India, land of bride burnings, has more progressive rape laws than we do. Surprise!

Apparently, the Indian Supreme Court has decided that a victim’s testimony is sufficient to convict a rapist and that no further corroboration should be required. From now on Indian women who have been raped will (supposedly) not have to prove that they broke a constant legal state of consent when they go to court. The Indian Supreme Court, you see, has decided that the trauma involved in going through the investigation and trial will most likely weed out any false accusations. There must not be any MRAs in India. From the article:

“She would be conscious of the danger of being ostracised by society and when in the face of these factors the crime is brought to light, there is an inbuilt assurance that the charge is genuine rather than fabricated,” the bench said.

It also said that the deposition of a rape victim must enjoy the same level of court’s confidence that the testimony of an injured person enjoys about the physical assault.

The bench held that even if a court is not able to believe the deposition of a rape victim, it should at best seek some evidence to assure itself of the deposition, instead of seeking independent corroboration.

You hear that? In India they afford rape victims’ testimony the same weight they give to that of assault victims. What a revolutionary idea.

I know India is a vastly different country than the US, and I know that there are serious social and financial consequences attached to admitting (Hear that? ADMITTING!) to having been raped, since doing so means admitting one is not a virgin (that such a thing is a concern is a problem in and of itself), but I find the legal reasoning behind this decision to be of interest considering the fact that in our own legal system 6% or less of rapes end with the rapist receiving any punishment.

I suppose I’ll start calling India a feminist utopia when we no longer hear of bride burnings, sati, dowries, and the fact that women are ostracized for having “lost their virginity” by being raped, but, on a few fronts, they’re still making us look bad.


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Motherfucker

I’ve had a few commenters balk at the suggestion (which I hadn’t made) that men can’t be feminists. I have yet to really weigh in on the subject because a) there are very few men who try to identify as feminists, and b) I never really gave a shit. That last one changed today.

I once discussed the idea of male feminists with a friend, and he agreed with my suggestion that men who call themselves feminists are a little weird. He’s as feminist as a dude can be without arousing my suspicion. What does that mean? He thinks a lot about gender issues, he recognizes male privilege and misogyny when he sees their manifestations, he’s open to discussing and considering anything having to do with gender (no matter how seemingly bizarre — Deuce’s Law arose out of a discussion with him), and he calls out the overtly and implicitly sexist behavior and assumptions of the people he talks to. He even asks people to reconsider their belief that there’s no harm in watching a little porn. He does not, however, call himself a feminist, nor does he try to tell me or anyone else what feminism is or should be about (though he’s not afraid to argue with me if he thinks I’m advancing something that doesn’t make sense). I’d call dudes like this cool.

Then there are the dudes who will agree with everything I say about the subject, deferring to any opinion I might express on gender issues because they’re not confident enough in their intellectual positions to be sure that any objections they may have aren’t arising from some sort of residual undetected male privilege (that’s fine — it’s vastly better than being a presumptuous boor). They make a point of discussing feminism and gender issues with people, and they are generally a benefit to the cause as they tend to be thoughtful dudes who people will listen to. These types may call themselves allies, sympathizers, or even feminists (though most of them, having read arguments that men cannot actually be feminists, would probably hesitate to appropriate that label). I’d call dudes like this allies of the movement.

I know a few dudes who are for the most part good guys who are sympathetic to the cause, but who will argue with me about some of my more radical opinions, not because my opinions don’t make sense, but because the implications of my opinions make them uncomfortable. I’d call dudes like this sympathizers.

There’s another type, though. There are dudes who call themselves feminists or feminist advocates and who argue vociferously for what they think are feminist causes, who attempt to place themselves at the center of the movement and to speak for women as “protectors.” I’d call dudes like this assholes.

Kyle Payne is an asshole. Feminists may sometimes overlook the little red flags in the writings of guys like Kyle Payne. We’re happy to have men on board, happy to have a few agents on the inside to help us out, because we know that there are some men who will never listen to us but might listen to a fellow dude. We overlook the warning signs and assume these guys are allies, taking whatever crumbs we can get from the beneficiaries of patriarchy, who we ultimately know we will need in order to succeed. I’m embarrassed to even type that.

I had Kyle Payne on my blogroll until today, when Genevieve, one of my frequent commenters, sent me an e-mail tipping me off to the fact that he’d been charged with possession of child pornography and sexual assault and has admitted to the assault. He was an RA at the school he went to, Buena Vista University, and apparently took advantage of a drunk girl, taking photos of himself assaulting her while she was passed out.  A college RA accused of taking advantage of a passed out girl? Shocking, I know. But this one was a FEMINIST ACTIVIST. He has a “radical feminist” blog. He’s been linked to by several of the radical feminist bloggers I respect most.

I’ll admit, I barely read half a post on his site before I linked to him. I’m busy, I’m lazy, and I fucked up. I was so excited to find a radical feminist blog written by a dude that I forgot to turn on my asshole meter. Now that I look back at his site, it’s tremendously obvious that he’s a self-important blowhard. If I was more careful, if I had read the fucking about page, I’d have noticed that he seems more concerned with aggrandizing himself than with women’s lives. His incessant references to himself as an “activist” and an “advocate” for women should have tipped me off to the fact that there was something beyond empathy motivating this guy. Had I noticed the tack he was taking, I might have picked up on the fact that he had ulterior motives or that there was something wrong with him. That he calls himself an advocate for women should have told me something about his attitude toward us. Fuck, if I had paid more attention I’d have seen that he’s a horrible writer, a trait I cannot abide. I’ll be more careful in the future.

Maybe the guy got into feminism as a result of his extreme guilt over doing something he knew was wrong. Maybe he’s like the gay preacher who rails against gays because he hates himself. I don’t really give a fuck. All I know is that I allowed myself to be taken in by a dude claiming to be an “advocate” for the feminist movement who turned out to be a fucking pervert, and that I’m now questioning the motives of every self-proclaimed male feminist in the world. This villainous motherfucker used one of the things I hold most dear in the world as a cover, as a tool, as a way to connive his way into women’s lives and as a way to wield power over vulnerable women. He used the name of a movement designed to free women from the abuses men perpetrate against us to control and manipulate women, and to deflect suspicion from himself because he’s a motherfucking miscreant who hurts women and uses images of women and children being hurt for sexual enjoyment. He used a position of authority to abuse a helpless woman, all while claiming to be a fucking advocate for purportedly helpless women. FUCK Kyle Payne and the horse he rode in on.

Why do men need to be directly involved in feminist activism? Why do men need to participate in the formulation of feminist theory? Can a man be a “feminist” activist without some kind of hidden selfish agenda? Why do men need to be allowed to call themselves feminists? Why do I need to be forced to trust men’s motives (against my better judgment) when they want to be a part of the movement or fear being accused of exclusionism? Why can’t these motherfuckers let a movement exist without trying to insinuate themselves into a leadership role within it? Where do they get the idea that we need their goddamned advice?

Even the most well-meaning of men who call themselves feminists evince some pretty strange assumptions. Men know we need them to get on board with our cause in order to get anywhere, and they come to our discussions with that in mind. And it always shows. I don’t know how fair it is of me to expect men to completely do away with a lifetime of gender conditioning, but I frankly don’t want to hear men’s opinions on feminism until they’ve confronted or are at least willing to confront their own gender issues, and even then I don’t want to hear their opinions on what feminism’s goals should be. Men can learn from feminists, they can discuss things with us, they can disagree with us, and they can fight with us. What they can’t do is tell us what our movement is about or take a leadership role within it. I know that this is hard for some of these guys to deal with, but it’s a fact: we don’t need male leadership or guidance. Know what else we don’t need? Your fucking advocacy. An advocate speaks on behalf of those who can’t speak for themselves. I can speak for myself, and I can do so with much more accuracy and style than Kyle Payne or any other dude.

Here’s what all this means: I’m not praising or associating with men who presume to call themselves feminists anymore, and I’m going to be looking at men who come to this site with a bit more jaundice in my eye. You can be down with my cause, you can think sexism sucks, you can do your part to combat it, but you can’t be a feminist. You don’t get to take on my movement’s label or represent me. Quit being such a presumptuous pud, shut your fucking mouth, and learn something, then go tell other men what you’ve learned. Argue with me if you want to, but only if you’re willing to consider the possibility that you might be wrong. If you aren’t, I’ll concede, but if you are, be ready to admit it or go fuck yourself. If you want to write a “feminist” blog, write one about how you are taking concrete measures to confront sexism in your daily life, write one about what you’ve learned from feminists, but don’t write one telling me what feminism is about, because you don’t know. If you want to do something to help out the cause, examine your own assumptions, think about what society has taught you about gender and about women, and change what you think needs changing, then be an example to other men. Treat women like human beings and tell other men they should, too. You can be a force for good, but you can’t be in charge, and you aren’t getting hired as a consultant. We don’t need your bullshit advice. Take it or leave it.

I suggest that Kyle Payne ought to get the fuck off the internet. He claims he cares about women, about the feminist movement, and about rape victims. That his blog continues to exist is an affront to all three. He ought to have the decency to disappear. If you want to tell him so, I got your back. I already did.

* See a few other takes on the case from Pisaquaririse, belledame, and Renegade Evolution.

** If you are on his blogroll and want off, you’ll have to tell him so. It took me four nasty comments to get him to remove me.


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Calculating risk: Should we avoid men?

Allecto has a post up that has gotten me to thinking. I used to watch To Catch A Predator with a friend, and we often speculated about the general male population and what percentage of them might be the kinds of guys we saw on the show. We came up with a 25-10-5 percent scheme, in which we surmised that 25% of men, if they were presented with the opportunity and were reasonably sure they wouldn’t get caught, would have sex with an adolescent girl, that 10% of men were one life crisis away from getting on the internet to seek out an adolescent girl to have sex with, and that 5% of men are currently on the internet seeking such. Real scientists, I know. We then went to Central Park and watched men walk by, trying to decide if they were 25, 10, or 5 percenters (not capital F, capital P Five Percenters). I admit that the whole thing was more about our own warped idea of humor than anything else, but I’ve started giving it more serious thought recently.

I’m generally not afraid of dudes, but I’m a 30-year-old woman at this point and I have yet to be mugged (I’m sure I’m up soon). That might be because I try to avoid getting into situations in which men can harm me, meaning I don’t hang out alone with dudes I don’t know very well. But I can think of about a zillion examples of times when dudes’ behavior has frightened me, whether harm came of it or not, and I’m generally more likely to feel threatened by men’s weird behavior than women’s.

I can already predict that there will be men who take offense to my bringing this subject up, but I’m going to have to ask them to calm down and think about what I’m saying, which is not that all men are dangerous, just that men are statistically more likely to be than women, especially toward women. I’m not arguing for any specific course of action, or for anything really, but rather exploring the idea of how we can know just how many men are dangerous, how we can figure out how to avoid the danger that some men pose, and what kinds of precautions are necessary and/or reasonable to take.

I know I often say that women shouldn’t have to alter our behavior to avoid being hurt by men, but I’m aware enough of how things work to know that, for now at least, that’s wishful thinking. Until the whole world listens to me and we raise an entire generation of people who treat each other like human beings, thus creating ourselves a little Nine Deuce-topia, I’d like to come up with a risk assessment and minimization plan.

What percentage of men are dangerous? Could it really be as high as 25%? More? How do we formulate such a statistic? We’d first have to figure out what “dangerous” means. I’d say it ought to include sexual predators of all stripes (and that includes men who coerce sex), domestic abusers, and men who are generally violent and abusive. How do we figure out, then, how many men have one or more of these tendencies? The only way I can think of to even attempt to get at such a figure would be through crime statistics, which would give us a very low figure that wouldn’t take into account all of the unpunished abuses that occur. We could use whatever logarithm government agencies use to figure out how many more crimes take place than are reported, but I still think that’d leave us with a lowball because a lot of abusive behavior exists in the “gray area” that the law can’t (or — more accurately — won’t) deal with (verbal abuse, sexual assaults that don’t leave evidence, etc.). Of course, not all men who pose a risk will abuse in all circumstances, so I guess we’d also have to figure out what kinds of men are dangerous in what kinds of situations.

I’ve gotten a lot of grief lately from people who think my rape law suggestions make the assumption that all men are rapists, but I’ve never made such a claim. I know not all men are rapists because I happen to know at least 5 that I hang out with regularly that have never raped anyone. I DON’T HATE MEN. I think most men are assholes (fuck, I think most women are assholes), but I don’t hate all of them. I honestly don’t really hate anybody (except maybe Diablo Cody and Chris Martin). This isn’t a discussion of whether men are evil, it’s a discussion of mathematical probabilities.  Just based on my own life experiences, I’d say that at least 1/4 of dudes (out of the probably thousands I’ve met) have had the potential to be threatening and/or aggressive enough to be considered abusive. Not good odds.

Could a quarter or more of men pose a potential risk to vulnerable women and children? If so, is it really all that unreasonable to avoid strange men or to avoid leaving children alone with men? Everyone has probably heard about airlines instituting policies in which single men will not be seated next to unaccompanied minors on planes. Is that unfair? I suppose if I were a dude who wasn’t dangerous it might bother me, might make me feel like I was being looked askance at. It might make me feel like I was being accused of something I didn’t do. It might feel like I was… a black guy or something. But is that really more important than women and childrens’ safety?

Like I said, I’m just sort of wondering aloud how we’d ever be able to calculate what kind of risk exists and figure out how to protect ourselves. Does someone with a more scientific education than I’ve got have any ideas?


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What about the poor rapists?

From the Cry Me A River Department, I’ve just heard that a Georgia Tech football player, Jerrard Tarrant (could we get a few more r’s in there, buddy?), has been accused of rape and that people who give a shit about college football think it isn’t fair. Somebody call the wahmbulance.

You might ask how I, a sports-hating media-avoider, heard about a case such as this.  I mean, among what I assume are the thousands of cases of athletes who have been accused of rape, how did I hear about this one? I was driving down Ponce de Leon here in Atlanta, minding my own business, when I ran headfirst into the most egregious example of misogyny I’ve seen since, like, at least two days ago. I turned on some FM radio station in an attempt to avoid listening to Sean Hannity or whatever super-obscure band’s CD that Davetavius had left in the CD player, and I came across a talk radio show in which two people, a man and a woman, were discussing the case.

They weren’t discussing the details of what had happened, the problem of college and professional athletes’ extreme egotism and disregard for the law, or the difficulty a rape victim faces when her attacker happens to be (somewhat/a little/locally) famous. They were talking about how shitty the whole thing must be for poor Mr. Tarrant. That’s right.

They spent probably a half an hour discussing the different aspects of how unfair the whole thing was to Tarrant and not one second discussing the fate of the accuser. First they talked about how unfortunate it was that Tarrant, some kind of big deal or other as far as football goes, would be suspended for an entire season. It would suck for him because it’s coming right in the middle of his rise to college football stardom, and it would suck for Georgia Tech because it’d put their team at a disadvantage this season. They also pointed out that it would make Georgia Tech look bad in comparison to Georgia, because I guess Georgia’s had their fair share of scandals involving Natural Ice-saturated ‘roid monkey players tearing up bars, kicking people’s asses, raping people, and stealing shit, and there’s some sort of rivalry going on between the two schools over that and whatever other bullshit makes people who didn’t go to college give a fuck about one school or another. I know people in the South are a little fruity about their college football, but is the most important thing here really whether or not a team has to make do without one of its players for a season? Guess so.

These two radio dildoes then began to wonder aloud what it must feel like to be Mr. Tarrant. The poor guy has to go to class with a bunch of people who know he’s been accused of rape. Aw, that really sucks, man. (Wait, why the fuck hasn’t he been suspended from classes at the school?) The radio hosts didn’t wonder what it might be like for the victim, who has, you know, been raped and all, and who has to go to school on a campus where people are more concerned with football stats than women’s human rights. If these two local radio “personalities” are any indication, I’d be a little more likely to worry about the victim suffering harassment and dirty looks than Tarrant. They were also worried about his future, because once these charges are dismissed (and they will be dismissed, you know), people will always remember him as the guy who got falsely accused of rape. John Bender was right, the world is an imperfect place.

They stopped just short of suggesting that men accused of rape deserve the same anonymity the courts pretend to guarantee for victims, although it was implied in a fairly heavy-handed fashion. I’m serious.

I personally don’t give a fuck, flying or not, about whether this woman’s story is true. What I do care about is the fact that these assholes on this radio program, one of whom was female (I just learned what “kapo” means – think I can call her one?), are operating under the assumption that the accusation is false. As in, a conviction would surprise these two like Milli Vanilli putting out another album or Eric Nies making a comeback would surprise me (I really want all three to happen).

As much as I try to avoid hearing or talking about anything having to do with the sensational crime case du jour, I have had to suffer through ignorant discussions of the Duke rape case. I’ve also been forced to hear a bunch of MRA bullshit about the Kobe Bryant case. Two cases in which rape charges failed to stick, one a bit of an embarrassment, the other a fucking travesty (I bet you have to think for a second about which of them I’m referring to with which noun). TWO. And sports talk radio knobs everywhere go on to assume that any woman accusing any athlete of rape is full of shit.

Well, guess what, assholes? Kobe Bryant did it. He’s gotten away with rape on several occasions in other countries by paying off or intimidating victims and their families, and he managed to do so here as well by hiring legal assassins to make the victim out to be a slut.

That’s how it works. People who have money and status get away with rape, and our culture’s tendency toward idolatry makes certain that athletes have plenty of both. The coaches, fans, and sporting media, all of whom are personally and/or financially invested in the success of “their” teams, all do their part to make sure that the general population (and the jury pool) know where their sympathies ought to lie, and the net result is that athletes get away with rape even more often than rapists who don’t wear protective undergarments do. Don’t believe me? Read this.

There’s no other way to say it: we as a culture care more about sports than a woman’s right to not be raped. Remember that shit. Write it down. Whether Georgia Tech wins a game or two this year matters more than whether or not you get raped.

I don’t want to get down on the South. I mean, I just saw a guy ride by on a motorcycle with a lot of chrome flames on it and its own sound system blaring a song I’d only expect to hear at around 3 AM at a gay dance club. It’s funny here. I kinda like it. But I don’t know whether the reaction to this case would be quite as counter-intuitive, counter-ethical, counter-logical, or counter-sane in another part of the country.  I know that sports obsession has allowed rapists to go unpunished nationwide, but I think the emphasis on college sports in this region might just work in Tarrant’s favor with the judges, prosecutors, and juries he may face to an even greater extent than it might elsewhere.

And people wonder why I don’t have a lot of good things to say about sports (that’s sports with a lower-case “s,” because I have plenty of good things to say about “Sports” by Huey Lewis and the News). Not only are team sports a training tool for creating jingoistic assholes who are incapable of independent thought, not only are they a huge waste of time, money, energy, skill, talent, and nachos, but they’re also yet another cultural institution that protects men who abuse women and who abuse the (totally flawed) legal system.


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Let’s talk some more about rape.

Every time I write about rape people freak out. I can honestly say that, as much time as I’ve spent thinking about rape and how to stop it, I never realized that rape was such a controversial subject (at least in the way I’ve come to discover). I never knew there were so many rape apologists (MRAs, regular dudes, even women) that would come over here and give me a bunch of shit for making the outrageous suggestion that we ought not to keep allowing rapes to go unpunished. I intended to show that our legal system doesn’t protect women from rape, but plenty of people missed that point, detoured by talk of castration and jettisoning the presumption of innocence. I see now that I should’ve written something much simpler and more obvious if I expected these 4Chan types to understand me.

Fine, then. Some people need a Fox News-style Outrage!(TM) in order to get a point, and I’ll deliver. In the lovely state of Kansas, where they still have analog gas pump readouts that only go up to $25, a 14-year-old girl has been raped. She was hanging out with three of her friends when two of them left the room and the third, a 13-year-old boy, raped her. She tried to deal with the situation on her own, but decided after about a month to tell a school counselor about it. The counselor told the cops, and guess what happened? The GIRL has been charged with “rape” and “criminal sodomy.” The age of consent in Kansas is 16 (yikes), but the state also has a law similar to that in California under which sex with someone under 14 is taken to be a more serious crime.

I don’t think I’d argue with the idea that someone who has sex with a child under 14 ought to face a stiffer penalty than an 18-year-old having consensual sex with a 16-year-old, but what the fuck? That isn’t what’s going on here. A 14-year-old girl goes to see her school counselor for help after having been raped, and SHE gets in trouble? There’s been no mention made of the boy having been charged with anything. I am assuming that the boy was charged and then denied that he raped the girl, claiming that the sex was consensual, which is to be expected, but is this prosecutor out of his fucking mind? The kid can mount a defense and can claim whatever he wants, but the idea that the prosecutor would charge a rape victim with a crime as a response to that defense is pretty fucking weird.

I know some of the Tom Leykis types will argue that maybe she did consent and only decided to call it rape once she felt some regret over the whole thing, but whatever. We have no way of ever knowing that, which I suppose means that the prosecutor can do little toward convicting the boy (remember that thing about the presumption of innocence working in favor of rapists and against victims?). But what is the value in charging the girl? The boy, according to all I’ve read about the story, has made no claim to having been forced or coerced into anything. While it may be true that the idea of consent by either of these two at such a young age is a bit of a joke, that doesn’t seem to have dampened the prosecutor’s enthusiasm for charging this girl with a crime that implies she took advantage of someone too young to consent, even though she’s only a few months older than he is. He has effectively chosen to ignore a forcible rape and to prosecute the victim for taking advantage of her rapist. Oh, the beauty of the American legal system.

What does this story say to the people who’ve heard about it (which includes every girl in the area it took place in, I’m sure)? First, it says that we have no idea how to deal with the issue of consent. When someone is under 16 in Kansas, they are unable to consent to sex, and so exist in a perpetual state of non-consent. All it takes for a rape to have been assumed to have occurred is the admission that intercourse took place. But that only applies if one of the participants was over 16. If they were both under 16, it’s all good. Unless, of course, one of them was under 14, in which case it’s not cool. Unless they’re both under 14. But if you step over the state line into Missouri, the age of consent goes up to 17. Apparently the kids in Kansas mature faster than those in Missouri. Good to know. The kids in California are immature as fuck, though, because they can’t consent until they’re 18. Schizophrenic, I know. But that’s not all. Once a person has reached whatever age of consent their state representatives have laid down, they go from a perpetual state of non-consent to a perpetual state of consent, meaning that once they pass 16, 17, or 18, they have to prove that they did not consent to a sex act in order for the person who forced them to submit to the act to be punished for doing so. Makes almost as much sense as Bush lyrics.

The second thing this case tells the girls of Kansas is that, if they ever get raped, they’d better think twice about reporting it to anyone, even if they need help dealing with the emotional effects of the attack. Rape victims everywhere already know that, if they report having been attacked, they’ll be called whores, be exposed to ridicule and slander, and be treated mercilessly in court, just in the hopes that their case will be one of the few cases that will be prosecuted or end in conviction. But now they’ve got the added fear of being charged with a crime if the prosecutor doesn’t like that they’ve reported having been assaulted. What the fuck is this, Afghanistan?

No wonder 60% of rapes go unreported. Even among those that are reported, only half of reported rapes lead to arrests, and of those, only 80% will be prosecuted. Of those that are prosecuted, only about half will result in conviction, with only 69% of those convicts getting any jail time. That means 16% of reported rapes end in jail time (and most sentences are pretty paltry), and that only 6% of rapists will ever see any jail time at all if we include unreported rapes. 15 in 16 rapists go free. What was the highest estimate for false rape claims? Like 7%? Suck on that, MRAs.

The third thing this law tells us is that our legal system is fucked. Not only do we have no way to determine consent and no method for convicting rapists, but we have no way to control prosecutorial bias. Here we have Ted Nugent prosecuting a case in which he’s decided, on his own, that the girl is lying and that she has victimized the boy. He’s clearly using his prosecutorial discretion and technicalities in the law to pursue some kind of agenda. (I wonder what kind of record he has when it comes to prosecuting rapes.) Rape victims are forced to reply on police, prosecutors, judges, and juries to take their claims seriously, to pursue their attackers, to prosecute them when they catch them, and to remove them from society in order to mitigate further damage. It’s too bad the people victims have to rely on aren’t very reliable when it comes to treating rape victims with dignity and respect, or even believing their stories.

The proverbial deck is proverbially stacked against rape victims. Victims are met with potential disbelief and disrespect at every stage of the process. The foundational concept of the presumption of innocence, coupled with prosecutorial, judicial, and juridical indifference to rape victims’ claims, has dumped us in a legal shitheap from which there doesn’t seem to be an escape. You may not agree that we should assume that defendants are guilty until they can prove otherwise, but you can’t claim that our current system protects women (or anyone, really) from rape. Deuce’s Law might be the only alternative. I’m just saying.


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How to End Rape: Deuce’s Law

Boy, was I conciliatory when I was younger. Either that or I was a realist. Or maybe I just wrote what I had to write to get an A. Whatever. I’m not conciliatory, realistic, or seeking a grade anymore, so I can now feel free to lay out a theoretical and hypothetical solution to the rape epidemic. If I had my choice, we’d do away with rape by changing our cultural attitudes toward gender, toward sex, toward power, toward everything, thereby creating a world in which rape could not possibly occur. That would most certainly be ideal, and I believe it’s possible, but I think it might take an awfully long time, and I’m ready for rape to stop right now. Rape and other forms of sexual violence are hate crimes and are among the most heinous manifestations of the misogyny that characterizes our culture. As such, eradicating rape, in my opinion, is one of the most pressing feminist issues. Our current laws are woefully ill-equipped to deal with rape, and I’ve devised a little thought experiment to illustrate that point and get people to thinking about possible solutions:

Deuce’s Law of 2008

  • Section 1: The presumption of innocence, as it is not specifically iterated anywhere in the Constitution, will not attach to sex crimes. Instead, all individuals will be presumed to exist in a state of non-consent, as per Twisty Faster v. Patriarchy, which will replace Coffin v. United States as precedent in determining burden of proof for sex crime cases. As such, defendants accused of sex crimes will bear the burden of proof, and will have to prove their innocence. There is a danger inherent in such a system that a few innocent men will be punished, and this is quite unfortunate. It is not, however, more unfortunate than men raping with impunity in epidemic proportions simply because their victims are unable to prove to a room full of misogynists that, despite the ridiculous presumption of a default state of consent, they did not consent to a sex act. Victims will decide whether a crime has occurred, and defendants will not. This might frighten men, some of whom will claim that women will use the law to punish men out of vengeance. That might happen once in awhile, but our job is to protect the largest number of people possible, and false rape accusations are about a hundredth as common as rapes that go unpunished.
  • Section 2: Rape will be broadly defined as intentionally taking advantage of a person’s physical or emotional vulnerabilities for sexual purposes, including creating fear in order to coerce a victim into performing or submitting to a sex act against her/his will. That includes fear of any kind, not just of violence. That’s right. Men will have to learn to have sex only with women who want to have sex with them, and will have to eschew high-pressure tactics, emotional and financial manipulation, as well as physical force if they want to avoid rape charges.
  • Section 3: Any defendant convicted of rape will be assumed to have proven he is incapable of responsibly exercising his sexuality in society. As such, the penalty for rape will be immediate and irreversible castration. If a weapon is used in the commission of the crime, or if the victim at any time during the crime feels that her/his life was in danger, the added penalty of life in prison without parole will attach. Prison sentences are to be served at specially-constructed facilities at which offenders will perform uncompensated labor in service of women and children. What such labor will consist of will be decided by the administrators of individual facilities, but the result of the offenders’ labor must meet two criteria: 1) it must provide tangible benefits for women and/or children, but 2) offenders shall not come into direct contact with any women or children at any time.
  • Section 4: Offenders may appeal their sentences one time only. Appeals must be made on grounds other than “women are emotional and unreasonable and so we shouldn’t let them define rape and decide who’s guilty.” Women, who have much less incentive to use sex as a weapon than men do, are much less likely to violate men’s rights through rape accusations than men are to violate women’s and children’s rights through rape. This is not up for debate, and is thus not sufficient grounds for appeal.

I’m pretty sure Deuce’s Law would bring us a dramatic reduction in rape, and most likely destroy the pornography industry and drastically curb sexual harassment (more on this later). Too bad men, even those with women and children under their care, will never submit to any sort of limits being placed on their sexuality (or, rather, their prerogative to use their sexuality as a weapon for controlling women), because this law would really work. It’s a shame they’re allowed to vote. They’re so hysterical and irrational about this sort of thing. Snarf snarf.

* Note: False rape charges are MUCH less common than rapes that go unpunished. Let’s say 1 in 100 rape charges is false (which is a VERY high estimate). Well, as it stands now, only 6% of rape cases ends in conviction. That means that of 100 rapes, 1 is false, 6 of the rapists are (often lightly) punished, and 93 go free. On balance, it seems that 1 innocent dude suffering is less of a problem than 93 rapists getting away with sexually abusing innocent women and children. Remember, I’m not talking about the death penalty here. Also, don’t you think, in the case of a false accusation, that almost anyone would recant before allowing an innocent person to be castrated? As it stands now, the legal system is asking us to trust men not to rape us, and they’re doing it anyway. If the legal system asked men to trust women not to have them castrated, I think it’d be more reasonable. Women are simply not as violent as men are. I know there are exceptions, but it’s a fact.

** Another note: credit is due to Davetavius for being one of the few dudes reasonable enough to think section 3 is a good idea, and for the conversations from which this post derived (though he would strenuously disagree with Section 1).

*** A final note: I’m not surprised or anything, but I’m getting some seriously gnarly comments about this. I suppose men don’t like to hear someone discuss treating them the way they’ve treated women throughout history. I wonder why? Anyway, if you’re thinking about commenting on this, have something to say or fuck off. I’m not posting bullshit insults, so if that’s what you’re planning to write, do one. Also, please read this before commenting as I’d rather not have to explain it.

**** And an even finaler note: Go look up the definition of satire. This post is meant to serve as a foil to our current legal system. I admit that it doesn’t provide men with safeguards against castration, but nor does our current system provide women with any against rape. Neither one is a satisfactory system. Stop bitching about this hypothetical and start coming up with a solution or go ahead and admit to being a rape apologist.


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The War on Terr’r Part 6: The Wiener as a Weapon (On Rape, Sexual Assault, and Patriarchy)

And by rape you know what I mean. A judge does not have to walk into this room and say that according to statute such and such these are the elements of proof. We’re talking about any kind of coerced sex, including sex coerced by poverty. You can’t have equality or tenderness or intimacy as long as there is rape, because rape means terror. It means that part of the population lives in a state of terror and pretends… that it doesn’t.

I am guessing that my astute readers will recognize that quote, but in case you didn’t, it was a portion of Andrea Dworkin’s speech, “I Want a Twenty-Four Hour Truce During Which There Is No Rape.” I am also guessing that a lot of you have been wondering why, in my War on Terr’r, I have yet to discuss the most significant form of terrorism that women face: sexual assault. I was saving the shock and awe for the endgame; the War on Terr’r is about to become an occupation, meaning I’ll still be fighting it but won’t necessarily want to say so all the time, and so this topic seems like a fitting one to address before I declare major combat operations over.

Let me start off by saying that I’m going to talk about patriarchy in this post, which I rarely do. I often find myself, when I think about things like rape being a tool of the patriarchy, feeling as if I have lost my mind because I can’t figure out how these things perpetuate themselves, can’t separate the chicken from the egg. I generally avoid referring to the patriarchy because I consider doing so taking a shortcut, but I have to here, despite my discomfort. The reason I avoid referring to the patriarchy is that it’s often an incomplete explanation. Yes, we live in one, but why does it continue to exist? Why does a ship with no one at its helm continue on the same course? Are rapists consciously trying to uphold a vast and oppressive social system when they act, or (more likely) are they taking out inchoate aggression on an individual victim? Are men who use pornography making a conscious choice to promote women’s subjugation in our society, or (more likely) are they allowing their selfishness to override their humanity for a few minutes at a time? All of the senses in which women are degraded and devalued in our society are related to each other, but why do they seem to dovetail so perfectly? How can something that seems pre-planned operate with no organizing force? Is the organizing force simply the hatred of women? If it is, then whence does that hatred come? This train of thought is circular, it goes nowhere, and it drives me up the fucking wall because I believe the only way to extirpate something is to find its root.

But let’s get to the point. Sexual assault is terrorism. Rape is terrorism. But who decides what sexual assault is? Who decides what rape is?

People seem to think Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s “I know it when I see it” guideline for identifying obscenity works with rape and sexual assault. We’ve all seen movies, or heard stories, from which we find out what a rape is “supposed” to look, sound, and feel like. Strange men in alleys with weapons rape, gangs of frat boys rape. Women walking alone after dark get raped, women who get too drunk in bars and at parties get raped, women who don’t learn to fear and avoid men they don’t know get raped. Rape is violent, loud, and unexpected, and it could be lurking around every corner.

What does that image of rape do in service of the patriarchy? It allows all but that very small proportion of rapists whose actions have threatened the patriarchy itself off the hook, and it does a fairly sound job of controlling women by making them afraid to venture out alone or overstep the bounds of acceptable female behavior (i.e., it’s an effective terrorist tactic).

It’s estimated that only 21% of women who report having been raped report that a stranger attacked them. Does that simply mean that for every 21 stranger rapes, there are 79 acquaintance rapes? I wish the numbers were that “low.” First, let’s remember that that’s 21% of reported rapes. Women are highly unlikely to report a rape in the first place, but they are even more unlikely to do so when their experience doesn’t match our cultural conception of what a rape is, especially once they see how acquaintance rape victims are treated by our justice system, media, and society in general. Spousal rape? Druggings? Forget it. Those have hardly even been deemed crimes yet. Rape, being the most serious form of sexual assault, is the most likely form of sexual assault to be taken seriously and to be prosecuted. It’s a fairly sad commentary on the progress women have made toward a safe, equitable relationship with men when even the most serious form of terrorism they face is often ignored.

Stranger rape threatens the patriarchy’s ownership of women’s and children’s bodies, and so women generally have men’s support when they find themselves victims of rape at the hands of a stranger, if you don’t take into account the fact that the rapist’s attorney will most likely be allowed to call the victim a lying whore in court (gee, thanks, guys). Acquaintance rape, including spousal rape, is a whole ‘nother story. Because of the way our legal system works, women are assumed to have consented to sex unless they can prove otherwise, which is a fucking travesty if there ever was one. Lack of consent in a stranger rape is easier to prove than in an acquaintance rape, but the onus is still on the woman to prove she did not give her consent. In the case of acquaintance rape, the victim usually has virtually no way of proving that she did not provide consent. Know what that amounts to? I don’t believe that most men think about this consciously and plan to take advantage of it, but it basically means that our culture and our legal system are telling men that women are available for raping, especially if you know them.

So, we have none but the most cursory of protections from our legal system. We’re the weak, men are the powerful, and the institution that promises the weak protection from the powerful is run by and for the powerful, which means it operates at the expense of the weak. Men decide what rape is, and men have decided that the only kinds of rape they will make any kind of serious effort to help us avoid are those that threaten their ownership over our sexuality. There it is, and my head feels like it’s going to explode; I doubt that any individual man would say, “Fuckin’ A right. The whole plan is to set up a system where I can rape anybody I want, but I can also put motherfuckers in jail who rape the women and children I’ve set aside for myself to rape,” but that’s nonetheless the way shit works.

Does rape, then, really amount to terrorism on the part of men aimed at using fear to manipulate women’s behavior? This is where things get very complicated and very contentious. It’s also where most anti-feminists get their straw men from. Andrea Dworkin has been accused of saying that all heterosexual sex is rape, and feminists are often accused of saying that all men are rapists. That ain’t the fucking deal. The deal is this: men know that women live in a precarious situation in this society, know that women are vulnerable and lack the protections and power they have, and some of them use that knowledge to their own advantage. That means, in concrete terms, that some men sexually abuse some women knowing that they can get away with it because women don’t have the power to fight back, don’t have the might or even the support of the justice system behind them, don’t have any other option but to acquiesce. That means that some men coerce women into having sex with them, some men take advantage of women’s fears to manipulate them into performing sex acts they do not want to perform, some men purposely create fear in the minds of women in order to get them to comply. Fear isn’t limited to the fear of violence: it includes the fear of being abandoned, the fear of financial destitution, the fear of being left to raise children alone, the fear of being mistreated in one’s own home, and so on.

Are we to differentiate coercion from actual physical force or the threat of violence? I don’t think so. I think that when a man uses fear to coerce a woman into having sex against her will, a rape has occurred. I’m not as radical in my view of heterosexual sex as some people are; I believe that consent is possible and that there is such a thing as un-coerced heterosexual sex. Maybe I have to believe that because I’m not a lesbian, but I still do believe it. Patriarchy places women in a position in which all of our choices are limited, but I think the intent of the people involved in a sex act is the crux of the question of whether a rape has occurred. Now, that doesn’t mean that I excuse the behavior of men who are so ignorant of their own privilege that they don’t understand that coercion is tantamount to rape. Rather, it means that I’m charitable, that, despite vast amounts of evidence to the contrary, I believe most men are human beings and that most of them don’t want to hurt us and don’t want us to do things we don’t want to do. It’s the men that, knowing we do not want to do something, use force, fear, or dishonesty to make us do it anyway that are the terrorists.

To recap, not all heterosexual sex is rape, but sex that has been coerced through the use of actual force or through fear (of violence, poverty, abandonment, etc.) is rape, and is thus a form of terrorism. Individual men are instruments of patriarchy, not its architects, but that does not remove their responsibility to acknowledge and address their own privilege, nor does it excuse their patriarchy-enforcing behavior.

Rape is meant to force women into boxes, to limit their actions, to remind them who’s the fucking boss, but it doesn’t always go as far as rape. Sexual assaults of any kind have the same effect. Let me tell you two stories.

When I was 11, I was walking home from school down Fulton Road, alone, when a white truck drove up on my left. The shitbag driving it slowed down, honked, and then raised his pelvis up so I could see through the window that he was having a wank, and then drove off. I was fucking TERRIFIED. I only knew one person who lived on that street, and she lived 1/2 mile away, and the entire street was fucking deserted. I was positive this motherfucker was going to come back and kidnap me and do who knows what to me in his fucking chicken shack or whatever. I went home and was too afraid to even tell my mom because I didn’t know how to explain what the guy had done. For months I refused to walk home on Fulton Road, opting instead for a potentially more dangerous route that was also much longer, and I never again walked down that road alone, even though I lived in that town for 10 more years.

When I was 16, I was at a party with some people I knew, and one of them had brought his friend, Eric. I sort of tertiarilly (I love coining words) knew Eric through the dude I was dating at the time. He was basically kind of an alpha-male asshole and was constantly doing shitty things to people that he got away with because people thought he was cooler than they were, and because that was how people who did shit on boards acted back then (and still do – I’ll be writing about the misogyny inherent in the skateboarding world shortly). Anyway, someone wanted to take some photos, and this motherfucker decided that he would get his dick out whenever he was in a photo with a girl, myself included. I don’t pretend to know what he thought the effect of doing that would be, but it scared every girl he did it to and made all of us quiet all night. It put us in a sort of tailspin because we didn’t know what was going on or what we had done, just that we had been disrespected and insulted and that his intent was to show us that he had the power turn us into victims, and so he was in charge.

These two incidents can be called sexual assaults. “Sexual assault” is a nebulous term because the patriarchy (in the guise of the justice system) gets to define it, but any act that is sexually aggressive in nature and is intended to create fear in the victim can be called a sexual assault in my book. (I don’t know that the law is even the appropriate way to deal with these sorts of incidents, anyway. I think these call for vigilantism. See my suggestions on dealing with sexual harassment.)

That’s what the wiener does for men who misuse it. I know I’ve got some readers who are into wieners (I’m still on the fence), but they can be and are used as weapons by terrorists. The wiener may be cute to some (I really don’t get you two, seriously), but it can also be used as a tool (!) of oppression against women who are seen as having transgressed whatever arbitrary role the penis owner has decided he would like to impose. Men can flash us, masturbate in front of us, or play stupid jokes on us and other men with their wieners, and the net effect is always the same: they’ve asserted power over us by creating fear in order to manipulate our behavior.

That means that all sexual assaults, up to and including rape, are acts of terrorism aimed at taking away our freedom as women and as human beings. That also means that the War on Terr’r won’t be over until Ms. Dworkin gets her wish, and not just for twenty-four hours.


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