On rejecting men and rape culture

Now that you’ve had a little time to reflect on the mind-boggling controversy that occurred when Rebecca Watson suggested that propositioning strange women in elevators was creepy, and men – including Richard Dawkins – whined in response and wondered however would poor menz ever get laid again if they couldn’t creep women into giving it up, I want to tell you a couple of things you need to understand.

Rejecting a strange man’s sexual advances is scary. That’s right – scary. Some women will tell you it’s not and that Watson was overreacting, but no one’s experience is universal: the fact is, a small minority of people cope with rejection by lashing out in violence, and when those people are bigger and stronger than you, or have power over you, you can end up getting hurt. It is completely rational and sensible to think defensively when you’re in a situation full of unknowns. A man you don’t know may respond to your rejection with a friendly, “Well, couldn’t hurt to try, right?” or he may turn out to be a rapist who likes showing teh bitchez they can’t reject him, or he may fall into that huge gray area in between.

This should explain two things to you: why women are often unclear in their rejections (“I’m busy/engaged/have a headache” rather than “No, I would never be interested in you”), and why women are creeped out by situations men think women should find flattering.

Does anyone else suspect that when heterosexual men envision these situations, they’re seeing only beautiful women, without judo training, propositioning them to do something they really want to do? Of course. That’s how privilege works [required reading]. So let me present a more fitting version (previously discussed in comments, if it sounds familiar):

You’re a man. A really big, muscly guy gets in the elevator with you. He tells you he’d like to fuck you. You feel keenly aware that if he wanted, he could easily just spin you round, pull down your pants and fuck your anus as hard as he wants. You know it can happen, because this has happened to lots of men you know. You’ve seen it on literally thousands of TV shows and movies ever since you were a kid. And you also know that no one would believe you if you reported it, because he’s well-dressed and looks extremely respectable. And he wants to fuck you, and he can rape you if you refuse. Maybe you should just give him a blow job, to be safe. But then wouldn’t that be the same as being raped, since you don’t want to have sex with this guy? Yes, except, well, you’d retain some small measure of control. As you prepare to get on your knees, you think, “God, I hope he doesn’t ask for my telephone number afterwards.”

Do not read this as an argument that Watson’s situation was this terrifying. From what she’s said, it wasn’t. I’m just showing you an extreme because apparently some of you just don’t have a clue, and an extreme might be required to penetrate the dense fog surrounding your thinking processes.

Maybe a better example is Greg Laden’s wonderful post about encountering a dog, and how he’s not afraid of dogs generally, and he knows how to handle them generally, but sometimes you meet a dog and have no way of knowing if it’s the sweetest creature ever or rabid and vicious, and how, gee, maybe apprehension in that situation is absolutely justified. Ya think?

Whichever example you prefer, that brings me to my second point. Rejecting a strange man can, in the right circumstances, be so scary that some women will simply skip the rejection and do what’s being asked, in hopes that they won’t be brutally raped (because having sex you don’t want in order to avoid a worse fate is rape, too). Remember when we were all being told by public awareness campaigns in the 80s: do not fight with muggers, just give them the money and they’ll leave you alone, but if you fight with them they might kill you? That’s what women have known about men since forever, and so many of us are extremely pro-active in our avoidance of strange men in uncertain situations. And, yes, that’s a pity for you genuinely nice guys – but you if you are nice, you’ll blame rapists, not women, for making things difficult.

And that, folks, is one of the many ways rape culture benefits “nice guys”, or, men who are not legally rapists but are perfectly comfortable with manipulating women into sex rather than looking for mutual sexual experiences. Rape culture provides a ton of ways to frighten women into allowing you to rape them without anything resembling physical violence:

  • Creeping women out by targeting them in the way a rapist would. Read Laden’s post. Be aware of the ways male rapists approach adult women: they come up to us in areas where we’re alone, where there are no witnesses, where “nice girls” shouldn’t be, when we’re obviously intoxicated, etc. Your best bet is to meet women in other types of situations. If you strongly feel the need to hit on a woman in a situation where you’d be creeped out if a big burly guy hit on you, the way to do it is: offer her your number instead of asking for hers. Ask her if she’d meet you for coffee in the hotel dining area tomorrow morning rather than right now in your room. Indicate your interest without pressuring her into demonstrating reciprocation. That’s exactly how rapists don’t think. (And honestly? If you think you need rapist tactics to “get laid”, you probably really are just a rapist at heart.)
  • Being her boss, and having that long history of bosses retaliating against female employees who don’t submit to rape – and the long history of a society that didn’t understand why this was wrong until the 90s. Again, use a method acting trick to figure it out. You’re a man. Your boss wants a blow job. You know there’s not another job half this good available to you in the tri-state area. No one’s going to believe you if you claim he demanded this from you, because everyone thinks he’s so nice.
  • Promoting the idea that your religion states that a woman can never deny her husband “sex”, when your religion is dominant in your culture and, perhaps, government.

These are just a few ways that rape culture enables men to rape without physical duress or fear of consequences. I bet commenters can name some others.

Rape culture works because rape is a history every woman shares. If you haven’t been raped, you know someone who has. Or you’ve been in situations where, in hindsight, you think you narrowly and luckily avoided being raped. You don’t know a strange woman’s history with rape culture. Just as she needs to assume you are a rapist until she has good reason to believe otherwise, you should assume you’re dealing with someone who’s keenly aware you might be a rapist and taking sensible precautions. You are not entitled to resent her for making that impersonal assumption. You are entitled to resent rapists for setting up a culture in which such assumptions are, sadly, quite rational based on the facts she has before her.

And rape is only the beginning of rape culture enforcement. There’s also the fact that women are far more likely than men to be murdered by an intimate partner, or a serial killer with misogynistic issues, or get beaten half to death when they’re rented out by one man to another for sexual purposes. Rape is traumatic as hell on its own, but just in case that’s not enough, we have to keep in mind that some men won’t be happy until we’re dead. And when we meet strange men, we don’t have a magic way of telling the harmless majority from the lethal minority.

Comments

  1. Some guy says

    Some guy,

    I forgot to mention that I think you should get in contact with the site’s author to see if you can write a guest column about this subject. That’s why I brought it up.

  2. Red says

    “There’s also the fact that women are far more likely than men to be murdered by an intimate partner…”

    Recently there was a murder in a neighboring town where I live. A young woman (18 or 19) was killed by her boyfriend and her body left in a marsh. She was found a short time after. Not sure of the circumstances but ti was scary, as things like that don’t typically happen where I live.

  3. says

    Very good point. Going along with, “rape culture allows men to get laid without doing the dirty work of rape-rape themselves”, I’ll add that rape culture allows survivors to not even realize they’ve been raped. Just because someone doesn’t know she’s been raped, doesn’t mean she hasn’t been. She might think of it as “just” assault, he might not realize that he was too drunk to consent, or she might have internalized that rape only happens to bad girls who deserve it.

    Example 1. A friend of mine was at a house party when a friend of her boyfriend’s cornered her in the dining room. Everyone else was in the back yard or in the family room, with music blasting. He never touched her, but backed her into a corner where she couldn’t leave without pushing past him. She kept saying, “My boyfriend wouldn’t like it, I need to get back to the party,” but he wouldn’t leave and no one came to her rescue and finally she compromised by giving him a blowjob. When she related the story to me, she didn’t realize it was rape. Because she’d said yes in the end, that made it her fault in her mind.

    Example 2. A friend’s mother was molested by her own father when she was a little girl. Years later, she freely and willingly let him babysit her own little girl (my friend). He raped my friend. Her mother couldn’t believe it. You see, he’d only raped her when she was little because she was a bad girl who needed punishing, and he would never do that to her daughter because her daughter was a good girl. It ended up destroying her marriage because her husband couldn’t understand how she could possibly leave their daughter alone with a man she knew to be a pedophile.

    Example 3. A friend of mine (male) went to a party and got smashingly drunk. A female coworker helped him home and then had sex with him. Weeks later she confronted him, said she was pregnant with his baby and she wouldn’t abort if he gave her money. He ended up borrowing money from his family and paying her to surrender custody of their child. Never once has this man ever admitted that he was raped. I’ve never told him either, because being religious he’s already conflicting enough about having a child out of wedlock. I don’t want to put the stigma of “rape bastard” onto the innocent daughter.

    Yes, I really do know all of these people (and more besides).

  4. Red says

    Wish we had an edit button…

    On the study about how people cope with rejection with violence; that comes as no surprise to me. People who are so accustomed to getting what they want and being ego-stroked and feeling entitled to things don’t know (or were never taught how) to cope with the reality of life that is disappointment and rejection.

    These people are typically the ones who had the parents who just ‘couldn’t say no’ to their kids and gave them everything they wanted or the overly ‘feel good’ parents who insisted on doing everything they could to keep their kid from being let down too much or that they didn’t feel like a ‘loser’, so they would ‘bend the rules’ just to make them feel better. Sometimes they are one in the same.

    Yes, I’m aware it’s a blanket assumption, but from what I’ve witnessed, those are one of the categories those kinds of people fall into.

  5. Angela says

    I’m so glad you made this post. I live downtown and many times men, often drunk or high, have come up to me when I’m walking down the street. Always is it easier to pretend I’m not rejecting them and walking along until I see a store/some other place filled with people and can make an excuse and run into it. I think this is pretty much universal.

  6. Jack says

    Some guy:
    I would like to share a web site with you, because I think more men need to know this stuff.Otherwise, they may not realize the harm they do.

    http://artofmanliness.com/

    I’m curious about how this would turn out . . . at times, this site seems to try to be about masculinity being something other than just the opposite or lack of femininity, but at other times it can be quite dismissive and patronizing towards the more female issues.

  7. Wren says

    Just last night I had a simple but unpleasant experience with a guy who was probably perfectly decent. He probably had no idea how uncomfortable he was making me feel, or that I palmed a kitchen knife, just in case. It probably wouldn’t occur to him to try and physically force me to do anything, just to keep pushing and cajoling when I said no. It didn’t make me feel any less icky.

    And the thing is, seeing as he was probably perfectly decent, he probably would have backed off sooner if I had just said “I don’t want to have sex with you” straight off the bat rather than avoiding the topic and then making excuses about bad ideas and early work in the morning. But because I was feeling nervous and flustered and socially obligated to be pleasant and amiable, and because I didn’t know him well enough to be sure, I didn’t. Because probably isn’t good enough.

    Thank you for this post.

  8. says

    Yes, this.

    And it doesn’t even have to be fear of physical assault or rape. For whatever reason–fortunate past, strange brain, whatever–I don’t think about the possibility of rape much in relation to myself, not even when unwelcome guys hit on me.

    I do, however, worry about them making a scene. Because our culture has *also* taught guys that being persistent and self-pitying is a great way to get laid, and that being loud and obnoxious is a great way to feel better after someone’s rejected you. So even though I’m not worrying about physical violence, for whatever reasons, I get fairly tense anticipating the barrage of “oh, c’maaaaahn”/”why nooooot?”/”nobody likes me”/’you fucking bitch”. As Wren said, we’re socialized to be polite and amiable, and if people start looking at me, I feel flustered even though that’s not my fault.

    And I’m fairly comfortable with being mean, with identifying as a bitch, with telling guys that no, they damn well *aren’t* good enough for me. Someone who’s absorbed more of the various sociological toxins re: ladylike behavior and “being nice” could have a really shitty experience even without anyone laying a hand on her.

    Which is not in any way equivalent to the fear of getting sexually assaulted, of course. Absolutely not. But it bears saying, I think, that even the more “socially acceptable” behavior of asshole rejected guys can be a reason that women don’t feel that comfortable with propositions under certain circumstances.

  9. says

    Thank you for the excellent post–a friend forwarded it to me.

    I think men really do have a difficult time thinking about the sheer size issue–again, going back to the dog analogy, your great dane might be the sweetest dog in the world, but if it’s not it can kill me. So I treat it as if it’s dangerous until I know for sure that it is not.

    I also think that it might be the case that, since women are perhaps less likely to disclose to male friends that they’ve been raped, men think that no/few women they know have been sexually assaulted, compared to what a woman friend of those same people they know would think.

  10. says

    Emily Chapman,

    There probably is a gender disparity in who rape survivors choose to tell, but my guess would be that it’s an indirect result of survivors choosing to tell those who are more sympathetic (who would likely be more female). In particular I’m thinking of a friend I made at college, who disclosed her story to me when I’d only been there a month. Later a mutual, female friend of ours, who had known the survivor far longer, told me she didn’t know any rape survivors. In other words, a female friend wouldn’t necessarily know more if the survivor had decided she might not be sympathetic.

  11. says

    Patrick: It never ends. Never. And it’s sad and depressing. And while some people might be able to turn it off, women don’t have that choice.
    The societal conversation around women’s level of comfort in public will not end with the Watson situation. There will be other situations of women speaking out, and the patriarchy trying to silence them. There will be high profile rape cases, and the rape apologia. There will be slut shaming, from innocuous “what are our girls wearing these days!” up to questioning a politcian’s clothing/make up choices.

  12. Patrick McGraw says

    Excellent post. I sympathize with Watson’s experience of discovering that the group that seemed so great is in fact composed of people just like everybody else. Also further evidence that Richard Dawkins is a massive asshat.

    This article also highlights a lot of the things that most men don’t think about when interacting with women, and that they generally aren’t taught due to our rape culture. Back in college, I had to determine on my own that when in a room (say, a study lounge) with a woman who I didn’t know well, it was a good idea to sit further from the door than her if possible, and if not to never sit between her and the route to the door.

  13. says

    Patrick McGraw,

    So, you didn’t get all huffy and massively insulted? ;)

    I swear, the comments on that dog link are unbelievable. Some of these guys are so invested at staying insulted (how DARE you call all men potential rapists!!) that they reject all well-reasoned arguments. First they were saying the author was saying men ARE dogs. He wasn’t, it was just an analogy. We’ll use another analogy: let’s say you have a rental property and are looking for a tenant. Do you just give the property to the first person who asks, with no references or credit checks or anything? And people on the thread made some really good points about shielding PINs when using the ATM or teaching children Stranger Danger (even though stranger abductions are actually rare).
    “So now you’re comparing women to CHILDREN! BLARGLBLARGL INFANTILIZATION!”

    …*facepalm*

  14. Sabrina says

    JT,

    It’s even more annoying when you hear this (“how DARE you call all men potential rapists!!”) from the same kind of guys who buy into all this shit of men being hunters and women the prey. Evo-psych, pick-up and other manly menz are all propagating the idea that men are uncontrollable beasts – yet when a woman starts to believe them and reacts to this as she would to any other potential danger all of a sudden *she’s* a horrible person. You just can’t win this shit.

  15. SunlessNick says

    Sabrina,

    Exactly. And had the worst been true of Elevator Guy, and Rebecca not presumed it, then the same self-proclaimed voices of reason that denounce her now presuming the worst – even though she didn’t – would be denouncing her for not doing so, and blaming her for any hurt that she’d suffered.

  16. says

    Sabrina,

    Oh I know! If you stick with their comments long enough, eventually they end up slipping that their real problem is women daring to attempt controlling who has sexual access to them. Because “prey” shouldn’t have a choice.

  17. sbg says

    Actually just reading Laden’s dog analogy post gave me the willies. Seriously, palms sweating.

    I’ve been fortunate enough to have only a handful of Elevator Guy stories, but the sad truth of the matter is that is not fortunate at all. No one should have an Elevator Guy (or, in my case, guy following me down a deserted street and getting all up on me or other guy on the dance floor trying to stick his tongue down my throat while everyone around me shot looks of annoyance at ME) story. No. One.

  18. Wren says

    I swear, the comments on that dog link are unbelievable. Some of these guys are so invested at staying insulted (how DARE you call all men potential rapists!!) that they reject all well-reasoned arguments.

    I don’t get it, I really don’t. I mean, my fifty bucks says that most of these dudes are the same ones who respond to accounts of rape with “Well OBVIOUSLY it’s terrible this happens, but women should really be careful when they’re [drinking/getting dressed/going on dates/walking home/leaving the house]. I’m not victim blaming, I’m just saying common sense!” Etc etc ad nauseum.

    We are just doing what you say, dudebros. My common sense is telling me to stay far away from you.

  19. Casey says

    Wren,

    Hmmph, none of the men I know would be so reserved in regard to accounts of rape, they’d usually blow it off by saying something like “LOL SILLY HYSTERICAL WOMAN, YOU WEREN’T RAPED YOU JUST GOT DRUNK AND REGRETTED IT”…these are the same guys who complained that “A BUNCH OF BITCHES” were slut-walking in town near where they lived and why they were a bunch of “STUPID BUTT-HURT CUNTS” because “SLUTWALK IS THE DUMBEST SHIT I EVER HEARD OF”…granted there’s a lot of valid criticisms of Slutwalk, but you know that’s not why they think it’s dumb.

  20. Dani says

    Wren:
    I swear, the comments on that dog link are unbelievable. Some of these guys are so invested at staying insulted (how DARE you call all men potential rapists!!) that they reject all well-reasoned arguments.

    I don’t get it, I really don’t. I mean, my fifty bucks says that most of these dudes are the same ones who respond to accounts of rape with “Well OBVIOUSLY it’s terrible this happens, but women should really be careful when they’re [drinking/getting dressed/going on dates/walking home/leaving the house]. I’m not victim blaming, I’m just saying common sense!” Etc etc ad nauseum.

    We are just doing what you say, dudebros. My common sense is telling me to stay far away from you.

    Of course, when someone responds that it should be the responsibility of the man NOT to rape, they react like that’s the strangest thing they’ve ever heard, and they start trying to come up with excuses as to why it’s still the victim’s fault. -_-

  21. Jenny Islander says

    I wonder whether some of the men who get defensively angry about this base their lives on the assumption that their penises are the most wonderful thing ever and that anybody who doesn’t think so is just mean and bad and wrong and trying to kick away the foundations of their selfhood. That’s juvenile thinking: rather cute in a three-year-old who just figure out how to pee on a Cheerio in the toilet, but a grown man who can actually hurt somebody should be beyond this.

  22. Patito Gigante says

    SunlessNick: Sabrina, Exactly. And had the worst been true of Elevator Guy, and Rebecca not presumed it, then the same self-proclaimed voices of reason that denounce her now presuming the worst – even though she didn’t – would be denouncing her for not doing so, and blaming her for any hurt that she’d suffered.

    Yes. A stranger’s invitation to his hotel room at 4AM is totally innocent… until you’ve got to convince law enforcement/cable news personalities/a jury that accepting his offer of “coffee and conversation” was not consent to sex.

  23. Rose says

    Let me just go on the record as saying – it’s happened to me.
    I’d just moved to a new town and we were at a party at an acquaintance’s house. He was attractive and all, and I’d been having a good time talking to him on and off, so when he came to stand beside me I didn’t mind. Then I was pinned against the counter and he was more or less forcing me to kiss him. And I realized that I was more drunk than I’d thought – I didn’t want to respond, but I did.
    After that, he wouldn’t leave me alone. I told him I didn’t want to sleep with him, and that I thought we should get back to the party – but I was still pinned to the counter, and I couldn’t get away. And he kept touching me.
    Finally I told him I had to puke and literally ran away from the party. I couldn’t call anyone to pick me up, because there was no cell service, and everyone at that party was drunk and on his side because they were all his friends. They thought I’d freaked out for no reason and blown him off, but the thing was, my first priority had to be avoiding rape.
    All I knew about this guy was that he was too strong for me to fight, he was drunk and he had taken my first reaction to the kiss as overruling my spoken and repeated requests to stop. Maybe he would have stopped short of actual sex, maybe not. Rape culture means I couldn’t risk sticking around to find out.

  24. Jhamin says

    Jenny Islander:
    I wonder whether some of the men who get defensively angry about this base their lives on the assumption that their penises are the most wonderful thing ever and that anybody who doesn’t think so is just mean and bad and wrong and trying to kick away the foundations of their selfhood.That’s juvenile thinking: rather cute in a three-year-old who just figure out how to pee on a Cheerio in the toilet, but a grown man who can actually hurt somebody should be beyond this.

    I think men are either
    1) So ignorant of why people are afraid of them that when they are told they need to be treated like ferocious dogs they don’t understand where that is coming from and feel insulted for no reason they can fathom.
    2) Are really really disgusted by all the nasty they see in their fellow men but don’t think of themselves that way and dislike being painted with the same brush.

    Honestly, assuming the worse about strangers in unsafe situations is the only safe strategy. But when people are compared to animals it is fairly human to get upset about it.

  25. Laura says

    I think one reason that many men react poorly to the elevator story is that when presented with a story containing a normal-ish man and a woman, they automatically start by imagining themselves to be the man. So the story gets filtered through some amount of personal perception of why they might have behaved similarly to the elevator guy, and if they might have behaved that way, then it can’t have been that bad. They’re starting out by empathizing with the wrong character, from the story-teller’s point of view, so the message goes awry. The reframing of “you’re in an elevator with a Big Scary Guy” helps with that, because they can start by empathizing with the right person, but then it’s hard to see any aspects of their own behavior in the Scary Guy, because of course *they* don’t corner people nearly so bluntly.

    A version I’ve been wondering about goes something more like “You’re in the bar with your younger sister. When she goes to the restroom, a guy pulls you aside. He says he thinks your sister is interesting and pretty and he’d really like to see her in a more private setting. Could he ask you a favor? He’ll be waiting in the lobby – when your sister starts heading out to go to bed, could you text him, so he can arrange to “coincidentally” bump into her in the lobby and corner her in the elevator? Then he can try to charm her into coming up to his room, while they’re in the elevator alone together. The guy is good looking, seems charming enough – the kind of guy women always seem to go for. Do you agree – after all, your sister can always just say no, and how much trouble can one guy in an elevator be? Or is your reaction ‘ew, creep, there is no way I am helping you try that?’ ”

    But in this version, while I think it might help with “why this comes across as creepy” it does so by playing into the “My womenfolk need my protection because they’re fragile flowers” stereotype, so I’m not sure it’s going in enough of the right direction.

    • says

      Not to be a “bad guy” but the described situation with “your younger sister/female relative” breaks the ingrained tendency of men to repress “female hypergamy” in their family members. This somewhat relates as to how the “beta personality” male was seen as better mate by the protecting fathers/brothers in pre-modern society than the “alpha personality” male (the personalty that appeals to female hypergamy)

      Basically no man would would consent to such a situation with a woman under his charge, it would be morally wrong, in fact the mere suggestion of such an action would most likely result in a severe beating with the intent to cause extreme harm

      • says

        Yes, but when WOMEN are in charge of someone, the social rules aren’t nearly so clear. Until very recently in our society, women were supposed to accede to the wishes of men; people of color are still, I think, often expected to accede to the wishes of whites; and so on down the hierarchy. Some women can barely actually say “no” to anyone ever, such is the pressure for us to make others happy. Some women, especially younger ones, would tell this guy to fuck off. But a lot would think, “He seems nice, and besides, Sis is NOTHING without a man so I should hook her up with this guy and then put enormous pressure on her to date him and keep dating him no matter what!” The pressure women put on other women to date/get married/have babies is extraordinary. And it’s part of rape culture, too.

  26. says

    Rose, I realize we live in a culture where perhaps a guy who would never “rape” someone may be confused into thinking that physically pressuring her for sex isn’t “rape” behavior. But I think his behavior toward you was absolutely alarming.

    Jhamin: But when people are compared to animals it is fairly human to get upset about it.

    We are animals. This is what rape apologists remind us of every time they describe a Really Nice Boy being converted temporarily into a rapacious beast by some “whore’s” tight clothing. So not only is the comparison between meeting two unknown strange creatures completely valid and not insulting at all, it’s actually perfect as a response to the rape apologists who think a man can simultaneously be a complete dog-like slave to his hormones and fit to run the world.

    Laura,

    I’m not sure it’s possible to create a perfect analogy, but your efforts here are very good. (Mine is also problematic in that it could be viewed as using homophobia to meet its goal.) How do you convey to someone who has NEVER lived with the constant cloud of rape hanging over him what it’s like living under that cloud? It’s like trying to get someone who’s never lacked for plenty of money to understand what it’s like to be relatively poor – you’d have to get him to agree to a thought experiment in which you follow him around all day, pointing out all the choices he wouldn’t have if he were less wealthy. I tried to condense the fear/feeling of choicelessness into one thought experiment story, but I don’t expect many people to get it.

  27. Cruithne says

    I’m a man, a physically large man of stocky muscular build. Even though I’m really a bit of a wuss, I have a certain look on my face that both men and women can find intimidating. There’s not much I can do about this, I am built the way I’m built, and I look the way I look. Having said that, I am always aware of the way someone might perceive me, and take pains not be in a situation where they might feel intimidated by me.

    You see, when I was an eleven year old boy, I had to stay the night at the house of a friend of my father, and he tried to rape me. The terror and confusion of the event has never left me, especially the feeling of being in the presence of someone much larger and stronger, and being totally at their mercy. I fought him off and made it absolutely clear that I would not stay quiet about what was happening. Thankfully he gave up but I spent the rest of the night awake and shivering with fear.

    In some ways I feel grateful to have had an experience which gives me some insight into what it’s like for women most of the time but I grew up and became someone that doesn’t have to worry too much about attacks from strangers. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have to go through life thinking about the possibility of attack, all I can do is listen, and hopefully alter my behaviour so I do not contribute to this climate.

    Thank you for the article and the discussion.

  28. Jhamin says

    Jennifer Kesler:

    We are animals. This is what rape apologists remind us of every time they describe a Really Nice Boy being converted temporarily into a rapacious beast by some “whore’s” tight clothing. So not only is the comparison between meeting two unknown strange creatures completely valid and not insulting at all, it’s actually perfect as a response to the rape apologists who think a man can simultaneously be a complete dog-like slave to his hormones and fit to run the world.

    I agree that we are animals. We just don’t like to think we are, and we get upset when called on this.

    I’m mainly saying that people get upset with these analogies (no matter how apt they are) because they feel it assumes things about them that they, rightly or wrongly, feel are incorrect. When a statement upsets people the dialogue tends to break down. I’m not saying we all need to be nice and not upset anyone about rape, I’m saying that an analogy that elicits anger instead of reflection doesn’t accomplish much. I think saying that rape-apologists use the “animal” argument to justify their actions so men shouldn’t be insulted by it is a bit of a strawman argument that conflates being upset with being a rape apologist in a way that I think shuts down dialogue rather than getting anyone to think about what they are doing.

    The trick is to get men to understand that what they are doing is not being received with the intentions they think it is. I think most men are totally unaware of the fear of rape that hangs over so many interactions. This is why I think Laura has such a good analysis on the emotional reactions men have to The Elevator Story and why it is so important to find a better analogy. Because reading through comments on the elevator story over on Skepchick.org makes me think that a lot of people are just getting angrier with the folks that don’t see it there way than actually teaching or learning anything.

  29. SunlessNick says

    Laura,

    That’s a clever way to do it, though I could just see a flat denial of any similarity between the two, since there’s one detail different. (That’s snark at the hypothetical denier, not you).

  30. The Other Anne says

    Jhamin,

    While I agree that dialogue breaks down in these discussions, I’m not sure the “animals” part is the real reason. Rather, it tends to be more of an excuse to be angry with the dialogue, in my experience. So those angry at the animal comparison have their excuse to derail or end discussion into something which is the root of their discomfort, that being that someone has called them on their privilege.

    This goes further than words like animal, and it’s the same for words like racist or sexist. I know that when people of color are describing their experiences and use phrases which can read as generalizing white people as racists I get defensive–because until I force myself to stop being stupid I am more upset that I’ve been compared to racists or I see that I have racist actions or thoughts and I don’t want to.

    Just because a person who needs to break down their privilege gets upset about something being said doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be said exactly how it IS said. No one should have to make their unprivileged position known in a way that makes the privileged feel comfortable.

    So, I understand what you’re saying, and it’s not that I think you’re wrong, because yes–those phrases can seem to make the dialogue break down. But I think it’s more important for them to be said, if that makes sense.

  31. Megan says

    Red,

    When I was in sixth grade the sister of a friend was beaten to death in the woods beside our school with a bat by her boyfriend.

  32. says

    Jhamin, you’re making some very common mistakes.

    (1) Those of us who have been engaging with assholes who are more concerned about maintaining their privileges than understanding the cost of those privileges to their fellow human beings know what Anne’s trying to tell you: these people are going to HUNT for something to take offense at, or something they can distort into an inaccuracy, or even a big white elephant – anything to derail the conversation.

    (2) Those guys will not convert. Period. Maybe 1 in 1,000,000 of them converts, but when they’re that entrenched, it takes a big personal life event, and we can’t engineer that for them. So these analogies are for guys who are willing to understand, but just haven’t encountered the right people/information yet.

    And a strawman argument is when I argue against something you never said. That wasn’t at all the case. And what you’re failing to understand is that it is not my goal to open a dialog with rape apologist assholes. There’s no point in it, and you will discover that for yourself if you ever seriously get into it with them. There is no quicker way to achieve activist burnout.

  33. SunlessNick says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    these people are going to HUNT for something to take offense at, or something they can distort into an inaccuracy

    Even – or perhaps especially – it’s something they use themselves, such as the comparison of men with uncontrollable animals, which is one of the pillars of rape-apology and victim-blaming.

  34. says

    Jhamin,
    Jennifer Kesler,

    Right, and the analogy is NOT to make the point that men are anything like dogs. The point is that dogs can be either very friendly or very vicious, and sometimes it’s hard to tell what they’ll do when you first meet them (unless you are skilled in dog language). So dogs are just a stand-in for something that you have to treat as potentially dangerous unless you get assured of the contrary.

    But the guys would just get stuck on the dogsdogsdogs part. Again, nobody is actually calling men dogs. You could make the analogy using children and strangers (treating all strangers like danger, cuz it’s safer!), or stores and the general public (loss prevention, lack of “honor systems”, cameras, etc. all assume the general public will steal, because it’s safer to operate from that viewpoint than it is to trust everyone and get fleeced).

    What floors me is that, in all the other above examples, it’s accepted as common sense. But when women (going by statistical odds that say men are far more dangerous to her than anyone else, plus womens’ own personal life experiences of rape and molestation) apply the same common sense it is somehow this monumental injustice.

    Something else is going on here. These critics must fundamentally believe, on some level, that women do not have the right to assess their own risks and protect themselves. Hmm, wonder why that could be?????? :rollseyes:

  35. eldgie says

    The Other Anne:

    No one should have to make their unprivileged position known in a way that makes the privileged feel comfortable.

    I want this t-shirt! I applaud your apt and succinct subversiveness!

  36. Laura says

    JT,
    What floors me is that, in all the other above examples, it’s accepted as common sense.
    Well, I think there are hard feelings around being treated as a potential enemy in other circumstances too. Adults with no accompanying children get treated with quite a lot of hostility if they spend any time in a park where a lot of children are playing, at least in my area. Men more so than women, but women too, and both the men and women I know complain when it happens to them. People grouse about the stores that search everyone’s bags, or make you leave your laptop in a poorly watched front desk area when going in to shop. I imagine that if someone were to tell a large peaceable dog about people being nervous about potentially hostile dogs, the dog would be hurt because *it* doesn’t bite people, but this one isn’t an issue because we’re not hearing from the dogs.

    Nobody likes feeling as if they’re being classed as a (potential) evildoer on the basis of “no data yet”, but it happens, and it’ll keep happening as long as there are evildoers.

  37. says

    JT: Something else is going on here. These critics must fundamentally believe, on some level, that women do not have the right to assess their own risks and protect themselves. Hmm, wonder why that could be?????? :rollseyes:

    I think you’ve really nailed it right here. Kids are entitled to protect themselves from kidnapping, rape and/or murder because kids aren’t culturally expected to be providing sex to anyone. But society is so… well, it’s actually constructed around the fucking of women – why else would queer men be threatened and intimidated into fucking women for the patriarchy? – which is sick on so many levels, one of which is that when we talk about protecting our bodies from men who want to use them, all some men hear is that the away team is denying something to the home team, and that must not be allowed to happen.

  38. The Other Anne says

    So, the giant dookie that is the skeptic movement’s reaction to RW is continuing at PZM’s page.

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/07/rebecca_watson_at_cfi.php#comments

    If anyone’s interested.

    I read the first five hundred or so comments but it had quickly devolved into feminist skeptics using ablist slurs to shut down concern-troll, mainsplaining and incredibly dense MRA-types and, well, I was soon unable to tell who was supposed to be the rational, reasoned feminist anti-privileged defenders and who were the ignorant folk who wanted to know what “the reason for sexism” or something was. Urgh. But the video in the link of Warren doing a talk is pretty good.

    It would be nice if for once this sort of post at any atheist blog didn’t result in such a predictable pile of fail. I am getting pissed-beyond-reason at seeing WAY TOO MANY hypocritical atheists use sexism and misogyny and violence against women as go-to reasons for being anti-religion, while at the same time being unreasonably, irrationally, and fervently anti-women. I had to remove myself from Reddit after only months of regular browsing because of the rampant misogyny–not from the religious but from my one-time favorite subreddit r/Atheism.

    Skeptic movement, you are such a disappointment.

  39. says

    The Other Anne,

    Good link! And there’s a transcript for those who can’t watch the video.

    ITA re: misogyny in the skeptic/atheist movement. Elevatorgate came soon after I started exploring the movement and it’s convinced me not to invest any further in it. Or as one pharyngula commenter put it, it’s easier to make a place for atheism in the feminist movement than it is to make a place for feminism in the atheist movement.

  40. Casey says

    Ugh, I just encountered some garbage comments on a streaming site I frequent…there’s no possible way to engage with someone who makes remarks along the lines of “YOU’RE A TYPICAL FEMINIST, IF A MAN STARES AT YOU OR TALKS ABOUT YOU, YOU THINK IT’S RAPE”, is there? >_>V

  41. sbg says

    Casey,

    Not unless you sink to the “you’re a typical misogynist, dismissing any opinion coming from a woman that doesn’t kowtow to your own…” rebuttal.

  42. says

    Casey,

    Or what about “OMG BECAUSE OF YOU FEMINISTS ITS A CRIME TO FLIRT AND HOOK UP THE HUMAN RACE WILL DIE OUT (but that’s just what you want isn’t it you feminazi!!!)!!”

    Yes, because rape and sexual harrassment is exactly the same as consensual flirting and “hooking up”:, It really makes me wonder about these guys that they conflate these things.

    or, also along these lines: “OH NOES HOW IS A POOR NERDY GUY SUPPOSED TO KNOW HOW TO TALK TO WOMEN YOULL THROW US ALL IN THE FEMINIST GULAG FOR LOOKING AT HOT CHICKS SOMETHING ABOUT SOCIAL AWKWARDNESS!”

    Sigh. Geek Feminism kind of covers this: http://geekfeminism.org/2010/03/28/but-women-are-an-advanced-social-skill/
    But yet again, I have to raise an eyebrow at the fact that these guys just can’t distinguish harrassing behavior from genuine affection/flirting.

  43. says

    JT,

    My theory is this: the only consideration in their minds is “But I need to get my dick in a pussy.” They’re not distinguishing ways of doing that. I don’t even think they particularly want sex, or will like it if they get it (they’ll probably be too nervous to enjoy it). They just feel all this social pressure to get their dick in a pussy, and satisfying that pressure so they will get social rewards for not being undersexed is all they’re thinking of.

    I think these guys are so ABSOLUTELY OBLIVIOUS to what it’s like to be anyone but themselves that they don’t realize there IS a difference between getting your dick in a pussy via rape or via a consensual encounter. They may also lack self-esteem to the point where they don’t think anyone WOULD have a consensual encounter with them.

    Ironically, the reason why these guys have trouble talking to women is: male privilege. To develop rapport with people, you need to be able to see their POV. Some of us struggle with this due to lack of socialization, unhealthy socialization or degrees of autism. But I think many of these particular guys are struggling simply because no one ever suggested to them that there IS another POV than their own. Commercials certainly didn’t. Movies didn’t. TV didn’t. No media did. If their parents and teachers don’t bother – because part of male privilege is society’s belief that it’s okay for men to lack empathy – then that boy goes into the world thinking of girls as these things that wink into existence when he sees them, and wink back out of it once they’ve rejected him.

    How could someone who only exists when you’re aware of them suffer from rape?

    I’m sure some of the guys who say these things are full-on pathological narcissists who are incapable of empathy and hate women. But I think some of them are fully capable of empathy, they’ve just never been asked to use it.

  44. says

    JT: Sigh. Geek Feminism kind of covers this: http://geekfeminism.org/2010/03/28/but-women-are-an-advanced-social-skill/

    Ooo, good link! I too am perplexed and irritated by those who think they have to talk to me differently. I’m a geek, you’re a geek, this isn’t hard.

    I’m toying with the idea of writing a list of geek pick-ups/conversation starters that don’t work, aimed at the socially awkward. I haven’t yet because I’m not sure there’s a large percentage who would benefit; I think most people understand that changing the conversation back to something I changed it away from and obviously know little about isn’t a way to start a dialogue, just a monologue. So instead I’d have to explain the base psychology, that being lectured on things about which I don’t know and don’t care isn’t sexy. And honestly I don’t think that type of person is ignorant of that fact, I think they’re more concerned with whether they’re having fun than with whether the other person is.

    Jennifer Kesler: To develop rapport with people, you need to be able to see their POV.

    I think this is the root of the problem in many unpleasant flirting encounters I’ve had. There’s a subset of men who don’t pick up on social cues I think are pretty obvious, like changing the subject, looking away or checking my watch. There’s a large overlap between this subset and geeks, but not exclusive. What these men don’t seem to understand is that I’m not rejecting them because they’re bad people, but because I’m not having fun. Really, you’re not the center of the universe, I’m not here to invest time and energy into evaluating your deservingness. I’m a human being, selfishly only interested in my own pleasure. If I’m bored, I will wander away. It’s that simple.

    And take this with a grain of salt because it’s anecdotal, but I’ve never once had this problem with a woman.

    • Maria says

      @Sylvia

      I have, but only with women located higher in the social structure than me — like white ones, older ones, etc.

  45. says

    Maria,

    Hmm, you have a point. I was thinking exclusively in terms of flirting, in which context I’ve never had a problem with women of any demographic, but in more general terms I have experienced this from women. Mostly from ones who are older and make more money than me.

  46. SunlessNick says

    JT,

    Yes, because rape and sexual harrassment is exactly the same as consensual flirting and “hooking up”:, It really makes me wonder about these guys that they conflate these things.

    One of the clever things about this post’s is how it draws attention to the conflation between rejecting rape culture and rejecting men.

  47. Casey says

    Thanks for the replies, y’all…but considering how the writer of those prior garbage comments also said once (in apropos of nothing) that “A BUNCH OF BITCHES ARE DOING A SLUTWALK NEAR ME” and “IT’S THE STUPIDEST SHIT EVER, BUNCH OF BUTTHURT CUNTS” I think maybe he’s not so much oblivious and desperate as he genuinely hates women…then again, maybe it’s just the “Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory” at work (after all, he calls black people “nigs” and says that since he’s half-Mexican it’s okay >_>V).

  48. littlem says

    Wren,

    It already happened. I can’t remember on which of the monster threads it was, but one of them actually had the gall to say “Well, OBVIOUSLY if she felt threatened she shouldn’t have gotten on the elevator with him.”

    Yeah. Never mind that it was he who followed her onto the elevator.

    *eyerolling forever*

  49. says

    littlem,

    Yep, we’re supposed to:

    –Magically know who’s a rapist
    –Curtail our mobility to avoid being raped, so rapists can roam freely
    –Never get into remotely sexy situations where men are around
    –And yet somehow find a husband and make some babies!

    I think what these conflicting messages boil down to is basically, “If you would just accept rape as your cross to bear, ladies, it would make things so much easier on the rest of us, ‘kaythanxbye!”

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