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...


  1. I generally pop by TJ's videos every once in a while though I hadn't seen these two, and they are remarkably more calm, honest and, well, palatable than most of his videos (who knows, might subscribe now). So thanks for introducing me to them.

    As I watched them, before reading this, I realised that a few objections would be raised, and you did raise them, so I'll give my perspective on why these objections are problematic.

    First, the use of the word "accidental" in the case of rape was clearly a mistake. If TJ reads this and disagrees with me, he's wrong. Due to the nature of rape, accidental is definitely the wrong word to use, and it implies things that are absolutely terrible. However, I think his point was, may the great Ju-ju at the bottom of the sea strike me down if I am wrong, that the moral responsibility can be different.

    You address this, and in essence state that it is "just a different kind of f**ked up". I disagree, sort of, because it is different in a morally significant sense. That is, a crime of passion, although not accidental, is still not morally equivalent of a crime in cold blood. I can make the examples slightly more absurd, by making the difference rather that if someone were to follow someone else home and break into their house to rape them, this is worse than if someone made out in the back seat of the car and it went too far. I agree that in neither of these cases is the action excusable, but it is a good part of the justice system that determines that a person who is willing to plan and enact a horrific crime is less redeemable than a person who makes a mistake in the heat of the moment. Both should be punished, but one less severely.

    Your objection to the lawyers: It is good that they do this, perhaps painful, defence, because it is a useful part of our justice system. To defend their employer, at any cost, is what allows people to have the best possible defence. It upholds the values of innocent until proven guilty by making "guilty" hard enough to achieve that we cannot simply jail anyone who may have done something. The goal of the defence attorney is to be a part of the method of achieving truth, and his/her part is to defend the alleged perpetrator at any cost. I live in Norway, and remember reading an article by the defendant of Anders Behring Breivik (to my knowledge, the most brutal terrorist in Norwegian history), and I think it is important to remember that even this evil man, this horrific perversion of humanity, deserved to be defended to the fullest ability of any lawyer.

    Gosh, this went longer than I thought.

    You made a few important points towards the end, but I don't have any disagreement with those points, nor does there seem to be a pronounced difference between your views and his on this point, instead perhaps a semantic disagreement on the meaning of rape culture, which I don't want to get into (although your definition of rape culture does make me sympathise a lot more).

    To summarise: I do think there is a morally significant difference between different forms of rape, although I mostly argued that there should be a judicial difference. I do think that the lawyer has a moral responsibility to essentially do their f**king job, even if it does leave a bad taste in our mouth (which only happens if we have already presupposed the guilt of the defendant).

    Thank you for the good read, it was interesting and made me think about my positions more clearly.

    1. With the "crime of passion" argument - I still think it is just as bad and that person could be just as dangerous, just in a different way. Just think, what if he's in that situation again with his next girlfriend & he still can't "control" himself that time either? We don't even know in this hypothetical situation whether it was a crime of passion; all we know is they were in a car, she said no and he kept going. Instead of it being a crime of passion, he might just think that he is automatically owed sex from his girlfriend so doesn't care if she says no; that would be a very dangerous mindset to have & a sign of an abusive relationship & possibly a serial rapist. In both instances the attackers knew they didn't have consent - one just knew their victim.

      With the lawyers, I totally respect that they need to remove any doubt and defend people to uphold "innocent until proven guilty" for all suspects; my problem is that often if the guy pleads guilty, or allll the evidence points overwhelmingly towards the *fact* that they are guilty, they still try to lower the sentence or get them off by saying "well she led him on with what she was wearing". This then seeps out of the courtroom and when people - particularly women - are sexually harassed or assaulted, we wonder if it is our fault for wearing that dress we really like, when it really isn't.

      My definition of rape culture makes you sympathise a lot more because I have found out about it with an open mind & realised in my research that I have experienced its effects in small ways (being assaulted and feeling like it was my fault); I didn't just look up one definition with a particularly sceptical view of it already in my head.

      Thanks for the thoughtful response.

  2. I want to focus on the crime of passion argument, slightly because it's more interesting, but mostly because you make an excellent point regarding the reduction of sentence and so forth.

    You argue that it's just as bad, but it seems to me that you argue that this is the case because it is possible for the person in the example to not merely act in passion, and instead was potentially motivated by a host of other reasons.

    My question would then be if the same logic should be applicable to murder, and we should evaluate murder as equivalent so long as there is any ambiguity in the exact motivations of the person committing the crime (as there always will be, we cannot read minds)?

    If you do think so, then I might have to waste your time with arguments about varying degrees of punishment, risk assessments and so forth. But if not then I would love to know why the case of rape should be significantly different.

    I would object to this divide because I think that there is a lot of value in saying no firmly rather than hacking off a hand. We can strictly discourage rape in this instance without punishing as strongly as those who rape with forethought and in evident cold blood.

    As to the moral aspect, you rightly point out that both of these people (should) know that they had not gotten consent, and thus they both committed the atrocious act of rape. However, I do not think it is evident that someone who knows and thinks about what he does, and someone who is merely too stupid, brash, or even malicious to even consider his actions, are morally equivalent. If I had to choose which of the two had done the worst act, without undermining that they had both done an immoral act, I would still argue that, to the best of my ability to evaluate the facts, the former is the most immoral.