I’ve been following comments to a recent post at Kiwipolitico with a sense of resigned deja vu.
Anita’s original post can be summarised:
The reality is that we all know people who rape, just as we all know people who have been raped. I’m talking about the fact some of the people we know have raped people they know, and they way they’ve talked about sex and dates and partners so we’ve had every opportunity to hear that true consent isn’t an issue for them.
This isn’t a women vs men issue – both men and women are raped, both women and men rape, and every single one of us is able to stop our friends and family raping.
I thought Anita was asking us to think about how we talk about sex with others, and encouraging people to talk about sex in ways which make it explicit mutual sex is desirable. By doing this, she’s suggesting the ways we think about sex and rape will change.
She’s been uber-careful with her language, pointing out rape is about lack of consent, and both men and women can be perpetrators and victims. She’s probably even underplayed the extent to which rape is gendered. Bluntly, rape is predominantly though not exclusively a crime perpetrated by men.
But the comments to this post are extraordinary, despite the carefulness of Anita’s main points. Several male commentators rock up to assert they don’t know anyone who rapes, and tell Anita why she might think otherwise:
poneke on January 31st, 2009 at 9:52 am
“The reality is that we all know people who rape”
Again, you speak only for yourself. Are you just setting out to be offensive? Or are you with those who say that any act of heterosexual sex is rape by the man involved?
My emphasis. And:
rainman on January 31st, 2009 at 10:02 am
Sorry, but no, we don’t. I honestly don’t know any rapists. Not saying it’s impossible for someone I know to lead a secret life or have a dodgy past, but most people I know would do something about it if we became aware of someone we know committing rape or any other major crime. Your reality may allow you to know “people who rape” without dealing to the issue, mine doesn’t.
rainman on February 1st, 2009 at 10:53 am
I have been enjoying Kiwipolitico so far but if it’s going to turn into a timewarp to tired old 60s “all men are rapists” feminism, y’know, there’s better things to have on my RSS feed list. Yes the gender problem is still here, but old thinking didn’t solve it then and won’t now. Clue up.
But perhaps my favourite:
Tom Semmens on February 1st, 2009 at 1:30 pm
As for your we all know men who rape that is completely offensive tosh, unless you have decided to apply some sort of radical feminist interpretation of what constitutes rape that is so broad as to demean the offence and render any sort of sensible discussion impossible.
As you often do Anita, you’ve had dogma brain explosion and taken your starting point to far.
It seems to be hard for some men to accept that as well as a victim of sexual violence, there is a perpetrator, and we may even know him – especially if we know a victim.
In raising the point even as gently as she has done, Anita has been characterised as a radical feminist who just might think all heterosexual sex is rape.
Shutting up feminist critique takes a variety of forms, from yelling at feminists they just “need a good shag” to telling us we’re not real feminists.
Then there is the technique of describing people as “pussies” when you think they are a little wimpy. Names for women’s bodies are pretty much always fair game I guess.
Time for me to come out.
I’m a radical feminist. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, this means I believe men, as a group, receive benefits and entitlements and access to resources denied to women, as a group.
It doesn’t mean I think all heterosexual sex is rape. It doesn’t mean I hate men. It doesn’t mean anything other than believing gender discrimination is a type of oppression which will not disappear if capitalism changes radically, will not disappear if skin colour were to become irrelevant to everyone’s life chances and experiences.
I don’t want to fight for things many liberal feminists believe in. I don’t want, for example, women to fight in armies anymore – or less – than I want men to fight in armies.
I believe sexual violence is the defining characteristic of gender discrimination. The possibility and reality of being raped, sexually harassed, leered at, groped, sexually assaulted etc change how all women live our lives. We have to think about the risk of sexual violence when we walk home at night, when we choose partners, when we get drunk.
This is soul destroying and ugly. It, quite literally, makes loving sexual relationships impossible for many, many women (and of course, some men.) And it does not disappear in communist societies. It did not lessen when apartheid began to be dismantled in South Africa.
Having a sensitive, careful discussion about how we might prevent rape dismantled by using “radical feminist” as a disparaging term disappoints me hugely. It should not be acceptable to any of us to see careful critiques of sexual violence shut down by characterising them as man-hating.
Just as it should not be acceptable to any of us to see careful critiques of Israeli aggression shut down by characterising them as anti-Semitic.
Hat tip to you Anita – and much solidarity from this radical feminist.