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.