Tuesday, July 7, 2009

No Is Not a Mixed Signal

I'm not quite sure if adding "feminism" to my Google Alerts was a good idea. On the one hand, I get awesome articles occasionally. On the other hand, I occasionally get articles which are not so awesome.

I wouldn't have bothered clicking— the words "Female Misogynist" are so rarely a good sign— but the half-sentence blurb included a referece to Isis the Scientist, so I was curious. I clicked; I read; I facepalmed. Then I went over to Learn Hexadecimal's house and shared the horror. When he learned that comments on that blog are moderated, he acquiesced to co-write this post with me, which is why this post contains words like "acquiesced".

Warning: Discussion of rape

Things that are wrong with the linked article: where do we start? The title certainly isn't promising. Why feminists claim rape has no connection to sex. It's always nice to analyze people who disagree with you in the aggregate, so that there's no possibility that the object of your musings will come along and say "Actually, you're wrong. That's not what I was thinking at all."

Dear "Male Chauvinist Woman", on behalf of feminists everywhere: actually, you're wrong. That's not what we were thinking at all. And your name distresses the hell out of me.

That issue aside, the title is also more than a little disingenuous. When feminists argue that rape isn't about sex, that's not to say there's no connection between the two concepts. There obviously is, it's ridiculous to assert that there isn't, and nobody is making any such assertion.

The assertion we are making is that sex is not the point of rape. We are trying to get rid of the stubborn myth that somewhere out there are hundreds, thousands, millions of men who just cannot control their own penises. It should be just as disingenuous to explain this idea; it should be just as disingenuous to say that we're battling the falsehood that says rapists are drawn to attractive women by a magnetism so strong that it makes them temporarily forget how to masturbate.

It should be, but it isn't, because there are people who actually think this.


Lately I've been seeing a lot of feminists (Isis the Scientist is one example, the Errant Wife is another) shrilly insisting that women should be able to wear provocative clothing without having men ogle them, or that women whoring around will not inspire violence.

If that ain't a problematic opening paragraph, I don't know what is. "Shrilly"? What is the purpose of this word? What are you trying to accomplish with it, Male Chauvinist Woman? According to every dictionary Google has found me, it means high-pitched. This is the Internet, ma'am; there is no pitch. Unless, of course, you live in a world where all feminists speak (and, apparently, type) in squeaky little chipmunk voices, because if you don't like someone's message, they were obviously saying it wrong.

I don't like your message, but I have so far resisted the temptation to do a dramatic reading of your post in the style of Foamy the Squirrel. Please extend us the same courtesy.

As near as Marbles and I can figure, this is what the esteemed Dr. Isis sounds like when she is being "shrill". We're not really seeing the Foamy here.

Moving right along: apparently, MCW has figured out why we're making these "extraordinary claims". But before she tells us the nature of her epiphany, she's going to talk about a book she read. An "awesome" book.
One point he makes is that men will do pretty much anything else you can imagine for sex, why wouldn't they use force?

...I'm beginning to doubt the awesomeness of this book. Men will do pretty much anything you can imagine for sex? Will we really? I sense the Myth of the Uncontrollable PenisTM approaching. Let me tell you, penises are not uncontrollable. Anyone here ever been really, really hungry? Skipped a few too many meals and then all of a sudden discovered your stomach still existed after all, and it wasn't happy with your neglectful habits? Did you immediately go out and assault the first person you saw who happened to be carrying a delicious sandwich? The same principle applies.

There are exceptions. I slightly know a fat, homely, middle-aged woman who was raped last year. The culprit has apparently raped other women of similarly low attractiveness. Why does he target this type of woman? I have no idea. This guy is the exception, though. Most rapists target fertile women.

Lots and lots of things are wrong with this paragraph, but I'd like to draw attention to the word fertile, because it is the one that bewilders me most. Have some statistics: in 2007, over half (58%) of sexual assault victims were under the age of 18, with children under 12 accounting for 25%. Does that sound fertile to you? Didn't think so.

There's a digression here about "deranged liberal egalitarianism", but Marbles tells me we're not touching that.

Then, at last, MCW's theory of feminist reasoning is revealed.
Feminists need to separate sex from rape because that's the only way they can defend women's "right" to sashay around in provocative clothing, including late at night in bad neighborhoods.

Scare quotes around the word "right". Did I just see that? I did, didn't I.

Yes, Male Chauvinist Woman. You're right. Feminists believe that in an ideal world, we would all be able to sashay (seriously?) around in whatever the fuck clothing we felt like, in whatever the fuck neighbourhoods we pleased. We also believe that in reality, which is very much not ideal, a woman who chooses to thusly sashay is not responsible for the actions of anyone who chooses to assault her while she's at it. And unlike you, we actually believe this.
Does a woman who does that deserve to get raped? Absolutely not. Is it a high probability that she will be? Yes, it is.

An analogy: suppose that when I go into the grocery store, I leave my wallet, with fifty-dollar bills sticking out of it, on the seat of my car. Do I deserve to have that wallet stolen? Of course not. Would anybody be at all surprised or sympathetic if someone did steal it? Of course not.

Basically, feminists want women relieved of all responsibility.

So what you're saying is that you don't believe women are responsible for their rape, you just... believe that women are responsible for their rape. And apparently that your hypothetical self is responsible for having her hypothetical wallet hypothetically stolen, and apparently that a woman's bodily autonomy is worth n*50 dollars of your hypothetical money, where n is an integer greater than one and less than the number of bills that can plausibly be stuffed into a single wallet. I don't think that analogy means what you think it means.

Rape is not theft.

They tell women they have a "right" to do foolhardy things, then insist that there's no connection between, say, provocative clothing and rape. Does a woman have a "right" to wear a miniskirt and halter top? Of course she does. Does such attire make her more likely to be raped if she's not careful where she goes and with whom? Of course it does.

This myth is even worse than the Uncontrollable PenisTM. The Uncontrollable PenisTM is risible, that is, you can laugh at it. It's funny. The underlying principle implied by the words "and with whom" here is not funny at all.

71.9% of rapes are committed by a non-stranger. That includes roughly 7% relatives, 27% friends, and 26% casual acquaintances; the numbers given at the link don't quite line up straight, but I'm not going to argue with the US Department of Justice's statistics.

71.9%. Seven out of ten.

It doesn't matter how careful you are. It doesn't matter how modestly you dress, or how early you draw your self-imposed curfew, or how thoroughly you restrict which neighbourhoods you walk in. There is no magic formula that will protect you, because— and I cannot express how much it pains me to have to spell this out— the victim does not choose to make rape happen. The attacker does. And seven times out of ten, they choose to attack someone they already know.

I wish I could say that the fail in this post stopped here, but alas. Much like a used diaper dropped from a height, it just keeps accelerating until you reach splat. In this case, right now, splat is merely a smudge on the horizon.

Anyway, I remember a couple of articles they published about rape. In one, a woman related that a man she had been "dating casually" showed up at her apartment unannounced. He started kissing her. She says she was "too frightened" to stop him or protest, even though she admitted that he didn't threaten her in any way. She lay passively letting him have his way with her. Afterwards, he said, "That would've been better if you had, you know, got into it." She finished, "It was years before I realized that it was RAPE! Sex to any unwilling partner is rape!" Well, how the hell was he supposed to know she was unwilling? Feminists had at that point spent years telling the world that women wanted to have active sex lives just like men!

Active sex lives... passively letting him have his way with her...

Another article: after a date, a woman invited the man into her apartment. While she was pouring some wine, he came up behind her and started kissing her. She said something like, "Don't, I'll spill the wine." He said, "Let it spill," and embraced her. She submitted without any further protest. She too took years to decide that this was rape.

While Googling around for things to link to, we ran across a phrase that summarized this problem perfectly: non-dissent. Not dissenting isn't the same thing as assenting.

"How the hell was he supposed to know she was unwilling?" Here's a novel idea: he could ask. And if he can't get a clear answer, or if he has reason to doubt her sincerity, he could not have sex. There is no problem of the form "but how could he be sure he wasn't raping her?" that is not solved by these two basic principles: (1) communicate openly, and (2) when in doubt, don't fuck.

Oh, but it gets better. And by better, I mean worse.

Yet another, hauntingly remniscent of the Mike Tyson case, though this guy was far more guilty than Mike: a co-ed spent the night in bed with her college boyfriend. She was wearing a short nightgown and no underwear. She had told him repeatedly that she wasn't going to have sex with him. Before they went to sleep, he kept moving his hands up her thighs and she kept telling him to stop. Then she went to sleep. She woke up when he penetrated her. She screamed. He kept on. Now, I suppose this one does qualify as rape, but this woman was behaving with incredible stupidity. (Thankfully, one letter to the editor did point this out.) He behaved wrongly, but really. What was this woman thinking? Did she really think that she could spend the night in bed with a man who had made it clear that he wanted to have sex with her, wearing a shortie nightgown, and still be a virgin in the morning? See, all those hidebound rules about how nice girls behave around boys - i.e., not spending the night in bed with them without any underwear on - was to protect stupid bimbos, and the hapless males they date, from exactly this sort of thing. I doubt this young man believed he was committing rape. She was sending out extremely mixed signals, and he was a college-age male flush with hormones.

That paragraph is a bit of a beast, so I'm just going to pick out the relevant parts:

She had told him repeatedly that she wasn't going to have sex with him. Before they went to sleep, he kept moving his hands up her thighs and she kept telling him to stop. Then she went to sleep. She woke up when he penetrated her. She screamed. He kept on.

I doubt this young man believed he was committing rape. She was sending out extremely mixed signals, and he was a college-age male flush with hormones.

Splat. Ladies and gentlemen, the diaper has hit the pavement.

Like the title of this post says, "no" is not a mixed signal. "I'm not going to have sex with you" is not a mixed signal. Screaming is not a mixed goddamn signal. As Marbles puts it, anyone who ignores all three should have his penis permit revoked. When in doubt, don't fuck. It's not that difficult.

(By the way, it case it wasn't extraordinarily obvious already: any uses of first-person pronouns past the second paragraph should be taken to mean that I, Hex, am talking out of my hexagonal ass. Where Marbles has input, I use "we" or her name.)


Toaster Sunshine said...

Currently, I am too drunk to frame a cohesive rebuttal to the fuckwittery in the post you linked, yet I am also sober enough to see the validity of your many points.

What if a baby-desperate mid-30s woman jumped a guy with a good job, credit, and equity? Would we then blame the guy for having those attractive baby-rearing assets? It's not the same, but it illustrates the ridiculousness of blaming women for rape.

Also, as a scientist, I MUST note that a falling baby diaper will NOT simply continue to accelerate and accelerate downwards. It will first reach terminal velocity if the height from which it was dropped was large enough.

Learn Hexadecimal said...

Also, as a scientist, I MUST note that a falling baby diaper will NOT simply continue to accelerate and accelerate downwards. It will first reach terminal velocity if the height from which it was dropped was large enough.

You are entirely correct. I had assumed a height of about ten or twenty feet, which I don't think would be sufficient distance for terminal velocity to come into play, but I didn't specify and my statement is therefore not wholly true.

Anonymous said...

The problem with your entire account is the fact that women want you to push past their objections.

I was making out with a gf at my place asking her permission as we moved up each step of escalation. We got to heavy petting and some simulated sex. I asked to go farther and she said no. So I de-escalated and she left.

The next day she was fucking pissed as hell at me. It took a bit of digging but she was pissed off I had not push pasted her objections moved on to sex.

I had this happen with 3 or 4 girls and I realized that women want a step by step seduction that pushes past her objections. She does not want to be raped, but she to see the guy is strong enough to push past her pretenses of wanting to stop.

Talking to my friends, they have all found the same thing. Guys who stop and ask get shit on by chicks. Guys who push on beyond objections (not forcing, but pushing) have good relationships.

Given that's the way women act, it's very confusing to men when women give signals that they want to have sex and then tell them stop. Does she really mean stop? Or does she want me to press on over her objections? She keeps giving me signal that she wants sex, but her words are at odds with her body.

So take the time to consider the other side before you pass summery judgment.

LostMarbles said...


Let's make it easy for you: What's worse disappointing a woman or potentially raping a woman? If you honestly think that the former is worse then you are a fucking shit-stain.

Learn Hexadecimal said...

Anonymous, you might wanna have a look over here.

Particularly this thread and this one, both of which are relevant to your comment.

Marbles said it better than I could, but I'll add this: the whole "no means make me" standard is a fucked-up, shitty result of a fucked-up, shitty culture. You don't solve shit like that by playing along. You solve it by refusing to get into the game. If all the women you meet are honestly unwilling to drop the pretense game and communicate openly, it's your responsibility to nod, say "I'm sorry you feel that way", and disengage.

Yes, sometimes women participate in patriarchal bullshit. That doesn't fucking mean it's okay to play along. The only way to deal with a fucked-up, shitty cultural standard is to change it, and the only way to change it is to reject it as hard as you can and convince everybody you know to do the same.

Peggy said...

Good lord that's screwed up. There is no evidence at all that wearing a short skirt or exposing a bit of cleavage is more likely to cause a man to rape a woman. In fact the opposite is true. From a Psychology Today article:

"Conventional wisdom holds that women who dress provocatively draw attention and put themselves at risk of sexual assault. But studies show that it is women with passive, submissive personalities who are most likely to be raped—and that they tend to wear body-concealing clothing, such as high necklines, long pants and sleeves, and multiple layers. Predatory men can accurately identify submissive women just by their style of dress and other aspects of appearance. The hallmarks of submissive body language, such as downward gaze and slumped posture, may even be misinterpreted by rapists as flirtation."

And Anonymous: If your date says no, the only decent thing to assume is that she actually means no. Far more women have been assaulted by dudes who wouldn't take no for an answer than have had their feelings hurt by dudes who took their response at face value. And the two outcomes aren't comparable at all.

DearAudrey said...

I dare say the rest of the US dept of Justice non-stranger rape stats are partners or ex-partners. I can only imagine MCW's views on marital rape. If I buy a wallet, isn't it only fair that I use it to keep my cash in? *shudders*

Great beatdown :-)

Helen said...

Wonderful, wonderful smackdown. Thank you.

Toaster Sunshine said...

Dear Anonymous,

You could also choose to avoid your existential confusion as to what she really means by being selective in the women you date. Emotionally mature women are beyond such silly head games. They're also better conversation.


Dr.FabulousShoes said...

Hi Lost Marbles & Learn Hexadecimal, I wandered over here from Dr.Isis's and just wanted to say something to Anonymous. It's a bit of an over-share but here goes.

The first time I had sex with my now-fiancee, I had already been sleeping in his bed, naked, with him, for a month (I had made it explicitly clear what I wanted to happen & why). And when we finally did have sex because I wanted to and felt ready & safe and protected, I not only had to tell him exactly what I wanted, but he stopped the action, looked me straight in the eye and asked "Are you sure?... No, really, Are you sure.." I have never felt more loved and respected by anyone else in my entire life.

What's sad about our society & Anonymous's comment is that when I told a girlfriend that story, she told me he was a saint. Why is it saintly for a man who obviously cares about me make feel loved and respected? Isn't that what you're supposed to do? Isn't that what love is about? I mean the only thing the man has ever, ever talked me into is talking to him. As in "You're not leaving until we talk about why you're all anxious for no discernible reason." or "God damnit woman! Tell me what's wrong so I can help!" Ok, so maybe he is a saint, but not because he managed to not assault me for the first month of our relationship. Or maybe Anonymous just reinforced that I'm never letting him go.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Dr. Shoes, for reaffirming my faith in humanity. I wish we could all be as saintly as your fiancé. Failing that, I wish we could all meet the basic "don't assault your girlfriend" standard of decency...

Donna B. said...

"The hallmarks of submissive body language, such as downward gaze and slumped posture, may even be misinterpreted by rapists as flirtation." -- psych today article

I've seen that scenario play out in a non-violent way. A shy, prim co-worker complained that she was tired of having to "run the gauntlet" of men waiting for day labor jobs between the parking garage and our building.

There were only four of us who got to work before these guys left, so we decided to all walk in together. The rest of us had had no problems with these men and we wanted to see what was happening.

Of course, nothing happened when she was with us. She exclaimed when we got to our offices that "You spoke to them! They said good morning to you instead of talking about you!"

Sure 'nuf, she'd been approaching with her head down, afraid to look them in the eye.

These men were not suave or educated, but they were not rapists either. They more than likely considered her behavior as insulting and responded with insulting behavior.

I'm not excusing the men or blaming my co-worker. What started as a misunderstanding on both sides could have easily turned much uglier than a few unsavory remarks.

Anonymous said...

Donna B.

I kinda think it was a bit more than that. Who the hell taught these men that simply being ignored by a woman is such an egregious insult that it makes sense to respond by making remarks that she would likely find threatening? I know very few women - even groups of women - that would consider/dare to do the same to a man.

I also think it's a bit unfair to expect your coworker to know that saying hello would necessarily help. I work with the public and it's not unheard of for some men to take nothing more than normal service as meaning you are interested in them. And well, with arguments like the one the post is about floating around, is it any surprise many women are hesitant to talk to men they don't know - especially once the man has said certain things about them within their hearing?


Phira said...

Just oh my fucking GOD. I mean, obviously, you guys have completely and eloquently destroyed this idiot person's arguments. I'm glad.

Two things that might help, maybe. For the future. I like giving and getting tips on how to eloquently and concisely explain all the intense, angry responses I have to much of this stupidity.

First off, this whole sex and rape thing? One of my professors explained it pretty well, I think. Rape is using sex as a weapon. Calling rape "sex" is like physically assaulting someone with a frying pan and calling it "cooking."

And secondly, a page on a Canadian case that set the precedent that there is no such thing as implied consent said very, very clearly: Only yes means yes.

Many people will get uppity with the "only yes means yes" bit ("But I've kissed people and they haven't said yes, but it was obvious they liked it!"). But it's very easy to make the case, "Why NOT ask?" It doesn't ruin the mood; a lot of people who say it does HAVEN'T done it (or have been turned down and therefore did not like the result).

I'm rambling. Out of rage at the stupidity of people who think that it's my fault for being sexually assaulted because otherwise there's NO explanation.

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