Oct. 19th, 2013

pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
Rape jokes are important to me. I guess that's because rape is a big, scary thing, and humor is how I deal with big scary things. It's also useful for engaging with people on the other side: while the failure mode of clever is asshole, successful jokes can get people to sympathize with points of view they would otherwise reject out of hand. It's not a substitute for a good argument, but it can overcome kneejerk resistance and get people to listen to arguments that they would otherwise refuse to listen to. For example, see Louis CK's brilliant "Of course, but maybe..." bit, where he cleverly builds up to getting the audience to acknowledge the parallels between acknowledged slavery, the Chinese railroad workers of the 1800s, and the iPad factory workers of today.

I love Louis CK so much.

Or take the concept of "rape culture". It takes a lot of words to explain and even then a lot of pretty good people* will respond with "but she needs to acknowledge her responsibility for the risks she took" or "but asking for consent kills the moment" and then everyone is frustrated because you think they're suborning rape and they think you're accusing them of being a rapist and you know they don't want to violate anyone's consent and getting angry won't help, but expecting women to not hurt men with their own feelings is PART of rape culture and...

Or you can say what cracked said:
"Rape culture" is the normalization of sexual violence against women, treating it like something that just happens and blaming or shaming the victims. You see it in the news: If you can replace "rape" with "rain" and the story still works, that's rape culture. Was the woman wearing too little? Out too late? Would she have been fine if she'd stayed at home reading a nice book on etiquette for ladies?
That is so fucking brilliant I am angry I read it because now I can't use it in my own act. It is not a perfect explanation of rape culture. It does not touch on male entitlement at all. It is not even particularly close to the finallyfeminism101 definition. And yet, I think that joke has done more for consent culture than the very dedicated efforts of many feminists.

In that spirit, I was going to try to make fun of Emily Yoffe's parade o' victim blaming, but it ended up just being the same criticisms in a sarcastic tone of voice. Making this shit funny is hard.

*Defining good is tricky. It is harder to believe the right thing when a wrong belief is culturally embedded. And yet, it is still a wrong thing, and acting on it still leads to wrong actions that the actors are responsible for.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
Long, long ago, a blogger I liked posted about the prison healthcare system. It's atrocious everyone in the USA, but especially in her state of California. CA has tried to save money by using private prisons, which were handling prisoner health care horribly (although it's not clear to me how it compared to state-run prisons). She had a longstanding fascination with libertarianism, and asked "Libertarian readers, I think private prisons are a thing you support, and I think they're doing really horrible things here. What is your stance? What health care do you think prisoners should have, and how should we get it to them?" As I remember it, she was talking less about responses to obvious, acute things like stabbing, and more about things that were fuzzy and chronic.

My response? "I think the biggest contribution we could make to inmate health is to stop putting them in rape factories. Until we've dealt with the prison rape problem, worrying about cancer treatment is misplaced." Which, I will admit, sounds dangerously close to "you can't have feelings about men violating your clearly stated boundaries while female circumcision is practiced". But I don't think it's the same, and not just because we're actually talking about the same people and institutions in my example. What I wanted to convey was that the institutional rot in prisons was deep, and leading to worse outcomes than prisoners dying of cancer, and removing the rot would require a complete rethinking of how prisons work. This would probably incidentally help with the health care issue too. Libertarianism has a lot to say about whether jail is ever justified, and if so for what crimes, and how do we determine that, but by the time someone is in prison? Consumer choice is by definition absent, and libertarianism is irrelevant.

That was how I felt reading Emily Yoffe's widely disparaged piece on alcohol and sexual assault First, I wanted to punch her for acting like she was a lone brave voice fighting against a feminist conspiracy to leave women ignorant of gender-specific dangers.* Then I wanted to punch her for conflating "drunk but functional woman consents to acts she wouldn't have while sober" and "alcohol renders woman incapable of physically preventing an assault." Then I wanted to punch her for saying it was her daughter's "responsibility" to prevent her own rape but merely "advantageous" for her imaginary son to avoid being accused of rape. But after I got the punching out my system, I realized I was punching at ants. Yoffe is looking at the intersection of two different systemic rots and concluding the symptoms are the problem.

The first is rape culture- the fact that a man can get a reputation for "if you're drunk and he's around, you have sex with him" and still get invited to parties. The solution to this is enthusiastic consent culture, which involves less teaching teenagers "drunk people can't say yes" and more "sex with someone who genuinely wants it is amazing, settle for nothing less, and don't tolerate people who do." This won't work on people for whom predation and violation are the point, but if Yoffe thought they were the major problem she would have written a very different article. Solving the interaction of rape culture and binge drinking by ending binge drinking still leaves rape culture in tact.

The other is why college students are binge drinking at all. What are they getting out of it? It doesn't look like fun to me even if it was a rape preventative. She briefly touches on it, but her best solution is "more friday classes", which makes me think she has not fully considered the issue. One possibility is that binge drinking is a vulnerability ritual- in which case, warning women of the dangers is about as effective as warning teenage boys driving fast is dangerous. If that is the case, we need to ask why a ritual type generally performed privately with a trusted few is being done in public with strangers. The answer could be gendered (in that women are pressured to place trust in men who haven't earned it), but I suspect there's a large gender neutral component that has serious implications for the state of our social fabric.

Of course, we don't want to wait on those issues to be solved to stop rape. It is entirely possible that the best choice for a woman is to curtail drinking she would otherwise enjoy because of the risk of rape. And she should be given accurate information to with which to weight that risk. But her drinking was never the cause of the issue.

*Because that's what feminism is known for. Seeing situations where women face more risks or penalties than men, and insisting everyone ignore it.


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