This entry is about a kooky “skeptic” blog called Lateral Truth, written by a woman who appears to be a female MRA, Rebecca Bradley. She pontificates on the supposed falsehoods of radical feminist “dogma” in this entry, which seeks to argue that there is no such thing as rape culture and people who say we live in a rape culture are religious fanatics who are taking over society and redefining the concept of rape in order to hurt men.
Yea… that’s a rational view of reality all right. I’m a little “skeptical” of Bradley’s interpretation of radical feminism as crazy fanatics (never mind her equation of radical feminism with SJWs, when they stand for diametrically opposite positions), when her entry is melodramatic and frankly a little unhinged. But I am not interested in her demonization of people who disagree with her because they’re actually sane, so let’s move on to her arguments.
Sacred Mantra: Don’t teach girls to avoid rape; teach men not to rape.
Blasphemy: The vast majority of men already know perfectly well not to rape, and anyway have been taught from toddlerhood that hurting girls is bad. The vast majority of men take about as dim a view of rape as most women do, regarding the act as abhorrent, and rapists as despicable. Most of the approximately 4-6% of men who do commit sexual assault will not be reached or changed by anti-rape education because they do not give a fuck about what society thinks of them: sociopaths and sexual predators come to mind. It’s like saying I need to train the local poodles not to eat my cats, because there are coyotes in the neighbourhood. What makes more sense is to take precautions against the coyotes.
It’s funny how she presents feminist principles as “sacred mantras,” as if they are nothing more than thought-stopping phrases. The concept that we should teach men not to rape is not a mantra, it is the result of a level-headed examination of the issue: blaming women for getting raped is victim-blaming, and, in most crimes, we blame the perpetrator for their crimes, not the victims. So why should we differ in the case of rape?
Bradley’s “blasphemy” is not exactly, well, blasphemous: it’s pretty ordinary pablum, actually, based on an extremely narrow concept of rape as being “some woman gets jumped in an alley by a stranger and gets penetrated.” Obviously the vast majority of men are aware that this is a bad thing. I have never seen any feminist deny that state of affairs, and to say otherwise is disingenuous. What men do not agree on are cases like spousal rape, drunk rape, rape under consent withdrawn, that sort of thing. Many men do think that they are entitled to have coerced sex with a woman if they’re married, if the woman is drunk, or if the woman previously consented and then says no. There are far more rapes in those categories than there are rapes of woman getting jumped in alleys. Of course, MRAs do not recognize these things are rape, so of course they think men know not to rape.
This also means that she believes men who rape must be predators and sociopaths, because only predators and sociopaths would not care about “not raping” according to MRA definitions. But again, this is based on such a narrow conception of rape that it is completely useless. Defining a word so it only includes those things you don’t like, and excludes things you do like, does not make an argument. The fact that she normalizes such a wide range of rapes as not-rape is an eloquent demonstration of the existence of rape culture.
Sacred Mantra: Teaching women to defend themselves or take precautions against assault amounts to “victim blaming.” “A woman should be able to walk stark naked down Main Street and not be raped.” She should have the right to wear exactly what she feels like, no matter how sexy or revealing, and not be raped. She should have the right to drink herself blotto in a singles bar, and not be raped. She should have the right to go wherever she pleases, even alone down the darkest alley in the dead of night, and not be raped.
Blasphemy: There are no such rights. Everybody, of whatever gender, needs to take some responsibility for their own safety. Sexual predators, indeed, are only one item on a menu of lurking hazards. A burly young man would be an idiot to go down some dark alleys at night, so why should a woman claim it as a right? (In fact, although violence against women holds centre stage, men are the ones who are far more at risk.) The behaviours cited above, to my mind, boil down to a demand for the right to make foolish choices without suffering consequences.
This is just imbecilic. Does she really believe that saying we have the right to free speech means that we can say anything we want without consequences?
Bradley does not seem to understand the concept of “right” at all, which makes it a rather poor decision on her part to address the issue. Having a right does not mean you are magically immune from consequences. Saying people (including women) have the right to be safe in their persons does not mean that we should expect no harm to ever come to them. A right is nothing more or less than a justification for violence: that anyone who breaks other people’s rights should be stopped, violently if necessary. It does not mean that no one needs to take responsibility for their own safety. Rights do not suspend the laws of causality.
When feminists say that women have the right to wear what they want, and go wherever they want, and not get raped, they do not mean that it’s not actually going to happen. Of course it’s going to happen, because we live in a rape culture. The fact that Bradley refuses to grant the right to women (like herself!) to be safe in their own persons is profoundly misogynistic. But she is an MRA, so it’s not too surprising that she’s a self-hating woman.
And of course men are not “far more at risk” of violence than women, unless you take violence against women out of your definition of “violence.” Again, in MRA world, women don’t matter when they’re victims, only when they’re perpetrators.
This is absolutely not to say that a woman who is sexually assaulted is at fault—terrible things can happen to anyone, no matter how careful they are; and being raped is a disproportionately high price to pay for doing something stupid or naive. Rather, the point is that exercising common sense can substantially reduce one’s chances of becoming a crime statistic. Why should recognizing that simple truth be considered “victim-blaming?” We should be teaching sensible precautions to both our daughters and our sons, not unrealistic expectations about how the world would treat them in a radfem utopia. Ironically, this sacred mantra disempowers women, removes their agency, and reduces them to objects whose sexual safety is in the hands of others: the men who are “taught not to rape.”
As I’ve noted before, female MRAs curiously fall back to feminist concepts on a regular basis: “this sacred mantra disempowers women, removes their agency” is the kind of nonsense a liberal feminist would say, and objectification is a concept used by all feminists, and yet a female MRA like Bradley doesn’t seem to mind using all these feminist concepts in her argument. To me, that would seem to invalidate her entire position, but what do I know?
Anyhow, her argument makes no sense because she fails to grasp that we already live in societies where women are bombarded with victim-blaming, and therefore her conclusion that we should keep victim-blaming women as well as teaching men is no alternative at all. Besides, she already doesn’t believe men want to rape women, so what would be the point of “teaching our sons” about not raping, according to her theory?
Her ignorance of political theory shows up here also, in that she equates basic rights with “unrealistic expectations.” Rights have nothing to do with expectations. I have no idea why she thinks she’s making a valid point by hammering her complete ignorance of what a right is.
Sacred Mantra: Women live in fear, since every man they encounter is a potential rapist (Schrödinger’s Rapist). No man can understand the burden of fear under which women daily suffer.
Blasphemy: Fear of men is another indispensable tool of rape-culture ideology. At one stroke, it seeks to demonize half of society, and turn the rest into quaking victims, flinching at every male-shaped shadow. While paying lip service to the truth that not all men are rapists, it foments mistrust of all men anyway: our fathers, brothers, sons, lovers, husbands. The truth is, there are times and places where a human of any gender would be wise to be afraid; women do not have a monopoly on either fear or risk. But be honest, sisters: do we really walk around under a burden of fear so crushing and pervasive that no man could possibly imagine it? Are we really that timid and fragile?
Bradley’s misogyny really shines in this answer. She calls women who are wary of men “timid and fragile,” “quaking victims,” as if a woman is either stupidly heedless of the risk that men pose to her, or she must be a barely functioning emotional wreck. All women are wary of men and are aware of the risk they run by being alone with men. This does not mean they are anything like what Bradley describes. I think women need a lot of bravery to live in a rape culture and affirm themselves, even on the Internet, in the face of threats of violence and harassment. I don’t think that makes them weak little flowers, I think that makes them stronger than men. We men don’t know how good we have it.
To me, Bradley appears as a simpleton who is denying the obvious. Of course every stranger is a potential rapist: you don’t know if a man is violent or not unless you know them (and not even then, in some cases). To say otherwise is just absurd.
Sacred Mantra: Believe the victim.
Blasphemy: This is, perhaps, the rape-culture doctrine inscribed in the largest letters on the radfem stone tablets. To question a woman’s claim that she has been sexually assaulted is held to be the deadly sin of rape apology, even a secondary rape. To ask for evidence is rape apology. To consider context is rape apology. Any response except unconditional belief for the accuser and vilification for the accused is rape apology. But it is fallacious in the very way it is framed: it assumes that the accuser is indeed a victim. It is also a clear violation of the presumption of innocence, and a potential life-wrecker for those who are falsely accused. In the rape-culture world, this does not matter. In the real world, it is not only unjust, it is the thin edge of the wedge.
Of course an accuser is a victim: that’s why they are accusing someone of a crime. It is also absurd for an MRA to argue that the presumption of innocence is being violated, when only 3% of rapists ever stand trial. That statistic is, again, evidence that we do live in a rape culture. But Bradley does not mention it, because it is damning. Instead, she wants you to attack the rape victim. MRAs have a burning desire to paint rape victims as liars, but they don’t have the same compulsion towards people who are victims of other crimes.
“Asking for evidence” is the standard ploy used by skeptics (real skeptics, not MRAs) to deny a rape accusation. Because we live in a rape culture, getting raped is considered an intimate and shameful crime, and few people wish to share details about it. This leads skeptics to say “look, there’s no evidence, so it must be a false accusation!”, as if someone saying they were raped is the same as a scientific claim. And if evidence is given, skeptics can use the redefinition game to argue that the rape wasn’t actually a rape. It’s a win-win situation for skeptics, a lose-lose situation for the victims.
Sacred Truth: Rape is devastation. There is nothing worse than rape that can happen to a woman—it is literally a fate worse than death, a trauma from which one can never fully recover. Survivors—or even “potential survivors” (women who have not been raped, but fear they might be eventually)—require special deference, support, safe spaces, and unconditional belief, and above all must never, ever be triggered.
Blasphemy: Some victims are devastated; others are not. There is a wide range of reactions to rape and sexual assault, from sustaining horrific emotional damage right down to being no more than disgusted or pissed off. Some women whose experience would qualify as rape under the very elastic current radfem definitions do not even consider themselves to have been raped. And by the way, many of us can think of a good many things we would consider to be worse, much worse, than being raped.
However, rape-culture ideology seeks to force all women who experience sexual assault into a uniform mold of victim/survivor – to tell them how damaged they are obliged to feel, to keep the trauma going, even to implant trauma that may not have arisen in the first place. This harms women. What better way is there to damage someone permanently than to tell her she can never recover?
One of the signs of a rape culture is the trivialization of rape, such as calling the concept of rape “elastic” (and it snaps whenever the MRA wishes to defend some act of rape), equating people’s perceptions molded by a rape culture with universal truth, and downplaying the effects of rape. Of course women will be affected by rape in different degrees.
The “sacred truth” presented by Bradley is nothing more than a straw womyn. Again she presents an equation of feminism and intelligence with weakness. No survivor of rape deserves to be treated in this way, and for Bradley to do so is offensive. Of course she doesn’t give a shit, otherwise she wouldn’t have written it in the first place. But again she presents the alternative as being stupid and ignoring any harm (if you don’t believe you were raped, you weren’t raped! if your rape wasn’t the worse thing that ever happened to you, then you’re okay!). This is, to say the least, a false dilemma.
The rational, feminist response would be to say that women deserve to be aware of rape and deserve to control their lives, that rape is rape regardless of what you feel, that rape should not be trivialized, that victims of rape should be free to heal however they wish, and that the memory of a rape is permanent, but the trauma is not necessarily so. Either way, women have good reason to be wary of men, something which Bradley seems to outright deny.
Sacred Mantra: Rape is about power, not sex.
Blasphemy: Sometimes it’s about power—sometimes it’s just about sex. Other times it may be about revenge, mixed signals, or failures in communication, particularly as the definition has expanded to include contacts that were honestly perceived as consensual at the time. Sexual assault is a complex behaviour with a whole range of proximate causes.
Once again Bradley repeats arguments made by feminists, in this case “individualist feminist” Wendy 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, the power that men have to enact their sense of entitlement on the body of women. In short, patriarchy.
Of course, anti-feminists and pseudo-feminists want you to believe that rape is complicated and not about power because they deny the existence of the patriarchy, and therefore must explain what rape is really all about. But their answers are never very convincing. Attacks against other may have all sorts of sources, such as revenge or need, but if that’s also true in the case of rape, then why do most rapes involve men raping women?
Bradley only obscures matters by portraying rapists as being sometimes merely confused or mixed up, as if it’s difficult to perceive whether one’s actions are consensual or not. Men know when they are inflicting non-consensual sex. Sometimes they do it on purpose or because they don’t care. Sometimes they do it because they are pornsick bastards who objectify women all the time and refuse to stop because they think their orgasms are more important than human rights. Are there any men out there raping women out of a honest mistake? Maybe it’s happened once or twice, but to bring it up in a discussion about rape is laughable, and offensive to all victims of rape (many of which were told “oh, he must have misunderstood” or “but he’s a nice guy, he wouldn’t do that”).
Why is this important? Because according to rape-culture doctrine, rape is always a political act that serves to put women in their place. Every rapist, from the serial shit who slips rohypnol into his date’s drink, to the fumbling teenager with screaming hormones in the back seat of his car, is apparently using his penis as a weapon to enforce rape culture and deepen the oppression of women. That is insane. Really—to paraphrase Freud—sometimes a penis is just a penis.
And here we have the stereotype again of the confused, “honest” rapist (teenagers with screaming hormones can’t be held accountable for their actions, as long as they’re men, I guess).
Since MRAs have reality upside-down, it’s not too surprising that the truth appears “insane” to them. But to be clear, radical feminists are not saying that every rapist is conscious of his place in the social order and coerces women out of political will. The rape culture is not a close-knit conspiracy where every rapist receives marching orders. If your cartoon view of the world includes the notion that social order must come from literal orders, then yes, you’ll think any such view is insane.
But that’s not how reality works. The rape culture exists because of gender roles and the male entitlement to sex that is derived from those gender roles. Men don’t coerce sex or sexually assault because they are anti-feminist foot soldiers (with some minor exceptions from the PUA camp, who do rape out of ideology): men coerce sex or sexually assault because they were socialized as men (and in many cases, pornsick men).
The fact that we live in a rape culture does not mean that all men are rapists, or that only men are rapists (despite constant protests to that effect). Again, this would only make sense if the rape culture was not a, well, culture, and instead was some kind of militia or political ideology. A culture represents, amongst other things, a typical way of understanding reality or dealing with reality. Gender roles and gender socialization are inscribed within this concept. When we say culture, we also imply counter-culture. There are men and women who refuse to submit to their roles in the rape culture. But that does not erase the existence of the culture.