In my post where I covered the “Religion of Feminism”, I mentioned rape culture, and that seems to have brought up some serious concerns. Even though this site is dedicated to feminism, and I am a 4th Wave Feminist, people read that post and actually told me this was an MRA website.
Which ironically, kind of proves my point on the whole religion thing; you either agree with the Third Wave, or you’re an MRA sinner.
So to clear up some of the confusion, I want to fully address rape culture in this 5 part series. We’ll be looking at rape culture from every angle, and I’d like to start with my own experiences.
I’ve Been There
A while back, when I was in California, I met someone who let me stay with them because I had no place to go. She gave me a place to sleep, where I could set my things and be temporarily housed while I looked for work and constantly networked with every last conceivable agency I could possibly find that would help change my position. Namely, that change was to leave her place, and be housed somewhere else.
I spent most of each day either going to appointments, applying for jobs, and even tried some outside-the-box type things, like being a game-tester for independent gaming agencies. I worked furiously hard to find some sort of solution, because the person I was staying with wasn’t letting me stay there for free.
She was wanting sex. And pressured me for it.
I would have to quietly put up with lewd suggestions interjected into the middle of conversations. These were brazen and graphic remarks that I had to be careful not to repulse too strongly – or we would have another conversation about my living arrangements. At night, when she signaled, I knew what I had to do. And I went through the motions. Becoming more and more disgusted with myself and what I was doing each time. The next morning, I’d wake up, and redouble my efforts to find a way out. At one point, I was running through so many options and avenues, that I had to keep a database to keep track of them all.
I had been working with a job agency for almost 7 months at that point, assigned to me by the government, which refused to do anything. I had sent them multiple emails, begging and pleading for them to do at least something – anything – anything at all – I will take any job – seriously any job at all. Towards the end, I was virtually screaming at them through emails.
At one point, I decided for a few weeks that it would simply be better to sleep outside under a bridge, and just use my friend’s place as somewhere I could keep my things for a while. That’s how much I wanted to get away from this situation. But after a week and a half of living outside, I became terribly sick, and had to go back into her place to recover.
There was one shelter that offered people a bed to sleep in if they put in 3 full working days as a volunteer. I decided to ask if I could work there. I would be working completely for free, with the same hours as a full time job, just for a place to set my things down and a space to sleep after some time. But when I applied, I was turned away. They didn’t want me. No positions were open, even for someone who was willing to work completely for free.
I cried the entire way back to her place, and continued crying for most of the day. When she came back after work, I would have to give her what she wanted. I had no choice. It was that, or be homeless.
Finally there came the day when I really just … couldn’t. I was just too disgusted by having to do it again.
Two weeks later, my things were packed, and I was told to get out.
Because I couldn’t carry all of my things with me, I had to leave most of them on the sidewalk, with nowhere to put them. Several very precious things were lost, and I would never see them again.
This experience was traumatizing. And I don’t just mean it hurt me, I mean it changed me. Even recounting it here has made me want to cry. It was an extremely, exceptionally hard time, but I somehow got through it. I had to endure that relationship, where I was forced to have sex, and I lost my most precious belongings when I finally couldn’t anymore. But I survived.
Shortly thereafter, I had a discussion with a friend who was blaming things on “rape culture”. I wanted to understand what this was, so I began researching and learning all I could. And I learned a lot.
I learned that in surviving and recovery, every person’s journey is their own, and no one has to follow a particular path, but there are a few principles that always remain true in every case.
Consider the philosophy and narratives people create over this, because here is a point where they really prove to be useful. Here, I have a choice; I get to choose how this story gets told, and I get to choose who I become as a result. Healing doesn’t happen overnight, but healing does happen. I can still become the person I want to be. I refuse to let tragedy define me. One day at a time, I put one foot in front of the other, and steadily move forward.
I don’t spend my time hating the person who forced me to do those things. I don’t go through my day crediting her or anyone else for the misfortunes I encounter under the banner of “It wouldn’t have happened, if not for that”. I decide who I am, who I will be, virtues I follow, and what beliefs I have. This requires a fantastic amount of personal dedication, and it may not be possible or even necessary for someone to let go of hate or resentment all at once. It can also seem more attractive to begin following a narrative that can be built upon these feelings of resentment, and help validate them. That can be exceptionally hard to depart from.
But in regards to the views that I steadfastly disallow to be changed by adversity, primary among them, and in particular relevance to this subject, is my view of justice. This is perhaps the closest I will come to unwavering conviction, and I will explain that now. The following is adapted from AronRa’s “Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism” series (search for it on youtube).
Innocent Until Proven Guilty
Lets say I saw a dinosaur.
(Well that’s certainly a change of gears.) That’s right. A dinosaur. Walking down the streets of downtown Portland.
I walk up to him. I can see him with my own eyes. I can hear the low rumble of his growl. He’s HUGE. I touch him. I feel with my fingertips the skin on his hind leg, and am overwhelmed. I wonder why he doesn’t turn around and eat me!
I run in to get my camera – but when I come out – he’s gone. Disappeared. Vanished.
Over the next several weeks, I talk to everyone I can find, and ask them if they saw anything. Nobody did. There’s no footprints either. No evidence that the dinosaur was ever there.
Thankfully we live in a country where I have a constitutional right to believe whatever I want to believe, no matter how weird, strange, or bizarre it might be. But what if I wasn’t satisfied with what *I* believe? What if I insisted that YOU believe it too??? Would that be fair? I’m clearly passionate about my claim. I saw what I saw! I KNOW the dinosaur was there! I touched it – hell I even SMELLED it!!! I can’t explain how it disappeared, but it was here I tell you!!! IT WAS!!!
You might placate me. “Okay honey, I believe you.” (although you really don’t, because I’m clearly out of my mind to believe a dinosaur could be in downtown Portland and nobody else saw it).
But what if I took it even further than that? What if I said I know I saw a dinosaur. I also know what he wants. What he likes. What he doesn’t like. And where he wants you to go on Sunday afternoon! If I say it’s religion, for some reason I get a free pass, and maybe all this is still somehow harmless. But what if I then said the dinosaur wants someone punished? Then what?
Let’s back up for a moment. Maybe my claim isn’t entirely without merit.
A week later, we meet the animatronics expert, who just happened to be in town, and testing out a multimillion dollar project that involves a mechanized walking T-Rex, which at the push of a button, can deconstruct itself into something as small as a box that can be placed behind a tree.
But does that mean every claim everywhere all the time has merit? Did you really have any reason to believe my claim before you knew all the facts?
John Locke and David Hume were pioneers in the modern philosophy of thought that is embodied in our constitution, and among the things they touched on was that you cannot prove a negative. That is, you can’t prove that the dinosaur DOESN’T exist. So what do you do when you encounter a claim that something does exist? You can’t prove that it doesn’t! So then what? Accept every single thing you ever get told as a “might be”?
The default assumption to every claim is a negative until the assertion comes with evidence – and the burden of proof is always on the person who makes the claim.
This is the reason why a person is “innocent until proven guilty”. That isn’t a cute line someone thought would be pleasant to add to our justice system. It is the base philosophy underlying all human experience.
How can you know you exist? How do you know you’re not a brain in a vat, experiencing a computer simulated world? Let’s tone it down a notch and use something tangible and readily testable; a glass of water.
You hold up a glass of water, and show it to a friend. She confirms it’s a glass of water. You show it to me – yup, looks, tastes, and acts like water. Every person you show it to confirms the same conclusion. This means the idea that the glass of water exists is independently verifiable. It might still not be water! But that’s okay, because absolute proof exists only in mathematics. An “overwhelming preponderance of the evidence that suggests only one possible conclusion” is the legal definition of “proof”.
If someone is accused of committing a murder – how do I know that?
“Well there was a knife in this person’s back” – Okay, but could someone else have stabbed him?
“We have eye witnesses” – Okay, but could they be wrong? Maybe another person looks just like the accused?
“We have finger prints” – Okay, but is it possible the knife was stolen from the home of the accused and used by someone else?
“The accused hated the victim” – Okay, but hating someone doesn’t mean you killed them.
You might recognize this. It looks exactly like the Socratic Method. In the court of law, absolutely positively every last single strain of evidence is brought before everyone, and examined from every angle. Every witness is called to the stand. Everyone is cross-examined. Everyone gets a chance to speak. Do you see why? Because we have to make absolutely certain we have the right person, and that the crime happened the way the prosecution claims! Thankfully, forensics technology has increased to the point where we can do some very astonishing things in catching real criminals who really commit murder.
And thankfully – because we cannot know for certain if the accused actually committed the murder, the accused is “innocent until proven guilty”.
That same thing is true if he’s accused of stealing something. We can’t know he stole it, he must remain innocent until we can try him for the crime and look at the evidence.
Same thing is true if he’s committed grand larceny, arson, money laundering, or a terrorist act. It’s wrong, and it’s racist, to assume that just because someone is Muslims, that he must have committed a terror attack. That’s bullshit, and I feel a great deal of motivation to defend such people. He might still have committed the attack! I could be defending a terrorist! But justice does not work that way. We can’t know one way or the other at the start, and so the default is a negative until the assertion comes with evidence, and for that reason, he is innocent until proven guilty.
…………………………. he’s accused of rape.
Then, and only then, for whatever reason, the same due process that exists for every other crime known to man is set aside.
The reason why we burned witches at the Salem Witch Trials is because this due process did not exist. The accusation that you were a witch was enough for you to be guilty. Especially when you had someone claiming you were magically biting them from across the room. It doesn’t matter that this person, making up this claim, knows that you will be burned alive, because that apparently doesn’t bother them. They’re still accusing you, and they’re still standing there, across the room, going “Ouw ouw ouw!!! She’s biting me! Make her stop!!!”
The reason we don’t have this bullshit anymore is because of due process. We put people on trial. They remain innocent until proven guilty.
The way the media and the public treats accused rapist show that the accusation of rape actually supersedes the entire foundational principle that our entire justice system is founded upon. The accusation is taken so seriously that the word and a point of a finger is all it takes to utterly destroy a person’s character.
How Is This “Trivializing” and “Condoning”?
Recently, Bill Cosby has been accused of rape. The man’s reputation, 40 years in the making, is now tarnished in a way that can never, ever be repaired. Even if he’s taking to court, tried, and found innocent – he will still be a rapist in the minds of many, and no one can ever look at him or his legacy in the same way again. If he were accused of absolutely anything else, his status in the public eye would be put on probation until a trial was held, and then change according to the findings of an investigation and subsequent sentencing. But because it’s rape, he’s now a rapist. The crime is so serious, that the accusation is all it takes.
On top of that, with every other felony on the books, there are “degrees” in which the crime can be committed. These are levels of severity. For murder, we have 1st degree, 2nd degree, 3rd – degree – and if murder happened by total accident, it’s “manslaughter”. For theft, we have larceny, grand larceny, money laundering, and so on. We judge each of these crimes individually, based on their individual merits, and take into account all extraneous information as well, such as the history of the accused, what their life is like, whether they committed the crime while under extreme duress, and so on. But for some reason this doesn’t hold true in the public eye with rape. It is perhaps the only crime – again, taken so seriously – that degrees don’t matter. We don’t say things like “murder is murder – degrees don’t matter”, but we do say that about rape. This again is the exact and precise opposite of “a culture that trivializes and condones rape”.
There was very recently an article concerning rape accusations at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania. You can see the article here: http://www.thenation.com/blog/190897/why–aresome–colleges–still–blaming–victims–sexual–assaultcases?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=headline_nation&utm_campaign=Headline%20Nation%202014–11–21&newsletter=headline_nation
Check out the title of the article: “Why Are Some Colleges Still Blaming the Victims of Sexual Assault Cases”. In the article is the following quote from the president of the university, Robert Jennings, which is presented as follows:
“We have, we had, on this campus last semester three cases of young women who after having done whatever they did with young men and then it didn’t turn out the way they wanted it to turn out, guess what they did? They then went to Public Safety and said, ‘He raped me.’”
First, we don’t know anything about those cases, or the current case at hand. There is not enough information presented from this comment alone to draw any conclusions. I did a google search, and found that at the time this story was published, none of the cases had gone to trial.
Still, the president’s comments do seem rather callus, do they not? Even if nothing has been proven one way or the other, it’s still very abrasive, and he comes off as an uncaring jerk, considering what the victims might have been through. The accused is always innocent until proven guilty, but then it’s also unfair to call the accused a bunch of lying opportunist until the case has been resolved.
Except, here’s what the president actually said, without being quote-mined:
From the link:
[We] had on this campus last semester three cases of young women, who after having done whatever they did with the young men, and then it didn’t turn out the way they wanted it to turn out, guess what they did? They then went to Public Safety and said, “He raped me.” So then we have to do an investigation. We have to start pulling back the layers and asking all kinds of questions. And when we start trying to collect the data and ask the questions — and why do we do that? Because we know that possibly somebody’s life is getting ready to change for the rest of their life. Because there’s no more serious accusation.
Strange how this wasn’t included in the first article. It’s almost like they were deliberately leaving out certain parts of the story to help cater to a particular social viewpoint and make the whole thing seem even more outrageous.
The president of the university was forced to resign after making this comment. Because if you do not show absolutely 100% enthusiasm towards condemning the accused, and dare mention due process at any point, then you’re a monster. A person is not ever automatically guilty just because he’s been accused. It just does not work like that – but even mentioning that foundational principle of justice is unacceptable in the presence of this one and only accusation. Our culture treats rape with such an ultra-nationalist religious-extremist hair-trigger reactionary flag waving fury, that once accused, even daring to mention the possibility of innocence can end your entire career. To say there’s a “rape culture” while this is happening reminds me of the dystopian novel 1984, where War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength. Big Sister is watching.
Here’s another example:
This happened right here in Oregon. Three young men had their entire lives ruined, over an accusation of rape. There wasn’t evidence enough to even go to trial, much less convict them. Eye witness accounts of the incident by third parties even confirmed that there didn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary.
No evidence, no proof, no trial. Accused by a girl who met them at a crowded party… and now they’re treated like criminals.
This happens way too many times. It happened to me. I feel serious motivation to actually do something when this happens. I’ve also been forced / coerced into having sex, so I know how both sides feel.
Is rape horrible? – yes
Does it happen? – yes
Should we stop it? – yes
Should we spend all our efforts ensuring the public is educated as a preventative measure? – yes
Should rapist be put on trial? – yes
If convicted, should rapist be locked in prison and punished severely? – yes
Should people accused of rape be treated as though they are guilty? – NO!
But it happens.
Should the simple act of being accused of rape cause you to lose your scholarships, your tuition, your career, your future, and ruin your good name, when NO OTHER CRIME causes this to happen? – NO!
But it happens.
Should the idea of “rape culture” be used to help justify circumventing the entire justice system, ignoring all due process, and just assuming men accused of rape are rapist? – NO!
And this is what drives me up the wall.
By saying there is no rape culture, I am not saying there is no rape. I am not saying rape is not horrible and shouldn’t be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Nowhere in any of my writings do I even slightly HINT at such a thing. This goes back to my problem with the anti-vaccine proponents, and how any effort on my part to present evidence against their position automatically – every time – means I don’t care about their children.