Note: Disturbing post which references rape and abuse.
This article percolated in my mind a bit, to somewhat disturbing results. Because of my perseverating nature, I easily linked the topic to my views on the social constructions of mental difference. Because of my pessimistic nature, I’m conflicted between validation and despair when I encounter writing that gives weight to a previous speculation of mine.
In this case, I was reminded of my earlier post about the new, feminist-friendly victim-blaming, and how it still operates from the same root premise as the bad old days’ victim-blaming: sexual abuse is a result of a characteristic of the victim, not a result of a characteristic of the abuser.
Take note of the rapist’s claims quoted in the article, and note the overlap with very common feminist and sexual-abuse-prevention claims:
- women are “damaged” by past experiences, which makes them self-conscious about their appearances;
- such self-conscious “damaged” women are easily manipulated;
- such women are desperate for male attention;
- males exploit this desperation;
- desperation renders relations non-consensual;
- “desperate, damaged” women in the process of being assaulted don’t realize what’s happening, or don’t admit it;
- women can’t be trusted to even know whether they’re being assaulted or not, which makes them easy to assault;
- women can spare themselves assault by being strong-willed and independent.
As repulsive as all this sounds coming from a rapist, think how similar it sounds to any number of hand-wringing feminist pieces about the crisis of Our Girls’ Self-Esteem.
Both present sexual assault as a cognitive deficiency of the victim rather than a moral deficiency of the perpetrator.
Being the victim of sexual assault is merely a natural result, a complication of a preexisting mental defect, like an injury getting infected and spreading. Be careful that cough doesn’t turn into pneumonia; be careful that insecure judgment doesn’t turn into rape.
That non-mentally-defective women can be assaulted too… that being assaulted isn’t proof of mental defect… that plenty of women escape difficult backgrounds without being left “self-conscious”… that women are actually capable of free will and discerning judgment, not automatic sunflowers drawn to the male attention they so crave…
None of this is acknowledged by the rapist—for obvious reasons. Or by most non-rapists—for less obvious reasons.
The pathologizing of victims and survivors of abuse blends with a softening of rhetoric against abusers, shifting a little bit of blame from abuser to victim in an attempt to create a vague gray area between consensual and non-consensual. Terms like “preying on,” “taking advantage of,” or “exploiting”—when applied to non-consensual assault—rhetorically weaken the force of the crime, while subtly infantilizing the victim. When these terms are applied to a consensual act, however, they create the implication of abuse where none exists and subtly infantilize one of the participants with the suggestion that she is incompetent to give meaningful consent. These terms aren’t appropriate in any context: a man who physically overpowers an unwilling partner is simply a rapist, an assailant, or an abuser. A man who undertakes a consensual relationship with a willing adult partner who may be ill, disabled, victimized, inexperienced, or neurodivergent is simply an open-minded lover. A word like “predator,” while attempting to encompass both men, encompasses neither, while doing disservice to both victims and willing partners.
Rapists are the only real beneficiaries this blurring of language and this attempt to create an ethical gray area where there is none.
Why should people, especially women, trip over themselves so much to validate a rapist’s worldview?
“Yes, Mr. Rapist, you’re right! We are desperate and damaged and easily manipulated and defective! But it’s wrong for you to take advantage of that! Very wrong! Bad rapist! Even though you’re totally right about us!”
No, Mr. Rapist, you are not right about us. The women you assaulted did not get assaulted because they were self-conscious, desperate, or damaged, or insufficiently strong-willed. You may believe this was the reason. You may believe this in order to make yourself feel better, less thuggish, more like you won a conquest, tricked them, trapped them, defeated them in a battle of wits. Or that they were suckers, weaklings, just waiting to be taken advantage of. But you’re wrong. You’re not a predator, hunter, seducer, pick-up artist, or exploiter. You don’t get that much credit. You’re just a thug who likes to physically overpower people smaller than yourself. The women you assaulted suffered this terrible experience because you physically overpowered them. Period.