Mythcommunication and Defending the Indefensible

Two posts from today that neatly bookend a whole series of shelves about the rape culture.

  • First, from Thomas at Yes Means YesMythcommunication: It’s Not That They Don’t Understand, They Just Don’t Like The Answer – a detailed look at some studies laying out exactly how people actually commonly express refusal without actually using the word “no”, because a blunt “no” is considered rude/aggressive. Yet, in normal conversation, these polite refusals (“I’d love to, but I’ve got other plans” etc) are still generally completely understood as in the patterns of social etiquette as signifying unwillingness to comply/proceed.This underlines precisely what the problem with the standard of “she didn’t say no” is; that it is, given social norms for refusing non-sexual propositions, an irrational expectation and the imposition of an unfair burden where being expected to violate a lifetime of social training is what is demanded. The studies also show that women are right to fear violent reprisal if they fail to refuse politely enough, because this is what men say that women deserve for a blunt expression of NO that violates norms of etiquette.

    “Rape results from a refusal to heed, rather than an inability to understand, a rejection. “

    The problem is not women being unable to express a well understood refusal, the problem is rapists refusing to accept a well understood refusal.

    Read the whole thing.

  • Then from Holly at Pervocracy, we have how internet comments work in Rape Culture: Defending the Indefensible – the predictable victim-questioning, victim-blaming, and rapist-sympathizing reactions that we can document on the internet but which we also regularly hear from work colleagues, family members and even our dodgier friends. Why might people are aren’t knowingly friends with rapists, who aren’t rapists themeselves, who are not objectively pro-rape at all, nonetheless feel the need to cast doubt on rape victims and make excuses for accused rapists? Holly has 4 theories which I’ll briefly summarise:
    The Just World Fallacy: bad things don’t happen to good people, they must have done something to deserve it.
    The Male Gaze: response to a rape case is “what if I were accused of rape?” rather than identifying with the victim.
    The “Consent as Contract” Model: insisting on sex as payment for [my attention] is just fair trading, how dare she try to rip me off.
    The Plain Old Fashioned Assholery: I can be the meanest, most hard-hearted, narrow-minded jerk in town.

    Holly goes into more detail, and you should read it all.

What I take home from these two posts, alongside Melissa’s salient statement about the blaming of an 11yo girl for not being clear enough in expressing refusal against 18 strong young men from last week is this (and it’s no surprise, nor is it something nobody’s never said before, it’s just something worth repeating): there’s a metric buttload of social energy bound up in entangling women (and other rape victims) in a catch-22 when it comes to sexual consent.

i.e. unless we express refusal/rejection vigorously and unmistakably in front of multiple witnesses in a public place, then we’re not communicating clearly enough and our objections can be “misunderstood” with impunity;

However, if we do express refusal/rejection vigorously and unmistakeably in front of multiple witnesses in a public place, then we are bitches for embarrassing the propositioner in public, and we deserve to be “taught a lesson”.

We’re not supposed to ever hold a winning hand here.



Categories: gender & feminism, social justice, violence

Tags: , ,

8 replies

  1. At times like this I can really see where the anti-men Radfems are coming from. Or is that a tautology?

    • I hesitate to agree there, Mindy. We shouldn’t forget that women too can be rapists, and in cases where the victim is male the rape-culture script there is that they can’t really have objected/refused/rejected at all, because how bloody lucky are they to have sex “given” to them like that, eh? Seeing as how all men/boys want sex all the time so would never turn it down?

      • More thoughts: it seems that a whole heap of rape culture’s doubt-the-victim standpoint is about an overarching dominance fetish, which probably ties most into the Just World Fallacy (victims must have done something to deserve it, corollary: dominators somehow deserve their dominance prizes), which is why we see mirroring/parallel scripts outside the most common male-perpetrator/female-victim (MP/FV) rape event. All victims are framed as somehow despicable/bringing it on themselves in rape culture.
        Because MP/FV is the most commonly acknowledged class of rape event, the myths which serve general male privilege are the easiest to point out, maybe?

  2. All victims are framed as somehow despicable/bringing it on themselves in rape culture.
    And if they’re not, the rape is reframed into something that’s more palatable to deserve, hence rape-as-compliment or stalking-as-romance.

  3. Good point TT. I should know better than to think in the dominant narrative only. *fails 101*

  4. @SunlessNick, that reframing you mention (rape-as-compliment or stalking-as-romance) makes my teeth ache.
    @Mindy, we all do every now and then. It’s too easy to stay within dominant narrative grooves, but veering from the main path is why we blog, yes?

  5. I can’t stand the stalking as romance or “I’ll make you love me” narrative. It is so prevalent in tv/movies, especially so-called rom-coms that it has become normalised.

  6. I like to think so, yes, but every so often one of those ‘you are all [het, cis] middle class white feminists and you haven’t considered X,Y,Z shakes me out of my complacency.

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