#IBelieveHer: Reddit, The Guardian, And How Society Really Treats Rapists. *Trigger Warning*

A couple of days ago, Reddit ran a conversation, asking rapists about their perspective of assaults they’d carried out. Following Megan Carpentier’s article on The Guardian’s infamous Comment Is Free, detailing the conversation, I found myself heading over to Reddit to read the thread myself. Between Reddit and The Guardian, an interesting perspective emerged. On Reddit, rapists were forgiven, excused, and told they were now “great” guys. On The Guardian, the CiF saw an attack on feminism, the definition of rape and comments asserting that those rapes didn’t happen. Even when men admit to rape, there’s still people in the corner, claiming that it’s a false claim.

I felt nervous about the idea of a forum giving a voice to rapists. Seeing as so many rape survivors end up silenced, I personally think that the one narrative that doesn’t deserve a public airing is the unedited voice of the rapist. As a user of Reddit said: “Giving a voice to shitheads who don’t even feel any remorse about what they did isn’t a good thing.”  And he’s right. A lot of these rapists, telling their stories, didn’t show any remorse, tried to blame the survivor, and tried to claim that they were as much victims of their crimes as the women they’d raped had been.

But for the rapists who aired their stories, a more interesting narrative unfolded in the responses. We began to see how far some men would go to excuse rape. Memorably, AntiDamage tried to argue that pressuring a woman into sex wasn’t rape. It is.

Coercion is a concept I feel that many people overlook. Whereas the rape apologists claim that feminists try to widen the definition of rape, I’d argue that rape apologists try to narrow the definition. To me, rape is simply defined as a man penetrating another person who does not wish to be penetrated, with his penis. Simple, leaves no questions. If your partner doesn’t want sex, it’s not your place to try and change her mind. If you pressurise her into sex she doesn’t want, that is still rape.

One thing that struck me through the stories where men had claimed they’d stopped just short of raping a woman is how many  of them had claimed it was seeing something in her face, usually fear, that made them stop. But there lies the problem. Were these men so removed from the woman they wanted sex with – the woman they believed wanted sex with them- that at no point they chose to look at her face? It highlights our culture that objectifies women – the person you’re having sex with no longer matters enough for little gestures, such as looking at your partner. Women are becoming products from a standard factory line in too many men’s eyes, designed to be in a constant state of consent. It’s why the “she didn’t say no” line of defence is so dangerous. Women are not autonomous, and consent is not a guaranteed right. Assuming a woman wants sex with you is a dangerous viewpoint – If you don’t want to be a rapist, assume a woman doesn’t want sex with you, until she proves otherwise.

But the most important thing Reddit proved last week was simple, and a message feminists have been trying to get across for ages. The men, relaying their stories of how they’d raped women, were telling stories of how they’d raped acquaintances, whilst in a domestic setting. Reddit proved what we’ve been saying all along – Rapists aren’t lurking down every alleyway; they’re not deranged psychopaths. They’re the friends who we trust, the boyfriends, family acquaintances. For all the “Not My Nigel” arguments that women throw about in defence of their partners, the men of Reddit have proven that, yes… It really is our Nigels who pose the threat.

GenderTrender

This week the family members of women being housed at the Central California Women’s Facility began an urgent campaign for the removal of male serial torture-rapist Richard Masbruch from the female population. Anna Silver of Los Angeles has started a petition upon hearing the news that Masbruch is about to be transferred to her mother’s unit.

From the petition:

Today as I answered my Mothers phone call she spoke to me and sounded slightly more upset than usual, normally she tells me she misses me. Today she told me that Richard Masbruch would be housed at CCWF. He would be the first male to be housed in a womens facility. Not only would he be housed there he would also be housed within her unit 514. Richard Masbruch is a Serial Rapist. During his time in Mens prison after his arrest he cut off his penis, claiming to be transgender…

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Silencing Women, Chapter 2; In Defence of @LorrieHearts

I find myself facepalming at the stupidity of humanity on an increasingly regular basis.

This afternoon, Lorrie Hearts tweeted something that confused the hell out of me. A twitter user, Darren Elmore, had accused Lorrie of threatening and insulting him. Needless to say, Lorrie challenged this, thus bringing the conversation to the attention of her followers. Cue me scratching my head in a confused manner.

See, I’ve been following Lorrie for a while now, on both my RL account, and under FrothyDragon. I’ve yet to come across her threatening anyone. The same can be said of  her insulting people. It doesn’t happen. So, taking up my childhood dreams of becoming a detective, I searched through the conversation.

Now, remember that post I made about rape jokes not being funny? Lorrie’s interaction with Darren Elmore had begun after Elmore’s claims that the woman upset at Tosh’s joke was “ovary-acting”. (Yeah, because only women get hurt by rape jokes, right?) Lorrie did what I would like to think I’d have done under the same circumstances. Pulled him up on it. What followed was a game of what I like to call “Woman Silencing Bingo”.

Elmore responded automatically to Lorrie’s heckling with insults, immediately calling Lorrie a “humourless asshole”. I mean, hell.. You’d think an amateur comedian would have some experience of dealing with hecklers, right?

But what’s most notable is throughout the exchange, Darren Elmore repeatedly insulted Lorrie. “Mental”, “humourless asshole”, “idiots”…

Elmore fails to understand that women have the right not to hear “HEYYY, rape can be funny!”. Had I been in the audience, I would have interjected. Telling women to STFU and take a rape joke is effectively telling them to just shut up with how they feel about rape. “Yo, it’s all very well that being raped severely traumatised you, but y’know, let me tell you how you should laugh about it instead…”

Men joking about rape deserve to be challenged. I mean, rapists love rape jokes. You see that comedian, making all those rape jokes on stage? Each time he utters a rape joke, he’s reinforcing the rapists’ belief that rape, really, isn’t that wrong.

But what’s most telling is the number of men who’ve spoken out in defence of Daniel Tosh, whilst claiming rape is abhorrent. “I’m not pro-rape, but women, STFU and let men make rape jokes.” What Elmore has effectively said this afternoon can be summed up along the lines of “yeah, rape’s awful, but don’t challenge our right to joke about it, else we’ll insult you, then claim you did the same to us…” In other words, Elmore was trying out the old silencing tactics.

To men, like Darren Elmore, who claim they believe rape is abhorrent, I have a few suggestions. Stop making excuses for rape jokes. Stop insulting women who speak out against rape jokes. Stop making rape jokes. Instead, put the energy you use in doing that into speaking out against rape. Find a way to give survivors back their voice, rather than silencing them further.

Rape: Tell Me When You Begin To Laugh *Trigger Warning* @DanielTosh

I’ve spent half an hour staring at a blank screen, trying to work out what I’d say, should I ever come face to face with someone who made a rape joke. Luckily, the only rape jokes I’ve ever encountered so far have been made through the internet.

2010. A sociology class I was taking had somehow turned to the issue of rape. At the time, I didn’t associate either of my rapists as such. I didn’t realise I’d been raped; I just thought my issues with sex was my subconscious being stupid. But a classmate commented that women joining the army were “asking for trouble”. I’d hardly slept the night before.  I’d been sleepily half-participating in the discussion, but the man’s comments woke me up. He was greeted with a “what the f…”, coming from my direction.
“Shit, no, I didn’t mean it like that!”
“It sounded like you were blaming women who joined the army for being raped.”
“That’s not what I meant…”
“Your words were ‘Yeah, but women joining the army are asking for trouble, really’, weren’t they?”
“Yeah, but I meant, y’know…”
“You were blaming women who get raped whilst working in the army for being raped…”
He apologised, blamed a poor choice of words. But he began mentally kicking himself the moment the words he’d carelessly thrown into the air were pointed out to  him.

That evening, the man in question, John*, apologised to me. We’d been friends for a few weeks, despite an initial, mutual hatred of each other. But he’d been horrified when he realised what he’d said. Even more so when I’d pulled him up on it. This is the difference between decent men and rapists. Decent men recoil in horror should they ever carelessly blame a rape survivor. I still remember the horror on his face, and the profuse apologies when he’d text me that evening. “I didn’t think what I was saying,” he’d said that evening.

Another ex sat reading a blog post over my shoulder; It had been one that pointed out rape was no laughing matter. “I can’t believe some people find shit like that funny,” he’d said. He’d seen his older sister dragged through a rape trial in her teens. The fact anyone could joke about that abhorred him. And rightly so. But this is the difference between decent men and rapists. Decent men abhor the idea of laughing at violence against women. Rapists, and men who commit violence against women applaud men who joke about violence against women.

Here’s a little fact for you. A recent survey found that around 23% of women in London had been made to have sex they didn’t want. That is rape. Around 1 in 4 London women have been raped, and I suspect the numbers don’t vary that much around the globe. Gather ten women, alone. Tell them your old rape jokes, and await the applause. Some women will laugh. “Massage men’s egos,” we’re told. “Let them think they’re funny, even when they’re not.” But gather those ten women, and tell them your rape jokes. Watch how one or two genuinely find the joke funny, because we’ve been conditioned to think rape IS a laughing matter. But for the most part, the laughter you’ll receive from a group of women hearing a rape joke will be one of discomfort.

“Wouldn’t it be funny if she was raped…”

Tell this to a rape survivor, Tosh. Rape is a laughing matter? Why is that? And yes, I doubt the chances of Tosh reading this are small, minimal. But I would appreciate hearing how he could justify telling a rape survivor to stop whining, and laugh about rape. Rape survivors know that, should they report their rape, the chances of seeing their rapist jailed are small. But let’s joke about raping women. After all, it’s hardly a wide spread issue.

1 in 4, Mr Tosh. 1 in 4…

Tell a rape survivor, the one who sits up night after night, unable to sleep, because every now and then, one of her rapists creeps into her dreams. Tell her to lighten up, Tosh. After all. It’s just a joke, right? It’s hardly a wide spread issue, right?

1 in 4…

Tell the rape survivor who breathes a sigh of relief that her child looks nothing like the rapist who took away her choice to have that child that she should lighten up, Tosh. After all. If her son has the same wash of freckles over his nose as her rapist did, it’s no big deal, right? Rape’s hardly a wide spread issue, right?

1 in 4…

Tell the women who’ve never spoken out, the women who’ve cried themselves to sleep, the women who flashback and hear their rapists words flashing in their ears… Tell the to lighten up, Tosh. It’s not like they make up a large number of your audience, Tosh. Tell the woman who overdosed, hoping to end the suffering, that she should lighten up and listen to your rape jokes.

Tell the women who counsel rape survivor after rape survivor that they should put those stories behind them, so you can joke about rape. Tell them how they should be able to face the survivor they’re counselling, after letting a rape joke go unchallenged.

And tell the children, who find out they were the product of a rape that they should be able to laugh about the violence inflicted upon their mothers.

When you tell us to STFU and accept your rape jokes, Tosh, you tell us that the pain of rape survivors and those who support them doesn’t matter. You’re telling us your right to joke about rape, and tear open those wounds for those survivors is more important. You joke about an issue that, I’m guessing, you’ve never been directly involved with. When you hear a rape survivor tell you that you’re the first person they’ve told about their rape, remember your words.

“Wouldn’t it be funny if she was raped?”

I mean, what does a rape survivor’s pain matter anyway, Tosh?

1 in 4, Tosh. What’s so funny about that?

#iBelieveHer Rape Myths 101: AKA Why Granting Anonymity To Rape Defendants Harms Survivors And Conviction Rates *Trigger Warning*

Rape Myth: If the woman accusing rape gets anonymity, surely the defendant should, too? 

There’s a variation of the above question, which suggests that the woman pressing charges should also be named. This argument was flung around the internet shortly after Ched Evans’ conviction. Today, I saw this argument doing the rounds again.

In 2010, around the time of the general elections, the issue of anonymity for defendants of rape charges was heavily debated in parliament. This is the issue I’ll be discussing. The other is just… well… stupid. Despite what the rape apologists would prefer, the claimant is not the one on trial.

In order to put forward this blog post, I’ve been reading the House Of Commons debate from June 7, 2010. In the opening speech, Clare Flint raised the issue that every 34 minutes, a rape is reported to the police in the UK. Flint carried on to raise the issue that only one in twenty reported rapes ends in a conviction. That’s around 5%. (*Note: A further 5 – 7% end in a related conviction, but not a conviction for rape)

Between Flint and Meg Munn, both of Labour, the issue was raised that many rape survivors do not report, but may later come forward upon learning that their rapist has attacked someone else. Flint brought to light the case of Jon Worboys, and raised the fact that the publicity from his case saw a further 85 survivors of his attack come forward, thus securing his conviction. Indeed, the blanket of anonymity is a dangerous one, especially in the case of such an under-reported crime.

But by focusing on granting anonymity to rape defendants, those in favour of such a move suggest that they believe women who report their rapes are unreliable, a myth that serves to discredit rape survivors, and one which prevents many survivors from reporting. I’ve yet to hear a call for anonymity for those accused of murder, or child abuse. Only rape, it seems, is forgivable enough for the perpetrator to be hidden away. Despite the infamous myth about women consistently lying about rape, research has continually proven that the rate for false rape allegations remains at around the same as the rate for false allegations of other crimes. But when’s the last time you accused a mugging victim of lying?

#IBelieveHer Rape Myths 101: AKA Not My Nigel! *Trigger Warning*

Rape Myth: But he wouldn’t rape anyone, he’s a nice guy/footballer/the head of wikileaks…

And then, God created rape myths. Well, actually… the patriarchy did, but they like to think of themselves as God, anyway.

We insist on disbelieving rape survivors. When “I Believe Her” was launched, it was in the midst of a backlash against a rape survivor; a backlash which has yet to die down. It wasn’t long until the admin noticed the same defences of Ched Evans’ being recycled. We’d heard them a million times before. “He wouldn’t rape anyone, he’s a nice guy”. “He wouldn’t rape anyone, he’s a footballer”, and so forth.

There’s a problem with this defence. Most women are raped by someone they know. A lot are in relationships with their rapists, some are just friends or work with their rapist. The patriarchy would rather people believed that rapists are mentally ill men, who lurk down alleyways whilst waiting for a target; that we could spot a potential rapist just by looking at them. We can’t.

By claiming rapists fall into certain categories, we send a message out to rape survivors. “You better make sure your rapist falls into these categories, else we won’t believe you.” Effectively, rapists who don’t fall into the boundaries that the patriarchy sets out are given a free card to do whatever they choose. After all, if society’s telling us it’s only stupid, ugly, mentally unwell men who rape, who will believe a woman who is raped by a man society has deemed is none of those things? Women are told to keep out for the patriarchal construct of a rapist, yet berated for judging men who meet these criteria. We’re told there’s an ugly, mentally unwell man waiting on every corner to attack us. The truth is that the rapists are our partners, climbing into bed with us and refusing to take no for an answer. Our rapists are men who society deems successful, gorgeous men, or the friend we’ve trusted for most of our life. They’re the men taking advantage of how drunk we are in a nightclub, or working us into a position where we can’t consent.

We can’t afford to live our lives afraid, but at the same time, we open our eyes to the truth, and it burns. Every rapist is someone’s son. In some cases they’re someone’s brother, someone’s uncle, someone’s idol. Some run a multi-national corporation, and some are talented football players. We need to teach our sons to avoid raping women, so that the onus lifts off our shoulders. Women are asked to prevent rape, yet the rapists are excused at every turn. This is why believing survivors is so important. We need the message that rapists aren’t the “other” out there. But we need rapists to pay for their crimes. A 6% attrition  rate is one that leaves rapists laughing, it leaves women with the feeling that they’re not believed. It’s time to crack down on rape. It’s time to tell survivors “We believe you.” And it’s time to challenge people who claim a woman must have been lying about being raped because her rapist is a “nice guy”. Challenge them with three simple, but powerful words. I Believe Her. It’s something every survivor deserves.