Saturday, December 1, 2012

"Don't Rape" lectures are an insult to everyone

This image one on the left is the kind of nonsense you end up with when extremists insulate themselves from outside opinion for years at a time.

And the worst part is the way this sort of drivel is applauded as if it's profound.

It's tempting to read this as a straightforward, literal message, which produces a ridiculous reading: That idea would be that the sign holder is fired up that her university informs female students ways to avoid situations where they could become a rape victim. She feels that that self-empowering advice should not be given, or even followed, and instead the university should force male students to hear condescending lectures reminding them not to commit horrible crimes.

But what you have to remember hear is that a lot of political activists, especially those in third-wave feminism, like to change the meaning of words, such as rape. In the past rape has meant a situation where an attacker purposely forces a victim into an unwanted sexual act. The new definition promoted by feminist extremists is that rape is a sexual act where one partner does not give legal consent.

The problem with that view is that it assumes all sex is rape as a default, and a protocol must be followed to prove it is not rape. The overly broad definition can include acts of genuine miscommunication and situations where both partners are willing but have consumed alcohol. Suggesting that rape can occur without intention is an insult to rape victims.

Another watered-down term that is not explicitly mentioned in the sign, but is mentioned by its defenders  is "blaming the victim." Apparently, sharing advice with women to help them avoid becoming victims means that if they are victimized that it is now their fault because they were warned.

So they propose not warning them.

This is an absurd, irresponsible view. I had a conversation with a friend online about this previously. Here is part of her reply after I asked what's wrong with identifying foolish risks to help people avoid them:

Well calling something foolishly risky is a nicer way of victim blaming, even if it is minimal. One time I left the door unlocked overnight at my house and my mom said, "How would you feel if someone came in the house and murdered all of us in the night?" which is a way of saying it would be partially my fault if my family was murdered. I felt this was very unjustified.

She went on to say that women should be able to commit acts that are harmless in and of themselves and not have to worry about being harmed. These actions include getting a ride with someone she doesn't know, leaving money out on the table or getting drunk around strangers.

I don't know what "should" has to do with reality. Children shouldn't get AIDS or cancer. Unfortunately, the real world doesn't care what should happen and we need to be ready for it.

If someone leaves their keys in their unlocked car, plays three-card Monte, or clicks a strange link in a suspicious e-mail, they can expect to be a victim. Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme victims needed to have a lot of money to make the minimum investment with him. They should have known his rate of return was too high, and they should have become suspicious when they did not receive monthly statements from his company. In those situations, we can say that the victims made risky decisions and got hurt as a result. That's not saying the culprit is off the hook, and that is not the same as blaming them for the entire crime.

I can see why someone would say that is the same thing as saying the victim is partially to blame for what happened. If the definition of "blaming the victim" is that loose, then so be it. It's up to them to tell us why doing so is automatically a bad thing.

So with those two broad definitions in mind, what else could the sign mean? It makes more sense if the sign holder believes women should be encouraged to act as if rape is not a looming threat and that college freshmen should have to endure lectures about consent and non-intentional date rape.

I actually attended one of those freshmen orientation lectures in 2002 at a state University. It was both condescending and aggravating. I remember an adult asking us if we knew the lyrics to "Date Rape" by Sublime and then went over the last lines with us. In the songs narrative, the rapist goes to prison and the narrator says "Well, I can't take pity on men of his kind/Even though he now takes it in the behind."

The orientation leader read these lines and paused for the last word, having us all say "takes it in the behind" together. This was an awkward and useless experience. What about people around campus who aren't students? What about evil men who don't care what a 40 year old orientation leader has to say? How does that help anyone?

I have been unable to find any evidence that "don't rape" speeches have any kind of impact on rape incidence. Please comment below if you know of any.

Should we refuse to tell children not to look both ways before they cross the road and instead tell drivers to slow down? If it doesn't make sense there, why would it make sense anywhere else?

1 comment:

  1. Always nice to have a regular dose of solid logic in a world filled with lunatic activists. Thanks for writing.