Emily Yoffe’s Rape Apologism: Some Very Quick Thoughts
I have not been writing much due to other demands on my time. However, sometimes things happen and I feel it’s just too important to sit out. I don’t really have time to write, so I’ll do what I can now and then try to add more later.
I’m not linking to Yoffe’s piece. You can find it. It’s infuriating. It’s long, thoughtful, and morally bankrupt. Because this is a habit of mind with Yoffe, I’m really personally angry at her and I think she needs to lose her job, but I’ll take that up in another piece. I don’t think Yoffe is just wrong about a thing that people reason together about. I think Yoffe is doing harm, that she’s throwing up her hands and declaring that the rapists won, and there’s nothing we can do about it except to try to avoid them. Basically, it’s the “weather system” theory of rape. That’s wrong. Saying that will not protect anyone, will not help fix the problem, and actually makes it easier for people to stop attempts to hold rapists accountable.
What she said, basically, is that if women don’t want to get raped, they shouldn’t drink with boys. She tosses in the occasional aside that she blames the perpetrators. I’ve addressed that sort of thing here already and I’ll quote only briefly:
The argument will proceed from the dreaded BUT to focus on what SHE did, and how wrong and stupid it was, and ultimately conclude that if women just curtailed their behavior in one or several additional ways, the problem would be solved.
The sort of disclaimer Yoffe deploys — the sort that says of course the perpetrators are solely responsible but … that sort of disclaimer is utterly without value, or as Tyrion Lannister of the G.R.R. Martin canon said, “nothing someone says before the word ‘but’ really counts.”
Here’s the real objection I have to Yoffe: she belongs to the surrender caucus. Not only implicit, but really explicit in her analysis is that we can’t or won’t do anything to hold the perpetrators accountable. She cites Lisak, so she obviously knows and doesn’t contest that the rapists are doing it on purpose, that they use alcohol a tactic. But she instead of looking for ways to treat the disease — the repeat rapists, and the social constructs that allow them to get away with it, rape culture and more particularly, the Social License to Operate — she argues at length for treating the symptom. She gives up on catching and punishing them, in favor of telling women that they can’t do something men take for granted the right to do.
That’s pragmatic, she argues. But it’s not pragmatic. It’s negotiating with terrorists. That’s a loaded word. But when a small portion of the male population keeps virtually all women in fear and causes them to curtail their freedoms to avoid violence, doesn’t it fit? The argument Yoffe makes would follow if she bought the story that most rape is miscommunication, a story that she seems to understand is discredited. But it doesn’t fit with the story she seems to acknowledge, which is that the problem is the repeat rapists who know that what they do is wrong and do it anyway using the tactics least likely to get them caught.
If the presence of women, men and alcohol together is a catalyst for mostly men to commit criminal acts of rape, then why are the women the element to remove from the equation? Ann Friedman picked that up right away.
Look, people whose response to terrorists is, “let’s give them what they want and maybe they’ll leave us alone” are both cowardly and immoral. We heard a lot of patriotic chest-beating in the Bush years about how some people hate freedom. But there’s a kernel of truth there, the old saw that is a very rough paraphrase from Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac, those who give up liberty for a little temporary security deserve neither. The people who are full of “pragmatic” advice about how not to “get raped,” well, their advice always comes down to the same thing: curtail your liberty for security. That’s un-American. Those people really do hate us for our freedom.
I won’t believe any of those people are serious about stopping rape until they actually do something to hold a rapist accountable.
There’s a challenge, Emily. Go find a rapist and make something happen: prosecution, expulsion, public shaming, removal from the party invite list — I am not being facetious. Something, anything. Go blame a rapist and try to make it stick. Go. Now.