Miri at Brute Reason with one of the best replies I’ve seen yet to Emily Yoffe’s victim-blaming bullshit in Slate last week.
Almost as infuriating as the inaccuracy and poor reasoning exhibited by the article is Yoffe’s insistence that we as a society are “reluctant” to tell women to prevent their own rapes. I have nothing but contempt for people who take popular, extremely widespread ideas and try to pass them off as something new. But I don’t believe that Yoffe is really so clueless as to believe that telling women not to drink so they don’t get raped is controversial in our culture at large.
Yoffe comes across as though she thinks her views are unpopular because people just can’t handle the truth. But sometimes, opinions are detested and ridiculed not because they’re just 2 BRAVE 4 U, but because they’re wrong and harmful.
Interesting how Mia Freedman wrote a clickbait post yesterday making almost the identical argument as Yoffe after Yoffe’s generated so many replies and so many hits, isn’t it? From News With Nipples‘s post on Freedman’s latest:
Look, I get it, I really do. Telling women that there are things they can do to prevent sexual assault seems like common sense, but it’s really not. I’m sure it’s well-intentioned advice, but it simply doesn’t stand up to logic: if women could prevent sexual assault, then we’d all prevent it and there’d be no sexual assault. It’s a no-brainer.
Telling women that if they don’t get drunk they’ll “dramatically reduce the likelihood” of being sexually assaulted is also telling them a massive lie:
In no-longer-news that both Yoffe and Freedman should well know (given how many people have told them this in previous examples of trotting out the same trope), as campaigns in Canada and Scotland have shown in recent years, there are information campaigns that actually do make a difference in lowering the rate of sexual assault on people who are drunk, and they do it by using messages targeting potential rapists rather than potential victims. Emphasising how sexually exploiting alchoholic incapacitation is a despicable act is the method, instead of shrugging at the status quo of it being some achievement that is OK for perpetrators to brag about: actively working against the Bystander/Facilitator effect that enables rapists to get away with “plausible deniability” about non-consensual sex when alcohol is involved.
The Scottish campaign in particular emphasises positive behaviour reinforcement:
Rape. Are you the type of guy who understands what this really means?In Scotland the law relating to rape has recently changed. It now concentrates more on what ‘consent’ means and the fact consent can be withdrawn at any time. In addition, sexual attacks on men have been legally classed as ‘rape’ for the very first time.
The ‘we can stop it’ campaign has been created by Scottish police forces partially to raise awareness of these changes. However, more importantly, it asks you to take responsibility for your knowledge and pride in your attitude.
We believe together we can stop rape. Do you?
The “Don’t Be That Guy” and “We Can Stop It” campaigns both targeted other rape culture tropes with their potential-perpetrator-focussed messages, not just alchoholic incapacitation. Other successful campaigns have used the Enthusiastic Consent model for sexual consent that promotes mutually obtaining a clear YES response rather than merely avoiding a NO as the only acceptable standard for sexual interaction, as part of a bigger-picture of sex as a collaboration where people have fun together, rather than the current tendency to frame sex according to an adversarial/conquest model where the instigator is out to just get what they want by wilfully ignoring/circumventing the other person’s boundary-setting. These campaigns also don’t only look at the simplistic male-predator-female-victim scenario – they include other classes of victims and predators who are erased by the standard rape prevention “advice”.
Rape prevention advice aimed at potential victims protecting themselves has failed to prevent rapists raping people for centuries, because such advice is essentially a manual for rapists of how to get away with plausibly denying that what they did was rape, full of guidelines for how to inveigle themselves into flying under the “commonsense” mythically-flawed “potential rapist” radar. We all know people who did everything “right” and were raped anyway, and people who did everything “wrong” and who have never been raped. The one common factor in whether a rape happens is being in the presence of someone who is willing to rape, and the two major factors that make potential offenders less willing to rape are
- when the ignorant learn that what they thought was not-rape actually is rape/sexual assault, and they decide to ensure that they have clear consent in future;
- when the predatory believe that they are less likely to get away with excusing their rape-perpetration as not-really-rape, because bystanders and facilitators and victims have become less ignorant about and less tolerant of non-consensual sexual exploitation, thus protective interventions are more likely, reports to police are more likely, prosecutions are more likely, and convictions are more likely.
Education campaigns dispelling the traditional ignorance perpetuating rape myths that allow rapists to get away with making “commonsense” excuses work. Victim-blaming doesn’t work. We all deserve better than this same old bullshit from self-righteous pushers of the same old myths posing as brave truth-tellers.