Wednesday, September 26, 2007

*Feminism's* Rape Fallacy? Really?

h/t Feministing, I think?

David Cox, from the Guardian, has this to say on the subject of rape.

First of all- and this is nitpicky- where, exactly is the fallacy supposedly being commited? Because, uh... I don't see one. Or is Cox using some use of "fallacy" that I'm not familiar with? Also, for an article that's called "Feminism's Rape Fallacy" he doesn't even mention feminism until the penultimate paragraph.

Nitpicks out of the way...

It's hard to know what to say to Cox, because a lot of what he says is completely unfounded, or out-and-out made up. Let's start at the begining, with his opening statement: Isn't it time to acknowledge that it's beyond the capacity of the judicial process to deal with date-rape?

I'm not sure it's possible for me to roll my eyes any harder. Does he think that this is something profound? Does he think that none of us have ever come to the conclusion that the problem of rape isn't something that the courts alone can deal with? I have a feeling that Cox thinks that he's really hit one out of the park there- that he's offered up something really deep.

A quick glance through almost any feminist blog, though, would have shown him that he's preaching to the choir with that one. I don't know anyone who thinks that the judicial process will stop rape. I don't know anyone who thinks that ending sexual violence and eliminating date-rape will happen in the courts. That's the whole reason that we talk about the social aspects of rape. That's why we talk about victim blaming. That's why we talk about the sense of entitlement, or slut shaming, or any other number of social, not just judicial, problems.

Date rape isn't something we expect the courts to solve, we just expect them to stop being part of the problem. Low conviction rates and hostile treatment of victims isn't a problem because it prevents us from ending rape- they're problems because they help further victimize people who are already victims. They're problems because they show that the courts don't take a problem seriously.

And when your conviction rate drops from 33% to 5.4%, it's possible that people might start to think that your courts don't take that crime very seriously. Or, you know, the your juries don't. Of course, when the number of reported rapes is increasing, but prosecutions aren't... well, that doesn't necessarily help, either.

So, no, David Cox, you're not being profound. You're arguing against a position that nobody has. At the very least, you're arguing against a minority opinion that I've never seen articulated.

Then, of course, there's Cox's claim that it's "doubtless" that "many" of the convicted 5% are unknown to their victims. Which is weird, because the Guardian reports that "Women are most likely to be raped by men they know and 50% involve repeated assaults by the same man." Researchers blamed a "culture of scepticism" for the low prosecution and conviction of rape. The same culture of scepticism that might, for example, lead to a "journalist" writing an article like this, perhaps?

Alright, I know, I'm just being petty.

But it's hard to know what to say when someone can write "Should we be surprised that juries acquit them, or that police or prosecutors consider a conviction unlikely in their cases?" of victims who've been raped by someone they know? Should we be surprised?


If the evidence supports a victim's claim that she (or he) was raped, it shouldn't matter whether the attacker was a spouse, a friend, or a stranger off the street. Particularly since, you know, all evidence suggests that the majority of rapists are known to their victims.

Cox is hung up on this idea that it's always a "he says/she says" situation where a woman's claim can't be at all verified. Sure, sometimes that's true. Sometimes there's no way to know for sure what happened, and sometimes there's no evidence that an attack took place. That makes cases difficult- that doesn't mean that it's preferable to throw our hands up and say "Oh well! Tough shit, victims!"

To start with, if we want to make a system that finds guilty people guilty while letting the innocent walk free, we need to quit promoting the myth that women routinely make false allegations, as if that's a justification for not pursuing rape cases. The fact that there are some people who have falsely accused others of rape shouldn't lead us to conclude that most or all people who make rape accusations are liars.

As it turns out, people will lie about just about anything, given the right circumstances. People have made false assault charges. People have lied about being mugged. People have lied about being abused. Have lied about having property stolen. Have lied about people lying about them. That doesn't mean we don't look for evidence of assault, theft, robbery, burglery, extortion, or libel. And when we go to court, we don't treat the victims of those crimes as though they're liars.

In the end, all of this comes across as an excuse to get to what Cox really wants- an excuse to victim blame and slut shame. It's only at the end of the article that we get to the real meat, when Cox's suggestion is to stop putting yourselves at risk, ladies.

See, as the most likely targets for rape, it's your responsibility to stop getting raped. "Exercise caution" as he puts it. Keep your "valuables" out of sight. That's right. "Think twice before visiting footballers' hotel rooms late at night" and remember that getting yourself "into a drunken stupor in the company of a frisky male" is dangerous.

There are several problems with this.

First of all, as a man, I can't help but point out what a thoroughly low standard Cox apparently holds men to. This is one of those "Wow, you people think a lot less of men than any feminist does" situations. The implication is pretty clear- men can't help themselves around a drunken woman? That's a low standard if I've ever seen one.

More important, though, is Cox's completely ignoring the realities of rape. It doesn't matter what a woman is wearing or how drunk she is, or if she's got her "valuables" on display- rape isn't about passion. It's not usually the case that it's a guy thinking "Wow, she's hot" and not being able to control himself. It's not a case of her dressing a certain way. Rape is usually perpetrated by men against women they know, regardless of dress.

Cox also misses the mark with regards to drinking. It's not women who drink that are at risk for getting raped. The relationship is all wrong- in most cases where drinking was involved in a rape, it's the perpetrator who was drinking, not the victim.

But, really, it's probably much easier to spread mistruths and lies about rape and to pile on about how the victims shouldn't get themselves raped than it is to examine any of the facts about rape and try to find ways to get the attackers to, you know, stop raping people.

And, lastly, there's that whole myth that feminists are completely and utterly opposed to women playing a part in securing their own safety?

Not true.

1 comment:

Anorak said...

Thanks Roy.
You've articulated what is wrong with this article (and viewpoint) with a level of coherency I am not capable of at the present time, due to the shade of vivid magenta I am seeing before my eyes.