Thursday, 10 October 2013

Why I will happily censor you

Since writing the Thunderf00t/rape apology posts and publicising them on social media, I've blocked quite a few people and left YouTube comments turned off on one video  -  and inevitably that's lead to lots of  "But freedom of speech...!" and "You can't tolerate any disagreement!" and "What about MY opinion?!"... 

You know how it goes.  This post contains some thoughts on that.

From my point of view, what's going on is this: 

Some people - mostly feminists - are saying that women are pretty well-versed in taking the precautions they can to avoid being raped, and it's now high time that men took some responsibility for preventing rape from being committed.

That's the argument, as clearly as I'm able sum it up in one sentence. It's the argument that the protest placards and the soundbites ("Don't tell me what to wear, tell them not to rape" etc) are referring to.
I don't think there's any need for an analogy. 

 It's an argument that naturally leads to a legitimate discussion: "What can we do? What are some effective ways men can help prevent rape? How can we at the very least avoid making things worse?" And that's a discussion I'm perfectly prepared to have, because it's something that could be productive. 

But it's not the discussion that's being offered. What's offered - over and over again - in response to the sentiment "It's high time that men took some responsibility for preventing rape" is some variant of this:

"No it isn't.  That can't be done.  It won't work. " *

And if that's your argument -- or if your argument amounts to "Yes but for now let's get back to lecturing the women" -- damn right I don't want to read it. You're not helping anyone, and your comment is going to get deleted and you're probably going to get blocked from any virtual space that I control.  And I'm fine with that, because you're a waste of everyone's time.

There is one other related discussion that does interest me, and it starts with this question:

"Why are so many people (mostly men) so very resistant to the idea of talking about rape prevention (as opposed to rape avoidance)?"

The comments here are open.

*And not to forget: "This is not fair, not 100% of rapists are men, I'm not an MRA but I'm afraid I just must take this opportunity to derail because blah fucking blahdy blah"

EDIT: But now I see Eseld has already dealt with that:

Friday, 4 October 2013

What can we learn from Thunderf00t about how not to talk about rape?

Since his video was posted, several people have confronted Thunderf00t on social media with requests for clarification about what he was trying to say. His responses - when they haven't been as sarcastically dismissive as you'd expect - have been similar to the comment below, left by someone under the video on YouTube:
 All Thunderfoot is saying is "we should be able to give safety advice to women without being accused of victim blaming. That's a lot more effective than 'tell men not to rape.'
What's wrong with that?
I threw that out to commenters here. Eseld Sosustow wrote:
Well, it's patronizing, for one. So nothing else considered, that's one thing that's wrong with "giving advice".

Second, it's ignorant because it underestimates the scope and scale of the average woman's experience when it comes to being bombarded by unwanted sexual attention REGARDLESS of any kinds of "precaution". In that sense, it's also presumptuous, since the vast, vast majority of these givers of "advice" don't really understand it in their position. (I'm speaking of men here, mostly, if that wasn't obvious.)

Third, we've already heard all of the advice any of them could ever give. It's like coincidentally being named Steve Jobs and having to deal with people inevitably making stupid Apple jokes for the rest of your life. We've heard it all before, keep the advice (or jokes) to yourself. So simply being obnoxious is another reason.

Lastly, I would have to turn the question around and ask, "What's wrong with trying to educate men and women about consent, the matter of rape and sexual assault, and with trying to enforce a better cultural standard for the treatment of women and their autonomy? What's wrong with that?" I know that's something of a copout by answering a question with a question, but seriously. If the only answer is some defeatist attitude like "rapists gonna rape, bro", then these people can just stop talking. That's their answer, they are no help to the discourse. End of story.
Commenting on Thunderfoot's "advice" in general, Gilliel said:
Well, yes, it's hard to decide whom TF hates more, men (rapists who can't control themselves) or women. But since women are getting the short end of the stick, I'll go with women.
But it's such a nice catch-22: If you take one more precaution than TF deems reasonable you're a paranoid bitch who thinks all men are rapists. If something happens to you, well, you obviously didn't take enough steps to protect yourself, stupid bitch. 
And it should also be noted that the steps we take to minimise risk already greatly diminish our joy in life. 
Tonight, I'll work at a location quite near. The job will finish somewhere around midnight with a drink. Now, I will not drink. I will not drink because my car will be parked quite near in the light where there are many people and I will drive the mile home. If I were my husband, or if my husband were with me, I'd simly enjoy a glass of free champaign and walk. And I'm fortunate: I have a car I can use. 
And DEEN wrote
 "For comparison, when I go into the wilderness, I know there are predators there. It's just an inherent risk that I incur when I enter that environment."

Of course, entering the wilderness is entirely optional, your risks are minimized by only spending limited amounts of time there, and you can simply leave when you feel like you'd want to let your guard down a bit. None of this applies to the environment that women have to deal with.
 And Steve M highlighted part of the Predators Redux article linked to in an earlier part.
He quotes from Lisak's report, one of the most important findings:
Rather than focusing prevention efforts on the rapists, it would seem far more effective to focus those efforts on the far more numerous bystanders – men and women who are part of the social and cultural milieu in which rapes are spawned and who can be mobilized to identify perpetrators and intervene in high-risk situations.
Teach Men Not To Rape--because not only does it target people who don't know about consent but it removes the social license to operate that serial rapists rely on.

Teach Men Not To Rape so bystanders can recognize and call out bad behavior.

Dammitall, that's SUPER IMPORTANT, and the more Thunderf00t complains about it the more important it becomes.
The main thing I take away from Thunderf00t's effort (apart from the obvious) is that in discussing rape and consent, analogies are not only useless but actually counter-productive  - and it's telling that people like Thunderf00t are so keen to use them so often. 

There's no good reason to keep comparing rape to other crimes like burglary and theft. Under the pretence of "simplifying" the issue, all they're really doing is derailing.

Rape and sexual assault are crimes unlike most others. The crime is so tangled up in ideas of male entitlement to sex; the assertion of manhood by way of sexual dominance or conquest; the idea that women exist to provide pleasure to men; fear and subsequent shaming of active female sexuality (and probably a bunch of other ingrained sexist stuff I haven't considered) -
that it bears no relation at all to breaking into a house or taking someone's wallet from them in the street.  And it becomes even more ridiculous when predatory animals like mountain lions are brought into the discussion.

EDIT: Check this comment for a good idea of acts you could use as metaphors for rape, if you really really need to. 
There's also a good video by  the1janitor turning Tf00t's Wonka meme thumbnail against him.

But in future, if a person insists on introducing an analogy when this topic comes up, I'm going to take that as a red flag that their real interest is in avoiding productive discourse.

And that concludes this somewhat pompous summing up.


Thunderf00t is aware of this series of posts, but I don't think he'll be answering any of them any time soon.


Rebecca Watson has made a nice video response to Tf00t 

And so has the1janitor

Thunderf00t finally gets to the end - Part 10

Closing statements from the counsel for the defense:
Let's be real. Boy meets girl, and after a while they ride off into the sunset is a happy ending that puts a smile on everyone's face. And trust is a big part of that happy ending. Telling young women that they should be paranoid that all men they meet are potential rapists and should never be trusted is not something that's going to increase the number of happy boy meets happy girl and ride off into the sunset hand in hand.
Though surely it will minimise their risk of being alone with a rapist, and I was kind of under the impression that's what this video was trying to be about?

During the paragraph above, he shows a screenshot of the famous "Schrodinger's Rapist" blog post.  A piece by a woman talking about the precautions many women already take to avoid danger, and how men can benefit from being aware of that.

I don't know if Thunderf00t has actually read that piece. If he has, he'll have read this:

The first thing you need to understand is that women are dealing with a set of challenges and concerns that are strange to you, a man.  
And this:
Is preventing violent assault or murder part of your daily routine, rather than merely something you do when you venture into war zones? Because, for women, it is.
And this: 
To begin with, you must accept that I set my own risk tolerance. When you approach me, I will begin to evaluate the possibility you will do me harm.
And this: 
The third point: Women are communicating all the time. Learn to understand and respect women’s communication to you.
(Obviously, the author of that piece can't speak for all womankind - and I can't speak for all men, but as a male reader I think she did a good job of giving me a perspective I'd never had cause to consider. Which hasn't stopped skeptical dudebros trying to show her she's wrong using the power of fallacious maths)

Aaaanyway: Thunderf00t has proved that he's aware that women are already writing about the steps they take to assess and minimise personal risk - and he's aware that much of the advice coming from women concerns being wary of men. 

And he doesn't seem to like that. To recap:
If you're gonna get paranoid about trusting people it will undermine both your ability to form and maintain healthy relationships

Telling young women that they should be paranoid that all men they meet are potential rapists and should never be trusted is not something that's going to increase the number of happy boy meets happy girl and ride off into the sunset hand in hand.

There is an optimum line here. Somewhere between assuming all men are rapists and should never be trusted under any circumstances, and 100% trusting every man that you meet to absolutely respect your personal desires.
Teaching men not to rape? Bloody stupid. 

Being "paranoid" about the men you meet? Ruins your chances of True Love.

Dressing demurely, not getting drunk, and having good posture? There we go!

Please listen to the man, ladies. He's only trying to help YOU.

But remember that stopped clock? The time for being right has come around again
, and this time Phil uses the opportunity to undermine every point he's been trying to make throughout this entire eighteen minute ordeal:
Now, accurately assessing a hazard does not mean you will never experience that danger. You can minimise your chances of getting raped, do everything that you can to minimise your chances of getting raped, and still get raped. You can minimise your chances of being killed and eaten in the wild but still get killed and eaten. But it will minimise your chances of being in such a situation, while allowing you the greatest chances of achieving your desires.
(On the screen at this point, he has a caption that says:

Minimize the risk factors you can influence! (lock your door etc!)

The locked door metaphor is beginning to look pathological. I'm willing to bet Thunderf00t has used that old "a good key is one that can open many locks, whereas a bad lock is one that can be opened by any key" cliché at least once on his path to becoming a misogyny guru)

But now, finally, we come to the end. And as any good educator knows, what you do at the end of a long tutorial such as this is sum up, succinctly and clearly, the main themes you've covered. Phil Mason does this in four sentences:
For comparison, when I go into the wilderness, I know there are predators there. It's just an inherent risk that I incur when I enter that environment. But for the wonders that I have seen, the joys that I have experienced, it's a gamble that I happily accept.
Having said that, it would just be stupid of me, in the extreme, knowing that there are such predators in this environment to not minimise my chances of becoming a victim.
Or, maybe a more simple analogy. I lock my windows for security, but to brick them up for complete security would be dumb, as it would just rob me of the pleasure of living in this place.
Got it?

"There is danger out there, so a person should take steps to minimise their risk - but not to the extent that they deny themselves the enjoyment that life can bring."

Aren't you glad Thunderf00t was willing to spend at least an hour of his time making a video to tell you that? That he didn't just tweet it?

I'm going to do one more post on this, collecting some of the responses people have left in an attempt to leave the whole affair on a positive note. For now, this might be interesting -- I ran a word check on the entire transcript. These are the numbers of times each of the following words appear:

Women: 10

Victim: 9 

Lock: 6

Door: 5 

Analogy: 4

Wasp: 3

Mountain lions: 2

Men: 2

Consensual: 2

Rapist: [Search key not found] 

Consent: [Search key not found]

Last part

Thursday, 3 October 2013

The lion, the lock and the Thunderf00t - Part 9

Welcome back, and thanks for sticking with this for so long. 

The next two paragraphs are almost probably more disturbing than anything Thunderf00t has said so far (so there's a warning). I'm not sure why he thought it was a good idea to say this, or what he's trying to communicate - but what he does tell us is almost probably not something that he was intending to. It starts with a repeat admonishment not to confuse teh poor menz with body language they may misread, and ends up...

Well. You'll see.
Be clear and above all be honest with your body language and this will probably reduce the chances of you ending up in situations where there have been miscommunications. Look, I'm an honest, honest guy, to the point where if someone's going to see my body naked, I usually have little in problem letting them see my MIND naked as well. And many under such circumstances reciprocate the gesture.
Seems to me that after many intimate conversations, that about one girl in three has had a traumatic sexual experience that has had a disproportionate effect on how they deal with subsequent relationships. And to be honest, I feel for their deep, and long-term mental scars, and just how much more beautiful I could be had they not been so damaged.
I listened to that last part five times while transcribing it, convinced that he couldn't possibly have said what I think I heard him say. There's just a chance that in the last sentence he says "how much more beautiful they could be" - but if so some audio glitch has interfered.

Either way: what the very fuck?
But to be honest, reducing this problem to something as simple as saying "Women should bear no responsibility for their own safety and should under no circumstances be aware of the situations that are likely to lead them into these situations where they will acquire these mental scars, things like date rape", is counter-productive.
It really is as stupid as saying "Yeah, don't teach me to lock my doors, teach them not to steal." It's just so stupid, it's not productive.
Here's a depressing fact: Thunderf00t's video has been watched over 62,000 times, and the people who have bothered to vote have voted it up. This sloppy, garbled, mess of misogynistic shit, full of redundant analogies and entire paragraphs that don't even make sense, is being applauded.
There is an optimum line here. Somewhere between assuming all men are rapists and should never be trusted under any circumstances, and 100% trusting every man that you meet to absolutely respect your personal desires.
Every time I hear such stories, it's clear that some, if not many of these traumatic instances, could've been avoided, if many of these young girls hmmm nn mmm  [inaudible] simple heads up about risk minimilisation, about predator avoidance and so on.
I would like to see Phil Mason address a hall full of female military personnel using the transcript of this video as a lecture. Can anyone set that up?
Things that the Rape Crisis Centre of England And Wales don't even seem to think was worth mentioning.
Because the Rape Crisis Centre is there to help people who have been raped. After the fact. And the people who write its literature - like many other people who don't struggle with basic empathy - don't believe "Well, what you SHOULD have done..." is helpful.
Yanno, it's kind of like reading up about mountain lions before heading into an environment where you know there are such predators.
I would add one more thing. The people who have been badly scarred by such events are probably not the best people to give advice on such subjects as they are more likely to disproportionately represent the danger.
Quite. The best people to give advice are those who dismiss the words and experiences of people who have a vested interest in ensuring that the danger is reduced. Why listen to the prey, when the predator is so very willing to share?

This is making me feel sick again and I wish it were over. Two minutes to go.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Thunderf00t vs grammar - Part 8

Our hero seems to be under the impression that at some point he's given some helpful advice, because next he says this:
Sadly, this advice will almost probably be entirely disregarded by almost everyone. Because you see, most people who want a relationship with someone are driven almost exclusively by emotion. And those tend to be far more influential factors than such reasoned arguments.
This makes no sense on a grammatical level. "Almost probably"? What does "those" refer to? Where are the "such reasoned arguments"? Phil, I can't rebut what I can't understa - wait, I see what you're doing. Clever.
Be aware that people communicate not just by words, but also by the inflection in their voices. 
The inflection Thunderf00t is using at this point is known in acting circles as "Can you dial the condescension back a bit because nobody talks like that?"
People communicate through body language, and in this case I'm gonna include what you wear in that.People who wear suits are communicating something about themselves. People who spend a lot of time grooming are telling you something about themselves. 
Please don't say "grooming", it makes this too easy.
And I do not need to tell the ladies the bloody obvious:
Then WHY, for the LOVE OF ALL THAT IS JESUS, did you make this video?
Your choice of clothing is a statement about yourself. And whilst most date rapes seem to be crimes of opportunity, there are still nonetheless actions that you control exclusively. 
Sound the not victim-blaming siren. Again.
For example, if you dress and act erotically, if you put on the body language of foreplay, the strong eye contact, the tactile touching... If you telegraph such information, but actually have no interest in such things, you are increasing the chances that someone will misread the signs, as interest, or sexual initiation and so on.
And so what, Thunderf00t? 
People are allowed to flirt. Even when they have no intention of sleeping with you, the ladies are perfectly entitled to wear clothes that turn you on and make eye contact. It may be kind of a douchebag move to flirt with a guy and make him think you're interested and then walk away - but it's not illegal and it certainly in no way excuses any non-consensual actions on your part.

If you think you might have "misread the signs" you need to clarify what those signs meant - if anything, if there even were any signs - BEFORE you go and accidentally rape somebody.

It's not hard. As you pointed out earlier - "Women do have minds!" And they also (usually) have the powers of hearing and speech. So if in doubt, ASK. And then LISTEN.

And under no circumstances ever say "I thought she was asking for it." Even, as you've done here, by paraphrasing.

You fucking bellend.

Excuse me, I became irate. 
But he's not done with this. In case we needed another analogy - and when do we not need analogies? - Thunderf00t has come up with a peach:
In non-body language terms, it's the equivalent of saying you'll buy someone dinner at a very nice, very expensive restaurant, and then when the bill comes saying: "Well I didn't actually mean that. I just enjoyed seeing the gratitude in your eyes when you thought I thought you were special enough to take you to this really nice restaurant."
But for the record, how would that make you feel if it happened to you?"

There are no words for this.

Thunderf00t thinks men are dumb beasts - Part 7

I'm going to back up and look at Mr F00t's main assertion at this point in the video. He stated:
Well, for violent rape, if you spend some time reading accounts from serial rapists and murderers, they tend to choose their victims based on body language.... Here the cues tend to be not so much how you dress - although this is communicating things about you - it's "Do you have the body language of someone who would make a good victim?"
While I'm quite willing to believe that Phil Mason has spent time reading accounts from serial rapists and murderers, it would have been helpful if he'd mentioned a few exact sources so that interested viewers could check for themselves - but perhaps he just assumes his audience is as well-versed in the behaviour of predatory criminals as he is.

And that might be a fair assumption. One can only speculate.

But he could have provided a link to, for instance, this article, that supports his argument and makes the same points he tries to make but without mentioning wasps.

Because really, that wasp thing? Just distracting.

But props to Phil Mason - like a stopped clock with a penchant for tortuous analogies and spinning off at tangents, he's been right once today.

So let's see how being aware of one's body language can be useful in the real world, either when trying to avoid rapists on city streets, or mountain lions in remote mountain passes. He goes on:
But for those of you who feel more comfortable with a more civic analogy, 
I could do without analogies altogether, as so far not a single one of them has been helpful.
burglars look for people who have left their windows unlocked, in the same way that sexual predators look for the body language of the victim. This is NOT victim-blaming. This is giving advice on how to avoid becoming one.
Except that advice would actually include some... advice. "Try not to exhibit the body language of a victim" could be sound advice for anyone, but only if you actually explain what that body language looks like. 
Unless... When Thunderf00t cuts in the clip of a black men getting into an elevator with a white woman, and she steps into the corner and clutches her purse - is that supposed to illustrate what "the body language of a victim" looks like? 
If so, is that really the most appropriate video Thunderf00t could have chosen? Because suddenly cutting that particular clip - with its focus on racial prejudice - into a video supposedly about rape prevention strikes me as (like the wasp analogy) bizarrely distracting from the main theme. 
Moving on. Thunderf00t is now done with explaining to you how to avoid becoming a victim of violent stranger rapists (Just don't look like a victim!), and will now teach you how to protect yourself from people not wearing balaclavas.
As for 'Date Rape', the golden rule seems to be "Be aware of your circumstances". Be cautious about ending up all alone with someone you don't really trust.
Like, if someone approaches you in an elevator at 4.00 AM and asks you to come back to their room for coffee; that kind of cautious?
Now there is a fine line to tread here. Dating is usually the prelude to a relationship [citation needed], and if you want a relationship, trust is going to be core to that relationship. Similarly, showing large amounts of trust on a date is a significant token of commitment to a potential relationship [citation needed] 
It also increases your potential vulnerability. It's a tough choice, but if you're gonna get paranoid about trusting people it will undermine both your ability to form and maintain healthy relationships.
So: do be paranoid and end up forever alone, or don't be paranoid and maybe get raped?

Again, it seems it's always the potential victims - ie, in the context of this video, women - who have to make the tough choices.

And if men were mountain lions, driven solely by predatory instincts and unable to make ethically informed decisions, that would make a lot of sense. But that does rather suggest that men are irredeemably base animals with no potential to learn or change their behaviour.

Why does Thunderf00t have such a very low opinion of our gender?

EDIT: Read the first comment below for a point both I and Thunderf00t completely missed.

Part 8

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Thunderf00t jumps the shark - Part 6

Welcome to the Thunderf00t Guide To How Not To Get Raped.

The following section will be presented with no snarky interruptions from your host blogger. Take it away, Phil Mason:
Well, for violent rape, if you spend some time reading accounts from serial rapists and murderers, they tend to choose their victims based on body language. This is rarely anything as facile as wearing a short skirt.
Here the cues tend to be not so much how you dress - although this is communicating things about you - it's "Do you have the body language of someone who would make a good victim?"
Now, I can give much advice on self defence, but I'm going to be very brief here. By far the best weapon you have to fight against a stronger, more powerful adversary is psychology.
Point in question, the simple wasp. The wasp is typically a factor of a millionth smaller than a man or a woman and yet they manage to effectively discourage people from attacking them.
Women are typically only ten percent smaller than their male counterparts, and for those who find this a little too cryptic, people know that a wasp will fight to defend itself. That's its self defence mechanism, and that fact alone will discourage most attackers.
Unless they're armed with a rolled-up magazine.

Seriously, what is going on here? We've gone from "It's about body language, not how you dress - except that how you dress is also a factor" to "wasps are smaller than women but people don't attack wasps". Phil?! What are you trying to say?
Put simply: predators look for the body language of prey.
What is the body language of a wasp?
The best self-defence mechanism, in such an environment, is not to telegraph the body language of the victim.
And now we're back "in such an environment" again. Does that mean we've been talking about the Middle East and Asia all this time? If it does, why the long detour into drunkenness, which in the Middle East at least is probably not such a big deal?

Honestly, Phil, did you write any of this down before you started or is it all improvised?

Wait, now he's cut in a video. There's no way to describe this, you 'll have to watch:

And read along, if you like:
And I know what many of you'll be saying "Oh that's easy for you to dob out such advice, you've never been in such a situation" - well actually, I have. All alone. In the very late evening, in a mountain pass, with noone around for miles. I faced a predator. A mountain lion, with a cub, that was stalking me. I played the game for real stakes.

Had I given off the body language of the victim - of the prey - there is a very real possibility that I wouldn't be here making this video.
As tempting as it is to go for the low-hanging fruit in that last sentence, I will resist. But I need to say this: WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?

This is all over the place: psychology, body language, wasps, anti-racist comedy sketch videos, and now mountain lions.

Didn't you used to get invited to speak at conferences?

I don't think I can do this any more...

Part 7