Monday, 30 September 2013

Thunderf00t vs empathy - Part 2

Part 1

Our intrepid hero has just said this:
I mean, the largest strawman here is this idea that we don't teach our children not to rape. MmmBOLLOCKS! Yes we do! Not only that, we teach them not to steal, not to murder, and to not do all sorts of other things. And yet curiously, rape, murder and theft still exist in society.
What Tf00t is doing here, with his dismissive "Bollocks!" to the idea that children aren't taught not to rape, is constructing another strawman, this time shaped like an Evil Monster Rapist with glowing eyes and a big red "R for Rapist" floating above its head. 
It's very important he construct this strawman, because the next part of Tf00t's video is going to scoff at how very bloody stupid you'd have to be to think you can teach Evil Monster Rapist not to rape. Rape is what he does, because he's a monster, and monsters can't be taught.

To get us to understand this, Tf00t decides we need a couple of analogies:
Probably the simplest way of explaining this concept is through an analogy. Put your hands up if you have a lock on your front door. Why do you do that? Why do you put a lock on your front door when theft is against the law? Yeah, why teach me to put a lock on my door? Why not teach your children not to steal?
Or how about telling someone they shouldn't visibly wear lots of expensive gear and flash their cash around a neighbourhood where there is a high rate of depression and violent crime. Wh.. Why teach them to do that? Why not teach THEM not to mug people?
What these analogies try to do is give the impression that just by taking simple, reasonable precautions, you can be as safe from rape as you can be from having your house broken into. Of course, houses get broken into despite locks, and people get mugged whether or not they're flashing their cash around in depressed neighbourhoods - but we shouldn't stretch Thunderf00t's analogies too far or they might start to look shit.

The other thing these analogies do is try to to paint rape as just one more crime like property theft. But rape is more complex than that; the motivations for rape and the circumstances under which rape is committed are very different from burglary and mugging.  People don't consent to share their money with a mugger and then decide to withdraw that consent - but people do consent to intimacy, then decide to stop, and get forced to continue.

Thunderf00t knows this, because he mentions it later. But I'm getting sidetracked again.

The point of both these analogies is obviously to say "There are bad thieves out there and you can't teach bad thieves not to steal, therefore the same goes for rapists."

But, of course, he's wrong. When rape prevention campaigns focus on teaching men about what rape actually is, they can be effective:

Now, I realise that people invested in maintaining the status quo will dispute that, and I'm not suggesting that simply by educating young people about rape there will be no more sexual assaults ever. But it's a start, and there is no reason to think that education won't lead to a reduction in sexual violence. And that's the key concept: reduction.

Thunderf00t - I imagine - is the kind of person who thinks that if something won't ever be 100% effective, it's not worth doing at all. There seem to be a lot of people who think like that, or who make that argument in various forms. Seems like a cop out, kind of.
And now brace yourselves. Horror is coming:
I would further add that people have different sexual drives, and the idea that you will simply be able to "educate" people out of their sexuality is unlikely to be successful. Don't believe me? Take a look at all those Christians who decided homosexuality was wrong, that it was evil, and that all you had to do was to educate people out of it.
Yes, sexual attitudes seem to be pretty deeply biologically ingrained, and I have significant doubts that you will effectively be able to educate people out of them.
Yes, Thunderf00t appears to believe that raping people is simply a symptom of having a "different sexual drive." Being a rapist is "pretty deeply biologically ingrained".

It's like being gay.

So I guess... gay rapists have super-double-different sexual drives?

Thunderf00t, if your "sexual drive" means you can only get off by having sex with someone who doesn't consent, you need to not be having sex. There are paedophiles who understand that - men and women attracted to children who know that their desires are ethically unfulfillable, and who live their lives fighting their own natural urges - those people exist.

Whatever a person's inherent "sexual drive", it's not something that has to be acted upon. 

Rape is an action, and a rapist is a person who commits that action. "Being a rapist" is not - and I can't actually believe this needs to be explained - like being gay.

At this point Thunderf00t waves the Evil Monster StrawRapist around again by cutting in some footage of a news report on Ted Bundy (a real, proper rapist! and a serial killer too! See, THAT's what a true misogynist looks like!), and then he admits, briefly:
Sure, there will be some environmental influences, but the bottom line is, I think you'll have very limited success in trying to educate for instance a serial sexual predator out of their sexuality.
Look, the bloody obvious: even if something is against the law, then you're a moron if you do not take simple steps to minimise your risks of becoming a victim of that crime. This is why we teach kids not to get into cars with strangers, rather than holding up signs saying "Don't teach MY kids not to get into cars with strangers, educate YOUR children not to abduct, sexually abuse and murder children."
When people like Zerlina Maxwell advocate teaching kids not to rape, they're not talking about trying to get through to serial killers like Ted Bundy. Of course it's "bloody obvious" that sociopaths are not about to listen. 
But most rapes aren't committed by sociopaths. Most rapes are committed by men who are simply too selfish to think beyond their immediate gratification.

It is interesting that this subject bothers Thunderf00t so very very much.

Part 3


noelplum99 said...

I think you are right on this issue Mike. Some of these campaigns clearly have utility in staking out, for those in doubt, what constitues rape.
Thunderf00t is wrong on that, pure and simple.
I think one of the issues is that sometimes these campaigns are smugly missold or misrepresented as "teaching men not to rape" or "teaching men that rape is wrong" and that misselling both raises people's hackles (patronising as it comes across) and sells the campaigns short. The point is, these campaigns demonstrate situations where consent is clearly absent but which some individuals may not have considered as constituting rape (as you pointed out yourself), both morally as well as legally.
I suppose if Thunderf00t really wanted to find a crime analogy he would have been best served by highlighting those areas of theft some people commit regarding them as 'not really theft' (intellectual piracy, false insurance claims etc) because awareness campaigns in these spheres are similarly based or raising awareness of what constitutes a crime, not absurdly simply stating 'don't steal'

Mike Booth said...

That's a good point. I guess the frustration activists feel at constantly having to confront the same myths leads to using rhetoric that can be misconstrued.

Ironically, then I set out to write this I was going to try to keep it fairly civil and factual, but Mr Mason's words and tone very quickly got my hackles up - so I guess it cuts both ways.

Ken Hennig said...

Fantastic rebuttal to such a massive idiot. Another major reason there has been feminist backlash to victim blaming is the fact that it's been a staple in the US court system for such a long time, and even now the rape shield laws designed to protect victims are both under attack by people such as Tf00t, while being circumvention by hundreds of different authorities who will use victim blaming to deter victims from coming forward at all.

On a second note, when I was watching his video it really blew my mind to see him act as if no feminist has ever put out ways to reduce your risk, almost as if he thinks he's the first person to ever think of such a thing. Almost every single website out there to help victims also has ways in which to reduce your risk, and they do it all in ways that are without all the victim blaming - while being form the same people who try and teach what consent is.

The fact that tf00t does sciency videos means nothing, he's just as fallible as anyone else, and in this case he's a complete fucking idiot.

=8)-DX said...

Another angle to the "educating men about rape", is that rapists are too easily accepted by their "buddies" when they use a host of standard "excuses" how what they did was not rape.

- "She enjoyed it."
- "She said yes (at first)."
- "She was drunk, she started it."
- "You could tell she wanted it, in that short skirt."

etc. Being educated about rape helps people stop supporting rapists/abusive behaviour by recognising that it has actually happened to/been done by their peers or social group.

noelplum99 said...

Yes, it does indeed. Most of us struggle to stay entirely objective with people who get under our skin :)

In the wider debates which have plagued our intellectual shores recently I can't help but feel that a lot of the problems resulted from:
a) people feeling that they are part of a 'side' (as if the multitude of issues are so clearly delineated)
b) people feeling the need to then intellectually support all those they see on their side at all times over all issues.

I think these problems have further been exacerbated because these issues, by their very nature, tend to attract individuals with extreme opinions like flies round shit; individuals who, in the main, previously were not involved in overtly atheistic and skeptic circles; and individuals that no group has a monopoly on (certainly i have seen some seriously whacked out opinions expressed under the banner of both feminism and mra the last year or so, i fact we all have).

Thunderf00t is a bit of an oddity for me. I try and take his videos and comments for what they are (and not be coloured by preconceptions of the chap) and really find myself sometimes largely in agreement with him, other times mirroring his conclusions but not his reasons and other times yet, like many others, aghast at both his tone and content. Unfortunately for him, so much has he polarised opinion I am not really sure anything he says has the ability to persuade any more. Much like his arch-nemesis PZ Myers, the bald fact he endorses a viewpoint is almost enough to decide many peoples minds on the issues.
Still, when he is as clumsy as in the quotes i have read in your blogs here it really makes me pleased i never nail my flag to the mast over any individual and makes me yearn for a little more nuance and a little less flag-waving and black and white thinking.

You know, this is probably a bit of a derail reading it back, so sorry for the spleen venting :)

noelplum99 said...

Doesn't the short skirt/ low top line highlight exactly where sensible advice descends into victim blaming?
After all, such clothing falls well within the bounds if what is deemed normal and acceptable in our culture and it is surely entirely wrong-headed to find fault with people, as part-architects of their own downfall for doing things which which are part and parcel of the normal scope of life.
To use the lock/theft analogy, it is like blaming someone who has locked their door, as most of us do, for not having a reinforced steel security door. Not locking your door and leaving it wide open, whilst not justifying theft or mitigating a thiefs culpability in any way, is outside of the normal safeguards we take and most of us would deem it personally reckless. Clearly, wearing revealing clothing is a million miles away from that.

Jake B. said...

It's kind of funny that he mentions about showing off that you're rich in regards to rape, seeing as society expects people who are rich to flaunt it by wearing expensive clothes, driving expensive cars, and wearing expensive watches.

Digby said...

@Noelplum99: Just thought I'd begin by saying that I like your videos and I hope you continue making them. As to the analogy adjustment, it's not immediately clear to me in what way you're saying short skirts fall "well within the bounds if [sic] what is deemed normal and acceptable in our culture" (Morally? From a rape precaution viewpoint? Aesthetically? At the office? At a funeral?), nor why "it is surely entirely wrong-headed to find fault with people... for doing things which which are part and parcel of the normal scope of life". It struck me as an appeal to common practice, but correct me if I'm mistaken.

Someone might also pedantically argue that while short skirts may be normal and acceptable in general, it isn't the general case that locks are found on doors. Of all the doors in our houses, we only lock the front one because we recognize it minimizes the risk of burglary. It would be like blaming (only saying 'blame' because you did) someone for locking their front door but not locking their pantry (a burglar stole some biscuits). Having said that, I of course realize the analogy is talking about front doors, for which locks are indeed normal and probably for good reason. What I hope I'm highlighting is that what is considered normal and accepted depends on the scope of the focus.

noelplum99 said...

@ Digby
Yes, i can understand how that may seem a bit vague. By 'normal behaviour' i was mainly minded in terms of the riskiness/recklessness of it. Rather than elaborate, as I have, only a few hours ago, expanded on my thoughts on this in a video I will simply point you there :)

adelady said...

"Yes, i can understand how that may seem a bit vague. By 'normal behaviour' i was mainly minded in terms of the riskiness/recklessness of it."

This argument annoys me a bit. Women and men often dress in a particular way - because they already have someone in their lives who likes that or because they do want to attract sexual attention. But there's no reason on earth why any particular person should feel entitled to a sexual response from someone s/he notices because of their elegant/ sexy/ colourful/ subdued style.

It's almost as though these apparently modern people hold the same view as others they would regard as old fogeys - that any man will do. And that any man will do what the worst of them might do.

Someone dressing up sexily may well be looking for a sexual hook up. No one has any right to presume that s/he therefore has any right to sexual attention from that sexily dressed person. No matter how you're dressed, you have the right to choose, and that means reject most, among your potential sexual partners.

Anonymous said...

"the motivations for rape and the circumstances under which rape is committed are very different from burglary and mugging."

Yes, and situations in which rape occurs are very different form one another. I find that people seem to forget that. If it is pointed out that a woman can reduce her risk in a particular way in one situation, that observation is immediately attacked because it will not work in all situations.