Wendy McElroy propagating myths about rape.

I have written many entries in the past about Wendy McElroy’s bizarre brand of “individualist feminism” (which, as far as I know, has not been adopted by anyone else) and how irrational it is (see for instance Wendy McElroy: “pornography is liberatory” and Wendy McElroy doing a terrible job of defending pornography). But McElroy does a lot more scummy things than just defend pornography. Sometimes she also defends the patriarchy, such as in this imbecilic article from early 2015 entitled Three Myths of Rape That Need Sunlight, where she “analyzes” Susan Brownmiller’s arguments from Against Our Will.

What are these “three myths” that should be exposed? Here they are:

1. rape is a part of patriarchy;

2. men have created a ‘mass psychology’ of rape; and,

3. rape is a part of ‘normal’ life.

If you wonder why anyone who calls themselves a “feminist” would disagree with these three points, you have to remember that McElroy is not a feminist but an “individualist feminist.” “Individualist feminism” is a contradiction in terms: feminism is a systemic analysis and individualist analysis is the diametric opposite of systemic analysis. In practice she is a pretty straightforward female misogynist.

So here is her attempt at “debunking” these “myths.”

Rape is a part of patriarchy.

Regarding patriarchy, suffice it to say, those who promote the concept need to ignore many facts. For example, men and women are victims of domestic violence at virtually the same rate; men constitute the vast majority of prisoners; if prison populations are included, men and women are probably raped at virtually the same rate; they are far more likely to be murdered or die in war; anti-male violence by women is accepted in the popular culture and often causes laughter.

You can see right away how her position reduces itself to mainstream misogyny, as she uses some MRA myths here. In fact I have addressed two of these in this debunking of an MRA list. I honestly can’t believe that she’d pull the old “far more likely to be murdered or die in war,” which is just straightforward nonsense. As for domestic violence, women are almost four times more likely to be the victim of some kind of assault by a partner during their lifetime (see for example here). Women are also twice as likely to be killed by their partners than men.

As for the other two, they may very well be right, but how they demonstrate that rape is not patriarchal in nature is a mystery to me. She certainly doesn’t provide any clarification. Men constitute the vast majority of prisoners because they commit the vast majority of violent crimes, and that is a direct result of gender roles. Anti-male violence is considered funny because of, again, gender roles: women are supposed to be the victims, not the perpetrators, and showing men receiving violence from women is incongruous, therefore funny.

All of this is patriarchy in action. But because her worldview is profoundly misogynistic, McElroy thinks any situation where men lose out is evidence that there is no patriarchy. This is a common belief in MRA circles as well. But the fact is that gender roles do have as consequence men losing out in some ways. There is nothing mysterious about the fact that socializing an entire group of people with the belief that they should be aggressive, and are innately violent, may someday be bad for those people.

Her complete lack of evidence makes the next sentence rather puzzling:

If not patriarchy, what does explain rape?

But she has not disproved the proposition at all. If anything, she’s provided evidence for it!

Well, you can’t expect any sort of rationality from misogynists, so let’s keep going:

People murder for money, for love, out of jealousy or patriotism – the rationalizations go on and on. Rape is every bit as complex. Men and women rape because of sexual hunger, a need to prove themselves, hatred of women or a desire for revenge, as a political statement or from peer pressure (as in gang rapes). Men and women rape from a constellation of complicated motives, which become further blurred when there is alcohol or drug use.

The causes that she lists are all superficial causes. Of course such causes are important to understand any single act of rape, but they will not explain to you why rape itself exists, or why, in the overwhelming majority of cases, it is men who rape women and not vice-versa. In order to understand this, you need to look at the root causes, which is what radical feminists are interested in (radical comes from latin radix, meaning root).

McElroy has already rejected the radical answer, which is the patriarchy. She will not, and cannot, consider this because her intent is to belittle feminist answers by portraying them as simplistic and emphasizing the myriad of motivations behind human actions. Of course human actions can have a myriad of reasons, but that doesn’t mean all reasons are equal. Some explain more than others.

For instance, why do men believe that consent becomes unimportant in certain situations? Why are men more sexually aggressive than women? Why do men feel entitled to claim and own female sexuality? The answer to these questions lies in the premises of the patriarchal worldview, and without it the whole thing doesn’t make sense.

She’s also using “men and women” as a way to portray rape as a gender symmetrical crime, like domestic violence. But in this case it’s far, far more inappropriate and, frankly, offensive. 93% of rapists are male. This is not a “men and women rape men and women” situation, this is a “men rape men and women” situation. We need to name the oppressor in order to get an accurate global picture of what we’re talking about. McElroy is, again, using an MRA strategy (“what about teh menz??”). Usually it’s simply a misdirection, but in this case it’s manipulation. It’s just plain dishonest.

Men have created a ‘mass psychology’ of rape.

She does use the term “rape culture” once in this section, but she seems so determined not to do so that it just looks weird. What’s the big deal in saying “mass psychology of rape” instead of “rape culture”? It’s just pointlessly longer.

Anyway, McElroy spends the first paragraphs here arguing against the specifics of Brownmiller’s argument. This does not interest me in this entry, as I am only interested in her own arguments. She does this by first complaining about the established rape statistics (because there’s no fact established enough that a misogynist can’t complain about it) and then says this:

But let me take the inflated statistics at face value. A rape rate of 25% means that 75% of women will not be raped. Even assuming a one-to-one correlation between victims and rapists – that is, assuming no serial rapists – this means 75% of men will never rape. Indeed, many men would come to the defense of an attacked woman.

The foregoing math may seem obvious. But the claim of a “mass psychology of rape” or a “rape culture” makes it necessary to state the obvious.

This is her entire argument, in context. This is the way she “debunks” the mass psychology of rape. Presumably her reasoning here is that, for a mass psychology to exist, 100% of people must act on it. Or perhaps only 50%. She does not tell us this or, really, anything else relevant. Just that 25% of rapists=no mass psychology.

First of all, the percentage of male rapists is lower than 25%, and as she points out this is because of serial rapists. But what in the hell does that have to do with anything? She’s trying to debunk a point about psychology by discussing a specific action. The fact that most men are not (declared) rapists does not mean they don’t have a patriarchal psychology. Most anti-abortion advocates don’t kill doctors: does that mean they’re not really anti-abortion? Most introverts don’t become hermits: does that mean they’re not really introverts?

This is a simple category error and McElroy should be ashamed of putting forward clearly invalid arguments. Did she really think we wouldn’t notice? She could have argued that, for example, the patriarchal psychology would push a lot more men to rape than there currently are, or something. It would have been wrong, but she could have at least tried. But she didn’t even try. And then she has the gall to say that she’s “stating the obvious”! Yes, she is stating the obvious, but it has nothing to do with what she set out to prove.

Rape is a part of ‘normal’ life.

As a response, she offers the following:

In her book Sexual Personae, the self-identified ‘dissident’ feminist Camille Paglia offered a more plausible relationship between society and rape. Paglia writes, “Generation after generation, men must be educated, refined, and ethically persuaded away from their tendency toward anarchy and brutishness. Society is not the enemy, as feminism ignorantly claims. Society is woman’s protection against rape.”

After laughing your ass off from McElroy calling Camille Paglia a “dissident,” you are probably astonished that she’s actually pushing forward the essentialist theory that men are naturally meant to rape, and that they must be “persuaded away” from doing it. Like most MRAs, she believes that men are inherently “brutish” and that we must adapt to that fact. This is why I say that MRAs hate men far more than any radfem I’ve ever read does. Their views on humanity are perhaps the bleakest ever adopted, on part with the most misanthropic antinatalists there are.

But this is the natural consequence of rejecting the existence of the patriarchy. If we posit that there’s no worldview acquired through male socialization that predisposes men to violence, then the violence must be innate. There really is no other way to go (apart from outright denying the existence of male violence, but few are insane or desperate enough to go that route yet).

As such, this is not an argument. She’s simply repeating (through Paglia) her prejudice against men. I am perfectly willing to concede that McElroy believes that men are brutes who must be trained not to rape women, but a prejudice is not an argument. All it does is mark you as a bigot. If anything, it tells you that the person talking has long left the realm of argumentation and has gone straight into MRA Fantasy Land (opening soon in North Carolina, attractions include the MGTOW Roller Coaster that flings you into space, the Alpha/Beta Male Hammer Game, and Mantears drink stalls).

Since McElroy has failed miserably at disproving these “myths,” and frankly barely even tried, let’s talk about her own myths. Conveniently, she lays them down for us:

Rape is not a part of patriarchy; like all crime, it is a lamentable choice that some people make for their individual reasons. Men have not created a ‘mass psychology’ of rape; PC feminists have created a mass fear about rape. Rape is not a part of ‘normal’ life; normal life helps to protect men and women against rape.

These are all status quo myths. The only possible reason why anyone would push this line is to defend the status quo and make people not look at the reality of the situation. It’s the standard liberal, voluntaryist position that actions exist in a vacuum and that there’s no ideology out there guiding anyone’s actions. All that exists are “choices” (a nonsense concept) and wrong-headed people who overreact to those “choices.” There are no victims, just some “lamentable” (who is doing the lamenting?) “choices” dictated by human nature, so we can’t really do anything about it anyway. Society is here to protect you anyway (not sure how society is supposed to correct human nature, I thought that these anti-feminist types believed that was a communist thing).

So stop thinking. Stop confronting. Society is just a loose collection of individuals who are not linked in any way whatsoever. You are just a leaf blowing in the wind. Relax and stop thinking about rape already, you “PC feminist,” whatever that means (what the hell does political correctness have to do with being against rape or against the Patriarchy?).

McElroy’s views are disconnected from reality, but this is not entirely surprising: she started by rejecting the root cause of rape, and ends by telling us that there is no root cause of rape, only “choice.” The entire article is one big circular argument, circling the drain of liberal feminism… I’m sorry, “individualist feminism.”

So to debunk her own myths:

Rape is a lamentable choice.

No, rape is not a “lamentable choice,” because choice-talk is logical nonsense. Anyway, crime is not, by and large, the result of individual reasons but of social conditions. Inequality of money and power, population density, gun control laws, the intensity of gender roles and gender policing, all contribute to crime rates. In the case of rape, as I already pointed out, the patriarchy is a major cause, because rape (with its gender asymmetrical features) has as necessary preconditions a disrespect for consent and socialization of gender roles (such as the male entitlement to women’s bodies and sexuality).

PC feminists have created a mass fear about rape.

Apart from the bizarre label of “PC feminists,” which is semantically meaningless, I agree with McElroy’s statement. Feminists have created a mass fear about rape, as they should have. Rape is a profound social problem that reaches down to its foundations (socialization of children, widespread misogyny). We should fear it on a mass scale and want to solve the problem.

But this is quite apart from the fact that she denies the existence of a mass psychology of rape. Liberal feminists have to deny or trivialize the existence of socialization because it’s the clinching proof that their “choice” and “self-identification” dogmas are nonsense. And yet male socialization does exist and it does create a mass psychology of rape, heavily supported by the media and common misogynistic beliefs.

Normal life helps to protect men and women against rape.

This is a weird reformulation of Paglia’s terrible quote: she was talking about “society,” not “normal life.” I’ve already addressed Paglia’s quote above, so I will not repeat myself here. But I will say that it takes quite a lot of willful ignorance to state that normal life or society protects women against rape. Certainly there is public opposition to rape- within a very narrow definition of rape. But how are women protected from rape? Certainly they are not as much at risk than when they were owned by one man, but the fact that society does not support rape quite as much as it used to does not mean women are being protected. It only means that society is not putting as much pressure on women to accept rape as it used to.

Is rape a part of normal life? I don’t know why anyone would deny it unless, again, there’s a case of willful ignorance. Of course rape is part of normal life, it happens all the time as a part of people’s normal lives. McElroy clearly lived in a delusional state and it’s just weird to even have to point this sort of obvious things out. Funnily enough, she made the same comment about her weird “75% of men are not rapists, therefore there is no mass psychology of rape” argument, which is not obvious at all.

18 thoughts on “Wendy McElroy propagating myths about rape.

  1. sbt42 December 23, 2015 at 06:14

    I really like your statement early on: “…McElroy thinks any situation where men lose out is evidence that there is no patriarchy.” Following that up with her claims that if prisoners are considered, men are raped just as much as women… That’s nothing at all in the way of support for her argument.

    Who is doing the raping? Are there women sneaking into men’s jails and raping the men at equal rates of men against women? Of course not. It’s man-on-man violence.

    • Francois Tremblay December 23, 2015 at 06:32

      “Who is doing the raping? Are there women sneaking into men’s jails and raping the men at equal rates of men against women?”

      Well, you know how those feminists are. They hate men so much, they might just do that. You never know, :)

  2. unabashedcalabash December 31, 2015 at 04:03

    I can never quite understand people who think that criminals are just “loose cannons,” unpreventable monsters, “bad guys” that having a gun in your belt (or purse) will solve…where do all these “monsters” come from? Genetics just naturally produce them, for reasons unrelated to enforced poverty, systematic disenfranchisement, class bias, abuse, and racism? And what, so shooting people is the answer? Because that guy you know who is normally a pretty good guy and whom you’ve known 10 years is now trying to rape you, so you should him, because he’s a monster. Yeah, right. I’ve seen so many Republican gun nut Fox News talking head types deny rape culture and say “there’ll always be rapists, you can’t control sick people, that’s why women should carry guns;” just how many men would die tomorrow if women started shooting every man who indecently assaulted them? I would have had to shoot at least 20 men (if you’re counting all the random tit-grabs and ass-gropes etc. etc.). And in terms of all the other monstrous criminals out there who are in no way a product of society, should we kill them too? If someone comes into my house to steal my TV, shooting him is the answer? Well, if they’re all monstrous criminals, not arising from any sort of social conditioning, then I don’t see why not.

    Incidentally, I was thinking about something recently after my brother asked me a really good question. He dropped the neologism “kink-shaming” and my face practically fell off I was sneering so hard…anyway, I put it to him like this: if you think the concept of free will is essentially meaningless (he’s a scientist and he does), then the concept of consent is equally meaningless. Consent is just an extension of the false concept of free will, and will necessarily always be mitigated by one’s genes, upbringing and past experiences. So does that mean you should choke someone, if she asks you to? Slap her? Whip her? Electrocute her? Even knowing that the majority of subs on the circuit come from backgrounds of abuse, which they are repeating? Even if they haven’t, they’ve certainly come from the same misogynist background all women grow up in, and maybe they just got a bigger dose than most. Even if she likes it–loves it–begs for it–is it good for her? Would you also applaud the actions of someone who goes out and buys cocaine for a person they know is an addict? How about someone who bakes the five chocolate cakes their morbidly obese friend eats every day, and funds their 3 3-liter a day Coca Cola habit? So why, oh why, should we not criticize the actions of a person who agrees to beat someone up because they ask for it? Why does any hint of sex make such criticism out of bounds?

    I understand the liberal fear of sexual repression that comes from the Puritan history of this country and the punitive sexual shackles of religion. That doesn’t mean ALL criticism is bad. Intellectual criticism, grounded in reality, is good; if we say ALL sex is good, then anything goes, and pretty soon pederasty will be legal and not just nonviolently raped women won’t be believed, even women who show up tortured won’t: “Some women like it rough.” “He said it was a sex game that got a little out of hand.” This is already happening, even in the case of sexual torture murders, where the victim isn’t left alive to give her side of the story. This is obviously a really, really bad idea.

    Anyway, my brother asked, “So what does that do to the ‘enthusiastic consent’ model of feminism?” Which was a brilliant question, because it really illuminated something for me: liberal feminism pushes the “yes” model of consent–which is far better than the previous, coercive “no” model of consent–as a way to justify the most misogynistic sexual practices with “she wanted it.” Pornography, prostitution, BDSM: as long as she’s saying “yes” there’s no asking why. And it allows them to seem progressive while they progress toward a manipulatively exploitative, objectifying vision of womanhood.

    The problem is that the enthusiastic consent model doesn’t go far enough. So I thought about it a while and decided the “well-being” model should replace that (as it should, and often does, at least in theory, in our approaches other aspects of life). We should evaluate sexual encounters not only according to consent but according to well-being: yes, she wants it, but is it good for her? Yes, I want it, but is it good for me? We have to take into account our own well-being too, to avoid being taken advantage of, and think about the well-being of the other, to avoid hurting or taking advantage of him or her.

    Does he want to be tied up and flogged? Probably not great for him, in the long run, or me either. Does she want a relationship, even though she’s my young college student and I’m her 20-years-older professor? Unlikely it’ll work out, and it could be power-imbalanced due to age difference, as well as a breach of trust as I am in a position of authority and influence. Does he want a relationship with me, and I only want sex with him? Best not to do it, as it will only hurt him in the long run, regardless of whether he says he can “handle it.” This model wouldn’t rule out all casual sex, but a lot of it, certainly; you’d have to know the person well enough to know they could handle casual sex and liked you about the same amount you liked them, which is to say, not enough to fall in love but enough to enjoy affectionate intimate encounters. This model might help avoid the heartache that results from imbalanced relationships, if taught and applied even fifty percent of the time. Self-discipline would be the hardest part, and of course people would slip up. But at least they would be trying.

    What does this mean, for people who like to beat or be beaten? Frankly, for me it means we don’t need to embrace all of our darkest fantasies. People like that can work on trying to rechannel their sexuality into more positive, power-balanced interactions (which is not to say sexual pursuit won’t be aggressive, but that it will be aggressive in a more balanced fashion, with both parties in equal pursuit of the other). Or they can do their little underground activities and we can tolerate it and not talk about it and not celebrate it. At all.

    Anyway, I just wondered what you thought of my “well-being” approach to sexuality, as taking it one step further than the enthusiastic consent model…it explicitly requires you to think about the context of where that consent is coming from.

    I hope you’ve had a Merry Christmas! And Happy New Year.

    • Francois Tremblay December 31, 2015 at 04:43

      Well, one of the problems with “enthusiastic consent” is that they denature consent to the point where it doesn’t really mean anything, and then assume any agreement, including a contract, fulfills the criterion of “enthusiastic.” So really, at this point it doesn’t mean ANYTHING.

      Of course we must take into account the context of consent… without it, it’s not consent. I’ve made the point many times before. I’m fine with “well-being,” but the problem is that it’s too vague and could be just as easily co-opted as any other criterion. The real issue is that you need two people with roughly equal power in a situation or relationship for consent to be effective at all. There can never be consent between one individual and a corporation, or a sub and a dom, or a child and a parent, or whatever other hierarchy you want to look at.

      Also, I don’t agree that without “free will”/”agency”/”choice” there can be no consent. It just doesn’t take the totalizing importance that it seems to have for the people who believe in such delusions. Consent is a necessary condition but is not, by far, a sufficient condition to have ethics. Any ethics which does not focuses on truth-finding is, I think, missing the point. Kink-shaming is good precisely because kinksters are more concerned with their immediate pleasure than on the impact of what they’re doing on each other and on society. I don’t want to sound like some kind of Objectivist or something, but it’s a huge form of evasion. Same for pornography.

  3. unabashedcalabash January 10, 2016 at 02:38

    I take your point that the absence of “free will” doesn’t entirely remove consent, if consent is defined as “reasonable consent” (that is, all the evidence points to that fact that the person is consenting; they are saying yes, they are participating, there is an absence of coercion, which of course implies that most people don’t really consent to be working unless they like their job and want to be at it for a fixed amount of time per day, which I doubt, even when you like your job; unless you are self-employed there is some fundamental lack of consent in the artificiality of any job, because you are required to arrive and leave at a certain time and have a lack of freedom imposed upon you by a hierarchy which is extorting labor from you in exchange for an essential which you need to survive). I think we can infer consent, yes, and that consent can be given (if not entirely freely, as I think there are always some mitigating circumstances, since people’s motives are often so complex and unconscious); however, my point is that even if consent is given–without coercion–if there is significant power imbalance accepting that person’s offer might constitute an unethical action.

    The issue of course is how do you know who has the power? Some would argue it’s subjective. I’m thinking, for example, of a professor I knew in grad school who even into his seventies had affairs with undergraduate students. I would say this is unethical, since he is in a position of authority and is supposed to be acting as a mentor and professional guide, as well as, of course, the age difference, which to me often constitutes a power difference (particularly since there is now evidence that the frontal cortex–the seat of reason–continues developing into our late thirties, though it is mostly done developing by around the mid-twenties; so I’d say there is a pretty significant difference between even a thirty-year-old and a twenty-three-year-old, which I found when I dated a younger man, and felt morally/ethically compromised by and a tad guilty about the whole relationship; there was also the issue of our different backgrounds–his impoverished and uneducated, and mine privileged and educated–which led to a real power difference in the relationship, though we really liked each other and he in fact pursued me, as normally I wouldn’t have dated someone so much younger; I don’t think I would again).

    In any case, the case of the professor seems like cut-and-dried unethical behavior. However, I remember seeing him once in the school basement (which was a kind of a rec room), talking to an undergraduate girl. He had his head bowed and seemed nervous and spoke like a little boy, whereas the girl was self-confident and seemed absolutely certain of herself and her power over him; seductive. He sounded like a completely different man than the brilliant, articulate-if-sometimes-pedantic professor I knew from his lectures. I wondered if these relationships with young women were instigated by them or him. I wondered if they would cause damage for these women, down the line, if they would feel they had been taken advantage of. I wonder if it was very good for him, either, as a man who had twice married and divorced his students and was now a lonely old man with transient relationships with partners much younger and therefore somewhat alienated or remote from him (as their are all kinds of cultural touchstones for people of the same generation, and all sorts of life experiences we accrue over time that change our perspective).

    So how do you really know who has the power?

    I have decided to try and follow this model, myself. To make myself a test subject, as it were, particularly since I’ve had so many bad experiences with men which I think to some degree I attracted. I know I have also been cruel and vindictive to men on occasion, and taken advantage of and hurt them (and that I was also hurt, by other men, is not an excuse). So I would like to try this approach. In fact it would be a great approach in all endeavors and in interacting with all people, not just in terms of men and sex. But particularly I’m going to take this approach to sex: when in doubt, don’t do it. If I don’t think it’s going to end well (however much fun it might be in the moment), or if I don’t think the other person is particularly willing, I won’t do it. This will likely lead to even more celibacy and then eventually, perhaps, to a real relationship; that’s okay. It doesn’t mean no flirtation, but it does mean curtailing sexual activity. This might also lead me to see men more as friends and people than either potential predators or love interests.

    I know “well-being” is vague, and could be co-opted by the well-meaning meddlers of the world who cause so much damage while intending the opposite, which is why I think it should be more of a Zen thing. You know, a mysterious, sort of indescribable, spiritual idea that the individual has to hash out for herself. A lot of the problem with well-meaning social movements stems from institutionalizing it. Nevertheless, I think we can teach the idea that we should approach sex as ethically as we try to approach other human interactions (which ideally is what we are being taught to do); instead, we are explicitly taught (men especially)–and pornography and prostitution make this abundantly clear–that sex is all about our personal desires and urges and that we should all act on what we want and nobody else is entitled to butt into our sexual business. This selfish attitude to sex is what causes people to care only about their own pleasure and ignore the well-being of partners, whether it’s their partner’s emotional well-being, their partner’s orgasm, or their partner’s consent.

    Diversely, we are taught to judge and condemn another’s selfish, pleasure-seeking behavior when it comes to say, drugs or alcohol, because of how it affects family and community (even if, ironically, addiction is a lot less controllable, as a physical disease, than simply making an effort to keep our sexual desires in check, which might not be as tough as we think–particularly as men think–if we were given social encouragement to do so, rather than the opposite, social encouragement to do whatever we want). Of course, other hedonistic pleasure-seeking behaviors at the expense of others are encouraged, particularly when it comes to buying things, which is of course at other people’s expense–mostly brown, impoverished, oppressed people the world over–even if we can’t see it. Opting out of that would be opting out of capitalism entirely, which is difficult; but we can make an effort to control our own materialistic behavior (or at least not to be hypocrites by pretending we’re not part of the problem if we don’t), without pretending we are entirely guilt-free because, say, we recycle; still, we can make an effort (which we may fail at from time to time) to be ethical in our own lives. And we can certainly make an effort to be ethical when it comes to sex, to take our partner’s well-being into account and just think more about it generally (and not pursue it so aggressively and indiscriminately–this tends to be more true of men particularly), and I think such a notion is better than simply “she says yes? Woo hoo! Green light! Yes makes it all okay.”

    Furthermore, as I said in my other post I think “enthusiastic consent” is being used as a smokescreen to justify prostitution and pornography (as well as all the other “choice” liberal feminism bullshit–the continuation of sexist stereotypes and hierarchy generally, the celebration of self-subjugation and of the death of critical thought); it is entirely disingenuous on the part of the liberal feminists who push it to claim that it’s about stopping rape when really it’s about justifying it–or at least, a certain kind of it; capitalist rape that is palatable to capitalists and mollifying to those male rape apologists and rapists who like to pretend they are progressives.

    • Francois Tremblay January 10, 2016 at 05:36

      Your comment was fascinating, as always. I agree that your example of the professor does show the tension between hierarchical power and psychological power. While we do concentrate on hierarchical power because it’s the most important one, you’re right that there are a lot of other factors determining whether a relationship is one between equals or not. Ultimately perhaps none of us are absolutely and completely equal in power. The issue, I think, is more of, what kind of imbalance of power we’re willing to accept and which we’re not.

  4. unabashedcalabash January 11, 2016 at 00:49

    I think this is the heart of the matter, though. The psychological power (or emotional/sexual power, whatever you want to call it) that women have over straight men has been used to justify the necessity of patriarchy (which is all about controlling women’s sexuality and reproductive capacity). I think deep down a lot of men are really afraid of women and of their sexuality, particularly if it’s not a sexuality that has been formed of as a mirror to reflect back the desires of male sexuality (the “male gaze” internalized); women who want what they want and know how to get it really scare a lot of men, I think (it brings up a lot of issues about performance anxiety, “measuring up,” paranoia about infidelity, etc.).

    I stumbled across a revolting subreddit today (r/rapingwomen and r/philosophyofrape). They’ve been banned, but there are archives available on a WordPress account. It was really horrible to read them, as I’m quite sure I qualify as one of the “harlots” who needed “correcting,” and as I’ve been “corrected” on quite a few occasions that would count as a victory for these “philosophers,” wouldn’t it? I remember when the term “corrective rape” entered the lexicon in references to men raping lesbian women to try to “correct” them, and I argued that all rape is corrective (or at least, a lot of it; having been on the receiving end of a lot of sexual assault, I can pinpoint and identify quite a few different motivating factors, most of them having to do with power or at least indirect expressions of power in the form of feeling entitled). All rape is designed as a corrective weapon for women who overstep their bounds and don’t act proper, and since it’s designed expressly to be a tool of punishment against such women it’s been set up socially as the most horrible kind of crime you can commit against a pure woman (you know, a wife or a mother or a virgin) who knows her place in the world of male-created hierarchies; somehow we conflated social outrage at the rape of “good” women with social outrage at the rape of all women. But it’s just the opposite: deep down, men know (and the culture teaches) that rape of “loose” women or “wild” women (who were “asking for it” by drinking, wearing short skirts, walking alone at night, traveling, going with a man to his apartment, having some consensual activity with him like kissing, and etc. etc.) is not a crime at all, but a punishment (or, as the rape philosophers put it, “a corrective tool” to put a “harlot” in her place). This is why “how to not get raped” tips are SO BAD: it’s not just about blaming the victim, it’s about expressly bowing to the demands of a hierarchy that is maintained through threat of violence. When you agree not to go out after dark, drink, travel, kiss men, have sex with who you want to have sex with regardless of any “reputation,” etc. you agree to have the patriarchy curtail your life and freedom. You agree that you will only date/have sex within “acceptable” bounds which generally means dating leading to marriage and long-term relationships; you agree not to sleep around (with whom YOU want to sleep with, which is the problem, not necessarily the promiscuity itself, which is why the same men will advocate prostitution); you agree to abide by their rules.

    I think rape of women is a hate crime, and I think this site “Philosophy of Rape” proves it. They explicitly state everything I just said, advocate for it, and give tips on how to rape women (the number one tip is, “don’t rape strangers, because DNA evidence makes this difficult to get away with, and it’s seen as a real crime; rape anyone–literally anyone–you come into contact on a daily basis with who could conceivably give consent; target women who like to drink, invite them to have a drink with you, and then it’s RAPE TIME! She’s walked right into your trap, you’re bigger and stronger than her, and no one will believe her anyway because it’s “he-said she-said” and his word will always count for more”). I can’t believe there are men out there ACTUALLY SAYING these things (and that it had a following of thousands when the site was up), but I’ve seen frat circulations saying similar things (“85 percent chance she won’t report it is pretty good odds”), and I can’t tell you how many male friends I trusted who invited me for dinner or drinks have tried this with me (or done this to me). I can’t believe other men don’t do more about it, as what it basically means is that someone like me (and a lot of other women) don’t trust men at all anymore, which makes dating and friendship all that much more difficult.

    Anyway, their justification is that “harlots” are the “gatekeepers” and they have “shallow criteria” for who they will sleep with (i.e., they will only sleep with men they are attracted to, not men they don’t find physically attractive or men who are repellent, creepy, misogynistic rapists). They are also “feminazis” that don’t their “true place” (as dominated by men). They may be women who have “cried rape” in the past so now you should really rape them. (This is actually one of my biggest fears; for everything that has happened to me–the worst being when my best friend’s crush–angry at her and likely thinking I was a cockblock as she used to ask me to chaperone their dates and stupidly, being a good friend and not quite trusting him either, I agreed–raped me one night when she was out of town; he came into the bar where I worked after I got off–everyone was an alcoholic there, and I’d already had too much to drink–was really nice, friendly, pretended to be my friend, bought me drinks, asked where my best friend and also roommate was–out of town–then said he would “walk me home for safety” at 1 in the morning; there was no flirtation, nothing; I just turned around to say goodnight to him and he pushed past me and closed the door; that was probably the worst time, because it was designed to ruin my very close friendship with my best friend and it did; I think he was jealous of our love for each other, too; anyway, in spite of all this–many sexual attacks, some even out of anger rather than entitlement, like his–I am afraid of being really violently attacked and really afraid of it happening again at this point in my life; I don’t think I could stand it, and this puts a real damper on my dating life). Obviously this site was really hard for me to stomach.

    On r/rapewomen someone said rape was good because it sometimes led to promiscuity so the “ten lonely virgins or quasi-virgins” who got some action off a girl “probably had to thank the original guy that raped her.” So rape is good, because it makes women give it up easier, because they are psychologically disturbed, angry, and want to reclaim their power? Really? This almost made me throw up. When I think about what I went through…some of the “sex” I had after I was raped was worse than the rape because it was hate sex (for the most part) and I was so self-destructive, I looked for the worst kind of guys…honestly, this has all been so bad for me, psychologically; it led directly to the breakdown that caused me to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. To think that someone would say the pain I went through–and how this has curtailed my life: my sense of self and self-worth, my ability to make contributions to the world, my ability to give and receive love, my physical and mental health, which may contribute to health problems down the line–to think that the fact that I was promiscuous for 6 months or so after I was raped justifies rape because some guys “got some?”!!

    This line of thinking makes me really incredulous. I can’t really believe some men would really think that women are less than human that way, but they do. They also seem to believe that women are perniciously, maliciously withholding the one thing they want from them (sex), for no reason at all, and that furthermore they have no right to withhold it.

    I just created an OkCupid account, for fun. My intro is a bit confrontational, actually (honest, and not incredibly “I’m so positive such a positive-thinking person” like everyone else’s); I uploaded a variety of pictures to give an honest portrayal of how I look, including recent ones (I figured I would be too fat and old for most men; this is another lie of patriarchy, constantly telling women they are not something enough to be attractive when in fact most men do not feel that way at all, because if they devalue themselves they’re more likely to sleep with you, to accept less, to be more malleable and submissive, I guess). In one day I received 25 messages (most of them monosyllabic and stupid, though I asked for a real message in my profile, many of them sexual, and many gushing about my looks) and a hundred visitors. Curious, I read about a study which showed that average-looking women receive more messages and visits than the best-looking men (who receive only slightly more messages and visits from women than the women rated the least attractive).

    I remember trying to describe to a man what it felt like to be a reasonably attractive woman: “water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.” Whereas men feel frustration they can’t get sex, women are bombarded with offers of sex and feel frustration they can’t get anyone to like them, respect them, and take them seriously as people. In fact, it is men’s very focus on sex (which is so objectifying) that is so off-putting and, frankly, frightening (what with the threat of rape and all, which, whatever some men might secretly believe, is frightening–it comes with at the very least an indirect threat of worse violence, even death–and is incredibly dehumanizing and destabilizing). Men who want to get anywhere with women will treat them like friends and people first, avoid instantly commenting on their looks (women are used to it, and it will immediately identify the man as a superficial sex-seeker), and yeah, basically just treat them as proper functioning individuals, not vending machines for sex.

    Yet men see women as holding all the cards. This is why the whole system of patriarchy is in place in the first place. This is why we have rape as a punishment for women who are too strong-willed or independent or threaten the status quo with their “loose” sexuality (but rape is the ultimate crime against a “good” woman–i.e. a woman who is another man’s property: her husband’s, boyfriend’s, or father’s).

    So who really has the power then?

    I think this is what this is about. The MRA movement, the rise of rape, pornography and prostitution, the desperate scramble to outlaw abortion; this is all about men’s fear that if we give women full human rights–including to choose who to love and who to have sex with without any economic or other coercion–women would have all the power. And that just wouldn’t be fair.

    TLDR (even though I hate that acronym! You can understand why); if women had true economic and social equality, and men had to respect women’s wishes about their own personal and reproductive autonomy and sexuality, men would have to fundamentally change their approach to sexuality and to masculinity, and the power balance might tip in women’s favor (or at least they perceive it that way). This is what men are concerned about and why these oppressive, violent institutions are justified and women are pressured and co-opted into movements to be their advocates. I really think this difference–between institutional/hierarchical power and psychological/emotional/sexual power–is the crux of the matter. The one is the response to the other.

    • Francois Tremblay January 12, 2016 at 19:29

      I finally got around to reading your comment! LOL

      Seriously though, I agree with what you’re saying about their mentality. It does revolve around women being the gatekeepers. Women are the civilizing influence. What that means in practice is that men can be as evil as they want, because they can’t “help it.” As more honest MRAs will readily admit, they believe that men are violent beasts. They are fundamentally anti-men, as well as anti-women. But they don’t see it that way, obviously… They also believe men are the real civilizing influence, and that without men society would go to shit. So… go figure.

      I’d be curious to see your OKCupid profile. But you don’t have to show me if you don’t want to. I had a profile on there but I deleted it a few weeks ago. I have met some good friends on there, although it never lasts that long.

      • unabashedcalabash January 12, 2016 at 21:00

        Ha ha ha, my OKCupid profile…I met a cool fellow writer I have a lot in common with on there and who coincidentally just missed me leaving Flagstaff and who dated someone whose previous boyfriend I had an ongoing thing with while they were together (not knowing), and she was apparently still mad at me when they were together, what a weird coincidence, and during the time I knew her and her skeezy ex I was going through some post-rape hilarity which caused me to act a little off the wall, which caused my newfound OKCupid writer friend and I to discuss much of this stuff and also caused me to post a slightly fictionalized nonfiction story (I mean some of the dialogue, and one scene–the bathroom/drink-throwing scene, though not the conversation with Eddie, Amie, Beth, the trip to the bar, or what happened after, or anything except for the conversation in the bathroom and the glass-throwing scene) on my own wordpress account, a true-life account of rape culture and hook-up culture in college/in a college town, which is a pretty okay short story and you should totally read (and the dialogue with the cop is verbatim): https://writingdowntheworld.wordpress.com/2016/01/12/perfect-based-in-fact-almost-entirely-true-in-fact-about-rape-and-hook-up-culture-on-the-college-campus/ And here is my weird, confrontational OKCupid account, which has scared off everybody who has read it but my fellow writer friend: http://www.okcupid.com/profile. So, feel free to tell me what you think of either!

  5. Francois Tremblay January 12, 2016 at 21:14

    You have to put your username on there, I think, for other people to see it. That URL just leads to your own profile (on your computer).

  6. unabashedcalabash January 12, 2016 at 21:20

    Oh, well, embarrassingly it’s Calabasita28. I made the account years ago, never put on a profile or pictures at all, then out of the blue decided to do so the other day, but have no desire to pay money to change my username. So there it is.

    • Francois Tremblay January 12, 2016 at 21:45

      Your profile isn’t scary at all. I think it’s pretty great! Well, you know, apparently men don’t like smart women, so that might be what’s scaring them off. I would totally be your friend though!

      Thanks for the story. I was gonna read it and tell you what I thought, but it’s much longer than I thought! I will try to finish it eventually, I promise.

      • unabashedcalabash January 12, 2016 at 21:49

        I guess 7000 words is long! I’m going to be some sort of Pynchonesque or Foster Wallian writer with doorstep novels. Eek. I think it’s a pretty good story about these issues though, needs some work like all writing always, tell me what you think when you get around to it. :)

        • Francois Tremblay January 13, 2016 at 00:04

          Hey, I just remembered you’re also Carmen Speer! Will you stop leaving the chat before I can even realize you’re there? LOL You’ve been frustrating me like crazy!

    • Francois Tremblay January 13, 2016 at 00:04

      Unless that’s the intent, in which case, mission accomplished. ;P

  7. […] McElroy, on the supposedly multiple, complex causes of rape. As I pointed out in my entry “Wendy McElroy propagating myths about rape,” individual rapes may have all sorts of motivations, but the root cause of rape is power, […]

  8. The Fool October 15, 2016 at 09:55

    Good God. What do they base this crap on? Mainstream psychology, evopsych? Have you read PZ Myers on that? I love Jerry Coyne says he was skeptical of sociobiology but thinks evopsych is a more matured version. How assbackwards can you get? David Barash, and his colleagues from that time, had some really interesting ideas in sociolobiology. Evopsych is like bearded yuppie whine hipster philosophy. “Rape is a normal part of life” is, or was, disputed by anthropology and sexology long ago. From a scientific/philosophical perspective a la Freud, Kinsey, C.A Tripp, and Foucault to name a few makes that whole thing a load of garbage. If their is no sexual drive (heterosexuality/reproduction) inborn in humans (Tripp, Bem, Byne, Kinsey) than how can reproduction-related rape impulse be a product of psychological evolution?
    I mean there’s no scientific evidence behind any of this, it’s purely philosophical bs based entirely within cultural bias. Drivel.

    • Francois Tremblay October 15, 2016 at 14:42

      Yea, I have read PZ Myers’ entries on evopsych. He’s always good, I find.And you are right about it being culturally biased drivel.

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