A Modest Feminist Proposal

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160 Responses

  1. bookdragon says:

    I think you make a good analogy here.

    However, I have to admit to being perplexed that Maxwell’s statement was taken the way you describe. Maybe it is a male vs female perspective, but all I saw was a plea to not make the assumption that she’s lying and/or deserved it. When someone says they’ve been robbed, the reaction for most people is NOT to question if they’re really running an insurance scam and/or lecture them on how having a subpar security system was ‘asking for it’.

    When I read Maxwell’s statement, I don’t see any challenge to ‘innocent until proven guilty’ – only a plea to treat a rape victim with the same decency you’d extend to someone who’d been robbed.Report

    • DRS in reply to bookdragon says:

      I had a problem with that too but I assume that lawyers have a habit of over-lawyering. They can’t help it, it’s just natural to them.Report

      • zic in reply to DRS says:

        Third here in agreement.

        And to point out that this don’t-believe-the-victim mentality is so common that we don’t often see we’re doing it; that women, when talking with other women who say they’ve been raped will question dress, location, sobriety, etc. It’s a really ingrained response rooted in centuries of holding women accountable for the things that men do to them instead of turning that accountability over to the men actually doing the things.Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to zic says:

          Let me put this in plain terms, from my own life. My wife struggled with serious mental illness for several years, culminating with her going crazy in a Bible Study at church, where she accused me of sexually molesting my children.

          I came to church the next Sunday morning, to be confronted by a deacon, one of my friends. I said to him, “We must get to the bottom of this immediately. Summon the pastor and summon the police, right now.”

          There I stood in the pastor’s office, with a uniformed police officer. Thus began about six months of unhinged madness, culminating with a court-ordered psych eval for my wife, where she was finally diagnosed and court-ordered onto medication. My terrified children were put into foster homes for a week, where they were interviewed within an inch of their lives. I finally got custody back. Things were never the same.

          You live through that, Zic. Tell us again how society doesn’t believe the victim. You live through it, then tell me what this society does when women make unfounded allegations. You get to live through how the courts treat a man’s testimony over and against a woman’s testimony, no matter how insane it might be. I spent tens of thousands of dollars on legal counsel to clear my name. The courts took my screaming children out of my living room by force.

          And I was shunned out of that church, where my children had been baptised.

          It may well be, out there in the Land of So Common, women are not believed. Once within the legal system, things are quite different. I came with an inch of going to prison for 20 years and being labelled a sex offender for the rest of my life. Mine may be only one Anecdatally Insignificant story but it is a true one. DNA evidence is clearing man after man of false convictions on charges of rape and incest and child molestation. This is not as simple an issue as So Common.Report

          • DRS in reply to BlaiseP says:

            I will tell you again: society doesn’t believe the victim. I’m sorry for your experience but your experience is not typical of rape cases. Your wife could just as easily accused you of murdering people and burying them in the backyard. It was a mental health issue in your family’s case, not a rape issue.

            And in fact, if the authorities had completely believed your wife’s statement, the first you would have heard about it was the police kicking in your front door within an hour of her making it and dragging you away in handcuffs. Again, I’m sorry you and your children faced what you went through because a mentally ill woman lost it. But it’s not typical.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to DRS says:

              Any sentence containing a But might as well start with No. In point of fact, I was arrested. On the spot. And hauled out my own church in handcuffs, in front of my friends and neighbours. Thank you for noticing I arranged it so the police wouldn’t break down my front door.

              Don’t even start with “I’m sorry.” I don’t believe you.Report

              • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to BlaiseP says:

                In your case, I think the magic phrase was, “he molested the children”. I don’t think it was about believing the woman, as much as over-reacting to the possible threat of danger to children. If she had said that you were raping her, but only when the children were at grandma’s, I doubt you’d have experienced the same thing.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                Doubt away, buddy. I survived AdSeg. Had plenty of time to talk it over with my fellow rapists, of all varieties, they all end up in the same place, sex offenders are all lumped together in stir. None of you, short of being a qualified attorney who’s done rapist defense work, or having been booked in on rape charge — has a fucking clue.

                Entertain whatever doubts you wish: watch what happens when the cop fills in the booking paperwork to find the relevant charges. They put the ol’ Red Wrist Strap on yez. That means you’re Someone Special.Report

              • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to BlaiseP says:

                But I do agree, when it comes to children, men are often given short shrift with regard to custody, and with regard to being believed guilty of molestation (people will almost immediately assume a man is guilty of sexual abuse of a minor, not so with a woman so accused).

                A mother often has to be the next best thing to a horrible human being before she loses custody to her ex-husband.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                Men are always given short shrift with regard to custody. Unless, of course, you have the resources to buy the services of the best criminal defense attorney, make sure he’s specialised to rape defense, in Cook County, Illinois. And a forensic child psychologist. Nothing but the best will do and make sure you get both immediately: and make sure you do it before the arraignment or your case will be handled by the public defender and Child Welfare who will screw things up so badly and start filing reports ensuring it will take weeks to get it all straightened out and get you a bail hearing. Call your elderly parents up, have them do all this for you: your friends have all abandoned you and you’ve been shunned out of the church.Report

              • Jack in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Blaise, do you not think that for every situation like yours we could not find a hundred a thousand, situations where a woman or child’s accusation was ignored. You are taking a very absolutist stand based upon personal experience. It is understandable, but hardly convincing to those inclined to believe the weight of extensive evidence rather than that of your admittedly terrible anecdote. You are also doing a lot of taking personal offense to mildly stated opinions.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Jack says:

                Are you keeping count, Jack? That’s great! I simply cannot wait for you to tell me the definitive ratio. Once I get a good look at your data, I consider myself a man of science, I’m quite willing to revise my opinion.

                In the mean time, Jack, while you’re digging up that evidence — be reminded, and read along just a bit in the rest of my comments — that I was raped as a boy and my complaints were not merely ignored, they were punished. I am all too aware of both sides of this problem.

                Would it have been worth while,
                To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
                To have squeezed the universe into a ball
                To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
                To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
                Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all” —
                If one, settling a pillow by her head,
                Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
                That is not it, at all.”

                I am fucking Lazarus, returned from the dead. I have told you all. And the response was as predictable as I had expected.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to DRS says:

              As for Not Typical, that’s just an insult to my intelligence. The Ingrained Response of the court system is to routinely give custody to women, not men. If you had any idea of the prejudice men face in the courts and the child welfare system — well, of course you don’t have any idea. This discussion is pointless. You don’t know.

              But Lord God, you sure do have some opinions on this subject….Report

              • DRS in reply to BlaiseP says:

                But Lord God, you sure do have some opinions on this subject….

                Yeah, I do. Which I refuse to apologize for. You’re really crowding today, Blaise…Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to DRS says:

                Everyone’s entitled to an opinion. The one that really matters is the judge’s opinion. Trust me on that. All the rest, well, people will make up their minds on their own. Like all my friends, my neighbours. I suppose I should be glad my parents stuck by me. Nobody else did.

                Opinions, you know what they say. Everyone’s got one. I have mine. It comes based on having paid roughly 54,000 dollars for it. I now have the privilege of walking the streets a free man. But lest I seem a complete misogynist, like those folks receiving their Academy Awards, I do have two women to thank for that right. My attorney and my mother.Report

            • Stillwater in reply to DRS says:

              It’s also an apples to oranges thing since a woman accusing another of child molestation is different than a woman accusing a person of raping her. In one case she’s the victim, in the other she isn’t. (And my guess is that courts and cops respond to accusations of child molestation much more aggressively than accusations of rape.)

              I agree, tho, that society tends to discount (or maybe it’s that mysterious and unknowable social forces continually try to discount!) the general credibility of rape claims, most recently by disputing what constitutes “legitimate” rape. At least the focus is now on the ‘rape’ part of the issue and not the woman’s character. Maybe that constitutes progress.Report

          • zic in reply to BlaiseP says:

            On the other thread, Tod posted a link to a study about unfounded allegations done in the UK.

            They were rare.

            They mostly included people who were, in some way, incompetent.

            I’m sorry for what you went through. I’m glad you were a good parent to your children. But that does not change the fact that women are raped every single day, and met with blame for their own rapes every single day.

            I’m not going to argue with you here, Blaise. Just because women also do wrong is absolutely no reason to not call men to stop doing wrong. I have no tolerance for false rape claims, they diminish real claims; just as you’re seeming to do. (I don’t believe that, I think you thoughts much more nuanced.)

            Will H. seems to have a similar history, though I’ve only put this together from bits and pieces, not a completed story. But the defense that this happened to me, so we shouldn’t call men to better behavior, shouldn’t suggest treating someone who says they’re a victim of rape without blaming her for the rape is not the remedy for a false accusation or false conviction. Two wrongs compound, they do not cancel.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to zic says:

              All that is true. It is also completely irrelevant. While you continue to avoid the issue of the fundamental prejudice against men in the justice system, you can wave your hands and act as if my situation was “rare” or that I’m somehow “diminishing real claims”. When it comes to allegations of rape, or in my case, the very worst charge a man can face in the State of Illinois, short of Capital Murder is the charge of Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse upon a minor child under the age of 9, multiple counts upon multiple children. You enter the prison system, you will spend the rest of your life in AdSeg, for the other prisoners will kill a child molester.

              As for what I’m seeming to do, contemplate the reality of what I endured ere you say another thing about how women are believed or not believed within the context of the courtroom. I do not pretend to be unbiased. It’s really best if you don’t argue with me. You were never a man faced with with the charge of Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse upon a minor child under the age of 9. Does tend to warp one’s perspective, don’t you think?Report

              • zic in reply to BlaiseP says:

                While you continue to avoid the issue of the fundamental prejudice against men in the justice system, you can wave your hands and act as if my situation was “rare” or that I’m somehow “diminishing real claims”.

                You don’t want to go there, BlaiseP. You’re making shit up that you don’t know to be true about me because I stood up for women, as if I have an equal obligation to stand up for men. I do not; I get to pick the causes I champion. We all do.

                If you want to write a series of posts about the prejudice against men, I will engage. I’ve got sons, a husband, and seven brothers. But to suggest we shouldn’t discuss the prejudice against women because there’s also a prejudice against men is a an incoherent argument; it doesn’t do women justice, it doesn’t do men justice, and it doesn’t make sense.

                If you’ve got a case to make, make it. Don’t think for one minute I’ll let you deny me the right to make mine.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to zic says:

                Am I quoting you or not?

                I have no tolerance for false rape claims, they diminish real claims; just as you’re seeming to do.

                I suppose I should now give you praise and thanks for the parenthetical (I don’t believe that, I think you thoughts much more nuanced.). Things are not quite as they seem.

                I am putting this to you plainly as possible. The centuries of holding women accountable for the things men do to them has been countered by an equally-serious and equally-unjust prejudice against men accused of sexual crimes in this country of ours.

                Every single person I dealt with in the Child Welfare system was a woman, who looked at the charges against me and hated my guts even before they saw me. Even after I’d been cleared of these horribly serious charges against me, I was treated like a fucking pariah in the process of getting custody of my children and getting my wife into court ordered mental health care, an entirely separate struggle which I haven’t gone into — that was a walk in the park compared to being cleared of felony child sexual assault. The contempt heaped upon me by these women was truly appalling.

                Turn the tables, Zic. Now it’s you sitting in some cubicle, confronted by a man with the power to give you back your children after you’d been falsely accused of some sexual crime — and cleared of that crime — and that man looks you straight in the eye and says “You just got off because you had a good attorney, no I’m not giving you back your kids.”

                And now it’s you, weeping, saying “I’ve been cleared of the charges. I’m innocent. I love my children.”

                You can make whatever case you’d like. Just quit telling old wives’ tales about how women aren’t believed in the justice system. They are believed, for the very reasons you so accurately laid out: the centuries where they weren’t believed. I would hope, strike that, I know better than to hope, that you would see how the tables have turned on men, or the injustices I faced.Report

              • zic in reply to BlaiseP says:

                One wrong neither nullifies nor justifies another, Blaise.

                The bullying tone destroys your credibility, and suggests that the person who’s tale we don’t get might have been bullied and badgered, too.

                And while I’m sorry that the women in social services did to you what the system and society does to most rape victims, I’m glad they were there for your children. I didn’t have that in the many years I tried to protect myself from a pedophile. I stood alone.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to zic says:

                My credibility is not in dispute, unless you’re now willing to discount my tale entirely. Don’t you find this story a bit too odd for even me to make up, with all my rhetorical skills? I have already stipulated to my prejudices. Going to AdSeg will do that to anyone. How rude of me to inflict my tale of woe upon this place. I should have known better.

                Oh be kind, said Plato, for everyone you will ever meet is fighting a hard battle. Even men, it seems. You were scarred by your abuse, I by mine.

                We have something in common. I was repeatedly molested as a little boy in boarding school and like you, I was not believed. I was, in fact, punished for telling lies. Had time to contemplate that in AdSeg, it was a bit of a joke actually. When that topic came up at trial (for I had revealed that fact in the course of an interview with the DA’s psychiatrist), it was used against me, for many abused children become abusers themselves.

                Funny how things work out in life.Report

              • zic in reply to zic says:

                Your bullying reminds me of the kind of verbal assault that often goes on in an emotionally abusive relationship; so yes, it does bring your credibility into question.

                You do not have to bully. As you say, you have rhetorical gifts. You choose to bully. I’m just pointing out the ways that choice undermines your own arguments.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to zic says:

                I have heard the key
                Turn in the door once and turn once only
                We think of the key, each in his prison
                Thinking of the key, each confirms his prison
                Only at nightfall, aethereal rumors
                Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus

              • zic in reply to BlaiseP says:

                And BlaiseP, I’m flat out asking you to back off. If you want to deal with these issues, write a post. Stop derailing every thread that comes up with the problems women face, because no matter how much you deny it, it’s two different problems. I cannot speak for others, but I would be very careful in refraining from bringing the injustices women experience to a thread on the prejudices against men in the legal system; they’re real and should be discussed. But the it’s two sets of problems.

                And If you cannot refrain, I ask the moderators to please intervene.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to zic says:

                Given that this post is about, cut-cut, paste-paste

                There’s a significant amount of prejudice against males in our fictional society, so a woman will win the “she-said, he-said,” conflict almost every time when it comes to rape charges, both in legal courts and in the court of public opinion. Effectively, without an air-tight alibi – I was actually at home when she said I raped her, and I have photographic evidence – if you are accused of rape, you’ll be branded a rapist for the rest of your life.

                .. it seems entirely on topic.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to zic says:


                As a friend here, I hope you take my words as they are and nothing more or less…

                I’m a bit frustrated to see yet another conversation about the reality of being a woman and the threats woman almost-exclusively face become more about you, your perspectives, and your experiences than women, their perspectives, and their experiences. I don’t seek to deny you your perspectives and experiences nor the wisdom they have offered you. But I do think a broader part of this conversation, of Maxwell’s message, is that it is time to listen to women and let *them* drive the conversation on the prevention of rape and sexual violence. Men need not be wholly excluded, but we’ve dominated this conversation for so long with explicit goals aimed at protecting our own interests that real improvements that could have saved real women from real violence have not been realized.

                So, with respect, I ask that you take a step back or two and cede some of the floor. Not the moral high ground, not the opportunity to be correct… but simply allow a space for others to talk and men like you and me to listen.


              • Mark Thompson in reply to zic says:

                Zic and Blaise – Can I ask if it’s possible that you are talking about two separate issues? In other words, is it possible that there is an inordinate amount of social skepticism about rape claims that effectively blames the victim such that women are strongly discouraged from coming forward with rape claims, but that once a given case actually reaches the judicial system, the narrative flips and men are treated as predators until proven otherwise?Report

              • Just Me in reply to zic says:

                Kazzy, I have to disagree with the last of your comment. but simply allow a space for others to talk and men like you and me to listen.

                The problem is not that only men talked before so now let women talk and us listen. It is that men and women didn’t talk to each other about their experiences. By constantly making communication a one way street we are doing nothing more than continuing the problem as it has always been. Women and men not talking to each other about problems that women and me have together. Women are getting raped by men. Men are getting raped by men. Women I would think are getting raped by women and men are getting raped by women too. I know the last two are controversial but let’s be real. Men are getting accused falsely by women. I have stayed out of all the only a woman can understand the horrors of rape. No, men and women get raped countless time per year. I am willing to bet that men under report rape more than women do. Rape is about power. Plain and simple. Power. The power of one person over another. When we try to keep the sexes separate on an issue that affects both of them we do all of ourselves a disservice. Nothing will even change by one sex sitting back and absorbing what is said. It will only change when both sides feel the other understands them. That the other side WANTS to understand them. It is not a man V woman issue. It is a man AND woman issue.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to zic says:

                Let’s forget for a moment all this stuff actually happened to me. Lord it must be frustrating when I come along to disturb everyone’s happy little hypotheticals.

                So tell you what. Let’s just ignore me in all this. Let’s just cast it in the form of the author’s lawyer-liberal and pro-criminal sentiments, where defendants’ rights come into the picture, you know, where gender should be irrelevant — or so we should hope.

                Are these two separate issues, or are they in fact different sides of the same courtroom? Feel free to discuss. I’ll just stand by and read for a while.Report

              • zic in reply to zic says:

                Mark, I thought I was saying that over and over; you put it more clearly, and I thank you for that.

                But I think that the notion that things flip once it enters the legal system is off; women still face huge problems not getting blamed by defense attorneys; it seems a requirement of to defend their clients when it’s he said/she said.

                With sex abuse of minors, it’s a muddle. I’ve watched a mother go through having to protect children from potential/suspected abuse; when you don’t know, what do you do? Risk false accusation or fail to protect your children? Having been molested, I know where I’d err, and I’m sorry if that’s an injustice, but lack of protecting is also an injustice.

                But there is one thing I need to point out — if these crimes were not so common, it would also not be so easy to presume men’s guilt. Men standing up for a culture where the gray of sex crimes is washed away is one of the best ways for men to not only protect the women and children they love, but to protect men other men.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to zic says:


                More broadly, I agree. But if we take a longitudinal look at the conversation, men have had the floor for the entirety of it, with much of talk focused on telling women what *they* should do. Now it is there turn to respond, which is how Maxwell initially started off her comments to Hannity (something to the effect of, “I’m tired of men telling women what to do…”). So, yes, we can dialogue, but we’ve (men) had our opening statement and must let the women make theirs, after which we can respond and them in turn and on-and-on.

                But if we turn their opening statement into a dialogue after our opening statement and the time spent on it was unassailable… well, that’s just more of the same.

                (If I remember correctly, you are a woman, so please consider all “we’s” to be about men as a group or men and women collectively… not you and I as men… I realize on re-reading it seemed that way at times but am not sure how to fix it and hope this will suffice…)Report

              • Just Me in reply to zic says:

                Yes it suffices Kazzy.

                I just disagree. I don’t think that treating human interactions like a court case is the way to go. We either want to really make changes or we don’t. If what we really want to do is punish men or put them on trial I would agree with you. I think down that route leads nothing good.

                I have seen plenty of posts on this site that have, I guess, been the opening salvo in an ongoing court case against the transgressions of men. I am becoming sick of women trying to tell me how as a woman I should feel and how I should think about topics that pertain to women. (That is a reference to the media, and politics where I am told that I shouldn’t vote for X because they hate women and if I love women I should not vote for them.)

                The discussion needs to start. If all we do is regurgitate the past the future will never come. We will always be living in the past. I don’t understand why if a woman says men should do something about other men raping women it is not permissible for a man to say hey we get screwed too. This is an example of what happened to me. I guess some feel that is not empathizing or validating the women’s position. I’m not sure.

                Maybe I just am not “woman” enough. Surely, I would understand if I was. There has to be some shared hive group connection I am missing or else I would feel the anger and disgust at men like I should. Sometimes I feel that way. That if I don’t follow some correct version of being a woman I’m just “not right”. Why don’t I want to blame men over and over for everything a man has done to me? Why don’t I feel the need to paint every man I meet with a broad brush stroke and hold them accountable for every thing that a man has ever done that is horrible to a woman since the dawn of ages? Maybe I think that men and women need to talk and they need to talk about the hurtful and rotten things in life. They need to deal with each other as individuals. As people.Report

              • zic in reply to zic says:

                JM, you say: Why don’t I feel the need to paint every man I meet with a broad brush stroke and hold them accountable for every thing that a man has ever done that is horrible to a woman since the dawn of ages?

                That strikes me as a really nasty thing; othering women who speak out about rape. Because things have been done, because there is history, pointing it out does not equal blaming every man, and that’s sort of what you’re implying here. You don’t have to embrace speaking out; but don’t condemn it, either. That enables the past.

                I agree that men and women need to talk. They need to come to a human experience of respect together, and they won’t get there as adversaries. But denying history does not accomplish that; it reinforces the built-in assumptions and prejudices.Report

              • Glyph in reply to zic says:

                Replying to Just Me –

                Women (girls) do in fact get raped (or molested) by women. I realize it is not as common, but I am personally familiar with one such case. Serial offender, in a position of authority over underage girls.Report

              • Just Me in reply to zic says:

                I’m sorry you find that statement nasty Zic. It was not meant to be. It was meant to reflect how I feel. That I judge each man I meet on the bases of how they treat me, how they treat others and how they treat animals.

                Sometimes I feel that we get so blinded by our hurts that we forget that everyone is not out to get us. Speak out, we all should. But when we speak out we can not at the same time tell others to shut up. We can not perpetuate what we feel was done to us to others. Others should be speaking just as loud and just as passionately about the wrongs they have suffered. These wrongs keep happening because we do shut up, we don’t speak up enough.

                Telling Blaise that while it is horrible that bad things happened to him, this isn’t the place or time for him to speak is I think horrid. Telling him that this is the time for women to be heard, this is the time for women to air the hurts that happened against women is no different than all the times men told women to shut up and look pretty. To say that his experience of rape (child abuse is still rape) and being accused of the same doesn’t change the fact that women get raped every day is horrid too. His experiences do not belittle the pain and suffering that women have endured. The expand upon it. Men and women have been abused for generations. Little boys and girls, teenagers and adults have been raped by their fathers, their mothers and a whole list of others for ages.

                If we really want to stop the rape of women, we should work on why rape happens. Why do some human being feel the need to rape other human beings? Not why do men rape women. Or why do adults rape kids or any of the other multitudes that could be asked. If we are really serious about finding ways to combat and change the culture that perpetuates rape, we should change it for everyone. It will never change until we get to the root cause of rape. The root cause of why boy and girls and men and women don’t tell each other about the rapes they have experienced. Bring rape out of the closet for everyone. Bring everyone to the table. Don’t tell some to shut up and wait their turn. Ask everyone to join in the solution. Fight the fight you are fighting Zic, bring others along with you. Could you imagine if more Zic’s and Blaise’s put there passions towards this situation. If more people were open to airing the wounds they have received. If more people we willing to stop, look into each others eyes and acknowledge we are not enemies, we are the solution.

                That does not mean everyone needs to agree, that there should be no arguments and hurt feelings. There will be, it is unavoidable. Many have been hurt and as we sit here and type we know many more will be.

                I don’t mean to be harsh. I think that pushing for the topic to stay talked about is the right thing to do. But don’t set boundaries, don’t narrow the focus so that only one point of view or…..really frustrated, I don’t think is going to come out how I mean it to….don’t think that because someone is sharing their hurts and it sounds like they are bullying that they really are bullying. Remember that others are in pain too. That others are trying to deal with the hurt they have received at the hands of others. Try to empathize with each other, try to find out what the other is saying, what the meaning behind what they are saying is. Communicate. Don’t just look for affirmation or confirmation, actively look for the differences. It is going to take all of us to put a dent in abuse. Abuse. Not abuse against women, or abuse against men or abuse against children or abuse against animals….Abuse.

                I’m gonna stop now. This is becoming a little emotionally draining. I appreciate that these topics are discussed and hope that the discussion makes a difference somewhere to someone.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to zic says:


                I guess my biggest problem with the “conversation” thus far is that, so often, when women, or male allies, say, “Here is what men need to do…” the response from many men tends to be, “Well, let’s talk about what women need to do!”

                Not, “I hear what you’re saying and I disagree…”
                Or, “I hear what you’re saying and I think we should go about affecting that change this way…”
                Or, “I hear what you’re saying and I agree. Let’s work together on moving forward.”

                That’s not ALWAYS the case and there have been some very thoughtful and well-intentioned responses of the latter variety here, many to my own post on the subject which I welcomed. But when we venture into the former, I think those are largely attempts to stop conversation and to subvert women’s attempts to participate.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to zic says:


                You did an outstanding job in this thread. And I suspect it was emotionally very draining. God(dess) bless you.Report

              • zic in reply to zic says:

                Thank you, James Hanley, that means a lot coming from you.

                Off topic but, every time I see your current avatar, I’m a reminded of a story I started and set aside, a tale of a cat, separated from his/her owner by a natural disaster, who only wants to go home. In his/her dreams, this just an ordinary cat talks with the Mother Cat, the goddess of cats, and she says, “You must save nine lives.”

                I’ve only found seven lives an ordinary cat can save; I need two more. And yes, one is preventing a sex crime.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to zic says:

                Does the cat save a damsel in distress tied to a railroad track?

                Do the lives have to be human lives?

                I love the idea; it’s a great twist on the 9 lives idea. I hope you finish it.Report

              • zic in reply to zic says:

                A young man who’s gay, ready to jump from a railroad trestle, but no damsel so tied.

                Yes, human, because the cat wants to return to a human. That is the price, saving human lives.Report

              • The Cardiff Kook (Roger) in reply to zic says:

                I don’t know about the 8th life, but the 9th should be its own, reinforcing the idea that altruism implies self care as well as other care.Report

              • bookdragon in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Question: If your daughter came to you and said she’d been raped, would your response be ‘Are you sure?’

                Would you immediately throw at her _any_ of the stuff you’ve posted here, esp. the stuff implying that most women reporting crimes are lying, psychotic b-tches?

                If not, why not.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to bookdragon says:

                The hypothetical before this little kangaroo court is embodied in this hypothetical guy my daughter would be accusing.

                But that seems to be irrelevant, so I’ll address your sidebar.

                Now here is what I told my daughters to do if they were raped. You know, in the real world, advice from Dear Old Dad. If possible, gouge him so you have DNA under your fingernails, without DNA evidence these days it’s very difficult to get a conviction but with DNA, particularly blood and skin cells and a scratch pattern, no defense attorney can get you off. Sperm is haploid, you might not get a good enough match. Attempt to summon help. Resist. But most of all, attempt to survive the rape: do not get killed but if you do, die with DNA evidence under your fingernails, that’s the very first test they’ll do. Get the rape kit exam done immediately.

                Anything you survive will alter you irrevocably but it doesn’t have to break your spirit.

                Well, that’s what I told my girls. Of course, I told them many other things. I believe I’ve made those points elsewhere.Report

              • Shazbot3 in reply to BlaiseP says:

                ” the issue of the fundamental prejudice against men in the justice system”





                ahahahahahahah… ohh… man… wow. ha…

                Oh, you’re serious.

                Zic is a saint for not punching you through the screen somehow.Report

          • Kim in reply to BlaiseP says:

            I too am sorry for your experience.
            Child abuse is one thing that people have hair-triggers about.

            Can you imagine your lawyer saying “You Deserved it, for acting like that?”

            Well, that’s what happened to a friend of mine who was raped, in tennis clothes, because she was playing tennis before it happened.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to Kim says:

              Kim, I don’t imagine. I remember. I’ve been on both sides of this sex abuse thing now. Yeah. Report

              • Kim in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Why don’t you write a post on how you think the justice system ought to treat folks?
                (note: quad bonus points if you bring up that “Learn English through Full Metal Jacket” Japanese book…)Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Kim says:

                Kim, when it comes to the justice system and sex crimes, I could sum it all up in a single paragraph:

                Guilty or innocent, if you want to stay alive in the prison system, you must immediately be transferred to AdSeg on admission for prison society has an even lower tolerance for sex criminals than the cops who arrested you. Obtain the very best defense attorney and psychiatrist money can buy: do not stint, mortgage everything, your life depends on it.

                That is all.Report

          • George Turner in reply to BlaiseP says:

            When I was in college I dated a neighbor for a few weeks, the roommate of my roommate’s girlfriend. She was wild, crazy (she liked to sit on her porch and shout at people on the sidewalk), almost certainly an alcoholic, and took all sorts of prescription drugs like Valium.

            I fell asleep at her birthday party and a few minutes after I woke up I was talking to the police. The whole neighborhood was filled with flash blue lights, a dozen patrol cars, paddy wagons, and cops running around with flashlights. She’d told them I’d held her at gunpoint, tied to a chair, for several days, threatening rape, murder, etc.

            Her story apparently grew with the telling, because after about five minutes of questioning the police just let me go home. But they did file an EPO against me just in case.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to DRS says:

        This is probably true. We do tend to over-lawyer especially us relatively new lawyers,

        Now I will proceed to over-lawyer:

        As a liberal and a lawyer, I find defending the rights of criminals to be one of the most vexing issues facing society. To most people except an ardent few, criminal defendants and indicted are often out of sight and out of mind. There are a few journalists like Andrew Cohen and Randy Balko who focus on their plights. There are also the true believers in the Public Defender’s Office and the Innocence Project.

        I think in the United States we have given up on the idea of rehabilitation and settled on a system of mass incarceration to reduce crime. Like the War on Drugs, this system becomes too untenable, unweidly, and super-expensive. Some commentators have called it “The New Jim Crow.” And it starts young as well with an ever-increasing number of prosecutors always trying to charge minors as adults. I’m a bit surprised that the Ohio defendants were not charged as adults honestly because many children have been tried and jailed as adults for far lesser crimes.

        I think many liberals are still recovering from being labeled “soft on crime” for decades to stand up an say “Our criminal justice system needs major reform”. There is also the deeply perplexing issue because many minorities and women are the victims of horrific and unacceptable crimes because they are minorities and women. This is an absolute moral wrong. People should be free to express their differences and who they are openly without fear of violent reprisal from bigots and haters. A person should not feel like an outsider in American society because they are a woman, Black, Latino, Asian, Jewish, Homosexual, Bisexual, Transgender, in whatever combination and whatever else.

        But I still believe in innocent until prove guilty and when there is a case in the media, I try to proceed openly and without pre-conclusion just like I would want if I were in the docket and my life and liberty were on the line.

        Perhaps I watched 12 Angry Men a bit too much and would rather be Henry Fonda slowly but surely convincing everyone that a defendant is really not guilty over Lee J. Cobb’s character who clings until the bitter end to his snap judgment. Perhaps after a widely publicized trial is not the best time to express these doubts. As far as I can tell, the Ohio Boys were absolutely guilty. There are also plenty of examples from history of Innocent people being falsely convicted because a crime was shocking and notorious and the public demanded quick justice. Some of these people died, some spent decades in prison before being exonerated. We can think of The Salem Witch Trials, The Dreyfus Affair, Leo Frank, Ossian Sweet, The Scotsboro Boys, the Central Park Five, Cameron Todd Willingham, the countless people exonerated by the Innocence Project, and many more.

        For whatever reason, it is the long falsely convicted that stand out in my mind whenever a public trial occurs.

        I stress that I do think it is possible to have a justice system that balances sympathy and compassion for the defendant while also guaranteeing that defendants receive a fair and impartial trial and not a kangaroo court.Report

        • dhex in reply to NewDealer says:

          “I think many liberals are still recovering from being labeled “soft on crime” for decades to stand up an say “Our criminal justice system needs major reform”. ”

          counter theory – they don’t particularly care that much, like most of america. i get that in addition to stick and stones, words hurt a whole lot and whatnot but basically what you’re saying is “many liberals are moral cowards because they got called names by republicans”. that’s a lot worse than “they don’t see it as a priority compared to [xyz]”Report

          • NewDealer in reply to dhex says:

            That is another potentially valid way to looking at things.

            However, the problems with issues dealing with marginalized communities is that they are still important even if the returns are small politically. I also think the same goes for mental health issues and the homeless.Report

            • dhex in reply to NewDealer says:

              they’re important for a small subset of the population. criminality, compared to something like mental health or even homelessness, is seen as a stain, and levied correctly, a just punishment. that view would have to be re-engineered drastically – i know full well how difficult “you own your body, you should be able to stuff it with drugs and/or other adults to your heart’s content/expiration” is as a sale without some kind of humanizing dimension.

              radley balko doesn’t have enough eyeballs yet, and won’t until there’s a perfect storm of amazingly clear video and a family being gunned down by a swat team over some rosebushes. basically a newton, ct perpetrated by cops. and even then, who knows. i think that particular military-hardware-hand-me-down-ship has sailed, but i am the minarchist debbie downer on that front.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to dhex says:

                I think the rub is in the leveled “correctly” aspect.

                I am not opposed to cops or criminal justice and prison sentences. Nor am I opposed to life sentences for the truly unrepentant. My issue like Balko and Cohen is that often many punishments seem out-of-whack with the crime especially when we are talking narcotic crimes.

                Violent crimes are all over the map about whether they receive proper and proportional punishment or not and I suspect that we will see lots of debate. I would argue that the Stubenville defendants received very lenient sentences.

                You are probably right about Balko and Cohen not receiving enough eyeballs yet but I am cautiously optimistic that people are getting fed up with the War on Drugs at least. Eric Holder said that the Public Defender system exists in a State of Crisis and this is bad.

                And I don’t even handle criminal cases. I never wanted to be a prosecutor or a defender in the criminal justice system.Report

              • One of my problems with what little of Cohen I’ve read* is that he strikes me as a little too…..I’m not sure of the word. I was going to say “transparent,” but maybe what I want to say is “instrumentalist.” What I mean is, he seems to have a tendency to report on the opposing views in a case, and then assert that one view is right, but he doesn’t really address the other side’s argument.

                His discussion of the Voting Rights Act challenge (or at least the articles of his I’ve read so far on it) are especially frustrating. He documents, very astutely, the potentially devastating effects overturning the 1965 law could have. But he doesn’t (again, in the articles I’ve read so far) really have an answer to the challengers’ claims that the old formulas don’t work. Now, I can stipulate all day long to his view that overturning the act would be disastrous, but he does little to assure me as a reader that there is a good argument against overturning. (“Good” in this sense meaning “one that can plausibly convince a majority of the court to decide against overturning it” not meaning “one that convinces me.”)

                *And it’s been only a little–a few articles, some on the Voting Rights Act case and some on the ACA challenge–so maybe he does better stuff when it comes to the rights of defendatns.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                I’m not very sympathetic to the anti-VRA so I am no help there.Report

        • Perhaps I watched 12 Angry Men a bit too much and would rather be Henry Fonda slowly but surely convincing everyone that a defendant is really not guilty over Lee J. Cobb’s character who clings until the bitter end to his snap judgment.

          Well! I’ll just have to erase that from my netflix queue 🙂Report

  2. Well said, James.

    This line, naturally, is the kicker:

    “This, of course, substituting rape for incarceration, is what the world already looks like for women.”

    Shifting perspectives should help many people who, at the very least, facilitate rape apologism.Report

  3. DRS says:

    The biggest hurdle society faces is the widespread belief that rape=sex (gone wrong). It’s actually rape=violence. Guys who would overpower a partner for intercourse are not interested in sex, they’re interested in the thrill they get from overpowering.

    An agency I used to work for assisted with counseling for sex trade workers, and they often undergo rape during the course of their job. It was their belief (and I totally credit it) that rapists really hate women and the most dangerous ones also hate sex. Assault with a penis is the worst thing they can think of to inflict on a woman.Report

    • Morat20 in reply to DRS says:

      Actually the BIGGEST problem is the belief that “rape = violence”. That rapes MUST be violent.

      Most rapes aren’t “stranger leaps out of the bushes” rapes. Those are the minority — very much so. Most rape victims know their rapists.

      The thing is? Those rapists? They don’t think it was rape. Some, I am sure, get off on it in the same way as the man leaping from the bushes. But the bulk? Oh no, I never hit her or threatened her, so it wasn’t rape.

      Date rape is rape. Why do you think Canada tried that “Don’t be that guy” campaign? It’s because that guy generally doesn’t think he’s doing a dang thing wrong.

      Which falls right into victim blaming, because men — in general — have a hard time seeing rape if there wasn’t violence, and hitting, and a stranger from the bushes. “Why did you invite him in? You were dating him, you must have led him on. Are you sure it was rape? You were drinking….”

      Look at the excuses today — “bad part of town” and “dressing like that” aren’t in vogue, because blaming rape victims attacked by strangers is, well, no longer really accepted. Now it’s “You didn’t say no clearly enough” or “You shouldn’t have had a few drinks with him” or “You led him on”….excuses suited to rapes perpetrated by people known to the victim.Report

      • DRS in reply to Morat20 says:

        You think you’re correcting me but you’re reinforcing what I said.Report

        • Morat20 in reply to DRS says:

          Then I agree with you totally. 🙂

          Offhand, I’d imagine the rape threats facing sex workers are quite of a different character than those facing non sex-workers.

          And I would imagine their difficulties reporting it were considerably worse.Report

      • Cardiff Kook in reply to Morat20 says:


        “Most rape victims know their rapists. The thing is? Those rapists? They don’t think it was rape….. because that guy generally doesn’t think he’s doing a dang thing wrong.
        “Why did you invite him in? You were dating him, you must have led him on. Are you sure it was rape? You were drinking….”

        Look at the excuses today — …. Now it’s “You didn’t say no clearly enough” or “You shouldn’t have had a few drinks with him” or “You led him on”….excuses suited to rapes perpetrated by people known to the victim.”

        Forgive the editing, but it seems we are dealing with a topic in which A) a crime is being committed where the perp isn’t always even aware he is committing a crime. B) the two individuals can have vastly different interpretations of the same event, C) there are often incentives for the “victim” to strike out against the “perp” by rationalizing an ambiguous event as criminal.

        It seems to me that this is a situation where we should be especially careful to presume innocence, not guilt. I fail to see any logic of why it should be treated less so than any other crime. Can someone enlighten me?Report

        • Kim in reply to Cardiff Kook says:

          Bit o’ both. Assume that you have an actual victim. Assume there may or may not have been a perpetrator.

          Support is needed — just like you’d give to a kid who had been molested… or only thought he had.

          A good deal of the evil isn’t criminal, Cardiff. It is wrong, rape, and slice-off-their balls wrong. But it’s not criminal. Because we got standards of evidence and all that. And a man deliberately removing a woman’s ability to consent (or express non-consent) is fucking legal in this fucking country, provided he does it with words, and not with drugs.Report

          • Roger in reply to Kim says:

            Ok, support is needed. But not criminal prosecution. It is a good, well proven idea to presume innocence, this applies even more so to he says she says with conflicting motives cases. It seems if anything the standard of evidence needs be even higher than normal. We aren’t talking about divine justice here (whatever the hell that is) we ae talking about criminal prosecution by the state.Report

            • Kim in reply to Roger says:

              But see what I write below. To presume someone is innocent is not to let them off the hook. Even if they damn well ARE innocent, you still have a victim. And decent people do what they can to make amends. Even if they did nothing wrong… destroying someone’s life is no laughing matter, and ought to be something one attempts to set right.Report

        • James Vonder Haar in reply to Cardiff Kook says:

          I think that this takes as an implicit assumption that intentionally committed crimes are the only morally blameworthy crimes. But of course, under our criminal justice system, there are many sorts of guilty minds, and in the realm of morality there are even more so. Our only two choices are not completely intentional and completely accidental.

          It’s like driving a car. You can kill or maim other people when driving a car, so you have a pretty high moral standard of care when doing so. It is morally incumbent upon you to keep the car in good repair and to avoid driving it under circumstances when you are incapable of doing so safely, like when extremely tired or drunk (note that the drunk driver doesn’t intentionally kill his victim, he simply intentionally undertakes actions that has a substantial risk of killing his victim). Initiating a sexual encounter, for either gender, has a significant risk of harm if the initiator is incorrect about the state of consent . It is therefore morally incumbent upon the initiator to take a very high standard of care, and err on the side of caution when he or she thinks that consent may be ambiguous.Report

          • The Cardiff Kook in reply to James Vonder Haar says:

            Well, it certainly is an interesting argument. Let’s shift the burden of proof in such a way that it reduces the trust that occurs between people, or that enhances the confidence of the woman at the expense of the man (or of the weak at the expense of the more powerful in gay relationships).

            My instincts tell me that it would lead to more animosity and more reported rape and less harmony than what we have today. I have no better argument than that though. It just seems one of those situations that plays to conflict rather than finding ways out of it. For whatever it is worth.Report

            • James Vonder Haar in reply to The Cardiff Kook says:

              It’s not quite accurate to say that it shifts the burden of proof (though I admit that practically it looks pretty similar to affirmative consent as a legal standard as outlined here: http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2010/03/19/affirmative-consent-as-legal-standard/). In any case, how do you see this reducing the trust between two partners? I suspect I would have more trust in my partner if I knew that, in the event he initiated, he had a pretty high standard of care in securing my consent. It probably would make men require a higher threshold of trust before having sex with a woman (in most circumstances, at least as long as the social paradigm of man as the sexual initiator continues to be the norm). But again, read the hypothetical – the risks a woman takes when when seeking sex are so much greater than what men take that spreading it evenly is a matter of justice.

              Just accusations of crime always produces animosity and discord, at least between the accuser and the accused, but I hardly think that matters more than justice. And the fact that such a system would empower more raped people to seek redress for their crimes is a feature, not a bug.

              The status quo seems placid and peaceful to you only because it succeeds in keeping the chaos private and unaddressed, rather than because it actually succeeds in ensuring people are not victimized.Report

              • The Cardiff Kook (Roger) in reply to James Vonder Haar says:

                “…how do you see this reducing the trust between two partners?”

                I think it plays into the paradigm of sex as conflict when almost this is a very small minority. It takes an overwhelmingly positive sum event and reframes it as a zero sum, win lose event.

                ” I suspect I would have more trust in my partner if I knew that, in the event he initiated, he had a pretty high standard of care in securing my consent.”

                If I had so little trust in my partner that I needed this, then I have the wrong partner.

                ” the risks a woman takes when when seeking sex are so much greater than what men take that spreading it evenly is a matter of justice.”

                So remind me why Kim thinks I am a sexist when I say this?

                “Just accusations of crime always produces animosity and discord, at least between the accuser and the accused, but I hardly think that matters more than justice. ”

                What is this “justice” that you speak of? Are you suggesting that there are some divine scales that make the universe a better place when someone who harms another is himself harmed? Feel free to prove that one. The point of our “justice” system is to prevent coercion in ways which are psychologically pleasing to human critters. Prevention is the key word.

                “And the fact that such a system would empower more raped people to seek redress for their crimes is a feature, not a bug.”

                No. We have already made it clear that we are dealing with an ambiguous act which even if not rape can be identified as rape or not rape based upon the fancy of the accuser. Establishing a new way to harm people on top of an ambiguous and primarily positive sum relaionship is a risky experiment.

                “The status quo seems placid and peaceful to you only because it succeeds in keeping the chaos private and unaddressed, rather than because it actually succeeds in ensuring people are not victimized.”

                I would be willing to bet that there are thousands of sexual events to every rape. You make the main event contentious. You assume it is.

                Here is my suggestion… Try your idea in a small place where the people consent to the idea and see how it works over a decade or so. Do it on a campus or in Vegas or Delaware. Like I said, my arguments are primarily that it seems counterproductive. I am fine with people agreeing to this trying it.

                I would also suggest another experiment. Allow people to self identify as strong consenters. They can wear buttons, or big red Rs or just tell people that they are strong consenters. The rule is that you cannot have sex with a strong consenter unless they expressly consent. They can even have a word that means stop, I withdraw prior consent.

                My guess is both of these ideas will fail. At least initially. But if interested, we could revise the initial idea and improve or correct its weaknesses. Maybe they could evolve into workable, superior solutions. Maybe not.

                What I don’t want to see is do gooders using their unproven hypotheticals pushing an unproven institutional idea based upon ideological rationalization.

                Wouldn’t you agree?Report

              • Kim in reply to The Cardiff Kook (Roger) says:

                I read that as “women can get pregnant”. Which as of right now is an un/fortunate biological fact. I’d rather we spend all money now being used on the abortion debate to create artificial wombs. Then a just system can treat people with more parity because there will be more parity!

                (also, roger, the sexism check was “women will automatically be the weaker sex”)

                I’m pretty sure we can set up some standards for telling when sex is primarily positive-sum (in a committed relationship), and when there’s a reasonable doubt that it is positive sum (man boinks someone else’s girlfriend at a party, without her consent).

                Have you ever met someone in a sexually abusive relationship? I’m not willing to grant that 1000 to 1 odds. Maybe 20 to 1 (tilted more in rape’s favor because that’s an “on demand” type action, often enough, whereas consensual sex requires two people wanting it).Report

            • Kim in reply to The Cardiff Kook says:

              Your response seems pretty sexist to me. Read it again, and look for yourself.
              You assume that the woman must be the weaker party (and definitely not the aggressor). I assure you that’s far from obvious.
              [Am I calling you sexist? no… but read again what you wrote.]Report

              • The Cardiff Kook (Roger) in reply to Kim says:

                There is a strong sex bias in both reality and in this discussion (at least a dozen comments have assumed it is usually the woman getting raped). Don’t call me out for this unless you want to call everyone else.Report

              • The Cardiff Kook (Roger) in reply to The Cardiff Kook (Roger) says:

                And if there isn’t a power differential, then why in the hell isn’t the person being raped physically resisting?Report

              • Kim in reply to The Cardiff Kook (Roger) says:

                1) Doesn’t realize it’s going on.
                2) Freezing up — a specific mental state that psychologists know well, and that it is possible to induce with targeted wordplay.
                … probably more, actually…Report

              • The Cardiff Kook (Roger) in reply to Kim says:

                Both are examples of power differentials. Hercules can be raped in his sleep or when frozen.Report

              • Kim in reply to Kim says:

                Okay, let me try this again. (as in, your point is well taken, but I’ve got more ideas!)
                1) Peer pressure — there doesn’t really need to be much in the way of power differential if your goal is to “not ruin the party”
                2) “but… what if he hates me…? we’re going out, and I still want him as a boyfriend…” (otherwise known as low self-esteem creating a power differential where there isn’t one in reality).Report

              • Burt Likko in reply to Kim says:

                This may be a lot of wheel spinning. Almost anything involving two or more people can be characterized in terms of power and thus of power differentials.Report

              • The Cardiff Kook (Roger) in reply to Kim says:


                And you want to reinforce the ability to make flippant charges of rape to these folks?Report

              • Kim in reply to Kim says:

                no charge of rape is flippant (except for obviously false ones). if someone has been victimized, they ought to have the ability to take it to court.

                The salient point is “I had sex with someone who didn’t want it — I stole their agency, and left them feeling victimized.” Morally, this requires some level of apology and recompense and remediation.

                I’m leaving open the question how much we should take this to the courts, rather than forcing mediation of another variety. (bearing in mind that in cases of marital rape, mediation may often be just a term for repeatedly victimizing the victim by minimizing her agency. — aka being told to just put up with it).Report

              • Kim in reply to The Cardiff Kook (Roger) says:

                *nods* Don’t have time to call out everyone. And you’re right that there is something of a bias in reality.Report

            • Kim in reply to The Cardiff Kook says:

              Shifting the moral burden of proof is different than shifting the legal one.Report

        • Morat20 in reply to Cardiff Kook says:

          Um, no. It’s a situation in which someone has committed a crime but is, in fact, unaware of it. Or doesn’t believe his activity counts.

          Ignorance of the law is no excuse. It might be a relevant fact at sentencing, but not as to whether he or she committed the actual crime.

          Date rape is still, you know, rape. Having sex with a passed out girl is still, you know, rape.

          In this particular case — the Stuebenville case — you have teens who truly didn’t believe it was rape. They weren’t looking at a passed out girl and thinking “I’m gonna rape the crap out of her”. I doubt the possibility that it was a crime even crossed their minds.

          And I have no doubt — none at all, because I certainly knew teens like that when I was one — that when they were charged with rape, they were in deep, deep denial. I wouldn’t be shocked if they still, even convicted, do not think they were rapists.

          Certainly judging by some of the things that happened after the verdict, some of their peers don’t.Report

          • bookdragon in reply to Morat20 says:

            This may be the case with any number of young men, but not the ones in Steubenville case.

            They didn’t just ‘take the opportunity’ of a passed out girl, they dragged her, unconscious, from one party to another to repeatedly rape her and joked with the people at those places about how sore she would be the next day. And when they were finally done with her, they dumped her and *pissed* on the body they had repeatedly and deliberately abused.

            This was a crime of violence, arrogance and power. It was in no way innocent and it is frankly frightening to me – as a woman and the mother of a pre-adolescent girl – to think that these people do not understand that it was deeply depraved.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to bookdragon says:


              Is it possible that the Steubenville rapists and the many, many witnesses somehow did not think that when “…they dragged her, unconscious, from one party to another to repeatedly rape her and joked with the people at those places about how sore she would be the next day. And when they were finally done with her, they dumped her and *pissed* on the body they had repeatedly and deliberately abused…”, they genuinely did not think a crime was being committed?

              Because I think it wholly possible that somehow these individuals thought this was all in good fun… or boys being boys… or youthful indiscretion… or whatever they might want to call it.

              As a man not far removed from that stage in my life and of a similar generation, I can say that the line between good hearted pranking and crime is becoming increasingly blurred… with sexual acts becoming increasingly “popular”.

              I first started drinking and going to house parties when I was in high school in the late 90’s. When someone passed out, folks were generally pretty good about taking care of them; the worst I ever saw done was putting a funny hat on them. By the time I got to college, it was almost mandatory that you write on them in magic marker, drawing penises going into their mouthes or “WHORE!” across their forehead (usually the former for males and the latter for females). This didn’t happen much in my circles but it certainly went on. You can find whole websites devoted to such “comedy”. There was also much talk of “teabagging” and “gorilla masking” which undoubtedly cross the line from harmless prank to crime (again, I never saw these happen, but I heard all the stories and even allowing for the usual exaggeration, were to plentiful to assume they were all made up… plus, there are again websites). But somehow in there, there was a shift that took place where putting a silly hat on someone’s head evolved into putting testicles in their mouth and these acts were seen as equivalent.

              I recognize these don’t fully equate to what happened in Steubenville and what happened there is no doubt a crime. But somehow we’ve reached a point where so many people, young people in particular but not just them, think these actions are not criminal, think they are just fine and dandy. And *THAT* *NEEDS* to change.Report

              • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

                All due respect, but they were pretty popular back then too, if you hung in the right circles. (not the ones you’re thinking).Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kim says:

                That very well may be he case. I didn’t mean to (though certainly did) imply that all this is a new phenomenon. Only that there exist vastly different understandings of what is appropriate, acceptable behavior and what is violent and criminal.

                My friends and I? I dunno… we just never did that stuff. We indulged in some youthful mischievousness but when someone crossed a line, they were called out on it and/or distanced from the group. Case in point… walking home drunk one night, a friend and I rearranged a rock wall in a park to make a sort of obstacle course on the sidewalk. In the morning, we realized the dickishness of our actions, that this had crossed a line, and went back to fix it. On another evening, a different friend thought it funny to tip over someone’s motorcycle… you could hear the breaking of glass and scratching of metal as it fell. We called him out on it… he showed no remorse, neither then or in the morning, arguing it was cool and funny. That guy? Not close with most of the crew any more, because he clearly had a different idea of what was appropriate when it came to messing with other people.

                Sometimes people know they are doing something wrong but do it anyway. Far more often, people think what they are doing is right or okay or no big deal and that allows them to do it. Somehow, the Steubenville rapists came to think that their actions were acceptable which is why they not only indulged in them, but celebrated their efforts.Report

              • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

                Depends. You have a /lot/ of people who do things that they know are wrong. You /also/ have a lot of people who say it’s no big deal (these can be the same folks, too. I’m certain Bristol’s baby daddy didn’t think it was a big deal to rape girls).Report

              • bookdragon in reply to Kazzy says:

                Hence the ‘men need to be educated about rape’ – although quite a number of men here and elsewhere seem to object to the very idea that men need any such education.

                However, I have to ask: at what point does behavior reach a level where it is impossible to believe that anyone but a sociopath would consider it ‘youthful indiscretion’?

                Setting people on fire? Genital mutilation? Murder? (Maybe if the self-proclaimed ‘rape squad’ had chosen a guy instead of a girl as the victim?)

                Frankly, there’s a point where I just stop caring about giving the ‘benefit of a doubt’ as to motive/understanding-it’s-a-crime and these guys where way, way beyond that point.Report

              • Kim in reply to bookdragon says:

                I am going to sound like a Christian. I am not a christian.
                But I do believe in people’s ability to change.

                And that the person who murders someone can yet walk it back. Can yet become a decent and upstanding person.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to bookdragon says:

                I think in the case of the bystanders, not the perpetrators, there’s an important note.

                Many, many moons ago I was present at a party where an underage person drank far, far, far more than was good for her. Nobody experienced at drinking (a few seniors at a freshman welcoming party) caught it before it was too late.

                She was completely shot. Limp. Probably had a BAL well above the old 0.15. Her pulse was regular and her sober friend insisted that she would get her back to campus and make sure to call an EMT if she started going south. So we helped put her back in her friend’s car, carrying her through the party, heels and wrists.

                Now, at that party, if you didn’t know that we were taking her out to her friend’s car, you might think that two guys were dragging a completely knockered girl outside, maybe to do something to her. Some people asked how she was, and we said that she was on the way home with her friend driving, and they just accepted that at face value. Some people made classless jokes, but nobody assumed that they were serious. We may very well have joked about how much more she drank than was good for her, and it’s possible that someone who didn’t know us might have taken that differently than it was intended.

                Now, certainly in the particular case of Steubenville there were a bunch of people who were aware of what was going on, and clearly this isn’t meant to excuse that behavior.

                However, I can see that a number of people might very well even now be sitting around feeling crappy about what they saw at one of those parties and how they *didn’t* interpret it properly.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to bookdragon says:

                Oh, BD, don’t get me wrong… I made one of the posts on how men need to learn to stop raping. I brought up what I did to show how much learning needs to take place.

                If we look at Steubenville and say, “Rapists gonna rape!” then there is no use starting a conversation with those boys because, well, rapists gonna rape.

                But if we look at them and say, “Those boys somehow got it in their head that what they did was acceptable and that’s fucked up and they should be punished for their crimes but we should also go about educating other boys who might be thinking similar things before they act on those very perverse and wrong thoughts,”… well, now we’re on the right track.

                At no point is ignorance a defense. But what the actor thought of his actions while he was doing them informs of us how we should respond.Report

          • Kim in reply to Morat20 says:

            If a man removes the ability of a woman to consent or express dissent, it is rape. Sure. But there’s many types of rape, and a good deal of them are in practice not illegal.

            If a 16 year old boy fucks a 12 year old, and the poor kid doesn’t even know she had sex, well, we can safely assume the 16 year old is probably going to get away with it.Report

            • Morat20 in reply to Kim says:

              The original point — the one that this post was about boils down to: “One of the big problems with rape is, you know, guys who don’t think what they just did was rape. When it was”.

              Which, predictably, gets derailed into the weeds because there’s a whole lot of social and male privilage wrapped up in the status quo.

              It’s understandable why men would prefer a world in which “no” always means “convince me” or the default to “Will you have sex with me” is “yes, unless she starts fighting and screaming rape”….(understandable if not moral).

              Flat out: Men need to be educated about rape. Men find this insulting, because they generally associate rape with stranger rape and think “Duh, like I’m gonna leap out of a bush and rape someone. I’m a good person”. The LAST thing they want to believe is that, perhaps in their more foolish youth, they might have done something as awful as rape. Or are even capable.

              Which is why they need to be educated. Because if you are willfully blind to the line, you are very likely to cross it.Report

  4. zic says:

    I have to say, this is the best imagining of what a world where men might face what women do face.

    It gives me a bit of faith in the potential for goodness. Thank you for that.Report

  5. Kim says:

    If there are victimless crimes, there are also perpetrator-less crimes. And it’s in that vein, more than any other, that a rape victim deserves to be believed.

    /allow the man/ the benefit of the doubt. “I screwed up, I didn’t realize, holy shit, oh god no…”
    I cannot imagine what it would be like to be told I had raped someone — that I had screwed up someone’s life that badly.

    Honest people make amends, or at least try to make amends. This is not always possible (see kazzy’s post about kids apologizing).

    But I do really, really believe that we ought to create a space where stupid kids who screw up -can- at least have the -opportunity- to apologize. This is not to say that women ought to be forced to accept their apology. Or even let the man offer one.

    But having the societal space to offer an apology? I think that’s due.

    Not everything needs to make it to the courts — and for many things that aren’t court-worthy, this would be valuable too.Report

    • zic in reply to Kim says:

      I think this a sound thing, Kim. One of the best suggestions I’ve heard in a long time.

      I’ve spoken on this with pedophiles, too: there needs to be room to come to term, a method for dealing with what’s classed as despicable. And for many rapes, I think there so much unawareness that it was rape, that such space would be welcome. Particularly as an alternative to registries, without repeat offense.Report

      • Kim in reply to zic says:

        I think the biggest difficulty is creating a “safe space”. The woman must not fear for her… self. To confront your rapist is … really, really tough. To even see him is bad enough, but to actually express how you felt???

        There’s physical protection, sure. but also emotional protection.

        … and, particularly for the emotions, the guy deserves some protection too.

        [this may in fact be most valuable if a woman decides to carry the baby of her rapist. At which point they’re gonna be involved for the next twenty years, one way or another.]Report

      • Fnord in reply to zic says:

        I think there’s a lot of room to relax the “ostracized from polite society for life” that registered sex offender status can result in nowadays while still providing serious consequences for perpetrators.Report

        • zic in reply to Fnord says:

          I have serious concerns about sex-offender registries.

          I don’t think any sex crime should automatically trigger entry on a registry; it should require a judges order based on a level of violence/coercion, DNA evidence, repeat offense, or child abuse. Those boys just convicted shouldn’t be in a sex-offender registry.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to zic says:

            If we cannot trust these people to be back on the streets, so much so that we will make public their information, then they shouldn’t be allowed out on the streets. But if we do see fit to put them on the streets, it should be with the same conditions as other criminals of similar profiles.Report

    • James Vonder Haar in reply to Kim says:

      The primary problem with this is, I think, that it runs a significant risk of strengthening the rapists’ social license to operate. Again, consider that rapists generally don’t do the supposedly paradigmatic jump out of the bushes thing precisely because it’s paradigmatic and guilt is pretty clearly established. It is almost trivially easy for them, instead, to engineer circumstances in which “it was an honest mistake,” is plausible enough but is in fact untrue. Which is why, again, I think that holding the initiator of a sexual encounter to a high standard of care in securing consent is probably a better gambit.Report

      • Fnord in reply to James Vonder Haar says:

        There’s a danger there. And see what I said in the last discussion about most rapes being committed by a small set of repeat offenders.

        On the other hand, I think part of the reason that the social license to operate exists is because people are reluctant to enforce the consequences designed for the paradigmatic violent stranger rape when the situation is something different. The net result is less that rapists are held fully accountable and more that rapists are completely excused. If we had a system that allowed for choices that “she was asking for it” or “he’s a totally evil monster”, we might end up seeing less of the former.Report

        • Fnord in reply to Fnord says:

          *allowed for MORE choices than “she was asking for it” or “he’s a totally evil monster”…Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to Fnord says:

          And then there’s Bennie Starks.Report

          • zic in reply to BlaiseP says:

            BlaiseP, this is why we should be pushing to have each and every rape kit processed, not sitting in an evidence lock up.

            Wrongful justice is not justice.

            Bennie was innocent; but someone committed the crime, a woman was still raped. Two wrongs, her rape, and his wrongful conviction, do not balance. And the right to discuss one wrong doesn’t mean the other doesn’t exist.

            I think you know my heart breaks with each reveal of someone wrongfully charged and committed. In your case, we fall again into the cracks of mental health. I have a friend, a young woman, who was charged and arrested because of accusations made by a mentally ill person; this can happen to whomever the ill person fixates upon.

            But most of the rapes I know of weren’t mental illness, they were violations of someone’s physical body. And we have a culture that somehow fails to distinguish clearly what constitutes that violation. Saying we need to talk on that, we need to change that culture doesn’t mean other wrongs don’t matter, that women don’t do horrific things, that innocent men aren’t in jail.

            You’re a valuable person, I’m amazed at the things you do, at your keen insight, and your fierce commitment to liberalism and justice. Can’t we can hold both conversations? I spent 5 years protecting myself from a sexual predator who preyed on children; the year after that ended, I was date raped. I never felt secure enough to even speak out and say I’d been a victim of senseless crime.
            I feel badly about calling you a bully earlier; I don’t like to do that. And I don’t regret it, either. When you take on that bullying tone, it does harm your credibility. I didn’t say that to hurt you or stifle you, but to help; constructive criticism. Because I saddens me when someone I respect diminishes himself and his message that way.

            I’m glad Bennie’s finally been cleared. I hope many other innocent men are, too. Sadly, each innocent man in prison or falsely charged means there’s still a pig of a person out there without accountability. Wrongs compounding. Bennie’s wrongful imprisonment means we should work to avoid wrongful convictions with actions like making sure rape kits are processed, not that we shouldn’t speak out and ask for better behavior. If one rapist had behaved better, Bennie wouldn’t have been in jail; that rapist was ultimately responsible, not the women who speak out to stop rapes.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to zic says:

              Many thanks for your kind words. It is pointless and rude of me to quarrel with you. We share a similar fate.

              Here is my proposal: there is no practical difference between our viewpoints. For every abused child, betrayed and victimised, there is an abuser who hides in plain sight, protected not by justice but by the silence that gives consent. Since time immemorial, human society has reserved its harshest punishments for rapists and child abusers. Why, then, does society tolerate so much of it?

              The more we know about the Steubenville rape, the clearer we see the problem. Are you aware many of those who covered up this rape were her girlfriends? That many of them attacked her on Twitter and Facebook? Not one of her friends came forward to help her when she needed it and two of them testified against her.

              Here I really must be firm. You’re a decent human being, entirely worthy of my respect. And I have not been respectful to you. But I will say this anyway, as a father of daughters, as a brother of a sister, as a son, as a man who loves women:

              American society is obsessed with sexuality. From their earliest waking moments, women have been hyper-sensitised to their own sexuality and its power. It is not men who call women Sluts, but other women. The culture of women in this country disturbs me. Women are cruel to each other in ways many men do not understand.

              For all the entirely deserved shame heaped upon the rapists and the barrels of ink poured out on this issue: where are the women’s voices to condemn those girls who would not defend their own friend, their own classmate, but instead attacked her, in court and online? If others cannot see this as a woman’s problem, one where women should be taking girls by the scruff of the neck and shouting in their faces “This is not how women behave! You filthy, fearful little shits: you allowed another girl to be mauled and raped and photographed and dragged about like a sack of potatoes — by the boys on the football team? And were not merely silent, but attacked her? You need a block of instruction on how to behave like women. You are accessories to rape and contemptible bullies.”

              But no such women’s voices are being raised, Zic. And they’re not being raised around here. We’re all so goddamn enlightened around here, to the point where nobody dares to discuss the obvious — not because it’s some recondite mystery, but because men continue to put women on pedestals and women refuse to hold each other accountable and stand with each other. Instead, it’s men who have to do all the changing. No. Women have to do some changing, too. And it will start when women say what I’ve put out in the previous paragraph and not one minute before. I am sick of answering begged questions: justice for women is justice for men, too.Report

              • Kim in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Man. These are fine points. I wish you had made them upthread, so that more people could read them.

                Also, thanks both of you for having the courage to recognize when you’re the person being the asshole, and to walk it back.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Kim says:

                When it comes to assholishness, I give as good as I get. I will not be hectored by Do Gooders who so completely miss the obviousness of this problem, that men are not the only ones who need to change, that men are railroaded through the justice system, that the system is rigged, that I am living proof the system fails men — men who don’t have tens of thousands of dollars to clear their name. Women ought to stand up for each other. They don’t.

                Even now, the rest is being ignored. I really don’t care any more. I am Lazarus, come from the dead / come back to tell you all.

                It’s not my problem, Kim. If rape is women’s problem, if they feel they’re not getting justice, they’re hardly alone in this. A man can sit in jail for 20 fucking years, and they think they can split this into two issues like some fucking Solomon with the baby? No. Any such attempt to separate these into two issues is self-deceiving bullshit and the reason folks are angry is because they know it’s true.Report

              • zic in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Thanks for the apology.

                I’ll ignore the rest. If it’s an important debate for you to hold, hold it on it’s own merits.Report

          • Fnord in reply to BlaiseP says:

            The Bennie Starks case does appear to be one of those paradigmatic violent stranger rape cases. It’s a matter of the appalling treatment of forensic evidence (not just the loss of the vaginal swab; the original trial included bite mark identification, which should be familiar to those of us who follow wrongful convictions) and often unreliable victim identifications in the criminal justice system, along with the horrifying way authorities double-down on accusations even when presented with exculpatory evidence (note how, in the end, it’s the prosecutor who is reduced to accusing the victim of lying in order to preserve his theory of the crime).Report

        • Kim in reply to Fnord says:

          It’s also that a good deal of people don’t want there to be consequences to date rape.
          A good deal of people think the paradigm is “keep trying till she wants it — or at least isn’t telling you no.”Report

      • Kim in reply to James Vonder Haar says:

        1) It’s relatively simple to solve the “repeat offender” problem with keeping records. “This is your fifth time here showing extreme contrition for raping someone under the influence.” (if nothing else, you put some pressure on his friends to stop him from drinking, because, man he can’t handle it!
        2) Rapists are very very smart about choosing their victims. I don’t see the 3% of men who rape continually ever getting called to this thing.
        3) I like your standard. It may be a better idea than what I’ve got here.Report

    • KatherineMW in reply to Kim says:

      Rape is not a perpetrator-less crime. It may have an equivalent to manslaughter – where the person did not intend to commit it and is truly contrite – but that does not make the crime less real or less worth of punishment (so maybe the manslaughter analogy doesn’t really work). The harm to the victim is exactly the same as if he had intended harm, and the perpetrator still needs to be punished. As with all crimes, there should also be room for repentance and rehabilitation.

      The kind of situation you describe is also exactly why Ms. Maxwell is right about the necessity of educating men and teenage boys about what rape is, so that such situations cease to occur.Report

      • James Vonder Haar in reply to KatherineMW says:

        I’m not quite willing to impute strict liability to the crime of rape, where absolutely no kind of guilty mind is required to be convicted. That is true of vanishingly few crimes, and arguably violates due process – the only example I can think of is statutory rape, and even that’s dubious morally and constitutionally.

        What the legal system does do, which I think tracks our moral intuitions and reasoning pretty well, is say that there’s a spectrum of guilty minds from intentionality to completely blameless. Generally in the American system, those gradations of guilt are intentional, knowing, reckless, and negligence. Most rape statutes go all the way down to negligence. I would be in favor of extending it to negligence, but the main obstacle to prosecutions in this case are juries, not statutes. Getting a reckless rape charge to stick is pretty difficult, given currently existing prejudices, and a negligent rape charge would be almost impossible even if we changed the statutes.Report

      • Kim in reply to KatherineMW says:

        Rape can be a perpetrator-less crime.
        If both people are asleep, then /no one/ is capable of informed consent.
        Yes, here you can have two victims.

        Do you punish them both?Report

  6. Kazzy says:

    I really wish there was an internet shorthand for starting a slow clap… done completely unironically. This is really a great piece and should be required reading for men and boys everywhere.Report

  7. This was a particularly excellent guest post, Mr. Vonder Haar.Report

  8. Just Me says:

    What does it look like, to be a man in this world? They’d certainly have to be significantly more careful about who they trusted enough to sleep with. They’d be pretty safe if they were never alone in a room with a girl, but of course vanishingly few will make that decision. So they’d take risks, knowing that if they misjudged the character of their partner they were sunk, knowing that every additional time they decided to trust someone could be a life-derailing mistake

    This sounds like what exists today for athletes and other high profile men.Report

    • Kim in reply to Just Me says:

      Big ben had plenty of bodyguards around when he acted like a total jerkface.
      (and I’m a steelers fan).Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Just Me says:

      I think celebrity gives with one hand and takes away with the other…

      While Kobe Bryant and Ben Roethlisberger likely would not have found themselves in the situations they did had they not been celebrities, they almost assuredly would have come out looking far worse once they did get into them had they been regular Joes.

      Hell, Kobe Bryant got police escorts so he wouldn’t have to miss any games while attending court dates. Like, fo rels.Report

      • Just Me in reply to Kazzy says:

        Now Ben he is on his own. Kobe I remember not really believing the woman in that case. I seemed more about the money than about an assault. I do not know the facts in the case but her not testifying in a criminal case but then suing for monetary damages make me wonder even more. Some might say that is horrid of me to question the accused integrity like that. I’ve met some money hungry out for a payday people in my day. Both men and women. My opinion questioning is something someone who doesn’t know all the facts should do.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Just Me says:

          And perhaps Kobe was indeed innocent of nothing more than adultery and a bad decision about who to sleep with (neither of which I think should be illegal). And, if that is the case, I doubt a regular Joe finds himself in Kobe’s shoes. But if I was that regular Joe, a teacher of young children, and I did find myself accused of rape, even if it played out as it did hear and casted aspersions on the legitimacy of the accusations… I’m not getting a job teaching any time soon. Meanwhile, Kobe continues to lace ’em up for $20M+ a year.Report

          • Just Me in reply to Kazzy says:

            We had a local coach and teacher who took pictures of his little kids playing in the bath tube and running around naked afterwards. Preschool children. He took those pictures with his cell phone. A cell phone that was school property. Eventually he had an issue with his cell phone and took it to the school’s IT department. Where the pictures were promptly found and turned over to the authorities. He of course was suspended from his teaching profession and from coaching. Eventually he was found not guilty of any wrong doing. He did what many parents do with small kids, took pictures of them while they were naked running around. I remember the pictures my parents had that came out around the time of the 16th birthday party or the time you brought the first boyfriend or girlfriend home. He is back teaching and coaching in the same position he was before all these allegations came out about him.

            That is a different situation than what you suggest above though. If you don’t get prosecuted for rape yet end up with a civil liability against you I am unsure how that is reported during a background search. With no convictions I don’t see why you would be unable to get another job in teaching. You should be able to get another teaching job. We are all supposed to be presumed innocent unless proven otherwise.

            P.S. You seem like you are a great teacher. Your teaching posts are most amazing so it would be a real shame if you were unable to keep teaching.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Just Me says:


              Thanks for your kind words. Because I love what I do, I am particularly mindful of the different boundaries that exist for male teachers. Fair or not, that is the world I live in and except in the most extreme situations, I opt not to rail against them, for two primary reasons:
              1.) Believe it or not, railing against them is often looked at suspiciously… “Hmmm… why is he so determined to take pictures of the children? Must be up to something!”
              2.) As a straight, white, Christian, middle-class, cis-gendered male, rarely does my identity work against me. That doesn’t make the double-standard any less of an issue, but gives me a bit of perspective of how much I should upset the balance for what amount to rather minor inconveniences.

              Now, if I were to face or see another male teacher facing a real injustice, such as the one described here, you can bet I would speak out about them. The situation you describe is ridiculous, with the gender of the participants no doubt playing a part in the level of ridiculousness. I’m glad that it was rectified.

              And while the teacher was ultimately re-hired, I’m sure there are people in the community who still doubt him… unfairly… and which could have repercussions, large or small, going forward. And those would likely be compounded if he faced rape charges versus “just” pornography charges.

              Ultimately, it’s really hard to assess the role that celebrity plays in such situations. And while you may indeed be right that the quoted section represents the reality for athletes, I am a *bit* more comfortable assigning additional responsibilities based on chosen professions than on biological sex… not necessarily comfortable… but a bit moreso.Report

  9. Burt Likko says:

    So much of this — both what Ms. Maxwell said and how people reacted to it and what this marvelous post is about — comes down to application of the principle of charity, something we periodically get explicit about in these pages.

    The worst I would accuse Ms. Maxwell of is overstating the effect of this principle of charity in a rape accusation situation. She may be guilty of a clumsy turn of phrase. Nothing more.

    Are there women who make unfounded accusations of rape? Yes. That’s part of why we have a criminal justice system with procedural protections for the accused.

    Are there women who make legitimate accusations of rape? Yes. That’s part of why we have a criminal justice system at all.

    So let’s say Woman W comes to some sort of authority figure and says, “Man M raped me.” Woman W is presumed to be making that statement in good faith, until an objective good-faith investigator acquires some evidence to the contrary.

    Charitably, humanely, compassionately, and seriously responding to Woman W’s accusation is not the same thing as presuming than Man M is guilty of the crime of rape.

    The principle of charity does not require “believing” Woman W in the sense of presuming the veracity of her accusation. It does, however, require assuming that she makes this accusation in good faith. It requires not slut-shaming her. It requires a reasonable and fair search for evidence — both evidence that may tend to corroborate W’s story and evidence which may tend to exculpate M. It requires — OMG — an objective and impartial look at the facts and circumstances of the event in question, something that must be done on a case-by-case basis.

    This turns out to be difficult (and expensive). Nevertheless it is imperative that we try.Report

    • Kim in reply to Burt Likko says:

      I thought we had a criminal justice system so that the guy goes to prison instead of getting his balls chopped off???
      (the… umm… “metaphor” … is Japanese).Report

    • zic in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Thank you for this, Burt. Thank you.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Currently, what’s imperative about the exculpation of Defendant M in every such case is most excellently summarised in that adjective “Expensive”. The difficult part goes without saying but the Expensive part seems important to emphasise. A very wise word, “expensive”. A good lawyer is worth every penny you will ever pay her. Worth your life, in fact. Bail is also a considerable expense. And we wonder why prisons are full of the poor.

      For there is that little matter of surviving incarceration while waiting as that Reasonable and Fair Search goes forward. That, too, is Difficult in these cases. Even the dregs of society will rush to judgement. If prison justice is swift and sharp, the wheels of criminal justice are methodical and they are slow. Often, they are stopped entirely and go in reverse. And when they do, it is most helpful in these cases to have a pit bull defense attorney on the job, though sometimes they are a bit hard to reach on the prison telephone system. They’re busy people.

      When it comes to Standing Up to Society’s Shit Shaming, one must be strong and bear up, as one is stripped naked and processed into the jail. One mustn’t take it to heart when one’s orifices are probed, it’s a security precaution: everyone must endure it. One’s Shit can’t be Shamed, anyway, they’re wearing a glove and by that point, one is pretty much past shame and nobody ever died of shame. Or so we’re told. There are worse things than dying. Trust me.

      And for the record, you’re nobody special when you’re naked and being processed in. You only become Special when your charge becomes known in General Pop — and then you become Very Special. Oh yes you do.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Excellent summation. What are you, a lawyer?Report

  10. KatherineMW says:

    This, of course, substituting rape for incarceration, is what the world already looks like for women.

    That is a truly awesome line in a very good piece.

    I’ve always had issues with the question of how we deal with rape cases. I think we’d have taken great strides forward if we simply got away from any assumptions of “she was asking for it because of her clothes/location/drunkenness” when it comes to rape accusations, and if any judge who made comments along those lines (and I have seen transcripts of ones who did so, which absolutely shocked me) was immediately removed from office on the basis of being incapable of ruling on any case in a non-bigoted way. That’s the most basic thing to start with. If someone left their door unlocked as had their house robbed, you might think them imprudent, but you wouldn’t likely assume that a thief was therefore justified in robbing them, or that they wished to be robbed.

    Another thing that needs to change is that when there is physical evidence, it needs to be tested right away – the non-testing of a lot of rape kits is unjustifiable.

    Beyond that, things get more complicated, because as you note, we’ve got “innocent until proven guilty” combined with a crime that is inherently almost always a case of he-said-she-said and that typically lacks physical evidence. I’m not sure your solution is the best way of dealing with this, but I haven’t come up with another one, either – so I appreciate that you’re proposing it and backing it up with a reasonable argument.

    The social hostility towards rape accusations is one of the major deterrents towards both true and false claims, so if there was an automatic assumption of truth, it’s reasonable to assume we would have more false claims than we currently do. In addition, an accusation doesn’t have to be false to be incorrect – I’ve no expert, but I’ve read some articles on how common it is for eyewitness identification of people to be wrong, and if a person was intoxicated her memory might be poorer than typical. A person can be telling the truth about being raped and be incorrect in identifying the perpetrator – and then what do we do?Report

    • James Hanley in reply to KatherineMW says:

      Detroit alone has over 10,000 untested rape kits, and there are perhaps half a million nationwide. We have actual evidence, right there, that could bring perpetrators to justice, and we’re not using it. Appalling is not a strong enough word to describe ths state of affairs.Report

  11. NewDealer says:

    I am not so fond of being the inspiration for this post and it is one of the reasons I wrote I was stepping into controversy but I did not mean any Constitutional/Jurisprudential argument as meaning to distract or dissent from Ms. Maxwell’s arguments or broader points.


  12. Rufus F. says:

    Here’s the thing that keeps bugging me, particularly with regards to Stubenville- I’m very, very okay with rapists being treated harshly by the criminal justice system and I want it to be much more sympathetic to victims, but I can’t really think of a punishment that would make rapists less likely to rape in the future. I’m not sympathetic to the CNN line about these being nice young men whose lives were cut short, which sounds to me about like “aside from being a pedophile, he was a great Scout master…” But, even if we send all the rapists to jail, to be raped themselves most likely, does anybody think that will create a world in which men don’t rape? It seems like the discussion places so much emphasis on what to do in the inevitability of someone raping someone else and there’s so little understanding of how we prevent that from being a potentiality in the first place.Report

    • Nob Akimoto in reply to Rufus F. says:

      It seems to me a culture where we say “No, taking advantage of a passed out drunk girl is rape” goes toward setting a different set of cultural norms that makes prevention more of a possibility than one where it’s considered acceptable behavior or “just guys being guys”.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        Oh, please. I grew up in the culture and not once, not ever, did I hear from a parent, older sibling, teacher, friend, friend’s older sibling, fellow scout, classmate, book, pop song, movie, or anyone else that taking advantage of a passed out drunk girl is anything but rape. So, if it’s a cultural norm, it’s one that I, and pretty much everyone I know, remained completely oblivious to. Actually, there was one close friend of mine who was assaulted while passed out at a party years before I met her- she said that once she woke up, fought the rapist off and told someone, the men at the party found the guy and beat him half to death. Frankly, I have a really hard time believing that American culture somehow sees raping a passed out drunk girl as acceptable behavior.Report

        • Kimmi in reply to Rufus F. says:

          Hi, I’m from America. The place where fratboys passed out a daterape recipe to their entire dorm (my friend, not a fratboy, was not amused). This despite the ample availability of happy-go-lucky women.

          … those “charming” fratboys used nitrous oxide as well (I believe intake of that was purely voluntary. no clue about the aftermath).Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Rufus F. says:

      Kill da babies! Kill da babies!

      yes, I’m utterly serious.
      Abortion is a good way to prevent rape from being a potentiality in the first place.

      LEGAL rape (as in completely and totally unprosecutable because the man “didn’t do anything WRONG by removing a woman’s ability to give consent — because he didn’t do it CHEMICALLY) is done by a certain subset of men. I’m not going to say it breeds true in a family, but there’s certainly genetic predispositions.

      On top of that, part of the goal of these rapists is to reproduce. Take it away, and you remove one of the incentives to rape.Report

  13. DRS says:

    Here’s the proper response to the Stuebenville issue:


    And a good youtube video to boot!Report