Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Just Say It

And while we're talking about religious narratives and female sexuality and virginity and the value of a female person, there's this:
A senior Egyptian general admits that "virginity checks" were performed on women arrested at a demonstration this spring, the first such admission after previous denials by military authorities.

The general said the virginity checks were done so that the women wouldn't later claim they had been raped by Egyptian authorities.

"We didn't want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren't virgins in the first place," the general said. "None of them were (virgins)."
Did you get that last bit? Mind-blowing isn't it?

Or maybe not.

Cuz really, how is this different from our cultural beliefs about rape, and who can be raped, and under what conditions? Why else do we spend so much time investigating the sexual habits of women who claim they were raped? I mean, if she would voluntarily sleep with Joe on Tuesday, then can we believe her claim that she didn't consent to sex with Bob on Wednesday? If she was seen dancing with or leaving the bar with a man on one occasion, then doesn't that mean she gave blanket consent to all men in all bars on all occasions for any sexual activity they might wish to engage in with her?

Of course, if asked these questions point-blank we'll claim that we don't believe that. But look around at the reporting on - and discussions that follow - rape cases, and you'll see that we pretty much do believe these things. So maybe our attitudes are a little less extreme than the ones being voiced by this Egyptian general, and for sure most people would never actually say out loud the things they think about women who "get themselves raped." But the attitudes are still there, and a person can't live within a culture without being aware of these unspoken beliefs.

Which is another factor in our fascination with/horror about the Elizabeth Smart story. I mean, there she was, modestly dressed, not drinking alcohol, not walking down a dark alley, being a virgin, in her parents' home. And she got raped. How could that happen? Don't you have to do something to entice men to rape you? It contradicts everything we "know" about rape.

In other, sort of related news...

If you read the rest of the article at CNN, you'll also find that the prison sentences most of these protesters had received have now been revoked, because some of the detainees had university degrees. Not because they had good reason to protest or they were just being used as an example or because maybe they really were guilty of some crime but now there's a lot of international pressure on Egypt to mind its human rights bidness. No. It's because they had university degrees so they should be given an extra chance.

In America we're not classist, so we would never admit that the justice system went easy on a defendant because s/he was educated or wealthy or had good connections. We'd never say it. Right out loud like that. That would be embarrassing. But again, what's the difference, really?

It's almost refreshing that this guy will say this stuff right out loud. It's honest in a way that we're not. And when you're willing or able to articulate your cultural beliefs and attitudes like that - you make this stuff explicit - then the mind has a chance to critically engage with it.

For instance, if I said to you "if you drink x brand of beer, then hot chicks will love you. They'll come out of fucking nowhere and rub their bodies all over you as soon as you crack that can/bottle open," you would find that laughable. Or if I said to you "women are the only ones who are competent enough to do housework, and anyway, cleaning the house makes them deliriously happy," no doubt you would argue with me.* And yet, you've had these messages communicated to you over and over and over again, and you've probably never really thought about it. But no doubt you've internalized it.

If you took an implicit association test, you'd be much faster at connecting female names (or pictures of women) with cleaning products than male names or pictures of men. You'd be much faster at connecting certain beer brands with adjectives that suggest sexual appeal than those brands that don't use the hot-girls-will-love-you advertising formula. No matter what you would explicitly say you believed about these things, somewhere in your head, these implicit beliefs have been safely planted and reinforced over and over and over again. The implicit association test tells us that, at some level, you got the message. You learned what the advertiser wanted you to learn. You absorbed the implicit belief without ever actually engaging intellectually with it.

So in a way, although the things this Egyptian dude will say right out loud are sort of shocking to me, I appreciate the fact that he'll say them. We can engage with a belief that's explicitly stated, and discuss what's right or wrong about it. But beliefs and attitudes that are implicitly held and communicated are much more insidious and hard to address. And that's why articulating the implicit beliefs behind media reporting and advertising and the discussions we have around issues like this is so damn important. Even if it makes you the stick in the mud or the oh-rape-jokes-are-funny-to-you? buzzkill or the uptight fat lesbian feminist in the room.

*In the latest estimates I've seen, the average American child will see over 600 images of women vacuuming before the age of 4, while they will see few or no images of men vacuuming. And although this wasn't included in the research, I'd bet a lot of those women were smiling, or at least acting content and happy.


  1. Anonymous5/31/2011

    Wow. I did not see where this post was going at all.

    I agree with you sort of, but I think we've made great strides in at least making things like marital rape and date rape an issue of public concern. I agree that the questions people ask about rape victims are often horribly offensive and reveal some really negative attitudes. But we're still light years ahead of what this guys is saying, right?

  2. I'm totally willing to be the uptight fat lesbian in the room. Fuck it.


  3. I honestly don't get it when someone makes a rape joke and then acts all offended when they're called on it. I feel like saying "you are offended because you made a rape joke and I called you on it? For real?" WTF? The way I see it, I'm not the buzzkill, the asswipe who thinks rape jokes are funny is the buzzkill.

  4. I think you're right about the Elizabeth Smart story. In cases like this the usual questions about what she was wearing or drinking that suggest that she caused her own rape are replaced with scrutiny of the family. Maybe the idea is that the family brought on the rape, since she didn't seem to do anything to cause it herself.

  5. Anonymous6/03/2011

    Well said! This is a great post.

  6. Anonymous6/06/2011

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Anonymous6/06/2011

    2 of 2

    Ms. Smart was kidnapped and raped by a religious fanatic who obviously deserves to be judged mentally ill. The Catholic Church clearly has some perverts that prey on innocent boys and girls using God as a cover and you’ve previously stated that your grandfather and uncle also hid behind their God. Religion has been used as an excuse for pretty much every kind of evil since the beginning of time so I guess it’s no surprise that some pervs hang out there too. Organized movements like religion and feminism are dangerous institutions. Neither depend upon empirical proof for the positions they so zealously support and if you don’t agree with them you clearly just don’t understand and need to be saved by more proselytizing, indoctrination, university studies or whatever Kool-Aid the believers are currently imbibing. It’s kind of the perfect scam and it has worked for years. Weak people who either can’t or don’t want to think on their own and can’t succeed in life on the basis of their personal or professional merit are eager and willing recruits as they then have an “evil other” to accuse and blame for their inability to live, compete and successfully function in the world that actually exists. Organized religion’s disturbing tendency to condemn anyone that doesn’t believe what they believe is not unlike the current progressive feminist trend to call thought and speech that they don’t agree with “Hate”. Unfortunately these organizations frequently also provide organizational cover for some really bad men and women.

    So I guess you and the Sisters of Perpetual Indignance should just keep seeing the evil in everything that doesn’t fit your worldview. Spend your lives being victims and trying to convince everyone that they are being persecuted. That way they’ll never take personal responsibility for their lives and they’ll go to their graves never knowing how great their lives could have been if they quit blaming others for their personal shortcomings and got their shit together. Quite a way to live.

    That Sisters of Perpetual Indignance thing is pretty damn funny, huh? I kinda feel like the Great and Powerful OZ in bestowing the honor. Maybe we’ll work up a certificate and you folks will be right up there with the Scarecrow, Lion and Tinman.

  8. Anonymous6/07/2011

    I told my partner you wouldn't have the balls to let my post rebutting your foolish rape analogy through and of course right I was right.

    I find it pretty ironic that a PhD working in what is supposed to be a bastion of free thought and speech doesn't have the guts to deal with the facts or even let them be heard.

    Appreciate the validation. It's shit like this that keeps you girls playing in the minors. Keep up the good work.

  9. Rape apologism isn't welcome in comments on this blog. It's nothing personal.

    Here's the thing you don't seem to understand, burn. Sex without consent is rape. I don't care how much alcohol a woman has had, it's still the obligation of the men around her to refrain from having sex with a person who has not consented. Period. Sex without consent equals rape, and anyone who is having sex with someone who hasn't consented (or isn't capable of giving consent) is a rapist. If you want to defend the behavior of predators and rapists, you're going to have to do it elsewhere.

  10. Rebutting? What did you rebut? Spewing a bunch of offensive bullshit about how women who drink too much Jagger deserve to get raped isn't a rebuttal of Rachel's position.

  11. cajones6/07/2011

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  12. Anonymous6/07/2011

    You folks are amazing. Rachel isn't honest enough to post the rebuttal and then misrepresents my position. Kinda interesting how k8 misquotes my comments to make it appear that I said anyone deserves to be raped when my comment was never even put up on the blog. How does that work? Appears that Prof Rachel is sharing with some of the class but not everyone. Not very fair but not surprising.

    Typical feminist misquotes and bullshit. I wish I could type in crayon, but let me slow down a bit for you. I don't support rape and never said I did. The fact that both of you goofs are trying to say I did just shows you for what you really are.

    What I did say is that all people have rights, including accused rapists. None of you have the right to ruin someones life without objective proof that a crime has taken place. Nor should anyone have the right to publish the name of an accused rapist any more than they should have the right to publish the name of someone who is claiming to have been raped. That's basic fairness, not that you care.

    You ladies should really pay more attention to what is going on in the world. It hasn't been lost on the general public what is going on in the current push for lowering the legal standard for rape. If you think the world is going to roll over and allow you and your minions to destroy the rule of law and basic constitutional rights of those that have been accused of a crime you're dreaming. You might also keep in mind that some you geniuses have fathers, husbands, boyfriends, brothers or sons that could have their lives ruined by a false rape accusation.

    Jezus. Your desire to absolve women of any responsibility for anything that happens in their lives says it all.

  13. I published all the comments that were piled up in moderation and then went back and deleted yours after the fact, burn. So it was there for a few minutes.

    I'm not sure where you got the idea that I was advocating for publishing the IDs of accused rapists or assume they're guilty until proven innocent or anything like that from this post. Perhaps you read that somewhere else and mistakenly attributed it to me?

  14. Anonymous6/14/2011

    I didn't say that you were personally advocating publishing the IDs of accused rapists. Maybe you've missed it, but that practice is pretty much SOP in the media as we have recently seen in several high profile rape accusation cases. There is a pretty standard model in the U.S. for rape now that assumes the guilt of the accused and that the accuser is a "victim" before any facts are established or the case tried.

    I get that the "victim thingy" is your reality and as I mentioned earlier, if you and your girlfriends just screw up your own lives due to that approach I'm fine with it. Where I'm not OK with it is when your victim model results in ruining innocent men's lives because people believe rape claims just because they've been stated.

    By the way if you're going to bounce posts that speak the truth just because the truth hurts your feelings you might as well just limit commenters to your students and other Fembots. Seems that's what is effectively going on in any case.

  15. Any comment that
    1) personally attacks another commenter, or
    2) uses sexist, racist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, etc language, or
    3) contains rape apologism or victim-blaming
    won't make it here. It has nothing to do with my feelings.

  16. Anonymous6/19/2011

    Bullshit. Frankly I could give a shit that you're academic elitist with a terminal persecution complex but please don't insult my intelligence by trying to act like you're being fair minded.

    At least man up enough to own your bias. A person could at least respect that.

    I think you've worked in academia so long you've fully assimilated the mindset that facts don't ever matter. It's always about subjective dogma and how you feel. Always. You can't argue on facts. You don't know how. My only suggestion to you is to make sure you stay in academia. It's the only place people like you can survive.