Friday, August 15, 2014

On volunteering to be raped.

Let's begin where we must: Forcible rape is always wrong, always criminal.*

And except perhaps in the quasi-fictional world of 50 Shades, a woman doesn't "ask to be" raped.

That said, a woman can be complicit.
In situations where life entails risk of harmthere are, of course, tons of themwe have a legally binding responsibility to mitigate that harm. This means we are obliged to use appropriate caution and avoid the excessive risks that "a reasonable person" would avoid, because said risks are established factors in bad outcomes. You see this principle invoked most often in tort cases, but as a practical matter it applies ubiquitously throughout society. In the same way, even after a harm occurs, we are obliged to take steps to contain the damage done. If you are fired from your job, and you believe the firing was illegal, you cannot just sit home, gleefully unemployed, and wait for your blockbuster lawsuit to wend its way through the system. You must seek other work. You must mitigate the harm.

As a more pertinent example, I'm sure we agree that General Motors should not be selling cars with faulty ignitions or air bags. By the same token, if I leave the bar where I just finished off my seventh mojito, and I'm now barreling down the interstate at 135 mph in my Vette, sexting my waiting honey a pic of my engorging manhood**, Anthony Weiner-like...and I lose control of the car...and the inevitable happens...and my air bags fail to deploy...that is not GM's fault...certainly it is not GM's sole fault. I assumed a high degree of risk via my outrageous behavior, and I should (and almost surely will) bear the lion's share of the liability. If I survive, some hotshot lawyer may nevertheless succeed at helping me extort blood money from GM; the payday, however, will not be anywhere near what I'd collect if I were sober and I were inching my Chevy Cruz home at 55 with my cell phone tucked safely away from my manhood.

Or let me give you another scenario. You're a white guy walking through a very dangerous neighborhood, a very dangerous black neighborhood, and as you saunter along at 2 a.m., you're waving hundred-dollar bills in the air while shouting at the top of your lungs, "I'd like to dig up Martin Luther King and shoot the nigger again!" Do you deserve to be beaten and robbed? Probably not, despite the provocative race-baiting. But are you complicit in your fate? Damn straight you are.

Now, to the topic at hand. Most of us would probably agree that in an ideal world, 16-year-old girls should not be having sex. Surely they should not be pushed into sex. But nor should those same 16-year-old girls be passing themselves off as 22 and drinking mojitos at some party or bar or what-have-you while sitting there in their micro-shorts or painted-on yoga pants, cleavage exposed, flirting with a bunch of macho/asshole jocks and/or other older guys. Am I saying that such a girl is asking for it? Noooo. I am simply saying that she's exponentially multiplying the odds that "it" will happen. She tempted fate. Not only did she fail to mitigate harm, she threw caution completely out the window. Incidentally, she also broke the law on multiple counts, though I've yet to hear of a young rape victim being charged with underage drinking or possessing bogus documents in the aftermath of the crime. 

A man who forces himself on a girl in such circumstances is absolutely guilty of rape. But why is that the only message we hear from feminists? Why don't they tell young girls to clean up their act, to eschew the fake IDs, to stop drinking illegally/excessively, to stop behaving like, well, drunken sluts? Do feminists consider such admonitions disempowering? Sorry, folks, it's the blunt, acrid truth.

What does one say about a case where a teenage girl is so blitzed that she can be carried limply about like a blow-up doll, as took place in the infamous Steubenville episode? Make no mistake, what those boys did was beneath contempt. But the girl assumed an imprudent risk. She did not merely take a few sampling sips from a cup, demur, then keep a vigilant eye on her friends as they got sloppy (since, after all, friends look out for each other). I'm reminded of the Natalee Holloway case. After devoting part of her day to such "empowered" activities as having guys drink jello shots from her navel, the poor girl went off in a car, wasted, with a bunch of strangers. In a foreign land.

Did we hear any acknowledgment of that from anyone covering the case? From the mother, Beth Holloway? Did one single newscaster have the stones to ask Mrs. Holloway, "How do you not even mention Natalee's role in what befell her? For that matter, how the hell do you even let your daughter go off on a trip like that?" Metaphorically speaking, Natalee Holloway was behind the wheel of the aforementioned Vette. And Mama helped hand her the keys.

What we did hear about, over and over, was the evil Joran van der Sloot, who clearly is no  prince of a fellow. Subsequent events have proved this, and let's face it, we knew it even then. But people, please, idealism aside, the Joran van der Sloots are gonna be out there, come what may. We can give our young boys all the counseling in the world and there are still going to be bad apples and bad drunks. And the older a girl gets, and the wider she expands her circle, the more she increases her chances of encountering just such a bad apple and/or drunk. So therefore, precious Natalee, don't drink yourself to near-oblivion and go off in a car with one of 'em.

No doubt, we need to lock up the bad guys. I am not alibiing for sexual predators. (And I hope no one is reading this post that way.) At the same time, instead of emboldening our girls by constantly reinforcing their right to do whatever they damn please at every moment of night or day, how 'bout teaching them not to be so frickin' stupid in their choices? How about just a touch more of that?

Too paternalistic?

What is so wring with telling your high school freshman daughter that maybe it's not an inspired idea to go back to Chad Collegian's fraternity with him for a few private beers? If they get to the room and Chad rapes her, of course he's at fault. He's a rapist! But what was she doing in his room, alone with him, drinking?

I'll tell you what she was doing. She was volunteering to be assaulted. And of all the tragic endings to volunteer for, rape may be the worst.

* At the risk of provoking the ire of some readers, I do make a distinction between forcible rape and other kinds, most notably the sort of ambiguous scenario that develops on college campuses every weekend, wherein both a man and woman are drinking to excess and sex ensues; in such cases, we are told, the woman is unable to give a legally perfect consent, even if she agrees to the activity and thoroughly enjoys herself while it's occurring. The man is supposed to have the presence of mind to say to himself, I cannot interpret her failure to call a halt to the proceedings as consent. In fact, even her explicit 'yes' isn't valid. She's too drunk. As noted in previous posts, I don't know why a drunken man is responsible for overseeing the chastity of a drunken-but-cooperative woman, but such are the times in which we live.
** to the extent that one's manhood could engorge after seven mojitos.


RevRon's Rants said...

I agree that in some cases, young girls make poor choices that might facilitate their being victimized. But let's be clear about one thing: teenagers are not particularly known for having impeccable judgment. And when a 16-year-old's poor judgment places her within the grasp of a rapist or murderer, her situation can get very bad, very quickly.

If we are to place post-assault responsibility for making a typical teen-age decision on the youngsters' shoulders, two questions come to mind:
1) Are we not, in effect, diminishing their attackers' degree of responsibility for raping them by claiming that the young girl bore some responsibility?
2) Beyond being raped, beaten, and possibly even murdered, what would you assert to be an appropriate consequence for the girl to suffer, if the rape/beating/murder was not enough?

Women have boobs, butts, legs, and vaginas. Does dressing in a way that allows men to almost see - or even to completely see - the physical attributes that are common to half the population even partially excuse a man from assaulting a woman?

I don't care if the most drop-dead gorgeous young woman in creation shows up displaying everything she's got, it doesn't give me ANY right or excuse to avail myself of her charms against her will. And in the case of the 16-year-old girl, even her emphatically expressed consent constitutes consent in neither a legal nor a moral sense.

Men - especially those being guided by defense attorneys - have long grasped at any rationalization they can think of to let them off the hook for THEIR bad choices. I don't think we do society (or the men themselves, for that matter) any favors by helping them along. And frankly, that is exactly what your demand for equanimity is doing. The victim might have been stupid, but the assailant was inarguably criminal. There simply isn't any equanimity between the two. We try to teach our children not to be stupid, but we don't subject them to horrific punishments. Criminals take care of that for us.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron, I tried very hard to torture my writing enough to make it clear. I must have failed. None of what I wrote is intended as an apology for rape. That's why I was careful to include the two other scenes at the top, involving the Vette and the guy in the bad neighborhood. Should the latter guy be able to walk down any street he wants without fear of being robbed and beaten? Yes, he should. But under the circumstances described, how foolish is he being?

I don't know why I have to say this again, but I have a wife, and daughter and three grand-daughters, and when I think of them and their paths in life, rape is in a special category of horrific/egregious. I don't want anyone raped. That's why I want people to take prudent precautions, and I want the feminist-inflected media to stop acting like women should be allowed to go anywhere they want, wearing (or not wearing) whatever they want, and drinking however much they want with whomever they want. Yeah, in some Utopian society they should be able to do those things, but in the real world they do them at great peril.

I'm asking for a little bit of common sense, a soupcon, really, and I'm asking for people to be less terrified of offending Feminist Nation by daring to utter common sense.

Anonymous said...

People like you are part of the problem. It's like you want to give men license to do what they will with women. Until attitudes like yours change, we cannot conquer this systemic malady.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve, I frankly don't care whether I piss anyone off. And I didn't perceive your post as being a rationale for rape. I simply think you're injecting an equivalence that doesn't and shouldn't exist. By placing a degree of responsibility on a teenage girl for her rape, you are inherently relieving her rapist of at least part of his responsibility.

And as I noted, it comes down to the fact that one party might have been stupid, but only the rapist was criminal in his actions. And while nature might punish a young girl for her act of stupidity, placing even partial "blame" on her is only compounding the suffering she already endures as a result of being raped. I disagree very strongly with that "piling on."

Anonymous said...

Steve, I'm not sure what feminists you're reading, but this post strikes me as an extreme straw man argument.

We would all like to live in a world where women (or, for that matter, anyone) can be completely safe no matter where they are. We don't live in that world, and women who know that have the option to take choices to mitigate their risks.

But the majority of women who are getting drunk and getting raped are those who, for the most part, do not believe/understand that this could happen to them. As Ron pointed out, they are often young and lack experience and judgement, both in terms of the effect of alcohol and the predatory nature of some other humans. There was an article in the news this past week about new sexual assault awareness trainings on college campuses. One of them depicted a mock frat-house party rape scenario. The reporter described how dumbfounded many in the class were - they literally had no idea that sort of thing actually happened to real people, let alone how quickly something could devolve from a consensual to a non-consensual encounter.

You are demanding that women should bear responsibility for something that many are too young or have not yet had the experience to learn. There is a reason why so many sexual assaults happen in the first week of the school year. There is always a first time a woman/girl gets attention she wasn't expecting, drinks more than she understands she can, and finds herself in a situation out of her control. Trust me, my multiple friends who were raped in college never, ever made the mistake of leaving themselves vulnerable to that again.

But you seem to think women should know better when they have never had the opportunity to learn. Given how deeply this subject has been in the dark for so long, and how so many, many women have been blamed when they did come forward, I am stunned that you still expect women to know better.

In the last few years there has finally begun to be more awareness, and the threat to college campuses' pocketbooks seems to finally be getting them to move out of the stone age and teach women about these dangers when they are most vulnerable. But this effort is going to be impeded so long as people like you continue to blame women for not having the "common sense" to distrust every man they may ever meet. And I'm not being hyperbolic when I say that either, because I know too many women who were raped by men they knew and trusted.

It takes time for young women (or anyone, for that matter) to develop a radar for bad apples, as well as to understand just how incredibly dangerous alcohol can be. Please do not make this process even more difficult by blaming and shaming those women who had the misfortune to learn these lessons in the most devastatingly painful of ways.

Steve Salerno said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Salerno said...

Anon 12:06, the power and eloquence of your remarks make it difficult for me to take issue with you. And I hope you don't deem me patronizing in saying that.

I wonder if we're mostly disagreeing on atmospherics and tone.

I don't want women raped. It is an abhorrent crime. Ergo, we must take what steps we can to prevent rape. I do not expect women to avoid ALL risk--or else I'd simply suggest that they stay home (although, stats show, some women who stay home will be victims of domestic violence and/or rape within marriage). I definitely believe that there is a certain "ethos" among males in college and in many sports settings that abides, if not encourages, sexual impropriety (or, to be blunt about it, sex crimes). That needs to stop. Too many of our young men need to be sensitized and reprogrammed, if you will. I believe that wholeheartedly.

At the same time, we tend to gloss over the fact that young women--in droves--are themselves breaking the law and, as noted, tempting fate by using fake IDs in order to get into bars or by simply drinking underage with impunity at parties etc. (On an unrelated but still important subject, many of those same girls will then get behind the wheel of a car, drunk.) And even if a woman is of legal drinking age, how smart is it for her to get blitzed in an environment where she has little or no control over her destiny? All that needs to stop too. I don't want to hear that it's "unrealistic" to expect girls not to break the established drinking laws; and I don't want to hear that "girls will be girls," because that's in the same family of arguments with "boys will be boys," which of course has everyone up in arms when it's applied to male sexual behavior. Rapists needs to be arrested and put away. And underage rape victims who were drunk at the time also need to be arrested and to suffer serious consequences. That whole climate of "partying" needs to be addressed.

Let me try to end where I began: a rapist is a rapist and I am not in any way condoning rape. Rape is every bit as wrong if the girl was drunk and flaunting her nasty bits all over the room. But, well, it's like the driver who doesn't lock his car doors and leaves $500 in cash in plain sight on the dashboard, then is shocked when he returns to find the money missing. Is it still a theft? Absolutely. Should the thief go to jail? Absolutely. But is the car owner complicit? Absolutely.

reading between the lines said...

You're very careful to include your disclaimers here and there but I can't help feeling that in your heart of hearts, if you have one, you're almost rooting for the rapists. You can talk all you want about your wife and grandkids, it doesn't ring true in light of everything else you say. I don't think you like women very much except as the means to an end. Your name calling and slut shaming doesn't fool anyone who can think, hence the name I used to post this.

You seem to have a decent following on twitter and here, what a shame you don't use it for a good purpose.

Steve Salerno said...

"Between," I don't know what to say anymore to critics like yourself who don't read what's there, but instead evolve their own jaundiced interpretations of what they think I really mean. It's getting as silly as trying to have serious political engagement nowadays without it devolving into partisan one-upmanship.

One hates to sound self-pitying, but why do I even bother?

RevRon's Rants said...

"And underage rape victims who were drunk at the time also need to be arrested and to suffer serious consequences."

How much more "serious" would you suggest those consequences to be, over and above the fact that they have been raped? You seem to be missing the fact that there is a very real difference between immature behavior and violent criminal behavior, and that the difference should dictate dramatically different responses. IMO, the appeal for equanimity is unrealistic and wholly unacceptable.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron, your latest rhetorical reminds me of a situation you see in courts now and then where a drunk driver causes an accident in which a friend dies, and his attorney inevitably says, "My client will have to suffer with that tragedy for the rest of his life. That is his punishment." No, his punishment, his formal punishment, is that he must also go to jail for what he did, and as a lesson to others. The fact that you do something incredibly stupid that has a bad outcome for you does not let you off the hook for the laws you broke in the process...otherwise why have the laws? And this (like DUI) is a case where the laws are supposed to exist to protect people from their own reckless behavior. No?

And also, I have to ask--do you not feel at least a tiny bit bad for the guy in a bar who's duped by some ingenue into thinking she's of-age, then later faces statutory rape charges because of the sex that ensued? It that fair?

RevRon's Rants said...

Between, I disagree strongly with Steve's premise here, but would not go so far as to impugn his motivations. I'm a highly trained and experienced psych tech, but would never presume to read what is in his "heart of hearts," despite the fact that I've engaged him in discussions both public and personal for years. Simply put, I'm not qualified to make such a leap in logic, and am not motivated to do so. Your own motivation is pretty obvious, but to be blunt, your "diagnosis" is obviously based in your own issues, which Steve's pot-stirring have obviously inflamed.

I'd suggest, for the sake of your own credibility at the very least, that you learn the difference between disagreeing and trolling before engaging again.

RevRon's Rants said...

If a girl (or anyone) is caught driving under the influence, legal repercussions are indicated and inevitable. Her admission that she had driven under the influence when making a rape report doesn't pass legal muster for prosecuting her... unless you would presume to Mirandize rape victims when they make their reports. That would go a LONG way toward encouraging traumatized women to report their assaults, wouldn't it? If she admitted that she rushed to the police station to make her report, should she also be ticketed for speeding?

Frankly, I don't have a lot of sympathy for a guy who is allegedly "duped" by "some ingénue." In these cases, I'd assert that being "duped" has more to do with wishful thinking than with good cognition or judgment. Once again, this has been repeatedly put forward by defense attorneys, and repeatedly denied as a legal defense in cases of statutory rape, and for good reason.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron, as this argument moves along, I'm less certain of my feelings than I was at the outset, though I still believe that there's more to "the other side" than one would infer just by listening to the femi-lobby and mainstream media "analysis."

Thanks for your thoughts.

Steve Salerno said...

It's like--and I don't mean to muddy the waters--that whole mess in Ferguson. To my eye it is way too complex a scenario--touching on even more complex social/historical matters--to be reduced to, well, black and white. And yet the media treatment is so polarized and stereotypical.

RevRon's Rants said...

Regarding Ferguson: Brown was shot twice when he posed no threat; once in the back, and again in the face when he had clearly surrendered, with his hands in the air in submission.

It's not black & white... it's black & dead. Now IMO, the opportunists who are looting and burning are another matter entirely, and their actions have nothing to do with the denial of Brown's civil rights, other than being used as an excuse to pillage.

Steve Salerno said...

"It's not black & white... it's black & dead."

Classic Ron-ism. Stylish and pointed.

As to content, I mostly agree with you, but the whole thing is just so bizarre--as presented to us by the two warring factions--that I have to believe that there's another factor here that we haven't yet heard. Call me naive, but it's hard to imagine even the most racist/redneck cop (with an unblemished record) simply executing a teenager--yes, even a black teenager--in the street in the era of cell-phone video. Yet it's equally hard to envision Brown launching an unprovoked one-man attack on the patrol car, as the police version seems to imply.

Agree with you wholeheartedly about the looters...though again, it's not hard to understand the rage and desire to pillage on the part of those who aren't just in it "for the free stuff."

RevRon's Rants said...

Interesting read by the father of a blue0-eyed blond kid who was literally assassinated by police in Wisconsin:

RevRon's Rants said...

If you recall, the Rodney King L.A. riots saw the destruction of neighborhood businesses and homes. I can understand the rage they felt, but to strike out at "their own," rather than those who actually committed the acts of violence? That's why I call it pure opportunism.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I read your book and I admire much of your work. I can even find admiration for some of your past work for the Wall Street Journal, though i do not agree with your politics in those days which appear to have changed around 180 degrees since then. But it's striking that your current liberal political mindset does not contain much charity for certain categories of underdog. You consistently champion the plight of the poor but you just as consistently take issue with those at a social disadvantage, as you do in this blog.

That explains why despite my admiration for much of your work, I do not admire what you say here, and despite your "disclaimers" as another person put it, I'm not sure I understand or trust your motivations.

It begins with the title. "Volunteer for Rape?" Even if you're simply out to be sassy and provocative it strikes a horrible note. You speak of your grand-daughters, if they were ever God forbid to be in that circumstance would you go back and scrutinize what they wore that night and whether they had a drink and would you lecture them on that basis instead of being the caring, loving grandparent I suspect you to be?

I could write volumes about your post line by line but at the end of the day you come off sounding like an angry white guy. I believe that anyone who read your tweets without knowing any of the back story would draw the same conclusion. That is the common denominator in your recent writing, this sense of being an isolated white guy, poor dear, battling back against the injustices of a society that is doling out some small share of progress to women and minorities. It's unbecoming on you.

roger o'keefe said...

This is one of those cases where I applaud you for having the courage to say what most people would never say publicly. Wouldn't surprise me if you got some flak from the college. Kudos.

roger o'keefe said...

As a p.s. there is no social penalty anymore for being a whore, a single mother with six kids on the public dole, a mistress, etc. They make hit TV shows about you!

RevRon's Rants said...

So we should offer our sympathies only to women who are victims of "legitimate" rape, right?

And just for the record, the government bailouts, tax advantages, and other perks that are given to giant corporations, wealthy business owners, and corporate executives vastly overshadow what we pay in personal welfare to those single mothers you seem to revile. Kind of makes one reassess who are the real "whores." And the television shows about them are typically in the form of news magazines, though it is likely that trial coverage will be added to the lineup before too long. About time, too.

roger o'keefe said...

My old friend Ron, do you never tire of the system being overtaxed by people who have no self-discipline, morals, ambition or goals, except maybe to live off the rest of us? When will you and your bleeding heart friends wake up to the fact that it's only when you force people to get off their asses and change their ways that we can break the cycle of dependency.

Maybe you just see yourself as part of the great downtrodden so that's where your sympathies lie. I for one am pretty sick of having to pay for everyone else's chronic mistakes. You see some of these women have four or five kids all with different surnames and no men in the picture and you still want to subsidize that? Where does it end.

I guess it never ends if your pal Obama opens up the borders completely so we have to support half of South America too. It just infuriates me. Some of you people have to make some money and appreciate what it means to have Uncle Sam come in and confiscate it, then you'll wake up!

RevRon's Rants said...

Roger, what I get tired of is the pompous arrogance that perpetuates the lie that the poor are the cause of our country's problems. The truth of the matter is that the country has become a full-blown oligarchy. This harms the majority in the short term, but as history shows us, it will hurt the wealthy and powerful minority in the long term.

The *irony* is that so many who *wish* they were among the "chosen leaders" continue to huff and puff and rally to ideologies that are, in fact, contrary to their own self-interests.

Just to reassure you, I don't perceive myself as "downtrodden." On the contrary, I've been very fortunate throughout my life and career. That doesn't mean that I feel compelled to sneer at people who have been less fortunate than I, or to revere those who try so hard to impress others with how fortunate they *claim* to be. Reminds me of Maggie Thatcher's quote about calling one's self a lady...

Bottom line is that if the president is "infuriating" folks like you, I figure he's doing the job we elected him (twice) to do. Have a great week. I am. :-)

RevRon's Rants said...

And yes, Roger, I do tire of "the system being overtaxed by people who have no self-discipline, morals, ambition or goals, except maybe to live off the rest of us." I'm just honest enough to acknowledge who it is that places the greatest burden on our economy.

I'm also optimistic enough to believe that the financial and political systems in this country will eventually be properly regulated, and the abuses by the large corporations, their executives, the extremely wealthy, and the politicians who serve them will come to a long-overdue end.

And I suspect that you see it coming, as well, and that is why you get in such a snit when the truth is put before you.

roger o'keefe said...

Ron, my friend, it's interesting that Steve started out this thread talking about rape. You're so incensed about defending women from rape by every possible measure or definition, but you don't mind at all the way the government and the nation's vast and growing underclass of malingerers rapes hard-working men like me. I've worked for what I've earned. It should be mine to use as I see fit, according to my own values, especially as I come up on retirement. So don't impose your lowest common denominator values on me then just come and take my money. That's wrong no matter how you rationalize it.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron and Rodg, can we get the two of you in a room somewhere, and I'll moderate? No weapons allowed. (I can already half-hear Ron's reply...)

RevRon's Rants said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
roger o'keefe said...

Steve, I'm stunned. So what happened to your famous prohibition against personal attacks, when it's your think-alike buddy Ron who's attacking me and my honesty and morals? And "clumsy flirtation with very young women?" WTF! to coin a phrase. What on earth is that about and how's it relevant to anything here? I'm frankly outraged that you let it pass. If it wasn't for the fact your blog readership seems to have sunk to an all time low I'd consider it actionable, but I'm sure it's not worth it. It's also ironic in light of that I went to Connie's blog and saw some of the issues she's been having. Maybe if you folks were more careful in what you say you wouldn't have these problems.

Steve I also don't appreciate the fact that you and Ron are clearly talking about me off-stage in a disparaging way. These last few comments you're even urging each other on.

For the record I have done well for myself in life and I'm sure Ron only wishes he could live in my "fantasy" for just a weekend or two.

I feel I am owed an apology at the least by you Steve. I've supported you when I felt you deserved it and I've countered you when I felt you deserved it but I have always done so based on the issues and without making it personal. It's a pity you and your last remaining readers can't do the same.

I'm done.

Steve Salerno said...

Roger, I must leave for a meeting, but you are owed a reply and I will have one for you later.

Anonymous said...

Can't you boys place nice in the sandbox?

RevRon's Rants said...

Roger, I was a bit over the top in my last comments to you, and I apologize. That said, I have little patience for the smug condescension you exhibited in some of your remarks, made even worse by your attempts to impugn me. And when you start in on my wife...It's not as much fun taking flak as it is handing it out, is it?

I honestly have no desire to "be you," or even to have anything you so frequently claim to have. And my over-the-top remark re: your past flirtations, was incited by your attempt to equate your having to participate in a social contract with being raped. If you actually believe that contributing to a social contract by which you have personally benefited is even remotely akin to being raped, you really could benefit from having an open and substantive discussion with a woman. Pretty much any woman would suffice, as virtually any woman you meet would have a greater insight into the experience of being raped than that which you exhibit.

Along those lines, you know full well that nothing I've said is even remotely "actionable." A perusal of some of your earlier entries on this blog should clear up any confusion you might have.

Finally, I would suggest that you look beyond your own personal situation, and learn where the bulk of taxpayer "welfare" dollars are spent. Hint: It's not on those single mothers and "whores" you are so quick to judge. Object all you want, but brushing aside the exploitation by those with whom you would like to be identified, while simultaneously deriding those about whom you obviously know very little, is beyond disingenuous. It is either the product of cognitive dissonance or willful ignorance; thus my earlier comment. Not an attack, but rather a pretty concise analysis, I'd say. Take it as you will.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Steve,

Anon 12:06 again.

As you mention your thinking on the original topic of this post is evolving, I hope you can come to reject your idea that:

"underage rape victims who were drunk at the time also need to be arrested and to suffer serious consequences."

While am a strong advocate of personal responsibility, such a policy would prevent those few women who do have the courage so speak out from doing so and all but guarantee a get-out-of-jail free card for rapists, the vast majority of whom go completely unpunished as it is.

You say you think there is more to the story than what is being published in the hysterical media, and I don't disagree. But whereas you are focusing (or have focused in past posts) on the rare false rape allegation or girl lying about her age, the real story is about the men who are committing rape in such vast numbers. I suggest you read this recent NPR article on serial sexual predators, The Power of the Peer Group in Preventing Campus Rape:

The peer group in question is not the women you seem to think should be responsible for taking care of their friends, but the men who have come to think that taking advantage of an impaired woman is a way to impress their friends.

Based on some studies, up to half of college aged men in America do not think having sex with a woman incapacitated by alcohol is rape. While this general attitude needs to be addressed, the issue of serial sexual predators is key to solving this problem. As the article points out, two thirds of those who admitted to raping women had done so an average of six times . They mix drinks specifically intended to go down deceptively easily, to get women as drunk as humanly possible so they will be vulnerable enough to assault and have trouble remembering what happened afterwards.

So to blame a woman for drinking too much and getting raped when the stated MO of serial rapists is to get women so drunk they can be raped - well, I hope you can understand the problem with that.

I would also like to reiterate that the vast majority of rapes have, and still, go not just officially unreported but oftentimes completely unspoken at all due to the shame and the self blame women have from having internalized arguments like yours. I had four friends who were raped in college, all of whom I was very close to, and none of whom told me or anyone else of their rapes for years. Only one of those rapes involved alcohol, but every single victim blamed herself for not knowing better. And that is one of the reasons why rape remains such a rampant problem.

I will end this comment by agreeing that binge drinking is a critical problem that absolutely needs to be addressed for all kids. But to single out and punish female rape victims for being drunk when they were attacked is just about the worst possible way to do that.

Steve Salerno said...

Thank you so much, Anon, for taking the time to enrich my blog with your cogent and comprehensive thoughts. I am still crazed tonight--I owe Roger a reply as well--but I hope to do justice to your remarks in the coming days.

Steve Salerno said...

Roger, at times during these discussions emotions get overheated and people say things that they realize on reflection were ill-advised. This is the grave danger of today's "one-click oratory." I am not apologizing for Ron, who I think has acquitted himself nicely and is fully capable of speaking for himself in any case; the remark that drew your deepest ire was in my view a jocular reference to a bit of interpersonal intrigue that will be familiar to those of us who've been a party to this forum for several years now--as it played out in full view of everyone. It was no big deal then, it's no big deal now, and we'll leave it at that. However, Roger, in fairness to you, the blog has attracted some new fans (contrary to your assertions), and they could easily infer something sinister from Ron's remark, so let me reiterate to all that no such sinister interpretation is warranted.

I try to discourage personal attacks, and I police it as best I can, but there are always going to be times when the personal bleeds over into the political and vice versa. Rightly or wrongly, most of us invest a great deal of ourselves in our own deeply held beliefs, and so it's only natural that there will be times when we deduce something about the speaker on the basis of the words he chooses to speak. You yourself have done that in dealing with me on occasion. I'm a big boy and I can take it, but I'm mentioning it to demonstrate that none of us is immune to the tendency.

Finally, and this time in fairness to me and Ron, your "think-alike" remark is absurd on its face. There is philosophical tension between me and Ron right here on this post--I dare say it has been the defining feature of the thread. There have been similar tensions between Rev and myself in any number of the controversies I've brought to the fore. But one area where Ron and I probably are "think-alikes" is in our ability to separate our feelings on the issues from our feelings on the engagement dynamic itself: That is, we can differ vehemently with each other's thoughts on a given topic without disrespecting each other as thinkers. This blog, and society as a whole, could use a lot more of that ethic. And it's one that I commend to you as well, sir.

I do hope that are not, indeed, "done."

Steve Salerno said...

Anon 12:06, there is so much on which to comment here, but it is another crazy day so I will try to focus on the major points.

You end off in your latest comment pretty much where I began in this post, which I find interesting. You agree that binge drinking is a major overarching problem here (and it's a problem in more ways than "just" rape). So, while my own position may be evolving, if we leave the hyper-emotionalism and gender partisan-ship out of it, perhaps you agree with me more than you might've at first thought you did, too.

I'm also struck by this line: "So to blame a woman for drinking too much and getting raped when the stated MO of serial rapists is to get women so drunk they can be raped..." and then you leave the line unfinished as if the logical conclusion is ipso facto. I don't see it that way. If a rapist drugs a woman and then literally, forcibly rapes her, that's one thing. There is no gray area. But if a man merely provides alcohol for a woman who willingly drinks it, and she at some point becomes so drunk (and perhaps he is too) that she's not even really aware of making a decision to have're telling me that is rape? If so, then it's the kind of rape that cheapens the very concept of the term, and diminishes the trauma of the woman who is pulled off into the bushes at night by an armed assailant. It's the same logic that says that my nearby casino, the Sands Bethlehem, is responsible for my gambling problem. Do you believe that to be true? Hell, the Sands even sends buses into my neighborhood to pick up senior citizens and bring them to the slots. Are those seniors being "raped" by the Sands?

OTOH, if you're referring to a scenario wherein a woman literally passes out and a man has sex with an unconscious "partner," then we are in total agreement. But somehow I don't think that's the only scenario to which you refer.

Anyway, I wanted to get that said, and I thank you again for participating.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:06 again.

Steve, my thinking has also evolved during the course of this exchange, but I'm not sure it's in the way you are implying.

But allow me to clarify this: if I understand your post and comments correctly, you think that women who are raped while drunk bear some, if not much, of the responsibility for that event, and even deserve punishment if they were breaking the law while drinking. I continue to actively disagree with you on both points.

My goal in participating in this discussion is to highlight that, while we might expect young women to know better, your position is unrealistic, both because of the steep learning curve involved in becoming world savvy, and also because there are sociopaths who specifically prey on the inexperience of these young girls. To blame them for not knowing better is a poor strategy because it shames the victims, thus driving any discussion of it further underground, and takes the focus off of the perpetrators, who IMO bear 95+ responsibility for the choice to force sex on another human being who doesn't want that sex or might not want it if she was sober enough to be able to make that choice.

It seems that the primary place where you and I disagree on this issue is that you think there is a great deal more gray area on what constitutes rape than I do.

You asked, "But if a man merely provides alcohol for a woman who willingly drinks it, and she at some point becomes so drunk (and perhaps he is too) that she's not even really aware of making a decision to have're telling me that is rape?" The answer to this question is an unequivocal yes. Having sex with a woman who is unable to give consent (even if she is conscious) is rape.

This is not even a legally debatable point, Steve, let alone a moral one.

As to your claim that, "If so, then it's the kind of rape that cheapens the very concept of the term, and diminishes the trauma of the woman who is pulled off into the bushes at night by an armed assailant", I have to vehemently disagree with you. You're stumbling into the same minefield as Richard Dawkins with this one Steve; it's not just insensitive but also patronizing to judge externally how traumatized a woman is allowed to feel after being sexually violated.

Let me try to explain this via example. After being dumped in college, a close friend went for a walk alone at night on campus and was, exactly as you described, dragged into the bushes and raped.

That same year, another friend the same age was dumped by her long term boyfriend and turned for comfort to one of her best friends, a male classmate she had known since the first grade. He gave her a couple of beers and then raped her, despite her ongoing protests (he was a lot bigger than she was).

So tell me, which of those women do you think was more traumatized by her rape? Was the "date" rape less traumatic because the rapist was a friend? Do you think that the physical pain, the feelings of powerlessness, and the sense of humiliation that can come from being raped go down because you've added a massive violation of trust on top of that?

Perhaps you will argue I am being too extreme in my second example, and that these frat house party victims aren't in the same category as my second friend. But I would argue that they are, because they are learning in the most violent way possible that they are a prey species in a Darwinian world.

Let me end by emphasizing that one of the biggest myths about rape is that there are "legitimate" and "less legitimate" rapes. Not all women respond to rape the same way, but to assume that you, as an outsider have the right to judge how traumatic that intensely violating event should be for the victim is very questionable ground to tread.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon 12:06, well, I guess our honeymoon is over. We found at least one point of vehement disagreement.

A drunk man is not responsible for a drunk woman's sexual propriety. I'm not even sure that a totally sober man is responsible for a drunk woman's propriety. I don't care if the position is--as you suggest--legally indefensible, though I suspect that at trial, the presence of voluminous amounts of booze in both parties' systems can affect trial outcome.

I suppose my overarching (there's that pretentious word again) problem is this concept of "giving consent." So a woman must actively give consent in order for sex not to be rape? Just going with the flow, nonverbally, doesn't cut it? If I'm in bed with a woman and we're kissing and fondling and pants and panties come off--there is supposed to be a moment when I pause, say "You OK with this?", and wait for a reply? And absent such verbal assent, I am legally prohibited from continuing?

We'll eschew the 10-dollar words. That's insane. To my mind, a woman (who has not been drugged) must say "No." And please try to keep in mind that in my generation--growing up 1950s--"No" often meant "I'm just defending my honor for now, but please proceed." It was assumed that a man would weather several No's before he got to a Yes, or just, at that point, silence. And a guy who quit trying after the first or second No, at times, would be given the cold shoulder for putting the woman in the awkward position of literally having to "ask for it." As foreign and offensive as that may sound to you, Anon, that is how it was. Where I grew up. Brooklyn. I do realize that things have changed on that score.

But while I'm on the subject, then, so what are we to infer from silence? Is silence assent? If the woman says neither Yes nor No, but merely participates in the act of making love...has she been raped? Oh God, please don't say Yes to that. I fear I will need to mount a Ferguson-like insurrection.

Maybe I'm an old Neanderthal, but I don't understand today's concept of rape. I have known women who were forcibly raped, and it was terrible and traumatic for them--and I am a very sympathetic man, so hearing about it was terrible and traumatic for me. But being a college prof, and plugged into that loop, I also have known of young men whose lives were at least detoured, if not ruined, by allegations of rape that would in no way fit the definitions with which I grew up. To me, rape that occurs in the presence of copious amounts of alcohol is not rape UNLESS the woman says an explicit NO and the man forges ahead anyway. If they're both drunk, and sex ensues, it was...maybe not consensual, exactly, but...if indeterminate status? One shade of grey?

I'll keep thinking.

RevRon's Rants said...

2809Please do keep thinking, Steve. Following your logic, the absence of refusal constitutes consent. If someone runs up to you and grabs your car keys, and you are so stunned by their behavior that you stand there for a moment, dumbfounded, as the person steals your car, have you given that person consent? What if you had just finished eating some bad salmon mousse (a la a scene in Monty Python's "Meaning of Life"), and were struggling not to lose your dinner? If you were somehow unable to yell at the person, telling them to bring back your keys, does that inability absolve them of any crime?

You might claim that the examples are extreme, but they really aren't. Not only does No mean No, the lack of a Yes means No as well, most definitely when the outcome is to violate another person's deepest trust - that she won't be violated. And going Ferguson isn't going to change that.

whistle said...

Interesting post and discussion all around! I'll just kinda piggyback on some assorted comments:

Ron says 'By placing a degree of responsibility on a teenage girl for her rape, you are inherently relieving her rapist of at least part of his responsibility.'

I don't agree with this, and I don't think that's how most people normally view responsibility (though they do when the subject is rape). If you're my friend and someone robs your home, I might suggest you get a security system . If you have nice stuff and live in an area prone to break-ins, I might even judge you a bit for not already having a security system. The thief is still 100% in the wrong. I think most people would simultaneously hold the two thoughts 'that was kinda stupid to provide an easy target' and 'whoever did this should be caught and prosecuted'.

Steve, I don't think the response for these gray areas should be any legal culpability on the part of the rape victim in any of the scenarios you describe (and I don't agree with describing them as 'volunteering for assault/rape'). I do think people should tell their loved ones, especially any who are girls/younger women 'you can reduce your chances of being a victim by doing these things...which might not all be things you want to do (and that's how life works!)'

Anon says, 'Let me end by emphasizing that one of the biggest myths about rape is that there are "legitimate" and "less legitimate" rapes. Not all women respond to rape the same way, but to assume that you, as an outsider have the right to judge how traumatic that intensely violating event should be for the victim is very questionable ground to tread.'

There should absolutely be finer divisions in the legal system regarding rape. It doesn't have to be in terms of 'legitimacy', but it could be in terms of 'degree of aggression', 'degree of consent given', 'degree of intoxication of both parties'.. etc. For example, I think these factors would be relevant when placing someone on a sex offender list *for life*.

No one can judge how traumatic any intensely violating event is for anyone. All we can do as a society and as a legal system is kinda agree on general rules for which behaviors should be met with which punishments. I personally think 'consent' is not as clear cut as we'd like it to be and that the courts should recognize this.

Anonymous said...

"But while I'm on the subject, then, so what are we to infer from silence? Is silence assent? If the woman says neither Yes nor No, but merely participates in the act of making love...has she been raped? Oh God, please don't say Yes to that. I fear I will need to mount a Ferguson-like insurrection."

To get your argumentum ad absurdum out of the way, no, I don't think verbal consent is required for every step of a consensual encounter between two people who are actively participating, even if one or both of them are drunk at the time.

Our problem, Steve, seems to lie in the definition of the word participating. You seem to be very focused on situations where women are actively participating in sexual activity while being drunk. To clarify, I'm not talking about or particularly concerned about those women.

I am worried, however, about women who are so drunk that they are no longer capable of participating. You don't have to be unconscious to be so weakened by alcohol that you can't get away from something that has suddenly turned out to be a lot different than what you thought it was going to be, or utter the explicit NO you think is required to change something from legitimate sex to legitimate rape.

If you disagree that a man proceeding to have sex with a woman in the above described condition is in fact rape, you're going to need a stronger argument than "it wasn't rape when I was growing up."

Anonymous said...

Anon if I may join in as another Anon and come to Steve's defense. Do you see all the traps here for even a well-meaning man? Especially if you concede that no verbal commitment or signed statement is required, then how is a man who's buzzed himself to know if a seemingly cooperative woman is too drunk? For that matter he is supposed to gauge if she's actively participating? What does that mean in practice? I hate to make a bad joke but I know my share of married guys whose wives are tired or not into it or hormonal and they're not very active in the sex, they do it to shut their husband up. Are they rapists? There is way too much nuance here to leave it up to interpretation especially if the interpretation occurs the morning after.

All sane right thinking men know enough not to force themselves on a woman but in all honesty given your criteria how do you tell??

Steve Salerno said...

I hear you, Anon 12:25. I don't mean to trot out that tired Dworkin/MacKinnon canard/cliche about how "all sex is rape" (and MacKinnon denies ever saying it), but in my view we're edging perilously close to a collective social mindset in which almost all sex can be construed as rape, depending on so many contextual variables as to make definitions (and prescriptive guidelines) impossible.

This is all the more true on uber-PC college campuses, where activists have argued that the mere presence of alcohol or another (consensual) mind-altering substance in a scenario where sex occurs satisfies the definition of rape. In some cases these arguments have been translated into absurdly anti-male policies, wherein females who gave no indication of protest while the act was occurring can decide days later that they were "taken advantage of." And the man and/or his fraternity will be sanctioned, if not punished more severely.

When I was a younger man I was often "taken advantage of" by women who caught me in an unguarded, probably booze-inflected moment. By which I mean I was taken advantage of financially. I bought things I should not have bought, agreed to things I should not have agreed to. Whose fault was that? I willingly drank the drinks, willingly allowed myself to fall under the spell of my companion's seduction. At some point--I recall one very expensive gift in particular--I could have stood up and declared NO, I'm not doing this! I left my NO unsaid.

It was easier to go along with the program and submit to a form of ad hoc, informal prostitution with which all American men are at least somewhat familiar. With women, the nature of the bargain may be different, but the phenomenon is largely the same. We go along to get along.

I'm not trivializing rape by comparing it to ill-advised purchasing decisions. But we all do things we wish we hadn't done; often we have misgivings even as it's happening. Which is why I say:

DON'T DRINK TO EXCESS. DON'T PUT YOURSELF IN CIRCUMSTANCES THAT ARE KNOWN TO LEAD TO UNTOWARD OUTCOMES. Although a woman always reserve the right to say NO, at any point in the proceeding, the best time to say NO is before you're wasted and in bed.

roger o'keefe said...

I wouldn't call them apologies but I accept what you and Ron say. I'd completely forgotten about that other event on the blog, so it didn't register when Ron took his gratuitous swipe at me. That's how silly and meaningless it was, even at the time. I suppose that goes into my personal file of things I wish I hadn't said, even though it doesn't amount to a hill of beans and never did.

Although you've got a good, mostly high level discussion going, I can't help noticing how how much it reminds me of the Ferguson situation and its aftermath. There's no real meeting of the minds or even much attempt at same. People keep selling their respective positions without listening to the other side, or worse pretending another side doesn't exist or has zero legitimacy.

In my more reflective moments, which I do actually have Ron, I wonder if there's even any room for progress in today's social divide at any level. We're all in our bunkers.

RevRon's Rants said...

I reject the notion that either "side" of this debate is hunkered down and refusing to consider the opinions of the other "side." My own opinion is, as I've stated, that "consent" must be unequivocal in order to be valid, and that the position of each participant in a relationship must be considered.

A teenage girl cannot legally give consent, period. When the other party in the interlude is one who, for whatever reason, is seen by the other as being in a position of assumed authority or dominance, the dynamics of the relationship must be considered. In far too many cases, the female is perceived (and perceives herself) as being the subordinate party, and it doesn't take a lot for the dominant party to manipulate her into participating in behavior that she would rather avoid. In such cases, her acquiescence should not be construed as consent.

That said, I also find it absurd that underage boys are prosecuted even when their equally-underage girlfriends willingly and actively engage in (or even initiate) sexual encounters. In such cases, the girl is no more a victim than the boy, who is also responding to his own pressures, both internal and external. To summarily classify either as victim or aggressor is, in my opinion, inappropriate, especially when doing so has a negative impact that may well follow them for the rest of their lives. in truth, both are "guilty" of being adolescents, with all the imperatives and confusion such a status implies.

The same applies in some cases where a teenage boy is seduced by an older female, such as a teacher. While there may well be the superior/subordinate dynamic in place, summarily categorizing the boy as the victim is not always valid. Had I, as a teenager, been seduced by a hot looking teacher, I'd have been enthusiastically high-fiving myself. In such a situation, my being in a subordinate position to the teacher would probably not even occur to me, at least at the time of the interlude. Who is the true victim here?

Admittedly, this is a different response than I would have in a case where a male teacher seduces a female student, but the fact remains that, like it or not, there is a difference in how each gender is conditioned to think and respond. Should there be that difference? In a perfect world, no. But we don't live in a perfect world, and we have to strive to be reasonable and fair in the world we've got, even as we strive to come closer to that perfection.

As to whether my comment about Roger was a "gratuitous snipe," I'd suggest that it was no more gratuitous than his broad categorization of "whores" and "single mothers" as being parasites responsible for our country's economic woes. It was, in fact, an in-kind response, and my apology was for stooping to the same level of discourse, rather than for suggesting that he might find better means of gaining insight into the mindset of females.

vanessa ray said...

It's very simple ladies:
If you take precautions, you're basically saying all men are rapists {and you'll get to hear what a "misandristic c*nt" you are from various MRA's}.
However, if you decide to just live your life, you're an ignorant slut who's begging to be raped.
Such bullshit.

When someone {man, woman, or child} is raped, the rapist is 100% responsible. There's no shared responsibility. The only person responsible for a rape, is the rapist.

Steve Salerno said...

Vanessa, thank you for weighing in. Clearly you're in the majority.

But it's not that simple. Men are confused...and not all of us who are confused are potential Joran van der Sloots. (No, we're not confused about pulling a woman into the bushes or pulling a knife, but those "obvious rapes" aren't the sticking point.) And by the way, I do not think that just because you're dressed really sexy and are flaunting your stuff, I am entitled to have sex with you. To be clear.

So if I may just seek your answer on the one question that puzzles me most: If a man and woman are both drinking, and she's really tipsy, and he's pretty buzzed too, and sex happens, and she later feels she was taken advantage of...

Was that a rape?

Or let's even suppose she told him emphatically earlier in the evening that she was not going to sleep with him, no way, no how, and then more drinking happened, and then the sex...

Was that a rape?

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:06 again.

I'm working so don't have much time to weigh in at the moment but I want to address this point:

"So if I may just seek your answer on the one question that puzzles me most: If a man and woman are both drinking, and she's really tipsy, and he's pretty buzzed too, and sex happens, and she later feels she was taken advantage of..."

My question is, who are these mythical women? I know plenty of women who got drunk and willingly had sex at the time that they regretted in the morning. My contention is that these women don't claim to be raped, because there is zero benefit to be gained and a tremendous amount to lose by doing so.

As you pointed out, this isn't the 50's where women might claim false rape because they need to protect their reputation. Hookup culture is enough of a thing that women, while still judged via a massive double standard on their sexual behavior, have a lot less to worry about there. Plan B is readily available, which changes things as well.

So I am baffled by what it is you think why women getting drunk, having sex, regretting it later and claiming rape is such a big problem. Most women I know who regretted sex they had the night before want to forget their bad choice as soon as possible, not bring massive amounts of attention to it by crying rape.

Each case is obviously very different, but I would argue that if a woman is claiming rape the morning after, it's because something actually happened that was against her will. She may not have been able to utter the emphatic NO you would have liked to hear, but that doesn't mean she wasn't physically overpowered against her will. And to be clear, I'm not talking about mentally unstable women who make stuff up, which I agree can happen, though it is incredibly, incredibly rare.

There is a much larger conversation here about coercion, power dynamics, the history of women as possessions, and the still widespread sense of entitlement that causes many men to think women "owe" them sex. For now, Steve, let me just say that I think you are focusing obsessively on a hypothetical situation that really isn't a problem.

RevRon's Rants said...

Roger, you said, "Wouldn't surprise me if you got some flak from the college."

I don't think that the university would even bother reading Steve's blog unless someone who disagreed strongly with the opinions he expresses chose to issue a complaint. And frankly, I can't honestly imagine anyone here exhibiting that kind of intellectual cowardice unless they were simply incapable of defending their own point of view.

Even if the school did "give him some flak," I'd hate to think that they would infringe upon his freedom of speech to any significant degree. Aside from the fact that universities are supposed to be bastions of the free expression of ideas, I would think that they would be hesitant to leave themselves vulnerable to the kind of litigation that has so often been the outcome of that kind of intellectual oppression. As far as I know, the First Amendment hasn't been repealed.

Anonymous said...

Earlier Anon:

"So I am baffled by what it is you think why women getting drunk, having sex, regretting it later and claiming rape is such a big problem. Most women I know who regretted sex they had the night before want to forget their bad choice as soon as possible, not bring massive amounts of attention to it by crying rape."


But it is a popular trope in the manosphere that women who regret having sex cry "rape!"

There is only one reason for the popularity of such disordered thinking, and it is to absolve men of responsibility for their sexual behavior.

Women know all too well what the consequences and costs of coming forth with their rape stories and accusations are, and it is one of the main reasons why rape is the most underreported crime. The number of false rape accusations is miniscule in comparison with the number of *reported* rapes. And the reported rapes are a miniscule portion of all rapes.

So maybe instead of trying to teach women how not to get raped we should start teaching men not to rape. Shocking, I know, but responsibility for rape is on the rapist and not his (or her, as the rarer case may be) victim.

Requiring to make consent clear -- Yes means yes (and please let's not get into hyperbolic misinterpretations of it as in your latest post, Steve) -- is one positive step in that direction.

Steve Salerno said...

Speaking of misbegotten tropes, Anon, I don't know where you got the (evolving) one that appears to argue that I'm "giving men permission to rape." I am doing no such thing; how many more HEARTFELT "disclaimers" do I need to include about how "rape is always rape, and is always a crime"? I am no more giving men permission to rape (or diminishing their culpability) than I am giving the thief permission to rob me when I walk down the ghetto street waving $100 bills at 2 a.m. I am simply talking about how we can have fewer rapes, and I am CERTAIN that if women took more responsibility for their boozing, there would be fewer rapes. Of course we need to work on the macho attitudes of young (asshole) men; of course we need to retrain them. But women could make it easier if they didn't get as drunk and sleazy as they do in the presence of assholes.

Incidentally, my latest "hyperbolic" post is hyperbolic because it's parody, and I thought would be recognized as such. Although, as is always the case with parody, there's a kernel of truth to it.

"Yes means yes" is unworkable and will fail.

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth here. Hi! :)

'"Yes means yes" is unworkable and will fail.'


Yes means yes is not just some silly idea to promote in order to try to prevent drunken rape on campus, but an excellent motto to live by, for men and women, in the realm of sexual relations.

It applies to all sexual encounters or possible sexual encounters, and if employed, it would pretty much eliminate rape by non-strangers, which is a far more prevalent form of rape (including marital, which you mention earlier in your post), or rape as somehow a "misunderstanding."

It would also eliminate ambiguity from sexual relations between, say, employers and employees, teachers and students, doctors and patients, and any situations where there is a possibility of the more powerful person to take sexual advantage of the less powerful one.

Additionally, it would protect the more powerful person, as well as men (and women) in general, from a possibility of becoming a victim of false rape accusations.

Because either an enthusiastic consent is given or not.

If the former, there won't be a question of rape or possible false accusations, etc.

But if there is no enthusiastic consent, do not engage in sex. Is that (a simple proposal, after all) unacceptable?

BTW, I suspect that for many men it is -- and I'm not saying that you are one of them, mind you; and many of those are the ones who use ambiguity in potentially sexual situations to rape and get away with it. Clarifying consent would go a long way toward taking the plausible excuses away from rapists.

There are legitimate, mainstream studies like the one below that show that a majority (yep) of (young) men would rape a woman if they knew they'd get away with it:

Studies also show that many men make a strange distinction in their minds between forced sex (which is somehow OK) and rape (which is not), thus justifying rapes they perpetrate as not rapes but sex they forced on a woman because they were entitled to it (since, e.g, they paid for dinner -- seriously).

Again, in light of these murky, self-serving, and harmful to both women and men attitudes toward sex, clarifying consent as an enthusiastic yes seems prudent and reasonable, IMO.

Steve Salerno said...

OK. In the course of this reply I'm going to illustrate with some scenarios from my own life that some (if not many) of you may consider TMI, so stop reading if you don't want to risk being embarrassed/offended.

First of all, Eliz--and thank you for posting--how do we enforce "yes means yes"? People have already gotten on my case for my more recent (semi-facetious) post about date rape, but must both parties sign something? Record their consent? If not, then how are we any better off now than we were before? It's still he-said/she-said. I get what you're saying--that it makes a difference just to get it stated aloud and on the record, even if no one else hears it--but as a practical matter, that isn't going to help in the most contentious cases. And what if someone says yes, then things start, then s/he protests? And the other party--while sex is still ongoing--tries to change his/her mind back? Are the thrusts that take place during that persuasive period rape?

Also, if a few drinks have been consumed, and the "yeses" are exchanged then, who's responsible for ensuring that the "yessers" weren't already too drunk to give a valid consent? (See, we do need the breathalyzer!) Or is a person supposed to give consent BEFORE the date (and any drinking) starts? "Hi, I'm Dave, wanna fuck later?" That's ridiculous (even though in many colleges that might well work.)

Also, I guarantee you that many girls will not ask for a guy's consent. They'll just assume that if they're willing, so is he.

Apropos of that, my TMI scenario 1: Some years back when I was selling in NYC, I stopped by the apartment of a young woman I knew, just to say hi. (Honest.) She started getting cozy and I told her I was tired and had a long drive ahead of me. She started kissing down my chest, unzipped me, took me out and put me in her mouth.

Was I raped? (If you say yes, I will throw something.)

Scenario 2: I was with a woman who'd called to have some mirrors installed. Again, we started to get cozy. (All this was many years ago; I was a lot more cozy-worthy. And I was selling at the epicenter of the Sexual Revolution.) I kissed her, she responded half-heartedly. I said, "Let's go inside," my meaning clear. She said, "No, I don't think so, I don't even know you."

I took her face gently in my hands, told her how hard I was, then guided her hand there, then moved in and kissed her; this time she kissed me back. Over the next 90 minutes she had two or three titanic orgasms and ended up dozing contentedly on my chest. She then got up and made us corn muffins (which were delicious, btw). I stayed the night and she took me eagerly the next morning--straddling me under the covers before any "good mornings" were exchanged.

Was these rapes? Once again, if you say yes, I will throw something.

Every man--every woman--has a half-dozen such stories to tell. Yeah, we live in a different world, and maybe sex simply can't be that spontaneous and "understood" anymore. But apart from making a videotape of every movement, and/or having people sign those silly notarized statements, how do we police this?

We cannot have a system where all sorts of encounters that all parties know were consensual are suddenly reclassified as rape. We must tread very careful here, especially within marriages and other committed relationships.


Steve Salerno said...

...comment continued...

Let me throw another scenario at you that suggests itself on the basis of my scenario 2 above. If a guy is with a woman, and he asks her to go to bed with him, and she says a firm NO, and he says, "Aw, come on, baby, you know you want me," and he begins kissing her and stroking her, and she responds--and no further words are spoken--and they end up having sex...You're going to tell me that's a rape? (I bet you are.) That flies against everything we know about human interaction. There has to be an allowance for persuasion, the changing of minds and the inscrutable process of human decision-making, the saving of face, etc. And there has to be a recognition of the beauty, yes, the beauty, of hot, impulse intimacy.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to put words in Steve's mouth but I think he's saying there's a difference between a seduction and a rape and I agree wholeheartedly as a WOMAN. He mentions that he was a salesman and I am in the same line and we all know that "no" is a reflex reaction when a person is in turmoil and is actually undecided or juggling to much information. In everyday life none of us give up when we meet the first sign of uncertainty or even resistance. As a woman I want to be courted and seduced and persuaded, I don't want to have to "straddle" the man to use Steve's words.

I will say we have to be careful here about actual physical resistance and other clear signs of unwillingness like pulling back or turning away. Certainly if I slap a man's hand I expect him to stop or at least back off. And I'd think a second or third NO is a NO.

This is a complicated topic and I agree that these attempts to make it into a cut and dried business deal are stupid and doomed.

logical conclusion said...

I just thought of something, Steve, this is a winner. If a woman who has been drinking and therefore can't give proper consent decides to mount ME and take ME, and I don't stop her, that means I am guilty of raping HER?

I don't know about you or the rest of men but I will reject this illogical nonsense to my dying breath. We know what rape is and what it isn't. Lord deliver us from the crazy Feminazis!!

Steve Salerno said...

Logical, in fairness, there is an issue here. There certainly are women who are taken advantage of by scheming, opportunistic, unscrupulous men. But when I refer to a scheme, I'm talking about the devious use of booze or drugs or force, not seduction or persuasion.,Alas, as usually happens when a problem becomes a movement, Feminists (and their intimidated institutional lackeys) have gotten drunk on power and cast way too wide a net. Just as every police shooting of a black perp is not ipso facto racism or brutality, every instance of spontaneous sex that a woman didn't initially intend to have is not rape; and yet, as you point out, it's almost coming to that.

Elizabeth said...

How 'bout themz mirrors, eh?

I don't quite know what to say, Steve, cuz your, erm, salesmanship skills have made me speechless almost as much as your threats to throw things. Oy vey...

Lemme just point out that you are erecting, as it were, a straw man when you say that:

"We cannot have a system where all sorts of encounters that all parties know were consensual are suddenly reclassified as rape."

Because we don't have such a system, and most definitely we are not striving for it. When "all parties know [their sexual encounters] were consensual," we are obviously not talking about rape.

And, again, as a rule, you do not see people who knew their encounters were consensual claiming rape afterwards.

In your vignettes, none of the involved parties accused the other of rape, did they -- and that's because it was obvious that those encounters were consensual, even though no explicit consent was verbalized.

Yes means yes, clumsy as it sounds and inapplicable in its literal version to some sexual encounters, is nevertheless a good rule to live by. That "yes" does not have to be spelled out, but it needs to be signaled clearly enough, especially in ambiguous circumstances -- for everyone's sake.

BTW, is there a "50 Shades of Mirrors" at works in the Salerno's literary workshop? There is potential there.

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz: re 50 Shades. That has been in the contemplation stage since long, long before the real 50 Shades. I've led a crazy life. As Klaus von Bulow famously replied when his attorney told him he's a strange man: "You idea."

And I don't think my men are as straw as you say they are. You surprise me when you talk about "obvious" consensual encounters, because it is that very "obviousness" that the hard-core Feminists take issue with and are trying to codify. In fact your remarks almost sound like a restatement of that classic male-brute line, "Hey, I knew she wanted it."

But to get a bit straw again, Eliz, I'm not writing these posts because I fear that accusations of rape/date rape are about to go through the roof. It's more a philosophical issue: IF we take today's Femi-reformers literally, then it almost becomes difficult to have sex with a woman WITHOUT raping her, as they define the term. So many hoops to jump through. And remember, even if we embrace "Yes means yes," the man is still responsible for ensuring that the woman was competent to give her consent by virtue of her being sufficiently sober. What kind of burden is that to put on a man? And if you're going argue that you're "empowering women" by giving them license to dress and act the way they want, then why suddenly reverse course and make a man legally responsible for her sobriety?

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why it's clearly so important to you to justify what defies justification. Why look for excuses for rapists? I can't help but feel this says something perverse about you. Most right thinking fathers and grand-fathers would go to the ends of the earth to save the women in their life from rape.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon 10:14 et al, preventing rape is precisely what I'm trying to do. Did you actually read the post and my various comments throughout, or did you form a hardened opinion of me the moment you encountered the word "Feminist"?

Yes, I'm trying to prevent rape; you just don't like my contention that women share in the responsibility for that prevention. What kills me is that I'm not proposing anything here that's all that different from the behavior we willingly embrace in almost all other areas of life. I'm telling women to be careful, to keep their wits about them, to avoid situations wherein they're likely to be put in a compromising position. I'll telling them to watch out for each other. If friends don't let friends drive drunk, then you'd think that friends shouldn't let friends screw drunk, either. Why is that disempowering or "blaming the victim"?

Sure, I could've devoted all this space to repeatedly preaching to young men, DON'T RAPE WOMEN, DON'T RAPE WOMEN, DON'T RAPE WOMEN. But if it's true--as someone alleged--that there's a survey in which many men admitted they'd rape a woman if they thought they could get away with it, then my preaching is going to fall on a lot of deaf ears. There's simply a very twisted mindset afoot out there. Also, I think it's important that young women realize that the Sisterhood sometimes leads them astray, and dangerously so. Yeah, you have the right to dress however you want, and drink as much as you want, and hang out wherever you want, and be a party animal, but if you encounter one of the (apparently sizable) number of men who falls into the category above, you're going to get hurt. Why not be proactive?

Finally, apropos of that survey, I want to add that I cannot imagine how one derives joy from having sex with an unresponsive, possibly even unconscious partner. How is that pleasurable? What is the allure? Yes, it is very disappointing to hear such things about my gender, but all the more reason why I want my daughter and grand-daughters to be aware of the existence of such men, and to take precautions.

roger o'keefe said...

I've been following along, and why don't you just tell these crazy feminists to go lick each other or something. If you think that's in poor taste remember you opened the door with your graphic confessional. Most of what they say is so stupid and rigidly political and has almost nothing to do with what you wrote or any discussion that's supposedly pursuant to that. They don't know how to discuss. They're all talking points all the time and they won't listen to anything outside their politics, most of which are frankly insane. I don't know how you tolerate this and keep coming back for more. You talk about throwing things, I'd have thrown the damn computer itself out the window by now.

Anonymous said...

Yes, those studies are true.

"Yes, I'm trying to prevent rape; you just don't like my contention that women share in the responsibility for that prevention. What kills me is that I'm not proposing anything here that's all that different from the behavior we willingly embrace in almost all other areas of life. I'm telling women to be careful, to keep their wits about them, to avoid situations wherein they're likely to be put in a compromising position. I'll telling them to watch out for each other. If friends don't let friends drive drunk, then you'd think that friends shouldn't let friends screw drunk, either."

If that's all you are trying to do, Steve, you are doing a colossally bad job at it. I've been reading all of these threads closely, trying my best as a fan of SHAM to give you the benefit of the doubt, and the conclusion I've come to from your own words is that you are utterly oblivious to how much forced sexual violence against women there is, and that you are a lot more concerned with protecting a man's ability to "misinterpret" a situation and pursue his own sexual gratification regardless of what a woman wants than you are with a woman's right not to have unwanted sexual contact forced upon her no matter how sober she is or what she's wearing.

Yes, I've heard your repeated declarations that you're not defending rape, but I've also read all the following posts that completely undermine that premise. You are obsessed with a mythological gray area where men are supposedly confused by mixed signals, rather than the real gray area where men override a woman's attempt to stop them after some consensual contact has happened and the woman has changed her mind. Maybe in your day it was sexy to keep forging ahead, to "conquer" an unwilling woman, but now it's assault and rape, and rightfully so. I've been on the receiving end of sexual contact from "You know you really want it" douchebags more than once, Steve, and let me tell you it is an utterly revolting experience.

As I've said before, I agree with you that women exercise common sense and not get wasted in questionable situations. As I've also said before, many women are going to learn that the hard way because they don't start reading about this stuff until after it's already too late. In the meantime, men have a responsibility to not rape women, regardless of whether or not that woman has been drinking. If you really agreed with that last statement, Steve, I don't think where would be 60 comments on this post or people trying to get you fired.

Elizabeth said...

Steve, you've said: "I've led a crazy life" and I misread it as "lazy life," immediately sympathizing. Then I re-read it. ;)

That aside, as someone who is quite conservative when it comes to sexual mores, I'm 100% for women (and men) conducting themselves with caution and dignity in all circumstances (with an exception of their own marital bedrooms). I strongly believe that the hookup culture I see in my kids' generation and younger is not serving anyone well (although blaming the young for it is obviously a wrong thing to do; they did not invent promiscuity, after all).

I think, however, that we need to talk about what rape is if we are going to have the foggiest.

You ask me if I think you raped that customer of yours way back when. I don't know, I wasn't there.

I understand you don't think you raped her (put that heavy book down, please -- they don't travel in cyberspace anyway).

Let's keep going then -- with your permission, of course:

Would you be OK if a salesman behaved that way toward your wife, daughter, granddaughter? If you learned about it at some later time, would you believe she was raped? Would you counsel her afterwards -- let's say she had doubts and sought your opinion (that would never happen, BTW, but let's imagine) -- that she wasn't raped?

You are unequivocal about forcible rape being a crime. Alright, but how do you define forcible rape? I'm guessing her saying no once or twice does not count. Should she physically resist to meet that definition? If so, to what extent? Are just scratches and bruises OK, or should she fight to the point of almost losing her life to make it real?

It is a serious question, BTW; I've recently read a blog where an author -- a young woman (with quite serious psychological problems) -- posits that it is not rape-rape when a woman does not *really* fight.

I'll mention here something relevant to this particular issue: fighting back significantly increases a woman (or a man, as the case may be) risk of serious injury and death. This may be one of the reasons why we humans evolved dissociation as a common response to rape and other forms of trauma. Dissociation is a psychological defense mechanism where the person (victim) steps out of her (or his) body and mind, so to speak, and watches what's happening to her from above (or outside, etc.), passively enduring it. It makes the trauma survivable. Then, when the immediate danger to life has passed and one can start processing the emotions again, usually, though not always, the post-traumatic stress (and syndrome) kicks in.

Of course the requirement that a rape victim should fight back to make her or his assault count as rape leaves all the girls and boys and women (and men, as the case may be) raped by their fathers, uncles, pastors, and other men (or women) in position of trust and power over them "unraped," since most of them, if any, almost never resist, so stunned they are and petrified by what's happening to them.

Those girls, boys, women and men, who did not fight back -- were they raped, in your opinion, or not? (Generally speaking, of course, with variations of individual cases aside.)

Steve Salerno said...

Anon 1:24 (whom I assume is my persistent interlocutor throughout this thread), Eliz, and my other critics: If I am obsessed with the "mythological gray area where men are supposedly confused by mixed signals," it is because I am a man, and (please don't gag) I see/hear of well-meaning men victimized by this--certainly they are profoundly confused by this--and I'm "fighting back" on behalf of the breed, if you will.I don't deny that. And here I'd like to make an analogy to SHAM. If I was criticized for anything amid the generally good reviews of the book, it was for my one-sided (negative) view of self-help. "He doesn't even mention any of the positives!" my detractors proclaimed. The reason I didn't feel compelled to mention any of the positives was that those positives enjoyed virtually unchallenged cultural standing; those positives were such an entrenched part of the zeitgeist that I felt comfortable in writing my book as a rebuttal. If a reader wanted to hear the other side, all s/he had to do was turn on Oprah, or read almost any random article in the lifestyle section of some magazine or newspaper, or go to a meeting of any given 12-step, or attend any of the "YOU CAN DO IT!" scholastic assembles, or listen to any post-game interview with any coach in any sport, and on and on and on.

I feel the same basic way here. The view of rape posited by my critics--and the surreally jaundiced view of men and male motives--is deeply entrenched. As I said at the outset, it has achieved ubiquity. It is the dominant (if not the only acceptable) view presented in the media, it is THE authorized institutional view of sex on campus, it is the subject (and spin) of myriad meetings in all sorts of public forums, etc. To listen to these folks tell it, we men are still the same swaggering Neanderthals we were when we emerged from the caves, and we are ALWAYS forcing ourselves on women who don't want us.

In hopes of finding common ground, I do abhor the idea of a man forcing himself on an unwilling woman, i.e. "overriding" a woman's attempts to stop him, IF by "overriding" you mean he pins her down on the bed and has his way. Or if she says STOP in no uncertain terms and he simply ignores her. That is no gray area, it is rape. However, if "overriding" means that he continues to seduce or persuade, and ultimately wears her down...I don't know. If a couple are having sex, and everything seems fine, and the woman suddenly says "I'm not OK with this," is he supposed to get up, wordlessly, put on his clothes, and just leave? No further dicussion? That's not a rhetorical. I'm asking. That is not how we conduct ourselves in any other area of human interaction.

Steve Salerno said...

Unadorned/unqualified question: If a man has sex with a woman after wearing down her defenses EMOTIONALLY, not physically, is that rape?

Steve Salerno said...

One more question, for Anon/Eliz/etc:
What position would you LIKE to see me take, to be helpful in this matter?

Steve Salerno said...

Finally, Eliz, as to your canny observation: "Of course the requirement that a rape victim should fight back to make her or his assault count as rape leaves all the girls and boys and women (and men, as the case may be) raped by their fathers, uncles, pastors, and other men (or women) in position of trust and power over them "unraped," since most of them, if any, almost never resist, so stunned they are and petrified by what's happening to them."

Isn't that why we have statutory rape laws? I'm assuming you're talking about minors, yes? And Megan's Law, etc. But if you're talking about a case where "Uncle Bob" coerces his 25-year-old niece into having sex...come on, now. Do we not reach an age in life where we're responsible for our own actions, and for saying something like, "If you don't take your hands off me I will call 9-1-1 or fucking kill you, you creep!"

Elizabeth said...

Oh, dear, I think we upset Roger with all that talk about sexual ambiguity (which somehow translates into evul feminists are spitting in my cornflakes or something equally terrible). Needless to say, it is a good thing heavy -- or any other -- objects do not travel through cyberspace.

Anyways, I'm not attacking you, Steve. I fully acknowledge we are talking about murky -- but important -- matters where sometimes there are no clear-cut answers.

Nevertheless, I notice -- yes, I do! -- that you did not answer my questions, so I tells ya what: you answer my questions first (if only cuz I asked them first), and then I'll answer yours, deal?

It only seems fair, yanno. (Also helps me keep my head straight, more or less -- I lose train of thought too easily.)

Seriously, let's talk like mature adults -- or try to at least -- without excessive defensiveness and emotional flareups, if possible. I'll do my best.

Elizabeth said...

BTW, when I ask you to answer my questions, I mean those about your wife, daughter, granddaughter in a similar situation.

Anonymous said...

Roger, your hysterical outburst where you accuse people who provide solid arguments, along with facts and figures, of not "know[ing] how to discuss" and not listening is really funny.

Steve, the question Anon 1:24 PM alludes to is crucial:

Is a man's ability to "misinterpret" a situation and pursue his own sexual gratification regardless of what a woman wants more important than a woman's right not to have unwanted sexual contact forced upon her no matter how sober she is or what she's wearing?

Steve Salerno said...

Hey, folks, I asked all these questions, and all I get is questions back? Dirty pool!

Eliz, if the females in my life were to be sexually assaulted, I would cry out for blood. And I would not care to listen for one second to rationalizations like those put forward by a certain unnamed author in this blog, wink. That is my personal answer. Which brings us to the non-Steve answer (or as best as I can detach myself from Steve):

That (the foregoing, my personal answer) is precisely why victims generally should have little or no voice in crime legislation or the penal code, and the system must be protected against their undue influence and wrath. This is especially true in the case of violent crime. Not that you asked, but I am also a long-time and vocal opponent of victims'-impact statements in court. They are unfair and prejudicial. Of course, if something happened to my family, I would insist on being heard! Which, again, is why the system must be protected from me. Laws should be made in a cool, deliberate mindset by people who consider all angles and apply very little emotion.

I think that if you feel that strongly about it, you should take the law into your own hands and dispatch the perp, a la Ellie Nessler...then you take your own chances with the law. That makes more sense to me than having the criminal-justice system overreact on the victim's behalf.

That answer anything?

Steve Salerno said...

Anon 5:30, your question is rigged and unfair. A man is never free to force himself on a woman--by which I mean the application of physical force that the woman is resisting. If the woman is not resisting, then how can he be said to be "forcing himself"? This may be the crux of the whole affair. I chafe at the notion that sex that begins with flirting and kissing, and proceeds smoothly and without apparent protest through intercourse in which (for all we know) the woman derives some measure of enjoyment, can somehow be rape. In my mind--as long as she is of age--sex sans protest cannot be rape.

I'm not going to introduce booze into the equation, because to my mind, that muddies the water horribly. I really don't know how to feel about that, or who's responsible for certifying the sobriety of each participant.

roger o'keefe said...

I'm hysterical!? Do you people hear yourselves? Do you see what you have done to the lives of innocent, promising young men with your ridiculous insistence on a one-way interpretation of sexual freedom? For that matter what about a situation where the woman says if you do the dishes or perform x chore, I have something very special planned for you tonight. Isn't she manipulating a man with sex? Or a woman who makes you spend a fortune on her for dinner or whatever else by holding out the promise of sex. Isn't that manipulation plus legal prostitution? So only women can manipulate, but if a man manipulates a woman into having sex he's a rapist? I'm not talking about using force, I'm talking persuasion, like Steve says.

You people are out of your effing minds to be blunt.

Steve Salerno said...

Oh geez. I think I see a fan in the distance and some suspiciously disagreeable substance hurtling toward it...

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:24/12:06 here (and yes, I am one of your persistent anon interlocutors in this thread, but not the only one).

First, kudos to Eliz for her eloquent post highlighting why clear NOs and fighting back aren't the obvious solutions to this ambiguity problem some would like to think they are.

As for what position I would like you to take, Steve, it's to consider that this statement:

"The view of rape posited by my critics--and the surreally jaundiced view of men and male motives--is deeply entrenched. As I said at the outset, it has achieved ubiquity. It is the dominant (if not the only acceptable) view presented in the media, it is THE authorized institutional view of sex on campus, it is the subject (and spin) of myriad meetings in all sorts of public forums, etc."

-is utterly mistaken.

If that were actually true, and this was the dominant view in our culture today, why would Daisy Buchanan, Rehtaeh Parsons, Anna from Hobart and William Smith (, the Steubenville victim, and numerous other high profile rape victims initially have had their cases completely ignored and/or dismissed? Why did the media have to get involved before anything was done to truly investigate these horrible crimes (one of which has ended in the victim's suicide and at least one other in an attempted suicide)?

How can you think that being oversensitive to women's concerns is the "entrenched" view when colleges have been willfully sweeping sexual assault cases under the rug as long as women and men have been attending college together, and are only now, in the last few years, starting to reconsider that policy because of the risk of losing funding?

What I'd really like you to do is spend some time with those statistics I posted earlier, and reconsider your position about who is most at risk here, to consider that there may be far more men interested in having sex with an unwilling/unconscious partner than you think there are, and that what is happening now is not hyper-political correctness ensnaring innocently confused men but a long overdue correction to the boys-will-be-boys-and-if-a-woman-gets-assaulted-it's-her-own-damned-fault historical status quo.

You seem to think you are championing the underdog position by coming out in defense of "confused" men, but I think you are genuinely delusional on that point. I don't know what cases happened on your campus that led you to believe that innocent men are having their lives ruined by vindictive women, but I stand by my position that if a woman reports an assault, it is more than 99% likely that it is because an assault actually happened and not because she changed her mind in the morning.

Steve Salerno said...

That's fair enough, Interlocutor #1. I will do as you suggest. Perhaps the confusion here is between what the institutions I noted say FOR PUBLIC CONSUMPTION (which is all Feminist-inflected) and the way they actually run their ships, which may be a different matter. I'll look into that.

Anonymous said...

Steve, how can you even allow such a hateful, venom-filled person to post here? I disagree with 95% of what you say but at least you give the appearance of arguing a reason-based point of view. Roger is just full of hate, and as much as I hate to say it, he reminds me of the mindset in some men that causes them to abuse women in the first place. As you know rape is considered a crime of violence more than sex.

I actually find it frightening, to be honest.

Steve Salerno said...

People, can we please try not to let things get too far afield? I grant you that Roger got a bit incendiary and dragged in general male angst that may or may not be relevant, but I don't think we want to imply that he somehow epitomizes the rapist mindset, either.

Aren't the issues we're grappling with here controversial enough?

Steve Salerno said...

UPDATE: Anon et al, I am trying to be fair and read "both sides" (which is not to say there's a pro-rape side...though I shouldn't have to specify that), but the material I'm reading that supports the POV with which I began is beyond infuriating and, in my view, the stuff of a national embarrassment and outrage.

I will continue reading--again, bending over backwards to be fair--and I will turn this into a post at some point in the near future.

Dimension Skipper said...

Not a subject I have any personal or peripheral vicarious experience with, so no personal anecdotes to share, but I just want to point folks to this NPR "Morning Edition" piece posted this morning which is totally relevant...

Some Accused Of Campus Assault Say The System Works Against Them
by Tovia Smith
September 03, 2014 3:31 AM ET

There is audio in addition to the text.

Steve Salerno said...

Thanks for the contribution, DimSkip--your contributions are always valuable and appreciated. Just realize that you're not going to endear yourself to anyone with that type of content, inasmuch as there is simply no opening of the minds on this topic among Fem-extremists. No wiggle room. You're seldom a primary target in these debates, but it wouldn't shock me if someone took off after you now, accusing you of "an agenda" and of "trying to enable rapists."

This morning I went to twitter and found out that some woman had just favorited a putdown of me from 2+ weeks ago, when this all started. My tormentor thought it shameful that a man of my age would be "fantasizing" about how to get away with raping 16-year-olds. Yessir. That is what they made of this post. And I don't think they're purposely embellishing, either; it's how they really see things, how their brains interpret any rebuttals on this hyper-charged issue, which to them cuts to the very heart of Feminism: the politicized vagina and its ownership.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve, your characterization of those who disagree with your perspective here as "Fem-extremists" frankly smacks of the closed-mindedness of which you accuse them.

Yes, there is the occasional female opportunist who screams "rape" at whim or out of vengeance. And there are indeed militant females who bristle at anything that they might interpret as cutting males a break. But these women are FAR outnumbered by those who have been exploited, manipulated, abused, and even raped. You will have a tough time convincing women in general - and an increasing number of men - that males are just as much victims of the "rape culture" as women. I'm really surprised that you don't seem to recognize the vast difference in their experiences. And the vehemence of your rhetoric, while not quite rising to Roger's level of hysteria, does seem to be more aggressively driven than one would expect in a hypothetical discussion, even one as potentially divisive as this one. It almost smacks of the "boys will be boys, and girls will be vicious" mindset. And I just don't see that coming from you.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron, you make fair points in the abstract, ie as if this were a purely theoretical conversation with no real human beings or associated consequences involved. And you are correct in that throughout the history of this blog, I have tried to maintain that plane of the independent moderator after taking a position in my initial post, each time, to spark conversation. (Does that make sense?) But Ron, if we're going to talk about personal animus, I'm not even sure I can communicate to you the extent of the vitriol directed at me merely for raising these issues at all. (Much of it off-stage, in other forums.) For the crime of asking questions and holding some suspect arguments up to scrutiny, I have been tarred and feathered and made out to be a rapist sympathizer or a closeted rapist myself; if you hold an opposing position you must be destroyed. So maybe I let it get to me a little bit and, as you correctly noted, I expressed myself in a more strident shorthand than you are accustomed to hearing from me.

I will post on my "findings" soon. Thanks for bearing with me in the meantime.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve, I appreciate the difficulty you're going through, and fully agree that the kind of reaction you're getting squeaks of the kind of fem-extremism you describe. The response by administrators represents an intellectual and administrative cowardice that should have no place in academia. No argument there.

That said, I do believe you're allowing your personal situation to inaccurately color your perspective to a degree you are usually able to avoid.

No ,matter how poorly you're being treated now, and by so many people, that treatment doesn't even approach the scale of misery or the scope of suffering endured by so many women who are - or are close to - victims of rape. In your case, a simple "ah-ha" moment on the part of Lehigh administration would go a long way toward soothing your anger. And if those who complained about your statements were to publicly acknowledge that they had unfairly characterized you and apologized for overreacting, I suspect you'd feel pretty darn great.

A woman who has been raped, on the other hand, will almost always carry the trauma with her for years, if not for her entire life. When you consider the percentage of women who have actually been the victims or near-victims of rape, compounded by the "blame the victim" mentality so typically invoked during rape trials, the sheer scope of the trauma involved should offer some insight into the vitriolic response to your comments. It's not surprising that your comments find themselves lumped in with those who are so quick to characterize women as opportunistic whores and baby-spouting parasites.

Look past the sting you feel now, and I think you'll see that you're comparing apples to strychnine. And you're better than that.

Anonymous said...

Story time.

When I was 19, I was raped by a man twice my age whom I knew and trusted -- he was in charge of our university student housing. It was not a violent rape -- we were friends and he was sort of my guardian, helping my relocate, move in, and navigate life in a new city. But I was not romantically or at all interested in him, and had no idea what he was doing when he slid into my bed at night. I was a virgin, a very shy, socially awkward, and studious kid who never had a boyfriend nor an interest in boys at the time. I wanted to learn and study, and figure out what I wanted to do with my life.

Well, I got pregnant from our encounter. My "friend" did not want to hear about supporting a child, so I had an abortion and moved as far away from that man and his influences as I could, while remaining (miraculously, I think today) at my university and trying to continue my studies.

I also entered therapy with a university psychologist to deal with the rape and abortion trauma. Within a month or so of our "therapeutic" contact, my therapist raped me. Again, it was not a forcible rape -- he did not hold a gun to my head, etc.; instead, he maintained that "re-enacting" the trauma I was dealing with would be "therapeutic" for me and so he proceeded to re-enact it, while first making sure there was no one waiting in the waiting room at his far corner office, and that the door was locked from the inside and the key put away in his pocket.

When he was done, he let me go as if nothing happened, scheduling our appointment for next week. I did come and confronted him with what he did. His response was that, first, it was what I needed, and, second, if I tried to tell anyone about it, he would make sure everyone would see my private records, and that no one would believe me, and that I would never be able to finish my studies.

I was devastated. I couldn't tell my father about it (my mom was out of the picture), as he was dealing with multiple health and other issues at the time. I confined to my favorite trusted female teacher and a couple of my friends. My teacher advised me not to pursue any action against either of the men, and especially not against the therapist, saying that it would be impossible to prove what happened and that the whole process would be extremely traumatic for me. To this day, over 30 years later, I don't know whether it was good advice. Maybe, maybe not.

My friends were more supportive and enterprising, and did some sleuthing on my behalf, finding out that the therapist had other victims whom he "treated" with that kind of "therapy." But when I brought those findings to my trusted teacher (who knew the therapist, as they both were associated with the university), she again advised me against pursuing the matter.

It was a long time ago, but I will have to live with these events and their consequences for the rest of my life. I'm telling you this story for two reasons:
first, to show you how common and casual non-forcible rape is -- it is a crime of opportunity perpetrated by men whom women know and trust, but would never suspect of such behavior. That lack of suspicion contributes to the stunned reaction of disbelief when one is subjected to their "advances:" surely this can be happening... What does it mean? (especially for young and inexperienced girls and women)

And, second, Ron is correct with his apples to strychnine comparison, I'm afraid.

I did manage to deal with my past to the extent one always does, aided by the passage of time. Life goes on, whether we want it or not. Today I have a family, a career, and I'm a reasonably content person; that past, however, is always right behind me, making sure I'll never forget how some people can violate others in an entirely casual and matter-of-fact way.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon, first of all I am truly sorry about what happened, and the way you reflect on it...and the wistful world-view with which it has clearly imbued you.

Poignant anecdote will always overpower dime-store philosophizing (like mine), but I keep ending up in the same place: I just don't know how we can call it rape when a woman is of age, and no one says No. I will think about this more--seems lately that this is all I think about--but you know, in life we end up doing many things that we later regret. And in many of those cases were were persuaded or at least heavily influenced by someone else. We buy cars we shouldn't buy, houses we can't afford; we marry people we shouldn't marry, have babies with people we shouldn't even have mated with, for crissake. And many of us begin doing this (the latter in particular) when we're still technically minors. Where is the line drawn in which we can point fingers at someone else and shout IT'S HIS FAULT or HER FAULT!?

Please don't think me unsympathetic because I'm not. If you knew me better (or at all, in this case) you'd know how sincere I am in saying that. I'm very much a soft touch, emotionally. But this was really the whole point of my book, was that as a culture we were letting emotion overrule common sense and logic; we were making excuses for people to believe self-serving/ridiculous things. Where does that stop?

I will think more and report back.

Steve Salerno said...

And may I add on the subject of misplaced or betrayed trust: So many of us want to trust our political leaders. Look where that gets us. I'm not even sure trust is a valid emotion. Most of us can't trust ourselves, let alone someone who isn't us. As adults, can we really blame someone for abusing an emotion we shouldn't even have? I'm just asking.

RevRon's Rants said...

First of all, to Anonymous 12:48PM - I am sorry that your trust - and innocence - were stolen from you, and hope you are able to find joy in your life despite your experiences.

Steve, just as it is understandable for some women to become uncompromisingly militant after experiencing (or having loved ones experience) such traumatic abuse, I suspect that the same might be somewhat applicable in your own case. While you have not (as far as I know) been the victim of sexual abuse, you have certainly been the victim of others exercising an inappropriate power over your life. You're a mature adult, capable of standing up for himself, and yet, you have experienced another person exercising power over your professional well-being, and even causing you to have to defend your right to express yourself. Has something similar not happened before, in your encounters with fellow journalists and interviewers? Is it not possible that some of your insistence might grow out of your own reaction to those who were dismissive, arrogant, and even hostile toward you? Had you been treated poorly by a fellow journalist, editor, or administrator in whom you had placed your trust, would the appropriate advice offered after the fact be that you should not have placed your trust in that person?

We humans desperately need to be able to trust others, and sometimes, that need runs deeper than the advice against trusting could ever reach. When that trust is betrayed, admonishing the victim for his or her naiveté is adding insult to injury, IMO. Believe me, the self-recrimination of a victim is inevitably more painful than the recriminations of others.

A young person is driven more by the desire to be accepted and liked than by any cautions that they might be offered (and that is true even among most of us older folks). It's in our genes to hunger for acceptance. Unfortunately, it is also in some people's makeup to exploit others' sensitivities, and some sociopaths are quite adept at that exploitation.

The real question here, as I see it, is which option do we feel will better serve us as humans: to take effective action to discourage the sociopaths from exploiting, abusing, and raping, or to attempt to instill a cynicism in potential victims, thereby discouraging them from trusting anyone until there is irrefutable evidence that such trust is warranted. As you should know by now, I lean strongly toward the former.

We must certainly encourage women to use common sense in their dealings with men, particularly those with whom they aren't familiar. Same advice applies to men, as well. But the plain truth is that sometimes, common sense and reasonable caution just aren't sufficient, and the victimizers are adept at convincing us to set those cautions aside. And frankly, that is how so many women end up being raped.

But you know this, because you've seen how effectively scammers are able to seduce and exploit even intelligent marks. Admonishing the marks for having been taken does no good. Even providing education is far from being universally effective, because education is at a distinct disadvantage when it is competing with deep-seated hopes and aspirations.

Rape is more likely to be destructive and life-threatening than being taken for a financial ride, but the underlying principle is the same. Help people to more clearly see the dangers, but recognize that clarity is not always an effective defense.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you are a bad man, Steve, but I think you do not understand rape. Most men don't, unless they've been raped -- penetrated against their will -- by another man/men. And even then, they do not have to contend with a possibility of pregnancy, so it is still different for them.

It is not about making "bad choices" -- I did not make any bad choices at 19, although knowing what I do now, I'd make some different ones. Those things were done to me, against my will, so it's not accurate to compare them to making a choice to mate with a wrong partner or something similar where one makes a decision, good or bad. I was not given a choice to decide. This is part of the multilayered injury of rape: taking away a person's choice.

And in order to make a choice, one has to at least understand what's going on.

I can tell you why I did not say no the first time: I had no idea what was really happening. I'll keep the details private, but will just say that I grew up a sheltered and bookish child, and going away to university was my first time away from home. I knew about birds and bees from our school biology classes, but had no clue about interpersonal relationships between men and women and sex. Up till then, I was never even alone with a boy, much less doing anything romantic /sexual.

With the therapist, I was in no position to say no, for several reasons. He had enormous power over me, psychologically as well as physically (he was a big man); he was my savior in the time of desperate need, and he was THE HELPING EXPERT who claimed that what he was doing was necessary for my healing (I've learned since that is a classic shtick of abusive therapists). This was just a couple of months after the abortion (which was arranged by that man), and I was not only not any smarter about the world, but was in a deep depression and desolation brought about by those recent events. And even if I screamed and fought him in his locked office, no one would hear me and I could have ended up battered or worse.

What happened to me is much more common than you realize.

I hope you can at least try to step out of your shoes for a moment, and put yourself in mine, as I was at the time, and not as you think I (or you) should have (would have) been.

One more thing: it is always wrong to compare rape and sex acts in general to any other human activity, especially one involving objects: buying stuff, being robbed, etc.

Sex is a very different matter in that it, first, involves people, and second, one of those people is usually penetrated by another in the most intimate and vulnerable parts of their body. And that's just the physical aspect of the act. Women understand it immediately, I think, while men usually don't -- unless they have been on the receiving end of penetration. Being penetrated vs being the penetrator makes a huge difference in our understanding of sex in general and rape in particular, I find.

In rape, the opportunity to make a decision to agree to be penetrated by another, in the most intimate and vulnerable way, is taken away from a person. Try to imagine that, if you can (maybe by putting yourself in a raped person's place), and keep it in mind, please, when you try to grasp what's going on here.

Steve Salerno said...

While editing something, I found myself absently watching an episode of Dr. Phil (believe it or not). Main guest was a young woman who was "lured" into prostitution. This theme was repeated several times during the show, and even Dr. Phil--who early in his career was one of the most outspoken critics of the Victimization Movement (see "SHAM")--said he saw the woman as a "victim."

Made me think: At what point do we in this society begin holding women fully accountable for what they do, in the same way we hold accountable most men? By this woman's own admission, no one (initially) held a gun to her head and made her be a hooker. She was "lured." Similarly, I may have mentioned previously that women who kill their partners in non-self-defense situations (meaning they were not in fear of imminent death themselves) are FAR less likely to be convicted of murder, and almost never get the death penalty, even when they are. (I'm no fan of the death penalty, but it should be administered fairly.) I suppose they were "lured" into murder.

In the same way we have hundreds upon hundreds of women who were lured into sex, or who just went along with the program, or who felt intimidated (which of course is a subjective notion), or who for their own reasons couldn't summon the will to say "get the hell away from me"...and yet they were raped. And we accept this. Not just philosophically but legally in many cases.

I will have more to say on this in the coming days--that post is taking shape--and my critics won't like it one bit. And then it'll be "over and out" on this topic, and maybe for SHAMblog as a whole. Perhaps it has run its course.

RevRon's Rants said...

"At what point do we in this society begin holding women fully accountable for what they do, in the same way we hold accountable most men?"

The answer is pretty simple, Steve. We begin holding women fully accountable when they have achieved a level of control over the circumstances of their lives that men have had for thousands of years. If you want the playing field to be level, it must be level in all aspects - opportunity as well as responsibility. And the plain truth is that we're still a long way from achieving such equanimity, no matter how enthusiastically some would claim otherwise. Until such equanimity becomes more than merely a talking point, and one gender maintains a position of greater power than the other, there will remain the need to compensate for that disparity.

As to the future of your blog, I hope your decision isn't predicated upon agreement with your perspectives. Even when folks disagree - strongly - with what you say, it still provides a forum for discussion that might at least get folks to rethink their own opinions. And I see that as a good and necessary thing.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron, I'll address your main point in my final post on this topic; I may address it obliquely, but it'll be addressed.

As to your final comment about the blog, to me a "discussion" presupposes that people are willing to enter into an actual dialog in which they admit the possibility of being persuaded at least in theory; if each party comes to a "discussion" intent solely on changing everyone else's mind, then it isn't a true discussion. It's a multifaceted sermon.

In all the years of this blog, have you ever seen anyone change or even meaningfully modify his position on anything except for me? The best we ever seem to reach here is an agreement to disagree.

I'm not patting myself on the back for my open-mindedness, and you may draw a different conclusion about me based on my conduct in this particular thread, but I honestly believe that for the most part, all this blog has done is provide a forum for people with hardened opinions to come and vent those opinions, and then to vent spleen when someone begs to differ. That is not what I (naively?) envisioned when I started. I'm not setting myself up as some poor-man's philosopher/prince in saying that; I'm just saying it. This is a microcosm of the trouble with our society now: We're all so busy talking (more like shouting) that no one listens.

Also, Ron, especially in recent years I have approached this blog with the same mentality I use in teaching college classwork, to wit, that no idea is too provocative that it must go unspoken and/or must be dismissed out of hand. Every proposition deserves a hearing and an evaluation/acid test in the crucible of ideas. You can come into my class and argue that Hitler was right, that Radical Islam is justified in trying to kill off all us Western infidels, that blacks don't deserve equal rights because they're simply not equal people, that men should be aborted and/or castrated once they're born (which is the argument made by this woman I recent stumbled across, Femitheist), that women belong barefoot and pregnant, etc. Bring up your idea, give me some evidence, and we'll discuss it--no matter what your idea is--because college is supposed to be about critical thinking. There should be no "authorized" lens on life in the classroom, and we should not muddy the waters with preconceived notions of morality. Make your case and defend it. And if the weight of the opposing arguments clearly overwhelms you, then be man or woman enough to admit it.

I purposely encourage students to make outrageous/"insane" arguments because I figure that if we can train our minds to give serious consideration to notions that seem insane--if we can really learn how to think things through, to apply logic and use evidence--we will do so much better in assessing the more humdrum ideas/options we confront daily. We will also realize that in some cases, we believe what we believe for no good reason at all.

And for that I have been pilloried.

RevRon's Rants said...

"In all the years of this blog, have you ever seen anyone change or even meaningfully modify his position on anything except for me? The best we ever seem to reach here is an agreement to disagree."

If you started this blog with the goal of seeing others' perspectives change as a result of your contributions, you pretty much set yourself up for disappointment, Steve. IMO, the value of the discussion is not in "converting" those with opposing viewpoints, but in offering readers a different way of looking at ideas and circumstances. You might not have changed the minds of many who felt compelled to respond, but you've made us look more closely at our own mindset, alternately challenging and reinforcing it. The real value is - IMO, of course - to those who lurk here and have yet to define their own opinions on the topics being discussed. You have no way of knowing the extent of the blog's influence upon them.

I personally have had my ideas and perspectives challenged, and in some cases, modified as a result of the back & forth. I still disagree with some of your perspectives. So what? I've made a friend here - more than one, actually - and the friendship has been based not upon agreement, but upon the willingness to fully and respectfully engage. I've also encountered people with whom I have no desire for friendship, and I find that valuable as well.

It's your blog, of course, and you can do with it as you will. Just bear in mind that if you're "pilloried" by some folks, it means you've touched a real nerve. If the effects of that "pillorization" are more deleterious than you find acceptable, you might need to temper some of your beliefs a bit. Sadly, that is a fact of life that most people have had to deal with for a long time, and which has slowly but surely worked its way into journalism and academia. How best to respond to that erosion - and the price you're willing to pay - is your decision alone. And while readers' benefit and appreciation might not pay the bills, it is very much there for you. Ball's in your court. I, for one, would like to continue playing.

Steve Salerno said...

You're a good guy, Ron. You care about people. You think about what you've said after the fact, and it matters to you if you decide that the effect was harsher than you intended; you even display that attribute in dealing with assholes (I do not exempt myself). For my part, I think it's fair to say I've had more "intellectually intimate" conversations with you on this blog than the sum total of all the similar discussions I've had with everyone else in my adult life since college. Sad but almost surely true. (That alone may account for my alienation from the rest of Polite Society, wink.)

But look, you and I shouldn't even really be having this discussion in the public sphere, so let's table it for now and we'll see what happens. Thanks again for all of your contributions through the years; you've produced a veritable mountain of words (perhaps not an Everest but surely an Eiger) that obviously required considerable thinking, tinkering and sheer time; I can't tell you how honestly humbled I am that you deemed me worthy of that investment.

Steve Salerno said...

OK, this may be a bit high-brow for the typical debater in Gender Politics*, but it's one of the better examples I've seen of how absurdly over-the-top Feminists can get in expanding the boundaries of rape and perceived sexism. Paste following URL in browser and watch? And if you do, please don't just dismiss it out of hand because the specifics seem so esoteric and hyperbolic; the difference between this and what we've been discussing here on the blog is only a matter of degree:

* I intend no condescension in saying that; it's just that Dawkins and physics aren't everyone's cup of tea.