Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Perpetrator Friendly Sexual Violence Prevention: Part 2

This is a continuation from part 1 where Harriet at fugitivus sent me an email heads up about an article from June 2009 titled Phoenix Man Streamed Alleged Rape Video Online, Police Say. Her email continues.
The second commentary is from the executive director of, a website that gives online safety tips. He states that it's the first case of an "actual forced rape" being uploaded to the internet that he's aware of, but then goes on to mention he's seen videos of "coerced sex." He doesn't clarify what the difference there is, but makes it clear enough that he believes there is a difference; I've been trying to be fair to him, and imagine ways in which his quote could have been taken out of context, but I can't think of a way to put "actual forced rape" in the same sentence as "coerced sex" without implying there is some kind of difference between the two.
I agree and see this as another example of perpetrator-friendly rape prevention which helps large groups of sex criminals rationalize or at least minimize their crimes.

It doesn't matter if the person doing this is not attempting to be perpetrator-friendly. Many of the ideas which are perpetrator-friendly have been circulated as common-sense ideas longer than any person living today has been alive. This, however, doesn't mean they have been around forever and it doesn't mean they will persist forever.

In this usage coercion gets positioned as something better than actual force when they are tightly linked in not only sex crimes but in many crimes where coerced actions from victims is not minimized or made the victim's responsibility. In those other crimes the word coercion may not be mentioned because we understand that the victim's actions or lack of resistance are due to coercion.

I grew up with the belief that rapists were all strangers and all references to non-stranger rapists were obscured to the point that rape was no longer called rape. The idea that those we all agree are rapists can only sexually attack strangers and only do so with the most obvious methodology (visible, provable force) is as ridiculous as the assumption that burglars can only steal from strangers and only get into houses by kicking doors in -- forcible entry.

With all rapists positioned as strangers who use stereotypical force by those willing to talk about rape, rape committed by non-strangers was just boys and men naturally trying to push their way beyond girls and women's boundaries because that's what guys do when they are turned on by a girl or woman. All strategies of rape except stereotypical force and overt threats ("comply or die") were positioned as acceptable. If these acceptable methodologies worked then legal consent would be assumed and any rape victim who said differently was delusional or a liar.

This worldview is the only possible way for anyone to declare every rape which could be described by anyone as date rape as being something less than real rape. The judgment of the crime has stopped being about the crime itself and becomes instead about victim choice.

I understand now that this was not a unified worldview since the majority of people around me before I was raped didn't say anything about sexual interactions beyond "Don't." Those who rejected this worldview may have been tongue-tied about all things sexual or they may have believed it wasn't safe for them to communicate their thoughts in front of me.

The flaws in this worldview are easy to spot once this worldview isn't blindly accepted as the way the world works. Let's apply the principles of this worldview to burglary.

Imagine if one boy learned that his neighbors let their dog into the backyard first thing in the morning and left the door open until the dog ran back inside. With perpetrator-friendly prevention messages he could tell himself that their door was open and as everyone knows an open door is an invitation. While the dog romped any boy who wanted to could enter and hide until the family left for the day before helping himself to anything he wanted from their house. As he was committing burglary he could favorably compare himself to real burglars and tell himself he's nothing like those real criminals who break into houses.

Hopefully, we get that homeowners being vulnerable in this way cannot be treated legally as an invitation. Now imagine this one step closer to what many people defend in non-stranger sex crimes. The boy (17 and muscled) enters and comes up behind the homeowner, dominates that person physically and "asks" for cash. Does anyone really imagine that if the homeowner complies that this wasn't still a crime?

The threat doesn't have to be spoken to be real and serious. We get this truth when someone enters another person's house yet many people seem incapable of understanding this truth when what someone "asks" for is sexual.

We wouldn't imagine that the sole means of preventing this type of crime would be to alter only the behavior of people who don't want to be robbed. Leaving your back door open for a few minutes while your dog pees is clearly not an invitation. Anyone who rants about it being a legal invitation and a consensual transaction because the homeowner didn't scream at any point would be laughed at.

This worldview has not faded enough in the last decades as I realized last year when Oprah had a show about teens and sex. A boy commented that the boys in his school all know which girls won't say no. This boy proclaimed this knowledge with no awareness that it is based on a predatory fallacy.

This rumored future consent is no such thing and may help many boys who otherwise wouldn't commit rape to do so because they put the "knowledge" from other boys above all else.

Whenever someone who talks about rape uses phrases similar to "actual forced rapes," that's a danger signal to me. If you are quantifying one subset of rapes as actual rapes then you are semantically disqualifying all other rapes.

To go back to my bank robbery analogy from part 1 we don't talk about forcible bank robberies and coercive bank robberies even though bank robbers can do either of these. We talk about bank robbers.

From my experience those who use this type of dividing line see rapists differently based on how they attempted or succeeded at raping someone. This is dangerous because it judges sex criminals based on the how and who of their crimes rather than on the crime itself.

This dividing line gives us plenty of rapists who are 100% against forcing themselves on anybody. To them the how excuses the what of sex crimes. Since they would never abduct anybody off the street then they should be given the "he's just a jerk" pass for the sex crimes they commit.

If someone is out to rape you that is the central detail. Yes some rapists, like some burglars, bank robbers, muggers, etc. are especially brutal, but we don't use language for the less brutal non-sexual criminals which minimizes the crime they committed the way people do too often when they talk or write about rape.
So you've got quotes from two men on supposedly opposite sides of a debate. One man is defending his right to provide structural support for and disseminate the video of a rape, for his own financial gain, and I think it's telling that he feels safe and comfortable using socially acceptable "rape prevention" dialogue to soften the socially unacceptable fact that he is exploiting a rape for personal gain and doesn't feel he should have to face criticism for that fact. I think it's telling because it goes to show, yet again, how victim-based "rape prevention" allows convenient escape hatches for rape-supporters who wish to appear moral. The other man runs a website dedicated to keeping the vulnerable safe online. And yet, both manage to justify rape in different contexts. I think it's a pretty keen example of rape culture, when you have two diametrically and morally opposed individuals with completely opposite career missions, but both are able to agree that rape is appropriate sometimes, in some ways, in some places, with some women.
This connection is one that all those who are trying to prevent sexual violence need to understand. Those who want to exploit others are listening and those who don't yet understand exploitation are listening too.

Parry Aftab may assume that mentioning having seen coerced sex online is just stating a fact, but what he called "coerced sex" is rape and coercion is a type of force. Semantics matter because they can reinforce the beliefs behind behavior people oppose. If someone wants to highlight increasing levels of overt violence online then the more effective terminology would have been rape by coercion where this case was rape by intoxication.

We talk about rape culture only as a negative thing that is out there, but because culture is about our norms we have the power to change what may at first seem unchanging. Each person can pull their support for the idea that it is the sex crime victims who must be deflected to prevent rape and replace it with the truth that it is the perpetrator who must be deflected from a dangerous path and who will lose all support for behavior if there is evidence that the behavior is predatory.

Much of the victim-centric rape prevention messages contain messages which help people blame victims and excuse perpetrators. The fact that these messages are familiar should not be the reason they keep getting regenerated.

We should do better and we can do better.

One of the ways we can do better is to teach people to understand both risk and protective factors related to sexual violence perpetration and to understand that true primary prevention deals with the factors which can lead to sexual violence perpetration.

Self-defense is important but it is not prevention. If the level of violence around a particular person is endemic it will fail far too often through no fault of the person who is practicing self-defense. If 1 particular individual who practices strong self-defense manages to dodge danger because others are more vulnerable and are seen as easier targets no violence has actually been prevented.

If we want true prevention then we most keep the primary focus on the the perpetrators and what allows them to harm others sexually whether we are talking primary prevention or avoidance strategies.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:06 PM   18 comments links to this post


At January 06, 2010 12:42 PM, Blogger JENNIFER DREW said...

The central problem is how dominant male sexuality is constructed and perpetuated. All too commonly boys learn it is acceptable to keep pressurising girls/women and never accept a refusal as a woman's/girl's right. Instead boys learn it is their role to continue pressurising or even use the threat of ending a relationship if the woman/girl does not 'consent' or rather if she does not submit.

Primary prevention means enforcing the message that boys/men must be held accountable for their sexual behaviour. Rape is rape whenever a woman/girl is not able to say 'no' and know her refusal will not be accepted. Individual boys/men might accept and understand the meaning of female sexual autonomy but our society continues to hold women/girls accountable for supposedly 'gatekeeping' male sexuality whilst simultaneously not holding boys/men accountable for their behaviour.

This is why 'forced rape' appears to be 'real rape' but 'coerced rape' is supposedly not rape. Society does not claim perpetrators who use deception to obtain a victim's money/property but of course when it concerns female sexual autonomy - that is still seen as irrelevant. Males but not females continue to have full sexual autonomy and hence rape becomes 'non-rape' when society views a male perpetrator as simply enacting dominant sexual behaviour.

Such beliefs are not new but are centuries old because patriarchal societies believe women and girls are always responsible for causing and/or preventing male sexual violence committed against them. Only the most extreme rape cases or those wherein it can be proved 110% the male perpetrator actually committed rape and did not 'misread the woman's/girl's signals. (Which is another myth since men/boys are fully able to understand when a woman/girl is refusing to engage in sexual activity but such male perpetrators choose to ignore the woman's/girl's refusal) are viewed as 'real rape.'

It continues to be very much an uphill struggle challenging myths that men/boys must never be held accountable or responsible for their sexual behaviour. This is why so many women/girls often do not believe the male did rape them because he simply enacted what patriarchal society promotes as normal male sexual entitlement/behaviour. This is the real struggle - challenging male power both instititional and individual over women/girls.

At January 06, 2010 9:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a blog called the "False Rape Society" that is so upsetting, so backward, that it makes you want to pull your hair out. Every single thing you say about what the rape appologists think about rape is absolutely true. I was so tired of hearing about "real" rapes (must be violent, must be caught on tape, must have witnesses). It is distressing that people think this way. Thank you for what you do.

At January 06, 2010 10:20 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...


You're welcome.

I'm familiar with FRS and it and other sites highlight how many anti-feminists spin a position that is blatantly biased against girls and women into something which is supposedly pro-justice. Reading it can be upsetting, but in small doses it is also educational.

At January 07, 2010 5:02 AM, Anonymous attack_laurel said...

This is a beautiful and brilliant post. Thank you.

At January 07, 2010 5:13 AM, Anonymous Mandy said...

When do we start killing these low ranking males off? The day we start is the day rape will end.
The Cherokee Nation (a matriarchy) didn't even have a word for rape. Maybe it's because if a man misbehaved, by a woman's standard, he would be beaten within an inch of his the women.
There are many lessons our native sisters can teach us....I'll be happy to pass them along when I have more time to comment further.

At January 07, 2010 8:56 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...


I don't believe killing rapists will prevent rape. What prevents rape is a widespread and complete intolerance of rape.

Too many people in our society are intolerant of most rapes in name only and in practice are more intolerant of rape victims.

At January 07, 2010 11:30 AM, Anonymous Eurosabra said...

She didn't say "rapists" and she didn't say "rape apologists", she said "low-ranking males." This fits just fine with MRA concepts, unfortunately. Um, okay. It's at least very honest to admit the role failure to perform in the kyriarchy has in deforming men's interactions with women. Unfortunately, most men are going to draw the conclusion that they key is to perform better within the kyriarchy.

At January 08, 2010 4:34 AM, Anonymous Mandy said...


Thank you for your response.

A question to consider....what would be the manifestation of "complete intolerance of rape". What does it look like? I'd love to hear from you on this.

One of the reasons I believe people are so intolerant of victims of abuse is that our so called civilization doesn't allow people to react fully to abuse. Like the caged animal using it's fangs to gnaw it's own body because it can't use them to provide sustenance and protection for itself. So to, otherwise good people turn on victims because they can’t easily attack the guilty.

At January 08, 2010 4:58 AM, Anonymous Mandy said...


The scale of rank I mentioned is based on a woman’s perspective. What are OUR standards for a quality male?
I am a feminist within the matriarchal frame. Meaning all human qualities and values are centered on life sustainment, which of course is symbolized and actualized by the female form. Not that every woman has to have children ~ with an over populated planet we'd do well if many women chose not to have children ~ the life sustaining and nurturing qualities of mothering and PROTECTING can be expressed many ways in both women and men.

In native culture many tribes had a peace chief and a war chief. The peace chief, usually a former warrior with a conscience and diplomatic skills, was chosen by the WOMEN of the tribe. The peace chiefs primary job was to keep the war chief in line with what the WOMEN wanted. In other words, the war chief answered to the peace chief and the peace chief had to answer to the women, who had the first and final say in all matters. Men could not fight or do harm without the women's approval. When asked what were the qualifications a man must have to become chief the matriarch's said....
~He must never have harmed a women
~He must be a father, because he will be like a father to the tribe
~He could never have committed murdered (kill for egotistical reasons)
~Or be a thief

I'd call that a high ranking male; of service to women and the life sustaining process. Those modern men who I call low rank would thus be the opposite of the above. Rapist and apologist and placaters are NOT of service to life/women and should be firmly corrected or killed.
It worked for the Iroquois and the Cherokee nations and the Arab matriarchies for thousands of years.
We won't ever have full matriarchy again but we can use this mentality to view men and the women who embolden them.

At January 08, 2010 12:12 PM, Blogger jeana said...

First, I like your post. Feministing linked to it. Second, someone said something about the FRS, and you said it was educational in a small way. But how can something that is so hateful and biased against raped women and children (but never raped men) be educational? The lie and distort the truth so much, and their attitudes are so backward. I got banned for asking why they never believe female rape victims and for bringing up the name of Kitty Genovese. Someone else got banned for asking why their statistics on false rape were so much more believable than feminists’ statistics. The guy who writes it also said he’d ban anyone who said that there was such a thing as “rape culture.” And on and on. You can’t take anything they say seriously. I prefer talking about issues with people who don’t despise me and my gender and who are sane. Otherwise, it’s just their hate talking.

At January 08, 2010 12:17 PM, Blogger jeana said...


It’s a little dangerous to recommend killing rape apologists or placaters. These people range from uneducated to hateful, but that’s really not enough to kill them. Otherwise, what’s not to keep people from killing females who don’t subscribe to certain belief systems or behaviors of the group in charge? (Which actually does happen throughout the world.) I think exposing their hate and stupidity and holding them accountable for it is more viable. Which is why things like rape analogies can be helpful. Some well-meaning people just don’t get it and need examples put in a perspective that they do get.

At January 08, 2010 1:02 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Jeana, I didn't mean there was anything positive about FRS. In the name of fighting lies, that site promotes lies.

What I meant about educational is that by being able to read their rationalizations and what they present as proof of their anti-woman claims that we can learn enough to counter their rationalizations and lies.

A favorite citation of FRS and his ilk is Eugene Kanin but of the alleged 41% false reports in the most cited study none of the cases were actually independantly confirmed to be false. The data they trumpet as objective measures investigators ability to get women to recant under duress.

They object to violating men's rights to get confessions and acknowledge that these can be false confessions but celebrate civil rights violations when the person whose rights are being violated is a girl or woman who reported being raped. If she confesses under duress then they go from not believing her to accepting her word as unimpeachable truth.

They also abandon their most basic tenet "innocent until proven guilty" when they repeated assume girls and women guilty who have been convicted of no crime.

That too is educational.

At January 08, 2010 1:17 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...


Complete intolerance of rape doesn't have to manifest itself in the model you describe.

I don't think people turn on victims because they can't easily attack the guilty, I think they do it because retribution -- even directed at the innocent -- gives an instant emotional payoff.

Bystanders turning on victims have made a choice just as must as those committing acts of sexual and domestic violence have made a choice. There can be no excuse for either form of harm.

If good people turn on victims they have decided to stop being such good people.

At January 08, 2010 7:53 PM, Blogger jeana said...

I misunderstood you. Thank you for clarifying. Similar to what you said, I remember on GlennSacks, I think, people touting another study that showed about 50% of reported rapes to be false in one town or something. Their methodology: reading reports of the rape accusations and outcomes and deciding to reclassify many as lies. How could anyone take that seriously? Hostile people can write in very victim-blaming language, and even females can speak in terms in which they take too much responsibility for what happened to them. And yet that qualifies as “proof”. Absurd.

At January 14, 2010 12:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One large correction: Parry Aftab is female.

At January 14, 2010 12:51 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Anonymous, thanks for the correction. However, I'm curious why you list this as a large correction. It doesn't change the meaning of anything I've written.

At March 20, 2010 2:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you about the lack of accountability in our culture for all forms of rape and I agree that there is no difference between so-called coercion and forcible rape. I have a question that I need help with clarifying. Am I wrong in assuming that intelligent and smart women should make adjustments to their habits since they are aware that our society is filled with predators. I am speaking from the POV of a southern 2nd wave feminist (I think) who has dropped out of the feminist movement for personal differences. My young adult daughter has been "date raped" once and raped again sometime later by what she thinks are multiple males but she doesn't know because she got drunk at a friend's and passed out to awake with evidence of sodomy and assault. She does not know who attacked her because she was passed out in a guy friend's apt whom she trusted. She got nowhere with the police because there was no DNA evidence. The attacker(s) used a condom obviously.
My question is: Should not my daughter adjust her behaviour to protect herself against such situations? i.e. surround herself only with people of proven character and take precautionary measures when surrounded by people you don't know? She recently experienced a similar attack again but got away this time. I asked her to change her lifestyle and she cried saying that I was saying it was her fault. This is the last thing I want to communicate to her because I would rather burn these rapists alive at the stake but I want to know what is her part in the situation. Please don't jump me, I am in full support of my daughter and just confused looking for answers. thanks.

At March 20, 2010 4:50 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...


The problem with having your daughter adjust her behavior and her habits is that your desired adjustments may make zero difference to her safety because of the pervasiveness of sexual violence.

Your daughter being a young adult tells me enough to let me know she has 2 of the primary risk factors for becoming a victim of sexual violence. Those are her age and her gender.

If she does as you want her to and successfully avoids rapists she doesn't know that might seem like she will be safer. However, that does nothing to protect her from the undetected rapists she does know and whom she -- and you -- would view as having proven character. Many rape victims, including myself, would have described our rapists as incapable of rape prior to rape and many of us often have trouble believing the truth even after being raped by a trustworthy person.

My suggestion is to focus primarily on the behavior of non-victims who rape or who enable rape both in your discussions with your daughter and in your actions. If you hear someone denying or minimizing any rape then you help protect your daughter by speaking up in disagreement.

People who dismiss certain rapes as no big deal are not to be trusted since they would likely resist holding certain rapists accountable. This can include police officers who will give excuses for why they cannot do full investigations into every report of this serious crime. If the legal response to reported rapes in your area is a joke that is a major risk factor.

Secondarily, you can focus on what your daughter and her friends, of both genders, can do to be proactive bystanders with the goal of reducing the pervasiveness of sexual violence and to maximize the protection of friends. These actions should not be limited to what they will do if they see someone being attacked and must include what they will do if someone jokes about how to get an unwilling person to have sex or if someone brags about sex which is not clearly consensual.

The most effective way to protect your daughter and other daughters is to be part of a collective effort to combat the attitudes held by those who have raped or which could help someone rationalize rape for the first time.

You can have personal differences with others who are trying to reduce perpetration rates, including feminist groups, and still work as an ally against this intolerable crime.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home