Sunday, March 09, 2008

What Really Fuels Rape Denial? Part 1

m Andrea has left a new comment on your post "It Isn't Just Victims Of Date Rape Who Cope By Rap...":

Marcella, you've been going great guns here for quite some time, and these last few months you've been applying an original perspective by comparing particular situations in order to highlight the absurdity of rape apologetica. You are seriously doing an awesome job, and I am loving how your mind works. Most of the time I sputter and gurgle my words without ever reaching clarity, so I'm hoping you will think about a question and somehow or another integrate your response into the rest of your writing, or at least do one teeny wittle post on the subject.

Q: Why do so many people continually deny that rape happens? What fuels the constant motivation for minimizing the amount of misogyny?

Most feminists blogs take great care to delinate the "how" of rape apologetica but very little attention is ever given to the "why". What would it mean if society readily admitted that not only do men rape women, but also that men rape women in tragically large numbers? Misogyny is an epidemic, but it's so common, so normal that most people don't notice. Our society is so numb to it, that each instance of it merely becomes regulated to background noise -- only annoying if it's right in one's own personal face. What does it mean that most people willfully make excuses for what is right in front of them?

You may of course be tempted to give me a five second answer, and that is not at all what I have in mind. The quick response is that people deny what makes them uncomfortable. So, why does the obvious make them so uncomfortable?

Is there anything else we would have to acknowlege, if we admitted the rampant misogyny?

There is a reason people constantly deny what makes them uncomfortable, so what is the reason in this situation?

I don't think I can answer your questions about misogyny, at least not directly. What I can answer are your questions about rape denial and the acceptance of this denial.

In Part 1, I will focus on the motivations and weaknesses of hardcore and softcore rape denialists.

First, it is important to keep in mind that this denial goes beyond rape and extends to all forms of sexual violence.

Violently attempting to rape someone and failing becomes -- for the active and hardcore rape denialists -- nothing. And they want to coerce everyone they can into agreeing with them.

Yet trying to murder someone and failing clearly isn't nothing. It is attempted murder and nobody considered reasonable would think of decriminalizing this or viewing it as normal behavior. Same thing with attempted robbery. That isn't nothing and it certainly isn't a normal rite of passage for young men.

The motive for the hardcore rape denialists is clear. They support most acts of sexual violence and sexual exploitation committed against women even while giving pat denials. Often these people believe that certain women (and often teenage girls) deserve to be subjected to sexual violence and sexual exploitation with the full approval of the law.

Some of these hardcore rape denialists are rapists, but rape denial most likely came before rape.

What the act of rape does for hardcore rape denialists is give additional motivation for hardcore denial. Without rape denial these rapists could not view themselves as better people than their victims and better people than those who commit the types of rapes they don't deny. Without widespread rape denial these rapists are much more likely to get reported, investigated, charged and convicted.

Some of the women who are hardcore rape denialists are in what I call the, "I'm with him" hardcore rape denial subgroup. Men who are hardcore rape denialists often seem to worship these women. Rather than coming right out and being for sexual violence, she is for respecting men through women exerting personal responsibility for their sexual behavior. Those who "cry rape" are the disrespectful ones who should be ashamed of themselves for their unladylike behavior.

I believe that all women who are hardcore rape denialists wrongly feel that their attitudes protect them from sexual violence. Follow the rules and nobody will get raped. Many of them will take the role of a nurturer who doesn't want to see anyone get hurt while ignoring those who choose to inflict hurt. "Oh, please, girls and women, won't you have a care for your safety?"

Many of the men who are hardcore rape denialists are overgrown spoiled brats who want the right to get away with whatever they want to do. A man like this wants to be able to go on dates and not worry if his date isn't into him. He wants to be able to get into her by hook or by crook. He wants to be able to call intoxicants, coercion and implied threats of violence just part of the game of love. Anyone who demands ethics and legal behavior from him or those like him when it comes to sexual contact are man-hating spoilsports.

If a man is giving a woman what she deserves (because of who she is or where she is) how could any just society view him as a real sex offender? Clearly to them he poses no danger to truly innocent citizens. Consider what it tells us about people when they defend an alleged rapist with, "It's not like she's a virgin!"

In reality that is no defense against the charges but is a defense for rape. The alleged victim isn't a virgin therefore rape is justified and the defendant should have all charges against him dropped.

Hardcore rape denialists often use the frequency of sexual assault as the reason to demand decriminalization of most sexual assaults. They will state that we don't have enough jail and prison cells for all the not-so-bad men who are guilty of sexual assault. Then they will turn around and call these statistics a feminist lie.

Many people who disagree with hardcore rape denial passively accept it through their non-response because to fight it seems futile or they are so personally wounded by this denial that they don't have the ability to fight it. Once people get a sense of futility then the backlash -- internal and external --that comes from speaking up feels like it is pain for no gain.

This described me for several decades so I have great compassion for those who cannot speak up or feel like it is a no-win action. At first speaking up was traumatic, but I worked my way through that trauma which was always with me. Now hostile words which would have once paralyzed me only make me more determined to keep standing up against those bullies and the arrogant fools who spout the nonsense of bullies and rapists.

Standing up against hardcore rape denial isn't futile.

Hardcore rape denialist cops who verbally abuse rape victims when they report until those rape victims recant or do something which can be mislabeled as recanting use the understandable response to this pattern of abusive behavior as proof that rape is rare and most reports of rape are false. Then hardcore rape denialist researchers and pundits will use the result of hostile behavior toward rape victims to prove that false reports of rape are common. Then hardcore rape denialist cops will use this research to justify verbally abusing rape victims who report. This is a nasty cycle, no doubt about it.

If these types of cops are allowed to proceed unhindered they will continue helping rapists, many of whom are serial rapists.

If those who want to stand up against rape denial start asking questions about how those who report rape in their area are treated by the police that makes a big difference. If researching local police practices doesn't feel safe that communicates something important. Local victim advocate agencies are an alternate source of insight and they likely have suggestions for how members of the public can help. Even a small donation to an organization which helps those who have been raped makes a dent in the wheel of rape denial.

Something as simple as voicing support or opposition at the level of government where funding for victim services is being done makes a clear impact.

If many individuals ask questions or send a letter to their representatives or make small donations to those who are doing something you support, big differences can happen because of small steps. This incremental effect shouldn't be a cause for discouragement. We can disrupt those rape denial cycles and we can even stop some of them cold.

This action will also have an impact on softcore rape denialists who defend inaction by the criminal justice system on reports of sexual violence between people who know each other because "you would have to be there to know if what happened was rape -- so only the two people who were there will ever know what really happened." These rape denialists don't have to deny rape they just have to turn rape into something that is viewed as unprovable unless there are physical injuries which could only come from a violent assault.

Some of these softcore rape denialists will deny rape by dissecting the account of what happened given by a rape victim who clearly states, "I didn't willingly consent" and then informing the rape victim that indeed she did willingly consent even if she didn't enjoy the sex which was pushed on her.

This rape denial directly contradicts the "you had to be there to know" excuse for opposing rape prosecutions.

When they are called out for this patronizing statement you will often hear about how men shouldn't be shut out of making the decision about what is and is not rape. This dismisses any trauma which came from a sexual assault and it denies people the right to have their lack of consent respected.

Some of these people are actively opposed to much of what the hardcore rape denialists do because they feel the hardcore denialists are being too harsh on those who weren't raped but who genuinely believe they were raped.

If the softcore rape denialists admit to any epidemic, it is an epidemic of miscommunication. Women just need to learn how to better communicate their lack of consent. Tellingly, boys and men are not ordered to instantly respect lack of consent and they are not told to refrain from all coercive and deceptive action in the pursuit of sexual contact.

Concern trolls are a mix of softcore rape denialists and hardcore rape denialists who are temporarily using a softer approach to undermine rape victims.

Remember that a backlash from the active -- hardcore or softcore -- rape denialists means that somebody is doing something right when it comes to fighting sexual violence and these people are letting you know it through their attacks or their patronizing "corrections."

Part 2 will focus on the marketing of rape denial.

Part 3 will focus on understanding why some people are passive rape denialists.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 3:14 PM   6 comments links to this post


At April 15, 2008 12:24 PM, Blogger M. said...

The night my best friend tried to report her rape at the hands of her ex, I wound up holding her while she cried because the cops kept urging her to "think about what she was doing to him."

She wound up not filing charges, because after trying to do so three or four times and being stonewalled by the female cop, she just gave up.

At April 15, 2008 5:15 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

M, I am so saddened to learn how your best friend was mistreated. The only issue for the cops should have been how to professionally investigate your best friends's allegations.

At March 18, 2009 8:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can completely relate the comment that the first person left.

The detective that is working on my case has a "well, boys will be boys!" attitude about this crime because it, too, was at the hands of my ex-boyfriend. It's sickening to listen to him at times. He is pushing me towards dropping the charges and has admitted to not even having listened to the entire tape of the telephone sting that we did because he "just got the jist that he (my ex boyfriend) didn't really mean it".

I wouldn't begin to know how to equate the feeling to a man- the feeling that a woman has when she wakes up to her naked body after having been unconscious for eight hours to find that a man "had sex with" her. The word "horrifying" does not scratch the surface. Sometimes I don't even know how to talk about this crime using the first person pronoun because "I" don't know what happened to my own body for so many hours other than that my ex-boyfriend was invading it.


This society, I believe, cultivated my detective's "boys will be boys!" attitude. Every woman- from the female police officers to the social workers and doctors at the hospital who took the rape kit- has recognized my pain, my confusion and my fury. The men have been on their sidekicks, listening with half their attention or plainly not really thinking all that much of it. That makes me wonder about them and what they would do if their ex-girlfriend lost consciousness in their bed too .

Anyway... I hope/know that there are only better days to come.
With love,

At March 18, 2009 10:01 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...


That is so disgusting that the detective would dismiss an acknowledged rape because the rapist "didn't mean it."

That is malpractice.

Crimes are defined by whether the criminal statutes were violated not by the eagerness of the detective to dismiss a felony.

If you are in the US and haven't already contacted a victim services agency in your area, please get connected. If you call 1-800-656-4673 you will be transferred to the agency closest to you.

I bet this detective wouldn't have the same response if you'd been the victim of a hit and run driver just because the criminal was your ex. The response of,"Sure, he did it, but he didn't mean it," would strike most people as an indefensible support of a dangerous criminal.

At March 20, 2009 1:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely agree, it is malpractice.
It has been weeks since the crime occured and already I am starting to forget how I felt when I regained consciousness (horrified, outraged, disgusted, angry). Instead I notice (thanks to this blog actually) that I'm giving far too much creedence to the detective's opinion. I was even going to drop the charges this week but something inside me kept me from picking up the phone (thank goodness).

The idea of dropping the charges for the sake of convenience/"moving on" with my life/foolishly giving a damn about my ex-boyfriend's new job (???) is utterly foul to me. I'm not sure if I would be able to look at myself the same way if I did that. I know that I have to look out for Chloe' (myself) and dropping the charges would be the opposite of that.

Also, (this goes for all of us) the idea of "not wanting to cause a stir" in the life of the rapist for whatever reason is ridiculous for one clear reason: You (the victim) did not chose for his life to be ruined. You (the victim) did not ask to be raped. The rapist made the decision to give up his job and his reputation the second that he made the decision to invade your body by force.
I've had to realize that from wrestling with myself.

I don't know about anyone else but the aftermath of this has made me feel absoultely crazy. Sometimes I'm yelling at myself, sometimes I'm hugging myself and sometimes I don't trust myself to do anything (this has brought about feelings of being incapable of taking care of myself). I feel gross and disgusting, I feel like my body is "no good" and I can't even concieve of who would want to ever be intimate with me in the future if they knew about this. I don't know why but I feel stupid too. I feel like a damn fool. Before this I really thought I was pretty bright too- I'm 21 years old and I already have a Bachelor's degree. I'm on the Social Work path via a master's program that I hope to get into for the fall. I'm an artist, a reader and a thinker. Now I just feel like a moron though.

Before I get back to what I was doing, I just want to thank you (Marcella) because I know that you're the owner of this blog and this blog has made me feel better than talking to anyone in my support network of family and friends. They care, but they just don't "get" it.

Shalom alechem,

At March 20, 2009 7:48 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...


I'm glad that you realized how that detective was influencing you toward doing something you didn't want to do: Pretend a felony had never occurred and take the entire burden for a crime committed against you onto your own shoulders.

As for feeling crazy, I understand completely. I wrote about it most recently at Date Rape is Real Rape and I posted a YouTube video about this feeling.

Attitudes like that detective's contribute to your feeling crazy. Once you realize that so many people's attitudes about rapes like yours are out of whack you will realize that being out of sync with those attitudes isn't craziness on your part.


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