Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Inevitability of Rape?

A post titled, Rape Victims "Asking For It?" and Youtube Inanity in the latest edition of the Carnival Against Sexual Violence highlights a series of YouTube videos.

Even the videos which promote incorrectly putting responsibility onto certain rape victims raise important issues because they highlight people's views about the causes of rape. When faulty reasoning about causation is published it can be analyzed and that can lead to people who incorrectly accepted that reasoning to switch their thinking in ways which effectively help to prevent rape.

Much of the faulty beliefs have been sold for decades or longer as simple common sense when they are only common.

The attitudes expressed in videos posted by a man who calls himself ThoughtfulAtheist are still too pervasive and they are too often defended as logical when their logic does not hold up under critical analysis. These dangerous flaws in thinking contribute to rape which means that those who focus on the victim while claiming to want to prevent rape need to be called out for their role in positions which impede the prevention of rape.

A common defense for positioning most rape victims as having responsibility for their own rape is that to do otherwise is concede that girls and women are powerless against rape and by inference that we as a society are powerless against rape. If we as a society cannot change the behavior of potential rape victims then we allegedly cannot do anything about the behavior of rapists prior to their next rape.

This claim that rape victims either take responsibility or admit that all girls and women are powerless sets up a false choice which allows people to ignore the pervasiveness of sexual violence which causes there to be no safe neighborhood and no safe lifestyle.

ThoughtfulAtheist who posted the initial video (now withdrawn from public viewing) says in a video titled: Was she asking for it? Part 2 about a friend of his who was raped (at around 5:50) after a disclaimer about holding the woman's rapist responsible for rape:

What I also do not trivialize, however, is her role in the events leading up to that inevitability. She placed herself in a situation that was going to create a negative thing happening. And most likely of the kind that eventually came to fruition. Which was that she was raped. And for that, for creating that opportunity, that is what I hold her responsible for. And that is what she should hold herself responsible for.

I might also add, that being said, I made a very, very poor choice of words in calling her a drunken slut. To be honest with you the 2 thoughts were really quite separate for me, but [...] She was acting as a drunk and she was acting as a promiscuous woman, okay. [lists various descriptors] She was acting in a very stupid way which that ultimately was going to lead to a negative action. And a negative action [her being raped] occurred. Period. That is the end of her responsibility.

First, I do not believe his claim that his labeling her as a drunken slut is in any way separate from his belief that her rape was inevitable.

What she did immediately prior to being raped (described here at 3:15) was walk home alone from a party in her own apartment complex and place her key in the door of her apartment. What this means is that according to ThoughtfulAtheist this girl's lifestyle caused a man to decide to stalk her and rape her. What power we women have to compel men to stalk us intent on rape simply by our lifestyle choices.

Put this way I hope that the nonsensical nature of this alleged causation becomes clear to those who listen to ThoughtfulAtheist and who nod because they've heard these warnings about what happens to certain women if they don't listen to the lecturers.

There have been several cases which made the news where someone who committed a sexual assault believed the target had gotten herself drunk and proceeded specifically on that basis when that wasn't why the victim was vulnerable. The latest such case to make the news is a woman whose drink was spiked and who was then sexually assaulted in the ambulance on the way to the hospital by an attendant. There likely have been many more sexual assaults where the attackers beliefs about the victim bringing rape upon herself were what triggered the attack.

Near the end of the Part 2 video ThoughtfulAtheist admits that part of the reason he created the initial video was to poke and prod people, but this is a lame excuse for the harm he did to his unnamed acquaintance and to many other rape survivors and to many girls and women who will be viewed as taking actions which others will claim will lead to their own rapes.

As I've highlighted before this belief about certain victims causing their own rapes leads to many people being unwilling to convict someone they know is guilty of rape. ThoughtfulAtheist may disagree with these people, but he is helping them defend letting certain rapists go free.

His labeling of someone else as a slut is also not separate from the danger he discusses. I believe this labeling by ThoughtfulAtheist and others had a causal link to this woman's rape which was a thousand times stronger than the alleged causal link ThoughtfulAtheist is promoting. But I don't see him taking any responsibility for his role in making rape inevitable for this particular girl.

He lectured her prior to her rape so in his view his hands are clean and he has every right to publish a series of "I told you so" videos. I disagree.

Since ThoughtfulAtheist claims to be open to learning, he should be willing to learn how his actions, his words and his beliefs have a contributory role to rape. Yet each response video and each comment he makes shows that the last thing he wants is to learn if that means letting go of his illogical belief that he is completely in the right and completely blameless.

In the Rape: Famous Last Words video he does as many others who hold similar positions do and that is to dismiss the backlash against his claims as illogical, emotional and based on a lack of understanding of his true position. Any criticism not presented within certain parameters is simply ignored and those who do this criticizing are dismissed as inferior.

This dismissal is not logical, but is evidence of laziness and a lack of caring about the very topic he claims to care about: preventing rape. People who are angry are not automatically wrong yet ThoughtfulAtheist positions them as such when they are angry at him. Taking responsibility for actions which contribute to rape is for others, not for ThoughtfulAtheist or for those who agree with him.

If ThoughtfulAtheist is in a social circle such that a rape is inevitable when women within that social circle take certain actions or make certain lifestyle choices then there is something highly toxic in that environment which puts all women who interact with those people at increased danger of being raped.

The baseline toxicity in that group is the problem, not the woman's actions within that toxic environment which change that environment from having a pervasive latent potential for rape to the inevitability of rape against her.

In clips from the original video included in an excellent response video, ThoughtfulAtheist is shown saying (around 1:10) :

We knew a girl. She started to become a bit more promiscuous. Started to drink significantly more. Really, really, significantly more. And for no apparent reason. She kind of became known, in a certain circle, as the girl you could get with if you were down and out for the evening.
BigDickAndLittleJohn rightfully points out that this is no excuse for rape, but something else stands out for me in this statement by ThoughtfulAtheist.

That something else is the role of the general opinion of this girl in leading to her rape. If this girl (or woman) is positioned as someone who is available to anyone who wants her that puts her in danger of sexual violence and gives rapists an easy excuse for ignoring that girl's lack of consent.

Those putting her in danger are the people who let it be known that you could "get with" her and those who did not speak up against this consent by proxy.

Yet instead of seeing how this general opinion contributed to this act of sexual violence, ThoughtfulAtheist presents it as evidence against this girl who is later raped. Men, and possibly women, were communicating blanket consent on this girl's behalf and ThoughtfulAtheist cannot -- or more likely will not -- see how that communication on the part of people he knew and did not criticize played a role in this rape.

Further, ThoughtfulAtheist has a friend or acquaintance who was suddenly drinking significantly more alcohol for no apparent reason and rather than viewing this as a possible signal that this girl might be struggling with some type of serious issue and using alcohol to cope, he simply jumps to the conclusion that she's a drunken slut and that he must lecture her.

ThoughtfulAtheist says he and other people talked to this girl about her behavior before she was raped, but it doesn't sound like any of them approached her with any genuine interest in listening to her. All they seemed interested in was lecturing her so that they could feel blameless when she was raped.

ThoughtfulAtheist doesn't mention talking to any boys or men who exploited her increased alcohol consumption and doesn't talk about warning other boys and men about the dangers of using what was "known" about this girl to justify their behavior toward her.

This doesn't sound very thoughtful to me. It certainly doesn't sound like the response of a friend. He said he knew it was inevitable that she would be raped which means he knew that someone around this girl would rape her yet all he did was focus on her behavior.

Those who´╗┐ repeated this narrative about her availability, or who let it stand unchallenged, basically helped point rapists in her direction.

Many survivors of sexual violence react to rape by behaving exactly as this girl behaved prior to this disclosure of rape. Sudden alcohol abuse and sudden promiscuity. They are often in shock and may not be able to fend off unwanted sexual advances or may feel there is no reason to do so.

This means that boys and men who are gleefully exploiting someone still reeling from rape or who is suddenly vulnerable for another reason may feel morally superior to her and may have no problem sending others to join him in exploiting a girl with no defenses. This exploitation can easily cross the line from heartless to criminal.

That certain circle sounds like it approved of using whatever issue led to this girl's increased drinking as nothing more than an opportunity to encourage more guys to exploit her sexually. This means that the particular rapist ThoughtfulAtheist condemns might not be this girl's first rapist or even her second rapist. One of those possible rapists might have been among those who let it be known to ThoughtfulAtheist that this girl was available for the taking. Maybe even the first man to do so.

What better way to cover your tracks than to sic your entire circle on someone you recently raped. Who is going to believe you raped someone with her reputation? ThoughtfulAtheist simply accepted all stories about this girl's constant sexual willingness without question or thought and passes them on as fact.

If people genuinely care about preventing rape the lesson they should learn from ThoughtfulAtheist is that they need to deal with the underlying danger in their neighborhood and their social circle and seek to reduce the inevitability of danger to those who are viewed as acting stupidly.

If it is "known" that someone is constantly available that should be a reason to urge others to be extra cautious to ensure that the available person is freely consenting. If someone is believed to always say yes then those to whom she says no may find it easier to rationalize raping her to take what that person believes every other guy gets.

In the video by ThoughtfulAtheist called Rape: Famous Last Words, he presented an analogy between this girl and the owner of a house left unlocked.

His position that this girl's rape was an "inevitable conclusion" of her actions, just as it is an "inevitable conclusion" that an unlocked door will eventually be opened by a criminal, fails to account for the direct role of bystanders in the rape he discusses.

To make the burglary example parallel, he would need to include friends of the person with the unlocked door telling everyone in their circle that if they ever need anything, all they have to do is go to this friend's house and take whatever they find there. After all the door is never locked and this person never says no when people ask for something he owns.

If the homeowner arrives home and is assaulted upon entering his house by someone who was told about this home's vulnerability by the homeowner's friends those most responsible for creating this danger are the ones who let everyone know about that unlocked door and who helped thieves feel entitled to everything in that home.

It isn't surprising to me that when people who focus their criticism on victims omit critical elements when they create their non-sex crime analogies. To them those critical elements are meaningless noise which nobody should focus on. I notice these critical details and I will not excuse those who blame victims or who help create situations where rape is more likely while glossing over their own contributions to sexual violence.

If ThoughtfulAtheist wants to talk about the need for responsibility from non-rapists, he needs to start by taking ownership of his own contributions to this girl's rape. Only when he correctly identifies and deals with the responsibility of all bystanders and all potential rapists so that no other girl he might know can ever face rape as an inevitable outcome should he even think about placing any responsibility onto any rape victims.

If he isn't ready to deal with the responsibility of bystanders and potential rapists then he isn't committed to preventing any rapes.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:13 AM   4 comments links to this post


At March 16, 2010 8:42 AM, Anonymous Kali said...

I wish there were many more people like you who can think critically and dissect the cruel twisted illogic of people like ThoughtfulAtheist. Most people, I am afraid, will just unthinkingly swallow all his justifications for victim-blaming. He calls himself "thoughtful" but he is anything but.

At March 16, 2010 12:28 PM, Blogger JENNIFER DREW said...

Why do we define lethal violence such as murder a crime, despite the fact murder has not been eliminated. Why do not individuals such as Thoughtful houghtful Atheist and other pro-rape apologists focus their attention on criticising males who deliberately put themselves at risk of murder and/or physical assault by 'daring' to enter public spaces at any time of the day or night.

Claiming rape is something which is inevitable unless and if a woman/girl shuts herself away in isolation from any male contact does nothing to reduce the numbers of males who believe it is their right and entitlement to commit rape against women and girls.

Using the analogy of murder, because murder has not been eliminated then society rather than prosecuting murderers should focus solely on telling men not to enter into public spaces in the night time and also tell men it is their individual responsibility to ensure they are not physically assaulted or murdered.

Thoughtfulatheist is another misogynist who believes that women unlike men are defined according to whether or not men perceive women as either 'virgins or whores.' Women who are perceived by men such as ThoughtfulAtheist as 'whores' cannot be subjected to male sexual violence because they have become 'unrapable.'

Would ThoughtfulAtheist condone and justify a male raping another male because the male victim was perceived to be a 'slut' and hence supposedly sexually available to any man who wished to enact his pseudo sex right.

Men have commonly slandered women and girls by informing other men the woman/girl is supposedly 'sexually available and willing to be sexually assaulted by any man.' A number of male defendants claimed they did not commit group rape against a woman because the woman's husband had told these men 'she was willing to engage in sexual activity with these men.' The fact the woman did not even know these men or 'consent' was considered by the UK's legal system to be irrelevant. What was considered relevant was the men charged with rape claimed they believed the woman's actions as she tried to resist these male attackers was not real just playacting. Therefore the male defendant's claim superceded the woman's charge that she did not consent. Therefore if the male defendant 'honestly believed a woman did consent to sexual contact then no rape could have occurred.' After a very long and arduous lobbying by feminists finally the UK law was changed. The landmark case was DPP V Morgan (1975).

Thoughtfulatheist is promoting similar myths wherein if a woman/girl is perceived as being a 'slut' this in itself means she has supposedly given blanket consent to any man who wishes to rape her. No crime will have been committed because the woman's/girl's sexual character supposedly makes her unrapable.

Would ThoughtfulAtheist hold the same view if men as a group were defined as either 'sluts or virgins' and only those men deemed to be 'virgins' at the time a male/males raped them to be victims of men's sexual violence?

What does ThoughtfulAtheist's videos ignore? Why the accountability and responsibility of men with regards to their sexual behaviour and beliefs. Men who commit rape make a choice and claiming men are controlled by their supposedly uncontrollable sex drive is not only insulting to men it also reduces men to a childlike state. Yet this is totally at odds with patriarchy's claims that men not women are the rational human beings and men not women are never controlled by their emotions. Unless that is as and when a man decides to rape and/or subject a woman to sexual violence - then suddenly the man's accountability and responsibility is irrelevant. Instead the woman/girl is held responsible for supposedly causing men to lose control of their actions/sexuality.

Win, win for men - lose lose for women and girls.

At March 16, 2010 12:28 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

Amazing, as always.
In a response video he posted (which you've probably already seen), he asks for calm, thoughtful, analytical responses and says he'll welcome constructive criticism. I don't know if that's true or not, but just in case, post a link to this post on his site for him to read. It would be pretty educational for him.

At March 18, 2010 5:32 AM, Anonymous attack_laurel said...

Total high five. That was a really incisive takedown, and has given me new tools for argument against rape apologists, especially the unlocked house analogy. Thank you!


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