Sunday, April 14, 2013

Rape, and a Little Reality

So, another sad example of male privilege and victim-blaming came to light last week, when Canadian teen Rehtaeh Parsons hanged herself after the RCMP decided that it didn't have enough to act on, and closed the case. Despite one of the four boys having circulated evidence of him committing the crime (which also constitutes child pornography, incidentally). Despite the fact that it took hacker group Anonymous about two hours to find the names of the four boys involved.

Backed against a wall, the RCMP agreed to reopen the case. So, bravo, Anonymous.

This case is remarkably similar to the Steubenville, Ohio rape case, in which two teens took advantage of a drunk underage girl to abuse her when she couldn't fight back. In both cases, the victim was blamed for being a slut, when they were both unconscious (or all but) at the time. In both cases, the police tried to cover it up, and members of Anonymous wouldn't let them.

The Far Right (and some other idiots) practically dryhumped the Steubenville story, trying to empathize with the rapists and saying it was the victim's fault (because, after all, all men rape - they can't help themselves, right?).

Easily the weirdest reaction, though, came from a libertarian college professor, who put it this way:
Let’s suppose that you, or I, or someone we love, or someone we care about from afar, is raped while unconscious in a way that causes no direct physical harm — no injury, no pregnancy, no disease transmission. (Note: The Steubenville rape victim, according to all the accounts I’ve read, was not even aware that she’d been sexually assaulted until she learned about it from the Internet some days later.) Despite the lack of physical damage, we are shocked, appalled and horrified at the thought of being treated in this way, and suffer deep trauma as a result. Ought the law discourage such acts of rape? Should they be illegal?...

As long as I’m safely unconscious and therefore shielded from the costs of an assault, why shouldn’t the rest of the world (or more specifically my attackers) be allowed to reap the benefits?
Now, I'm not going to try to refute his argument directly (if you aren't sociopathic, the answer should be obvious). What I'm going to point out is this:
A. Following that logic out to its obvious conclusion, there is no private possession of any item. This is more extensive than anything ever suggested by any follower of communism or socialism.

By this reasoning, nobody should ever be allowed to take their keys with them after they drive to work; while you're in your office, other people should be allowed to use your car. After all, if they refill the gas and return it before you leave for the day, there's no problem, right?

Nor can you lock your door: people should be allowed to have parties in your house while you aren't there, shouldn't they? As long as they clean up after themselves, no harm, no foul, right?

(Let's just pretend that there's no such thing as "depreciation" in the tax code: these are his thought experiments, not mine.)

B. Would you like to guess why the Right Wing is losing the idiotically-named "War on Women"? It's fascinating how this argument joins up with the abortion question: it's all the same. Dr Landsburg doesn't expand on his rape-apology in the way that I just did, because that's where it breaks down. In his view, not only is a woman's body just property (and not property that she controls, by the way), but it isn't even as important as his house, or his car. She's just there to be used by other people.
This is why the Right Wing is roughly as popular as chlamydia in most polls.


Jorge R. said...

The professor’s premises are incongruent with his reasoning. He stipulates the following conditions for the rape that he contends should be legal: “while unconscious in a way that causes no direct physical harm…” and “safely unconscious and therefore shielded from the costs of an assault...” However, him being unconscious or conscious is inconsequent to physical harm, as that does not make the act any safer or more dangerous in this regard. If he is not being harmed by a certain act when unconscious, the exact same act would not physically harm him if conscious.

From this, two deductions arise in an exclusive disjunction, either: a) his argument is also valid when conscious, which contradicts his premise; or b) that the “costs of the assault” would not be just physical. I’ll proceed accepting the second deduction as true, and will presume those other “costs” are psychological and emotional, which, he acknowledges, isn’t avoided even if the assault occurs when the victim is unconscious.

“[W]e are shocked, appalled and horrified at the thought of being treated in this way, and suffer deep trauma as a result.” He affirms explicitly that deep trauma is suffered and not just by the victim, but also by the loved ones of the victim, and since the trauma isn’t physical (he himself rules it out), I’ll go ahead and presume it is psychological and emotional.

Thus, as I have argued and he himself admits explicitly and tacitly, the premise that being unconscious means one is “shielded from the costs of an assault” is false and demonstrably so, and, just like that, the professor’s entire argument falls apart.

Now, to save his argument he could simply add another condition: not ever finding out that the assault occurred, which would effectively shield the victim and loved ones from all the “costs of an assault”, if the other conditions he describes are also met. However, if the victim and his or her loved ones never find out, it is impossible for them to pursue legal action against the perpetrator, thus it is irrelevant to even debate whether such a thing should be legal or not.

Murr Brewster said...

If only chlamydia didn't keep spreading.

Jorge R. said...

had not considered this initially, but the possibility exists that he presumes that him being unconscious means he won’t pose resistance and reasons that posing resistance presents the risk of physical harm if they intend to restrain him. But it is possible to restrain him completely (preventing any struggle) without physically harming him.

I’ll exemplify this by placing the professor in a hypothetical scenario. Say the assailants are five, physically strong men. Four could immobilize his limbs while the fifth one penetrates him. Their grip needs not harm him and, if strong enough, he will not even be able to struggle. Anal penetration can produce tearing, but not always. So as long the guy penetrating him uses lube and is gentle, the professor should suffer no physical harm whatsoever.

Were the professor unconscious, the rapist wouldn’t need accomplices and if he were to penetrate him in the same manner, there would also be no physical harm.

So my point still stands. Being unconscious/conscious during the assault is inconsequent to whether physical harm comes to the victim. One could be conscious during the attack and still get through it physically unscathed. So either the professor’s argument also applies to rape when the victim is conscious (and the conditions he describes are met), or the professor concedes that physical harm is not the only harm experienced as a result of being raped.

Nameless Cynic said...

I will state for the record, Jorge, that you might just be putting a little too much thought into this.

A valid point, but the level of detail you get into is fascinating, from a psychosexual point of view.