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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I Can't Talk About Rape Retraction


I've been reading and re-reading this I Can't Talk About Rape post I wrote two years ago, and keep referring to when I get in Internet kerfuffles.  The content and context is quite sensitive, and recent circumstances has forced me to re-evaluate my words.

I write this blog with the attitude that no one is reading.  Because really, no one was, and it was more freeing.  But it's no longer that simple.  Commenters forced me to rethink about what I had said (see? you guys can change things!  You just don't need to yell.)  Should I issue a retraction?  Well, that would imply that I didn't believe in what I had written.  That I was sorry for it's existence.  That I should apologize.

In my mind, apology means regret.  Regret means that, if you could take it back and erase that it ever happened, you would.  That's not something I take lightly -- our experiences, good and bad, shape us.  So I had to ask myself, twenty years from now, what if my daughters come across my words and read them.  Would I feel comfortable with that?

The answer is no.

I would never want my daughters to think that, god forbid they were ever raped, it was their fault.  The fact is, rape is never the victim's fault.  That's the definition of rape.  It can't be your fault because someone else forced or coerced you to do it.  It's 'without consent'.  It's against one's will.

When I wrote that post, I was angry.  I was angry that my questions were misinterpreted as malicious trolling, because they implied something maybe people didn't want to think about.  It's that second side of the coin.  Black people don't want to think that they're racist, even though I just saw a sketch on Charles Barkley's SNL called "White People Problems".  Women don't want to believe they're different than men despite actual scientific evidence that they are (but can you be different and still be equal?  I hope so).  But it's hard to communicate sincerity in text.

But instead of people talking calmly and rationally, they were yelling, insulting, and shutting me down.  They were citing seemingly ridiculous statistics and saying that I couldn't ask questions about it because I had never been in that situation.  That post was a reaction to that -- not to their disagreement, but by their hostile, resentful responses.  I felt they were trying to shame me.  I understand that this an emotional subject, but here is a guy who doesn't understand because he's never needed to worry about it.  At least he's trying to learn, but if you start yelling at him, it's going to make him resentful towards you.  If you're in a minority, and you can convince the guy in the majority, you can go places.  There is a lot of confusion out there, mostly thanks to the media.

The example I used in the "rape is love" paragraph was meant to be satirical.  There are so many women out there who love "Gone with the Wind" and think Rhett Butler is the sexiest man alive and Scarlett O'Hara is a strong women.  But they seem to selectively forget that, in one scene, Rhett Butler carries her upstairs and forces her to have sex against her will.  She's kicking and screaming in one shot, but in the next, she's laying in the bed smiling and singing.  This is the sort of mixed message I'm talking about, for men and women.  Women look at Rhett Butler and sigh.  Men think "She likes Rhett Butler.  If I act like him..."  Lots more good examples can be found here.  This trope points out that society as a whole rejects the idead of rape, yet can't see it when it's in front of their face.  I'm a living example.

A good example of rational discussion is Jim C. Hines's post about the Doonesbury comic.  It's beautiful.  It states definitions, legal precdents, and examines multiple viewpoints.  It uses logic and analysis to reach a conclusion, and removes the emotional factor.  It's too bad he shut down comments for the post, because I would have complimented him on the post.  But I understand why.

When I wrote "I Can't Talk About Rape", I felt like I had two choices -- walk away and never ask questions, or ask the "stupid questions" that seem obvious to others but not me.  I have a problem with walking away because then I remain stewed in my own ignorance.  Whenever someone does something I don't agree with, I always wait one second and ask "Okay, why did this person act this way? What was his/her motivation in this action?  What caused it?"  Because examining people's motivations is something we don't do enough.  Someone could argue, logically and rationally, that what Hitler did could be defended.  But that doesn't make that person right.

The fact is, I have changed my opinions and ideas since then.  I just didn't write about it because writing about it seems to attract emotional outbursts without constructive corrections.  Plus no one said anything about the original post.  So I just never published them.

When I wrote that post, regarding the issue at hand of a girl who was partying to excess and passing out so drunk she could not give consent or not, I used the metaphor that if you're foolish enough to jump into a polar bear's den, don't be surprised if you get eaten.

However, I have since realized that this is a flawed metaphor, because, while a victim's entrance into such an obviously dangerous situation indicates foolishness and poor judgement, it does not work for the victimizer.

A polar bear has a compulsion to act on natural instincts.  If you put a human and a large, juicy steak on opposite sides of an enclosure, the polar bear would choose the human.  Predators don't want to be fed, they want to hunt.  They have to.  They cannot help it.  Millions of years of evolution have embedded that message that "if you do not hunt, you will starve to death."



But a rapist has a choice.  It is sentient.  And although men have an instinct to "spread their seed" as far as they can, it can ignore those inclinations and use judgement.  Humans have free will, animals don't.  That's what "being civilized" means -- it means not acting like a base animal and succumbing to natural impulses.  If we do that, we might as well go back to living in caves and hunting for mammoths.  A passed-out woman is not an "opportunity", it is a human, like you.

Now I use the metaphor of a woman stage-diving.  You want to jump off the stage and crowd-surf, like in the movies. It looks fun. You do not want to have a hundred hands squeeze your ass or grope your breasts or put their hand down your pants. That's inappropriate, no matter what you're doing (unless you're having sex... with consent). It's not what you asked for, and there's no circumstances where that's okay, and we should all know that.

It's a bad idea to get so drunk you pass out.  It points to serious, deep, psychological issues that need treatment.  It does not mean you want to have sex, or are willing to let whoever wants to have sex with you (unless you puts up a sign, but then that could be a forgery, so you should probably sign it and get it notarized before hand, but that's a pain in the ass). Telling someone that "you seem to keep passing out and getting raped at parties.  Stop going to parties," is like teaching "abstinence-only" sex education.

I am still a beginner writer.  And a lot of my difficulty with writing is getting what I mean to say into the tangible words.  A lot of the sarcasm and toen I intended in that post failed to come through.  This is why I hate making rough drafts -- because the idea exists so perfectly in my head, and when I get it on paper, in tangible format, it's never as good.  And sometimes it means something different than what I intended.

The "I Can't Talk About Rape" post was written poorly, and it's no longer relevant.  Now I know more about the subject.  I won't be linking to it anymore in reference to Internet arguments that get out of control or anything regarding Mr. Hines.  He's a cool guy, he doesn't deserve what I've been giving him.

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