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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » Dealing with Rape Apologists, Excusers, Enablers

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Author Topic: Dealing with Rape Apologists, Excusers, Enablers
Heather
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It's pretty much a given, any time someone publishes something visibly about rape that puts the blame where it belongs, that apologists will come out of the woodwork. Anyone who writes about these issues -- especially if we are female -- just has to get used to it, unfortunately.

Personally, this stuff gets my ire up for a minute, then it rolls off my back for the most part because I am used to it, even though I think it's vile. Men I barely know, if at all, calling me names or treating me like a little girl (or a scary hag) just doesn't carry much weight with me, even though it's obviously supposed to, because a lot of these perspectives seem to hinge on the fact that women are supposed to be very, very invested in what men think of us. : [Roll Eyes] :

But what doesn't roll off so easily, and which does trouble me, are people seeing that kind of commentary who aren't so resilient, or who do believe the kind of crap these folks say.

My instincts with these kinds of comments often tend to be very protective, to not show them or share them, but now and then, that feels patronizing (to those I want to be protective of), or unhelpful.

Today, RH Reality Check published a piece I did here coming from that kind of perspective, which, pretty much within minutes, has already garnered more of that kind of response: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2009/02/19/get-real-rape-is-not-her-fault

So, based on where YOU are at with your own process -- whether or not you're a survivior of any kind of sexual abuse -- how do YOU process this kind of sentiment? How does it leave you feeling? Does it make you second-guess yourself, or does it validate your understanding of rape not being the fault of victims more?

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KittenGoddess
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You know, reading this took me right back to my high school days. I attended a religious school where we had pretty strict dress codes for both genders. Every year, one of the male admins would gather all of the junior high & high school girls together and explain why we had to dress the way we did (nothing "tight", nothing "low cut", no midriff, skirts at least to the middle of the knee, no pants/shorts, socks or hose always, etc.). And the first reason they gave was ALWAYS that we needed to be "modest" (per their definition) so that we wouldn't cause the boys to become distracted or aroused. In no uncertain terms, we were told that it was our responsibility to make sure that they didn't see an errant knee showing (because yes, we all know that those sexy knees are a universal turn-on...whatever) and cause a boy to have an impure/sinful thought (again, per their definition). That conversation always made me throw up a little in my mouth. But it also always made me feel like I was dying a little inside. While I knew quite well that this was all a bunch of bunk...I also knew that there were a lot of other girls there who did not understand that. And I also knew that the boys got a similar talk (though notably their dress requirements had to do with "looking professional," not avoiding turning the girls on) where they were also told that our dress code was to keep girls from turning them on. Talk about carrying the weight and enabling the attitude...sheesh. It makes me feel angry and sick.

[ 02-20-2009, 12:24 PM: Message edited by: KittenGoddess ]

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Sarah Liz

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Heather
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I think it's pretty interesting that the most standard definition for modesty is simply freedom from vanity or conceit.

I'd note that entitlement is most certainly a conceit -- very apt when discussing notions that men have a right to women's bodies, and that it's up to women to both protect themselves and somehow control men -- and that vanity is not about people choosing to groom themselves to be expressive in however manner they dress.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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orca
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Heather, that Sexpert Advice article is actually one of my favorites. It's everything I wish I could say to those creeps, but can't ever get the words out right.

I find it so disturbing that the "excuses" those rape apologists will use often paint all men (since they use phrases like "what man could resist" or "no man could resist" or "any man would do the same") as sex-crazed, mindless animals incapable of rational thought. Don't they realize they are putting themselves (and all men) down when they say that? Don't they have any kind of self-respect?

I kind of wonder where the hell those kinds of people come from. How do they always seem to find articles that talk about rape from a realistic standpoint? Do they perform routine google searches to find them just so they can leave their nasty, hate-filled comments?

It's not too often that I've had to deal with hearing those statements in person. However, the times I have heard it have been pretty tough. The worst was when an adjunct professor (and lawyer, at that) went off on a rant about rape, how it was easier to prove in the early 1900s before consent, but now that we have consent you can't prove it was rape because the woman may have agreed and then gotten pissed off later and decided to call it rape.

When that adjunct said that, it made me feel embarrassed, stupid, naive, and like it was pointless to ever engage in the system. I never went to the cops about my ex, not even when he kept leaving threatening messages on my phone. At the time, I thought the cops wouldn't believe it because I'd been with him for three years. Hearing that from a lawyer, I thought that it was probably a good thing I didn't go to the cops or to court for a restraining order because they wouldn't have believed me and it would have just been a big ordeal and a waste of money that I don't have. It's hard enough when a classmate says it or when some idiot on TV says it, but when a lawyer/professor says it, someone who's supposed to be highly educated and help those in need, it really really hurts.

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Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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Heather
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quote:
I kind of wonder where the hell those kinds of people come from. How do they always seem to find articles that talk about rape from a realistic standpoint? Do they perform routine google searches to find them just so they can leave their nasty, hate-filled comments?
Because they look for them. But I think it's wise to remember that often, an empty barrel really does make the loudest noise.

Too, though, what they're drawn to has a lot to do with not only the content, but the tone. At this point in my life, and in my words in a piece like this, I don't need men to like me, I am not afraid of men or intimidated by them, I don't feel a need to treat them with any less directness than I do women. I don't want to court the favor of men by demonizing or discounting women, or making other women seem smaller in comparison to me. I have no problem voicing an anger or an injustice, and no problem at all treating men as grownups, not little kids, who I hold to some standards of responsibility.

THAT is usually the big stuff that will rattle rape apologists, because THAT is very, very scary stuff to most of them. And hell, if they are only deriving their power from sexism and oppression, it should be scary.

And it's sad as hell to see you show a pretty big example of what can happen when you're not in the position of...well, being so immune to this stuff, for whatever reason. You were made to feel powerless by what a man in a position of power said, and probably all the more so since no one called him out on it. The worst thing is, if he said something like that, he likely wanted the women in the room to feel that way.

But I agree, it puts men down, it puts women down, it puts everyone down. It holds everyone to very low standards and ways of being and living. It asks very little of people, and not everyone WANTS to live a life that limited, even people who manage to stay out of harm's way and will go through life without being assaulted or assaulting.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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orca
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I was the only person in the room at the time. I'd stayed after class to ask a question completely unrelated to rape; I'd asked about the proper way to write a brief on a case, and he used the example of a particular Supreme Court case concerning rape, then spouted off on that rant. Once he'd finished the rant, I said it was a topic I was not comfortable with and he apologized, but I just think a professor would have more sense than to say something so totally inappropriate to a student in the first place.

I'm more angry with myself for never saying anything to a college official or to one of the other faculty members. Had I said something to one of the faculty, I know certain ones would certainly have given me their support. But at the time, I figured it would be viewed as a "he said, she said" kind of deal, and usually the person in a position of power (him) wins in those instances. But I know that I'll be able to stand up to people like that someday, it'll just be a while. Do you have any tips on how to stand up to people like that? Especially when confronted by them in person?

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Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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atm1
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[edit: I was writing this while orca posted... so it's not at all a response to that. and btw orca, I'm terribly sorry that happened to you]

I also think that articles posted on the internet are more likely to draw those sorts of comments than the vast majority of real life interactions. People can be as mean and nasty and misogynistic as they'd like on the internet. They know we can't do anything about it, and that's part of why they do it--to provoke and make fun of those who dare defend women (or victims of sexual assault in general. I have a feeling these are often the types who'd say that male survivors must be gay to have "gotten themselves into that type of situation" and therefore "deserve"--because often the most misogynistic people are the most homophobic ones too. People who justify violence against one group are much more likely to justify it against another).

I've encountered a few people who've made the argument that a rape victim was to blame or "teased" a guy in person, and typically my response is pretty aggressive. If I'm not in a large group, one of the things that I tend to do is ask "Well have you ever felt [insert graphic description of what it feels like to be raped]? If not, you don't get to say a f***ing thing about it." Just like my response to "Well I don't know any woman who's been raped..." is always "You're standing right next to one."

I don't really know if this does more harm than good... often I just get angry and call people out intensely. Even if I don't affect they're thinking, they are definitely never going to say something like that around me again. The people who say things like that then tend to avoid me, because like Heather, treated men in a way that we're not "supposed" to treat them. Standing up to rape apologists scares them, I think, because they feel a need to be in control of women.

[ 02-20-2009, 03:59 PM: Message edited by: atm1 ]

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Heather
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quote:
Do you have any tips on how to stand up to people like that? Especially when confronted by them in person?
I keep a bumper sticker above the desk in my main office which reads "Speak your mind, even when your voice shakes."

That's actually a pretty important message for me. While I am very outspoken, and do tend to be pretty bold, I still sometimes have trouble with public speaking as well as speaking when in direct and immediate in-person conflict. Particularly when it's not with people I am in a close relationship with.

And so, your voice does shake: mine does, anyway, and I think it's even possible at times like those that it's audible. Last year, I had a very intense interaction with the abusive partner of one of our clients on the street who was very much completely in my face saying the kinds of things we tend to hear more online, as atm1 brought up. But there was this woman standing there, who was clearly not in a place to stand up for herself, who couldn't get this guy to go away, who I think very much needed to just once hear someone stand up to him and for her, and there I was, mad as hell and with a voice I could use. It was insanely tense and really quite scary in some ways, but I can't imagine not having done it, you know?

(That day, I was wearing steel-toed Docs. That may also help. [Smile] )

But for me, I find I just have to jump in and just do it. I know how scary it can be, especially in situations like that where it is a boss, a parent, a prof, someone who, in a hierarchy, is above you. But I tend to find that once I just open my mouth and get started -- and remember that line -- it gets a whole lot easier very quickly, and I always feel better when I have said something than I do when I have said nothing.

Takes practice, though, so I'd also strongly suggest being patient with oneself and not beating yourself up at the times you're just not there yet or don't feel able to find your voice.

[ 02-20-2009, 04:20 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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cool87
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Seriously, when I'm dealing with a rape apologist, I just try to ignore them and their comments.

I think a lot of those people are looking for attention (and that is not going to happen with me) and just enjoy when people get upset about what they're saying, I think that's what a lot are looking for, to make people react, to provoke them.

It frustrates me and makes me angry at times but I know that if I would say something and/or would try to correct them, they're probably not going to change either and I just risk them getting upset or angry at me which I don't want happening.

[ 02-20-2009, 07:35 PM: Message edited by: cool87 ]

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Goingcrazy
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Idk, but some people seem kind aren't all there.

[ 02-21-2009, 12:46 AM: Message edited by: Goingcrazy ]

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Mortality
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I'm pretty outspoken both online and in real life about rape. On my blog (not sure if it's against the rules to post links, so I won't) I tend to ignore the comments that were just out to make me mad. The comments I get where the person is mostly just ignorant I tend to write separate posts in response to the comments where I tell them exactly why they are wrong.
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hunnybunny888
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I find it comes from the strangest places. I've even heard it coming from women. when my ex-bf and I first started going out, we had both consented to play games where we would tease each other, and it was agreed upon before that this would not end in anything more. At times, it went over like this, and at times he thought that what I really meant was, by the time we're done I'll be so turned on that I'll forget I'm not ready to do more than kissing yet and we will go further. In retrospect, I can easily see why he would have thought this, I was leading him on, which I probably shouldn't have done, but at the same time, we had agreed beforehand on what would happen...it's not my fault if he doesn't understand words. Anyways, he would always complain about blue balls, to which I would respond you have two hands, and he would respond no its not the same I want to wait until you do it...kinda odd.
not to mention numerous guys that have hit on me at a party or something, will say they are turned on, feeling uncomfortable i will try to leave and they will say things like oh comeon you're giving me blue balls you have to finish me and htings like that. I always brushed it off, since I knew it was rediculous
a couple years ago, my friend and I and her boyfriend were talking about using sex as a weapon or keeping score or whatever, and the topic of me and my ex bf came up. Apparently he had told her that I would often start to do things to him and then stop. I don't know if he was refering to the first couple weeks in our relationship, or other times when we had actually agreed to do something more and I had to stop for one reason or another ( i don't really recall it was a while ago). ANyways, my friend thought it was just cruel to start and not finish, even if you were no longer enjoying it. She even said if it was a random it might be diff but when it's your boyfriend you should finish. I found this so odd...if I'm doing something with my boyfriend and somehow a repulsive or sad thought comes into my head, or the smell or taste is really bad, or I feel really uncomfortable, there's no reason I can't stop. She seemed to think that would make me a cruel person/gf to the approval of her gf.
When I first met my new bf, one of the first times we had started fooling around, we were interrupted and had to stop and go somewhere...I joked with him about getting blue balls, assuming from my past experience this was how all guys felt (even though they obviously had very little idea of how "blue balls" actually come about) and he joked yes, and then said but actually whenever guys complain about that I think they're such idiots, like they have hands. And I was so shocked...so many guys had used the excuse and so many girls agreed I was beginning to feel alone on this one.
anyways, the moral of this very long post, is a fair amount of women are also rape apolgists for men...and yet I get the feeling they don't hold double standards...if theyre bf tried to stop in the middle of something they would be just as offended.

Its all very interesting from a psychological perspective

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lizenny
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I find it both interesting and infuriating that this type of rape apologist mindset appears to (knowingly or unknowingly) tie the alleged "choice" or "power" women have in the matter directly to the power of men.

It boggles my mind as to how people can think in such an absurd manner when it comes to this issue. The logic seems to be that through sexual modesty, submissiveness and living up to certain standards of acceptable female behavior, women "earn" protection from rape, assault and harassment be it through direct male intervention or simply by males refraining from committing such acts. Under this logic, rape and other crimes are natural consequences of breaking the rules and thereby losing their "privilege" so to speak.

This leads to a dangerous type of circular reasoning:
-It's not really rape unless it happens to a "good girl".
-->"Good girls" don't get raped.
-->If a woman is raped she must not be a "good girl".
-->It's not really rape unless it happens to a "good girl" and so on and so forth, which in the grand scheme of things means it's not really rape ever which leaves me both angry and frightened.

Frightened, because I worry about the overall state of a society that views things this way and frightened that I too may have to some degree adopted this logic and may erroneously underestimate my risk of being victimized. Not that I believe there would be anything *I* could do to avoid it. I just don't like the idea of being guilty of that kind of hypocrisy.

[ 04-18-2009, 06:55 AM: Message edited by: lizenny ]

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orca
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That's an incredible observation, lizenny. I hadn't thought about it in those specific terms before. Thanks for sharing that.

I also find it mind-boggling and angering that we, the healthy individuals, are forced to change and conform our lives to suit the rapists, people who are not healthy and who harm others. Why? Why is it that they get the upperhand here and reality is framed around them? Why isn't reality framed around us? What I mean by this is all those "rules" we have to go by: don't wear make-up, don't wear certain clothes, don't style your hair a certain way, don't drink, don't dance, don't go out on dates, don't have sex that you want, don't go out by yourself, don't don't don't. But it's completely absurd! We're living our own normal lives, not harming anyone, and yet we have to play by the rules, while the people who are really really disturbed and hurt people get to make the rules. It just doesn't make sense. It should be the other way around, that WE make the rules and they have to live by them.

[ 04-18-2009, 11:26 AM: Message edited by: orca ]

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Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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A Posteriori
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Okay, when I read those posts a couple of thoughts came to mind:

The very existence of rape apologists is humiliating to all men. I really don't see any reasonable grounds on which a sane person could defend the rape of women by men (not to mention, rape at all). Given their numbers (or, perhaps, their volume), these could easily lead someone to believe that all men really are "beasts," that they have these scary, overpowering, animal urges that compel them to savage women.

It's really embarrassing that anyone could think this way, or to treat this sentiment as one of those which has a small "grain of truth."

It's obviously unpleasant to think about rape at all, and I realize that the real issue is preventing/healing the trauma of rape in its victims, but it should be noted by men everywhere that it's downright humiliating to be considered de facto a rapist just because you're male. Do us all a favor and please, for the love of all that is holy, don't EMBRACE such an utterly WRONG and slanderous argument.

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Devourer
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These posts make me think of that term "rape culture". A sex-ed class I have taken mentioned it, and it these attitudes and statements that enable or excuse sexual violence seem to fall under this term.

It is sad, and frightening as lizenny mentioned, to think that there are so many people out there thinking in a way that condones rape...even if they're not doing intentionally, such as it seemed in the case of hunnybunny's friend that said she is obligated to finish what she starts.

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