(Trigger warning for discussion of rape and abuse.)
I’ve been seeing a common underlying idea lately in a lot of discussions about violence against women. It’s an idea that explains a lot of what appear to be blindingly sexist–or just baffling–ideas about why violence happens, what it looks like, and what steps society should take against it. I’m going to call it the Slavering Beast Theory.
In the Slavering Beast Theory, there are two kinds of men. Two species, nearly. (I’ve seen people go so far as to claim that Slavering Beasts are the result of evolution, which might make them literally a subspecies.) There are ordinary guys and there are Slavering Beasts. And they are very, very easy to tell apart. They act different, even look different, to the point where any adult should be able to distinguish them in any casual social setting.[…] Slavering Beast diagnostics are almost always ex post facto–he committed violence? Well, no wonder, he’s a Slavering Beast! You should have seen it coming!
Ah yes. That day-glo SB tattoo that they’ve all got on their forehead is SUCH A GIVEAWAY, AMIRITE LADIES?
This dichotomy is how someone can simultaneously believe that women shouldn’t go out after dark because rape is such a big problem and believe that tons of rape accusations are false. It makes perfect sense if you believe there are Slavering Beasts out in the dark, but if an ordinary guy is accused of rape, there must be more to the story. It explains why people are angered by rape prevention tips aimed at men–those are insulting to ordinary guys, and Slavering Beasts won’t listen. And it justifies the belief that abuse victims had it coming: either they were abused by a Slavering Beast and should have known better, or they were abused by an ordinary guy and must have done something terrible to provoke him.
More than anything, it gives people a way to say “I’m not a Slavering Beast, so none of this applies to me.” Learning about gaining consent or recognizing abuse is pointless–Slavering Beasts will always be violent for no reason and ordinary guys never will.
Read the rest. It’s probably nothing most feminists haven’t thought in some form before, but Holly lays it out especially clearly. Nobody wants to think that somebody they know and like could do such a thing to somebody else, but the statistics are starkly clear – every one of us most likely knows several folks who have used violence in private (actual or implicit threat) to coerce and abuse others, and we can’t tell which ones of the people we know that might be.
It’s worthwhile extending this analysis beyond just the rape myths territory, too. Respected judges can be violent abusers behind doors, even (especially!) when one of their family members is particularly vulnerable due to a disability: how come all those people who voted for him over and over and invited him to preside over high status events never noticed his day-glo SB tattoo that the simplistic like to retrospectively pronounce must have been clearly obvious?
The answer of course is simple: abusive predators are generally far from obvious – they’re very very very good at sneaking under their neighbour’s radar and appearing extra trustworthy, because most people simply are not nearly as good at spotting the wrong’uns as they think they are, and keeping their abusive impulses hidden is how they get to keep on getting away with their harmful habits. When people think abstractly about this, the logic is inescapable – but people tend to fall back on Slavering Beast myths to deny the possibility when it’s someone they know and like.
Tangentially, this magical post facto sign that Slavering Beasts wear seems to be related to the magical Jerk sign that Nice GuysTM claim they can detect on any guy who is dating the women who won’t date them. Again, it’s just so obvious and women would see it if they would just listen.
Categories: gender & feminism, law & order, violence
Slavering Beast diagnostics are almost always ex post facto–he committed violence?
It works the other way too. Houw dare you exercise caution – he didn’t attack you the moment he laid eyes on you, so he can’t be a Slavering Beast – so he’s an ordinary guy and deserves your complete and utter trust in all things.
Oh yes, that was a huge part of the uproar over ElevatorGate and comes storming into threads the moment anybody mentions the Schrödinger’s Rapist post.
To which I must say – when I meet a new acquaintance, Schrödinger’s rapist is only one of the possible states of which to be wary of at one extreme. I’m also hopeful for the possibility of other states. This new acquaintance could be:
* Schrödinger’s bore
* Schrödinger’s spellbinding raconteur
* Schrödinger’s boor
* Schrödinger’s BFF
* Schrödinger’s racist
* Schrödinger’s supportive workmate
* Schrödinger’s narcissist
* Schrödinger’s kind neighbour
* Schrödinger’s paedophile
* Schrödinger’s mentor
* Schrödinger’s sexual harasser
* Schrödinger’s soulmate
* Schrödinger’s calculating abuser
* Schrödinger’s fuckbuddy
* Schrödinger’s axe murderer
* Schrödinger’s jogging partner
If people want to insist on a traditional two-state model only, none of us know whether Schrödinger’s Acquaintance is going to be Harmless or Harmful as we peel back the social layers. People with a healthy sense of self-preservation stay aware of the Harmful possibility, just in case.
To put the whole “Schrodinger’s X” thing in simple terms: most people aren’t telepathic (I say most, because apparently there’s someone out there who is, and they’re warping the curve for the rest of us). So we have to use things like “what people say within earshot” and “what people do around us” as hints to what the stranger sitting nearby is thinking. It isn’t socially acceptable to present new acquaintances with a multi-page questionnaire asking their views on a range of different topics, or to dose them with sodium pentothal and interrogate them in order to get information, so we have to go from the information which is available to us – and that usually boils down to “what we’ve heard them say”, “what we’ve seen them do” and “what we’re willing to believe of what other people report to us about what they’ve said and done when we weren’t there”.
Quite frankly, I’d just as soon deal with the apparent social requirement for perfect telepathy. Let’s all admit that we can’t read minds, we can only make our judgements from the information people give us, and let’s admit to that other great unspoken truth about the majority of humanity: people can lie.
If we admit that people can and do lie (for all kinds of reasons, not all of them wicked or evil) and detecting the lie in progress is a skill which requires a certain amount of practice; if we admit that telepathy doesn’t exist, and we can only go on the information we have; then we’re heading toward a way of accepting the possibility of someone being lied to (either deliberately or inadvertently) and later victimised without it necessarily having been a fault or failing on the part of the victim. If we admit that people are capable of lying to themselves, we can also admit sometimes a violent act can be a surprise to the perpetrator (and that it’s their subsequent reaction to this act which provides even more information – do they accept they did something wrong and genuinely attempt change, or do they place all the blame on the person they hurt?
The Grow mental health self-help program has the following little wisdom: “Sow an act and reap a habit; sow a habit and reap a character; sow a character and reap a destiny.”
This is definitely the nub of it, Meg. People lie to each other and to themselves. We all want to think of ourselves and our close ones as more consistent than most of us really are, but spinning fantasies about trulyreliable instincts that we don’t tend to actually have doesn’t really make the world a safer place..
Oh yes, that was a huge part of the uproar over ElevatorGate
Exactly what I was thinking of.
And exactly, Megpie. Exactly.