Thursday, 14 November 2013

Dear Amazing Atheist (on Rape Culture)

Dear Amazing Atheist,

Someone on my Twitter pointed me to your recent videos about rape culture and rape, and wanted to know what I thought of them. I was a bit wary, as I (being honest) am not a fan of some of your previous videos. You, like me, are an opinionated person and I don't always share the same opinions as you on things, so I went in feeling slightly defensive. However, you calmly explained your feelings on the matter - thank you for that. It also meant I watched both videos in full (if anyone wants to watch them, they are here and here - set aside some time as they are about 25 mins each).

You asked for responses from people for your first video, as you said you were very willing to listen to different viewpoints, so here I am. There are a few things from your video I'd like to mention. Apologies in advance if I'm totally wrong on any of it (stats wise, assuming your feelings on matters, etc.) and I hope I don't come across as rude, patronising or condescending at any point. It's very difficult to convey tone in text & I was actually planning to maybe make this a video, but I am a bit strapped for time at the moment, so I have had to just tweak my original script.

"No Rape Culture"

I am a noob to the saying "rape culture", and I have not seen it thrown around lightly. 

From my small understanding, rape culture is called "culture" because there's a big enough and influential enough group of people that do various things & hold various opinions (like some in the definition you found) in society to stop the massive problem of rape and sexual assault from being properly dealt with, thus it prevails. Rape culture is all the social stuff that allows rape to keep happening and allows rapists to constantly get away with this crap. 

Even though it is linked to our general culture, not everyone is a part of rape culture and it does not describe our society as a whole - we just have one within our society & it affects a lot of people in it. America has a gun culture - does that mean everyone in America likes and has guns & knows everything about it? No. But a lot of people who aren't a part of gun culture are affected by it. In western society there are war cultures, drinking cultures, party cultures... Does that mean we like & understand why people like all those things, or that everyone knows about them? No. But, just because we are not a part of those cultures or they are not obvious to us, doesn't mean they're not there or that we're not surrounded by them and/or directly affected by them.

In your second video you got upset about the Stubenville case not getting to light without the internet, despite masses of evidence - certain people in law enforcement trying to sweep stuff under the rug to save the boys, rather than punish the crime? You're upset at rape culture. You're upset at people hoping bad guys in prison get raped because they know & revel in the fact that that happens? You're upset at rape culture. You're upset at people using power structures like those in the army to rape someone just because they want to/can? You're upset at rape culture.

Also, lots of people argue over what rape culture is, but I think it's because it naturally varies greatly between different places; for example, rape culture for women in America is asking things like "well, what was she wearing?", but in other places it can also escalate to forcing them to marry their rapists or stoning them to death for being "impure".

"Different levels of rape"

You used two examples to try and say that there are "different levels of rape" in the same way that there are different levels of killing such as pre-meditated and accidental. The "stranger jumping out of a bush = on-purpose killing, the boyfriend ignoring his girlfriend saying no = accidental killing.

Here's where that analogy falls to pieces: the girlfriend said no. If she said no, then they boyfriend KNOWINGLY had sex without her consent. Being in a relationship with someone doesn't mean you are entitled to have sex with them whenever you want, whether they want to or not - I'm sure (or at least hope) you realise this. 

The boyfriend in this hypothetical situation, did not do this by accident. She said no and he actively ignored her. He abused the girlfriend's trust and took advantage of her. She trusted him enough to be alone with him, and he raped her. That is f**ked up.

To me, and many others, that's not "less bad" than being raped by a stranger, that's just a different kind of f**ked up.

Also, even if a guy "accidentally" rapes a girl because he "forgot" to check if she was ok with it, that's also still f**ked up, because he didn't stop to think "is she into this?"; instead he completely ignored her agency and worth as a human and just selfishly focused on his own sexual desires. You didn't make this argument, but it is one I've seen online a couple of times & I wanted to address it...

"Everyone is different"

I completely agree - everyone has different comfort zones & limitations, gives off slightly different signals... However, I've popped this one in because it's so effing easy to double-check that someone is ok with having sex. You don't have to ruin the mood - you can ask it in a sexy way, e.g. "do you like it when I do this?", and make sure you get a truly positive response. Normal people can also read body language to make sure someone is enjoying it.

Everyone is different, and yes, some people may say "no" when they mean "yes", but even then, it's effing obvious what they mean & it's really not hard just to ask flat-out "are you ok with this?" Again, there are ways to ask sexily without ruining the mood (e.g. "are you ok with this? Be honest with me, because you're effing gorgeous and I want you right now, but I want you to really enjoy it" *insert sexy smouldering look*).

As you said, there are a lot of people that can't read people properly, and that's why a lot of people want people to be educated about consent. That's one of the things they mean when they say "teach people not to rape" - teach people that instead of just looking for "ok" or a mumbled, scared & unhappy "yes", they should look for enthusiasm, which is pretty easy to spot and easy to ask about.

"That's what lawyers are paid to do"

Just because a lawyer is paid by their client to discredit a victim, it doesn't mean that what they're doing isn't morally reprehensible. Why do you think everyone makes bitchy jokes and comments about lawyers? The justice system should be about justice & getting to the truth, not getting paid to spin blame onto victims, even when rape did obviously occur. Burglars don't get let off if the victims left a window open and were therefore "asking for it"; rape is far worse, so why do lawyers say victims were "asking for it" by their behaviour or clothes (which often is just something like "wearing a skirt" and "being friendly")? They grasp at straws such as clothes and approachability, then as soon as one guy is let off because of it, this part of rape culture seeps into our everyday lives.

You see, this stuff doesn't stay inside courtrooms. This "asking for it" idea is in a lot of people's heads, especially when alcohol is involved - when lots of people ask "why did they take advantage of a drunk person", there can be just as many asking "well why did the other person think it was ok to get so drunk around other people?" Just look at any comments section on Stubenville & Maryville news pieces.

The questions directed at female victims also affect women in general: we feel like we have to police our own clothing to fit within certain standards in case something should happen to us, because, even though there is no correlation between a particular kind of clothing and being raped, we don't want to get the finger of blame pointed at us if something does happen. Women are told all the time that that have to look good, but they can't look too good, because then they're "asking for it".

For example, when I was 13, some boy followed me down the street and grabbed my arse. When I whacked his hand away and said "don't touch me", he said, "Well you shouldn't have worn that skirt" (it was my school uniform).

This sh*t does not stay in the courtroom. People eat that crap up and use it to try & justify their harassment of other people. That is part of rape culture.

"Three options"

You said everyone has three options in cases with little-to-no evidence except each person's story: always say you don't know, always side with the accused, always side with the accuser. I think a hell of a lot of people switch between saying they don't know and choosing a side, often just by how each side looks / comes across. Also, although I try to be unbiased, sadly, according to studies, if you always side with the victim you seem to be statistically more likely to be choosing the truthful side...(see next point).

"Being falsely accused of rape ruins your life"

Yes, I'm sure it does, and I think it's awful and horrific. It's a good thing then that false accusations of rape are actually so incredibly rare. It is statistically far more likely for a woman to be raped, take the guy to court & lose the case, then likely have her life ruined by being accused of making a false claim because she's just a slut that was ashamed of sleeping with that guy who is totally innocent because the justice system in every country is perfect & no one guilty goes free blah blah blah I want to scream...

Also, the majority of women who make false rape claims don't actually properly describe or name a perpetrator - that's a big sign to the police that the claim is fake. The woman wants sympathy & she won't get it if the person she falsely accuses calls her a liar & she's proved false. Also, with so many people crying "false claims!", actual rape victims get very little sympathy for pointing the finger.

I can't stand when women make false accusations of rape against men; not only does a man's life get ruined, but so many people cling onto those few examples to shout down the thousands and thousands of women who have genuine claims. This is one massive reason why the majority of women do not report their rapes.

"I was sexually assaulted - it is harder for male victims to be taken seriously"

Not disagreeing with you in the slightest here, especially for the first part. The woman that sexually assaulted you in the workplace is an arsehole. A grade A arsehole. As for the people who decided to make fun of you and call you "gay" for not immediately reciprocating her advances, they're arseholes too. And I think I know why they didn't sympathise with you.

You have likely heard of the word "patriarchy" - now, it doesn't refer to some secret male society or some "conspiracy theory that blames all men, even decent men, for all women's woes". All it roughly means is that, in general, men are in the majority of power positions of businesses, relationships, etc. and fit in with other set definitions of masculinity. It also means that men are expected to want to be in power positions and fit in with other set definitions of masculinity (i.e. fit their gender role)In many societies, masculinity often means that men must automatically like any sexual approach from a female because "what guy doesn't wanna have sex, amiright?". If you don't like it or reciprocate, then there must be something "different" about you. People take you being upset at assault and try to insult you by saying it's strange you turned them down, so you're weird, un-masculine (i.e. feminine or effeminate) & they make jokes about you being gay (which is also extremely homophobic).

You got crap because of the restricting gender roles that many feminists are trying to change, for both sexes (yes, not all feminists spell this out or believe it, but it's true for most from what I've seen and heard). You shouldn't have to "man up", "deal with it like a man", automatically enjoy her advances because you're a heterosexual man, or not allow yourself to recognise that you were the victim in this situation. You are allowed to be pissed off with her invading your personal space, especially for taking advantage of you at work, where often people can't feel like they can shout back for fear of losing their job. That woman should get the sack if she hasn't already got it.

I also know that there are tonnes of women who know exactly how you feel. There are lots of awful cases, like this one, of sexual harassment, assault & sexism in general against women in the work place. Also, many women, including myself, have been sexually assaulted or harassed, only for our attackers & their friends (& a few others) to call us lesbians for not responding positively to their "compliments". We are made to feel weird, rude or unladylike for telling a guy to stop touching us or to get out of our personal space. It happens in clubs, in the street, in workplaces... Fortunately it has become easier for women to report this stuff, but you hear so many stories that suggest that a lot of harassment towards women still gets swept under the carpet. 

Basically, thanks to rape culture, women are supposed to "deal with it because that's just what happens to women", "ignore it", realise they were "asking for it" or "take the compliment"; men are supposed to "enjoy it". Truthfully, we cannot say exactly who has it "worse off" when it comes to reporting assault (men do have an extra barrier of "you should like it"/"you could've easily pushed them off you"), but it needs to be made easier for everyone; currently, women are far more likely to be a victim of some form of sexual assault & it is highly likely that their assaulter will get away with it, whilst men are often afraid to report the crime & feel like they won't be taken seriously (or helped at all), especially if in prison or assaulted by a woman. 

Rape culture doesn't just refer to assaults on women, because it affects both genders - It just ends up focusing on that because sadly women are the ones most affected by it, therefore those that fight for women's rights (i.e. mostly female feminists) are the ones doing a lot of the work on researching & exposing it. Not all feminists are crazy man-hating bra-burners - that's just a very vocal minority. Most are just people that see the gender roles that restrict everyone (especially women), and the idea that anything feminine = bad (i.e. you not being allowed to feel like a victim by your colleagues, because that's not 'masculine'), as stupid ideas; rape culture feeds off those ideas, causing both sexes to suffer.

I appreciate your calmness in your videos, and I understand your anger at what happened to you - I really do & I especially sympathise with you for it happening in the workplace. You must've felt very trapped.

I hope you will take the time to read this and consider my opinions. If so, thanks! This was a long post... Your second video definitely emphasised how much you hate this crime & I think it's great you addressed those issues, even though I have a slightly different viewpoint on some things you said.

Also, in regard to the "well why aren't I as upset by people being killed?" question, this video by Jim Sterling regarding rape & killing in video games which may give you an answer. I also once saw written down that "Rape is a kind of torture" - it sounds harsh, but I'm sure a lot of rape victims will relate to those words.

Kind regards,


P.S. I hope you don't mind open letters - everyone's complaining about them in the UK because of some recent examples, but I like them... It's more like I'm talking face to face with you as a person rather than criticising you like you were a book or study or something...