Thursday, 30 June 2011

How Feminism Hates Women

Part Two: Unwanted Sex vs. Rape

From Wikipedia:

Actus reus, sometimes called the external element or the objective element of a crime, is the Latin term for the "guilty act" which, when proved beyond a reasonable doubt in combination with the mens rea, "guilty mind", produces criminal liability in the common law-based criminal law jurisdictions of Canada, Australia, India, Pakistan, New Zealand, England, Ireland and the United States.
Mens rea is Latin for "guilty mind". In criminal law, it is viewed as one of the necessary elements of a crime. The standard common law test of criminal liability is usually expressed in the Latin phrase, actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea, which means "the act does not make a person guilty unless the mind be also guilty".

Okay, so let's pretend we're talking about me, and what we're talking about is me crashing my car into another vehicle, killing the driver. The act of crashing my car into his and killing him is the actus reus, and let's say that this fact is not in dispute. Once it has been established that I did indeed crash my car into another and kill the driver, an investigation will be done (I would hope!), and the attendant circumstances examined, and it will only then be determined whether I have committed a crime.

Let's say I undergo a breath test and am found to be legally impaired. In this case, I will be found to have the mens rea of recklessness--I engaged in conduct a law-abiding person would have refrained from, and that conduct resulted in a foreseeable death. I may be charged with a variety of crimes, based on my degree of inebriation and other circumstances--drunk driving causing death, vehicular manslaughter, reckless indifference homicide, etc.

Let's say I live in a jurisdiction where it's still legal to use a cell phone while driving, and I was on the phone when I crashed into him. If it can be determined I was paying more attention to my phone than the road, I will be found to have the mens rea of negligence--that is, a reasonable person would have been able to foresee the danger of my behavior and the harm it might cause. I will probably be charged with manslaughter.

Let's say I drove through an intersection where a stop sign had been stolen or knocked over by vandals. If there was a wrongdoer in this case, it was certainly not me, and I have committed no crime.

Or let's say the other driver ran the stop sign. In this case, I have also done nothing wrong, and have committed no crime.

Or let's say I drove over a nail which blew my tire, and I could not regain control of my car in time to avoid the accident. Again, I have done nothing criminal.

Let's say I saw that the other driver was my ex-husband, and I floored the gas pedal, slamming my car into his before backing up and ramming his vehicle repeatedly until the jaws of life couldn't extricate him from the mangled wreckage. Not that I would ever want to do something like that *coughcough*, but in that case I would be found to have acted purposefully and wilfully to cause my ex's death. And that, my friends, would be capital murder.

So here we have a bunch of different scenarios, all with the exact same terrible result for the victim, all of which differ in their degree of criminal culpability. Only two of these scenarios would qualify as murder, and in three I have committed no crime at all.

So here we have the crux: any situation in which one person kills another is a homicide, but not all homicides are crimes, and not all criminal homicides are considered murder. Whether a homicide is considered murder or not, depends entirely on mens rea--the "guilty mind".

I have often asserted in my arguments online that just because someone feels they have been wronged or harmed by another, this does NOT necessarily mean a crime was committed against them. And by extension, a man should never be considered to have raped a woman if he did not have the necessary mens rea--that is, if he did not actually realize he was raping her.

I am often told in response that ignorance of the law is no excuse, but ignorance of the law has very little to do with mens rea. In the case of rape, mens rea is not a question of whether someone knows that forcing an unwilling woman to have sex is rape, it is a question of whether someone is aware they are forcing an unwilling woman to have sex.

But how could a person not know they are forcing an unwilling woman? How could anyone not realize that a woman who isn't consenting is not consenting?

Well, how about if you're naked in bed, engaging in the preliminaries of sex, for which said woman seems enthusiastic, and at no point during the festivities does the woman ask you to stop? 

Early anti-rape campaigns focused on a phrase I could really get behind: "No means no." But things have morphed a little since then, into an attitude of, "Anything but an enthusiastic and oft-repeated 'yes' means no."

I have been cautioned by so many people on feminist boards about how very very important it is for a man to check in frequently with his partner, that many women simply don't have the wherewithal to say "no" if they change their minds, but that this does not mean they are consenting. That women have been known to freeze up and the first sign a man might have that he's raped her is the sound of her quietly sobbing after the fact. Oddly, I hear very little talk about how very very important it is for a woman to actually have the maturity to say "no" if, indeed, she means "no", before she climbs naked into a man's bed, however. She, apparently, has no responsibility toward her partner, to prevent him from inadvertently doing something he'd likely feel terrible about afterward. 

Considering how differently women are wont to behave during sex, it is unreasonable to expect a man to conclude that loud moaning, say, can be translated as "please stop", or that a lack of loud moaning can be translated as "please stop", or that twisting and writhing can be translated as "please stop", or that a lack of twisting and writhing can be translated as "please stop", or that a grimace can be translated as "please stop", or that the lack of a grimace can be translated as "please stop", etc.

So here we have a woman who has changed her mind, and is counting on her body's signals and her facial expressions to convey this message to her partner, who may have never engaged her in sexual activity before. Because she lacks the wherewithal to actually tell him to stop, and believes he should just...well, he should just be able to tell. The man is on top of her, arguably holding her down, but in his mind he's just holding her tightly the way his other partners liked him to do.

That the sex was, indeed unwanted, is a fact not in dispute. The feelings of the woman may include violation, trauma, fear, anger, and a deep sense of having been wronged. These feelings are in no way invalid.

However, for the crime of rape to have occurred requires both actus reus (the act of unwanted sex itself) and mens rea (some form of criminal or guilty mind or intent). For the above scenario to be rape, and a crime, the rapist would have to KNOW that he was subjecting the woman to unwanted sex. And if the first clear sign that she'd changed her mind is her quiet sobbing after the fact, well...this is unfortunate, and a terrible situation (both for the woman, who may well be traumatized, and for the man who unintentionally traumatized her) but it isn't a crime. It is NOT RAPE.

And this is one major issue I have with data on rape presented in studies like Ms. Magazine's infamous "1 in 4" survey. Because those studies conflate "unwanted sex" the actus reus that constitutes only half of a crime, with "rape", something that requires both the actus reus of unwanted sex AND mens rea

Claiming that 1 in 4 college women are victims of rape or attempted rape based on one-sided accounts that conform to specific sexual scenarios is analogous to publishing a report on how many capital murders occurred in the US in a given year, and including accidental homicides, manslaughters, homicides where the killer was mentally incompetent, self-defence killings, negligent homicides, and second degree murders in your tally.

The Ms. study did give mens rea a "nod", if you will, by asking respondents who'd been subjected to unwanted sex to contextualize what they believed had happened to them. A full 49% of respondents characterized what had happened as "miscommunication". This would make the unwanted sex in those cases an unfortunate, but not criminal, act. In those respondents' opinions, the perpetrators did not have the required mens rea to have committed rape, because they were unaware that the respondents were unwilling. And perhaps, being there at the time, the respondents were more in a position to assess the behavior and motivations of their "attackers" than the surveyors were.

However, the author of the study disregarded these interpretations and applied the term "rape" or "attempted rape" to every incident of unwanted sex where some degree of force was used, such as holding a woman down. And this might be reasonable, if not for the typical mechanics of sex, which often involve, well...a man holding someone whilst simultaneously being on top of them.

Ahh, you might say, but in the Ms. study, about half of the findings of rape and attempted rape involved alcohol or drugs, "administered" to the woman before sex. Here again, I have some issues. Because in the dating and hook-up scenes on campuses, there's a lot of booze consumed by women, often gleefully provided by young men hoping to grease the wheels of sex. I have some serious doubts as to whether these young men are holding women down and pouring liquor down their unwilling throats. I also have a hard time seeing scores of sober young men pressuring women to drink in the hopes that they will become incoherent and sloppy enough as to be unaware of her surroundings and unable to resist, much less participate in the anticipated sex.

So we have college parties where everyone--male or female--is drinking like mad, all looking to shed their inhibitions, have a great time and maybe hook up with someone.

And while providing a woman with enough free beer to drop a rhino may be self-serving on the part of the young men involved and in no way entitles them to sex, I can't help but think that if these women are somehow unaware that alcohol consumption lowers inhibitions (even sexual ones *gasp!*), and that consuming enormous quantities may lead them to consent to things they would never do while sober, they probably do not belong in college in the first place.

So let's explore the role of alcohol in the crime of rape. Let's be true to the criminal code and say one's own willful intoxication is no defence, and let's be totally wacky and hold both genders to an equal standard of accountability.

Young man pours young woman several beers. Young man is unabashed in his motive to get said woman buzzed enough that her judgment will be impaired and he may get lucky as a result. Said woman drinks those beers looking to get wasted, because getting wasted doesn't just feel good--it frees her up to do things that she wouldn't while sober, but that she kinda sorta wants to do sometimes and might just do if not for those pesky inhibitions.

So let's say she's drunk but coherent, and he is equally drunk but coherent, and both of them willingly engage in sex. In the morning, she rolls over and realizes she just fucked Ron Jeremy's less suave cousin, and she can hardly even remember how it happened. She's lying there, thinking, "OMG, he got me drunk on purpose so he could take advantage of me--that's RAPE!"

Well, yes it is. Sort of. If one can wrap one's head around the idea that pouring a woman a few beers is the precipitating act proving an intent to commit rape, rather than a generous application of socio-sexual lubricant. I mean, it's not like he slipped her a date-rape drug. He gave her alcohol, which she willingly drank. If his intention when pouring her those beers was to get her so wasted that her level of intoxication would "seal the deal" and guarantee sex, whether she wanted it or not, then yeah. Rape. But if his intention was to grease the wheels in the hope that she might climb onto his lap and engage in consensual sex with him, has he really done anything wrong? Because at that point, we would have to conclude that any man who buys a woman he desires a few drinks has the intent to rape, don't we? Again, it's all about mens rea--the guilty mind.

However, even if we conclude that any consensual sex while falling-down drunk is rape, we must consider the corollary of drunk driving. Charging a sober man with rape because a woman consented to have sex with him while she was drunk would be analogous to holding the sober driver at fault in a collision with a drunk driver.

And if they're both drunk? Though a legal argument may be made that she was too drunk to be capable of consent, well, so was he, wasn't he? And though a legal argument may be made that a criminal's willful intoxication is no defence for having committed a crime...if we are to keep to our completely nutty theme of holding both parties to the same standard of accountability, both parties would be rapists under the law, and both would be accessories to the other's perpetration of rape. 

This much should be clear. If intoxication vitiates consent but does not eliminate criminal culpability, then even enthusiastic, consensual drunk sex is a crime--one which two people participated in. If one's own willful intoxication is no defence...well, if she said "yes" while drunk, she participated in the commission of a crime, and is an accessory. Hell, one could argue that her consuming enough alcohol to become so drunk that her inhibitions would be lowered was an act of intent to become an accessory to rape.

Regardless of who feels more harmed by the situation, when both parties are drunk, both parties are equally culpable. Charging a traumatized woman with rape and accessory to rape would be no more unjust than charging a man with the same, even if both had the required mens rea to commit the crime of having sex while too intoxicated to consent. 

And this is where the alcohol/drug rape definition departs from reality. Because if we are to criminalize drunk sex, both parties should be charged even if both are pleased with the outcome the next morning, since consent must occur contemporaneously with the sexual acts performed--neither advance consent nor consent after-the-fact are in any way defensible legal concepts. And if one cannot legally consent to sex while drunk, then one cannot legally consent to sex while drunk. 

And if the woman was drunk and consented, and the man was NOT drunk? Her drunken "yes" still technically makes her an accessory to a criminal act. By consenting to sex while drunk, she was engaging and participating in criminal activity, and her own willful intoxication is no defence.

A crime is a crime is a crime, even if no one was harmed by it, right? And the only way to avoid criminalizing the act of ANYONE saying "yes" while drunk is to hold both genders to the same standard of accountability for their decisions while drunk. 

That is, to maintain the definition of rape as the conscious, intentional and willful forcing of sex on a clearly non-consenting person. 

And if that is the only rational definition of rape that can possibly be enforced without applying differing standards of legal culpability and differing standards of conduct on people solely based on what reproductive parts they have, then when it comes to rape as a crime, it is ALL ABOUT mens rea. In which case, incidents of unwanted sex based on a woman's consumption of alcohol/drugs or specific scenarios that do not take into account the intent of the "attacker", cannot be described as rape.

Just like a car accident can't be called murder solely because someone died, not every incident of unwanted sex can be characterized as rape. 

Yet we do this constantly. When it comes to rape and rape alone, the legal requirement of mens rea as one half of the definition of a crime is utterly ignored, by feminists, by "experts" and, increasingly, by the law--but only when it comes to women and victimhood. And why? To protect women from their own decisions, from their lack of honesty and maturity, and from the consequences of their own irresponsible behavior.

In other words, reduce them to the level of children under the law, incapable of behaving responsibly or standing by their own choices and actions--whether it is a choice to fuck while drunk or the decision to engage in sexual activity while emotionally incapable of uttering the word "no". 

How on earth can this not be seen as misogynistic? 

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

How Feminism Hates Women

Part One: Rape.

It's not that far back on the timeline of civilized human existence that noted feminist writer and anti-pornography activist, Andrea Dworkin penned one of her most controversial works--Intercourse. In it, she posited that sexual intercourse--as influenced by culture, patriarchal oppression and pornography--is "the pure, sterile, formal expression of men's contempt for women..."

Now don't get me wrong. There are a lot of negatives about pornography, and these negatives play out among both men and women. Body image issues abound, just like they do with any air-brushed, pancake-made-up entertainment industry, the recent trend in genital grooming through bikini and brazilian waxing and even labiaplasty being one, and another evidenced by the plethora of "male enhancement" drug ads that find their way into my spambox. Yet another is humorously addressed in this article at, which blandly asserts (correctly) that porn sex isn't "real sex". I've even gone so far as to warn my 16 year-old son that what plays to the camera ain't always what feels good.

And don't get me wrong, I'm willing to admit there are misogynist men out there, and that their misogyny is as likely to express itself through their sexual activities as it is in their speech and public behavior.

However, with respect to Ms. Dworkin's (and other feminists') insistence that porn "trains" men to rape...I can't help but conclude that this theory has been soundly debunked--by none other than the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which reports that rape has been on the decline to the tune of something like 90% since 1979.

Remember, this is an era where porn rocketed out of inaccessible, skeezy XXX theaters and 8mm film reels to become more available than ever, through home VCRs and the internet. This was also a period during which rape shield protections have made it less painful than ever for women to report their rapes, and concurrent with a healthy (or unhealthy, depending on your POV) hook-up culture where more young women are putting themselves in sexual situations with men they hardly know than ever before. And while no one has been able to conclusively prove that the now-universal availability of porn is what's actually put the kibosh on rape, it's hard to give any credence to the predictions of Dworkin et al., who in the 70s forecast nothing but rape rape rape all over the place if men, en masse, were allowed to regularly watch people humping in movies.

But contrary to the findings of our friends at the Bureau of Justice, according to many feminist academics and activists, rape is more rampant than ever. In fact, we're living in a whole culture of rape, if you didn't know. And according to the law, they're right. Because the legal definition of consent has been implacably narrowing and the legal definition of rape broadening--largely due to feminist theory and jurisprudence. It would seem that if a predicted epidemic of rape was not forthcoming, the answer (according to some) was to manufacture one, through criminalization of behaviors that had once been considered both normal and legal.

Drunk sex? That's rape, (depending on what gender you are, of course). Touching your partner in her sleep, even at her request? Sexual assault. Nagging, pestering, whinging and cajoling a woman into sex? RAPE.

One of Ms. Dworkin's most pithy quotes: "Seduction is often difficult to distinguish from rape. In seduction, the rapist often bothers to buy a bottle of wine."

And another: "No woman needs intercourse; few women escape it."

It is no wonder, considering her entire body of work, that many of her critics have accused her of characterizing all heterosexual sex as rape. When seduction is synonymous with rape, and sexual intercourse something women must "escape" from...well, this is a completely reasonable assumption. That Ms. Dworkin hated men ought to be self-evident, and that she worked tirelessly to help build a society that would also hate men is a political position that drips from her every printed word, not least her assertion that "making love" is something one can only truly do when one leaves one's gender at the bedroom door. Judging by her lesbianism and her writings, one can guess which gender she's talking about.

Her war was always a war against maleness, and one that was to be fought on every front, even (perhaps especially) in our beds. Victory would only be achieved through the utter desexifying of sex, the entry of the political into our most intimate relations, a society where someone other than the individuals involved sits in clinical judgment of what politically sanctioned activities you're permitted to engage in to get your rocks off.

And we're on our way there, for sure. At least, this attitude is what the law is beginning to reflect as the state pushes its inexorable way back into our bedrooms.

Now if I was self-absorbed enough, I'd go into detail on how the sex life Ms. Dworkin and the law approve of is patently not the sex life I want. A sex life of my partner asking my permission at every escalation of a sexual encounter, a sex life of sweet, tender reverence on the part of whatever man I'm with, a sex life where gender remains outside the bedroom door, a sex life where fucking doesn't happen, a sex life of always being asked and never told, always having to give and never being taken.

But that's an argument for another day. Today, I'm going to try to explain a few ways feminist discourse and activism with respect to the problem of rape, harms women. The first lies in feminist academia's arbitrary and dismissive attitude toward women's actual experiences to further their agenda of manufacturing a rape epidemic.

Yes, you heard me. Feminist academics dismiss the experiences and perceptions of women. Let's examine one of the most frequently cited studies on rape--the 1985 Ms. Magazine study authored by Mary Koss, which determined, based on a random sample of three thousand, that 1 in 4 college-aged women in the US have been victims of rape or attempted rape. In a paper published three years prior to this study, she characterized rape as "an extreme behavior but one that is on a continuum with normal male behavior within the culture". In other words, rape is not a deviate behavior of certain individuals, but in its essence, just another "normal" expression of male sexuality. Like our late friend Ms. Dworkin, Ms. Koss subscribes to the belief that maleness is not only the root of all rape, but that maleness is synonymous with rape.

In the study, rape was defined as nonconsensual "penetration by a finger, penis or other object." This is an extremely broad definition of rape to begin with--penetration by a finger? Seriously? In addition, the wording of question 8 (the drug/alcohol question), which was responsible for roughly half the findings of rape, was ambiguous to the point of absurdity, something Koss later admitted when pressed by reporters.

But it gets better. Because of all the women determined to have been raped, only 27% considered themselves to be rape victims. Yes, that's right. It was the surveyors, not the respondents, who decided who had been raped and who hadn't.

When corrected for these discrepancies, the number of women in the study who were victims of rape or attempted rape drops to about 1 in 22. Still unacceptable--especially if you're woman #22--but one thing that number won't do is get you all kinds of nationwide press.

Another study done in 1992, by Dr. Dean Kilpatrick, found that 1 in 8 women in America would be the victim of forcible rape at least once in her lifetime. Which is pretty scary, especially for the hordes of women who opted not to enrol in post-secondary education, believing it would keep them safe from all those rampant campus rapists.

In order to avoid the uncomfortable conflict that arose in Koss's study, where victims of rape were apparently in the dark as to the fact they'd been raped (how awkward!), Kilpatrick thought it prudent to omit the question altogether. Yes, you heard me. In a study of how many women have been raped, he didn't think "Have you ever been a victim of rape?" was a pertinent enough question to include in the 35 minute telephone interview. When pressed by reporters from a small, award-winning investigative newspaper, as to why he'd omitted the question in his million-dollar study, his reply was, "If people think that is a key question, let them get their own grant and do their own study."

Except guess what? He'd already done that study--one where he'd explicitly asked respondents whether they had, indeed, been raped. And the number he arrived at? Coincidence of coincidences: 1 in 20. You'll understand how that study didn't land him a spot in Time magazine, whereas his super-scary 1992 study based on the Koss/Ms methodology made him a feminist household name.

Which brings me to the second way feminism's approach to rape harms women: Feminism wants women to believe that rape is so prevalent as to be virtually inevitable. To paraphrase Ms. Dworkin: "No woman needs [rape]; few escape it."

Why would feminism want women to be more afraid than they have to be, if not to pit women against men--potential victims against potential rapists--and to characterize the entirety of male sexuality as a pathology to be cured? That Koss herself posited that rape lay on a "continuum of normal male behavior" tells me that according to her, male sexuality is like cancer--"normal male sexuality" characterized as stage 1, and rape as stage 4, the only difference being the degree of harm done.

That feminism does not apply the same reasoning to deviant female sexual behaviors is telling. Women who commit sexual abuse of children, or who prey on adolescent boys are characterized as victims of patriarchy--the slave who turns herself into her oppressor in self-defence--their deviant behavior thus segregated from [pure, vaunted, innocuous, admirable] female sexuality and tossed into the male camp, where predatory behavior, domination, abuse and rape are all par for the course. Women who rape other women? Acting out the misogyny they've internalized through patriarchal oppression. Women who rape men? They don't exist.

What does all this mean for the average woman? It means confusion, conflict and fear. It means many women walking around afraid of all men, feeling like victims before they are even victimized. It means many women developing a creeping self-hate if they discover a little of the spanky-spanky in bed gets them wet. It means many women being terrified of something that is a lot less likely to happen to them than they've been led to believe. Not because of reality, but because of the feminist theory and activism that has essentially lied to them.

But this is hardly the end of it, because even many sensible pundits still characterize rape as a "uniquely horrible crime", and I've often wondered why that is. What makes rape--absent of any aggravating factors, the simple act of being subjected to nonconsensual sex--"uniquely horrible" when compared to, say, being stabbed, or beaten, or taken hostage, or any number of other forms of assault and violation of our bodily autonomy. What is it that makes us as a society characterize rape as a crime so bad only murder would be worse?

If any of you all have read my piece on slut-shaming and feminism, you'll know I believe rape continues to be viewed as uniquely horrible because of a conflict between sexual liberation and a Victorian view of female sexual honor as a woman's primary asset in life, one without which she is nothing. Back in 1850, the shame and personal devaluation a woman suffered when her sexual honor was gone was very practical and very concrete, and the consequences to her future absolutely dire. It hardly mattered whether her honor was taken by rape or because she had consented to sex. Either way, she had no further value as a woman.

But now, in the 2010s, there is no logical reason for any woman to feel ashamed or devalued as a woman because the "sanctity" of her sexuality was violated--because women's sexuality is no longer considered sacred, and the concept of sexual honor no longer exists in any practical way. Considering how society's views on women who have sex outside of marriage, and of women's value as more than wives and mothers, have changed, a woman's feelings of fear, trauma, violation and victimization associated with rape ought to be similar to those associated with any other form of assault. There is no logical place for shame and loss of self-worth in a world where there is no shame in a woman having sex, and no real-world value placed on her sexual virtue.

Yet this reaction to rape--a reaction that is very real to many women, despite the fact that it has no logical basis--has been allowed to dominate the entire public discourse on rape. In much the same way as discussions concerning routine infant male circumcision are often constrained by requests to speak less frankly out of consideration for the feelings of men who were circumcised as babies, conversations about rape are constrained by demands that everyone walk on eggshells, and that women who "got over" being raped be silent lest we make women who were more damaged by their rapes feel even worse. The result is that when discussing rape and how it effects women, the only permissible dialogue is one of shame, terror and human devaluation. Any frank, open, honest or questioning voices are told to be quiet.

And the fact that this dialogue is reinforced time and again through popular culture's portrayal of rape as both psychologically destroying and sexually shameful for women... it's as if feminism and popular culture not only want women to feel rape is virtually inevitable, something that is bound to happen to them, but that it is, indeed, the worst possible thing that could ever happen to them, that it is so horrendous an assault that it literally must change the way a woman sees herself and her value to humanity, and that she does indeed have something to be ashamed of if she is raped.

Which seems like a horribly cruel thing to do to women. But in radical, modern feminism's war on male sexuality, the women harmed by this deceit and emotional manipulation are merely collateral damage, pawns in the political game, and well worth the sacrifice.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

It's time to grow up, ladies

I talk a lot about agency, though I often refer to it as "owning your shit". It's been my experience that life is a lot happier when a person has a sense of real agency, when they acknowledge the cause/effect nature of existence, and when they feel as if they directly affect what happens to them.

Some examples of peoples, both throughout history and in modern times, who lack and have lacked agency? Um...slaves. Peasants. Serfs. Plebes. Refugees. The impoverished. A lot of women in a lot of places in the world. And a lot of men, too.

Agency is important in order to feel like a self-actualized human being. Agency is what gets you all pumped up and proud when you made a sweet day trade and earned a cool $4000 in a few hours, because you are just that awesome. Agency is what also prevents you from blaming it entirely on the market, that idiot friend of yours who emailed you the stock tip, or asshole bankers if you lost money on the deal. Because dude, you're the one who bought the stocks, right? Nobody made you do it. And if you sank your life savings into it, well, the buck stops with you once your spouse finds out.

Agency is a double-edged sword. It isn't just about the right to succeed on your own merits. It's about the right to fuck up on them, too.

It requires individual liberty and individual power, as well as personal responsibility and accountability. It's not just the means to make your life kick-ass largely through your own talent and effort, it's the opportunity to fuck everything up and be stuck owning the steaming pile of crap that results. Whether it's a four-poster with tulle trim and Egyptian cotton sheets or a urine-soaked cot, you made the bed and you lie in it. Agency is being able to claim credit for your accomplishments, and agency is accepting blame for your failures. And for much of history, ordinary men didn't have it any more than women did, because for ordinary anyone, individual everything was constrained by social norms, economic reality, and very limited rights and freedoms.

Take sexual agency. This is something everyone wants, and something most of us believe men have always had, but let's examine the dynamics minutely:

1) Sexual Power--or the "goods". 

Might surprise you all to hear that this is something women have always had. In fact, for many women throughout history, it was the only power they ever had, and it's always been rooted in their ability to bear children. In both social and evolutionary terms, sperm are cheap and plentiful, and eggs are scarce and expensive. An ejaculation is worth nothing unless it can find an adequate rental space to set up operations. As with anything in real estate, it's all about location, location, location. If men wanted to procreate in any socially acceptable way and have anything to do with their offspring, they had to get married. Women could be very choosy when selecting to whom they wanted to rent their uterus, and they still can.

It might also surprise you all to hear that sexual power is and has always been the weakest aspect of male sexuality. I understand, this does not jive with our collective cultural images of Matthew McConaughey, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and George Clooney all hanging out together drinking martinis, looking sexy and suave, and tripping over all the ladies who are dying to fuck them. News flash for you, girls. Most men are not Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Most men aren't even Steve Buscemi. They're Steve Buscemi without Steve Buscemi's fame, talent or money. 

The difference between male and female sexual power is perfectly illustrated by this little clip.

2) Sexual Liberty--or the right to make decisions concerning your own sexuality. 

Up until recently, only men had this option without risk of public shame and censure, and only if they were straight. This was because female sexuality was seen as a commodity, a woman's primary asset in life, and she was not to be trusted to make sound decisions concerning it. Her hymen went to her husband, and her fidelity was paramount within marriage, because in the days before DNA testing, the only assurance a man had that the kids he was hauling coal or digging post-holes to support were his was the fidelity of his wife. And while there have always been women who exercised a similar level of the sexual liberty allowed to men, they were women of disrepute, and unsuitable for marriage. Only those with sufficient wealth and social status in their own right could get away with such behavior and still hold their heads up in polite society, let alone hope to find a man willing to put his trust in them.

A man's peccadilloes were no one's business but his own, since he could easily assure his wife that her children were, indeed, her own. Of course, most men were more like Steve Buscemi than George Clooney, and the wife and legitimate kids had first dibs on whatever resources he had. So the number of men who even had the wherewithal to stray to any degree were pretty damn few. As you can imagine, though men may have had the freedom to dip their wicks wherever they wished, the majority of them had pretty much no real opportunity to do so without forking over a spare tuppence in exchange for services rendered. The only men with any meaningful sexual freedom were the wealthy rakes of historical romance novels.

3) Personal Sexual Responsibility--or guarding the treasure.

Men, by and large, have always been sexually responsible. Not only for themselves, but for their sisters, mothers, daughters, wives and to a large degree, any respectable woman they came across. For every cad who would dare to rape a woman, there were a dozen or more who would rescue her from his evil clutches. Men were just as aware of the rules of polite society as women were. While dressing to attract sexual attention has always been de rigueur for women, men were expected to restrain themselves at all time. They did so not out of concern for themselves, because they had no sexual treasure to guard, remember? Sperm are a dime a dozen--it's the eggs and uterus that are worth a fortune. Therefor there was no shame in being a womanizing rake, if one could actually manage it. Men restrained themselves out of concern for "decent women", and what decent women were worth to society. Decent women had a treasure to guard, and it was everyone's responsibility to help guard it. Rape was the direst crime a man could commit, because it was a crime against the warp and weft of the entire social fabric--a crime against man, woman and marriage itself.

Women who were not decent, those of disrepute? They were on their own. They had sexual liberty, but in exchange for it, they gave up any semblance of a traditional life, and the protection of society. No reasonable man would go running to defend her honor, because she had none. Nor did society see much point in protecting a woman's sexual value if she herself cared nothing about it. 

Single, respectable women? Their only responsibility was to never do anything to bring their virtue into question. The circumstances under which they were permitted to interact with the world were very constrained--out of necessity--and the rules crystal clear. She need not exercise any form of personal, subjective judgment. The rules were such that no judgment was ever required, and as a result, in some cases the first moment a couple found themselves alone together was in their marriage bed. The higher social status the woman, the more valuable her virtue and the more closely it was guarded by everyone. An indiscretion could destroy a woman's prospects of marriage. A rape? Complete and utter social ruin for her, and often death by vigilante justice for the rapist. Rape was a crime against a woman's family, against her present or future husband, and against society--of all the injured parties the wronged woman was considered the least important of the aggrieved. If she and her parents were very lucky, the rapist was of reasonable social status and unattached and the rape not public knowledge, at which point they'd run him to the altar with a shotgun so that everyone in question could save face. And you thought rape victims were "punished" by society now, didn't you?

4) Sexual accountability--or "You break it, you bought it."

Ordinary men have always been stuck with it. Rich men could buy their way out of it, if need be. It wasn't that long ago in the grand scheme of things that a man who "got an unmarried girl pregnant" (as if he was the only one involved in said impregnation) was expected to step up, "do the right thing" and take responsibility for his transgression. Actual really and for true forcible rape? You know that dude is doing time, if the crime could be proved.

Because of the strict social mores that had, up until the sexual revolution, dictated, controlled and repressed sexual interactions between men and women, and because of outdated notions that a "fallen woman's" honor deserved no protection at all, women often faced an uphill legal battle if there was any indication she'd "misbehaved" in any way prior to the assault. Victim-blaming? Certainly. But a very great deal of the attitude behind it, IMO, was an outmoded thought process that still exists in many, many, many women today--that the sexual purity of a woman (at least in a traumatic situation such as rape) is a thing of great importance to her, to her future husband, and to society. And if a woman held that purity to be of no value--if she'd given it away willy nilly--there was no virtue for anyone to defend. It was not so much that a man had some right to rape a woman who dressed slutty or had slept with a lot of people, it was that the practical, real world value of her sexual purity was gone. A man who raped a slut was like a man who'd stolen the equivalent of a chocolate bar, not one who'd robbed someone of their entire life savings. Still a crime? Sure. A crime against man, woman and society? Not so much.

Women used to have sexual accountability, but it was expressed in very specific ways. And it wasn't much fun. Just think of that woman from the 1700s who'd been forced by her family to marry the man who'd raped her, and you'll get what I'm saying. The consequences she'd pay if she'd brought her dishonor on herself in any way? Absolutely life-destroying. A woman who'd put herself in a position where rape could occur was a woman whose behavior couldn't be trusted. At best, she might be foolish enough to do it again. At worst, she'd done it on purpose and her "rape" was actually consensual sex, in which case, she really couldn't be trusted. 

I used to believe men had sexual agency, and perhaps a small subset of men--those who are/were the most sexually attractive--actually did and do. But remember, agency requires four ingredients: power, liberty, responsibility and accountability. For most men before the sexual revolution, the constraints of society and practical reality prevented sexual agency. And even now...well, the power to get laid when one desires it is not one that men possess as a class. 

One of the few things that help ordinary men make up for their lack of sexual power is the healthy self-love lives they tend to unashamedly enjoy. Porn and masturbation are poor substitutes for real agency, but any port in a storm, right?

Men as a class were also missing another of the crucial ingredients: sexual liberty. 

What's this, you say? But men have ALL the sexual liberty one could want! They always have. Except they don't--because liberty is worth nothing if one cannot exercise it. Men may be technically free to make any sexual decision they wish, to be studs without shame, but practical reality is another thing altogether. And for the Steve Buscemis of the world, sexual liberty often equates to the "freedom" to be repeatedly sexually rejected and to take solace in one's right hand. This has always been the case, and may always be the case.

Responsibility, on the other hand? And accountability? Men have those in spades, even more so today, because they're now held accountable for decisions that are not even their own. In the face of completely unrestrained female sexuality, men are expected to restrain themselves, and as unfair as this burden really is, the vast majority of men do it. That reports of rape have decreased by ~90% over the last 30 years is a testament to male sexual responsibility. Still, men are considered responsible, as a class, for the existence of rape, they are considered responsible as a class for eliminating it, are considered responsible for keeping their hands to themselves, their eyes on her face, never expressing interest that might be unwanted, and for saying "no" for both parties in many situations, even if a given woman is screaming "yes!"

And men are absolutely held accountable for their sexual decisions. There are teenage boys paying child support to the teachers who raped them. Slept with a drunk woman--even if you were also drunk? You've just raped her...maybe. I think. If she decides that's what happened to her, anyway. Conversely, if he feels violated by a woman--if he wakes up next to Alice the Goon with vague memories of the unprotected sex she pressured him into while HE was plastered? He's expected to stand by his drunken "yes", no matter how long a shower he needs to feel clean again, and just pray he didn't get her knocked up, because if he did, hello 18 years of child support payments. 

Way back when, the question men asked themselves during the dance of courtship was, "Is her no really a no?" Now, he has to ask himself, "Is her yes going to stick?" There are men in prison right now for having consensual sex with their long term partners, because a woman's "yes" didn't stick when things got bumpy in the relationship. 

A man's accountability for "ruining" a woman by getting her pregnant used to be an expectation of marriage, and she was expected to go along with the plan to restore her virtue. This has gone out the window. A man's accountability today--child support--is one that does not limit a woman's sexual liberty, though when you consider how important material success is to a man's sexual attractiveness, it certainly limits his. 

If that's not sexual accountability for men, I don't know what is. He is considered the master of ceremonies, completely responsible for keeping all parties safe, happy and unregretful during sex, expected to never miss a red light even if it's actually green, and to stand by the consequences of his own "yes" even if he was coerced into sex, preyed on as an adolescent by an adult woman, or incoherently drunk.

Women, on the other hand...if anything, women have less agency now than they did before the sexual revolution. While before, they had a balance of all four aspects that was grossly restricted by the rules of society, right now, they have but two--liberty and power. The other edge of the sword is something they seem much more reluctant to embrace.

Well, ladies, I think it might be time for us as a gender to start growing up. Get some agency, because women are fortunate enough that sexual agency is actually possible for most of us, if we want it. But in order to have it, we have to acknowledge some fundamental issues we have.

Sexual liberty has always been a risky endeavor for men (just ask that Weiner dude, or Arnie, or any number of other men who've ended up fucking themselves over because of sex), and it's time for us to acknowledge that it is a risky endeavor for us, too. Sexual liberty can never be inherently "safe", because sex itself is not inherently "safe". Sex is gritty and it's intense and it's wild and it's fraught with all kinds of emotional and hormonal confusion and upheaval, before, during and after. Moreover, it has consequences, some of which we might not like, and some of which burden us more than men.

I hear all the time about how important it is for a man (never a woman, always a man) to make sure his partner is consenting. That many women don't actually have the wherewithal to say no, but that doesn't mean they're consenting. Women used to be expected to play a part in safeguarding their own virtue by following the rules of society and by saying "no" to, or resisting unwanted sex. Now? Nope. A woman who is in a man's bedroom, naked in his bed, is no longer even held responsible to tell him to stop if she wants him to stop. The onus for ensuring everyone really is into it is entirely on the man, even if it means reading her mind. And if both of them are drunk? Yup, he's still held responsible for saying no for both of them, even if she's saying yes.

Number one: some of us like drunk sex. Some of us think that a few of you girls out there are ruining it for the rest of us. There is no excuse for any man to have sex with someone who's passed out, or puking drunk, or incoherent (or for a woman to do it, either). But there's a lot of leeway between being drunk and being incapacitated, and if we expect people to drink responsibly when it comes to driving, we should at least be able to expect them--even women--to drink responsibly when it comes to sex. And if you don't think you should be held responsible for your sexual actions while drunk--that is, if your yes shouldn't be considered a yes--then WHY are men supposed to behave any more responsibly when they're drunk. We have a society that says a drunk man who rapes someone is still a rapist, but a drunk woman who said yes to sex can't be held to her "yes". Why? Because she's a woman and he's a man, so he should behave more responsibly? Are women babies now?

Number 2: ladies, please. If you do not have the sexual confidence and maturity to utter the word "stop" when you are lying naked in a man's bed after choosing to climb into it, then you had absolutely NO business climbing into it in the first place. Seriously. You've spent all evening moving from "maybe" to "I think so" to "probably" to "most likely" to "almost definitely" to "practically guaranteed" to "score!", moving out of the public eye (where you're safe) and into a private space (where I'm sorry, you're not), discarding inhibitions and bits of clothing along the way. The further along this sexual continuum you are, the more momentum has built up, and the more clear your 180 degree "no" needs to be. The closer you've come as a couple to the crease, the more definitive your save has to be if you suddenly decide you don't want the puck in the net. 

Moreover, you're an adult. You're allowed to say no.

Moreover, sex is not a one-way street. It's something people share, and the responsibility for sex and for consent, for what does and does not happen wrt sex MUST be shared, too. You're there to have sex, not to have it done to you--you are a part of the entire process. 

(Disclaimer: this does not mean that going up to a man's room means he is entitled to sex. What it means if you've repeatedly said "yes", by word or deed, all night, and you agree to go someplace private where you continue with your "yesses", you cannot rely on silence to convey a "no". I cannot stress enough, knowing a little about what turns people on and how they respond physically to stimuli--sex noises and pain noises are very similar, sex noises and pleading noises are very similar, sex faces and pain faces are very similar, women can be physically aroused and orgasm even while they're being raped, and when the momentum's been building all evening and everyone's excited and your body's signals can be so easily misinterpreted, the closer you are to "score!", the more you need to SAY SOMETHING if you've changed your mind. It is very easy to convey our "yesses" through our actions, but men AND women misinterpret those signals all the time. And if a guy misses those signals, well, no harm done, right? A "no", however, is a signal you do not want him to miss, and you have a responsibility to both of you to ensure he doesn't. Do you see how that works?)

Number 3: one of the things women absolutely MUST do is stop putting the responsibility on everyone else to safeguard our sexuality. It is not society's or men's responsibility anymore. We threw the rules that allowed society and men to safeguard our sexuality out the window, didn't we? Expecting men and society to do that job now is like expecting this guy to get this guy to the Greek. Which may be doable, but is less than fair. If we don't want unfair social restrictions put on our behavior, we need to be the primary agents in our sex lives and stop putting an unfair burden on everyone else to keep us safe from harm. Taking charge of our sex lives means taking responsibility for them, even when we don't like where our decisions lead us.

If we want people to stop judging us by the state of our sexual purity, we need to stop doing the same damn thing. Because the difference between a slut and a stud isn't just what James Jeffries so aptly put in his little bit of stand-up (sit-down?) comedy I linked to above. Another difference is that we, as women, still consider our sexuality to be sacrosanct in many ways, rather than a practical aspect of our lives and identities. This conflict of belief is no more apparent than in the insistence of women as a group that, "It's only sex. I'm not just my body, and how many men I've had sex with has nothing to do with my value as a person, and I can sleep with whomever I want because it's just sex, and how dare you shame me for being a sexual person!" because the moment a woman is raped, groped, or even stared at, we see just how deeply women as a whole truly believe their own rhetoric. 

If women want society to place no special value on a woman's sexual purity as a function of her self-worth, they need to...well, grow up and stop placing special value on it themselves in the context of unwanted sexual attention. That rape is a crime and should be treated as such, I have absolutely no problem with. But that rape is still treated as an "extra-special, super-crime against the 'sanctity' of a woman's body, the worst violation ever, and one that should be treated differently than other crimes because it brings shame and a loss of self-worth to victims"? This is backward thinking in any sexually liberated society. 

How individual victims feel after an assault varies widely, and yes, for many there are feelings of shame and devaluation as women. But right now, today, there is only one socially acceptable way for even women to feel about rape. Shame colors the entire public discourse on it. Frank discussion is routinely silenced out of a need to spare feelings, policies are in place that, while necessary to encourage victims to come forward, cannot help but reinforce the cultural notion that being raped is something a woman is supposed to feel ashamed about, and that it somehow diminishes her value as a woman.

As a matter of public and legal policy, we need to eventually pick one or the other, ladies, and stop insisting on having it both ways. Either a woman's sexuality is sacred or it's not. If having sex with a dozen men is nothing for you to be ashamed of and has nothing to do with your worth as a person, then being forced into having sex against your will--someone else's bad act, and one you had no choice in!--is really nothing for you to be ashamed of and nothing to do with your worth as a person. It's a violation of your bodily autonomy, a crime committed against you, and wrong wrong wrong. That it is often horribly traumatic and can kill a woman's trust in men and the world is perfectly understandable, for sure, just like any assault can. But an act of forced or coerced sex is nothing for YOU to feel ashamed about unless you're the one doing the forcing, and it's nothing that remotely--in any objective sense--diminishes your value as a woman and a human being. We're supposed to be more than sexual objects now, right?

There is nothing I would like more than for women as a group to reach a day when the most common reaction of a victim to being raped is: "I'm not just a body. I'm a sexual agent, not a sexual object, and my virtue and value as a person does not live between my legs. You took sex from me, but you didn't take my self-esteem or my value as a human being or a woman. You had no right to do what you did, but I'm not the one who did anything to be ashamed of, so I fucking refuse to feel ashamed. No piece of shit rapist gets to tell ME how to feel about myself. And now you get to sit in jail and think about that while I get on with my life, asshole." 

But how are we to get there if we as a group don't start to own our own sex lives--our power, our liberty, our responsibility and the consequences of what we do.

Number 4: we need to start growing up and flexing our sexual muscle responsibly. Anyone who's been to see the strippers on ladies' night vs men's night and observes the behavior of the crowd will realize that men are held to a completely different standard of sexual responsibility and restraint than women are. What on earth makes any woman feel entitled to put her hands on a man in a way she would not tolerate someone putting their hands on her? I don't care how much you've had to drink. If you expect everyone to respect your bodily and sexual autonomy, you need to start respecting that of others' to the same degree. Because at the moment, women routinely get away with sexual misconduct, sexual assault and even rape, because no one is holding them to any kind of standard of behavior when it comes to other people.

This gender dichotomy is beautifully illustrated in THIS study, that determined forced and coerced sex among heterosexual couples was almost equal for both genders. How many of us, men and woman both, would consider a woman pushing sex on her partner as "asserting her needs and getting what she wants" while at the same time deeming the men in the study to be guilty of "spousal rape"? Likewise, that a sex therapist who dares to say "I've always said women have a right to say no, but men and women should think about the impact of rejection on their partners, and some may choose to say yes a little more often,'' could spark a feminist protest characterizing her as a supporter of spousal rape is also telling.

You as women have no more right to force yourselves on men as they do on you. You have no right to yell "hubba hubba" if you're going to get up in arms about whistles or catcalls directed your way. You cannot characterize viewing porn as "empowering" for women while judging it to be "creepy" when men do the same thing. You cannot feel entitled to grope a male stripper if you're going to get all offended at the idea of being groped yourself, or insist that female strippers are exploited because men dare to look at them.

Number 5: ladies, please oh please, take some responsibility for the quality your sex lives! I was talking to a young woman at work not long ago. She'd come to me to ask if, as one of the young male employees had informed her, her boyfriend actually masturbated. 

Me: How old is he?

Her: 21.

Me: Oh yeah. He masturbates.

Her: OMG, that is so gross! No he doesn't!

Me: Sorry to burst your bubble.

Her: But we have sex every day! Why would he masturbate?

Me: Because he can, yo.

Her, making gagging noises: Ewwww! How often does he DO that?

Me: If he's like most guys his age, every day. Maybe more than once.

Her: That's so disgusting! I would NEVER do that!

Me: Why not? It's your body, you have every right to touch it any way you want. Besides, if you've never figured out how your own buttons work, how can you let your boyfriend know what you like?

Her, blinking: Well, he's just supposed to know.

Um...okay. That a young woman in today's supposedly sexually liberated society can still consider masturbating a disgusting act she would never, ever engage in, that she is still placing the entire onus for her sexual pleasure on whatever man she's with...this only illustrates how conflicted women still are about sex and their own sexual agency.

The sexual revolution means we're all playing by different rules. This is a very difficult transition we are facing as a society, and women need to take some responsibility for where it's all headed. We're the ones who tossed the old handbook out the window, and we're largely writing the new one. In doing so, we've made the rules for men contradictory, unjustly onerous and insanely confusing...and for ourselves? Well, there are no rules for us, apparently. 

We've reduced men's role in our collective sexuality to a mad scramble to get us all safely to the Greek, or else, no matter how out of control we are, and that's something that seriously needs to change.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Rape and Slut-Shaming: Feminism's Biggest Hypocrisy

Let's play a little game I remember from watching Sesame Street as a kid. It's called One of These Things is Not Like the Others:

"Just moved into a bad neighborhood? Invest in a good lock, and use it. Wouldn't hurt to get a dog or install a security system, either." 

Wow, great advice, thanks.

"Want a nice stereo for your car? Think about getting one you can remove from the dashboard and take with you when you park your car. And don't forget to stow any valuables out of sight."

Good idea.

"Cars these days have chips installed in the ignition keys. They're super-expensive to replace, but the car won't start without it--a great theft deterrent."

$50 well spent, in my opinion, if it means my car will stay where I left it.

"Heading to the convenience store at night? Those places usually have lots of windows for a reason--it's a good idea to check out who's inside and what they're up to before you go in. Better to err on the side of caution than end up walking in on the middle of a robbery in progress."

Hey, I never really thought about that, but it sounds smart.

"Same goes for using an ATM--always check out who's hanging around, and once you've got your money, stow it and move along ASAP."

Oh, totally.

"Drive defensively. There are plenty of crappy drivers around, not to mention drunks. You don't just want to avoid causing an accident, you want to avoid being involved in one someone else causes."

You're right.

"Phishing scams are big money for fraud artists these days. No matter how legit an email looks, never give out personal info, or use the provided link to do it--always log into your bank's website or your paypal account the usual way."

Only common sense.

"Never buzz someone you don't know into your building. Not even if they claim to be a resident who's lost his keys--if he is, he can contact the landlord."

Yeah, no need to make it easy for burglars to get into the building.

"Oh, and if you want to avoid being raped, you should not dress like a slut. Especially if you're going to a party and there's going to be guys and drinking or drugs. I know you want male attention, but when you seek it out by dressing a certain way, you're can't control whose attention you're attracting--rapists or decent guys."

OMG! You slut-shaming, victim-blaming pig! How dare you tell me how to dress? You should be telling men not to rape women! How a woman dresses has NOTHING to do with rape! Little old ladies get raped! Rape is about power, not sex! I can dress however I want and I should be able to be safe from rape! Telling women they should behave in certain ways to prevent their own rapes is like saying that getting raped is their fault!!! Are you saying if I wear a short skirt I was asking for it??!!! ARE YOU!!???

Did you all spot it? If you need to go back and read through it again, go ahead, I'll wait. If you need help figuring it out (many women seem to need help understanding this kind of thing), all of the quoted bits in blue are advice you might get from a parent, a concerned friend or the police on steps that you, as an individual, can take to minimize your risks becoming a victim of a crime or catastrophe. The typical reactions to this advice are in red.

See it now? No matter what the crime is--whether it's burglary, robbery, fraud, theft, mugging, drunk driving, or sexual assault--there are measures an individual can take to minimize their risk of being victimized. Not only are people willing to spend money on security measures to protect their valuables, they take no offense when concerned individuals educate them on how to avoid being targeted by criminals, or how to make themselves crime-proof enough that a criminal will choose someone else.

Except rape. A woman who reacts benignly at the suggestion that she not walk alone at night in a certain neighborhood to avoid being mugged will often rail against any suggestion that she enact the exact same cautionary measures in order to avoid being raped. She'll insist that any suggestion that she act in the interests of her own safety when it comes to sex crimes is tantamount to blaming victims and shaming sluts. While she can reconcile the notion that locking your doors does not make a burglar any less a criminal, while she can understand that recommending people protect their property will not encourage society to stop taking burglary seriously or place any blame on victims of burglary if they slip up and forget to turn the deadbolt...when it's rape? Don't anyone even hint that women could take steps to minimize their risks, because that's blaming victims in advance for being raped.


So why does this bizarre logical disconnect exist in women? Why do we, as a society, treat rape as a "special crime", one that requires extra-sensitive dialogue, tiptoeing around reality, and an acceptance that the entire onus for preventing rape be placed on rapists, bystanders, popular culture, movies, comedians, and pretty much everyone other than potential rape victims?

The slut-walk, an exercise in pointless bullshit and the dumbest protest ever, tells you everything you need to know. Hordes of mostly young, mostly white, mostly middle class women marched in anger over the slut-shaming, victim-blaming mentality of a Toronto police officer who had the audacity to suggest that women who dress provocatively are at a greater risk of rape. Granted, his wording was tactless and overly blunt, but the knee-jerk reaction to it was telling indeed. The problem feminists seem unable to grasp, however, is that the march itself--as a response to rape-prevention advice--represents one of the deepest hypocrisies of feminism:

The idea that rape is the most horrible, despicable violation anyone can commit against a woman, but that women should never be shamed for being promiscuous.

Think about it. Suspend your emotional center for a moment and read the following with the most logical frame of mind you can muster.

Rape is the unwanted and forcible version of an act women by the millions happily consent to every day under other circumstances. In ~80% of cases rape involves only as much violence as is necessary for a rapist to subdue his victim, and the majority of the time does not result in serious physical injury. Barring the rare severe injury, and the even rarer death, rape's long-term physical consequences (pregnancy and STDs) are largely mitigated by modern medicine.

Yet rape is seen as a greater violation of a woman's bodily autonomy than being severely beaten, which is horrible and a crime no matter who's doing it to you, can lead to life-changing physical consequences like broken bones, spinal cord injuries, paralysis, brain injury, months or years of physical therapy, and, well, serious risk of death.


Because despite the sexual revolution and despite (and because of) feminism, when it comes to rape women are still living in the 1850s, when Victorian ideals told them that their sexuality was their primary personal asset, and that once it was sullied, most of their value as a human being was gone. Under "patriarchy", a woman's entire virtue lay between her legs, and it went to the first man who stuck his dick there, whether she was willing or not. A women's sexual purity was the responsibility of society, to be protected above life and limb, because a soiled woman was worthless. Therefore rape was the direst of crimes, and women who gave it away willy-nilly were abhorred, shamed and shunned.

Say what you want about patriarchy, at least it was consistent.

But feminism? I don't think they've thought through their views on the sexual revolution and how they simply cannot be reconciled with the way they wish rape to be seen by society and treated under the law.  Because the idea that women who are victims of sex crimes are special, extra-victimy victims and that rape is the worst violation imaginable is rooted in the exact same Victorian morality that slut-shaming is--the idea that a woman's sexual purity is the most important thing she has, and that she becomes valueless once that purity is gone.

Women today may be dipping their toes in the post-sexual-revolution era where a woman's sexuality supposedly has no bearing on her worth as a human being and a woman, where women should be free to explore sex and sexuality however they choose. Yet when it comes to sex without consent, women's other foot is still firmly planted in the fucking 1850s, where a woman's sexual integrity is the MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER, where rape is the most shameful conceivable violation that can be perpetrated on a woman, and where victims must be treated with kid gloves even before they've been victimized.

And feminism doesn't realize its own hypocrisy on this issue or how much that harms women, or that we can't live in the past and the present at the same time--that treating rape as a "special crime more horrible than any other" is the exact same thing as slut-shaming.

Yeah, you heard me. Treating rape differently than you would treat any other form of assault is the same thing as saying women who sleep around are whores who should be ashamed of themselves and deserve to get treated like shit. Because both of these attitudes tell women their sexual purity is the only part of themselves that's worth a goddamn thing to anyone. If feminism wants to eliminate slut-shaming and open the door for women to be truly liberated in their sexual lives, it needs to treat rape like the simple assault it is rather than a violation of the holiest of holies. It needs to stop perpetuating the notion that half an hour of unwanted sex is in any way worse than being the victim of any other kind of assault. It needs to stop reinforcing the shame victims feel by indulging it with its systemic kid-glove handling of the issues, and allow for frank and open discussion with women as a group, while leaving it to counsellors and therapists rather than society as a whole to help victims reconcile their individual trauma.

Because if feminism is going to force all of society to treat women's sexuality as sacrosanct when they've been sexually assaulted, then society is absolutely justified in shaming women who give that sexuality away to just anyone. Do you see how that works? Doesn't anyone else see how pedestalizing rape survivors as the ultimate victims of the most heinous violation ever only reinforces the notion that a woman is merely a sexual object, whose greatest source of self-worth and most important virtue in the eyes of humanity is...well, the state of her sex? That constantly enshrouding every discussion of rape in a suffocating blanket of shame and violation is only telling rape victims they're right in feeling ashamed when they're assaulted, and justifying the assholes of the world who place women's value as sexual objects above every other aspect of their humanity?

If feminism wants women to be able to freely express and explore their sexuality, without shame, in the liberated 2010s, it needs to stop treating women like it's 1850 the moment they've been raped.