Thursday, May 08, 2008

Defining Rape Vs Defining Who Is A Rapist

This time I will be highlighting only part of Anna C's comments on my previous post in this series.

And what makes you think that I "don't care" about sexist assumptions? Just because I haven't come to the point where I agree with everything written on this blog doesn't mean I don't care about men being thought to be superior.

"a "not-so-bad" crime for women"

When did I ever imply that I thought that? The girl I knew who was abused was completely messed up by it. I really do think it's an incredibly serious crime - it sickens me how in the UK sentences for rape are ridiculously low (one guy who raped a 4 yr old I think became eligible for parole after 4yrs in prison for "good behaviour").

I think what would be more accurate and helpful is to understand that you are making a mistake with the belief that what is clearly a bad crime for the victim (like the girl in the Law and Order episode) might not be a crime committed by the boy or man whose actions were rape (like the second boy in that episode).

The defacto practical effect of this is for the criminal justice system to treat rape like it is a not so bad crime for women.

This disconnect, which is pathetically common, is responsible for the sentences which sickens you. What the 4 year old experienced was horrific but that child's rapist isn't judged or sentenced in proportion to the crime that child experienced. He is judged on general perceptions about him. Therefore his excuses and his "good behaviour" trump the crime he committed and ultimately it trumps public safety.

That doesn't mean I'm trying to deny rape.

The problem is that not seeing that the second boy in the Law and Order episode is a rapist represents a pervasive way of thinking which in practical terms does deny that rape. In practical terms that way of thinking supports police who fail to properly investigate all reports of rape since it is a given that some rapes are not committed by criminals.

This explains why some investigators listen uncommitted until the rape victim says something which makes it clear that there is a genuine rapist involved. Some investigators who decide that there is no rapist involved will decide that the real rape victim is therefore trying to file a false police report. This might be something as general as learning that the rapist is the rape victim's boyfriend or even her ex-boyfriend.

This denial was explicit in the case of marital rape exceptions in criminal rape statutes. Marriage licenses were licenses to rape with the full blessing of the law. Even in jurisdictions where this exception was removed, in practical terms it might as well still be on the books. Phyllis Schlafly who vocally maintains that men can't rape their wives is scheduled to get an honorary doctorate from Washington University. That she's not viewed as pro-rapist speaks to the pervasive level of rapist denial in the administrators of that university.

Rape victims who are scolded for trying to ruin an innocent boy or man's life can thank this acceptance of perpetrator-free rape for having their safety and the safety of the future victims of that perpetrator disregarded.

Most people who stray into rape denial aren't doing it because they directly approve of what they believe constitutes a real rape. What they do is echo the rationalizations which allows rapists to deny that they made deliberate choices which makes them real rapists.

This denial gives boys and men internal permission to proceed without any consideration about whether they have meaningful and legal consent or if their actions are harmful. All they have to worry about is whether general attitudes will reject labeling them as rapists. Can they get away with it is all that matters.

In Salon's Broadsheet Tracy Clark-Flory wrote about a PR campaign directed at men who use sex slaves:

[...] I'm uncomfortable calling anyone who sleeps with a trafficked girl a rapist, even though she is being forced to have sex against her will. Certainly, johns who know they are having sex with a trafficked girl are rapists, and it could be argued that there are many more cases of involuntary rape caused by willful blindness -- but I don't think all men who unwittingly sleep with trafficked girls are guilty of rape. [...]

If it is [applying the label rapist to all clients of trafficked prostitutes], it raises a host of questions. For instance: If a man has sex with a drug-addicted sex worker, or a prostitute who has an abusive pimp, is he a rapist?

There truly is nothing unwitting about these men because they are walking into illegal brothels of their own free will. The need to protect these men's reputations while they use illegal businesses is more important than protecting sex slaves. Notice how troubling Ms. Clark-Flory finds the idea of considering the reality of prostituted girls and women.

The truth behind prostitution? Apparently, men can't handle the truth and if the price of denial is the repeated rape of those trapped by traffickers, abusers or drugs then so be it.

The truth is that if everyone considered these realities then the number of rapes would plummet with no need to lecture girls and women on what they should do to be safe from rape.

These issues and the reality behind them must be raised if we are serious about effective rape prevention.

The statement in the awareness campaign: Walk in a punter. Walk out a rapist. is one that many of those who claim to be completely against sex slavery reject because it refuses to excuse those who do the raping and who provide the demand for sex slaves simply because they didn't do the dirty work of physically enslaving these children and adults. Many of these people would label Josef Fritzl, who imprisoned his daughter as his personal sex slave for 24 years, as a monster.

But his views mirror that of those who are excused of criminal responsibility.

"I tried as best I could to care for my family in the cellar," Fritzl said in the published comments.

His acknowledgement that yes he did something wrong, but he isn't a criminal is typical and matches the rationalizations of the rapists which the public rallies behind as men falsely accused of rape by vindictive girls and women who had morning after regrets. Would a real rapist bring his victim flowers?

The view that men aren't responsible for ensuring that the person they are having sex with is capable of consent and freely giving that consent directly supports the continuing cycle of human trafficking. And it supports the rationalizations of men like Fritzl. He wasn't imprisoning his daughter and 3 grandchildren, he was ensuring their safety from all the dangers of the world.

Update (11/13): Fritzl has been charged with murder in addition to rape and slavery.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 1:08 PM   1 comments links to this post

1 Comments:

At May 09, 2008 2:15 PM, Blogger JENNIFER DREW said...

Yes indeed Fritzl's justifications, denials and of course not forgetting his deliberate tactic of saying 'yes I imprisoned my daughter but I did it for her own good' are the same old, old excuses males who commit violence against women and girls use. These men rightly believe that by partially admitting responsibility, they will then be exonerated from all full accountability and responsibility. Likewise the claim that Johns who buy women in prostitution for the purpose of raping them, always claim 'but I didn't know she was trafficked' or I didn't know she had been coerced or forced.' In reality, men who commit violence against women do not care a jot for the woman's or girl's humanity instead they believe because they are male, it is their right to rape and sexually abuse women and children.

Such men rightly know that our society far from holding abusive men accountable does everything in its power to excuse and justify male sexual abuse against women. Which is why women and girls are still blamed for men's violence against them. Only when a female victim meets a very narrow male-defined criteria of how female survivors of men's violence are supposed to behave, together with being virginal, 'respectable,' behaved totally in an appropriate feminine manner - only then will she be deemed an 'innocent victim.'

There is no difference between men who buy women in prostitution, men such as Fritzl or for that matter male rapists. Because they all adhere to the same beliefs, namely that women not men are responsible for gatekeeping male sexuality and it is a man's right to have sexual access to any woman or girl. Society continues to grant and allow men sexual access to women and girls unless it can be 100% proved the woman/girl was totally innocent, is not sexually active, is not perceived as being seductive from the male-defined perspective and most important of all can provide numerous witnesses who all support her claims she is a 'respectable woman/girl.' Men on the other hand are never held to such rigid and narrow male-defined standards. Hence continuing attempts at claiming women trafficked for male sexual exploitation have somehow given free and informed consent they wanted to be raped by numerous men.

The same attitudes apply in respect of women raped by men, unless a woman can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt she did not consent, our society and legal systems still believe women always consent because women but not men are defined as always being in a state of sexual readiness for whatever a man wants or demands. Sexual autonomy for women is still non-existent but men have had this right for centuries.

 

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