I’m directing this to men who inhabit het-identified social spaces, and I’m not really limiting it more than that. Women are already doing what they can to prevent rape; brokering a peace with the fear is part of their lives that we can never fully understand. We’re the ones who are not doing our jobs.
Here’s what we need to do. We need to spot the rapists, and we need to shut down the social structures that give them a license to operate. They are in the population, among us. They have an average of six victims, women that they know, and therefore likely some women you know. They use force sometimes, but mostly they use intoxicants. They don’t accidentally end up in a room with a woman too drunk or high to consent or resist; they plan on getting there and that’s where they end up.
Listen. The women you know will tell you when the men they thought they could trust assaulted them; if and only if they know you won’t stonewall, deny, blame or judge. Let them tell you that they got drunk, and woke up with your buddy on top of them. Listen. Don’t defend that guy. That guy is more likely than not a recidivist. He has probably done it before. He will probably do it again.
Change the culture. To rape again and again, these men need silence. They need to know that the right combination of factors — alcohol and sex shame, mostly — will keep their victims quiet. Otherwise, they would be identified earlier and have a harder time finding victims. The women in your life need to be able to talk frankly about sexual assault. They need to be able to tell you, and they need to know that they can tell you, and not be stonewalled, denied, blamed or judged.
Listen. The men in your lives will tell you what they do. As long as the R word doesn’t get attached, rapists do self-report. The guy who says he sees a woman too drunk to know where she is as an opportunity is not joking. He’s telling you how he sees it. The guy who says, “bros before hos”, is asking you to make a pact.
The Pact. The social structure that allows the predators to hide in plain sight, to sit at the bar at the same table with everyone, take a target home, rape her, and stay in the same social circle because she can’t or won’t tell anyone, or because nobody does anything if she does. The pact to make excuses, to look for mitigation, to patch things over — to believe that what happens to our friends — what our friends do to our friends — is not (using Whoopi Goldberg’s pathetic apologetics) “rape-rape”.
Change the culture. We are not going to pull six or ten or twelve million men out of the U.S. population over any short period, so if we are going to put a dent in the prevalence of rape, we need to change the environment that the rapist operates in. Choose not to be part of a rape-supportive environment. Rape jokes are not jokes. Woman-hating jokes are not jokes. These guys are telling you what they think. When you laugh along to get their approval, you give them yours. You tell them that the social license to operate is in force; that you’ll go along with the pact to turn your eyes away from the evidence; to make excuses for them; to assume it’s a mistake, of the first time, or a confusing situation. You’re telling them that they’re at low risk.
I saw economist James Galbraith not long ago — an economist beloved of progressives everywhere. Galbraith said, among other things, “First rule of economics: incentives work.” He was speaking in another context, but this applies to rape. The overwhelming prevalence of acquaintance over stranger rapes and of intoxication over overt force, and the relative rarity of weapon use and physical injuries, is easily explained. Rapists know what works. They like to rape, they want to keep doing it, they want not to be caught. It is in their interest to be very sensitive to which accounts of rape are believed and which are attacked and to know which targets and methods are lowest-risk for them.
What they do is what works. They rape their drunk acquaintances because it works. They rape their drunk acquaintances because we let them.
We need to revoke the rapists’ social license to operate. We need to stop asking, “why do we think he didn’t know she wasn’t consenting,” which is the first question now, really. First as a cultural matter — leaving the legal matter aside — we need to adopt the stance that sexual interaction ought to always be had in a state of affirmative consent by all participants; that anything else is aberrant. If someone says, “I was sexually assaulted,” the first question should be, “why was a person continuing with sexual activity when zir partner did not want to?”
This is what it is: real rape happens when the attacker is drunk and the target is drunker and alone and isolated. That’s rape-rape. If he gets away with it, it will be, on average, rape-rape-rape-rape-rape-rape. If we refuse to listen, he can continue to pretend that the rapist is some guy in the parking lot late at night, when it’s actually him, in our friends’ bedrooms half an hour after last call. If we let that happen, we’re part of the problem.
The rapists can’t be your friends, and if you are loyal to them even when faced with the evidence of what they do, you are complicit.
To our male friends
August 11, 2012 by blue milk