Thursday, November 05, 2009

Accidental Rapists?

The idea of accidental rapists has been around as long as people have acknowledged rapes other than violent stranger abductions and violent intruder rapes. This concept often comes up when people accept the experiences of girls and women who have been raped but reject the idea that a real rapist must be involved.

I've seen the term used for 2 reasons. The first is to intentionally minimize the responsibility and culpability of certain rapists. The second is because of cognitive dissonance when something about the rapist doesn't fit into people's ideas about who rapists are and how they interact with their victims prior to raping them and those experiencing dissonance choose to end this dissonance by denying the full reality of rape or rapists.

The most recent use I've seen of this term is in the comments on The Sexist's On the difficulty of saying no which began to move toward this idea when a commenter named Victor defined who he sees as rapists:
Rapists are predators, and like any good predator they will go where prey is at its most vulnerable, and they will stalk it. They will find ways to make themselves seem “safe”. These guys aren’t that hard to spot.
These would be the non-accidental rapists. Anything about them which seems safe to potential victims is nothing more than a thin facade.

Fuchsia responded with a comment which contained the following:
[friend or acquaintance] can suddenly turn around a try to rape you and the reason for this is, as far as I can tell, that they don’t actually realise they’re doing anything wrong. They don’t name their actions “rape”...
Victor's response included:
do you think rape is usually “accidental”? Because what you describe certainly sounds like it. A guy who is genuinely nice, respectful etc suddenly rapes a girl? What, did he have low blood sugar that day?
This jump from what Fuchsia described to the label Victor is using is troubling. Once someone tries to rape you what they are doing is no accident. If you are trying to do something and you succeed that's a goal met not an accidental outcome and it certainly isn't something caused by low blood sugar.

It doesn't matter if a man didn't try to rape someone the day before and wasn't plotting this rape for days, weeks or months. People who are not ongoing predators commit all sorts of crimes against those they know. Employees who never thought about stealing from their employer or committing any crime may respond to what they see as an unfair performance review by stealing electronics and selling it online. Or they may decide to eliminate their boss from hell.

Yet when it comes to rape many people cling to the idea that what is true and understood for all other crimes is not true and is instead incomprehensible for the crime of rape.

A man who believes sex happens after the 4th date and who believes if a woman doesn't want to have sex then she shouldn't accept that 4th date may not rape or even try to rape unless or until he gets to the end of a 4th date and his date doesn't consent. If the woman talked to him prior to that date about not being ready for sex, and he let her know he understood, this may do nothing to change his belief or his behavior. Sex happens after the 4th date.

Instead of seeking specific consent from the girl or woman and respecting whatever decision they get from that specific individual, many rapists get their permission generically from any number of sources. And when these come into conflict those who rape will ignore the specific lack of consent in favor of the generic permission.

This is not an accident.

As I highlighted in an earlier post about advice given to girls about how to avoid being raped, much of the generic safety advice to girls can be misused to give rapists generic permission.

Being willing to rape isn't just about seeking out victims. It has to do with the ethics of personal interactions. Some rapists may never try to rape anyone but their wives. To these rapists their marriage license is generic permission.

To dismiss any of these rapists as accidental rapists is to feed their rationalizations and to help keep the numbers of rapes committed each year appallingly high while contributing to the post rape trauma of those raped by these rapists.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:08 AM   4 comments links to this post


At November 05, 2009 1:05 PM, Blogger JENNIFER DREW said...

Males who rape women and girls use all types of excuses and justifications in a deliberate attempt to exonerate their accountability. Males who rape women and girls make a free and informed choice and this simple fact is consistently denied by our society.

Instead we are literally bombarded with excuses and justifications. Similarily men who commit physical violence against female or ex-female partners commonly claim 'she came in contact with my hand' or 'I just gave her a gentle push and she fell against the wooden table.' Note how each time the male assailant minimalises his free choice in committing physical violence.

So, too it is with males who commit rape, they use any and every excuse possible to deny their responsibility and criminal actions.

There are no 'accidental rapists' those males who commit rape know that unless their actions are on the most extreme continuum there is every likelihood they will be excused and the female rape survivor will be blamed for not having the foresight to prevent the male rapist.

What so many men and a large number of women cannot or will not accept is that most male rapists are not 'monster's instead they are normal, well-adjusted males who happen to believe it is their right to have unlimited sexual access to any female as and when they wish.

If male rapists are in fact 'out of control' why then do not these men rape other men and any stranger who happens to 'cross their paths.'

Likewise men who commit physical and/or sexual violence against female or ex-female partners, do not engage in similar violent acts against their male bosses/co-workers/or strangers in the street.

Instead male rapists and men who commit partner terrorism make a rational and logical decision. But society prefers to view such male rapists/violent men as either totally evil or else totally 'innocent.' A very simplistic way of denying just how male power and male control operates within our male-centered society. Easier to claim male rapists are 'medically ill' or 'deviant monsters' than the reality which is most male rapists are respectable, boy-next-door types who appear to be trustworthy.

No woman can know in advance whether or not the boy she is dating will turn into a rapist, because male rapists are very clever and cunning. Add the fact males continue to be socialised into believing male sexual aggression against women and girls is normal masculine behaviour. As well as holding women and girls responsible for preventing a male from raping them, then it is not surprising so many men rape women and girls whilst simultaneously claiming 'no I never raped her - I just pressurised her a little and anyway I knew she really wanted it (because I am a mind reader and can read women's and girls' minds!).

At November 05, 2009 9:28 PM, Blogger Barbara(aka Layla) said...

Great post, you bring this point home very well.

At November 06, 2009 4:55 PM, Anonymous Summer said...

Add to this the following through with the intention of those who rape girlfriends and ex-partners in an effort to claim them for future sexual partners while replacing their "wife" status with a 'safer bet'. Allowing a man enough leniency (ie thinking the best of..)- will likely create a situation in which he moves physically into the forbidden realm thus verifying the intention of the previous rape. This is shown up to be anything but unintentional, certainly at that point.

At November 06, 2009 7:11 PM, Blogger Pockysmama said...

Males who rape women and girls use all types of excuses and justifications . . .[males]make a free and informed choice and this simple fact is consistently denied by our society.

I agree with you but with commentary. 98% of rapists are men, there is no way to differentiate a "type" of rapist. Classification of rape is nonsensical because it is not the same as say, a classification of murder (self-defense). There are no circumstances in which you may physically assault someone in a sexual manner (well, until the marital exception was removed). Classifications of rape, however, allows society to further and continue our current rape culture and rape apologia. It allows society to decide, arbitrarily, which men they will hold accountable and when based on an ever changing set of rules made up as one goes along. It's the sort of thinking that enables phrases like "rape rape", "date rape", "gray rape". It allows society to excuse certain men by pretending there are different "levels" of rape. It allows society to socialize women to believe if you weren't snatched off the street or attacked by a stranger, you weren't raped, you are simply remorseful. This "idea" enables the rapes that are most common to somehow be excused. It's reprehensible.


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