March 10, 2011

rape culture

Filed under:, , , , , — cwage @ 3:27 am

I don't know why, but rape and rape culture seem to have been cropping up in my reading material a lot lately. I don't know if it's just coincidence, or maybe my broken google reader recommendations or what. I spent a good long while reading about and contemplating the Penny Arcade "dickwolves" controversy. If you don't know what that is, I'd recommend reading the previous link, but in a nutshell, it boils down to: Penny Arcade dudes publish a comic joking about dickwolves raping people in the night, and feminist blogs criticizing it for promoting rape culture (because Rape is Never Funny) and the whole thing becomes a giant clusterfuck of Internet retardation escalating to the point of death threats. (via twitter, but still).

Skip forward a few months, and I'm contemplating the meaning and ramifications of Odd Future's choice of misogyny and rape as subjects. Is it art? Is it saying something? Is it promoting "rape culture"? Food for thought.

Then my friend Melissa sends me an article about Colin Meloy's persistent rape-culture-promoting misogyny. Wait, what? Colin Meloy? The Decemberists? Come again? But no, really. I could crudely paraphrase the article's angle as: Colin Meloy writes a lot about bad things happening to women a lot. He does it ironically by framing it in old-timey cadence and language. But if you strip away the irony, it's just violence towards women. Thus he's a misogynist. Well, yes, if you .. remove irony, it becomes no longer ironic. Funny how that works. Colin Meloy also pens epics involving plenty of other Bad Things to all sorts of non-women -- but hey, let's not mention those, because that would undermine our point that Colin Meloy is a rape-culture-promoting woman hater, right?

So, excepting for the Odd Future thing, which is arguably a little more complicated, most of these examples are stupid. Colin Meloy writing about a woman prostituting herself is not condoning it. A comic with a joke about dickwolves (which are imaginary, by the way) raping is not promoting rape culture. When I came to this conclusion, it angered me, because not only is it stupid to accuse them of promoting rape culture -- it's actively dangerous.

Why? Rape culture is a real thing. In many very real ways, we do live in a rape culture, where misogyny and rape are subtly or overtly condoned. It's a real thing, and it's a very bad thing. So when you have bullshit like this taking the spotlight of attention, we have a very real signal-to-noise problem. There are actual ways in which rape culture and misogyny are promoted, and they are insidious and hard to identify. But when they are, they should be confronted headon.

Which brings me to this story about the gang-rape of an 11 year old girl in the New York Times. Many have identified some pretty odd and mysterious choices by the author, best explained by this recent Mother Jones article. Short version: the story refers to the men (18 men that raped an 11 year old girl) being "drawn into" the rape. The story includes only 3 quotes: one bemoaning the destruction of the community, one asking where her mother was, and another bemoaning the destruction of the community. And lastly, an account that "some said" she hung around a playground, and "they" noted that "she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s". The relevance of this (unsourced) quote is unclear. It's also unclear why we could get an unsourced quote blaming the victim, but not a sourced quote of anyone empathizing with the 11 year old girl that just got raped. Not one.

When I first encountered this story, it was via a petition on change.org -- a petition which, incidentally, is a little over the top and calls for some silly actions, but I digress. When I discussed this article with some friends, they dismissed it out of hand. It's the New York Times, come on. They are just reporting. If "some say" that the 11-year old girl dressed like a 20-year old, it's their JOURNALISTIC DUTY to report that. Apparently, though, it's not their journalistic duty to get even one quote from someone saying "hey it sure is fucked up that 18 guys raped an 11 year old girl". I mean hey, it's just the New York Times, right? The discussion then derailed into some brief criticism of change.org and how froufrou their causes look, and the conversation fizzled. I'd characterize their response as "eh, just another bullshit accusation of rape culture".

What I'm getting at is: people are used to accusations of misogyny and promoting rape culture being complete bullshit. Because so, so many of them are. And now, when one legit and valid example of real rape culture is highlighted, it gets lost or dismissed out of hand. I'm not excusing the dismissal, because it's lazy, and it's not that hard to read the article and see it. But to me this is a real problem.

Rape is a terrible, terrible thing. But it's not the only terrible thing, and it's not sacrosanct. People are going to make comics, pen songs, write novels, and tell jokes about rape -- just like they do about many other terrible things. And when they do, it doesn't (always) mean they are promoting rape culture. Constant misplaced/false accusations of it are only muddying the stream to the point that no one can see clearly -- and they're shrugging in apathy instead.

So, you know.. stop it.

  • cait

    making jokes about rape is promoting rape culture. if people can laugh at it, it becomes just a little less heinous and that's a dangerous path to go down. when people make racist jokes most decent people don't laugh and just excuse it away as art or a silly joke, because, you know, no one reeeeeeally thinks that way. except they do. so most decent people think its a shitty, racist joke. i'm not sure why rape should be treated differently.

  • Smeehrrr

    Ah, that explains why Hogan's Heroes was such a morally reprehensible TV show, since by allowing people to laugh at the Nazis it made it so much easier for another holocaust to happen.

  • http://steak.place.org/dougo/ Doug Orleans

    It wasn't a joke about rape. It was a joke about some videogame (not even really sure which game-- WoW?), and the joke had a throwaway reference to rape (and not man-on-woman rape, but a man being raped by a fictional monstrous animal with a silly name) as a signifier of something completely over-the-top terrible and awful. No one was laughing at rape, and it had nothing to do with rape culture, let alone promoting it.

    The clusterfuck that happened after the joke was probably promoting rape culture, though. That's where everything went stupid.

  • Amber

    My initial reaction was, "what the hell kind of trollish jackasses did you survey about that article?" Then, I started to wonder if you were satirizing the NYT. Then, I remembered that I've met a number of the guys you spend much of your time around, and I was no longer sure it was satirical. My next reaction was, "he's got a point that people need to not sweat the dumb stuff." One of my frustrations with American feminism is that we tend to focus on relatively benign issues when there are more serious things we need to fight. It damages our credibility when we're talking about who buys the drinks, when women and girls are being brutally raped and murdered every day and not getting the justice they deserve. Bruno Gianelli once summed it up beautifully when he said, "I love it when the women get involved...I'm talking about the women, the voters continuing their unbroken streak. The biggest nonsense issue in the campaign will belong to the women...I think anybody who's got a five-point majority and still doesn't control the agenda, might be spending a little to much time reading about how to get a man to get over his fear of commitment."

    Of course, the small stuff isn't necessarily dumb. Sometimes it's a lot of posturing, sure, but I tend to look at it in terms of a security issue. When Giuliani wanted to clean up New York crime, one of the ways he did it was by first targeting small crimes like graffiti, loitering, etc. That was a little fascist, but it also worked. Criminal justice studies have shown that areas that are well-kept cosmetically tend to deter crime, whereas areas that aren't well-tended attract it. The same thing could be said about personal interactions. People who acknowledge the niceties of not finding rape jokes funny, not sexually harassing women in conversation, and otherwise not diminishing the very real dangers women live with every day, help make women feel safer. They also help make it understood to the other men in their social group that rape culture isn't tolerated 'round here, which goes a lot further in protecting from actual dangers than you probably give yourselves credit for.

    Furthermore, men who think they can talk lightly about rape without sounding like rapists don't understand what usually occurs between predator and victim before the attack. There is usually some testing behavior by the predator to see how willing the victim is to stand up to them, and how far they can go before the victim puts up that fight. This sort of talk is often an element of that. Women are socially pressured to laugh this shit off and "be cool," but it is their own undoing, because the true predators will see this as both weakness and consent and target them for it. Women need to scream about the small stuff sometimes, because it *is* part of rape culture, and men need to take that seriously, because when they don't we can't distinguish them from the enemy. We can claim irony and art and subversion all we want, but it's really not all that ironic or artful or subversive when rapists do it seriously every six minutes. If that makes men feel jaded about the whole thing, well, I still don't give them a pass. The truth is women actually speak out about this stuff probably about a quarter of the time they experience it. If you feel tired of hearing about it, imagine how tired we are of going through it. Frankly, it makes me sad that men have such a limited amount of attention and compassion they can give to the safety of the women in their lives that they can't get as worked up about it as the rest of us.

  • turkey

    i disagree about using the dickwolves as a bad example. Anything no matter how subtle or imaginary, is something that would not have shown up even 5 years ago, something that makes it okay to make rape jokes, making it okay to think about or desensitize something that is so incredibly horrible. the reason most rapists are not your hollywood random street attackers, is because a lot of common people think rape isn't what it is, if it's a friend if it's someone who trusts you, if it's a girl or boy you just met, and you believe them to be shy, things and comments and jokes like these make it seem less bad to assume someone's consent without actually verbally or physically getting it

    • Variaupgrade

      Also, in direct response to this...

      "Anything no matter how subtle or imaginary, is something that would not have shown up even 5 years ago, something that makes it okay to make rape jokes, making it okay to think about or desensitize something that is so incredibly horrible." - turkey

      A) Not to pull an attack on you as a person, but if you genuinely think something like this wasn't around five years ago, you are highly mistaken. Not only that, but jokes along these lines have been known to exist since at least the earliest examples of literature and likely since homo sapiens developed the ability to communicate with gestures. If I'm reading your argument correctly, that the dickwolves joke is a product of the modern age, then I must point out that you're incorrect.

      B) I disagree wholeheartedly with your assessment that "anything no matter how subtle or imaginary" is a corrosive influence in any meaningful manner. The only logical procession from your point of view is an absolute sterilization of society, and that's neither possible nor desirable.

  • Variaupgrade

    Not a direct response to the post, but more of a general post on the issue.

    First, a short little side note that I think gets ignored far too often.

    Let's reinforce a very important point. The original comic that started it all was not making a joke about rape, imaginary or otherwise. The joke was that "heroes" in MMOs are suspiciously quick to cease doing good deeds the instant their required quota for being rewarded is met. It's a joke that simply takes a look at an obvious effect of game mechanics and then puts it under a "what if this was in the real world" lens. The comic - in general - is no different from other comics that make fun of the fact that you might go out and mine enough ore to make ten gold bars, smelt them yourself, then bring them to someone and he gives you a few silver and maybe a pair of socks as a reward.

    That's the joke.

    The part about dickwolves is a throwaway line that was just meant to make you go "eww, god damn that's messed up and random as hell," which is a staple of PA's sense of humor. That's it.

    Also, I'd like to say that I think the phrase "rape culture" is ill-thought-out. Just hearing it makes too many people roll their eyes and walk away from the subject, because it comes across as an extremist view, whether people like to admit it or not. And in some cases it can be, which hinders a rational discussion on a real problem.

    Now, my main rebuttal to the furor over the entire matter is twofold.

    First, rape culture exists. Yes. It does. It's true. However, "rape culture" is not some kind of binary, true or false entity. It's not like it either exists or it does not. Rape culture is a matter of degrees of severity. You cannot logically argue that all incidents are of equally moral concern. Moreover, at its most severe, some of the extreme crusaders against what they see as "rape culture" includes such things as "at no time should a man ever approach a woman at a club and ask if she'd like to dance, the male must be passive, otherwise they are part of a rape culture."

    You may not like that fact, but there are a vocal minority who actually believe things like that.

    As it pertains to rape culture, you cannot hold a dickwolf joke on the same level as a talk show host making some remark about how he (or she) thinks rape is acceptable if the victim somehow "invited" it (via dress, behavior, race, religion, sexual orientation, profession, whatever.) Those are in two COMPLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEETELY different dimensions. And yet people are frequently failing to make that distinction. If you genuinely believe that those two are in any way similar except in the most stretched of comparisons, then I would argue that you are wrong. Extremely wrong. And I would argue that you're doing the fight against rape culture more harm than good by taking a black and white view at an issue that simply cannot be (constructively or intelligently) viewed with a polar perspective.

    I'm not saying you can't be offended by dickwolves.

    I am saying that things like dickwolf jokes are not worth crusading against, even if you're offended by them. People are going to use imagery of Bad Things (child abuse, rape, murder, stealing, bombings, tofu, whatever...) as part of comedy. It's just going to happen, and I personally argue that this is not a bad thing. If you want to argue that the dickwolves somehow lessen the horror of actual rape in any meaningful way, then that is your perspective. I disagree. I think there's a massive discrepency in both the tone and severity of influence on rape culture between dickwolves and... say, certain H-Games from Japan that feature graphic rape as the single focus of the game.

    Look. We all have to pick and choose what offends us, and moreover what we believe to be worth denouncing as genuinely harmful. What I'm saying is that people need to take a step back and examine intent, origin, meaning, and most importantly of all... whether what you're being offended by is actually all that dangerous to a safe society in the first place on any realistic level. If you're going to argue that "rape" should be a banned word except in the most clinical of academic or therapeudic (sp?) environments to prevent ANY possible "triggering" in past victims, then that's your personal opinion, but I don't believe it's a realistic goal, nor do I believe it's a healthy one. Frankly, I think that kind of thought process is actually more dangerous than a dickwolf joke.

    Secondly (and MUCH more briefly)...

    People lashed out at PA for a joke about MMORPGs that happened to include a brief remark about dickwolves. PA is PA, and anyone shocked or offended that their response was to counter with their brand of comedy... well, I think you're kind of missing the point and don't comprehend that they weren't even having the same conversation as you. Nor, imo, should they be. They shouldn't be expected to apologize sincerely to everyone who's offended by a PA joke. They simply should not. If I was at the Friday night improv and made a joke about getting shot, and someone in the audience was a gunshot survivor and it triggered traumatic memories about nearly dying...

    Well, it's unfortunate, but I don't owe them an apology.

    On that note, I'll wrap this up.

    However, as a final note, I'm curious at what point rape victims began being called "rape survivors." I'm not saying rape isn't a horrific, violent, traumatic thing to go through. I just... I dunno. It sounds... odd. We don't call victims of other, heinous, but non-lethal (in and of itself, anyway) horrors "survivors."

    • Amber

      Yeah, sure. Frankly I don't give a damn about dickwolves. I haven't even seen the cartoon, and by your description if I did it's not the sort of thing I'd get worked up over. There's an intensely misogynistic culture in WoW that's often hostile to female gamers, and I'd like to see that simmer down, but that cartoon barely even tracks on the larger screen of what's wrong there and it's certainly not going to change much of anything. It's also not much more than an annoyance in comparison to hearing men "joke" that way around women in real life, so like I said, I don't care that much.

      >>Also, I'd like to say that I think the phrase "rape culture" is ill-thought-out.  Just hearing it makes too many people roll their eyes and walk away from the subject, because it comes across as an extremist view, whether people like to admit it or not.  And in some cases it can be, which hinders a rational discussion on a real problem.<>First, rape culture exists.  Yes.  It does.  It's true.  However, "rape culture" is not some kind of binary, true or false entity.  It's not like it either exists or it does not.  Rape culture is a matter of degrees of severity.  You cannot logically argue that all incidents are of equally moral concern.  Moreover, at its most severe, some of the extreme crusaders against what they see as "rape culture" includes such things as "at no time should a man ever approach a woman at a club and ask if she'd like to dance, the male must be passive, otherwise they are part of a rape culture." You may not like that fact, but there are a vocal minority who actually believe things like that.<>As it pertains to rape culture, you cannot hold a dickwolf joke on the same level as a talk show host making some remark about how he (or she) thinks rape is acceptable if the victim somehow "invited" it (via dress, behavior, race, religion, sexual orientation, profession, whatever.)  Those are in two COMPLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEETELY different dimensions.  <>Look.  We all have to pick and choose what offends us, and moreover what we believe to be worth denouncing as genuinely harmful.  What I'm saying is that people need to take a step back and examine intent, origin, meaning, and most importantly of all... whether what you're being offended by is actually all that dangerous to a safe society in the first place on any realistic level.  <> If I was at the Friday night improv and made a joke about getting shot, and someone in the audience was a gunshot survivor and it triggered traumatic memories about nearly dying...Well, it's unfortunate, but I don't owe them an apology.<>However, as a final note, I'm curious at what point rape victims began being called "rape survivors."  I'm not saying rape isn't a horrific, violent, traumatic thing to go through.  I just... I dunno.  It sounds... odd.  We don't call victims of other, heinous, but non-lethal (in and of itself, anyway) horrors "survivors."<<

      The word victim, in the strictest Latin sense, means "sacrificial animal." The more modern connotation is someone who suffers from some sort of destruction or injury, particularly when it results in death. Survivors, on the other hand, did not die from the destruction or the injury. For example, the people who died from the tsunami in Japan are tsunami victims. Those who experienced destruction or injury due to the tsunami but are still alive are tsunami survivors. Thus we have murder victims (because they are dead), and victims of theft, victims of assault, etc., although we're really stretching the strict meaning of the word victim to apply it to anyone who is still alive. In this sense "rape survivor" is more technically correct. Using the word survivor also has some psychological benefit according to some victims of rape, since it puts the power back in their hands to deal with the tragedy instead of forever relegating them to the role of a passive victim (which is often particularly important when dealing with rape).

      • Variaupgrade

        >>Bullshit. It's not my problem when other people don't take the problem seriously,

        Except when you're taking up the banner and taking it upon yourself to educate others, you have to do so in a manner that is actually condusive toward getting them to hear your message. That's rule 0 of debate.

        >>and I'm not going to sanitize words because "rape culture" makes those same people cry. If you're so desensitized or ignorant about rape that you roll your eyes when women talk about it,

        In part, yes, but.

        What I said is that the problem is that if you approach someone who's relatively unawares of the general concept of a rape culture, leaping in their face as many people seem wont to do and talking about a "rape culture" is going to alienate them from any kind of meaningful discussion. The simple fact of the matter is that the vast, vast, vast majority of people are utterly disgusted by rape or sexual violence (whether emotional or physical) towards women (or men), and by initiating the discussion by labelling our society a "rape culture" instantly toggles a switch in the minds of many to consider the speaker to be some nutjob who thinks the average man (or woman, but most commonly man) is a well oiled rape machine indoctrinated by media, just waiting for the moment to strike, instead of the relatively rational, respectful individuals that most people are.

        That was a very long sentence.

        >>then you obviously need to hear more on the subject, and I will definitely make a point to keep talking about it around you.

        Except that isn't exactly a constructive attitude. There are times and places to talk about things like that. Just getting up in someone's face and going "RAPE CULTURE WE LIVE IN A RAPE CULTURE RAPE RAPE RAPE" (.. or whatever less flagrant and undoubtedly more intelligent choice of words you'd pick) is going to garner you the same response as when a fundamentalist leaps in their face and starts screaming about burning in lakes of frozen fire because they play D&D or whatever. Being Jack Chick does not help the cause, no matter how good it feels to let it all out.

        Such a person should re-evaluate whether they're out to make a difference or whether they're just out to vent.

        Truth is irrelevant if phrased in a manner that instantly dissuades its intended audience from listening.

        >>I've actually studied quite a lot of radical feminism and I'm completely familiar with this attitude. You're setting up straw men that can be easily knocked down.

        That was kind of the point, which I all but said in those exact words.

        >> For every radical feminist I've met who believe men should be passive for fear of intimidating women, I've met three dozen men who engage in rape apologetics.

        I think at this point we should both admit that we're both throwing out some fallacious statistics for the sake of making a point and just accept that it's argumentative grease to make a point smoothly. I understand what you're saying.

        >>For some reason, the radical feminist gets criticized more about her opinions than the men do about theirs. That is wrong, and that is rape culture, and that needs to be corrected.

        True, but that's an issue that's beyond the rape culture's umbrella and has to do with issues far more endemic in the general, patriarchal paradigm under which most societies operate. While it applies in your earlier example of rape apologists, my basic point is that women being taken less seriously (opinion-wise) than men isn't necessarily solely about a "rape culture." The two are linked but not synonymous.

        But this is a pedantic point I'm making, and in general I agree.

        >>Yes, obviously. It doesn't make either one less wrong,

        I would argue that it does, in any useful definition of the word "wrong." Because otherwise you're making the argument that punching someone in the shoulder is as bad as gashing out their throat with a machete. There -are- degrees of immorality. At least that's what I believe. More to the point, I'd argue that the dickwolves joke (which you really should at least glance at, so you know what we're talking about in the first place, takes 30 seconds to google and read), is toeing up to the line of "completely harmless."

        Arguments could be made otherwise, and they have been. But I don't agree that things like that somehow cheapen actual rape in the mind of anyone but the most mentally disturbed individuals imaginable, much as how I don't believe Doom caused (or had anything to do with encouraging) anyone to go out and butcher people with a gatling gun. There is a point where such things become so ridiculously obvious in their frivolity that no one in their right mind would actually be affected in any way by the inclusion.

        And at the point where we begin to engineer our society to sterilize itself in the hopes of preventing some loonie from reading Superman and jumping off a skyscraper thinking he can fly, we're losing far, far more than we could ever gain.

        I'm not insinuating you believe otherwise. I'm just making a general point.

        >>they can't really be surprised when the audience goes after them. That's the risk you take when you play on the fringe.

        >>Here's the real problem: I'm at a mixer. I'm chatting with a guy I just met. We're drinking beer. Everything seems swell until he leans in and says, "Have you ever been tied up? I think you would enjoy it. I can tell that about a woman." It makes me feel uncomfortable, but [[ quote truncated ]] Judging by the number of men I've met who joke around like this, they either don't seem to get the way they're coming across, or they simply don't care if the women in the room feel less safe around them.

        A little of column A, a little of column B. And though I must admit I've never heard someone just go balls out and say anything -that- blatant to someone they just met (... though I don't carry a directional mic with me to clubs or parties so I'll just go with your example), I imagine the sole thought process of such a person is...

        "I want to get laid. Maybe there's a horny woman here. Eh, screw being smooth or charming. I'll just get right to the point and see if anyone's up for some kinky shit."

        >>I wish that more of the men who would supposedly never intentionally do that would do just a little bit more to protect them from it, especially when it costs them absolutely nothing beyond a little extra consideration.

        I think every societal ill could be cured with "a little extra consideration." Not to go all Bill & Ted Philosophy on you, but...

        I agree, but I think we're talking about an issue that's vastly more comprehensive than a rape culture debate alone.

        >>You might not owe them an apology, but you should probably give them one, just because it might make them feel better to know you sympathize and doing it doesn't cost you anything.

        I suppose my less than eloquent counter argument would be something like this. They knew I wasn't attacking them, or making fun of people who were shot. It'd be like someone watching Forrest Gump and getting pissy over the fact that him being shot in the ass was played for laughs in the movie at a couple points. Getting angry about that would be allowing oneself to completely miss the greater narrative.

        Which in my example would be a joke not done at anyone's expense.

        I hate to go all macho-mode, but there's a point where being sensitive goes waaaaaaay past the point of expecting social courtesies and goes into a full blown pity party. I'm not saying that rape victims being offended by a rape joke are being "wussies" or anything like that. I'm just saying that at some point, common sense has to come into play.

        >>but if you have the opportunity after the show, why not?

        Because in that specific case my response would be "Dude. Get the fuck over it. I wasn't attacking you. It was a joke."

        There comes a point where apologizing for hurting other peoples' feelings becomes ridiculous. For me, the line is drawn before that point. If I apologized to everyone whose feelings I hurt, I'd apologize to devout Christians who are offended by the fact that I'm friends with gay people. I'd have to have apologized to my step-father for being friends with a black kid in a largely white community as a kid. I'd have to apologize to hardcore Mac users for owning a PC.

        Yes, I'm exaggerating, and greatly, but everyone has to draw a line, otherwise you spend your entire life apologizing for things that really shouldn't be apologized for. On a more realistic example, I used to be a union electrician. I refused to apologize to coworkers for owning a Nissan because for a long while the domestic car market was complete crap. They were offended, but I didn't give a damn.

        They needed to suck it up, so to speak. Hmm. That's probably not the right metaphor to use given the discussion.

        >>For example, the people who died from the tsunami in Japan are tsunami victims. Those who experienced destruction or injury due to the tsunami but are still alive are tsunami survivors.

        Yes, but a tsunami can kill you. Rape cannot. It's really disgusting and horrific and bad, but it's not a lethal assault, which is why rape is not prosecuted as murder. And.. yes, we could probably go around this particular maypole for a long while and debate the notions that some rape victims commit suicide or what not, but that's stretching it a bit. Anyway. If people want to refer to themselves as rape survivors, that's fine.

        And don't get me wrong. Nothing would make me happier than if we decided rapists had blown their shot at life and we consign them to death by elephant porn as punishment, but that's just me and my barbaric, masculine impulse to see bloody vengeance brought down upon people I'd rather -not- leave roaming around the same Earth as my female family members. I admit it. I'm a bloodthirsty animal at my core. I'd just like to think it's properly focused through a lens for the greater good.

        >>Using the word survivor also has some psychological benefit according to some victims of rape, since it puts the power back in their hands to deal with the tragedy instead of forever relegating them to the role of a passive victim

        Fair enough.

        • Amber

          >>The simple fact of the matter is that the vast, vast, vast majority of people are utterly disgusted by rape or sexual violence (whether emotional or physical) towards women (or men), and by initiating the discussion by labelling our society a "rape culture" instantly toggles a switch in the minds of many to consider the speaker to be some nutjob who thinks the average man (or woman, but most commonly man) is a well oiled rape machine indoctrinated by media, just waiting for the moment to strike, instead of the relatively rational, respectful individuals that most people are.<>I would argue that it does, in any useful definition of the word "wrong." Because otherwise you're making the argument that punching someone in the shoulder is as bad as gashing out their throat with a machete.<>I must admit I've never heard someone just go balls out and say anything -that- blatant to someone they just met<>Yes, but a tsunami can kill you. Rape cannot. It's really disgusting and horrific and bad, but it's not a lethal assault, which is why rape is not prosecuted as murder.<<

          Actually, rape *can* kill you. If you doubt that, look up what's happening in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Brutal rape (typically gang rapes in those cases) causes trauma and bleeding that often results in death. There was also the case I worked on while I was with the District Attorney's Office, where a father cut open the vagina of his three month old daughter so he could penetrate her. She died from the trauma of that, too. He was charged with both aggravated rape and murder, but rape was the violence that killed her. Not all rape is a "he said/she said" kind of situation where maybe there's some bruising or tearing but she emerged relatively physically unscathed. Some of it is still is really, really violent. It's not prosecuted differently than murder because rape doesn't result in death, it's defined differently because most rapes don't result in death and those crimes should be prosecuted, too.

          • someone

            >>just because x is less wrong than y doesn't make x any less wrong
            Either a contradiction or poorly worded.
            (1) 'x is less wrong than y' and (2) not 'x is less wrong'
            (1) says x is less wrong than something: y. Therefore, x is any less wrong.

            x is wrong and x is less wrong than y? Plausible. Exactly what the other poster said? Yes. x does not ipso facto condone or endorse harmful behavior? That, too. Humor is often an outlet for relief? Though it pains me to point this out to adults, yes. It's hard to take seriously anyone who treats x and y comparably? I'd say.

  • http://profiles.google.com/dangeraardvark Kragan Moore

    Good post.  You hit on my main beef with these "rape culture" accusations, that when you muddy the water by crying (dick) wolf you end just up giving actual misogynists more ammo.  And you alienate the reasonable people who would otherwise support you.  

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  • toryhaze

    I completely agree with your point of view. These jokes and stories are not what is promoting rape culture but the fact that the New York Times participated in victim blaming is what completely amazes me. Victim blaming is a major cause of rape culture and the idea that these rapists even had the guts to say that an 11 year old girl was asking for it by dressing older then she was is absurd. Even if she was a 20 year old woman dressing her own age it does not mean you can rape her. Im also baffled by the fact that so many participated and not one out of 18 men could realize that what they were doing was sick and wrong.