All rape is rape, amirite?
November 10, 2012 10:24 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend made me incredibly angry with rape-related victim-blaming arguments of "people just shouldn't put themselves in risky situations" tonight. I can't make my point eloquently enough. Point me toward someone who can?

We've been dating for a little while, and I adore him more than anything, and he's literally the only person I've felt this seriously about, and this is still breakup territory for me.

He calls himself a feminist, but said that he would tell his daughter that went to a known-rapey-frat that she should have tried to avoid it should she get raped (or at least think it).

Personally, I think that rape is 100% the fault of the rapist, and while of course no one should needlessly put themselves in a dangerous situation, women (and everyone else) should be able to complete normal life tasks (including a social life) without fear of sexual assault or blame should something happen, and what we need to do about problematic situations we both see is change the culture that allows them to hide in plain sight.

His main argument is "listen, people should just avoid risk when possible, and yeah, those who put themselves in risky situations are being stupid and irresponsible." I've tried the car analogies and quoted how much of rape happens from those we know, but neither have been powerful metaphors. I'm looking for videos or essays (or talking points) that explain my "side." Or hey, tell me if I'm off base, although I'm pretty sure I'm not.
posted by R a c h e l to Religion & Philosophy (62 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
"known-rapey-frat' is that even a thing?

Am I just sheltered or what?

It's quite possible for Person A to do something ill-advised without that reducing the culpability of Person B.

If I knowingly and needlessly walk into a terrible neighbourhood and get shot, that might have been a poor decision on my part, but it doesn't mean the guy who shot me isn't guilty of attempted murder.
posted by unSane at 10:32 PM on November 10, 2012 [9 favorites]

Rape is a risk it's impossible to avoid. This hypothetical daughter could get raped in her dorm room or hanging out at an "un-rapey" frat. It's impossible to predict, therefore impossible to assign blame. It makes one feel safer to imagine there's something you can do but that's not realistic (other than take self-defense classes.)
posted by bleep at 10:37 PM on November 10, 2012 [6 favorites]

The consequences of a risky choice should not be sexual violence.

There's really no winning this argument because you've already given a reasonable answer. Your boyfriend is being a jerk on this topic.
posted by 26.2 at 10:38 PM on November 10, 2012 [24 favorites]

This article is a pretty good start.
posted by Garm at 10:39 PM on November 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Does he ever drive a car at night? If so, how can he be taking such a risk? Night is when most of the drunk drivers are out, and sleepy people, and deer blinded by headlights, and his visibility is bad compared to daylight. If he gets into a night time accident you should't have any sympathy, cause he's almost asking for it by driving at night.
posted by anon4now at 11:04 PM on November 10, 2012 [10 favorites]

Responsibility in the causal sense and responsibility in the moral sense are two different things, your boyfriend is probably talking about the former (in which this hypothetical daughter shares a portion of responsibility for the rape happening) rather than the latter (in which she absolutely doesn't). I see this conflation all the time, it causes a lot of hurt feelings, because people making statements like your boyfriend are thought by people like yourself to be saying that a victim bears a portion of the 'blame' for a rape. Try to separate out the causal and moral elements of your conversation, I doubt your boyfriend would actually say that the hypothetical daughter being raped is actually 'at fault'.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 11:08 PM on November 10, 2012 [50 favorites]

Victim-blaming is part of the Just World Fallacy, so yes, you're right, he's wrong.

Or hey, tell me if I'm off base, although I'm pretty sure I'm not.
Yes and no. Yes, he should be a perfect feminist but he isn't perfect right now; he holds an inappropriate view, which, while mildly odious, will probably not actually lead to someone being hurt. And, if a woman was being attacked in an alley, he'd probably rush in and defend her. So you need to unclench a little, because you're forgetting that people tend to argue from emotion rather than logic, and that right now, you and he are a bit keyed up.

Ask yourself "Is this the hill I want this relationship to die on?"

I don't think it is; he's still a good prospective partner. So relax, go for a long walk, and calm down.

I'd suggest digging up a few narratives: books or films, where a woman is assaulted without "asking for it", watch them with him. And then use them as tools to examine his views. This may be more effective than waving essays or stats at him.

While you're at it, you need to think about anger.

You could actually drop this argument, and then pick it up a week from now when you're not as keyed up. And change how he thinks.

Or Option B. Stay angry. Write him a hurtful angry email right now, send it, and destroy your relationship with him.

In other words, HALT: don't make decisions while Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:09 PM on November 10, 2012 [7 favorites]

I think you might benefit by shifting gears in this argument.

People don't get raped typically by going to a dangerous situation, they get raped by someone they're supposed to trust. Stranger in the bushes rape is less than a percent of all rapes.

You'll get a lot farther by correcting this common misconception. And it might open his eyes as to how poorly he has previously framed the discussion.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 11:09 PM on November 10, 2012 [27 favorites]

Personally, I think that rape is 100% the fault of the rapist, and while of course no one should needlessly put themselves in a dangerous situation, women (and everyone else) should be able to complete normal life tasks (including a social life) without fear of sexual assault or blame should something happen, and what we need to do about problematic situations we both see is change the culture that allows them to hide in plain sight.

Due respect, and I know this is a sensitive topic, but from the information you've given us I'm not entirely sure that you two really disagree.

Does he believe that rape victims have some moral culpability for what happens to them if they break some rule of practical safety? (i.e. don't go to "rapey frat", don't take rides from strangers, whatever) Or is he saying that there are common-sense steps that women can take to mitigate the harm done to them by the rape culture. From what you've told us, it sounds more like the latter than the former.
posted by downing street memo at 11:12 PM on November 10, 2012 [9 favorites]

Of course all rape is rape. And of course it's possible your hypothetical daughter could get raped while sitting at home in her dorm room instead of if she were at a frat party themed 'consent is just a couple drinks away' where they were celebrating their buddies release from jail for sexual assault convictions. Just like it's possible she could get murdered while working in a daycare center in London instead of while working for a drug cartel in South America. Are you saying that you would never consider the fact that murder was more likely in that second scenario? Are you saying that even mentioning the relative possibilities of murder in different scenarios is implying that sometimes murder is not just the perpetrators fault and is victim blaming? Would you warn your hypothetical kid off of moving to South America to work with drug dealers, or would you say 'well honey, nobody should ever do anything bad to you, so do whatever you want and we'll trust it all works out'?

Of course, maybe I'm misjudging the conversation. Is he saying 'I would have no sympathy for her in this scenario?'. Is he saying 'she would be asking for it and it would not be the guys fault if he raped her when she turned up to a party like that?' That sounds awful, you should dump him.

On preview, I think I'm trying to say what nicolas said about causal vs. moral responsibility.
posted by jacalata at 11:13 PM on November 10, 2012 [7 favorites]

There are old ladies in their 80s, home with their doors and windows locked, who are raped by intruders; there are infants and small children (both boys and girls) who are raped and/or sodomized --- does he consider any of them to have engaged in risky behavior?

There was a story in the news just a couple days ago of a 98-year-old bedridden stroke victim: it was discovered that she was sexually assaulted by her caregivers --- in what way did she engage in "risky behavior"?!?
posted by easily confused at 11:14 PM on November 10, 2012 [12 favorites]

I will second sebastienbailard's urging to explore the Just World Fallacy some more. His belief here isn't likely the result of an intellectual rigor, but a cultural schema that was adopted unconsciously.
posted by Brent Parker at 11:15 PM on November 10, 2012 [6 favorites]

When I cross the street, I still look both ways. Even if I have the walk sign. People should take steps to reduce risk. You put a lock on your bike, even though you "shouldn't" have to live in a society where people steal.

I would never frame it the way your boyfriend is if I were to talk to someone who had recently been raped - that would be extremely insensitive. Still, if I knew a woman was putting herself in a verifiable risky situation (you used the term "rapey frat" for christsake), I would absolutely chew her out for her recklessness.

It sounds like you and your bf are approaching this at different levels - yours more ethical and his more practical. Don't break up with him, but please let him know this made you so upset you considered it. He might think more deeply about his position in light of that, and a more productive discussion might emerge. As unSane is saying, your approaches to the discussion were orthoganal, and you shouldn't mistake that for a genuine disagreement.

bleep makes a good point too - the amount of risk in a given situation is not intuitive and your whole discussion might be irrelevant. If you do continue on this track, though, I think you guys need a different hypothetical, because from my experience, fuck greek culture. I think this is skewing your entire dialogue.
posted by victory_laser at 11:15 PM on November 10, 2012 [5 favorites]

It's quite possible for Person A to do something ill-advised without that reducing the culpability of Person B.


Something to consider - English is really bad about separating the concepts of culpability, foolishness and guilt so that even if you aren't trying to muddy the waters, it's quite possible to talk at cross purposes. I can feel guilty because I did something foolish and someone took advantage of my lack of vigilance. That does not make me culpable.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:16 PM on November 10, 2012 [10 favorites]

It doesn't sound like your boyfriend is saying that all rape is stranger rape, or even that all stranger rape is a result of the victim's risk-taking or stupidity, or even that such risk-taking somehow absolves the rapist from blame.

I made a hundred idiotic decisions the night I was raped at a frat and I absolutely blame myself for getting myself into a situation with a stranger where I was unable to communicate consent (which is not at all the same as blaming myself for my rape). Frats don't get a reputation for rape because they're full of men who have nonconsensual sex with their longterm girlfriends, or threaten women with weapons, or break into people's houses (which is not to say that these things don't happen). Rather, a frat's reputation for rape is specifically linked to how the frat serves alcohol and how it treats women who are barely conscious.

For instance, and this is a real situation that I have faced, what if you know three people who believe they were roofied at X frat last week, but all made it home safe and sound? You'd have to be a damn fool to accept a drink in a cup or get uncontrollably wasted when there is evidence aplenty that some members of the frat are ACTIVELY SEEKING TO DRUG AND RAPE WOMEN.

Attending parties at iffy frats is certainly part of a healthy college social life, but you're implicitly accepting a certain amount of risk if you ignore basic safety guidelines to prevent becomng unconscious and alone.
posted by acidic at 11:19 PM on November 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

There are some nice articles on the psychology of why we blame victims in general here, and some research specifically about rape here and a good overview here.

I realize it isn't your question, but more than explain and prove to your boyfriend why 'victim blaming' is wrong, I think these articles might explain to you why people like your boyfriend in part need to believe that the person who was attacked had some role in their own misfortune.

If your boyfriend doesn't want to live with the reality that no part of a university - not even a frat house - should be considered marked as 'unsafe territory where I can be sexually violated', there isn't really any argument or analogy that is going to hit home. Because you aren't up against an 'explanation' issue, you're up against a person's need to not live in a world where he could be powerless enough that someone could violate him in a place he considered a safe space. There will need to be a reason, a way to make sense of it all - bad judgment, bad luck, bad clothing choices, other bad men in the frat, etc. - that doesn't involve him being vulnerable. But he is. And you are. We all are because we all have the capacity to perpetrate and be survivors of violent acts.

I know I said this recently about a different issue on the green, but for many people, the feelings of powerlessness and injustice are like burning under the gaze of a thousand suns. And folks will go a long way to avoid that. You can try to open his eyes, but you can't rip off his eyelids. If he doesn't want to see it, he has the invisible privilege of not seeing it. I hope you don't beat yourself up about 'not being eloquent' enough in your argument. Hopefully seeing how angry you are about this will inspire him to question his assumptions and do the work himself to find the articles, essays and videos that you are so busy finding for him.
posted by anitanita at 11:21 PM on November 10, 2012 [12 favorites]

I don't really buy that Just World fallacy explanation - I'm sure it explains some attitudes to rape etcetera, but in this case it seems that the boyfriend is saying that aspects of the world are dangerous - unjust, in fact. He's not trying to say that rape would never happen if women weren't so careless, just that there exist situations where there is a higher probability of a rape occuring. We should all aspire to a culture where that's not the case, of course, but that's a long way off, and he's not a monster for making a true statement.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 11:25 PM on November 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Perceived risk vs actual risk
posted by rhizome at 11:39 PM on November 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

One thing to remember is that there a lot of men who are very invested in making sure women either do not know or are ill advised of the risks they take; the men who befriend you and tell you over and over that they will look after you and take care of you and make sure none of the other rapey dudes get rapey.

And then rape you themselves. Because they aren't raping you as such, it's just that you're passed out/really drunk/not really fighting it/didn't say no enough/aren't fighting hard enough/owe it to them for protecting you.

Women who go to parties with men generally have friends they trust. That they are trusting to help and keep them safe. Who then either harm them or neglect them or just don't get there in time.

(and don't forget the demonising of victims and survivors - the 'she wasn't raped' defence, or the 'she's a radfem and they think sex is rape' defence, or the 'she just regretted the totally consensual sex she had' defence that further muddy the waters of accurately discerning risk).

I was raped in a 'risky' situation from the outside - I was the only woman! Drinking with five men! All of whom were friends, one of whom is now my husband. Only one of them chose to rape me, and he was the one who was perpetually protective and all that jazz. The rhetoric around protective behaviours for rape are really awful.
posted by geek anachronism at 12:14 AM on November 11, 2012 [21 favorites]

Maybe watching The Accused together and discussing it afterwards ? (my 2 cents)
posted by Baud at 1:13 AM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

As a starting point, perhaps get him to admit that no blame is taken away from the rapist even in cases where he believes women are not appropriately assessing risk. Apportioning blame doesn't have trade-offs like that. If two people on a beech callously watch a child drown, each person is independently 100% to blame for not preventing the child's drowning - they don't split the blame 50/50. Similarly, a victim, whatever her circumstance, doesn't split blame with the rapist.

My thought is that you might like to hear him at least admit "The rapist is 100% to blame regardless of my opinions on women's risk assessment."

Focusing on his "women shouldn't be risky" comments, the distinction between "causally responsible" and "morally responsible" should mostly defuse the relevance. Women don't "deserve" to be raped even on the assumption that they're partially causally responsible b/c of a risk-assessment error.

If your b-f is still cooking up exotic scenarios where he believes a woman is partially to blame b/c she wandered naked into a known rapey frat with "fuck me" written across her breasts or whatever, you might ask him why he thinks it's important to cook up far out cases in order to blame the victim. Is he trying to blame the victim in the vast majority of typical, representative cases too? Rape is very common in cultures where women are covered head-to-toe and not allowed to be unaccompanied by a relative. The general problem is a culture that excuses rape, not temptress, overly-risky females.

Good luck on this and don't back down - your b-f sounds like he's being a conservative misogynist dick and/or being very immature. But if he's receptive to an intelligent woman's communications, you have an opportunity to help civilize this guy.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 1:19 AM on November 11, 2012 [7 favorites]

Sometimes it can help to ask people what they believe, rather than telling them what they should believe. The former can lead to self-realisation; the latter tends to result in drawbridge-raising and moat-firing. Some starting points:

- Do you believe that rape is ever a morally defensible action?

- Do you believe that there are some situations in which it's more moral, or less immoral, to rape somebody?

- Under what circumstances do you think it's fair or just to apportion moral blame for a rape to the person who was raped?

If the answers to any of these is anything other than 'no', 'none', or 'Jesus, I can't believe I said I'd accuse my own daughter of setting herself up to get raped', then question time is over, you should DTMFA, and you should give his daughter your cell in case she needs to talk to a grown-up one day.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:36 AM on November 11, 2012 [16 favorites]

Try suggesting that he put himself in the place of the raped individual.

Male-on-male rape is a thing. It doesn't happen only in prison. Ask your boyfriend how he performs a risk assessment to ensure that he lowers the chances of being raped by a man. Ask him to imagine how he'd feel should it happen. Ask him how he'd feel at the police station, being examined. Ask him how he'd feel if someone told him that it was his fault.

I'm guessing that he lacks empathy because he can't contrive of this happening to him. If he can do that, I think you stand a chance of getting through.

Maybe take this as a sign of the level of supportiveness that he'd show you.
posted by Solomon at 1:56 AM on November 11, 2012 [11 favorites]

Responsibility in the causal sense and responsibility in the moral sense are two different things, your boyfriend is probably talking about the former (in which this hypothetical daughter shares a portion of responsibility for the rape happening) rather than the latter (in which she absolutely doesn't). I see this conflation all the time, it causes a lot of hurt feelings, because people making statements like your boyfriend are thought by people like yourself to be saying that a victim bears a portion of the 'blame' for a rape. Try to separate out the causal and moral elements of your conversation, I doubt your boyfriend would actually say that the hypothetical daughter being raped is actually 'at fault'.

Precisely. I think a lot of the time people talk past each other because of this.

Let's say that my friend asks me to come over to his house for dinner and on the way I get in a car accident and die. Is his invitation causally responsible for my death? Yes, clearly it is. Had I not gone there, I wouldn't have died in that accident.

Is my friend morally culpable? Of course not. Not only did he do nothing wrong, he could never even have predicted that this would happen.

If one person is saying "A is a consequence of B" in a morally neutral way, and the other person is hearing "A is a consequence of B" in a morally judgemental way then there will be friction. Of course, rape is so common that "A" could be virtually anything and is completely unpredictable ahead of time.
posted by atrazine at 2:27 AM on November 11, 2012 [9 favorites]

I utterly reject the notion that if I walk home alone at night (or go to a frat party, or wear a short skirt, or have 3 too many drinks, etc.) and get raped, that I have in any way whatsoever "caused" my own rape. That entire argument is an example of rape culture, which normalizes a violent act in such a way that rape seems like a "logical consequence" of any risky behavior by women. Rape is not and should not be considered an inevitable and expected conclusion to a person being less than vigilant about their personal safety. It's an abhorrent violation on the order of murdering someone, and saying that a women who gets raped bears any sort of responsibility, even causal responsibility, is horrible beyond my ability to contemplate. Women don't "cause" their rapes. Rapists cause rape. I've been to a frat party or two, I've walked home alone when I probably shouldn't have, I've worn revealing attire, and had too much to drink, but in none of those situations was I raped. Because at the time, there were no rapists in my vicinity. See my point? That's normal. It's normal for men to not rape women. It's abnormal, even if not uncommon or unheard of, for men to rape women. Therefore, there's nothing a woman could possibly do to cause her own rape.
posted by katyggls at 3:34 AM on November 11, 2012 [31 favorites]

This MeFi thread is pretty relevant to you question — both the linked article and the discussion on MeFi.

This reader comment on Captain Awkward also got a lot of discussion.
posted by nangar at 3:36 AM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Causal versus moral responsibility might be a good starting point (I've observed that when trying to bring people around to my point of view or understanding of the world when there is a large or emotionally fraught difference between that and their present view or understanding, it generally works better if I go in little baby steps). But it's not a good ending point. Let's assume that the boyfriend is not a clear cut DTMFA case (eg. that he doesn't fail obiwanwasabi's questions), and that he's arguing this causal versus moral responsibility line. In this case, maybe a psychology-based argument would persuade the boyfriend: get him thinking about not just what is technically logically true in his view, but what sort of pressures will his hypothetical daughter face, and what strategies would he need to employ in order to help make her strong and able to ignore the harmful messages she'll receive from other sources?

Details of such an argument could include: we do live in a rape-minimizing culture where victims of rape are often blamed in the moral sense, not just in the causal sense, for their own rapes; and people do tend to not make a distinction between causal and moral responsibility; and this is a highly emotionally charged issue - so until we are able to eradicate those conditions, it helps to err on the side of not attributing any sort of responsibility for a rape to the rape victim.

Given the broader situation, the two responsibilities sound similar enough that even if you intend to make a distinction and only intend to attribute causal responsibility and not moral responsibility to a rape victim, those of us who grew up getting the victim-blaming message over and over and over and over and over again and getting admonished and trained to always have that "am I putting myself in an unsafe situation?" voice in the back of our minds with everything that we do, every moment of every day, will not immediately hear the distinction; and though you may clarify after some discussion, emotionally, based on first impressions, it has still added to that victim-blaming chorus.

So in order to help ensure that his hypothetical daughter is strong enough to withstand the victim-blaming, moral responsibility arguments, she'll need something like affirmative action for the non-victim-blaming point of view. Or maybe another way to think of it is: women (or other rape victims, but we're talking about a potential daughter here) get so many victim-blaming messages our whole lives, that in order to understand - I mean really internalize - the opposite non-victim-blaming message, we have to unlearn the bad victim-blaming message. Which is very difficult; so it helps to make the new message perhaps slightly more emphatically clear.

Hopefully that will at least get him thinking about the situation that actually exists for rape victims and potential rape victims when he discusses rape with people, rather than the idealized logical problem of causal versus moral responsibility. (Maybe starting off by saying explicitly something along the lines of, "I want to talk about the emotional side of this. I need to know that you can empathize with how I feel about it regardless of what you think is or should logically be the case. Can we talk about the psychology of how different ways of talking about rape affect people?")

Then the next step is discussing how it feels to always have that vigilance turned on, and how tiring that can be, even for those of us who are pretty confident and don't think about it consciously all that much anymore.
posted by eviemath at 4:20 AM on November 11, 2012 [6 favorites]

I fully expect to teach my daughter a more nuanced version of this. Bad things and good things alike don't care about your moral rights and entitlements -- you must take actions which decrease the odds of the first and increase the odds of the second. "Deserve" and "blame" are frankly stupid ways to think.
posted by MattD at 5:20 AM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

"known-rapey-frat' is that even a thing?

Yes, absolutely. At every school I've been at with frats, it was common knowledge (except somehow to the people responsible for administering the greek system...) which frats were super rapey and which ones weren't.

Maybe I'm misreading your question, but I don't think your positions are irreconcilable. You are right that rape is the responsibility of the rapist -- they make the choice to violate consent, and they are at fault for that, always. But he's at least a little bit right in that, moral fault aside, there are things a person can do that are riskier and safer; I don't think it helps to call what might ensue their "fault," but they did make decisions that affected their risk.

But he's mostly wrong, in that only a small fraction of rapes are stranger rapes; the actual choices that put women at risk are things like having male relatives or friends, going on a date, or being in a relationship. In other words, the "risky choice" isn't some extreme case of getting drunk at the rapey frat, but rather just living a normal life.

That's what's offensive about the "she should have taken better care of herself" arguments to me -- they make it sound like the risk is small and controllable, rather than being pervasive. It's a dishonest and inaccurate way to describe rape in our society, and helps perpetuate rape by misframing perceived vs real risks.
posted by Forktine at 6:33 AM on November 11, 2012 [10 favorites]

I think that you're missing your boyfriend's point.

He would want to educate his hypothetical daughter about the dangers inherent in the world. I'm sure you would agree.

Certainly we should all feel free to live our lives and do activities without having to be worried about our own safety 24/7.

Unfortunately the world is a dark place and there are people in it who would do us harm.

Therefore we should take precautions and we should teach our children to do the same. For example:

1. All kids should be able to recite their addresses and phone numbers and should know that Mommy and Daddy are also Ward and June.

2. When drinking at a party, we should always be in control of our beverages, lest someone put something in them.

3. We don't go anywhere in the automobile of someone we have just met.

4. We don't go to the ATM at night, in a neighborhood we don't feel safe in.

It's sad. We should all be able to go anywhere and do anything and not be afraid, but that's not reality.

Your boyfriend is right here. And if you aren't taking safety precautions, I'm afraid that while you are exerting your right to go through the world unmolested, that you may become a crime victim.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:39 AM on November 11, 2012 [5 favorites]

Point him to Men Can Stop Rape.
posted by zizzle at 6:40 AM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think that rape is 100% the fault of the rapist

people should just avoid risk when possible

Both are right. Seems like you are having a larger conversation about power and external responsibility rooted in gender roles.

As a women, you are (relatively) powerless when it comes to not being raped. Rape itself is a crime of power (not of sex as sometimes thought). Simply being a woman exposes you to the possibility of being raped. It is 100% the decision of the rapist to be a rapist.

As a man, he may not be as exposed to the possibility of being raped (although men are also raped, as it's a crime of power) but he's also powerless to stop someone he loves from being raped, since as we established above, rape is a possibility.

So you both seem to agree that 1) rape is 100% the decision and behaviour of the rapist, and 2) that you both are powerless to stop someone from being raped.

It's the same point. When he speaks about decision-making, perhaps that's the best influence/mitigation he can have. If he's powerless to stop it, the next best thing is to educate the people he loves on avoidance.

In terms of what this means for your relationship, it means you are at a point where communication is becoming more nuanced, probably because you each are getting to what matters. Now that you're discussing what seems to be the same view, but each has a different perspective on that view, it probably indicates that the next step in the relationship. There's a lot of similarity in your overt views – so it seems. Can you now step into the other person's shoes and understand why they have those views? Can you understand why he would say what he said? Can he understand why you say what you say? Can you get to that next level?

I don't think this conversation is about rape, really. I think it's about you becoming empathetic and vulnerable to each other – it's a subtle litmus test of whether or not you guys are going to go to the next level. You're always going to have slightly different viewpoints or reasons from intimate partners, yeah? The trick is can you negotiate those different viewpoints and use these conversations as opportunities to understand the other person better? Or will you each become attached to the issue itself and being "right" from your own point of view?

Don't think there's a right answer, rather its a signpost of where y'all are.
posted by nickrussell at 6:55 AM on November 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

The function of rape-prevention strategies focused on victims is to give people a sense of control over whether they--or someone they care about--is sexually assaulted, and to place distance between [people like me] and [people who get raped]. But what is the actual consequence of these communications?
-They lead people to blame victims, and victims to blame themselves- This likely decreases the likelihood that victims will come forward when they are raped, decreases the chance that victims will be supported rather than blamed if they do come forward, and protects the behavior of rapists. In my work with rape victims, I have not seen a single victim who did not to some degree blame herself and have others around her blaming her. Indeed, self-blame is a major contributor to negative mental health outcomes in survivors. I doubt that most survivors are relieved that they hold causal vs. moral responsibility.

-They control and restrict women's behavior where men's behavior is not restricted- Women, more so than men, are restricted from doing things (e.g., walking alone) that people perceive to result in rape, by nature of their gender alone.

-They lead women to live in fear while simultaneously giving women a false sense of control- Women live in a constant state of low-level fear of assault. I asked my class to raise their hand if they walk alone at night. About half of the women's hands went up. I then asked how many of them feel scared. All of them said that they did, and each one proceeded to tell me the steps that they take to prevent rape. One of them has her cell phone in her hand and 911 dialed, ready to hit send, whenever she is alone after dark. I'm reminded of the Schrödinger's rapist thread when I hear things like this. But women cannot effectively prevent their own rape unless they, I don't know, live alone in a fortress and only receive supplies through packets dropped by planes flying over.

-They create misperceptions of how and where rape actually happens- The "rapey frat" is less of a severe example, but more commonly, women hear that they shouldn't walk alone at night, when this is a very unlikely place for rape to occur. This feeds into myths about rape and leads to false distinctions between legitimate/illegitimate or serious/less serious rape. If you're not going to keep your hypothetical daughter from associating with men (because really, that's the one thing guaranteed to up her risk), if you're not going to ask her to carry her car keys between her knuckles when her boyfriend walks her to her car, then don't tell her that she shouldn't go to a rapey frat.

-They position male sexuality as uncontrollable- This idea tends to be endorsed by rapists (see David Lisak's research). The idea is, since we can't control male sexuality (which for some men, may involve rape), all we can do is focus on the victims instead. It's pretty insulting to men to suggest that their sexuality is uncontrollable and throw up our hands- men are not inherently rapists waiting to happen.

-They supplant prevention strategies focused on rape culture- How do you prevent rape, if all of the pink mace in the world won't protect you? You target rape culture. I think that your question is interesting because, while the US is theorized to be a rape culture, there are particularly rape-supportive subcultures, like the military and some fraternities. These subcultures are supportive of rape because extreme gender roles, aggression, and dominance are positioned as normative and rape is commonly trivialized in these contexts (e.g., in rape jokes). The strategies to address rape in these contexts are actually pretty actionable: First, don't tolerate behavior or attitudes that support this culture in any form (in jokes, as rape-meaning-not-rape metaphors, in the actions of others), either implicitly through silence or explicitly through participation. That means call people out when what they say or do supports rape culture. Second, recognize your own victim-blaming thinking and the thinking of others as a normal consequence of a desire to be safe, but constantly challenge it, as you have done here. Third, support portrayals of gender roles that fall outside the normative man = aggressor/protector/dominant/uncontrollable and woman = submissive/passive/victim.

Through all of the consequences of rape-prevention strategies focused on victims, these messages become building blocks of rape culture. Rape culture depends on victims being seen as responsible, rape being seen as inevitable, women being seen as inherently vulnerable, men being seen as either protectors or uncontrollable threats, etc. These attitudes are picked up by everyone: rapists, victims, victims' would-be supporters, police juries, judges.

To be clear: the problem is the communication that women should take these steps if they are raped, or should have taken them if they do end up being raped. But to address the causal vs. moral responsibility argument: the causal responsibility argument suggests that women take part in the series of events that end with them being raped. Through that perspective, by living in the world, by leaving the house, by being alone at any time, by being with men at any time, by dating, by going to parties, etc., women are responsible for their rape. All of those actions are inherently risky actions for women. And I reject the notion that women bear responsibility for that being the case.
posted by quiet coyote at 7:23 AM on November 11, 2012 [39 favorites]

Nothing you say in your question, either in your own words or on your boyfriend's behalf, sounds objectionable or strange to me.
posted by deadweightloss at 7:28 AM on November 11, 2012

He calls himself a feminist, but said that he would tell his daughter that went to a known-rapey-frat that she should have tried to avoid it should she get raped (or at least think it).

It sounds like you're trying to argue and convince him that he's wrong. Which he is, but people rarely react well to that sort of direct attack. Instead, try asking him questions about this point of view and take it to its logical extremes:

"Ok, you're found your daughter has been raped at a known, to you, rapey-frat. At what point do you tell her that she should have tried to avoid it? And what good to you expect that to do, after she's already been assaulted?"

" What if she replies that she didn't know it was a rapey-frat, then what do you say, is it still her fault?"

"What if she says she was there with her super cool boyfriend, who wasn't part of the frat, but his friend was and they were invited and super cool boyfriend turns out to be a creep?"

"What do you say to her if she wasn't even at the frat, but one of the assholes was in her science class and seemed ok by himself, then turns around date rapes her? Are you still going to tell her that she should have tried to avoid him or it?

"What if she was not only raped, but beaten because she said no or tried to get away, while at said rapey-frat? At what point do you then tell your raped daughter that she should have tried to avoid it?"

"Ok, so the rapey-frat didn't beat her, but instead gave her roofies and then took turns raping her and she is facing some severe physical trauma which affects her feature or has an STD? At what point do you then tell your raped daughter that she should have tried to avoid it and what good to do you think that will do to a woman dealing with the trauma of being raped?"

"What would you say to the man or men that raped her?"

If he starts squirming or complaining, I'd start pointing out mistakes he's made and saying he should have tried to avoid them. If he complains about that and still fails to get the point, she should leave him.

Because he's shown that when the chips are down, he will not have your back. If you get into a car accident because you missed a red light, how will he treat you? Remember, he's already described how he'll treat his daughter, so you can't expect him to treat you better, right?

To be clear, I can't say with her boyfriend is really that much of thickhead lug. It sounds like he's operating from his own internal beliefs and doesn't realize that things are different that what he believes. That's understandable, especially if you both are young. But you should definitely see if pose the above questions to him, both for his and your benefit.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:00 AM on November 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

Due respect, and I know this is a sensitive topic, but from the information you've given us I'm not entirely sure that you two really disagree.

I'm also not sure what the disagreement is, other than a shift in emphasis. He seems to be placing an emphasis on the importance of risk-avoidance, you on the fact that no matter what risk the victim takes, it doesn't change the moral responsibility for the rape. Does he disagree?

Look at it this way, if you told a friend to watch her drink at a bar, you wouldn't be shifting moral responsibility for someone slipping a roofie in it, you'd be advising a precaution.

Having said that, none of us was part of the conversation. I can definitely see how these sorts of comments can come off as victim-blaming, or actually be victim-blaming. "Yeah, but she should never have been walking alone at night" as an immediate reaction to hearing about someone getting raped is victim-blaming. I just want to point out that we do this all the time regarding victims of crime - "Yeah, his car got broken into, but he should have known better than to park in that neighbourhood with his iPod on his seat." I'm not morally equating car theft and rape, obviously, but I think it's important that you put his style of thinking into perspective. We all victim-blame from time to time.
posted by Dasein at 8:01 AM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, perhaps I'm misunderstanding. I am under not one single illusion that rape is anything other than abhorrent, and never the fault of the victim.

That being said...."known-rapey-frat"? I read that like "known-death-by-open-drug-market-random-violence-street." Sure, I have the right to walk down any street I want, but there are risk markers that should inform the decision. If it's known that a frat is "rapey," why would a young woman go near it?? Of course she should be able to go anywhere, but the whole thing stinks of amazingly shitty and predatory behavior like spiking drinks, encouraging substance inhibition to take advantage of it, and forcing women into sketchy situations. Who would ever want their daughter exposed to people like this?

I don't read the moral thing into it either. No rape victim deserved to get raped. I'm in love with someone who was a rape victim. I have been in the past as well. I have no reservations about this. I'm of no illusions. I read the whole thing as risk-avoidance, not as the moral play.

I think you're reading too much into it. Then again: I'm a nerd, and can't fucking stand frat guys.
posted by nevercalm at 8:28 AM on November 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Have you seen this thing that compares the reactions towards rape victims and the reactions toward mugging victims? It might give him some food for thought.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:38 AM on November 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

Okay, so the "rapey frat must avoid" box has been checked. His hypothetical daughter has been told and agrees that she won't be going there. So, what's next on the checklist? Perhaps framing it that way will open his mind up to where these "logical conclusions" get us.

The better question is how do you instill in your daughter the intuition and the strength to decide for herself what is risky? I mean, that's the real challenge in raising a child -- the pressures from their peers and the environment of puberty into adulthood is fraught with moments to make bad decisions. Read the trucker serial killer thread on the blue. The tragedy there was women who knew, knew that it would do no good to report assaults because they knew no one would believe them. How do you raise a daughter who feels secure in herself and strong and feels deserving of justice? You don't do that by prejudging her actions. Not your daughter.

Secondly, what about your son? What lessons are there for him in the rapey frat analogy? Will he have the strength if character to reject that culture? Will he stand up for the victims? Will he understand that women are not conquests but equal people? And if he is raped will he know that his parents won't blame him for not fighting harder, not putting himself in risky situations?
posted by amanda at 8:43 AM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's quite a leap to assume someone who says people should avoid risky situations means that people who get in them deserve what they get. Before you get on your high horse about this make sure the problem is really with his beliefs and not with your listening skills.
posted by dzot at 8:48 AM on November 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Responsibility in the causal sense and responsibility in the moral sense are two different things, your boyfriend is probably talking about the former (in which this hypothetical daughter shares a portion of responsibility for the rape happening) rather than the latter (in which she absolutely doesn't). I see this conflation all the time, it causes a lot of hurt feelings, because people making statements like your boyfriend are thought by people like yourself to be saying that a victim bears a portion of the 'blame' for a rape.

I think you are conflating the activities of non-moral and moral beings. To be responsible for something that happens in the former sense would be doing something dangerous and getting hurt, like maybe riding a motorcycle or trying to climb Mt Everest. There are known physical dangers and you are putting yourself in harm's way by choosing to undertake them.

But being in the presence of frat members is not by necessity dangerous. It is only dangerous if those people make certain choices and behave a certain way. Mt Everest doesn't make a moral choice to hurt you - it's just a physical interaction, and your being there is a risk. But other people can control their own actions, so if you get hurt, they are directly causing it. It's not just "happening".

I just want to point out that we do this all the time regarding victims of crime - "Yeah, his car got broken into, but he should have known better than to park in that neighbourhood with his iPod on his seat."I'm not morally equating car theft and rape, obviously, but I think it's important that you put his style of thinking into perspective. We all victim-blame from time to time.

A good point, but I do think lack of equivalence is important. The idea that if we could get away with it, everyone would steal $100 left in a public area is different from the idea that if we could get away with it, everyone would be a child molester. So where on the spectrum is rape - is it the kind of thing that we should expect as a semi-normal part of the world because obviously at least some people would try to get away with it if they could, or is it the kind of thing that is just seen as egregious and unacceptable?

I think our group expectations and attitudes are part of what defines the cultural understanding - if the norm is that obviously that's part of what happens at a frat house, it's going to be a lot easier for frat members to subconsciously believe that it's normal for them to force sex, and anyone who comes to the party must "be asking for it." The more we move toward demanding that men who rape are the ones who are responsible, the less normal it will seem.
posted by mdn at 8:49 AM on November 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Here's that truck stop serial killer thread. Now, you could argue that those girls have put themselves into the worst kind of dangerous situation. But I don't think you can read that article and not feel compassion...and fear. Putting the blame on them only serves to comfort us by putting daylight between their lives and choices and ourselves. It's a normal human failing but it does nothing to help the situation.
posted by amanda at 8:50 AM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

My take on it is that, it's both true that rape is a horrible thing and the people who do it need to be held accountable AND that certain behavior increases the likelihood that something bad will happen to you.

My take is also that a lot can be read into your attitude toward rape depending on which of those two aspects you choose to emphasize when you talk about it. If you don't talk about the second aspect of it until you've spent a LONG time talking about the first, my guess is that your comments on how to avoid rape would be taken less as victim-blaming.

If, however, the only thing you want to talk about is how to prevent it, and it's in a hypothetical conversation where the advice is happening AFTER the fact, and you're a dude, and you're not saying anything about how it's a problem built into the fabric of our culture, and you're not talking about how the victim needs to be taken care of, and you're not talking about how the people who did it need to be punished, you're probably going to come across as anti-feminist.

It's not that what you're saying is factually incorrect, it's that it's not balanced properly against other things that are factually correct, which you should also be saying. It doesn't acknowledge that victim-blaming is extremely damaging, and that it's a tendency that's built into the fabric of our culture, and that victim-blaming is something you really need to work hard to stay the hell away from if you're going to talk about rape.
posted by alphanerd at 9:00 AM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Some people see conversations like this in amoral causal terms. Causally, it makes good sense for women to mitigate their risk of rape, just as children shouldn't get in a stranger's car. In this way of framing things, there are steps people "should" take to mitigate risk, and they're being foolish or irresponsible if they flatly refuse to do so. As the steps become less obvious, and the risk less knowable, the foolishness and irresponsibility decrease. That's one way of thinking about this.

But many people don't think in amoral causal terms when they have these conversations. For them, the conversation necessarily involves morality and blame. But does it? I would say no. Others, including some in this thread, disagree.

I think the disagreement can be explained by realizing that some people approach conversations intellectually, whereas others approach them empathetically. It's a continuum, of course, but it's a useful distinction. In my experience, those who reason more intellectually tend to be less naturally empathetic. Much of their empathy is synthesized from their intellectual commitments, and they tend to think that the naturally empathetic folks miss the point. By contrast, those who are more naturally empathetic are more likely to approach problems from a moral frame of reference. They are more likely to see the intellectual folks as insensitive and unkind. The result is a conversation in which both groups of people talk past each other. Neither is right or wrong; they just see the purpose of the conversation differently.
posted by smorange at 9:01 AM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I find it hard to believe that anybody would say anything as insensitive and idiotic as suggesting that women who go into dangerous situations deserve to get raped. It sounds to me like he's talking about this from a risk management perspective: namely, the fact that the world tends to eat people who act ignorantly about their personal safety. And while it's possible to feel less sympathy for people who exhibit willful stupidity, that's substantially different from saying they deserve to get raped, or shifting any culpability from the rapist to the victim. May I suggest that perhaps you are hearing the word "rape" and leaping to a trigger-happy emotional response?

Of course, we weren't there, so it's impossible for us to know the full context of the conversation. If he's actually saying something related to moral culpability like "Woman X deserved to be raped for doing this risky behavior" - as opposed to a risk-management responsibility statement like "Well, she got drunk and fell asleep naked in a fraternity... I feel bad for her, but what did she expect?" - then this would legitimately be DTMFA territory.

In answer to your question, one thing that you may wish to point out is by subconsciously asking himself what the victim did "wrong", he is perpetuating a culture where other people blame victims. Ask him to think about what would happen if every member of a jury looked at rape from this perspective.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:38 AM on November 11, 2012

Get him to take a look at Kate Harding's Don't Get Raped! tumblr, where she rounds up articles on "dangerous situations" in which actual sexual assaults occurred to debunk the idea that rape happens mostly to drunk careless women in short skirts*.

The tumblr banner:
Do you struggle with keeping track of everything you're expected to do to prevent your own rape--or at least prevent getting blamed when it happens anyway? I'm Kate Harding, and I'm here to help.
Echoing the interminable list of don't-get-raped hints that women are constantly reminded of ("don't dress provocatively! don't walk home alone! don't talk to strange men!), Kate Harding's tips consider the wide range of actual everyday situations in which rapes occur, and satirically makes the point that these situations are unpredictable and unavoidable.

For example:

- don't go to middle school
- don't go to college
- okay, seriously, just don't even go to college
- don't order a pizza or live near someone who does
- don't argue with your boyfriend
- don't break up with your boyfriend
- don't take a five-minute walk home at night
- don't walk home when there's a creep out there that the police have done nothing about
- don't go for a midnight stroll with your boyfriend
- don't take a walk in the park in full daylight

All of those entries link to heartbreaking and infuriating stories of rape and sexual assault, and they are only the ones she had time to document. If your boyfriend really thinks that sexual assault victims bear responsibility for avoiding victimization, then he expects women (who statistically suffer the majority of sexual assault and rape) to restrict our lives down to an all-but-impossible confinement. Even that is useless, because people are frequently assaulted in their own homes, and often by their own family, family friends, or neighbors:

- don't be in our around your own home
- don't be in or around your own home, part 2
- don't trust your preacher or your own mother
- don't have a neighbor who's bored
- don't have a single mother who dates
- don't babysit

The point, of course, is that there is no way to safeguard certainly against rape or sexual assault, and expecting assault victims rather than rapists to bear the social judgment for that imaginary perfect avoidance is both an impossible standard and a deeply sexist burden imposed on women's lives.

*Though of course, drunk careless women in short skirts have EVERY RIGHT not to be sexually assaulted, too.
posted by Elsa at 10:16 AM on November 11, 2012 [21 favorites]

Asking honestly here: what is the difference between this:

of course no one should needlessly put themselves in a dangerous situation

and this:

[girl should have avoided a] known-rapey-frat

I think these are basically the same statement and I don't understand why you see them as inconsistent. Maybe there is missing context here?

If one offers either of these as an excuse for rape, or a mitigating element like "well it was partially her fault" then that is unacceptable. But as stated above, there is a huge difference between causality and moral culpability. If your boyfriend is saying that he would advise his hypothetical daughter not to attend parties at known-rapey frats because it increases the likelihood that she would join the victim list, I don't see the problem.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:18 AM on November 11, 2012

Ask him if he would advise his daughter to not associate with any men she knows. Women are more likely to be sexually assaulted by men they know than by men they don't know.
posted by rtha at 10:24 AM on November 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

Ask him if he would advise his daughter to not associate with any men she knows. Women are more likely to be sexually assaulted by men they know than by men they don't know.

I think that's not at all fair, narrow-minded and really working against making your own case. "Known-rapey-frat," to me, represents a house full of drunken men who think of women as dessert, where nothing is off the table and where the object is to get women fucked up enough to either allay their reservations or to outright drug them so they pass out. It implies a criminal, predatory environment. To want to subject anyone (even your son, frankly) to that environment is irresponsible.
posted by nevercalm at 11:42 AM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I must say for someone based in the UK, this "known rapey frat" concept is quite astounding. How come college authorities don't root these out, with investigations and prison sentences and everything?

The closest equivalent thing I can think of here is Premier League football stars, whose minders go trolling for local star-struck young women to attend their parties. But charges have resulted from such activities. That a bunch of callow undergraduates can get away with this behaviour is just stunning to me. And also, it's plain the relevant authorities are guilty of collusion and should answer for it.
posted by glasseyes at 12:18 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think that's not at all fair, narrow-minded and really working against making your own case.

I went to a school with a large Greek system. There were known-rapey frats. Most of the women I knew personally who were sexually assaulted were not assaulted at the known-rapey frats (even though they might have gone to parties there), but by guys they knew in what one would think of as safer atmospheres than a frat party. I myself attended parties are a variety of frats, known-rapey and not, and was not assaulted at them, despite being quite drunk on more than one occasion.

It's true that it's not fair that women are more likely to be assaulted by men they know.
posted by rtha at 12:26 PM on November 11, 2012 [6 favorites]

FAQ: What's wrong with suggesting women take precautions to prevent being raped?
posted by Space Kitty at 12:50 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Again, you're implying a situation where even you can fight back. Of course it's not fair that women are more likely to be assaulted by men they know. It's incredibly fucking gross.

It's also not fair to not train your kid to not go into a rape factory in the name of political correctness. I have the right to walk shitfaced down the worst neighborhood you've ever seen with 100s hanging out of my pockets. It doesn't mean I should.

I'm not saying that that gives men a right to rape short-skirted women who are passed out, but maybe short-skirted women who are passed out shouldn't go to places that are full of asshole fratboys specifically looking to rape passed out short-skirted women? Am I new?

You can wear short skirts and pass out wherever you want and I don't think that that makes you beg to get raped. But really? Are we assuming that all of humanity is that amazing now?

Hey! RAPEY FRAT GUYS ARE RAPEY! Don't Go. Rapey means far more than what you're wearing, who you are, or anything. Rapey means drugging drinks. Rapey means getting women shitfaced with punch they say is not alcoholic or just champagne when it has moonshine in it. Rapey means getting all her friends really shitfaced so they pressure her to do what she doesn't want to. Rapey means INTENT TO RAPE FROM THE OUTSET. Rapey means luring women to rape them.

Rapey means all sorts of really nasty things that go far beyond the whole argument about whether she could wear a short skirt and tight clothes somewhere. Rapey means that despite whatever she might do, despite all sorts of morality, despite the whoooooole argument about it, there are things outside the whole discussion that will almost certainly result in you getting raped.

I am a male, with a sister. I am in love with a woman who has been raped. I am in no way fooling myself. If either of them ever said to me "rapey-frat" I'd lose my mind, just like I would if they said "I"m going out to go hang out at a murdery-gang spot."
posted by nevercalm at 1:04 PM on November 11, 2012

I'm not implying anything about situations where I could or could not fight back. I didn't say anything about fighting back.

The point I'm trying to make (I hope more clearly here): Warning one's hypothetical daughter about situations that seem to be much more obviously unsafe is not necessarily the thing that will keep her safe, since there are situations that are, statistically, way more unsafe and also less acknowledged as unsafe. The one friend I had in college who was raped and who chose to press charges was raped in an empty classroom in the middle of the afternoon by a man she knew and thought she was friends with. All of the women I knew who were assaulted were assaulted by men they knew and thought of as at least good guys if not actual friends.

This is the danger of warning only against a specific place or time is that it risks ignoring the actual, documented dangers. It's a fact that most college-aged women are not going to be raped at known-rapey frats during parties. They will be assaulted by someone they know and trust, and alcohol may be a factor for both people. Wouldn't it be better to talk about alcohol and drug use and how those affect decision-making and judgement, and not "Don't go to Beta because those guys are rapey"?
posted by rtha at 1:15 PM on November 11, 2012 [5 favorites]

If you wear 8'' heels and twist your ankle, go skydiving and hurt your knee in the landing, or ride a motorcycle too fast and get into a horrible crash, those are preventable tragedies of which you hold a measure of blame. The fundamental laws of physics dictated you were putting yourself in danger, you chose to take the risk anyway.

Saying "If you dress in a short skirt, you're taking the risk of being raped" is like saying there is a Law of Rape equivalent to the Law of Gravity--rape is an immutable, unstoppable force of nature. We protect ourselves against it but have no way of changing the Law of Rape itself. Maybe the equation looks something like this:
(# of drinks) + (inches of skirt below the knee)/(number of friends walking on the street with you) = (# of times raped)

Maybe rapists are hurricanes, raping willy-nilly all the ladies who dare to party at frat houses like people who build homes on the beach? Staying indoors at night and not going to that party is the equivalent of boarding up the windows and evacuating, amirite?

Or are rapists individual people who choose to take advantage of someone they perceive as weak? Are rapists also humans who made the decision to perpetuate sexual violence? Because if rapists are humans, it means the best way to stop rape is to stop the humans that do it. We accept that these humans will choose to rape, so rather than trying to remove all the victims like we're evacuating in the face of a hurricane, we should stop the human who is doing the raping in the first place. We should stop the behaviors and thought patterns that make people think it's OK to rape. And when that human does rape, we punish the human, not whatever person they happened to get a hold of.


Yes, protecting one's drink, going to frat house parties with a buddy and having them watch out for you, these are all things that make you more difficult to victimize. But the moment you start acting like "Well, of COURSE you have to do these things" you're absolving the rapist of their individual responsibility and treating rape as an inevitable force of nature.
posted by schroedinger at 1:18 PM on November 11, 2012 [9 favorites]

So, nevercalm, you've learned just about all your going to learn in this thread, huh?

The "rapey frat house" is a boogeyman. The only message sent about warning of the "rapey frat house" is that A) You think a person is too stupid to determine that the rapey frat house isn't a good place to hang out and, B) that there are girls who "get themselves raped." And if you are a girl who got raped, there will be a secondary judgement about whether you, yourself, were using good judgment. You might just have just got your ownself raped a little bit, didn't you? It's just... a terrible message and only useful in that it makes us feel we have a little bit of control over the world. Which we do...until we don't.

Rape is a social and cultural problem. We have to treat it differently than other kinds of crime. Nobody rapes someone to feed their family. Nobody rapes someone because they want the stereo out of their car. Part of the story of rape is the stories that we make up to try to make sense of rape and that includes, sadly, blaming the victim. Why'd she make a good boy go wrong?
posted by amanda at 1:25 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

[Folks, this is the point where everyone needs to redirect from debating with each other to answering the question. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:27 PM on November 11, 2012

I think I would take a completely different tactic here. Stats, facts, FAQs, articles etc are fine for debating something intellectually, say with strangers on the internet. IME, that isn't the best way to resolve such a touchy subject in an intimate relationship.

I had a guy make some political statement or other and we got into an ugly argument. At some point, he said something like "I made a general statement and you took it personally". And I replied "Look at how personal our relationship is. Don't I have a right to take it personally?" That stopped him cold and he became conciliatory.

I think the point I would try to make here would be along the lines of "I find your position personally threatening. It makes me feel like if I got raped, you would come up with some excuse to blame me for it. And this makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable with dating you at all. Is that really what you are telling me -- that if some acquaintance of mine raped me in broad daylight while I was conservatively dressed, which is far more common than women get drugged and raped at a frat house, that you would, say, accuse me of being a bad judge of character and thus bringing it on myself? Because if that's what you are saying, I don't really want to date you. And if that's not what you are saying, can we assume this was a misunderstanding and try to revisit the subject some time when I am less upset about what you said the other day?"

I would also wonder if he has a friend who was raped or something, if he has some personal experience of some type making him defensive about this. It seems like a bizarre and stupid thing for a guy to say to a woman he is dating. It would make me look at him funny and wonder out loud "what's your problem?"
posted by Michele in California at 1:44 PM on November 11, 2012 [8 favorites]

Looking back on how this has evolved, and being the guy who said this, I'd like to add something: you know that one bar, the one with a bad reputation in a bad part of town? Where it seems like the cops are in the parking lot every night and assaults with deadly weapons are a semi-regular coinsurance? If I had a male friend who told me he went there, of all places, for a beer I'd tell him he was out of his mind. I HAVE DONE SO.

Yes, you can catch a stray bullet or receive a savage beating or be raped all kinds of places, and it's not like they put a sign over the door saying, "It has been 17 11 22 5 days since the last violent crime!" so you can't always tell when you are going somewhere best avoided, but I don't think it's excusing rape (or any other kind of brutal crime) or victim blaming to say there are some places best avoided by anyone who has a "civil society" membership card in their wallet.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:46 AM on November 12, 2012

The difference is that bar fights mostly happen in bars, and mostly in a few bars at that. Rapes are not concentrated in a few risky places. All these crappy comparisons to muggings, auto theft, and dudes getting beaten up don't apply, because the distribution and risks are totally different.

If that's how the OP's boyfriend is thinking about rape, then they are going to need to talk that through, because in that case he's going to need to understand how his ideas about risk and risk-avoidance are being incorrectly based off of inaccurate analogies.
posted by Forktine at 9:51 AM on November 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Fair enough. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the boyfriend has a valid security model for a certain class of situations, but he's scaling it badly so that his threat model is only useful for a vanishingly small percentage of threats. Bruce Schneier has made a career out of this issue. Actually Schneier's Beyond Fear might be what the OP is looking for and is probably available at the local library.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:35 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had a similar reaction to Michele in California. When I was 20, I was walking to a party, down a busy main road, wearing a dress with trainers (I couldn;t walk in my heels that distance) in the early, light evening and I was chased by a guy on a bike who started with 'how are you doin'' and then progressed further and more foul-mouthed, to a point where I was actually feeling extremely threatened and upset, enough to run to the party and burst into tears as I got through the door. When I told my then-boyfriend about this (he was away that weekend) after spending the rest of the weekend too scared to leave the house, he responded simply with 'Well, you shouldn't have been walking to a party in a dress, that was stupid.' Older and wiser me would have broken up with him there and then - for comparison, a male friend offered to drive me straight home if I needed it. The boyfriend here would hopefully nt react in that way, but it would make me feel unsettled.

Yes, there are places to avoid. It would be very stupid to walk through certain parts of town at night after just visiting the cashpoint, for example, as a friend of mine did and then got mugged. But once it happens to someone you know, it stops being an issue of how stupid or not it is, regardless of the circumstances, and I would feel unsure of getting the reaction I'd need from this person. While stranger rapes are comparitively rare, dividing it up in this way is like talking about Good AIDS and Bad AIDS. It's not far from deciding that some rapes are bad, and some are the fault of the stupid woman who went near the naughty men who couldn;t control themselves.
posted by mippy at 9:18 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older Maitakes or other large mushrooms in Sacramento...   |   Burn inside, not outside. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.