Wednesday, May 20, 2009

'Victim blaming' is largely a myth

It matters not one bit that some angry members of the gender-feminist/sexual-assault-industrial complex are going to read this title and brand us, for about the one-millionth time, as "rape apologists." Even if they don't know any better, such comments are uttered with such reckless disregard for the truth that they are akin to actionable libel. No sane and reasonable person could disagree with what I am about to write -- which means the aforementioned will.

Now let's make clear something that a more politically correct writer would have said at the outset instead of taking a cheap shot at an easy target: the bad guys are the ones at fault. Rape is rape, and rapists should not receive any mitigated sentence merely because a woman was drinking, or flirting, or doing whatever. Every rational thinker should agree that women have no moral responsibility when a man rapes her, any more than a convenience store clerk has when he is robbed and beaten.

But one of the sacred mantras of the gender-feminist/sexual-assault-industrial complex is that to even suggest ways women can prevent rape is "victim blaming." As one sexual assault advocate, Walker Thornton, Executive Director of Sexual Assault Resource Agency, recently said: "I'm constantly asked what women can do to prevent sexual assault. Not, what can we do as a community to help young men not commit sexual assault. We're still blaming women." She continued: "If I go on TV and say don't go home late at night alone, don't talk on the cell phone, be aware of your surroundings, I fail to say, there's a man out there attacking women. That's victim-blaming, and it let's them off the hook."

This, of course, distorts how most people view rape beyond all recognition. And, yes, attitudes like this foment an atmosphere that could make rape more likely.

No one is letting rapists off the hook, except perhaps for the most vile souls among us, and they are vastly outnumbered by everyone else. Every story we report where there is an over-reaction to a rape claim involves a male who can't control his anger when told that a loved one has been raped. It is quite possible that men detest rape more than women. Men, as a class, do not excuse rape. Just as men, as a class, do not excuse murderers. Or burglars. Or any other criminals.

Of course, some of the same people who cry "victim-blaming" do excuse one class of criminals -- can you guess which one? That's right, false rape accusers. And we have the posts on this site to prove it. But I digress.

Now there's another type of alleged "victim blaming" that deserves mention, even though it's really not "victim" blaming. Sometimes people (you know, the alleged "victim blamers") suggest that a purported rape victim might have sent out mixed signals to her "rapist." And gee, that's been known to happen. See our previous post on a study to that effect. In that circumstance, these "victim blamers" are questioning whether the encounter really was rape. As harsh as that sounds, they are, at times, right. The legal test for rape is whether a reasonable person in the position of the alleged rapist would have understood that the other party assented to sex based on all the surrounding circumstances. People manifest consent to sex in innumerable ways, by words and conduct. We haven't yet reached the point where they sign a written document, but it's coming. To say that rape occurred merely because the woman declares it was rape is not accurate. Her secret, subjective whims, desires or wishes make no difference -- all that matters are her outward manifestations of assent. As painful as I know this is for some to hear, those sorts of "victim blamers" might be wondering if it was really rape for good reason.

Now, coupled with the "victim blaming" accusation is a related, even more vile, phenomenon. It's the move to blame men as a class for rape, and to suggest that they have a greater responsibility to prevent rape than innocent women. This is absurdly sexist and seeks to hold males as a gender responsible for a crime that only a tiny percentage of men commit (and, yes, even some women rape, too). It is condemning an entire gender based on the malefactions of a few. In any other context, we have words for that sort of thing -- "bigotry" comes to mind. The implicit suggestion is that a culture of hypermasculinity gives rise to rape, so even men who don't rape have a duty to stop it.

This, of course, is nonsense. Yet, we have a little cottage industry of speakers who go around the country -- mostly men, sadly enough -- whose financial interest depends on blaming young men in general for a "culture of rape" and insisting that innocent young men (but not innocent young women) have a responsibility to somehow stop the rapists. Even if their shtick were not so financially crass and disingenuous on its face, their premise is utter and complete horseshit -- that young men (who don't rape) engage in conduct degrading to women -- they consume porn, for example -- that creates a rape culture. As but one example of the vacuity of this argument, Dr. Christopher Ferguson of Texas A&M, someone who actually knows what he's talking about, debunks these myths. His comments about rape are especially illuminating: ". . . pornography is no more linked to rape than violent games are to violent crimes. Researchers have long known that rape rates have gone down in the U.S. as pornography consumption has increased. Rapists typically consume less pornography and are exposed to it later than non-rapist men." Now please understand, I am opposed to porn for other other reasons. But to suggest that porn consumption falls somewhere on a rape continuum is a lie.

Singling out young men who do not rape as being responsible to stop rape, while excusing young women who consciously put themselves in situations where rape is more likely to occur, is asymmetrical gender blaming. Newsflash: rapists are responsible for rape. Period. Not innocent women -- even the multitude who drink and purposefully arouse men; and not innocent men, even the multitude who like to be aroused by women.

But it is a truth that is painfully politically incorrect that women can prevent rape a hell of a lot easier than innocent men by taking steps to avoid putting themselves in danger with the bad guys.

For one thing, stop the underage drinking and sex play with men they don't know. When rape occurs in that situation, innocent men can't stop it. Only the rapists can stop it, and, yes, the innocent women could have taken steps to reduce it's likelihood.

But you see, it's much easier to scream "victim blaming" and to shame innocent young college men into thinking they must be "part of the solution" than to actually work to reduce rape.

It's no more "victim blaming" to tell women to be careful than when my grandmother used to warn me not to walk through certain "bad" neighborhoods at night. When I got beat up one time because I disregarded her advice, she was the first to crow, "See? I told you!" That didn't mean that my grandmother excused the kids who battered me.

In any event, save your angry comments about this post because they are hypocritical. It's all about who delivers the message, let's be honest. A site like ours that's incorrectly pegged an MRA and a rape apologist site can spread advice to women to be careful of the rapists, and an angry gaggle of gender feminist hens will cluck cluck cluck "Victim-blaming! Victim-blaming!" But if a sexual assault advocate sponsors a program on female self-defense where some physically fit woman teaches other women how to kick a guy in the balls, that's "empowerment!"

You want to reduce rape? Take measures to deter the false rape accusers so women who are raped will be believed, and start teaching young women to avoid putting themselves in danger. And, yes, keep teaching women to kick the rapists in the balls.

Funny, I get the idea that some financially interested members of the gender-feminist/sexual-assault-industrial complex are less interested in reducing rape than in fomenting hysteria about it. I can't imagine why.