How Is Rape Like A Hurricane?
It isn’t. But I keep seeing commenters in threads act as though rape arises from some natural law, as an unavoidable consequence of a woman’s actions, instead of being the conscious act of a criminal wrongdoer. Usually this arises when some rape apologist on a thread gets called out for policing the victim’s behavior rather than discussing the rapist’s. I could cast around for examples in various threads, but I don’t have to because probably every reader I give a shit about will recall an example of exactly what I’m talking about.
I said earlier that I would post a companion piece to my post on the O’Byrne paper, discussing another piece of social psychology literature that is useful in analyzing online discussion or rape. This is that.
O’Byrne et al. refer to two types of causation, Type 1, or “natural” causation, and Type 2, or “moral” causation. The paper says:
Jason is the first to address Kyle’s introduction of the topic. Despite having previously claimed that ‘girls are usually fairly apt at letting blokes know when it’s not on’, and also that their being ‘cold to a certain extent’ is readily ‘hearable’ as a refusal to have sex (in data reproduced in O’Byrne et al., he too immediately invokes the miscommunication model to account for rape. However, he omits any reference to the ‘perpetrator’ and their ability to interpret ‘signals’ in the explanation that he provides, and
instead emphasizes a non-specific ‘you’, who does not ‘give a verbal ‘‘no’’’, as the prime agent accountable for rape. This claim is accomplished by producing the account in terms of causality—‘if you don’t give a verbal ‘‘no’’ then you’re up shit creek’ (our emphasis). What makes this claim so powerful is that it is based in what Sacks describes as Type 1 (‘natural’) causality (e.g. if you touch the stove [then] you will burn your hand) when in practice Type 2 (‘moral’) causality (e.g. if you are insincere [then] no-one will love you) is operative This effectively positions his claim as a ‘universal truth’ . By doing so the effect (being ‘up shit creek’) is constructed quite simply as the inevitable and natural result of the cause (‘not giving ‘a verbal ‘‘no’’’). The implication is, therefore, that if the abstract (and hence generalized) ‘you’ do ‘give a verbal ‘‘no’’’ then ‘you’ will not be raped. As such, he not only attributes the cause of rape solely to the victim but, in addition, the sole responsibility for rape prevention.
[P. 179, internal citations omitted, emphasis supplied.]
In most threads in feminist spaces, there are folks who do a good job of identifying the game; spotting when the apologist is trying to erase the rapist from rape and treating it as a natural phenomenon instead of a crime. I quote this not because feminists don’t see it, but because we do, though I think many of us (myself included until I read the paper) are not aware that the phenomenon is a known quantity within the social psychology literature. It adds force to the argument to say that this tactic has a name and a history.
The O’Byrne paper contains long segments of transcript from focus groups where a handful of young men discuss rape, mostly dodging it and explaining it away. It is cringe-inducing material, though also enlightening. I encourage folks to read it, and I think it generally supports what I said at the end of Meet The Predators about men refusing to tell other men that rapists have a social license to operate.