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Direct Line

April 9, 2010

I’m following up on yesterday’s post about people who aid and abet rape, providing the social license to operate, and I want to say something about what this means to the constant verbal marginalization and verbal violence against marginalized people. For brevity, I’ll talk about sex work, but I think the analysis operates far more broadly also.

Yesterday, I wrote both about the rapist’s friends who deliberately and knowingly or recklessly provided assistance while the actual rape was happening, and the DC police who stonewalled the survivor’s efforts to report. The continuum of assistance, though, runs from the friends who help the rapist physically isolate a target, through the folks that simply say things that tell the rapist that his behavior will be supported. I’ve written about that at some length.

There’s a continuum from laughing at rape jokes, through blocking the stairs. There’s a direct line from everything on that continuum, to rapists committing rape and getting away with it again and again. That line is longer at one end of the spectrum and shorter at the other, but it’s there.

I’ll quote for the millionth time one of the most quoted things my friend and YMY contibutor Kate Harding has written:

I get that you don’t really mean that shit. I get that you’re just talking out your ass.

But please listen, and please trust me on this one: you have probably, at some point in your life, engaged in that kind of talk with a man who really, truly hates women–to the extent of having beaten and/or raped at least one. And you probably didn’t know which one he was.

And that guy? Thought you were on his side.

As long as we live in a culture where the good guys sometimes sound just like the misogynists, the misogynists are never going to get the message that they are not normal and that most people–strong, successful men included–do not hate women.

[Emphasis omitted.]

Not just at some point. One in twenty at least. And if we sound like those guys, they think we’re on their side.

The very same thing happens when people join groups in support of killing sex workers; make tee shirts about killing sex workers and tell jokes about killing sex workers. Sadly, there are really people in the world who like to hurt and kill sex workers. Participating in that humor tells these people that they have support; and that what they think (if not how they act on it) is normal.

But more than that, it tells everyone else that the attitudes expressed in those jokes and groups and tee shirts is normal. And there is a direct line from supporting those attitudes, to this: a jury who won’t convict a man for what he clearly did, despite his admitted violent assault, on a woman who was acting within the scope of her lawful employment.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 9, 2010 10:52 pm

    I think part of the problem about men not calling out other men on their misogyny is the false stereotype about the Stranger Rapist. Rapists can’t be your best friend, or your dad, or your son, or your coworker, or any other man in YOUR life because rapists are faceless/nameless psycho-creepsters who jump out of bushes and can never pass as just a regular guy. If this is your idea of a rapist, it’s hard NOT to sympathize with Regular Joe who occasionally goes too far and ends up “making a mistake.”

    Keep up the good work of dispelling these myths!

  2. April 14, 2010 9:35 am

    It finally clicked. Abusers overestimate the amount of abuse taking place, because of this enabling behaviour. They consider their behaviour much more normal then it is, because we discuss it so callously. (=>it that English?) Because we treat it -verbally- as a joke.

    That took me long to figure out.

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