Extraordinary Nonsense

It’s time to address a few of the more spectacular claims that emerged from the anti-feminist crowd last week.

1. The repeated assertion that it’s not victim-blaming to suggest women drink less at conventions.

Rape is, by its very nature, a thing someone inflicts on somebody else. It’s a one-sided crime. When you suggest that women take any sort of action to avoid rape, you shift the blame where it properly should be (ie, on the rapist) and transfer some of it to women. You’re implying that she is at least partially responsible for becoming the victim of a crime. You are claiming that she provoked the rapist into taking a specific action.

I should not have to explain how this is misogynist but given the vile comments that appeared in my comment section and continue to appear on avenues like Twitter, the Slyme Pit, and the Randi Foundation’s forums, it’s necessary to reiterate this basic fact. Women do not have any sort of responsibility to avoid rape. Rapists have a responsibility to avoid rape. Any other dynamic, ye who despise ‘buzzwords,’ is a manifestation of rape culture. That’s reality.

2. I am ‘straw-manning’ critics.

This popped up on the Randi Foundation forums. This is also false. People have repeatedly suggested that the women coming forward with examples of gendered violence a.) don’t exist, b.) are lying or at least exaggerating, c.) actually wanted sex and d.) shouldn’t have been drinking. Exhibit A: Brian Dalton’s latest video tirade. If I hadn’t noticed such concerning responses I wouldn’t have said anything at all, and last week would have been another typical week for me.

3. People who criticize Shermer et al are anti-sex.

This is also bullshit. Sex is fantastic. I have no problems with sex. I am not anti-sex. I am anti-rape. And while I can’t speak for the Freethought bloggers, that seems to be their position too. It’s not prudish to suggest that a man should avoid taking advantage of a woman whose judgement is clearly impaired. This is not a radical suggestion. There is no need to invoke the shade of Andrea Dworkin. If this simple suggestion sends you into a rage, there’s clearly a problem and the problem is with you, and not with me, or any other feminist. Enthusiastic consent. Google it.

4. Stollznow et al have made ‘extraordinary claims’ that demand ‘extraordinary evidence.’

We’re talking about violence against women, not Bigfoot sightings. Unfortunately, gendered violence is a common occurrence. The Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that one out of every six American women will experience a completed or attempted rape during her lifetime–and it’s worth noting that women of color experience disproportionately high rates of sexual violence. Despite these high numbers, the Department of Justice reports that only three out of every one hundred rapists will ever spend a day in jail.

This is partially because sexual violence is one of the most underreported crimes in the US. I didn’t report my assault. Most women (and men) don’t report theirs, either. There are a number of reasons for this, stigma being chief among them. When it’s considered acceptable to interrogate survivors about their drinking habits, their clothing, their sexual histories–who on earth would want to come forward as a survivor? Sexual violence is deeply traumatic. The reporting process asks survivors to relive their trauma. It’s no wonder why so many don’t immediately come forward about their experiences. Sexual violence is a crime, yes, but it has unique characteristics and it can’t logically be compared to theft, physical assault, or other crimes. Apples and oranges.

And if you’re queer, trans* or a woman of color (or all of the above) the police historically haven’t been your friends. It astounds me that a community so frantically concerned over government intrusion and official abuses of power abandons these concerns when the subject shifts from surveillance to rape. You don’t trust the government, but survivors should? The government is an enemy of the people until it comes to rape? Hardly consistent. And not very logical, I might add.

You don’t get to police a survivor’s reaction to trauma. We cope in what ways seem best to us. If someone wants to come forward via social media, they can come forward via social media and your response should be compassion, not a demand for a blow by blow description of events. People demanding ‘evidence’–what evidence do you want? Rape kit results? Because I have the feeling you’d just swear that they’re evidence of consensual sex, not rape.

Conclusion:

People have asked me not to ‘opt out’ of the skeptic community. And maybe they’re right, and those of us who want to fight for social justice should stay in the movement. In 2011, Flavia Dzodan wrote one of the best essays on feminism I’ve ever read. Reacting to mainstream feminism’s domination by white women, Dzodan demanded an intersectional feminism, a feminism that recognizes that women of color, queer women, trans* women, disabled women have been excluded from mainstream debate, shoved to the side, drowned out. For Dzodan, an intersectional feminism isn’t a luxury or an esoteric thought exercise; it’s her reality, and a feminism that doesn’t recognize this isn’t capable of delivering equal rights for her, or for anyone else outside the mainstream. My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit. That’s what she wrote. And she was right.

You should read it. And then you should read it again. Frame it, maybe.

I’m mentioning it here because I intend to demand something similar of skeptics. My skepticism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit. I will question rape culture. I will demand that my experiences, and the experiences of people of color, of queer folks and disabled folks and poor folks, receive respect and attention within skepticism. Do you really think I’d have left fundamentalism if I hadn’t been the least bit skeptical about its gender roles? Its homophobia? Its ableism? A skepticism that doesn’t address gender, or sexual identity, or racism isn’t capable of addressing all the myriad reasons why people question and abandon religious dogma. A skepticism without these elements isn’t really skepticism and it shouldn’t be labelled as such. It’s just white male supremacy dressed up in different rhetoric. It is the status quo.

If you want an intersectional skepticism then we’re on the same side, and let’s organize together. If you don’t, enjoy the fringes. Rest safe in the knowledge that you are a fundamentalist and you offer nothing new or better to the world.

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42 thoughts on “Extraordinary Nonsense

  1. If you want an intersectional skepticism then we’re on the same side, and let’s organize together. If you don’t, enjoy the fringes. Rest safe in the knowledge that you are a fundamentalist and you offer nothing new or better to the world.

    QFT! Terrific essay.

  2. Yeah! Kick their asses! Thoughts on each point you made:

    #1: “You should do more to avoid” treats rape like it is a natural occurrence, like hurricanes or a seasonal flu bug. Rape is the conscious effort on the part of a rapist to commit a crime against another person. It isn’t the job of victims to perfectly insulate themselves from active malice.

    #2: “Strawmanning” in this case means “exposing what sexist asshole mean, without the obfuscating language they prefer.” Fuck ‘em.

    #3: DJ Grothe has been spreading that pile of shit around. Confusing “bad sex” with “rape” shows that the person has a rapist’s mindset.

    #4: It is only “extraordinary” if you’re engaging in hero worship, or if you’ve redefined rape in your mind to the point that it is an incredibly rare event. Either way, KNOCK IT OFF!

    Anyhoo… keep on fighting the good fight, and know that a lot of people have your back on this.

  3. Yeah, I remember that bit of catch 22 after DSK and Assange: Those men are famous, they have money, they can have sex without raping, therefore they cannot have raped anybody…

  4. Interesting post, much of which I agree with. However, I think your comment about Stollznow and “extraordinary evidence” betrays some highly questionable “hyperskepticism”, if not some highly questionable bias. That “gendered violence is a common occurrence” is not in much doubt – as far as I’m concerned in any case. However, that it has taken place in any given situation is a decidedly debatable question, about which most reasonable skeptics are going to want to have some factual corroboration other than someone’s say-so. Which seems more than sufficiently present in the case of Stollznow, but which is anything but the case in that of the “Jane Doe” – Michael Shermer one.

    And you might, as far as I’m concerned, just as easily say, “When you suggest that people take any sort of action to avoid being robbed, you shift the blame where it properly should be (i.e., on the robber) and transfer some of it to other people. You’re implying that they are at least partially responsible for becoming the victim of a robbery.” And with as little credibility, and as little justification – I wonder whether or not you lock your car or home when you’re not in them. Not your finest hour, methinks.

    But, to indulge my “grammar-nazi” streak, I think you mean “on venues like Twitter, the Slyme Pit ….”

    But thanks also for the link to Sinclari Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here.

    • Steers – robbery in our neighborhood has been mostly by strangers. Rape is statistically from people who are known from you. Who create trust with you. And then violate that trust. And violate you. Why are you pushing for women to change non-criminal behaviour (clothing and beverage choices) when rapists see no incentive to stop pursuing criminal behavior? Especially when others like you say the equivilent of ‘well, look at her clothes. she is clearly a rapists target’. Any chance you feel like supporting victims BEFORE they get raped, and helping guys NOT make stupid criminal choices that destroy victims lives, while the rapists skip on merrily to the next convention. Any chance at all that you want to help men to see that consensual sex is better? Because that would actually, you know, do something positive.

    • Well put! Just because it is important to work for a better world with less rape, thefts and violence – that does not mean that people should not do what they can to stay safe in the mean time.

      • If women followed all these suggestions on how to successfully avoid rape we’d never leave our rooms. It’s unrealistic and it’s blatantly sexist. Women are raped no matter where they are, what they’ve had to drink or what they’re wearing. It keeps us in a perpetual state of victimhood. It’s the wrong conversation with the wrong focus.

        Stop raping. It really is just that simple. Don’t sleep with anyone whose judgement is impaired. Don’t sleep with anyone at all unless you’ve got her enthusiastic consent.

        That’s how you’ll end rape.

      • “If women followed all these suggestions on how to successfully avoid rape we’d never leave our rooms.”

        That sounds a bit black & white. Might there be a reasonable area between taking every precaution possible and not taking a single one?

        The main point here is that the straw-man argument on both sides; Namely that every woman is somehow forced into taking every possible precaution, and that every man somehow is magically spelled to stop raping – would both end rape, but I believe that none of them are realistic.

        It seems to me that you argue that the mere suggestion that there are steps people can take to protect themselves, and recommend that they do some of them, is either a slippery slope to women in burkas or somehow a negation of the fact that the responsibility of a crime being committed lies on the one committing the crime.

        Is it truly impossible to discuss both in what ways one can remove the root of a crime-problem, while at the same time discussing useful measures one can prevent that crime from happening in the mean time?

      • Because rape, as I mentioned in my follow up post, is a unique crime. You can’t compare it to theft. It’s a crime, nearly always committed by a man, nearly always committed against a woman, motivated by power. You know what would end rape? If men stopped raping. It really is that simple.

      • “You know what would end rape? If men stopped raping. It really is that simple”

        Well, obviously. We would end poverty too if rich people stopped taking money from poor people. Climate change if people stopped releasing greenhouse gases. Disease if microbes, bacteria and viruses stopped attacking people.

        However the questions I’m asking are:
        - HOW can we make all men stop raping women?
        - How, and how well, can we implement these solutions into the societies of the world?
        - How long will this take?
        - Why would it be wrong to suggest ways that women can reduce the risks of being raped in the mean time?

        I’m having problems understanding why it would not be useful to discuss various forms of protecting women from rape, to discuss their various efficiencies and effects, so that women are better equipped to choose the strategies they are most comfortable with.

      • Dr. Dre, do you know what kinds of complimentary suggestions women get to avoid rape? Don’t wear your hair too long it’s too easy to grab hold of, don’t wear your hair too short it’s unfeminine and might provoke someone. Don’t wear revealing clothes it makes you look like a slut, don’t be a prude it makes you look like an easy target. Don’t struggle, he might hurt you more, if you don’t struggle to the death then it isn’t really rape.

        Then the really useless ones, like, don’t go anywhere alone at night, you need to be escorted by a man you trust to keep you safe from scary scary rapists. When the truth is, the man you trust is far more likely to BE the scary rapist than any stranger you pass in the park.

        The reason you can’t ask women to take “reasonable precautions” against rape is that none of those reasonable precautions do a goddamn thing to stop rape. They just serve to restrict my life. If some man decides to rape me, he can, and nothing I do, say, or avoid doing or saying is going to stop it. Instead, I spend my life unreasonably hemmed in by a bunch of useless requriements some man gave me to avoid being raped, I spend my life CONTROLLED by the behavior that men think is appropriate because I’m afraid of what they can do to me if I step out of line? No. The real solution and the ONLY real protection is for men to not rape me.

      • Finally someone who is willing to explain! You have no idea how many websites, blogs, videos, books and not to mention conversations I’ve plowed through trying to understand this thing – and all I’ve been met with is outrage that I don’t immediately understand that rape cannot be compared to any other bad thing and that any suggestion on how to make less of it happen (other than decreeing that it should stop at its source) is tantamount to condoning an spreading it.

        I’m a male, and I have no experience with being a female. The fact many females are constantly bombarded with completely inane advice is not something I am aware of (seriously) unless it is carefully explained to me.

        I can see how being given conflicting, unhelpful and even downright disproven advice (last article I read about clothing and rape showed no correlation between how a female dressed and her likelihood of getting raped) is tiring and frustrating. I do not see how than leads to the conclusion that there are no ways to reduce the risk of getting raped.

        I can see how the massively unproportional focus on rape done by a stranger is taking attention away from the much larger problem of rape in close relations. I do not see how that means that there should not be any focus on how to avoid being raped by strangers.

        I can see how the fact that there are people out there who (through logic i cannot understand) claim that some instances of rape is somehow the fault of the one being raped rater than the one raping – is extremely counterproductive (and insane) and derailing the whole discussion. I do not see how that leads to the conclusion that there is nothing a female can do to reduce the risk of getting raped.

        I can see how (or at least pretend to imagine to understand somehow) rape is a horrendously bad thing. I do not see how that means that rape cannot be compared to other bad things.

        I can see how rape would obviously stop if those who rape people stop raping people, and that we should discuss how this can be most effectively achieved (if you know a place where this is discussed please point me there, I’m having problems finding it). I do not see how this means that we cannot discuss how to minimize damage in the mean time. We advice people to wear seatbelts – though really people shouldn’t crash into other people. We advice people to hold on to their wallets – though really people shouldn’t take other people’s things. We advice political figures or people who have come under media spotlight to have bodyguards – though really people shouldn’t try to kill or hurt other people just because they’ve seen their picture in the newspaper.

        I can see how it is unfair and frustrating that the fact that there are people out there that will hurt you given the right circumstances limits your freedom and dictates you to take precautions that should be unnecessary to avoid, or reduce the chance of being raped. Equally frustrating to know that even though some of these things might have an effect, it also might be that some of these threats are virtually impossible to be fully protected against even if one goes to extreme lengths to protect oneself. I do not see how this is qualitatively different from many of the other threats that other human beings pose to us. Every man I meet is potentially my murderer, or at least a pickpocket. Every car in traffic might suddenly swerve towards me. Every loved one might cheat on me. Every animal i pet might bite me. Every business deal I make might be a fraud. Every person i meet might try to rape me (though I am fortunate that my gender makes me a lot less likely to be raped than if I was female). Every time i interact with people in these ways I’m taking a risk, and I try to find ways to mitigate these risks. It is unfair that I am exposed to a lot less of these risks than many others, due to my gender, nationality etc. and we most certainly should work to make these risks as small as possible for everyone. But while we do that, I cannot see how we can ignore that these risks are there and – unfair as it might be – they will govern our lives (whether we choose to take precautions against them in various degrees or not).

        If you can help me understand somehow where it is my thinking departs from yours, how my logic is different, what facts i have not factored in and which perspectives I might be missing to understand these things – that would be very helpful!

    • However, that it has taken place in any given situation is a decidedly debatable question, about which most reasonable skeptics are going to want to have some factual corroboration other than someone’s say-so.

      Really. Do “most reasonable skeptics” need “factual corroboration”—i.e. something other than a rape victim’s testimony—to believe claims of any other depressingly common crime? No. No they do not.

      “Some doucheweasel keyed my car while it was parked at the mall!”

      How can we possibly know it wasn’t keyed somewhere else? Do you have time-stamped before-&after photos taken by NASA satellites and verified by the FBI? Oh. You do. Huh. Well what were you doing parking at the mall anyway, if you didn’t really secretly want your paint job scratched?

      Way to go, “reasonable skeptics”! How can I earn my Reasonable Skeptic credz?

    • Way to utterly disregard the context of the comment. If something is stolen from my home, even if I left the door unlocked, the policy treat the incident seriously. They’ll take my statement. They’ll dust for prints and look for other identifying information. They WON’T dismiss me the minute I call them, or tell me that filing false police reports is a felony. I won’t be ostracized in my community for being robbed. I won’t have smug idiots on the Internet making videos demonstrating how to turn a key in a lock and saying that it’s just that easy. People won’t claim that a crime isn’t a crime because I left my door unlocked.

      But the implication of Dalton’s idiotic, disingenuous video was precisely that–that somehow some aspect of the victim’s behavior suddenly makes a crime not a crime.

      Yes, when it comes to our possessions, everyone applies some mechanism to protect their safety. And everyone draws the line at a different place. But when someone is robbed, you don’t hear society saying “You lock your doors, but you don’t have an alarm system? You deserved to be/weren’t really robbed.” Or “You have an alarm system, but don’t have a Rottweiler? You deserved to be/weren’t really robbed.” Or “You have a Rottweiler, but you don’t have a handgun? You deserved to be/weren’t really robbed,” Or “You have a handgun, but you don’t have an AR-16? You deserved to be/weren’t really robbed.” Or “You have an AR-16, but you don’t have landmines? You deserved to be/weren’t really robbed.” So yes, there’s all kinds of things we can do that theoretically, statistically increase the safety of our possessions to various degrees. But regardless of what mechanisms we apply, society knows that the only one responsible for a robbery is the robber.

      But that all goes out the window for rape. Now it’s “you shouldn’t have gotten drunk with a stranger”, or “you shouldn’t have gotten drunk period”, or “you shouldn’t have left your cup unattended”, or “you shouldn’t have gone back to a famous skeptic’s room”, or “you shouldn’t have worn a slutty outfit”, or “you shouldn’t have had any visible skin”, or “you shouldn’t have left the house without two male relatives.” And these aren’t “hey here are some helpful tips for statistically decreasing the chances of something bad happening to you” like in your false analogy to locking doors. These are used entirely for victim-blaming; for telling victims of a crime that because s/he didn’t socially isolate themselves to a sufficient degree (and no degree ever seems sufficient), then “you deserved to be/weren’t really raped”.

    • shari said:

      Why are you pushing for women to change non-criminal behaviour (clothing and beverage choices) when rapists see no incentive to stop pursuing criminal behavior?

      Not quite sure that it is fair of you to say that I’m “pushing for women to change non-criminal behaviour”. My comment was in response to Sarah’s rather categorical suggestion that women have no responsibility at all “to take any sort of action to avoid rape”. All I’m trying to point out is that, in effect, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

      I really do think it is horrible that there are so many convictions for rapes and that, apparently, so many more which are not reported, or which are rejected, frequently, for lack of evidence. But the facts of the matter – you know, those things that skeptics should be particularly concerned about – are that the nature of the beast is that evidence is frequently hard to come by, and that the nature of the justice system is that it actually does require that evidence, otherwise the defendants walk whether they are guilty or not.

      And in that case, I would think most sensible and rational individuals are going to realize that taking some proactive approach to their circumstances, and to their own welfare, is likely to pay some significant dividends. I seriously wonder what you would think if I were to walk into the seediest bar in town, flash a roll of bills big enough to choke a horse, and was then bent out of shape when I was beaten and robbed. Criminals exist and will take advantage of any opportunities provided – particularly if there is a big enough incentive, and a small enough risk.

      Obviously there is a spectrum of cases there which changes the amount of responsibility and consequences expected, but my point was that Sarah’s categorical statement seems to completely ignore that fact, and insists on characterizing all of those cases on the basis of a few of them. Which is, one might note, somewhat analogous to sexism.

      Any chance you feel like supporting victims BEFORE they get raped, and helping guys NOT make stupid criminal choices that destroy victims lives …

      Sure. Any idea on precisely how I and others might do that? I already support the justice system, in my country if not yours, which expends some non-insignificant amounts of resources to catch and punish criminals of one sort or another. But there are limits to what those systems can do – which then behooves us, I think, as responsible citizens to minimize the risks we’re exposed to and their consequences.

      In addition, while this is somewhat of a long shot, I have suggested, in a number of locations, several different technological solutions. Considering the ubiquity of cell-phones, it seems that, as some female blogger suggested recently, maybe people in “intimate” or private situations, particularly where alcohol is present, should have their phones “always on record” [AoR]. While there are issues of privacy involved, I would think that some set of security codes could be designed so that the information couldn’t be released unless both parties agreed, or unless a court ordered its release. While that might kill or reduce “the magic of the moment”, that might be a small price to pay for some additional peace-of-mind. Maybe someone could set up a Kickstarter account to pay me to develop an iPhone-App to do that.

      … while the rapists skip on merrily to the next convention

      And which “rapists” might those be? Seems to me that you’re skirting rather dangerously close to a potential charge of libel unless you actually have some very good evidence that that has actually happened at any of those conventions.

      Any chance at all that you want to help men to see that consensual sex is better? Because that would actually, you know, do something positive.

      I expect most men already realize that, although it probably wouldn’t hurt to broadcast that message at every opportunity. However, another fact of the matter is that apparently most men don’t rape, and that many of those who do aren’t likely to be swayed by that argument to begin with. Generally speaking, solutions need to be tailored to the specifics of the problem at hand, specifics which many seem to be rather reluctant to consider.

    • Iris Vander Pluym said:

      Really. Do “most reasonable skeptics” need “factual corroboration”—i.e. something other than a rape victim’s testimony—to believe claims of any other depressingly common crime? No. No they do not.

      Really. However, the point isn’t whether anybody believes the claims, but whether there is any evidence to actually prove them in a court of law. You can believe until the cows come home that O.J. killed those people or not, but that means absolutely diddly squat until the case is proven one way or the other in front of a jury.

      But have you never watched any “true-crime” TV shows and the like? The justice system spends not insignificant amounts of time, money and effort to obtain sufficient evidence to convict people of various crimes, whether it is speeding, robbery, theft, murder, or terrorism. You maybe think that the standards of evidence should be reduced or thrown out the window for rape? Or maybe that people should be convicted – maybe “hung, drawn, and quartered” – on the basis of hearsay and mob rule?

      “Some doucheweasel keyed my car while it was parked at the mall!”

      Not at all the same situation – not even apples and oranges, but more like apples and aardvarks. If there is a security camera picture of someone doing the keying, and you can identify the person doing so then you might be able to charge them. If not then your insurance pays for it less your deductible.

      However, with rape if you’ve got factual evidence – maybe the same security camera – then you might be able to charge them. But if you don’t have any evidence then you don’t get to hang someone out to dry simply on the basis of vague and unsupported suspicions, gossip, innuendo, and hearsay.

    • gmtr said:

      Way to utterly disregard the context of the comment. If something is stolen from my home, even if I left the door unlocked, the policy treat the incident seriously. They’ll take my statement. They’ll dust for prints and look for other identifying information. They WON’T dismiss me the minute I call them, or tell me that filing false police reports is a felony.

      Nice strawman – must have cost you a pretty penny to buy all of the stuffing for it.

      I’m certainly not trying to argue that the thief is less culpable if you forgot to lock the door. Nor, analogously, am I trying to argue that a rapist is less culpable if the victim was inebriated or scantily dressed. All I’m trying to do is to point out that you’ll probably keep your “stuff” longer if you take some steps to protect it. You can go through the hassle after the crime of trying to recover that “stuff”, and take some steps to penalize the criminal, but I expect that is bloody cold comfort – even if it is possible – in comparison to not having been victimized in the first place because you’ve taken some steps to prevent it from occurring.

      As for that whole “dismissal” & “false police reports” claptrap, I would say the statistics on the number of rapes reported by the FBI and the number of convictions strongly suggests that the justice system takes the crime rather seriously (1):

      Nearly 90,000 people reported being raped in the United States in 2008. There is an arrest rate of 25%.

      However, I’ll concede that the actual conviction rate is substantially less than that, although the reasons for that seem to be many, very few of which can be laid at the doorstep of any “rape culture”.

      But that all goes out the window for rape. Now it’s “you shouldn’t have gotten drunk with a stranger”, or “you shouldn’t have gotten drunk period” ….

      To repeat what I said earlier, that the victim was drunk in no way absolves the perpetrator of having committed the crime. However, this whole idea that the victim doesn’t bear any degree of responsibility for their own well-being is, I think, criminally irresponsible in itself. And, one might argue, society itself bears some responsibility for not adequately preparing people. For instance, here is Stephanie Zvan (2) talking about her own assault and suggesting that she should have been better prepared:

      As for [Welch’s] comments on drinking, I was 15 when I was assaulted. Exactly how much was I supposed to know about drinking at that point. Was I supposed to be able to gauge the alcohol content of a drink designed to disguise alcohol? More importantly, what could anyone have taught me about drinking that would have told me the difference between someone who wanted to pour me a drink as part of a social event and someone who wanted to pour me a drink as a means to assault? Is there a course for that?

      Maybe instead of bleating about how rapists should be convinced that “consensual sex is better sex”, or that they should “stop; just stop” – which doesn’t seem to be working all that well but which is probably not surprising given the nature of the criminal mind – people might want to consider that providing courses on sex, drinking, and rape might be more effective in reducing the incidence of that crime.

      —-
      1) “_http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_in_the_United_States”;
      2) “_http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2013/01/09/your-morning-victim-shaming”;

      • No straw here at all. Come back when you have a consistent argument. For example, one where the statement “that the victim was drunk IN NO WAY absolves the perpetrator of having committed the crime” isn’t immediately followed by “idea that the victim doesn’t bear any degree of responsibility for their own well-being [i.e., not being raped] is, I think, CRIMINALLY IRRESPONSIBLE” (emphasis mine, in both quotes).

        Also, if it’s criminally irresponsible, what should the legal penalty be?

      • You’re experiencing reading comprehension fail in Stephanie’s post. She’s not saying she should have been better prepared. She’s saying it is UNREASONABLE to expect her to have known those things, that asking her to take responsibility for things that she had no realistic way of knowing is ridiculous. To blame her for this is cruel, although judging from your other posts on this thread and others I’m not in the least surprised.

  5. De-lurking to thank you for adding your voice to many others.

    I am in a position somewhat similar to yours. I too am a rape survivor, and an atheist, and not long ago I thought about getting more involved in the atheist movement, but after observing the hatred directed at Rebecca Watson for making feminist-tinged remarks, I didn’t think I wanted to have that kind of hatred directed at me. I’m still repulsed by the knee-jerk misogyny of many people in the movement, and reluctant to get involved.

    (trigger warning – rape discussion)

    Something crossed my mind as I read your first point about victim-blaming. I have frequently seen people saying that rape is not a gendered thing, because men are raped too. (The person saying this usually omits the fact that mostly men are raped by other men.) If this is so, why do we never, never hear advice given to men on how they can avoid rape? Surely they too could benefit from some advice on how to dress or act, but somehow we never see that. It seems that it just doesn’t occur to anyone that men are complicit by their actions in their rapes. But the first thing many people want to know when they hear a woman has been raped or molested is what happened exactly, all the details, please, so they can decide how much blame to allot to her. It is saddening to me to see “skeptics” acting this way too, but dressing it up as “skepticism”.

    Thanks also for your advice on reading material. I’m going to read the Flavia Dzodan essay next.

  6. Here’s a key point the MRA-and-rape-apologists miss: there is not a skeptic community. There are skeptic communities. I for one shall continue (and frankly in reaction to all of the recent unpleasantness greatly increase) my activity and support both financial and otherwise of the skeptic communities that best represent my values. They are welcome to have their sexist predatory cliques that will eventually fade into obscurity and irrelevance as orgs that aren’t actively hostile to huge swaths of the world will become the ones that people actually want to be involved with. I’ll never give a penny or a minute of my time to CFI or TAM, but I’ll actively support Skepticon and Women Thinking Free.

    I get that the big events and orgs have a lot of influence and appeal right now. But if you aren’t a CIS white male sexist then you have no business whatsoever supporting them or attending their events.

  7. Steersman – i am responding to these words of yours:

    “I expect most men already realize that, although it probably wouldn’t hurt to broadcast that message at every opportunity. However, another fact of the matter is that apparently most men don’t rape, and that many of those who do aren’t likely to be swayed by that argument to begin with. Generally speaking, solutions need to be tailored to the specifics of the problem at hand, specifics which many seem to be rather reluctant to consider.”

    Most men don’t rape. Agreed. But there is a hue and cry about the ‘guys who don’t know better.’ they ‘thought she was interested’ They ‘made a mistake’.

    Do you agree they should reconsider drunk sex?
    Do you agree that guys ‘who don’t know better’ should be educated about not becoming a target of a rape claim?
    And for other men – do you agree that other men, CALLING OUT predatory behavior – you know – on the guys that like their women drunk – is sensible if they don’t want a rape claim.

    And where does the sensible precautions help when modestly dressed older women are assaulted? Rapists target opportunity, or they make it themselves. Do you think trying to change rapist-apology culture could do worse than telling women ‘don’t put on that polyester twinset, grandma – some men can’t control themselves.’ And do not tell me that only young, drunk, skimpily dressed women get raped. That is baloney – don’t start there.

  8. actually, apologies to all. Steers has shown me the light.

    I will not forget the precaution of dressing modestly – someone might rape me.

    I will not forget the caution of ‘don’t talk to strange men at bars and conferences.’ Someone might rape me.

    I will not forget the caution of ‘don’t drink alcohol around even my best friends boyfriend. He might rape me. Or her, ya never know.

    What other precautions am I missing, ladies? Oh, yes. I will not walk anywhere with my husband after dark. You saw what happened in India. I sure won’t be getting on busses anymore.

    Or in elevators. I won’t say ‘guys, don’t do that’. Someone will send me rape threats for sure.

    Even if it’s too late.

    • And don’t forget: don’t make innocuous Facebook comments either. Someone will threaten to kill you for that as well. In fact you should stop being female in public altogether.

  9. Another great post… Absolutely agree, the traditional skeptics hate that its moving beyond bigfoot skepticism and into other areas like feminism / social justice. Hope you can keep up the awesome.

    I see on Twitter you have been targeted by the argument of choice in the Slymepit, the bad faith argument. You mentioned that someone was “bitching” about X, unfortunately they will use this as “evidence” of you using a “gendered slur” while not believing for a minute that this is the case. Its where they try and hold you to the most stringent interpretation of the “word police” views of FTB. Totally missing that the damage done is in perpetuating damaging stereotypes not the words themselves. So when they call women “dumb c*nts” they might as well be calling them “stupid women” … Pretty much the same effect. But they either cannot grasp this or willfully choose not to.

    (BTW your twitter widget is a casuality of Twitter turning off their public API. Can go here and generate widget html to embed a new one. https://twitter.com/settings/widgets/new/user)

  10. Carys Birch said (September 4, 2013 at 6:45 pm):

    [Stephanie’s] not saying she should have been better prepared. She’s saying it is UNREASONABLE to expect her to have known those things, that asking her to take responsibility for things that she had no realistic way of knowing is ridiculous. To blame her for this is cruel ….

    Looks to me like you’re reading between the lines as I see absolutely nothing in what I said or what I quoted of her to suggest that I was insisting she “take responsibility for things that she had no realistic way of knowing”. However, while I did say that “she should have been better prepared” – with “should” denoting “obligation or duty” – that was, I think, a rather clear reference to my previous “society bears some responsibility” which was in turn predicated on and suggested by Stephanie’s own “Is there a course for that?” That is, as I explicitly said, “Stephanie … suggesting that she should have been better prepared” with the implication being that the course should have been provided by society.

    Something I further argued in the Pit which Stephanie noted in a subsequent post (1) on the same topic, her sexual assault at 15, wherein I’m quoted as saying “unreasonable, I think, to judge people without considering the circumstances they were in at the time they made their choices or acted the way they did”. Doesn’t look to me like I’ve been doing much blaming of her.

    However, since you brought up the question of responsibility, I seriously have to wonder and ask why you and, apparently, so many others of the “feminist” persuasion seem so unwilling to consider the idea of “personal responsibility”, and respond to any suggestions along that line with wounded if not petulant cries of “victim-blaming!”. While I sympathize with you when you talk of “contradictory suggestions women get to avoid rape”, although I would dearly like to see you point to any single individual who has actually suggested those contradictory methods, I don’t think you and others are being terribly realistic or fair. For instance, I at least am not insisting on any of those methods you talked of, nor do I expect many are seriously suggesting that women take to wearing burkas and only going outside the home when accompanied by male relatives. To even suggest anything even remotely along that line looks like creating a rather egregious strawman, like some rather disingenuous if not intellectually dishonest argumentation that only makes your “side” look decidedly suspect – to say the least.

    But, as Dr. Dre argued here recently, one has to ask why “rape cannot be compared with other things”, notably in the area of personal responsibility and risk management. We advise people to wear seatbelts, and we advise people to put their money in places other than under the mattress. Would you consider it “victim-blaming” to tell people they can’t leave their money laying about? Would you consider that those doing the latter qualify as “theft apologists”, that they are part of a “theft culture”? Hardly seems unreasonable to think that those who have something that others want and would take have to take some degree of personal responsibility themselves to prevent that without that in the least reducing or diminishing the culpability of those doing the taking.

    So it hardly seems unreasonable to expect that women have some degree of responsibility in preventing their rape – something, I might add, that even Rebecca Watson has conceded might qualify as a “good idea”. At least as suggested in this Storify (2) by Al Stefanelli which highlighted this YouTube clip (3) of Watson.

    But I “get it” that it kind of sucks to have to take extra precautions that many others don’t, although some might call that a case of “privilege” somewhat analogous to having so much money that one has to take extensive and, probably, very expensive steps to protect it.

    And I can well see that it indeed sucks big-time that there are so many rapes which apparently go unreported and unpunished. However, here again, I don’t think you and many others are being particularly realistic in your assessments of the situation and mechanisms or motivations in play. The facts of the matter are, or include, that only some 25% of rapes are by strangers, and that most of the others take place where there are virtually no witnesses to the crime other than the participants themselves – in which case trials frequently come down to a question of one person’s word against another’s.

    So unless you’re willing to consider some ways of changing the nature of that beast, I think the situation is rather analogous to the carnage on U.S. highways: in each case, unless there is a serious effort made to change the relevant structure and dynamics it will continue to be the case that some 80,000 women are raped every year (4), and that some 36,000 people are killed every year (5).

    Now the question of possible solutions is indeed a very sticky wicket which might entail some serious changes to values and behaviours. And which many might think aren’t worth the effort – at least beforehand. But they each might have very limited ranges of applicability and benefits which will raise the spectre of a “cost-benefit analysis” – for instance, in the analogous case of traffic fatalities, both seatbelts and airbags have in fact greatly reduced those numbers (6), but it is still the case that 36,000 are killed every year.

    And, in the case of rape, there seem to be several similar technological solutions, for instance here (7), here (8), and here (9). And while the first two have more applicability for sex trade workers – a profession 7 times more dangerous than the next one, male taxicab drivers, which is an abominable situation in itself – they may have some applicability to the situations of all women, and, in any case, illustrate the types of solutions that might be of some value. And along which line I’ve suggested, in some detail on AtheismPlus (10), some iPhone App that would record “intimate encounters”, encrypt them using two keys from the participants, and upload them to a secure file where they would be safe from the depredations of potential rapists. And if at the end of the encounter there were no causes for complaint from either party then those keys would be used to delete the files. However if there were then the files would be provided to the police as proof of the crime.

    So while those types of technological solutions might have their limitations, I expect they’re likely to be more effective than many that have been tried or suggested in the area of behavioural modification. Failing to consider them, or variations thereof, seems tantamount to accepting the ongoing existence of the problem and its consequences.

    ——
    1) “_http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2013/08/21/in-which-i-falsely-report-a-rape/”;
    2) “_http://storify.com/Stefanelli/mindblowing-sjw-ingnorance”;
    3) “_https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=9buFTmdakbc”;
    4) “_http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_in_the_United_States”;
    5) “_http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s1103.pdf”;
    6) “_http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lives_Saved_by_Safety_Belts_and_Air_Bags,_NHTSA,_DOT.svg”;
    7) “_http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/1431511”;
    8) “_http://ubyssey.ca/news/panic-button-749/”;
    9) “_http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2011-02-07/business/sfl-dating-app-iphone-link-010711_1_new-iphone-app-personal-safety”;
    10) “_http://atheismplus.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=5336”;

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