Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Assange case brings out the lunatic 'rape culture' fringe

I am grateful for the Assange case because it has exposed some of the loopiest comments about "rape culture" I've seen in quite some time. "Rape culture" is a short-hand term to describe the supposed fact that attitudes of sexual aggression and dominance are normalized in constructions of masculinity, resulting in prevalent sexual violence against women.

Among innumerable reasons for rejecting the very concept of "rape culture" out of hand and finding it not merely dishonest but thoroughly offensive are that rape is committed by a tiny percentage of males, typically with distinctive psychological disorders, and attitudes that spawn rape are neither normalized nor prevalent among males in general. To suggest otherwise is delusional.  Too often, manifiestations of an enhanced male sex drive that we're supposed to pretend doesn't exist, which manifestations do not amount to rape, are dishonestly cited as examples of "rape culture."

One of the more offensive "rape culture" comments I've seen in the Assange case was one made by someone named Lindsay Beyerstein who seemed to toss Blackstone's formulation onto a scrapheap of angry feminist indifference: "[I]t's pure rape culture apology to argue that so-called 'he said/she said' cases should be automatically dismissed in favor of the alleged rapist."

Actually, Ms. Beyerstein, a prosecutor is the gatekeeper of justice whose duty is to seek justice, and not merely to convict. He or she should only bring charges, as Prof. Bennett L. Gershman described it, when he or she is convinced to a moral certainty of both the defendant's factual and legal guilt. To bring charges when there is any less certainty does not fulfill the prosecutor's duty to do justice, but invites miscarriages and the possible conviction of an innocent defendant. "He said/she said" cases, where there is no other material evidence to shed light on the event, and where both sides are plausible, should not be prosecuted. Prosecutors should not look to "get lucky" in doubtful cases, hoping to get the "right" jury that might be swayed by emotion to send a presumptively innocent man away for years for a crime the prosecutor isn't confident the man committed.  Even in rape cases, Ms. Beyerstein.

By the way, I came across a brilliantly written column by Brendan O'Neill on the feminsts' anger over liberal support for Assange. Excerpt:  "What this unappetising spectacle of feminists telling us that everything with a dick is capable of rape really represents is an attempt to assert one longstanding liberal orthodoxy – that rape is rife – over another, newer liberal orthodoxy – that Assange is an untouchable, saintly speaker of truth to power. This is a competition of victimhoods, with the feminist set within the liberal elite feeling aggrieved that their favoured victims – women, everywhere, at all times – have seemingly been elbowed aside by a new pet victim: Assange and political hackers. There is no meaningful principle at stake here; rather we’re witnessing a clash of miserabilist, conspiratorial outlooks, with one side insisting that all women are at potential risk from ‘rape culture’ and the other side arguing that Assange is at risk from the military-industrial complex’s ‘power culture’."

And moving away from Assange, but speaking of "rape culture," kudos to Michele Martin, a UNC sophomore, who wrote a perceptive letter to the editor of her school newspaper scorching a previous writer's citation of consensual sex as evidence of  "rape culture."  Specifically, the previous writer claimed that equating a girlfriend’s value with her willingness to perform frequent oral sex is an example of "rape culture.”

Ms. Martin explained:  "Not only is the comparison between two willing partners and forced sexual assault erroneous, but it invalidates the sexuality of both genders to imply that mutual enjoyment of intimate relations is somehow wrong. The 'rape card' should be reserved for those who actually bring harm to others, not used to belittle those who enjoy sexual activity or stimuli — and yes, believe it or not, women are included in that figure."  Moreover: "Sexism and rape are very different things and there is no evidence that they are even correlated, let alone causal."