Amanda Marcotte has been on fire lately.
Okay, in truth Amanda Marcotte is usually on fire. I tend to miss it, though, since she’s one of those blogger types who I only see when other people link to her. That, in and of itself, is weird, since I have Pandagon on my RSS feed. That particular issue is one of technology. Most of my RSS stuff is an actual feed that says, “Hey, look, here’s a new post by this guy.” Pandagon, or, really, Raw Story, doesn’t seem to work that way. So I tend to forget that, yes, Amanda Marcotte writes things. But then I end up hitting, like, six posts in a row, which can be kind of awesome.
That’s really too bad, since Amanda Marcotte regularly catches fire. I mean that in a good way, by the way, not a spontaneous human combustion way. Because that would be bad.
In fact, let’s make that a blanket statement: Geds thinks that it’s bad when people are actually on fire. Done.
Either way, the thing in question that causes me to make the statement in, re: Amanda Marcotte and fire is five posts in a row at Pandagon that made me say, “Hell, yeah!” Several of them are directly related to things I want to talk about with the whole feminism bit, so let’s get right down to it.
The first time I came into contact with the notion of anything even closely resembling the term I now know as “rape culture” was out at Western Illinois University. It was a relatively innocuous flyer on the wall of my dorm next to the elevator. I have zero recollection of the exact wording on the paper but I remember the gist, which was basically, “If you have sex with someone without their consent you’re committing rape and here are indications that consent haven’t been given.” What then followed were things like, “She’s not awake,” and, “She’s too goddamn drunk to know what’s going on.”
I, it should go without saying, was not sexually active at the time. I was a good little Evangelical and being a good little Evangelical meant that I wasn’t going to have sex before marriage. Still, the whole thing struck me as being somewhat Byzantine. I mean, really, I thought, what if I was in a position where I thought consent was given, then it was followed by drunkenness and then suddenly, boom, someone is calling me a rapist?
I am now genuinely embarrassed to admit that I had thoughts like that. I am also willing to admit that I had thoughts like that because I knew fuck-all about relationships and sex and, well, women in general at the time. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. It’s also a good excuse, since I was one o’ them no sex before marriage virgins at the time, which meant that I’d never given any consideration to the notion of consent before as it wasn’t even a remotely important issue to me.
Have I mentioned that feminism wasn’t really a thing that we talked about in church?
I stand by my theory that the MRA-types prey on guys like me. I think that in issues of sex and consent there are four general male camps: there are those who naturally don’t worry and don’t need to worry about such things because they’ve gotten laid a time or four and generally understand the difference between yes and no. There are those who don’t think about such things very often. There are those who don’t really know anything and can be swayed through their ignorance. Then there are those who are rapists or just general rape-apologizing assholes who want to muddy the whole thing up for their own nefarious purposes.
It’s that fourth category that needs to be dealt with. More importantly, it’s that fourth category’s influence on the second and third categories and, to a lesser extent, the first category that needs to be dealt with. Asshole rapists, I firmly believe, are a small minority. They need a critical mass of people in the not-asshole but also not-fully-cognizant-of-the-issue majority to hold sway in the conversation.
That’s where I get into the “Amanda Marcotte is on fire” stuff. To wit:
With all attention being paid to rape culture lately—which is good!—I’m seeing a not-so-good consequence of it, which is a number of people, some well-intentioned, perpetuating the myth that rape frequently occurs on accident. This myth has grown up in place of the discredited (though still popular) myth that women “cry rape” to cover up for their slutty choices, and it goes a little something like this:
A man and a woman drink a lot of alcohol and have drunken, consensual sex. In the morning, the woman—who, being female, is hysterical and quick to jump to conclusions—feels that she wasn’t fully consenting, so she calls the cops. The man, who innocently believed it to be a consensual encounter, gets charged with rape and sent to the clink because of the SCARY FEMINIST laws that say that women with a blood alcohol limit over X cannot consent, so any sex with them is rape. The moral of this story is that innocent men are raping women left and right because they sincerely thought they had consent, but (because of hysterical, probably anti-sex feminists) drunk sex is now illegal. But only for men. Because of all-powerful, man-hating feminism.
My expertise on drunk sex is approximately zero. My expertise on being drunk and hanging out with drunk women is higher, however. As such I can say with a certain amount of authority that the scary-ass drunk-sex-leading-to-rape-accusations shit is pretty highly exaggerated because drunk people still know what they’re doing. Someone who goes out and says, “I wanna get shitfaced and laid!” will probably then go forth and do exactly that. This is where we get stories of embarrassing drunken hookups and walks of shame. This is not where we get stories of rape.
As such, I’ll again let Amanda Marcotte take over the narrative:
Call it the Legend of the Accidental Rapist, if you will, but it’s horseshit. This is not what rape under the influence looks like. I link the Yes Means Yes post “Meet the Predators” constantly, but it’s time to do it again and keep doing it until people actually read it. Because it tells a very different, social science-and-actual-experience-backed story about rape and alcohol. Let me tell you that story:
There is a man who really likes raping women. It gets him off, the power and control he has, as well as the fear in her eyes as she realizes yes, this is really going to happen. He enjoys doing this as often as he can. But he doesn’t want to go to jail for it, nor does he want people to ostracize him socially if they discover he’s a rapist. (If nothing else, that makes it harder to find new victims!) So he attacks drunk women. He may even ply them with alcohol to get them drunker. He does this for two reasons: 1) They are easier to overpower and 2) No one believes them because they were drinking. After the rape, if the victim says she was raped, all you have to do is refer to the Legend of the Accidental Rapist, and everyone will rally to support you while dismissing the victim for being a sloppy drunk and a hysterical bitch who is too hopped up on feminist horseshit to think properly. Even better, most victims know that’s how it will go down, so they probably won’t say anything at all, leaving you to keep raping without much interference.
Amanda linked to a post called Meet the Predators in the block quote I used up there. Here it is. Go look.
The truth, as they say, will set you free. That’s something I needed to know as a rather naïve undergrad a decade ago. Rapists prey on guys who are like I was back then, though, too. They need guys like past me to operate. It’s blatantly obvious to me now that someone who is too drunk to stand up or actually unconscious can’t consent. It’s also blatantly obvious to me that there’s a difference between someone using drunkenness to rationalize a bad decision and someone being too drunk to consent.
That, really, is the fine line that the rapists and rape apologists want to walk. “You’ll never again be able to make a drunken hookup at last call,” they say, “Because then she’ll cry rape in the morning.” That’s not where the line is drawn at all.
More importantly, it’s obvious to me that this isn’t where the line is drawn. It’s really a collection of attitudes that allow that. Primarily the idea is the old one that men are uncontrollable horndogs and women are all frigid bitches who only use sex because they want to snag a man. So when they get drunk and cry rape what they’re really saying is that you, man-who-doesn’t-understand-women, is that you didn’t pass the test and you’re about to get fucked for life by those damn predatory bitches. That, and I say this as someone who has basically zero working knowledge of how these things work, isn’t how it works.
Here, I’ll let Amy Shumer tell you how that works.
My point is this: it’s both far more complicated than the posters I saw on the wall at WIU and far simpler. It’s more complicated in that there’s no clear line that drunken hookups = nonconsensual sex. It’s simpler in that most people are already aware of that but the people who see that as an opportunity want to blur that line and make it so that everyone who’s ever been a bit buzzed and a bit excited and heading home with someone at 2 am suddenly has to think, “Oh, shit, now I’m gonna get accused of being a rapist! I can’t have that!”
That’s where rape culture comes into play. It’s far easier to say, “Hey, let’s say this isn’t a thing and then maybe blame it on the victims for being slutty-ass bitches,” than to say, “Maybe we need to be aware of the situation and I, myself, need to be more careful.”
The fact of the matter is, at least in my experience, guys know when other guys are skeevy assholes. Ask any guy and he’ll tell you that he knows some guy who gives off that rapey vibe. They don’t use that particular term, though. They’re most likely to say something like, “I wouldn’t leave Biff alone with my girlfriend.”
Sometimes they’re just saying, “Biff is a pig who hits on every woman in sight.” Sometimes, however, they’re saying, “Biff is a sex offender list registry waiting to happen.” Generally, too, guys know the difference there. It’s really not that hard, either. Believe it or not, but women know it, too. If you as a guy who isn’t a skeevy pig, are willing to sit down and talk to the women you know about it they’ll tell you, too.
I’m going to throw this suggestion out there to all single guys who are worried about it: do so. Sit down with the women in your lives – whether they’re family, friends, or potential future sex partners – and talk to them. If you aren’t a skeevy rapist type who they instinctively avoid they’ll fucking tell you what’s going on and what guys in your social group are guys about whom they’re concerned.
It’s not quite as easy as walking up and saying, “So, who do you think is a rapist?” though. I mean, that might be a worthwhile conversation starter if everyone is worried about Biff and wants to make sure that he’s kept in check. But don’t just assume it will be that easy.
For instance, I recently ran into a female acquaintance. We were talking and I mentioned a guy we both knew. She told me that he hits on every woman he sees. That merely confirmed something I suspected about him, since the first time I met him he was making a woman I also first met that night uncomfortable with his attentions.
That said, I’ve always considered him harmless (part of that was because I watched the woman in question react to him, which was more along the lines of annoyance and pity than anything even approaching fear). He was basically that kid in high school who is so socially inept that he’ll ask every girl at the lunchroom table if she wants to go on a date with him. The conversation I had about him the other night confirmed that for me. He didn’t seem to register as a threat so much as an annoyance.
What makes the difference in the lines between the well-adjusted and socially normal not-rapists, harmless but socially maladjusted and somewhat pathetic dudes, and actual rapists is that there’s a concerted effort to blur those lines. The blurring of the lines only serves to help one of those groups. If you haven’t figured out which group it is yet, I’ll give you a hint: it’s the rapists. They have a pretty good chance of allying themselves with the harmless but socially maladjusted guys, though, because those guys might not be rapists but they’re likely to worry that someone might accuse them of being a rapist just because they’re hitting on every woman who comes in their line of sight.
I guess that, again, it gets back to my all-encompassing theory of women: they’re people, too. Treat them as such and you’ll be fine. Sometimes that means not having sex with them when they’re drunk and passed out (because, really, duh). Sometimes that means talking to them about other people you both know and making a mental note about who to keep an eye on in the future. Sometimes, and I suggest this with absolutely no flippancy whatsoever, it means discussing books or football or dogs or TV shows or whatever.
Because, again, women are people. They have actual, honest to dog interests and they might just enrich your life by sharing them with you. And that, my friends, is the best way to stop the whole rape culture bullshit. If men would stop thinking of women as nothing more than mobile vagina deployment platforms it would help everything immensely.
This, by the by, seems like something that’s also applicable to the gun control “debate” in this country. There’s a vast gulf between “outlaw drunken hookups” and “try to stop rape” that’s pretty much the same as the gulf between “ban all the guns” and “put reasonable rules in place that limit who can have guns and what kinds of guns they can own.”
It occurs to me, though, that we don’t live in a society here in America that wants to have a reasonable conversation about guns. The reasoning, such as it is, is probably pretty much the same as why we can’t seem to have a reasonable conversation about rape. A reasonable conversation, after all, might require someone, somewhere, to curtail their activities and we can’t have that as long as the person being asked to curtail their activities is part of the privileged class.
And, yes, I’m drawing a direct parallel between the gun owners who refuse to even entertain the notion that maybe there might be a time and a place to sit down and talk aobut guns as an actual integral part of the whole issue of gun violence and rapists. If anyone who’s reading this can’t see how the previous paragraph creates a reasonable space to compare the two, feel free leave a comment and expose your own lack of critical thinking skills down below.
Oh, and I’d say that asking someone to think before they attempt sexual relations with a potentially-non-consenting partner is right up there with asking someone to eat more vegetables or brush their teeth, too. It really should just be an expected act from a responsible individual. Hell, I could draw a parallel to the idiots who think that CFL lightbulbs are a break on their personal freedom. But I won't, because I don't have that kind of time.