need. We need harmony. We need harmony at any cost.
posted by grumblebee at 7:14 AM on December 28, 2008


"Men, not women, need to be the ones creating the spaces to discuss men’s issues" is like saying, "Black people, not white people, need to be the ones creating spaces to discuss black issues." NO! If there are problems that affect black people, they affect ALL people. Saying "black issues" ADDS to the problem of racism.

Grumblebee, I get what you're saying, but I think you may have perceived the wrong focus in parsing the statement you read, which has led you off in another direction that may not have been intended by the author.

What tips me off to this is that you have come up with an incorrect analogy here. The phrase "Men, not women, need to be the ones creating the spaces to discuss men’s issues" is actually like saying, "White people, not black people, need to be the ones creating spaces to discuss white issues." not the other way around, as you had originally stated.

This difference is important because the author is highlighting the power structure and the markedness of the groups being discussed. Women are the marked gender compared to men, just like black people are the marked race compared to white people. The marked group does not and cannot speak or raise issue with the unmarked group without that being indexed as such. If an unmarked group member wants to discuss something that effects them, but that something predominantly effects the marked group – especially when part of the problem lies in the markedness of the groups involved and the power differential that is granted to those groups and their members – they should do so in their own space so as not to upset the delicate power dynamic that is occurring as the issues are discussed.

Being unmarked carries privilege in the form of power and freedom of action. This also translates to legitimacy. The unmarked group is often wanting of this legitimacy and equal rights/power/unmarkedness. So to walk into a discussion as an unmarked person and claim that you are hurt too can often carry more weight than those that are struggling to be heard. If you want to shift the discussion to include men's sexual assault too, it is not seen as providing balanced opinion, but an assertion of legitimacy in demonstrating that men are victimized as well. The problem is that men's experiences (as a whole) are already legitimized, and so throwing in actually serves to delegitimize women and index their markedness again, in a space that was by design unmarked, giving them freedom to talk, discuss, etc. This is a big part of the reason that men need to create their own spaces to talk about the issues that affect them, and not use the women's platform as an entry point for their discussion.

I think this is also a very important quote from the article, "Women are the victims of patriarchy, and the suffering of men occurs as a secondary consequence of their role as oppressor." I've highlighted this because it shows two separate issues going on. Each justifiably warrants separate discussion. If a man starts discussing his status as a victim in a women's space already discussing women's victimhood in a patriarchy, it sends one of two messages:
1. I'm a victim too, and that should be given equal footing as a woman's victimhood.
2. Let's talk about the byproducts of the patriarchy instead.

A #1 interpretation gives equal weight to the byproduct of the problem (male assault) and the most damaging results of the problem (female assault). Asserting this re-establishes male legitimacy and inadvertently de-legitimizes women in the process.

A #2 interpretation is an attempt to hijack a conversation, by a male who wishes to shift the focus of it, presumably because he thinks this aspect is more important to discuss at the moment. This exacerbates the situation, because it shows that he does not see/understand the difference between the way men vs. women are victimized as a result of the original problem.

All instances of "you" are the ethereal you, and are not directed towards any one person in particular.

Also, I could not find any unloaded alternative to the word "victim."

posted by iamkimiam at 10:30 AM on December 28, 2008 [8 favorites]


Being unmarked carries privilege in the form of power and freedom of action. This also translates to legitimacy. The unmarked marked group is often wanting of this legitimacy and equal rights/power/unmarkedness.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:33 AM on December 28, 2008


The phrase "Men, not women, need to be the ones creating the spaces to discuss men’s issues" is actually like saying, "White people, not black people, need to be the ones creating spaces to discuss white issues." not the other way around, as you had originally stated.

I agree that your analogy is better, but I'm equally shocked by it. I don't buy that "white people, not black people," should deal with white-people's problems, because that implies that there is such a thing as a white-person's problem. Ultimately, that's a racist view, even if it comes from good motives. And we need to RUTHLESSLY rid the world of all racist views, regardless of their motives.

If you disagree, my guess is it's in one of two ways. Maybe you disagree that "white people, not black people..." is a racist statement. If so, there's little room for discussion. I've been as clear as I can be that I don't buy that there are no x-type-of-person problems; there are just all-people problems. If you think otherwise, we'll have to agree to disagree.

Or you may agree that it's racist, but you may feel that sometimes you have to be a little racist towards a historically-privileged race in order to redress a power-imbalance. I sympathize with that view, but I passionately disagree with it. I can make it really personal and still find I disagree with it: I believe hitting people is wrong. If I could make a magic button that would stop a person from hitting, I'd make it. Now, when I was a kid, I often got hit by bullies. There's a part of me that wishes I had hit them back. But if I could go back in time and watch one of those bullies hitting me, and if I saw the little me starting to hit back, I'd press the button and stop myself. (Of course, I'd stop the bully from hitting me in the first place, too.) Hitting is just wrong. Two wrongs don't make a right. If I want to stop bullying, I need to find some other method besides bullying the bullies.


I think this is also a very important quote from the article, "Women are the victims of patriarchy, and the suffering of men occurs as a secondary consequence of their role as oppressor."

What is your definition of "men"? Am I part of that group? Whether I want to be or not? Why? Because "my people" have oppressed "your people"?

No. I reject that. Those men that oppressed "you" are not my people. I have as much (and as little) a relationship with them as you do.

Women have not suffered. PEOPLE have suffered. As long as it's "women," that adds to the sexism in the world. That REMOVES the suffering from me. We don't need me thinking, "Oh, women are suffering. That's too bad. Good thing I'm not a woman..." We need me thinking, "Oh shit! People are suffering! I'm a person. I can relate!"

Finally, I would add that, even given my views, I think women should be able to form groups that exclude men -- groups where they feel comfortable talking about what they perceive as women's issues. I'm not crazy about it, but I accept it.

But Metafilter is not a woman's group and this thread was not presented as a "women's only" thread. If you feel that ANY discussion in ANY forum -- as soon as it veers to particular topics should become a women's forum, then I disagree. Again, that would be like saying, "If we start talking about race, the white people should not talk about their experiences" (or "the black people should not talk about their experiences.") I disagree. That's harmful.

Again, I DO think it's a problem if -- because men participate -- the conversation moves in a way that make women uncomfortable. To me, that simply means we have to worm doubly hard to include everyone. It doesn't mean we should exclude groups or topics.
posted by grumblebee at 11:10 AM on December 28, 2008


Why is it so hard for feminist theorists to speak in plain English, without all the stilted language and coinages? Personally I tend to think that high-falutin' language in general is a sign of obfuscation and the concealment of theoretical lacunae, if not directly designed to discourage "outsiders" from reading something.

That said, the article jokeefe linked to is pretty clear and punchy on the issue of men taking over feminist discussions. And I haven't read the books Velvet Winter recommended yet, so maybe the answer to this question lies there.
posted by msalt at 11:24 AM on December 28, 2008


iamkimiam: thank you for your post. I really appreciate your efforts to shed light on the subject.

kid ichorous: My decision to avoid further derail was based more on my knowledge of feminist principles than MeFi community standards. Although what you're saying makes sense within a certain frame of reference, it is not a frame of reference that I share, and at the moment I am too weary of discussions like this to explain further. We'll just have to agree to disagree, I suppose.

Once more into the fray, and then I will follow through with my intention to stay out of this thread.

What is your definition of "men"? Am I part of that group? Whether I want to be or not? Why?

Yes. If you (referring to the collective you here) are male, you are part of that group, whether you want to be or not, whether you consciously acknowledge it or not. Whether you feel privileged or not is irrelevant. Why? Because, as feminists and other activists have taught us, male privilege (like white privilege, heterosexual privilege, etc.) is institutionalized. It is a social system. It is woven into the very fabric of our society. A society is more than a collection of individuals. Regardless of how you feel as an individual, it is virtually impossible for you not to reap certain benefits because of the way our culture privileges maleness. You don't have to like privilege, or even believe in it, in order to receive it. Social systems have consequences for people regardless of their good intentions or lack of desire to participate. Good people participate in systems that produce bad consequences all the time.

If we look at all this through a lens of individualism, we will overlook the forest for the trees. A forest is more than a collection of individual trees. It's a collection of trees that exist in a particular kind of relationship to one another, and that relationship can't be seen by focusing only on individual trees.

Likewise, I am female, which means I am part of a group that is systematically disadvantaged in our culture, whether I want to be or not. I may prefer to see myself as an individual, but every time I walk out the door I am reminded by the way people behave toward me that I am female, and that our society is organized in ways that privilege men over women (and whites over people of color, heterosexuals over non-heterosexuals, and so on.) I cannot choose not to be part of this system, no matter how much I might want to sometimes.

If you're interested in learning more about this, I highly recommend Allan G. Johnson's work, some of which I am paraphrasing here. The author painstakingly lays out in clear, lucid, jargon-free prose exactly how social systems work, why it is difficult for privileged groups to see their own privilege, what it means to be part of a system regardless of how we may feel about it, and how we participate in it.

Systems thinking is actually a very liberating way to approach social problems, because it acknowledges power and privilege as a fact without blaming, attacking, or guilt-tripping individuals.
posted by velvet winter at 1:00 PM on December 28, 2008 [10 favorites]


I was going to respond to grumblebee's latest, but iamkimiam and velvet winter have done so far better than I would have. I'll just give a quick summary of what I would have tried to say: wishing the problem away ("There are not black people problems and white people problems; there are not male problems and female problems. There are just PEOPLE problems.") is not only not solving it, it's making it harder to solve. There are in fact black problems and white problems, male problems and female problems, and different people have different relations to the problems and have to approach them differently. And grumblebee, I'm sorry, but you (like me) as a white male have a privilege that non-whites and non-males do not, however much you might wish differently; it ill behooves you to tell them how to respond to the problems they perceive.
posted by languagehat at 2:08 PM on December 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


velvet winter, I think that many men in our culture have oppressed many women in our culture. I think various aspects of our culture makes it easy (and even desirable) for some men to oppress some women. I think many aspects of our culture TEND to reward men more than they TEND to reward women. By "reward," I mean those forces TEND to make it easier for some men to get things that people in that culture generally TEND to want. And that it's harder, in general, for women to get those thing.

All of those qualifications are tiresome, and it's much easier to just say men are privileged. And I'm not opposed to shorthand speech -- as-long-as we remember that it IS shorthand speech.

Yes, it tends to be easier for men to get higher salaries than women in many industries. That sucks. On the other hand, I personally don't have values that lie in those directions.

Tiresome as it is, I have to delve more deeply into what you mean by "privilege." If you hate broccoli, is it a privilege if I give you a lifetime supply of it for free? Who defines what a "privilege" is for an individual? I know you're more concerned with groups than individuals, but you're making statements that claim things about individuals, e.g. that I -- as an individual -- am part of a privileged group.

Also, the fact that my wife can't walk down the street in as much safety as I can AFFECTS ME more deeply than anything I can think of. (She's a much calmer person that I am and more of a risk taker. She doesn't worry about it the way I do.) How is it a privilege that I'm safer than she is if I don't want to be safer than she is? It would be awesome if both of us were safe, but if I had to choose, I'd feel much more privileged if she were the save one and I was in danger.

This idea that I'm more privileged seems to imply that it's better to be the safer one. But that breaks down when your loved ones are in danger. Threats to my wife our threats to me. There's no difference. Which is one of the many reason that aggression against women is EVERYONE'S problem. And the aggressor is your husband, brother or son. So that makes the male actions YOUR problem (probably -- it depends how you define yourself in relation to your loved ones).

Yes, I'm talking about my personal quirks. But I've already agreed that our culture does privilege men IN GENERAL. I also still strongly assert that I do not identify with that group. And it's very odd -- and somewhat insulting (though I'm not personally insulted by you, because I get that we just have different philosophies about this) -- to have someone else tell me what group I belong to.

It's as if you've told me that I'm Christian because I've gained so many privileges from living in a predominantly Christian culture. (I was born Jewish and I'm an atheist.) Or that I'm a conservative because a grew up in a red state and benefited from some conservative policies (even though my ideology is liberal). I HAVE benefited by growing up in a culture that historically oppressed "pagan" cultures. Yet it would be very odd to call me a Christian.

Essentially it sounds like you believe that "the sins of the fathers shall be visited on the sons." That, for instance, the kids of a Nazi war criminal are somehow responsible for the Holocaust because -- unknown to them -- they somehow benefited from stolen Jewish treasures. Maybe gold from Jewish fillings helped pay for their educations.

Children aren't responsible for their parents' sins, whether they benefit or suffer from them. Children are only responsible for what THEY do. And in my book, a child who says, "My father was a fucking Nazi and I renounce him" is not still part of that family, whether he wants to be or not. Thinking that way is terribly fatalistic and confining.

I am responsible for making the world a better place for women because we all are responsible for that. You are and I are EQUALLY responsible. In fact, if you claimed that you had MORE of a responsibility towards women than I do, I would argue with you. If you claimed you had LESS of a responsibility towards men than I do, I would argue with you, too. We all have equal responsibility towards each other. (Some men and women may have a greater DESIRE to help their own gender, but desire and responsibility are two different things.)


Likewise, I am female, which means I am part of a group...

That's very seductive language, because it's seemingly simple. We can all agree with it and move on. Or we can examine it more closely and see that it's actually a very vague statement, open to all sorts of interpretations.

What do you mean "I am part of a group?" What makes a person part of a group? (e.g., What makes people "rape survivors" as opposed to "rape victims?" What if I tell a "survivor" sorry, you're not a survivor, you're a victim, whether you want to be or not?) You seem to be saying that it's cut and dried -- that people just somehow IN groups in some set-in-stone way. But who put them in those groups? And is it possible that groups are in any way subjective? Couldn't I view myself as a liberal and you view me as a moderate and couldn't both of us be right given our differing personal contexts? Even biologists don't view taxonomies that rigidly. People and dogs aren't part of the same group in some cosmic sense. It's just useful to think of them group members when doing certain types of science.

Do you mean something mystical? That all women are spiritually connected and that they can't not be (because of some supernatural agent that forces them to be)? If so, we just disagree.

Do you mean that genetic and/or social forces compel ALL women to feel connected to each other? Even if that's often true, I know from experience -- having met some women who don't feel connected to other women -- that it's not universally true.

Do you mean that "our culture" TENDS to view all women as part of a homogeneous group? Well, if "our culture" means "many people in the US," then I agree. But not ALL people.

Do you mean that many cultural forces TEND to make life hard for women in ways they care about or should care about? If so, I agree again. It's a tendency.

But if you happen to not care about those "hardships" and if you happen to not feel connected to other women, it would be WILDLY presumptuous of me to claim, "Well, you're in that female groups anyway, whether you like it or not." It would be slightly less presumptions of me to claim, "You may feel differently, but I personally categorize you as a member of a group I call women." At least I'm taking responsibility for the way I categorize you rather than evoking it as a universal. It wouldn't be presumptuous at all for me to say, "Well, regardless of how you classify yourself, many people are going to classify you as part of a group they call women." That's just true.

Yes, many people are going to classify me as part of the "man" group and, as such, assume that I have certain privileges (things they assume I care about) and responsibilities. So what? I renounce that group. I should have no responsibilities towards a group that I never opted into and don't relate to. I'm sure you know history well enough to understand what happens when we classify people.
posted by grumblebee at 2:31 PM on December 28, 2008


And grumblebee, I'm sorry, but you (like me) as a white male have a privilege that non-whites and non-males do not, however much you might wish differently; it ill behooves you to tell them how to respond to the problems they perceive.

It's funny. We have utterly opposed perspectives on this. From my vantage-point, I am not telling anyone how to respond. I am being told how to respond.

I agree that it's much easier for me to do many things (that are generally considered advantageous) than it is for many black people and many women.
posted by grumblebee at 2:36 PM on December 28, 2008


wishing the problem away ("There are not black people problems and white people problems; there are not male problems and female problems. There are just PEOPLE problems.") is not only not solving it, it's making it harder to solve. There are in fact black problems and white problems, male problems and female problems

Either you're misunderstanding me or -- much more likely -- I'm being unclear.

If you think I'm saying that black people have no special challenges, they you're wrong. That's not what I think. Of course they (many of them) do.

I'm saying that a problem that affects black people is not a black-people's problem. It's a human problem. That is my subjective way of looking at it, but I'd say it's as valid (or invalid) as the framing "it's a black-person" problem. And I'd further argue that my framing is the only one that might provide a solution.

That's IF you think that one of the world's problems is the way people divide themselves up. IF you agree with me that it is, then any "solution" that continues to be divisive ("black-person problem", "women's problem") is not helping, even if it seems to be in the short term.
posted by grumblebee at 2:43 PM on December 28, 2008


grumblebee: It wouldn't be presumptuous at all for me to say, "Well, regardless of how you classify yourself, many people are going to classify you as part of a group they call women." That's just true.

=

velvet winter: I may prefer to see myself as an individual, but every time I walk out the door I am reminded by the way people behave toward me that I am female, and that our society is organized in ways that privilege men over women (and whites over people of color, heterosexuals over non-heterosexuals, and so on.) I cannot choose not to be part of this system

grumblebee: I am being told how to respond.

velvet winter, iamkimiam et al have put forward suggestions for alternative ways of thinking about and approaching discussions like this. No one has announced You Must Do XXXX. Only "Here's how some of us think about the drift of these discussions, and here's some other analysis along the same lines, which we hope some may find illuminating."

Also, interpreting Men, not women, need to be the ones creating the spaces to discuss men’s issues as exclusionary is inaccurate. It's not "You men go away or if you insist on staying, be silent."

It's "We need the input of both women and men to move forward on this. Women often initiate discussions about problems well-documented to affect girls and women. It's surprising how frequently some men's contributions to these conversations consist mainly of demanding why the women aren't discussing boys and men as well.

"Certainly we could frame all discussions as affecting girls and boys and women and men. That would make visible male victims of xxxx (helpful) and at the same time, dull analysis of factors specific to girls and women (not helpful). Could we women address this by researching and unpacking factors specific to boys and men, in addition?

"Well, yes, we could, but 1. do our voices and role modeling carry enough weight in our society to effectively address boys' and men's issues by ourselves, and 2. is that the most effective use of all the resources and time and energy available? Wait a minute...

"What is discouraging more men from initiating conversations themselves, among boys and men, about similar problems affecting boys and men?"
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 4:22 PM on December 28, 2008 [9 favorites]


It looks like I am more than a day late, but I'll try not to be a dollar short. Reviewing the complaints directed at my post, they seem to accuse me of (insidiously) silencing women's voices by raising the subject of men's interests where sex crimes are concerned. To that I want to add two things, for the record.

One, I emphatically disagree that speech directed to men's issues has some innate property that drowns out or erases speech directed to women's issues. For the first example in support of that proposition, I cite this thread. Despite me and a few other posters addressing men's issues in this discussion, the overwhelming majority of comments remained addressed to women's issues. Indeed, the commenters that addressed my arguments largely did so only to the extent necessary to, at least implicitly, tell me to stop talking about men's issues, because this is a women's issues thread.

For the second example, I'll use Google as a metric of the ratio of speech addressed to men's interests versus speech directed to women's interests:

Google hits for "women's rights" (6,150,000 hits)

Google hits for "men's rights" (121,000 hits)

Today's Google News hits for "women's rights" (655 hits)

Today's Google News hits for "men's rights" (8 hits)

So, despite the existence of some small minority of speech directed to men's issues, the total amount of speech, as measured by Google, is overwhelmingly directed towards women's issues, at a ratio of well over 80:1. Because of that, I'm not as inclined to believe that my speech on this issue is somehow able to silence women's speech, rhetorical blandishments towards "privilege" or "history" notwithstanding.

Two, I want to clarify why I got involved in this thread to begin with. I responded to a direct challenge inviting people who shared my viewpoints to defend them in the context of the article linked in the FPP. To request that kind of participation, and then to complain when it actually happens, seems manifestly unfair. I appreciate the efforts to be open and sensitive to what's seen as a minority viewpoint (despite my evidence to the contrary), but I really wish that the people, who are obviously the majority on the site and in this thread, displayed an equal amount of openness and sensitivity to my viewpoint, which is clearly a minority viewpoint, at least on metafilter and this thread.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 12:51 PM on January 3, 2009


Law Talkin' Guy, this might be because "men's rights" are usually defined as merely "human rights".

Even in your Google link for "men's rights", there is significant difference-- on the first page of results-- as to what, exactly, those rights consist of. Most of the links seem to refer to groups who are objecting to current child custody decisions.
posted by jokeefe at 1:38 PM on January 3, 2009


One, I emphatically disagree that speech directed to men's issues has some innate property that drowns out or erases speech directed to women's issues.

You need to read some basic feminist writings, or perhaps listen to women who have experienced what happens in coed classes.
posted by languagehat at 2:35 PM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Or just about any meeting with both men and women. It's sickening to watch women get systematically ignored. There's only so much one can do except, of course, not ignore people, but there are only so many questions one can direct at people when one isn't running the meeting.

Even in very progressive circles this happens all the damn time.
posted by Kattullus at 5:45 PM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's sickening to watch women get systematically ignored.

That phenomenon is clearly real -- and at least as common when the attention giver (say, a classroom teacher) is female. The problem is, how do you distinguish between overbearing men (or women) dominating the conversation, and underassertive women (or men) shrinking from the fray?

There is no norm or objective. POV is strongly linked to gender, and everyone in the discussion is has a horse in that race, whether they like it or not. You can't automatically say that the quieter person is "oppressed" however -- by what standard? There certainly was no sympathy for underassertive men in this topic, by men or women.
posted by msalt at 6:13 PM on January 6, 2009


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