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


Jody said...

So, to be clear, Mr. Mason thinks that bringing up everything he says and addressing them point by point is "attacking strawmen".

How this joker made a name for himself is simply baffling.

Ben P said...

9 pages in and TF still be like "bring it on!" -_-

yeah, love the points being raised here, but in order to understand them as a guy one would need to have at least a little bit of compassion for women..

Shripathi Kamath said...

Perhaps if someone were to point out the similarities between an Islam apologist and TF, it might become clearer.

While defending the demands of modesty forced by Islam on women, an apologist often offers "But, this is for the woman's own good. If her face cannot be seen, then rapists won't be looking at her with lust. What's wrong with that?"

SallyStrange said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ben Barnes said...

I'm thinking of sending out a warning to anyone currently posting anti-creationist videos to inform them that constantly watching creationist videos in order to refute them might lead to them to adopting their "methodology" when faced with a subject outside their expertise....or outside their moral and ethical abilities as it as in this case.
I think VenomFangX and his ilk should feel honoured that Thunderf00t has chosen to offer such high praise in the form of imitating them. His arguments all remind me of the videos he used to make except this time the well-thought out arguments are on the other side and he just waffles on and on blind to his own ignorance.
A startling reverse I never expecting but there we go. I was was somewhat startled when FTB took him on because I felt his intellectual dishonesty had already started to show. It's possible it was always there but I swear his video used to come with actual facts, figures and sources and not just his "intuitive" assertions.
So...thank you for reading this line.

ZZed said...

Great posts. I'm with you on everything, except for the part in which you say that drunk sex is never consensual. How much does one have to drink before any consent they give is meaningless? What if the male is just as drunk as the female, why should the blame be his? Why is it implied that the women will always be more drunk than the men? How can their drunkenness be determined days after it happened?

It's not too uncommon for men who are drunk to have sex with a woman they would otherwise never even think of having sex with; should the girl go to prison for not having said no to the guy once he regrets his actions the following morning? I don't think so. Especially if she had had a bit to drink as well.

To say that all drunken sex is rape if any one of the two parties changes their mind after would essentially mean saying that if you ever have sex after a party that involves alcoholic drinking you deserve to go to jail.

It's not that black and white.

Just to be clear, that is not to say that drunken sex is never rape either.

Mike Booth said...

Zzed- In the comments section of one of these pages there was an exchange about exactly this, but I don't remember which page it's on.

Basically, for the law to work when it needs to, I guess all drunken sex has to technically/legally be rape.

But it only becomes *prosecutable* rape if one party accuses the other. Most times, that it's legally rape is moot, because nobody complains. Even if the sex is bad.

Rape apologists would like us to believe that women frequently accuse men of rape after drunken sex, out of shame/regret/malice, but there's no evidence supporting that. It's a convenient myth they love to spread to make rape easier to get away with, as they know the first question authorities are going to ask is "had you been drinking?"

Mike Booth said...

So no, nobody deserves to go to jail for having drunken sex.

But if one party accuses the other party of rape, it deserves to be investigated, even if the chance of prosecution is miniscule.

What the dudebros would like us to think is that even such an investigation would be a grotesque violation of human rights that could ruin a man forever, because women are all lying whores.

And you can check the comments under Thunderf00t's videos if you think that's an exaggeration.

Red Mike said...

Just wanted to say having waded through that video and your entire rebuttal I just want to say well done.

You've done an excellent job dismantling Tf00t's misogyny and or weird platform to brag about standing up to a mountain Lion. And opened up an interesting discussion in the comments of its many parts. And in a way that can't be dismissed as a personal grudge like so many squabbles on the internet.

liquidcow said...

This is sort of mostly in response to the comment above about 'drunken sex vs rape', but it kind of applies a little more generally to the idea of frivolous rape accusations in general.

What people don't realise is how much of an ordeal it is to take someone to court for rape (of course it is terrible to be taken to court as well if you're innocent but that's not what I'm talking about here). There's a good reason why fewer than 0.3% of rape accusations turn out to be false, and it's because, well, why would anyone bother? What would you gain from it that would be worth the torturous nature of taking out expensive, time consuming, possibly traumatic legal proceedings and being taken to pieces at great length in a courtroom?

Yes, by having drunk sex with someone, even if it all seems entirely mutually positive and consensual, you do somewhat risk the fact that they could, in theory, come back later and say 'I was drunk and so it was rape'. But the idea that someone would think 'hmm, I kind of sort of wish I hadn't done that', or 'urgh, that really wasn't very good sex, I must get back at them', and then initiate months (more than a year at the very least) of legal proceedings, just seems pretty ridiculous.

Maybe I'm being naive there, and someone will come up with a rebuttal to that argument - I admit it's somewhat vague and incomplete - but the main point is that people act like rape accusations can be easily thrown around at no cost to the accuser, which simply isn't true. It is incredibly difficult and unpleasant for people to take someone else to court for rape.

noelplum99 said...

@Mike Booth

You have certainly caused some lively debate here and elsewhere but there is one bit that made me wince a few days ago and now you have revisited it:

Basically, for the law to work when it needs to, I guess all drunken sex has to technically/legally be rape.

But it only becomes *prosecutable* rape if one party accuses the other. Most times, that it's legally rape is moot, because nobody complains. Even if the sex is bad.

I find this idea objectionable in the extreme, not simply on the grounds that it would leave huge tracts of the population at the mercy of one another but on the grounds that it absolutely trivialises rape. Thinking through what you have said there Mike, you have effectively announced that the vast majority of the time (I can't quote you stats ofc here but just going on the numbers of drunken people who have sex every weekend) rape is a wonderful and fun thing that does nothing other than put a smile on the faces of those who have been raped. I can tell you, I am wincing as I am writing that but what other conclusion can be drawn if you announce that all drunken sex has to technically/legally be rape?

We talk about education campaigns - we both agree on the potential benefits of educating young men as to what constitutes consent and rape etc - but the very bedrock of those campaigns has to be an understanding that rape is, at its core, one of the worst offences you can commit against another person, not some act two people cuddling up, flushed with the afterglow of the amazing drunken sex they have just had, have perpetrated on one another.

On this point I really find your contribution as ill-thought out and objectionable as anything Thunderf00t had in his video.

Anyway, here is a link to the cps guidance on consent:

Allow me, please, to copy two portions over here:

The question of capacity to consent is particularly relevant when a complainant is intoxicated by alcohol or affected by drugs.

In R v Bree [2007] EWCA 256, the Court of Appeal explored the issue of capacity and consent, stating that, if, through drink, or for any other reason, a complainant had temporarily lost her capacity to choose whether to have sexual intercourse, she was not consenting, and subject to the defendant's state of mind, if intercourse took place, that would be rape. However, where a complainant had voluntarily consumed substantial quantities of alcohol, but nevertheless remained capable of choosing whether to have intercourse, and agreed to do so, that would not be rape. Further, they identified that capacity to consent may evaporate well before a complainant becomes unconscious. Whether this is so or not, however, depends on the facts of the case.

and then this

Deciding whether a belief is reasonable is to be determined having regard to all the circumstances, including any steps (A) has taken to ascertain whether (B) consents (subsection (2) of sections 1-4). .......

The test of reasonable belief is a subjective test with an objective element. The best way of dealing with this issue is to ask two questions:

Did the defendant believe the complainant consented? This relates to his or her personal capacity to evaluate consent (the subjective element of the test).
If so, did the defendant reasonably believe it? It will be for the jury to decide if his or her belief was reasonable (the objective element).

So this is the actual legal position in the UK and clearly drunken sex is NOT technically always rape (thank goodness). Clearly, the level of drunkenness has to be taken in to account, with some acceptance on the one hand (first section) that a drunken person is not necessarily unable to consent and on the other hand (second section) that the state of intoxication of the accused party is also of relevance (which ties in to how any reasonable minded person would expect a sober individual to evaluate consent differently to a drunken one).

Mike Booth said...

Thank you for looking into the actual law and providing the information. I was speculating as to how the law may be worded - hence my phrasing it "I guess".

Of course, what that second paragraph you quote means is that an accused rapist can plead "I was drunk and thought she wanted it" and be acquitted. Which is one more reason victims are unlikely to report the crime, and very comforting to men who like to sleep with drunken women.

noelplum99 said...

@ Mike
Possibly so, but if you look at the CPS guidance it tries to circumvent that by abolishing the defence of "genuine though unreasonably mistaken belief".

To quote from the CPS:
The defendant (A) has the responsibility to ensure that (B) consents to the sexual activity at the time in question. It will be important for the police to ask the offender in interview what steps (s)he took to satisfy him or herself that the complainant consented in order to show his or her state of mind at the time.

To me that seems entirely reasonable. That some defendants will attempt to misportray what happened in a bid to circumvent reasonable legislation is no reason to impose unreasonable legislation that makes us all guilty with the only differentiating factor whether the other person is motivated to prosecute: it may increase rape convictions but it would be an absurd and dangerous step to take imo.

I think this is an important sub-issue tbh and I may take this to video, not least because the YTer BigLundi drew very similar conclusions to your own (along with the obvious further conclusion that, therefore, we shouldn't assume that rape is necessarily a big deal)

Francesco Zeno said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Booth said...

Yeah, you're right. I was in no way trying to imply that it's no big deal, and as you said my speculation on the matter was ill-informed.

FSAthe1st said...

This is the sort of debate that has the potential to get ugly. It's therefore difficult to put one's personal opinion without:

1) Potentially giving offence, and/or
2) Potentially being misunderstood by anyone reading or listening to one's statements.

That being said, I would like to offer a few thoughts of my own.

I don't think TF is necessarily a misogynist. I do think he is rather ignorant of the complexities of the issue, as has been pointed out by you, and I think he is bull headed on the issue, but to draw any conclusion beyond that which is explicitly stated in his words is something I have a personal issue with, simply because I've had, on more than one occasion, people tell me what I was thinking and what my personal viewpoints are, despite clarification, based on their own personal reading on something I've either said or written down.

WRT his comments on taking precautions, I can definitely see where you are coming from in addressing some of his frankly ridiculous assertions that men and women don't think about such things already.

I agree with you on the issue of arguing from analogy, especially as far more valid analogies could have been used, as pointed out in this very comments section.

WRT his comment addressing Rape Crisis Centres (I don't recall exactly what was written ATM), I agree that this was a disgrace. I'll say no more than that...


FSAthe1st said...

WRT your own thoughts, my main criticisms thus can be stated as:

a) You have on at least one occasion, framed the rape issue as one of rape by men against women. This I take issue with in the same way I take issue with framing domestic violence by men against women, in that regardless of the actual statistics, women can, and do, attack men, no matter how infrequently it happens... And I do accept that the statistics don't look good from the perspective of a man for whom the vast majority of cases of this nature are perpetrated by males, but I just want to put it out there. It's not a given, and it's not needless to say, especially in the presence of the (thankfully minority) extremist feminist man-hating section of society, who will often never mention that women can, and sometimes are, as bad as men when it comes to controlling behaviour, violence, or domineering.

b) I can't help but think that maybe you jumped the gun a little bit by inferring misogyny where none necessarily exists. It's an accusation I absolutely detest, because it infers hatred of a particular gender when it might not exist, and is often used as mud to sling at anyone who does not white-knight themselves for extremist feminists.

c) Noelplum put it into better words than I can think of right now (I probably shouldn't write when I'm tired), but I think that his points regarding consent and sex while intoxicated are important to consider. Your point that the accusations of rape against an innocent party for nefarious purposes are in the minority is well taken, and I grant you that, but the fact that it happens at all is therefore a valid reason for people to bring it up.

I'm not a MRA or one of those TFL lunatics, and I don't see that they have any validity in today's society. I would like to see equality for everyone, but for me, that includes making sure that all of the facts are considered, including those that might only be a minor consideration, such as the vanishing minority of rape allegations being made by people who had sex but regret it later (there was an example case brought to court, thrown out, and resulted in the woman accuser being prosecuted later, where she had accused a sexual partner of rape after a drunken night out, or something similar, where it turns out that she had done so because her partner had found out about the affair, and to cover her tracks, she made a rape accusation when in fact she had cheated and did not want him to think of her as a cheat).

Again, I would need to go away and look it up, but while this might not be commonplace, it does happen, and it can destroy lives, and cause irreparable harm to genuine victims of rape, whose cases need to be taken seriously.

Other than that, the points you raise in your blog are spot on, and I agree with them. If you need any clarification, or for me to explain myself further, please feel free to ask.

Mike Booth said...

I've accidentally removed Sally Strange's comment while trying to click on it so I could quote it somewhere.

Really sorry about that. Piss.

Anewpairofeyes said...

All our thinking is fundamentally metaphoric.

It may seem like science transcends that, but even with QM you've got "like a wave" (but not actually a wave) and "like a particle (there is no such thing as a point outside of mathematical abstraction)

All of our understanding is founded on metaphors, that's not the problem, the problem is metaphors that fit poorly.

A good metaphor for male entitlement that serves the cause of fighting rape culture I've learned in relation to exposing the bankruptcy of the 'friend zone' concept is; "Women are not sex vending machines; you don't put nice guy coins in until sex falls out."

Understanding that financial transactions under capitalism shape the way that men think about sex, it goes a long way to explain why framing rape as theft becomes such a popular fallback metaphor.

Shanon said...

The one thing I always want to ask MRA rape-apologists types is this: What about the men?

Their biggest perennial victim is the poor falsely accused not-rapist... whose poor life is ruined by a false accusation from an evil woman who just had bad sex with him and changed her mind or whatever.

Shouldn't we maybe be giving THEM some advice on how to "minimize THEIR risk?" After all you'd be "bloody stupid" to not want to "take steps to minimize your risk..." But I guess that only counts for women?

Yet nowhere AT ALL do I ever see these oh-so-concerned "Men's rights" people offering a single shred of a suggestion on how these poor men vulnerable to a "false rape accusation" can "minimize their risk." Especially in light of the massive epidemic of false rape accusations going around!

Surely there must be something they can do differently to help lessen their chances of being victims of this apparently ubiquitous problem... What could that be? And why don't they go a single inch down that road?

Here's my challenge to MRAs... since you're all about "helping men" Why only give all the advice to minimize risk for women? What can we do, as men, to minimize our risk of being "falsely accused of rape?"

The reason they can't and will never really answer this, is as soon as they do, they have to admit that men can take some responsibility for their actions. God forbid anyone should even suggest men should ever have to do anything other than what they feel like doing when it comes to sex for any reason ever.

Just apply the same logic you use on women as potential rape victims, on men as potential false accusation victims, and you'll see why we call what you're doing "victim blaming."

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