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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Responding to Comments

Responding to reaction to a blog post on rape culture.

August 3, 2014

I started to reply directly to some of the comments on last week's post, but since some of the same issues seem to come up over and over again, I decided to do it here instead.

First, to get it over with:

mb quotes me: "Any and all thoughts are welcome," and adds, "Unless you disagree with the basic premise of this missive and offer an alternative to the 'rape culture' meme."

Okay, you caught me out. I won't censor comments like this, but it is true, I don't welcome them, any more than Al Gore welcomes comments from climate change deniers or Richard Dawkins welcomes comments from creationists. Basically, if, after reading one account after another of women being harassed and assaulted, and the attacks being shared and laughed about on social media, you don't believe that we live in a culture that encourages the objectification of women (and especially if, as Freethinker 33 helpfully points out, you don't offer the alternative you refer to), you aren't paying attention. And if you haven't read these accounts, what are you doing commenting on a post about them?

Okay, now for the more nuanced comments. Angus McP writes, "What she [Jada Pinkett Smith] said should not be controversial at all. It is basic common sense, though which seems to be lacking in the reaction. If you want to reduce your chances of, say, being mugged, you should avoid certain situations that make you vulnerable. Don't flash your newly withdrawn cash while walking alone at night in a high-crime area. You aren't asking to be mugged nor do you 'deserve' to be, but you are increasing your risks. Same thing with sexual assault, avoid situations that make you vulnerable. That's not victim blaming--it is taking reasonable precautions to reduce your risk of becoming a victim."

AnonyMouse replies to this, in part, "Perhaps the bottom line is this: Women can be sexually assaulted and raped when they do everything 'right,' in terms of precautions and everything 'wrong' in terms of the same. When are we going to put the onus on the perpetrators?

"To me, it is simply irrelevant what the woman was doing or not doing when it comes to sexual assault and rape. When consent is not given or consent cannot be given, it's a crime."

Obviously I think AnonyMouse is right. Balsam, however, notes, "Of course it's a crime. But are we not allowed to notice what a high proportion of these crimes happen when everyone concerned has been binge drinking? or when people drink with other people that they don't know (who might put drugs in their drinks?). I wish young people would invent some kind of socializing that was fun for them but did not involve binge drinking in the company of people they don't know much about."

Binge drinking is a problem for anyone who engages in it. If you are drunk and trying to drive home from a party, it can be a problem for a lot of people. It is something nobody should do, and I don't think anyone is arguing that everyone should be able to get falling down, throwing-up drunk with no consequences (though many of us have done exactly that).

There are other issues, though. First as AnonyMouse points out, not getting crazy drunk doesn't protect young women from sexual assault; in addition, the prohibition from doing things men do with impunity serves to "other" women. Even if we don't approve of an activity, allowing one gender the freedom to indulge in it while saying that the same activity constitutes asking for it for another reinforces rape culture even if our intentions are totally positive.

In addition, in so many of these stories the rapist wasn't someone  the victim didn't "know much about," but a "friend," someone the victim trusted. Sometimes she isn't binge drinking; rather, the "friend" drugs her drink or takes advantage after someone else has done so.

How do we tell young women not to trust their friends if they are male? What is the litmus test for a male friend versus a rapist? I wouldn't want any young woman to believe she could only trust women friends, and that males are all out-of-control predators — but short of that, how do we teach young women to be cautious without making them paranoid?

If you don't think this is a problem, my guess is that you are a man who doesn't have a daughter or a sister, and has never identified with the female protagonist in a movie or book. Just a guess.


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