This morning I received a Change.org petition in my email entitled "Philadelphia editor who blamed Lara Logan for her gang rape must go". I clicked over to read the story expecting the usual depressing victim-blaming bingo, but it's really so much worse than I had expected. Don't read further if you don't have the spoons to deal with a heavy dose of WTF idiocy.
Broad Street Review (which I can't remember hearing about before now) published a terribly thoughtful-if-depressing article by SaraKay Smullens that essentially asserts that rape is a much more common occurrence than a lot of people realize and that it's high time we started recognizing this as a society and speaking up about it. There's nothing particularly revolutionary about the article if you've been following feminism and rape culture even a little bit in the last, oh, ever, but it's a good article and maybe this will be the one that makes the difference for someone and provides a wake-up call of either the "thank god I'm not alone" variety or the "dear god this must stop" variety. Both of these are healthy responses to be hoped for, and I appreciate Smullens for writing about these womens' experiences.
We must have "both sides" of the issue, though, or it's not journalism (or so I'm led to understand) so Broad Street Review also saw fit to publish a "thoughtful" rebuttal written by one Dan Rottenberg that is a spicy serving of victim blaming with a soft pinch of paternalism on top, and a side of Goddamned Hippies On My Lawn as a palette cleanser. Rottenberg (apparently) read an article that starts with a woman being habitually humiliated against her will by her sadist husband who forces her to eat his feces and culminates in a reporter who was gang raped in Cairo’s Tahrir Square by hundreds of men, and naturally decides that the real issue here is those damned low-cut tops and those hippies who refuse to keep guns in their homes.
Smullens argues that women need to speak up and speak out when they’re victimized, as Lara Logan has done, and of course she is right. But having stumbled across a CBS publicity photo for Lara Logan (above), I can’t help thinking that women also need to take sensible precautions before they’re victimized.
For example: Don’t trust your male friends. Don’t go to a man’s home at night unless you’re prepared to have sex with him. Don’t disrobe in front of a male masseur. If you take a job as a masseuse, don’t be shocked if your male customers think you’re a prostitute. And if you want to be taken seriously as a journalist, don’t pose for pictures that emphasize your cleavage.
Tl;dr version: Don't marry a man who is going habitually rape you once you are financially and emotionally dependent on him years after you two have had children together. I mean, c'mon, that's not hard, right? Don't wear a low-cut dress to a fancy dress party, and if you do, for gods' sake don't go cover news stories in Cairo afterwards. Don't you realize that you've foolishly signaled with that dress to those men in Cairo that you want to be raped in public by hundreds of violent men?
Many of the tragedies mentioned above spring from what I see as a naïve faith in the power of the modern sexual revolution. Women today are technically free to do all sorts of things that were forbidden to their grandmothers, which is all well and good. But in practice, rape and the notion of sexual conquest persist for the same reason that warfare persists: because the human animal— especially the male animal— craves drama as much as food, shelter and clothing. Conquering an unwilling sex partner is about as much drama as a man can find without shooting a gun— and, of course, guns haven’t disappeared either.
Earth to liberated women: When you display legs, thighs or cleavage, some liberated men will see it as a sign that you feel good about yourself and your sexuality. But most men will see it as a sign that you want to get laid.
They most definitely won't see your legs as a sign that it's 105 degrees fahrenheit outside, also known as freaking-too-hot-to-live. They absolutely won't see your thighs as a sign that you're at the Sea World waterpark and Macy's doesn't sell those thigh covering swimsuits anymore. And they're certainly not going to see that women journalists at red carpet affairs are expected to conform to certain social expectations of dress and beauty in those scenarios and that coming to the event with nothing but your eyes (and maybe a little provocative ankle) uncovered is going to kill your career deader than a doornail.
Nope, all those non-liberated evo-psych men are just gonna see you wearing a big sign saying I WANT TO HAVE SEX. And, of course, once a woman has signaled that she wants sex, or that she has had sex, or that she likes sex, she's open to any takers. The woman's liberation movement was nice and all, but you can't take all that "I want to choose who I have sex with" stuff seriously.
You don't believe Dan Rottenberg? HOW WOULD YOU LIKE SOME ANECDOTES THEN? HUH?!
Back in the 1980s two single women lived at opposite ends of my block in Center City. One, whom I’ll call Ann, spent 18 years on our block without any problem. The other, whom I’ll call Sarah, was the victim of four burglaries, one attempted rape and one molestation of her young daughter, all within a year of her arrival.
The difference in their stories seemed obvious to me. Ann kept a low profile, dressed conservatively, installed a burglar alarm, locked her sturdy front door at all times and kept a gun her front hallway. Sarah, on the other hand, dressed like a flower child (she wasn’t a druggie, but she looked like one), had no burglar alarm and only the flimsiest of front doors; and in any case she often kept her front door ajar, where she could be seen puttering around her living room in shorts and a halter.
See? God, what's wrong with you people. Dan Rottenberg knew two women. They lived in the same neighborhood. One of them had a gun in her hallway to protect her and the other one had a small child and wore shorts. Shorts, people. The one with the shorts quite naturally got burgled several times, while the one with the gun had exciting shoot-outs in her living room before "word on the street" got out that she was not to be messed with and then the gangs gave her "props", as my kids tell me it is now called. It's a cold, cruel world, folks, living as we do in an apocalyptic wasteland where might makes right, but what's the sense in complaining about it, am I right? Of course I'm right. I'm Dan Rottenberg.
The saddest thing about this article, really, isn't that it's just another "Why do you insist on getting raped?" article to throw onto the pile. No, the saddest thing is that the author read a touching and distressing article about women being victimized at all levels of life, by people who they thought they could trust -- husbands, friends, service personnel, clients, peanuts-on-a-popsicle-stick ambulance responders -- and Dan Rottenberg decided that it was his job, nay his duty, to explain to women why they should never, ever, ever be alone with a man. This isn't the usual "stranger rape" smoke and mirrors; this guy is admitting that the majority of rapes are committed by men known to the victim, and his argument is to stop knowing men.
This isn't another "leave a bar with a stranger, expect to get raped" article. It's a "get married to a man, expect to get raped" article. It's a "get in an ambulance, expect to get raped" article. It's a "show off your boobs at a red carpet event, expect to get raped in a location utterly removed from that one by vast spans of time and distance, by men who very likely never even saw the event where your boobs were displayed" article.
Dan Rottenberg, ladies, is here to solve your rape problem: Don't trust men. Ever. Not even Dan Rottenberg. Especially not Dan Rottenberg. If Dan Rottenberg sees your legs -- even briefly -- you have signaled your desire to have sex with Dan Rottenberg. And once the desire to have sex with Dan Rottenberg has been signaled, there are no take-backsies.
And now I'd like to end this article on a personal note:
Dear Dan Rottenberg,
I have a bad back. It's not a big deal, nothing to worry yourself about, expect that I'm in constant pain all the time and if I don't get massages every couple of weeks, my muscles seize up and I can't walk. I've actually found a very nice woman masseuse who helps me with my physical therapy and I'm glad she has chosen this profession despite the fact that she can't refuse service to men like you who will think she's a prostitute because she touches peoples' bodies for a living.
Incidentally, I have been to a male masseur before. He was incredibly nice and completely professional and really did help with my back, but I spent the entire time completely uncomfortable because I knew that if he raped me, I would spend the rest of my life having men like you tell me that I should have known better than trust a man to be a professional instead of being compelled by his biological urges to hurt me as much as he felt he could get away with.
But, you know what? I'm not a man-hater like you, anymore than I'm not a woman-hater like you. I'm a feminist and I believe that all people, regardless of gender, can and should be held to a high standard of "not-hurting-others-for-fun" behavior. I also believe in freedom of speech, so I think you should be allowed to say whatever hurtful, stupid things you want to say in whatever venue is foolish enough to choose to publish you. And I believe that when you do say your hateful, stupid things in a venue, people should have the right to suggest to that venue that they are perfectly willing to take their eyeballs elsewhere if that venue continues to publish hateful, stupid articles. And I believe that venue should have the right to take those opinions on board and not provide you a free platform for your hateful, stupid opinions anymore.
And I also I believe I have the freedom to say: Fuck you, Dan Rottenberg.
So there's that.