I support rape – who knew?

23 Jun

I recently came across this post, about how to identify a male rape supporter. The phrasing squicked me out a bit, but hey, I have definitely had some nasty surpises in terms of learning that guys I was dating weren’t quite so pro-feminism and sex-positive as I’d thought, so I gave it a bit of a read.

But I’d forgotten the Rule of Sex-Negative People: anything to do with sex that makes them feel uncomfortable is not OK, and might actually be rape. So according to this post, the following things are signs a dude might be a Rape Supporter. I chose these to highlight because they are actually things that apply to me, a feminist woman:

He characterizes prostitution as a “legitimate” “job” “choice” or defends men who purchase prostitutes.

First off, nice scare quotes. I absolutely think prostitution is a legitimate job choice. I worry about safety, and it sickens me that many involved in the industry are not there fully of their volition, but I believe that is entirely separate from the question of whether or not it’s a legitimate choice for a woman to make. Also, customers do not “purchase” prostitutes any more than your boss “purchases” you.

He has gone to a strip club.

I’ve been to strip clubs. Not on my top-100 list of favorite ways to spend a Saturday night, but I’ve gone, because the concept is interesting and I wanted to better understand it.

He is pro-”choice” because he believes abortion access will make women more sexually available.

Well, that’s certainly not the only reason, but I know that I’m a lot more “sexually available” when I know that the consequence of an “oops” doesn’t need to be fundamentally life-altering. Abortion, along with preventative birth control, makes both women and men more “available for sex” and that’s a good thing, dammit.

He frames discussions of pornography in terms of “freedom of speech.”

Yes, freedom of speech is indeed something that exists and protects porn. You don’t get to suspend freedom of speech for things you don’t agree with – that’s the whole point.

He watches pornography in which women are depicted.

I suspect the blogger left out some words here, so I won’t be too mean, but – ah, fuck it. So, what if he watches porn that only depicts men? Is that ok? Why? Because men “can’t be raped”?

He watches any pornography in which sexual acts are depicted as a struggle for power or domination, regardless of whether women are present.

Ah, that’s my favorite kind of porn. I actually got a little turned on just reading this one.

He characterizes the self-sexualizing behavior of some women, such as wearing make-up or high heels, as evidence of women’s desire to “get” a man.

Well, that’s not always what it’s about, but that’s what it’s about sometimes, no? There’s a universe of difference between acknowledging that sometimes women do want to have sex with men and being a rape apologist.

He expresses enjoyment of movies/musicals/TV shows/plays in which women are sexually demeaned or presented as sexual objects

This is damn near all media. And I don’t enjoy it for the sexual objectification (I’m less into vague, culturally-mandated objectification, and more into consensual, “you’re my fucktoy, aren’t you?” objectification) but, honestly, I’ve been conditioned to not even really notice it any more unless it’s super-obvious. And I was a women’s studies major!

He supports sexual “liberation” and claims women would have more sex with (more) men if society did not “inhibit” them.

Well, this entire blog is devoted to sexual liberation, and I would definitely have had more sex with more men if society (and radical feminism was a big part of this) had not inhibited me from accepting my kinks.

He defends the physical abuse of women on the grounds of “consent.”

Um, I kinda think she’s talking about BDSM here, and that’s totally not cool. And again, the scare-quotes around consent really piss me off. I guess my consent is invalid?

He argues that people (or just “men”) have sexual “needs.”

Wait, what? Of course people have sexual needs. I do find it irritating when people say that only men have sexual needs, but that’s because we all do.

He defends these actions by saying that some women also engage in them.

Oh hey, I see what you did there.

So I suppose I’m a rape supporter. But wait, hey, I’m a woman, not a man, so I guess I’m not?

This gets to the heart of what I find so deeply disturbing about many sex-negative feminists approaches to the “sex wars:” it’s almost as if women are non-actors. We can’t really give consent to things they find icky, like so-called “abuse,” and it doesn’t matter whether we watch porn, because obviously only men like things like that. So if we’re watching porn or being “abused” (or are engaged in sex work) it’s because our boyfriends made us do it, or maybe we were just brainwashed by the patriarchy. How fucking disempowering is that?

This is all kinds of messed up. For one thing, it trivializes consent. If we can’t actually consent to things, consent ceases to matter.

Second, it completely erases female desire and, worse, erases women with “problematic” desires. I had a bit of fun pointing out the ways that I identified with many of these “rape-supporter red flags” because I am now comfortable with my sexuality.

But if I had read this when I was in college, when my deepest, darkest secret was that I got off almost exclusively to rape stories on Literotica, I would have felt horrible. Sure, I would have known this was silly and over-the-top, but there would have been a part of me that would have said “see, you really are a bad person for having these fantasies.” I know this because that actually was how I felt, and that feeling was a big factor in why it took me so long to accept my sexuality.

Look, this is not my first time at the Feminism Rodeo by a long shot. The whole “rape culture” idea is based on the idea that women are sexual objects to be used by men, and I agree with that, to an extent (being a social scientist, I can’t totally agree with it because it’s never been proven in a peer-reviewed study). However, I think another thing that encourages rape is the idea that women are not independent sexual beings with their own desires and agency. And posts like the one I’m talking about reinforce that idea.

Also, it’s one thing to say “we live in a culture with narratives that promote rape” and whole other to say “you are a rape supporter if you do or say any of these things that, by my own admission, most men do or say.”

But really, the post pissed me off because I actually take rape seriously. Porn does not cause rape*, and being sexist does not cause rape. I’ve known “nice, aware” feminist guys who were rapists, and traditional, conservative guys who spoke up vociferously at even the slightest hint of a rape joke.

Rape is a specific act that occurs when a person’s sexual consent is violated. It’s a crime that needs to be taken seriously, not taken advantage of by those who want to push an anti-sex agenda.

Hat-tip to Dissenting Leftist, for alerting me to this post!

* According to RAINN, sexual assault rates have gone down by 60% since 1993, roughly the same time period that porn became widely available on the internet. This is actually an amazing feminist victory that we don’t hear enough about.

18 Responses to “I support rape – who knew?”

  1. k June 24, 2011 at 12:41 AM #

    Oh very interesting. I wrote about a bdsm consensual rape scene (no square quotes;) in my last post. Reading yours was affirming.

    • feministsub June 24, 2011 at 10:03 AM #

      I’m glad to hear this was affirming. I’ll check out your post when I’m not at work. 😀

  2. Dia June 24, 2011 at 3:32 AM #

    The intent of that list was to illustrate how many ways our culture is pro-rape, and what parts of our culture normalizes rape. The point of her article, whether I agree with it or not, is that “Men in our culture have been hugely desensitized to rape, these are things that would not stand up in an anti-rape society” not “Any man who does this will rape you”. Her article rests on the idea that a man who is not actively anti-rape is a rape supporter.

    However, you take a few ridiculous jabs at “sex negative” feminism that are completely unfounded. Firstly, “sex negative” as a label is misleading because “sex negative” feminists are not, in fact, sex negative. They are pro-consent, anti-rape culture in all of its form, and against anything that promotes the objectification of women. Calling anti-porn feminists “sex negative” because you identify as “sex positive” is tantamount to “pro-life”rs calling people who are pro-choice “anti-life”.

    “I suspect the blogger left out some words here, so I won’t be too mean, but – ah, fuck it. So, what if he watches porn that only depicts men? Is that ok? Why? Because men “can’t be raped”?”

    Your comment to this is so off base, in her own list she clearly states that she believes male-on-male power struggles are rape-supportive. It’s fallacious so suggest that she believes men can’t be raped. There were no words left out, she is saying porn with women involved whether physically present in the porn or otherwise represented/depicted is rape supportive.

    “Ah, that’s my favorite kind of porn. I actually got a little turned on just reading this one. ”

    Her point still stands, considering your absolute lack of take down or commentary.

    “Um, I kinda think she’s talking about BDSM here, and that’s totally not cool. And again, the scare-quotes around consent really piss me off. I guess my consent is invalid?”

    What if she is talking about BDSM? What if she believes that a man who enjoys watching women be physically abused for his own sexual pleasure makes him a rape supporter? A woman consenting to physical abuse does not negate the implications of a man enjoying it.

    “Wait, what? Of course people have sexual needs. I do find it irritating when people say that only men have sexual needs, but that’s because we all do.”

    “We can’t really give consent to things they find icky, like so-called “abuse,” and it doesn’t matter whether we watch porn, because obviously only men like things like that. So if we’re watching porn or being “abused” (or are engaged in sex work) it’s because our boyfriends made us do it, or maybe we were just brainwashed by the patriarchy. ”

    This is completely ignorant. Anti-porn feminists are wholly aware that some women enjoy porn and *gasp* BDSM. Anti-porn feminists are aware of the agency women have in deciding whether they do or do not want to watch porn. Anti-porn feminists aren’t making excuses for yours, or anyone’s, use of pornography; they disagree with it regardless.

    “This is all kinds of messed up. For one thing, it trivializes consent. If we can’t actually consent to things, consent ceases to matter. ”

    See above point.

    “I think another thing that encourages rape is the idea that women are not independent sexual beings with their own desires and agency. And posts like the one I’m talking about reinforce that idea.”

    How does her post enforce the idea that women are without agency? So far the only person to claim that women are without agency is you, referring to your decision that anti-porn women think that women who use porn are not actually deciding to do so and instead are doing so because of a man, in one way or another.

    “Also, it’s one thing to say “we live in a culture with narratives that promote rape” and whole other to say “you are a rape supporter if you do or say any of these things that, by my own admission, most men do or say.””

    Perhaps she is insinuating that men who have lived in a culture with narratives that promote rape have been socialized to accept rape, and that list is comprised of things that are, in her opinion, pro-rape. Maybe she thinks that those things would not be present in a society that did not promote rape. The two ideas you propose are in no way mutually exclusive.

    “Porn does not cause rape”

    No, it doesn’t. The idea is that violent pornography/pornography depicting rape normalizes rape.

    • feministsub June 24, 2011 at 10:03 AM #

      Thank you for your thorough response. I disagree with much of what you said, but I appreciate that you took the time to engage! However, I do want to assure you that I am not ignorant when it comes to anti-porn feminists. I have been active in feminism for over a decade (and was raised by committed feminists), have had many conversations with anti-porn feminists, and have read a lot of anti-porn feminist literature. My disagreement comes from informed reason, not ignorance.

      Re: the agency issue – you say “A woman consenting to physical abuse does not negate the implications of a man enjoying it.” Actually, it does. To say that it does not ignores her sexual agency and basically says that her consent does not matter.

      Further, in the original post, many of the blog commenters ask if women who tick any of these boxes are rape supporters too, and the blogger refuses to answer that question. I think this undermines women’s agency as well, treating them as hapless victims of sexism.

      You also say ” There were no words left out, she is saying porn with women involved whether physically present in the porn or otherwise represented/depicted is rape supportive.”

      And I would like to see some hard proof of that. If porn, violent or not, is supportive of rape, then wouldn’t rates of sexual assault have skyrocketed at the same time that porn became more available? But sexual assault rates have decreased in that time. Which, again, is an enormous feminist victory. And again, why is it only rape-supportive if it involves women?

      • Dia June 24, 2011 at 6:26 PM #

        “Re: the agency issue – you say “A woman consenting to physical abuse does not negate the implications of a man enjoying it.” Actually, it does. To say that it does not ignores her sexual agency and basically says that her consent does not matter. ”

        I don’t understand what your point is, or how a man enjoying watching or participating in simulated rape is acceptable because the woman involved consented.The fact remains that the man is sexually aroused by forcible sex or dominating another person sexually. Whether or not there is a woman present and consenting, he is a man who is sexually aroused by forcible sex or the sexual domination of another person. Being aroused by that is either a symptom of someone affected by the prevalence of rape in our culture or a red flag for a rapist.

        “Further, in the original post, many of the blog commenters ask if women who tick any of these boxes are rape supporters too, and the blogger refuses to answer that question. I think this undermines women’s agency as well, treating them as hapless victims of sexism. ”

        I see that she didn’t actually answer that question, it is likely she doesn’t know that for herself yet. However, in the comments she also states that she finds criticizing others of an oppressed class to be counter productive. That is probably the reason she doesn’t target women for their participation in rape-supportive activity. I suspect, regardless of my opinion, she feels that if rape is a tool most used by men to oppress women that it is unfair to target women who have internalized sexism and sexist rhetoric.

        I would agree that her lack of criticism towards female involvement in activities that would be categorized as “rape supportive” denies agency to the women who feel their decision to watch/use porn is disconnected from any internalized sexism. Having said that, I would ask women who feel that their enjoyment of pornography is exempt from their (possible) indoctrination by a society that is clearly not anti-rape if they also feel that pornography and the sex industry is unaffected by hierarchical forces at play such as race/class/economic standing.

        “But sexual assault rates have decreased in that time. ”

        No, reports of sexual assault have decreased. Secondly, violent crimes of ALL forms decreased during the 90s. It would seem unlikely that whatever was responsible for the overall decline of violent crime was isolated from sexual assault and the decrease of sexual assault/rape reports were due solely to pornography.

        http://bjsdata.ojp.usdoj.gov/dataonline/Search/Crime/State/RunCrimeStatebyState.cfm

        I would like hard proof just as much as you would, considering all the speculation going on.

        “And again, why is it only rape-supportive if it involves women?”

        One woman’s discomfort with targeting women does not mean all anti-porn feminists believe women cannot be rape-supportive. I’m unclear on whether or not you’re addressing the original post or all anti-porn feminists in general.

      • feministsub June 24, 2011 at 7:50 PM #

        @Dia:

        “I don’t understand what your point is, or how a man enjoying watching or participating in simulated rape is acceptable because the woman involved consented.”

        I actually wasn’t referring to simulated rape – I was referring to scenes of consensual domination and submission. This is something that many people, including myself, take great pleasure from, and I absolutely feel that pleasure is more than “acceptable” – it’s great.

        “Being aroused by that is either a symptom of someone affected by the prevalence of rape in our culture or a red flag for a rapist.”

        Please provide some sort of research that supports your claim that being aroused by sexual domination is correlated with being a rapist. It’s one thing to worry that dominant cultural narratives about sexuality encourage rape (I worry about that as well); it’s an entirely different thing to casually assert that people who have a certain type of fantasy are more likely to commit rape.

        “It would seem unlikely that whatever was responsible for the overall decline of violent crime was isolated from sexual assault and the decrease of sexual assault/rape reports were due solely to pornography.”

        I agree with you that porn probably has little or nothing to do with the decrease in rape. But if porn contributed to significantly to the “normalization” of rape, then wouldn’t it stand to reason that, during the time that porn became so widely available, rates of sexual assault would go up, not down? I said earlier that the decline in sexual assault rates is a feminist victory, and I stand by it. Victims still face a system that is often hostile to them, but have you ever talked with your mother or aunt about what it *used* to be like for sexual assault victims?

  3. Tom Allen June 24, 2011 at 9:27 AM #

    The “logic” of that diatribe reminded me of this joke:

    An old cowboy sat down at the bar and ordered a drink. As he sat sipping his drink, a young woman sat down next to him. She turned to the cowboy and asked, “Are you a real cowboy?”

    He replied, “Well, I’ve spent my whole life, breaking colts, working cows, going to rodeos, fixing fences, pulling calves, bailing hay, doctoring calves, cleaning my barn, fixing flats, working on tractors, and feeding my dogs, so I guess I am a cowboy.”

    She said, “I’m a lesbian. I spend my whole day thinking about women. As soon as I get up in the morning, I think about women. When I shower, I think about women. When I watch TV, I think about women. I even think about women when I eat. It seems that everything makes me think of women.”

    The two sat sipping in silence.

    A little while later, a man sat down on the other side of the old cowboy and asked, “Are you a real cowboy?”

    He replied, “I always thought I was, but I just found out I’m a lesbian.”

    That’s the problem when we allow others to reframe our own identities.

    • feministsub June 24, 2011 at 10:05 AM #

      That is a great joke, I’d not heard it before. But I will definitely be telling it. I think your last point is excellent – when we allow others to tell us who we are based on their own experiences, we set ourselves up for confusion.

  4. SapioSlut June 24, 2011 at 3:30 PM #

    Quite aside from the discussion on being a rape supporter (or not) I found myself frozen in a moment of recognition when I read this:

    …if I had read this when I was in college, when my deepest, darkest secret was that I got off almost exclusively to rape stories on Literotica, I would have felt horrible. Sure, I would have known this was silly and over-the-top, but there would have been a part of me that would have said “see, you really are a bad person for having these fantasies.” I know this because that actually was how I felt, and that feeling was a big factor in why it took me so long to accept my sexuality…

    Thank you Feminist Sub for your simple articulation of that fear one finds when you recognise your sexual desires fall far outside the “norm” in the context of finding healthy acceptance.

    • feministsub June 24, 2011 at 8:21 PM #

      Thank *you*! This experience seems heartbreakingly common – it makes me wonder how many people never come to terms with it.

    • RogueBambi June 27, 2011 at 1:34 AM #

      Me too, SapioSlut! Me too. And actually I did read a bunch of stuff like that when I was younger. I also dabbled in the field of feminism… compeletely ignoring my agency and the possibility that women can want things that we’re not *supposed* to. I’m with 21st century feminism now, and I’ll tell ya. It’s a lot better here.

      By the by, when has sexuality *ever* been something we’re supposed to do? If you’d see inside anyone’s head when they’re having sex, I bet you’d see something politically incorrect.

      It took until I was thirty to start enjoying sex as an act of love and desire. For me it meant certaing kinds of things that are usually referred to as submissive or masochistic. I don’t care about the labels as long as we’re both happy, but seems to me a lot of people are only interested in labeling me and my desires — as wrong.

      I just. Do these people understand how devastating it is to condemn your own sexuality, because “it’s just patriarchy’s doings”? To erase your own desires and hide in fantasies, when having sex, because you can’t let yourself *do* any of the things you need? (Or let it be done to you.)

      Like I hadn’t thought about it! It’s all I’ve thought about for as long as I’ve had sexual fantasies. How’s that for you? Do you really think you’d be more expert in it than I am, with more than 20 years of experience and learning from *every single thing ever written or said*?

      Yeah. Of course you do.

      (That last you was a sudden wave of rage directed at the sex-negative feminists and all people who don’t believe in meaningful consent.)

  5. Tom Allen June 25, 2011 at 7:12 AM #

    The fact remains that the man is sexually aroused by forcible sex or dominating another person sexually. Whether or not there is a woman present and consenting, he is a man who is sexually aroused by forcible sex or the sexual domination of another person. Being aroused by that is either a symptom of someone affected by the prevalence of rape in our culture or a red flag for a rapist.

    Know what kind of movies I like? Action/Adventure movies, like Die Hard, or True Lies, or other movies in which a lot of stuff gets blown up or mowed down. I suppose that means it must be a red flag for me as either a potential terrorist, or as someone who has no inherent respect for property. Because it’s obviously a symptom of the prevalence of violence and social dominance in our culture, if I follow this line of thinking.

    I’d write more on this, but I’m off to meet my buds for some laser tag and paintball.

  6. sin June 26, 2011 at 7:50 PM #

    Feminism isn’t supposed to take away our choices and imprison us in someone else’s idea of what is right and appropriate and modest. Feminism is supposed to help us break out of that jail.

    I feel very weary of sex-negative or anti-porn feminists telling me I am a pervert or a rapist. I’m really not. I am an adult woman who is looking inside herself for some sexual answers.

    Nice blog.
    sin

    • feministsub June 26, 2011 at 8:40 PM #

      >> Feminism is supposed to help us break out of that jail.

      Exactly. But women can be our own worst critics, and I feel like that’s often the case with feminism.

  7. kytten June 26, 2011 at 8:31 PM #

    As an ex-member of academia (feminist literary theory), I’m probably not really qualified to comment here, but I just can’t resist…

    The issue with female consent in any sexual act (or act of submission) is such an interesting paradox to me…the problem inherent in discussing it semantically lies in assuming that it is an either-or issue. Either she consented, or she didn’t. This assumption rests on a belief that is just plain, psychologically speaking, false: that we (humans) always know what we want, and that our decisions about whether or not we liked something remain the same over the course of time (i.e., if we wanted it then, we’ll never, ever decide that actually, we didn’t much like it. Duh. That’s the nature of regret.). I *am* aware of the land mine here: that there *is* a such thing as a society that favors men over women in many, many areas and that minimizes female agency in a number of ways, and even *suggesting* that sexual decision-making is as changeable as human nature is a dangerous thing to do. *Not* acknowledging this gray area, however, is to live in denial. Women are obviously just as complex as men, and relationships between them (or any kind of sexual relationship) is always more than the sum of its parts. The naked, dangerous truth is that “no” does–sometimes–mean “yes.” And no, that truth is not license to assume consent. I think if feminism can acknowledge this, it will be well on its way to making it out of academia and onto the streets, where it can truly make a difference.

    – kytten

    • feministsub June 26, 2011 at 8:55 PM #

      First, I actually think that your background in academia makes you very qualified to speak about this. I know that, as much as my own feminist theory background has sometimes been a hindrance, it has also been an enormous help as I navigate what I want and why.

      I do agree that consent and desire are murky when you consider the context of a sexist society. I absolutely think that cultural narratives at least partially construct our fantasies, and make consent complicated. And I worry that I may have been a *bit* simplistic and sort of glossed over that point in this post, because it really sets me on edge when some feminists go to the far extreme and claim that makes it impossible, for instance, for a woman to truly consent to being dominated, because social conditioning makes consent impossible.

      This is something I feel especially prickly about, because for a long time I really did feel like my fantasies were the result of societal conditioning run amok and that was one of the reasons I refused to act on them.

      “The naked, dangerous truth is that “no” does–sometimes–mean “yes.” And no, that truth is not license to assume consent.”

      This is an excellent point. It’s not politically correct to say so, but I feel that, for me at least, a lot of the juiciest, most compelling parts of BDSM lie in those grey areas between yes and no. And clearly, this is problematic from a feminist point of view. But no ideology can encompass all the messy complexity of humanity, and just saying those complexities don’t exist doesn’t erase them.

  8. RogueBambi June 27, 2011 at 1:46 AM #

    Dia,
    I don’t understand what your point is, or how a man enjoying watching or participating in simulated rape is acceptable because the woman involved consented.The fact remains that the man is sexually aroused by forcible sex or dominating another person sexually. Whether or not there is a woman present and consenting, he is a man who is sexually aroused by forcible sex or the sexual domination of another person. Being aroused by that is either a symptom of someone affected by the prevalence of rape in our culture or a red flag for a rapist.

    As my mostly dominating husband Wonderboy has said very perceptively: “Well, it was easy for me to find (porn) material when I was younger, because all porn is so demeaning to women.” At one point he couldn’t stand it and his desires, because if mine are seen without meaning, his are seen as rape apologism at least, and he only read Erotica written by women. That’s what made him sure there would be someone, who would need and want the total opposite of what he wanted, one day. Everyone who has these inclinations will have also had the doubts and done the research and split their heart in two trying to make out where it came from, is it okay and what does it mean.

    I’d like to see my most beloved husband’s boyhood as a little less anxiety striven. Because, who could love a self-identified rapist? The thing is. Rapist don’t self-identify. I’d like to know that anyone, not just femsubs and maledoms as obviously thought as the only configuration in the original post analyzed here, would have more self respect, understanding and hope growing up now than when we grew up.

    I’m sick and tired for people meddling in other people’s sex life. Really – what’s it to them?

    • feministsub June 27, 2011 at 9:35 AM #

      “I’d like to know that anyone, not just femsubs and maledoms as obviously thought as the only configuration in the original post analyzed here, would have more self respect, understanding and hope growing up now than when we grew up.”

      Beautifully put.

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