Feminism: 'Splaining at Victims

[Content Note: Rape]

Richard Carrier has apparently gotten tired of rape victims (including myself) explaining that his no, really, this graphically eroticized description of a rape isn't rape because it's been graphically eroticized post is actually pure rape apologetics, and has decided that the best solution to this problem is to vomit forth a 4,700+ word follow-up post (which follows his original 7,400+ word post) in which he continues to maintain that his judgment of what is and isn't rape is totally his call to make on an Objective Platonic Universal Morality level, and that rape victims who disagree can all go suck eggs because we're all obviously emotional harpies who don't read his genius posts closely enough.

And if that description sounds just a wee bit uncharitable, it's probably because (a) I am a rape survivor who doesn't appreciate having her experiences audited by privileged white men, and (b) I am an anti-rape activist who doesn't appreciate having privileged white men 'splain how all the anti-rape activists are Doin' It Wrong for calling something which is rape rape on the grounds that the Privileged White Man doing the 'splaining thinks that that particular flavor of rape is too erotic to be rape. Which is what I'm getting from Carrier's two posts so far.

So here is a very brief run-down of some of the things wrong with Carrier's latest word salad on rape.

1. The Law is not relevant. Stop pretending that it is. 

I don't know if Carrier wants to have his cake and eat it too with all this legal wankery or if he's making the extremely common mental error that rape is only rape if it's a crime except-in-places-where-it-isn't-but-should-be. Both his posts specifically call out that The Law is not necessarily reflective of morality or reality (with the usual swipe at Christians and Jews because of the historical Biblical bits which condone rape, which is just delicious irony in a modern post by a prominent atheist which is pure rape apologetics, but I don't imagine Carrier will appreciate the humor like I do), but then he still goes on to belabor The Law for paragraphs and paragraphs as if it still does kind of matter. It doesn't.

There is a reason why anti-rape activists who have been doing this for awhile don't yammer on about The Law all the time, and that reason is because The Law is a distraction. Rape is rape. Whether The Law reflects that fact in the US or in Texas or in Canada or in Germany or in wherever is a topic best set aside for specific posts about specific cases where a specific The Law is wrong and needs changing. But in a general post on what is rape, The Law is worthless to us, and is so changeable and non-uniform that even bringing it up is a whole can of unrelated worms. Case in point, Carrier wants to assert that Intent Is Magic when it comes to whether something is a crime or not, and states:
One of those fundamental principles of justice is that to hold someone accountable for a crime, two conditions must be met: mens rea (an “ill will” or “bad intention,” voiced in trials as “knowledge and intent”) and actus reus (a “bad act”).
Well, no. There are a bieberbillion examples of where The Law doesn't give a shit about your intentions. I bet you could name a dozen without even trying. But before everyone can point that out, Carrier tries to head that off at the pass by acknowledging this and then insisting that we have to set those cases aside as deviations from the Objective Platonic Universalness of The Law for no better reason than because he says so:
One of those fundamental principles of justice is that to hold someone accountable for a crime, two conditions must be met: mens rea (an “ill will” or “bad intention,” voiced in trials as “knowledge and intent”) and actus reus (a “bad act”). There are exceptions, called “statutory” laws (or “strict liability” laws). Although one might raise a debate over whether such laws should exist, I won’t query that here, since I didn’t write anything about statutory rape. All other crimes (like rape, every bit as much as murder, theft, or anything else) must meet both conditions. Otherwise a crime has not occurred.
So just to be really clear, this is Carrier saying (paraphrase): "In order for something to be a crime according to The Law in some places but not others (but we won't consider those places because they're probably foreign and backward anyway), the person must have acted with mens rea except for all the times when mens rea isn't necessary but which I declare not relevant to this discussion of The Law because it mucks with my following arguments. And this discussion of The Law is relevant to a discussion about what does and does not morally constitute rape purely because I say it does."

Welp, I'm convinced.

Also, I don't know which magical version of The Law Carrier is referring to, but people absolutely can be held responsible for accidental theft and accidental murder. And the main reason why we don't hold people responsible for accidental rape is because of Rape Culture which is propped up by rape apologetics. So arguing that you're not employing rape apologetics because you're arguing from How Things Are (In Our Rape Culture) as an example of How Things Should Be (In Objective Platonic Universal Moral System), is kind of problematic to start with. If you substitute horseshit for eggs, you can't take offense when people call your resulting cake shitty.

2. Women are neither cars nor houses. Your analogy privileges are now revoked.

In Post #1, Carrier decided that the best way to analogize a woman rape victim would be to reduce her to a car:
Even if we leave our keys in the ignition, it is still theft to drive off with it. It is still victimizing someone, taking or using their property without their permission.
In Post #2, Carrier apparently felt that the reason all the hysterical rape victims criticizing him didn't appreciate his analogy was because we needed a closer to home analogy and switched things up by reducing women to houses:
If you shoot a machinegun into a residence, you might have committed murder. It can even be said that you don’t know if you committed murder, or even showed no concern for whether you had. But it’s still not murder (if no one was killed). You actually have to commit murder to be guilty of murder.
I have already covered in my previous post + comments why these analogies are bad, but to recap: Comparing women to inanimate objects is dehumanizing, it buys into the Rape Culture framing that sex is an object which men take from women rather than an activity which two (or more) people participate in, and it reinforces the incorrect assumption that rape is a tool used to get sex rather than rape being an actual goal of most rapists.

This isn't a minor point. Rape Culture requires women to be dehumanized and objectified into literal objects in order to encourage men to rape them. Rape Culture requires sex to be viewed as an object to be given (or stolen) rather than an activity which does not occur if consent wasn't present; in other words, Rape Culture needs rape and sex to be the same thing from the point of view of the rapist. And Rape Culture requires us to view rape as a tool that the rapist used when his victim wouldn't give him object!sex any other way, rather than letting us view rape as an activity which was the rapist's goal all along. Or as I said earlier:
Since Carrier's situation -explicitly- involves the rapist deliberately [and in advance] removing the option to have sex (by removing the victim's ability to consent by getting her drunk), that suggests we're dealing with a sadistic rapist who *prefers* rape to sex.

By reducing "sex" to an owned object like a "car", there's a built-in presumption that the rapist was just after the object (sex) as a goal and used a tool (rape) to get it. But when you recognize that rape is NOT sex, then we see more clearly that the rapist didn't "use rape to get sex", but rather that the rapist "used rape to get rape". Indeed, by removing the victim's ability to consent, the rapist ensured that sex would not be had that night.

Once we understand that for many rapists, the POINT is to commit rape rather than to have sex, we can (a) deal more effectively with the reality of Rape Culture and (b) stop whiffling about whether the woman's blood alcohol was a fraction of a percent off for the rape to be a Legitimate one.
You cannot be an effective anti-rape advocate by comparing women to things-which-are-not-women, nor by comparing rape to things-which-are-not-rape. And when you persist in making these comparisons, you signal to your audience that you aren't serious about intellectually understanding rape and instead want to play analogy games and build up your Ender "First Principles" Wiggin creds. In other words, your flavor of anti-rape advocacy is less about helping victims and stopping rape and more about self-gratification.

3. Scenarios A-B-C-D-E-I-E-I-O just indicate that you are woefully uneducated on this topic. Fix that.

Those of you who were here for the first blog post will recall that Carrier described a scenario in which a Celebrity Man at a convention (which I will note already constitutes a huge amount of social power; there is a reason why Rebecca Watson is still getting violent hate-mail over Elevatorgate and a big part of that reason is atheist celebrity Dawkins, his ongoing public grudge against her, and his vast army of misogynistic fans happy to be stirred into action) deliberately got a non-celebrity attendee extremely drunk to the point where her vision was impaired, her mental capacity was impaired, and her physical movements were impaired. The celebrity then took the non-celebrity to her room and raped her.

Carrier's assertion through all this is that the rape wasn't rape because consent was present (on the grounds that the woman initially felt arousal) and because consent was expressed (on the grounds that the woman kissed her rapist). What I, and others, have patiently explained to Carrier is that:

A) Physical arousal is not consent and suggestions to the contrary are rape apologia.

B) Consent was not present or possible due to the woman's extremely inebriated condition. (Which the rapist was both aware of and had deliberately arranged in order to rape her. But that is only relevant to Carrier's continued incorrect insistence that a rapist who doesn't know he's raping isn't a rapist. The rapist in his scenario was fully aware that he was raping.)

All this other hand-wringing bullshit about Scenario C and Scenario E and Scenario XYZZY just underscores the fact that Carrier doesn't understand what consent is, and therefore cannot understand what rape is, and therefore should not be writing anti-rape advocacy posts because he's only going to hurt rape survivors in the process. It's kind of tragically ironic that Carrier keeps insisting people didn't read his scenario carefully ('but I didn't SAY he threatened her! Wah-wah-wah!!!') while obviously not reading the stuff rape victims are writing in response to his eroticized fantasy rape scenario.

To Carrier: The man in your stupid scenario of stupidity didn't need to verbally threaten the woman because he was already threatening her in non-verbal ways. Leveraging his social power to pressure a woman into getting falling-down drunk in order to take her back to her room, strip her clothes off without her sober consent, and stick his dick into her is a threatening act. The reason people pointed out that she could well have been kissing him because she felt threatened wasn't because they decided to "unjust[ly] rewrite what I wrote in your head" but because they recognize what you apparently can't or won't: that the situation you wrote was inherently threatening to the woman.

The fact that you're running around windmilling your arms and pointing out that you never included the man verbally threatening the woman just shows that you don't understand fuck-all about consent, rape, and rape culture. And when rape victims are pointing this out to you en masse, the intelligent scientific non-asshole response would be to stop talking over them and start listening and maybe learning something about what it's like to live life in a rape culture as a non-privileged white man.

4. Saying "Your rape wasn't rape because I say so, but here's a cookie" is rape apologetics. Deal with it.

My favorite (HA HA NO) part of Carrier's latest blog post is the end, where he admonishes all the complaining rape survivors that he's not spouting rape apologetics from both ends and he can prove it because after he said that some types of rape aren't rape, he then said that the rape-which-isn't-rape-because-he-said-so is still BAD. (And so why are all these bitchez complaining, etc.?)
As I wrote from the start:
This is not rape. But it isn’t nice, either. If it wasn’t what you wanted, if you weren’t given a chance to think about it first, then it still wasn’t right. You were still taken advantage of. You were still abused and mistreated. And your happiness was still damaged and disregarded. … [The perpetrator] still took advantage of a woman and destroyed a human being’s happiness. Even if it wasn’t against the law. Even if it wasn’t sexually penetrating someone without their consent. Thus it’s being against the law or not is hardly the point. But it’s being rape or not is hardly the point, either.
…because it’s still wrong.

Rape apologetics is arguing that it wouldn’t be wrong, that the semantics of how even the most reasonable legal systems define rape can allow us to accept behavior that doesn’t conform to that exact definition (or worse, blame the victim for it). And that is the very thinking I explicitly denounced. It is not the thinking I endorsed. As the above paragraph makes quite clear, I condemned and vilified the (hypothetical) perpetrator for doing something awful. I said nothing whatever to blame the victim. I put all the blame on the perpetrator. And I certainly did not say what he did was “kinda cool.” [emphasis mine]
*buzzer sound* Err!! Wrong! Thanks for playing!

Carrier, you engaged in rape apologetics when you described a rape and said it wasn't rape. Full stop. Saying that the rape-you-decided-was-not-rape is still ø¤º°`°º¤ø Rilly-Rilly Naughty, Guys! ø¤º°`°º¤ø tra-la-la!! doesn't change the fact that you unilaterally declared that a rape scenario wasn't rape because you said so.

You further engaged in rape apologetics when you described this rape-which-you-decided-is-not-rape in the direct context of an actual woman announcing that she is a victim of an actual celebrity in your community. You took the vague outline which she felt safe presenting, filled in some details which may or may not have happened to her, and then announced that the scenario you described was Not Rape. And while you did it in the context of pretending that she surely agrees with you, maybe-probably-possibly, you still very clearly made the point that if your "scenario" fits her experiences, you disagree with her right to use the word rape to describe what her victimizer did to her.

You took an actual person, a real victim of sexual violence, and told her when and how she can use the word rape to describe what happened to her. And you did this while completely missing how consent works, while totally eliding the power differential between a celebrity and a non-celebrity, while suggesting that physical arousal is consent, while obfuscating what rape is based on a lot of mostly-false and deeply-misinformed statements about The Law, while reducing women to objects, while defining sex as an object and rape as a tool, and while disappearing actual victims and actual advocates in order to play Famous Philosopher and sling around Latin terms which are not germane to the actual subject matter at hand.

You additionally, just to be really clear, took an actual victim of sexual violence and used her story in order to gratify yourself, and you did so while announcing that the experiences of hundreds of thousands of rape survivors weren't really rape, but that they shouldn't be upset at your auditing of their experiences because you are willing to graciously concede that what happened to them was still awfully crummy.

And then when rape survivors complained, you accused them of literal injustice against you -- you, who are leveraging your fame and social power to declare them not victims of rape, to declare the rapes committed against them not legitimate rape-rapes, and you who are perpetrating this truly unjust act against rape victims without a trace of irony -- because they had the temerity to point out that your arguments have more holes than a sieve and are built on the rape apologetics which are the foundation of rape culture, when they should have just accepted all your mansplaining because privilege makes you an expert on rape even when you clearly don't understand the first thing about it.

So here's hoping that this explanation clears up for you the mystery of why an awful lot of people are calling you out for being a rape apologist and why their decision to do so isn't an unjust tragedy of awfulness against you.


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