Monday, March 21, 2011

The Cult of the Flying Penis Monster

By A.J. Cooke*

A few years ago, I wrote an article in the University of Maryland campus newspaper about the Men’s Anti-Violence Campaign, a group that tried to reduce rape on campus with seminars, full-page newspaper ads, and big posters telling men that rape is bad and that they should stop doing it. My point was that besides being ridiculously offensive to men, it was, much more importantly, a massive waste of money that would not prevent rape but, rather, make most students -- male and female -- take feminism and the anti-rape movement even less seriously than they already do.

One of the responses my article prompted took the form of a lengthy diatribe by radical feminist blogger Kyle Payne. He argued, in accordance with radical feminist dogma, that the only way to prevent rape is to try "to repair the damage of a corrupt system (gender)" by focusing efforts "where rape begins, in men’s decisions to assert dominance over women through sexuality."

I won't refute Mr. Payne's argument here because I don't see any room for reasoned debate between us. Frankly, it would be pointless to argue argue with Mr. Payne's points because they stem not from a difference of opinion drawn from a series of facts, but from articles of faith that are utterly incompatible with my own worldview (and, I dare say, the worldviews of most people).

To explain: the definition of radical feminism is a little hazy, but the gist of what they believe is that the most basic form of evil is the oppression of woman by man: that every evil in the universe, from the Holocaust to slavery to high prices at the gas pump, is directly rooted in patriarchal oppression. They believe that the driving force behind the everyday patriarchies that feminists in general oppose is a vast capital-lettered masculine conspiracy, "The Patriarchy," a mechanism by which all men consciously oppress all women. The mission of radical feminism is to solve all of the problems of the world by changing the root dynamic of male-female interaction.

I could not make this up: radical feminists believe that they can solve the problems of the world, which are caused by a magic penis conspiracy, by getting men to be less manly. Again, there is no way I can refute these beliefs because they stem from inalienable pillars of radical feminist thought.

That said, what I will do is point out that, while I was doing research for this follow-up, I discovered that Mr. Payne had written his screed after being arrested and charged for a sexual assault on a Buena Vista University student while he was working as an RA.

Even assuming that the date on the post is inaccurate and that he posted it immediately after the original article was published, even assuming that this sexual assault was his one and only deviance from strict adherence to radical male feminist behavior, that means that he had spent an entire year before I had written my article being a bona fide unrepentant sexual predator and he still had the gall to accuse me of being part of "the problem."

Galling though it was, it wasn't remarkable. What was remarkable was how Mr. Payne justified his criminal actions using the buzzwords of radical feminism in his eventual apology (after his plea agreement, before his sentencing): “it seems likely that I neglected to fully investigate and confront the influence of patriarchal conditioning on my own sexuality.” To summarize that blog post, Kyle offers as an explanation of his predatory behavior a childhood history of sexual abuse (for which, if true, my heart goes out to him even though it doesn't excuse what he did) and a resulting variety of deep-seated psychological issues, the whole of which he blames on masculinity.

This is a reasonable position if you believe, like feminist scholar Mary Koss, that “rape represents an extreme behavior but one that is on a continuum with normal male behavior." For those of us who don't, the reasoning is fundamentally unhinged at best and skin-crawlingly disturbing at worst. By their logic, it's entirely defensible to characterize Kyle Payne's molestation of an unconscious co-ed as par for the course in the milieu of average, red-blooded male conduct.

Try as I might, I could no more separate radical feminists from their beliefs than I could separate the stars from the sky. What I do, however, is comfortably speak for my sex when I say that rapists aren't rapists because they're men, but because they're monsters. The root of male-female sexual violence isn't a mystical Marxian class struggle, but the the imbalance of social, psychological and physical power between men and women.

Blaming males for the shadows of the night and wallowing in caustic misandry may make radical feminists feel better about themselves, but I'll eat my eyeballs if it can be proven that they protect a single woman from assault when they use trumped-up statistics to tell psychopaths that the police never believe rape victims and that they'll escape justice 95% of the time but that they should stop doing it because oh gee-golly-willickers it's so gosh-darn mean. Passive resistance may work in a lot of civil rights struggles, but it won't work against those naturally incapable of empathy.

If they really want to prevent rape, they should work to give women the the confidence to walk away from an uncomfortable or dangerous social situation, the know-how to detect and escape an abusive relationship as it forms and, when all else fails, a handgun and the training to use it responsibly. Claiming that rape is an inextricable facet of male identity gives nothing but succor to the wolves that stalk the dorms in sheep's clothing. I empathize with radical feminists' zeal to fight them, but it's counterproductive in the extreme to allow predators like Kyle Payne to abdicate responsibility for sexual assault by saying “I blame the Patriarchy.”

*Mr. Cooke's blog is Red Alert