Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Rape Culture, Or Just Culture?

Over recent months, I have not been particularly shy in chiming in on those aspects of gender political discourse that have caused me the deepest concerns. One such concern, one which I don't think I have given my views on directly, is the notion that we live in a rape culture. I would assume by now that most readers would have a fair idea of what normally falls under the umbrella, though I think a quick couple of definitions and a little reflection may not hurt.

"Rape culture is a concept used to describe a culture in which rape and sexual violence are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone rape."

The definitional entry on finallyfeminism101
from the web article  Transforming a Rape Culture:
A rape culture is a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm.

In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable as death or taxes. This violence, however, is neither biologically nor divinely ordained. Much of what we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that can change.

The one bone of contention I have with this second definition is the line  "a society where violence is seen as sexy". It may well be so that society sees violence as sexy (in fact I shall make the case myself below) but we must be clear of what is meant here. By following that line with "sexuality as violent" can erroneously give the impression that violence is seen as some kind of precursor to sex. Bear this in mind: the kind of violence that is seen as sexy is typically of the powerful male who intimidates other males, asserts his alpha male status over his rivals and always comes out on top in a fistfight. Outside of people's sexual fantasies (and I assume we are all grown-up enough to see the distinction between fantasies we wish to remain as fantasies and the actualities of our lives) the man who physically assaults and intimidates women is not generally held to be sexy, in fact the exact opposite is usually the case.

What I do not intend to do here is dispute the many and varied evidences given to support the notion we live in a rape culture. What I intend to do is the following:

1) Look at some of the categories we can place those pieces of evidence in.
2) Propose that this model ought to be applied more widely.
3) Look at some other categories of crime, particularly against the person, and see if the same arguments can be made
4) Reach a tentative conclusion.

To reiterate what I said above, what I specifically aim to avoid doing is to argue against the evidences cited for rape culture. If at any point my discussion of other categories of crime and their potential associated culture appears at odds with that cited for rape culture then that is merely an evidential spandrel arising out of this approach, it isn't my goal nor pertinent to the argument in any way.
I also want to avoid making this response in any way about teh menz, as much as is humanly possible, knowing how aggravating it is to some when issues that disproportionately affect men are dragged into conversations. That said, it is difficult to entirely exclude 50% of the population and my own experiences, as a man, obviously involve disproportionately encountering the crime issues faced by men.
Anyway, let's get cracking!

1 - Categories of evidence

Looking both at the definitions and thinking on the many many examples I have seen given as evidencing the theory that we live in a rape culture I want to put forward the following four categories, with no claim whatsoever that this is an exhaustive list:

i) Positive attitudes towards male sexual aggression

ii) A downplaying of the seriousness of the offence, perhaps in video games or films, or in seeing rape as a suitable subject for humour.

iii) A passive acceptance that rape is part and parcel of life (for women, at least), both from society at large and an acceptance amongst potential victims of a high likelihood of future victimhood.

iv) Victim Blaming

2 - Applying the model more widely

The case I wish to make here is that the model and the evidences proposed regarding rape culture are actually only manifestations of viewing sexual violence in isolation and, in doing so, misidentifies what is going on.
Suppose one made the case, given our western predilection for pig meat to say we live in a pork culture. Clearly we can imagine the evidences we could provide to help back up the claim. However, even if we just widen the context a little bit and consider beef and chicken consumption we may well see that those things we were attributing as special to pork are actually simply part of a greater whole we have somehow managed to look beyond: we live in a culture that likes to eat a lot of meat generally.

So in a similar way to those blind Indian gents who all correctly describe part of an elephant but misunderstand entirely the elephant as a whole, so I am suggesting here. The claim of rape culture arises from only viewing part of the edifice; from only looking for pork and so only finding pork.

Believe me, I make these analogies knowing the depressingly high likelihood that this blog will be warped beyond recognition into something along the lines of 'Noelplum said that raping someone is no different to eating pork', that my analogy trivialises rape (yet it could be applied with equal veracity to any crime you like) or some such lies.
Be at it. If misrepresentation is the best tool you have available you have my sympathies.

3 - Considering other categories of crime

So moving on, what I intend to do here is to make the case that analogs of beef and chicken actually exist here. In other words, the categories of evidence listed above apply in equally convincing ways to other types of crime against the person. So to consider two categories, firstly non-sexual violence and murder and then fraud.

Non-sexual Violence (and Killing)

Right off the bat, I will be honest and say that the picture here is not entirely clear cut.

General attitudes, in the UK at least, are not universally generous or positive towards acts of indiscriminate aggression. An overriding principle of "you should never hit a woman"(1) still seems to hold sway, in all probability a patriarchal remnant regarding the way in which women ought to be treated, by men at least.

However, such a large proportion of violence is committed by men and given that men themselves are so often on the receiving end of that violence, I think it is legitimate to consider such perceptions as important attitudes(2). In terms of everyday attitudes there still seems to be some kudos attached, amongst men especially, to being seen as the tough guy, the hard man. That kind of respect comes but one way: heavy duty acts of physical violence against other men. The 'hardest man in town'  may not attract our respect but he will attract the respect of many and the savageness of his assaults on other males will be the making of his reputation in local pubs and clubs. This situation appears to only be amplified in prisons, whereby a demonstrated ability to beat another man within an inch of his life is treated with respect. Contrast this, if you will, with the moral pontificating (which I often find slightly breathtaking given the crimes they HAVE committed) that these same 'hard men' do with regard to other categories of criminal such as child molesters and rapists. Clearly, in prison at least, it is violence of the non-sexual sort that is afforded status and respect.

Then we have expectation. The expectation I grew up with was that a damned good kicking was just one of the occupational hazards of being a young man(3). That the possibility of getting to old age without experiencing a beating, from some random assailant, somewhere along the way, was practically inconceivable. Don't get me wrong, there was no expectation that any given outing would likely result in such an outcome (if it did I would have stayed in, believe me!) but there was an accepted inevitability that sooner or later your luck will run out. Expectation: without a shadow of a doubt, it was my expectation and that of all my friends.

Victim blaming is another illuminating category here. We see a murder or a beating in the paper and inevitably someone will question whether the victim was up to no good, provoking the trouble or involved in drugs or crime or something else that we deem increases the likelihood of such a thing occurring. Friends who got assaulted, in my late teens and twenties, would be grilled as to the circumstances and any admittance that they had walked home alone or strayed from the main areas (when they need not have done so) always -without fail- attracted responses of the 'fucking idiot, what do you expect' variety.

As an aside, I still feel that way about myself. My parents taught me to stay with friends, keep to busy areas and get a taxi home. To do otherwise was to be irresponsible; to take a risk with my personal safety. To do otherwise would have potentially led to outcomes involving victim blaming, with myself as the victim and myself taking blame. 
I still stick to these rules.

What about the media? Seemingly you could fill a small library with biographies and autobiographies of celebrated criminals and 'hard men', all waving their credentials under our noses in terms of how many people they have beaten up: the greater the head count the higher they rank. Make no mistake though, there will be no bragging tales about how many children they have molested or women they have raped, instead the bragging here takes the form of (in your best cockney accent) "I neva laid a fackin finga on a woman in anga and anyone who did is a fackin cant", or words to that effect!

Yet in all of this books are of nothing as compared to films(4), yet let us put films to one side entirely as they are, in turn, as nothing compared to what we see in video games. Video games, that strange leisure activity where, more often than not, the whole aim of the game is to brutalise and murder, male and female alike; where you get awarded points, sometimes even 'honour', for endless dispassionate killing.

-From competitive 'first person shooters' where success is measured by number of kills
-Fighting games, pioneered by the likes of Mortal Kombat, that award particularly clever control combinations with finishing fatalities.
-The endless killing seen in World of WarCraft, often justified via a quest for the most trivial reasoning imaginable and equally as often involving other player characters whose back story and claim on continued existence is as justifiable as ones own.
-To the game I play presently, Skyrim, where the player can train and gain respect as a thief or mercenary, slaughter innocents in their hundreds and, in scenes reminiscent of the fighting game genre, witness savage death blows where ones hapless opponent meets a particularly grisly end.

Yet amongst all of that, for all the noted sexualisation of characters in series such as SNK's King of Fighters and Tecmo's Dead or Alive, the glory always lies in beating the opponent to within an inch of their life or beyond - the violence itself is always non-sexual and resolutely so.
Sexual violence, on the other hand, is notable only by its (almost) total absence5. Indeed, the up and coming Tomb Raider game has already been hit by a scandal that the back story may have involved Lara Croft (the central protagonist) having been raped or sexually assaulted. Things such as they are the publishers are backtracking on the suggestion. One thing we can be sure of, killing and heavy duty non-sexual violence will make up an unavoidable part of the game and will attract the bare minimum of criticism.

So I have to say, in summary, that if video games DO glorify crime (and you can throw in films here also) it is hard to imagine non-sexual violence could feature any higher up the list. (nor sexual violence feature any lower down)

Have I not made the case here that we live in a non-sexual violence culture and a killing culture? If you think not then I can only ask: if all the situations given here applied to sexual violence in the same way, then how would you view it?

Fraud, Scams and their Ilk

Fraud may seem an interesting choice. Perhaps seemingly smaller in terms of scope and less of a hot topic than violence, of either a sexual or non-sexual nature, fraud is of interest, I propose, because I can think of no other sphere of life where victim blaming is more prevalent.

Of course it needs to be said right from the outset that victim blaming, far from being the sole preserve of the sexual victim, is pretty much ubiquitous across the whole gamut of criminal offences. Indeed, the political left(6), who complain most regularly and vociferously about the practice of victim blaming, are generally amongst the first to do exactly the very same when it comes to terrorist threats and atrocities committed against Western democracies. However, my aim here is not to discuss the issues surrounding victim blaming but to consider the level of victim blaming that goes on with victims of fraud and scam-artists.

So I ask you to consider the friend who gets scammed on ebay; or whose data is lost through unwittingly downloading a virus; or who actually hired the man knocking on the door offering to resurface the drive or chop down the unwanted tree. 

Immediately we hear of their misfortune we want to know whether ebay feedback was checked; whether virus scanners were installed; whether other quotes were taken and references sought?

After all, you buy on ebay without checking feedback you deserve all you get; leave your pc underprotected and only have yourself to blame; and everyone knows you don't buy services offered unsolicited on your doorstep, right?

If victim blaming signifies cultural approval of a crime then there can be no doubt we live in a fraud culture. The only surprise is that noone seems to be making this connection: noone is pointing out that we ought not be telling people how to protect their personal data from viruses and trojans we should be telling the hackers "don't  hack!"

Now in terms of how we view fraud and fraudsters it is a mixed bag.
I suggest that generally we have a pretty low opinion of the crooked tradesperson or used-car dealer, yet the computer hacker is sometimes seen as some sort of modern day frontiersman or freedom fighter, bravely refusing to be constrained by the constraints of society. This as they infect, destroy and defraud.
-Then we have the tax frauds - why shouldn't one who works hard allow a little bit of slippage on their returns? 
-The benefits frauds - why should you lose those benefits just because you've found a job, right?
-The insurance frauds - you've paid all those premiums over the years, why shouldn't you add a couple of items onto that claim?

The list of types of fraud is quite long but nowhere near as long as the list of justifications and apologies we have for fraudulent activity. It isn't that bad right?...... but isn't this prima facie evidence of some degree of cultural acceptance of crimes of this type, just as it is when it is claimed rape apologists play down the significance of rape in some way as evidence of rape culture?

Our expectations are also high here. Sky high. We accept rogue tradespeople, as we accept viruses, ebay scams and phishing facebook apps as somehow part and parcel of modern existence. Our intolerance has been blunted and our sense of outrage extirpated, so used have we become to these criminal attempts to benefit at both our financial and psychological expense.

I offer the proposal here that if we accept the same criteria offered for rape culture and apply it to both on- and offline frauds and scams then the conclusion that we live in a fraud culture is inescapable.

4 - Tentative Conclusion

So I chose two broad categories of crime as examples, I could have chosen others. I chose the two I did because they were the two I was motivated to write about, though I contend that I can barely think of an example that you couldn't make a similar case for.

So my intention here is not to dispute the case put forward for rape culture but perhaps to dispute the conclusion. Going back to our Indian gentlemen, it seems to me that the case for rape culture, described as is, depends on only seeing a part of the whole. You see but one section of our societies variously ambivalent, hypocritical, black-humoured, self-serving and, ultimately, contradictory attitudes to crimes against the person (as well as against society) and it is easy to remark that the elephant is rather like a wall, or a snake, or a fan. Then you step back and see the violence culture, the killing culture, the fraud culture.......... so is it not a crime culture we are seeing here, really? Are we not just describing an aspect of that?

Yet I suggest a further step. Does it make sense to label our culture a crime culture when rates of crime are comparatively so low? We are lucky. Western societies are seriously safe places to live compared to most of the rest of the world; western citizens have high expectations of protection from crime and punishment for those convicted; western police forces do actually take reported crimes seriously, they do not simply smile and shrug their shoulders.

So aren't these attitudes just part of the normal human cultural experience and not something that has earnt itself a special label on account of being in any way out of the ordinary? In other words, isn't what we could label crime culture really just............. culture?

To end I would just like to add, as I know it is necessary for the particularly mean-spirited amongst you, that suggesting that something is part of the normal human cultural expereince, or even better than the normal experience, does not preclude us from striving for better, for striving for the best.

We should do that, I think.

Jim (np99)

1 http://www.ndvf.org.uk/files/document/1093/original.pdf (p27, p34 table 2.26 cf to table 2.27 also and)
2 http://www.ndvf.org.uk/files/document/1093/original.pdf (p24 table 2.17)
3 http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/science-research-statistics/research-statistics/crime-research/hosb1210/hosb1210-chap3?view=Binary (table 3.01 figures for stranger and mugging crimes)
4 Films and television also portray violence, often the most severe forms, as something amusing and trivial. We can happily laugh as Tom is skinned alive or struck so hard over the head with a pan he is left dazed and with a pan-shaped face. Yet it is only because the violence stays resolutely non-sexual that such laughter is deemed morally acceptable. So if this is trivialisation and normalisation of violence (and as such evidence of contribution to a cultural climate of acceptance) then, again, it is of the non-sexual kind.
5 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_game_controversies#Sexual_themes
6 Which in terms of American politics would include myself. The centre of gravity is somewhat different in Europe and I have a hard time locating myself in terms of left and right wing.


  1. I agree that we live in a "fraud culture" to the point where we tend to be complacent and even apologetic about fraudulent behavior. But, I do have a contention with your comparison of victim blaming in cases of terrorism to victim blaming in cases of rape.
    "Victim blaming" requires the recipient of the blame to be a victim, otherwise, the recipient of blame is actually an aggressor who suffered from blowback or self-defense.
    The political right would perceive western countries to be victims of terrorist attacks from the Middle East, but the political left perceive terrorists to be the victims of aggression from the west. Who's the aggressor and who's the victim is debatable, but a leftist would have to be cynical and depraved to truly believe western countries are legitimate victims that deserve to be terrorized. Leftists tend to think of western countries as aggressors instead of victims.
    Similarly, I doubt that victim-blamers honestly believe rapists are victims, and the recipients of rape are aggressors. I also doubt they believe rapists are the victims when men and women successfully defend themselves from being raped.

    1. That is an interesting point but I doubt many people truly fail to regard our status, following a terrorist attack, as anything other than that of a victim (unless they regard vengeance as a legitimate component of justice - which some people do but not usuaslly on the political left).

    2. You say vengeance, I say self-defense. Whether terrorism is a legitimate or an illegitimate act of violence, it does not change the fact that western countries initiated the conflict, ergo are the aggressors. It's an oversimplification of the issue, but so is implying that terrorists are aggressors and western countries are innocent victims of the conflicts they participate in.
      I'm not condoning terrorism, but I wouldn't call western countries victims. The problem is that everybody thinks they're the victims, while everybody should have a degree of responsibility. Some are more responsible than others.
      It's not all cut and dried, so it's up for interpretation. The facts of the case are debatable, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that the political left are victim-blamers.
      I think it's unnecessary to compare rape to terrorism just to take a cheap shot at the political left. Terrorism is way more complicated than rape, which is saying a lot since rape is a complex issue as it is.

      Sorry if this is a bit of a tangent from the topic of rape culture. In my defense, you brought this upon yourself ;)

    3. "You say vengeance, I say self-defense."

      Not just me, the terrorists say it too!
      Amassing a mighty army in response to another mighty army could be construed as a legitimate act of self-defence, but terrorist acts are typically acts of revenge. True enough, the terrorist may cite some offence they are responding to (and their may be legitimacy to that claim) but that deosn't really constitute self-defence any more than me prodding a lion on the nose for growling at me does.

      Like you say, it is an aside, but it is an interesting one. You can also add to it arguments such as "Well, if we hadn't armed Saddam in the first place.......".

      bear in mind. I don't actually dislike these arguments, i think they have som elegitimacy. But then my views on victim blaming are a little more nuanced and three dimensional than to assume that victim blaming is some kind of zero sum game, or something akin to contributory negligance by which any blame we ascribe to a victim for their acts in some way is meant to detract from the blame of the guilty party. It should never do that.

  2. I've gotten into arguments about this in the past (mostly in person, I try to avoid arguments on the internet) from the same side you are getting at but honestly never from this specific angle, which is the best I've seen yet.

    When it comes to sexual violence, I think a blame-the-victim culture only really exists in sexually repressed (backwards, w/e you want to call them) communities, and are as such rare in western society.

    A sad thing I've seen is that many women are still worried that they would be blamed as a victim if they spoke out against actual rape/sexual assault, and I believe this is due in part to the types of 'feminism' espoused by those on FTB etc, constantly making it seem like the Western community is a far more backwards shithole than it actually is. As always, well put and I anticipate your next video.

  3. This article about attitudes to rape that mark it as somehow different from other forms of violence reminds me of the defense of sex worker rights against prohibitionist arguments that treat sex work as being somehow different from other forms of work and activities thus are not subject to comparisons with other forms of work.

  4. "So my intention here is not to dispute the case put forward for rape culture but perhaps to dispute the conclusion."

    What is the conclusion that you're disputing? Your argument seems to be pushing the point that our culture has elements that appear to support other victimisation. While that's a fair demonstration that "rape culture" -- as much as it exists at all -- is not unique, I'm not sure that's a conclusion of the theory though.

    1. My conclusion is that what looks like rape culture when viewed through a lens is not really such when viewed in a wider context.
      An analogy would be that if you viewed my awful behaviour towards women and women only you may conclude I am a misogynist. If you viewed my awful behaviour towards men and men only you may conclude I am a misandrist. However, if you viewed BOTH behaviours would you conclude I am a misogynist AND a misandrist? Surely to do so would be both an error of classification and also a misattribution of the problem that I am just not a very nice person!

    2. My guideline is generally:

      "Can this be explained by "what an asshole"? Yes? Well, there we go."

      You'd be amazed at how simple life gets.

    3. I'm not sure if you missed my question, NP. I didn't ask what your conclusion was, I asked what conclusion of rape culture theory you were disputing. "Rape stands alone in being a culturally supported crime" doesn't seem to be a conclusion that the theory offers but that seems to be your point of attack. Not to say that you're not reasonable in pointing out the narrow focus of the theory (leading to a valid point about the in-group self-interest represented), just that it's not a pillar of the theory.

      Regarding your analogy: you *can* be a misandrist and a misogynist. While behaviourally that might well represent as plain misanthropy or equal opportunity arseholery it would be revealed in opinions that despise men and women for different reasons based around gender.

    4. I though I gave my thoughts on that in the original blog, let me try and specify it.
      To conclude that a culture was a 'rape culture' or a 'violence culture' I would expect the promotion of those things to be greater than either some average culture or, at the very least, some objectively based expected standard culture. If that is not the case then what does 'rape culture' even mean? It seems to me that the slightly contradictory way our societies deal with violence generally, and rape specifically, is pretty much exactly what I would expect.
      If there is no baseline standard or expectation of exceptionalism then you can pretty much put whatever word you damn well like in front of culture as long as it applies to some degree, however marginal.

    5. Gah, just lost a long reply to a browser crash...

      I wouldn't say there's a need for exceptionalism to claim that rape culture exists. Nor is there a need to prove that it's more prevalent than other comparable cultural phenomena to claim that it is important. I don't disagree with your overall point that the rape culture model can be applied more generally, I'm just pointing out that your claim to "dispute the conclusion" doesn't seem to hold up when rape culture theory, as I've seen it presented, doesn't conclude that other "crime culture" doesn't exist. My intent is just to flag a rhetorical weakness in the post that might make it easily dismissed by rape culture theory proponents.

      Understand that while I believe rape culture theory has value as a social/media analysis tool I think it is over-used and there are many criticisms that can be made of it:

      * There are arguments that rape culture (or rape itself) is not as prevalent as sometimes claimed or implied.
      * You could argue that the enthusiastic application of rape culture theory actually manufactures (not wholly, but in part) the fear environment it rails against.
      * You could argue that rape culture theorist's hard-line demonising of self-preservation advice as victim-blaming (such as comparing warnings about the dangers of unlicensed cabs to "don't wear a short skirt") is actively harmful to potential victims. That by preferring to (redundantly?) give notice to rapists that rape is wrong over enabling women to make safer choices they dis-empower those women.
      * You could argue that rape-culture theory often includes highly censorious positions concerning harm caused by representations of rape in art/entertainment that seem unsupported by evidence.
      * You could definitely argue that rape culture theory proponents often construct their argument to be immune to criticism by including anything that seeks to minimise the prevalence of rape in our culture as being part of rape culture (rape apology). In other words if you argue against rape culture as a theory then your argument is proof of rape culture.

    6. I think you misunderstood somewhat. I wasn"t saying that rape would have to be more prevalent than other similar cultural phenomena (though when you hear someone pick out the one rape in a film or video game amongst the tens of thousands of killings and hyperviolent beatings either side, I think it stretches my credulity a little far) what I was saying is that it needs to be more prevalent than other societies. So given that western societies have low crime rates, including sexual crimes, and that western societies take crime more seriously (i suggest) than any society on record, I have to ask: if our society constitutes a rape culture then does every culture that has ever existed?

    7. I'd imagine that many feminists would argue that pretty much all recorded cultures have been patriarchal and incorporated rape culture to some extent. If you're specifically asking me then my response is that part of my position that rape culture is overstated is a rejection of phrases like "our society constitutes a rape culture" or "we live in a rape culture". Such phrasing suggests that our overall culture somehow enshrines or revolves around rape in a way that I'm sure you agree it clearly doesn't.

      When feminists use those phrases I think they're either being disingenuous or unwise. When critics of rape culture theory use them I think they're in danger of attacking a straw-man that most feminists would deny is the reality of what is meant by rape culture. It's rather like making an argument against theism that only tackles Young Earth Creationism.

      I understand the point that modern western culture is probably low on a scale of rape-enabling when compared to others both now and historically. That still doesn't mean that modern western rape culture is negligible. It should be clear from "Dear Muslima" and any number of A+ threads that arguments about misplaced focus and judgements of relative harm don't hit home with many who would voice rape culture arguments most strongly (unless they want to use them, as you've noted yourself).

  5. The biggest problem I see is with regards to prevalence. I have no idea how prevalent rape is compared to crimes x y and z, but so the story goes, if you are a victim of rape, it is hard to get recourse because of the culture.

    I remember seeing some infographic recently that was trying to get across the prevalence of rape (and the relative few incidents of false claims of rape) and as I recall it had something like: Of all rapes 1/4 are reported, of the reported ones 1/4ish are convictions and 1/16ish are false accusations (though how one determines false accusation rather than fail to convict is beyond me).

    As I understand it, according to feminists, the difficulty of getting a proper hearing is the problem because of the above listed reasons (victim blaiming etc) and assumptions that the claim has a high chance of being out of spite after a particularly hostile breakup (which is what said infographic was trying to convey).

    Just my thoughts. Interesting post.

    Glad someone is arguing with FTB


    1. You might be a bit confused on the numbers. 1/4 conviction rate seems extremely high unless you're talking specifically about cases where the perpetrator is known by the victim. Because remember reporting doesn't equal capture. What percentage of mugging victims ever see their perpetrator captured, and prosecuted?

      The numbers I've seen indicated a conviction rate, in cases where the perpetrator is caught, and prosecuted near 60%. Which is similar to the conviction rate of other violent crimes, and remember other violent crimes are more likely to be witnessed. Given that rape often boils down to he said she said I think that's a stunningly high conviction rate.

    2. Found it. I was working off slightly older than a month long memory...


      And it was "face trial" that I was thinking of (which has a similar relation to conviction). Apparently this graphic is wrong because of


      Still not sure on what the difference between "faced trial" but not convicted and "falsely accused" is (I know that the difference is that fail to convict is not innocent, but I don't know how one knows which is which, and the article about methods used doesn't exist anymore apparently). *This last paragraph was irrelevant to anything before*

      At any rate. Hope that cleared it up. I should have looked for the graphic first. (possibly a bad graphic in general in hindsight)


    3. I'm not entirely sure, so don't take my word for it, but I think it means this:

      As you already stated; "not convicted" either means proven innocent or there isn't enough proof, which both legally have the same effect.

      Following from that, I think "faced trial" means the latter, not enough proof. "Falsely accused" therefore seems to mean it is proven that the accuser willingly accused someone that didn't do it.

    4. Thanks Arthur,
      One of the problems with rape convictions is simply the nature of the crime. We generally assume that few people will consent to having their teeth kicked into the back of their throat so juries feel happy to find someone guilty on the basis of whether or not the act occured alone.
      For a crime like rape the piscture is so much more difficult because if I claim you were willingly having intercourse with me it is hardly a claim beyond the realms of possibility as it would be for a savage beating.
      My view is that this is entirely culturally independant. When you have a crime which can boil down to one persons word against another and relies purely on grounds of consent, as rape cases often do, then should we be surprised at how frustratingly hard achieving a conviction will be?
      As to false convictions. I agree that perhaps in the minds of juries therse are perhaps overstated. However, I bring you back to William Blackstone's premise that many people champion in a context far wider than simply rape cases, which is that "better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer" and, in many ways, this encapsulates the reasoning beyond the criminal standard of 'beyond reasonable doubt' as opposed to the civil standard of balance of evidence.

      I really don't know what the answer is. I would genuinely love to see conviction rates (safely) increase but rape can be a harder crime to evidence, especially when the defence does not dispute that intercourse took place. What I do know is that simply saying that it must be our culture that is responsible for the low conviction rates won't change a damn thing.

  6. Interesting thoughts. Some critiques:

    1) You bring up your experiences as a young man where you more or less accepted that a beating would happen to you at some point in your life as inevitable. That's a little depressing from my vantage point, but it's a basis for discussion. The thing I would ask you to consider is that the levels of violence between getting in a fight on the way home and getting raped are not on par with each other. Rape (and this will obviously vary from incident to incident) tend to cause vaginal tearing, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and hospitalization. Maybe it's not the kind of hosptalization that happens for a life threaten injury but if a woman is violently sexually assaulted, she should seek medical care. Such is not really the case for the average street fight. Certainly not in the street violence I've ever had to encounter. Maybe you lived in a way tougher neighborhood, I don't know. The point is that violence can be contextualized. And unless a street fight is giving you PTSD I submit that there is a quanitifiable difference between rape and a fist fight.

    2) In both of your examples the crime was assumed by those univolved to have happened. Indeed, I've never seen an instance where someone says, "Man, I just got the sh!t kicked out of me." or "I totally just got scammed on eBay." and got a response of "Really? Or did you just buy that cordless screwdriver for more than you wanted to pay and now you're all pissed off so you're blaming the seller?" Again there is a bit of a gap between how society reacts to violence and fraud as opposed to rape. And, while it surely doesn't happen every single time, too many women are having to convince the authorities that anything illegal even happened in the first place. So I think we can see that - even stipulating that all crime that harms people is wrong - there is somewhat of disparity between how we treat these three crimes you've used as examples. And rape does seem to get the short end of the stick more than maybe it should.

    The interesting thing here though is that I don't disagree with your conclusion. But I would parse it differently. Yes, we live in a violence culture. But to say that we live in a violence culture carries the assumption that we live rape culture. Or, if you prefer, saying we live in a meat culture assumes that we also live in a chicken, pork and beef culture.

    Where you and the feminists seem to fall off is that feminists are advocating for their own interests. Those interests don't necessarily benefit you and - I fully admit - some feminists can tend to be a bit militant and just generally annoying about it. But I don't think you really disagree with them on this point. You last paragraph says that we ought to strive for better. It's just that you're immediate concern seems to be more about reducing the number of random street fights. Theirs is about reducing the number of rapes. Part of both those goals involves challenging a culture that is accepting of male agression and physical violence. I don't really see where there should be any controversy here.

    PS> Fricken LOVE the blog as a means of commenting. Hate YouTube's 500 character limit seeing as I am long winded... as you may have noticed. :)

    -The Rational Hatter

    1. One point of contention with what you wrote:

      "Really? Or did you just buy that cordless screwdriver for more than you wanted to pay and now you're all pissed off so you're blaming the seller?"

      This happens. Buyers remorse is a thing. It is entirely possible that someone bought it and regretted it not long afterwards, and tries to claim they were scammed or something. It happens enough at least that it is a valid question.

    2. I'm not Jim, but I'd like to respond:

      1. The argument isn't about stating an exact equality of experience between rape and assault. It's drawing a comparison between the cultural messaging around them as crimes. However, I can say from personal experience that street assault does frequently end up with a requirement for medical treatment both for the injuries and for the ensuing psychological effects. I can also recall two deaths that resulted from street assaults where I knew people involved never mind the fairly regular reports of such in the press.

      2. Do they deny that something happened? Maybe not. It's hard to deny black eyes and broken teeth. Do they deny that it was the crime you state it was? Absolutely. That you so nimbly jumped to describing being assaulted as a "street fight" yourself shows exactly this occurring. I well recall having to continually correct people who described an event where I was punched to the ground and kicked by five blokes who never said a word to me as "a fight". It wasn't. I was assaulted.

    3. " The interesting thing here though is that I don't disagree with your conclusion. But I would parse it differently. Yes, we live in a violence culture. But to say that we live in a violence culture carries the assumption that we live rape culture. Or, if you prefer, saying we live in a meat culture assumes that we also live in a chicken, pork and beef culture. "

      That's nonsense. A meat culture doesn't necessarily have to be a chicken, pork and beef culture. Muslims for example don't eat pork but their culture is still a "meat" culture.

      This is pretty much a perfect example of a fallacy of division.


    4. Thanks for your response Hatter,

      wrt 1)
      certainly i agree with you on the PTSD side. With regard to the physical harm I have a friend who spent two months in hospital as a result of an entirely unprovoked assault. he was lucky to survive.
      But listen, this is not about trading harms or trying to equate what crime does more harm than the other. That murder is fatal in no way diminishes the non-fatal crime of rape. My point here was how we view such things.
      2) Like I said to arthur in the comment above, the conclusion drawn from this is that rape is treated differently because of the greater difficulties in evidencing. We assume an ebay claim is genuine because we know it can definitively be evidenced. however, try taking your goods back to a shop without a receipt, for a refund or repair, and see if you get a positive response.
      In the UK, at least, the police are very sensitive to rape victims and nowadays have specialist officers assigned who are trained to deal with you sensitively and in a way which maximises conviction chances. we also have specific legislation for such offences that guarantees anonymity in court and in the media, a right we simply do not give to almost all other injured parties. I agree we probably do not get everything right and need to strive to do better but this hardly seems like some systematic cultural refusal to tackle the issue.

      " It's just that you're immediate concern seems to be more about reducing the number of random street fights. Theirs is about reducing the number of rapes. Part of both those goals involves challenging a culture that is accepting of male agression and physical violence. I don't really see where there should be any controversy here."
      No, i never said my concern was reducing the number of street fights (PS: I DO object to your constant referral to violent assaults as 'street fights' in just the same way that I would object to an act of rape in the street being called 'public sex'), I simply explored the way that we view such things and compared it to the arena of sexual assaults.

    5. I'm not 100% how this interface works but this intended as a response to Noelplum99.

      You say that you object to my constant referal to violent assaults as "streets fights". And to the extent that is valid I have to quibble with you on language then. You stated in the original post:

      "The expectation I grew up with was that a damned good kicking was just one of the occupational hazards of being a young man(3). That the possibility of getting to old age without experiencing a beating, from some random assailant, somewhere along the way, was practically inconceivable. Don't get me wrong, there was no expectation that any given outing would likely result in such an outcome (if it did I would have stayed in, believe me!) but there was an accepted inevitability that sooner or later your luck will run out. Expectation: without a shadow of a doubt, it was my expectation and that of all my friends."

      If you want me to address your examples as "violent assaults" then I have to suggest you be a bit more descriptive. The way that you wrote that implied to me that these were just normal fights between adolescent boys. The kind that are usually about stupid adolescent school yard crap. I grew up and along the way gave and got my fair share of "damn good kickings". But no one ever went to the hospital. At most an eye was blackened, a lip slipt, and some bruises were given. But I highly doubt that most men coming to the post read your description and assumed that you were randomly jumped and beaten to within an inch of your life by multiple assailants based on what you wrote. In any event, I was not attempting to trivialize your experiences and if anyone else read that comment as such I would like to set the record straight that such was not my intent.

      But I DO have to note the irony of you objecting to me - unitentionally - minimizing assault in a post about a crime that is one of the most minimized across all cultures.

      (NOTE: I am NOT saying that was the intent of you post I am saying that minimization of rape is a thing that exsists and that phenomenon seems to cross most cultural boundaries).

      The reason that police departments have specialized rape units is specifically because of the evidencing issues that you brought up. They are not necessarily prioritizing rape higher than assault. They are responding in an appropriate manner to ensure that an under reported crime is given the attention that it deserves. If you feel that is out of line it's absolutely your right. I just think that you are wrong. Additionally, if assault had the same evidencing problems and stigma attached to it as rape did I think you would see specialized "assault" units evolve. But that is not the world we live in and law enforcement must deal with reality as is.

      In closing I still see no particular distinction between Violence Culture and Rape Culture in that Rape Culture is a subset of a culture that glorifies male agression and violence. You just seem less concenred with rape than with other forms of violence. I say that non-judgementally, btw. It's not like you're likely to find too many people up in arms about the state of youth violence in the UK at a Take Back the Night Rally hosted by the local feminist group. Which is too bad seeing as I would lay good odds that a drop in physical assaults would probably corelate to a drop in rape. That's admitedly speculation but I bet I'm right.

      -The Rational Hatter

  7. I suspect a Venn diagram of out culture would show 'sexual violence' as a small overlap of the real core of the problem which is violence as a whole. Crime statistics definitely show violence is much higher than murder, and murder rates are higher than sexual violence.

    I think to get rape lower, you have to look realistically at how much different crimes are "accepted" when inflicted against each gender, because that reflects how seriously that gender will take that crime. Making jokes about men getting raped in prison is so accepted that you'll see it on family programming on TV. "Whoops, don't drop the soap". The next step of course being a vicious gang rape, but it's a male so apparently it's funny, which is the point. If you make rape against men a laughing matter, men are not going to take it as seriously.
    If violence against black people was culturally considered funny, why would those black people give two shits when hearing that a white person was beaten up?

    The focus should be on lowering social acceptance of violence. In bad movies and tv shows violence is "how to get justice" rather than either criminal or only self defense. I also think that both genders being involved in inflicting violence in the media is actually good if it detaches violence from being specifically "masculine". It should be seen as something that's fucked up and not to be used unless it really has to be.

    The acceptance of violence of any sort against anyone should be made as low as possible. Having two different sets of standards for the genders is exactly what sexism is. In fact just having any defined standards at all may actually be the problem. People are individuals, and that anyone thinks it's acceptable to tell people how they should behave because of their gender may be the real core of culturally embedded sexism. Stick to discussing how all people should behave as a united culture and it will slowly become internalized and self fulfilling.

    Wow, you got a rant out of me. :) Thought provoking article Mr. Plum lol.

  8. I agree with your post, however, I think the tantalizingly obvious but never expressed fallacy in the definition of rape culture is the sentence "This violence, however, is neither biologically nor divinely ordained. Much of what we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that can change."

    Evolutionary psychology is a well-accepted field whose findings are being used in psychology to much precision. You simply cannot ignore an entire branch of science, but more than that you cannot ignore human nature. Men are dominant and women are submissive, men aggressively pursue women and women choose men whose aggression trumps that of other men. This is the way it has been in every human society since the dawn of time, as well as in modern primate societies and similar gender traits are observed in many mammals to which we are related. The rape culture argument and the entire field of Feminist studies and much of classical social science is based on the argument that any and all patterns we observe in society and in human behavior are all entirely learned, human behavior did not evolve, behavior is not only not genetic, but also not biological and that every baby is a blank slate.

    The fact is majority of women (and many men) enjoy taking a submissive role in sex. Much of the pleasure in sex is from this element of power play. Women enjoy the weight of a man pressing them down just as men enjoy being in complete control of a woman during intercourse. When feminists say that rape is not about sex but power, they ignore the simple fact that sex is about power.

    1. You're making gross oversimplifacations of every point you mention to arrive at misguided conclusions.

      Reality is *significantly* more nuanced and complex than you seem to believe.

  9. The idea of "rape culture" isn't necessarily saying that rape is unique, but rather that it is the problem that some are choosing to focus on currently. If I said, "we live in a rape culture," and you replied, "yes, but we also live in a fraud culture," then we could simply shake hands and walk away knowing that you were fighting to end fraud and I was fighting to end rape.

    So, I agree that there is no real "rape culture" outside of rhetorical uses for the purposes of shining a spotlight on a particular aspect of our culture overall. A feminist lives in a rape culture just like an activist Jew might live in a pork culture next door.

    1. The problem with the phrase "Rape Culture" however is the way I see it used, at least online, by feminists and their supporters. It is presented as a package, as a proven fact, instead of an interpretation of the data.

      Even questioning the effects, assumptions and intentions of the phrase leads to replies as: So you deny rape is real? So you deny this (insert one individual person, woman only, that was victim blamed) was raped and shamed? Then when you ask for statistics of how many woman that report being raped are victim blamed that way : You are victim blaming her again, you rape apologist!

      By naming it "culture" they implicitly deny any biological cause, and indeed often respond hostile to research suggesting natural causes, since they fallaciously assume nature = good. By naming it "culture" they connect it to the word "cultivating", it's not just a part of our culture, it's cultivated! Watching britney spears singing terrible songs in a bikini is just there to normalize the "logical" next step, RAPE! If you point to simple marketing reasons, people tend to buy more cd's if the artist (female AND male) look good, it is pointed out that "capitalism is also part of the patriarchy!"
      Instead of even considering that all of the victim blaming may be part of the hypocritical, relatively marginal part of our culture, they place it at the centre, present it as a purpose, and react hostile to anyone even trying to point out flaws in their analyses.

      Ofcourse this demagoguery is not limited to this online discussion, but it get's so tiring how other issues keep being drawn into the debate so that it seldom reaches any depth in analyses, like this blogpost thankfully does. Instead of addressing the discussed Issue I end up denying claims of "being a patriarchal conservative" or "being anti-woman rights" if I question Feminist theory. Their "with us or against us" mentality makes their heads explode when someone (me in this case) states to be a pro-choice, left-leaning progressive that denies "rape culture" and "Patriarchy theory" to be correct or helpfull.

      Wow, that changed into a rant pretty quick, excuse me and I hope you can still see the parts I meant as a reply to you buried in there.

      tl;dr Rape culture is a loaded, misleading phrase, that is counter productive in decreasing rape since it implicitly denies other means to reach the same goal

    2. "Rape culture is a loaded, misleading phrase, that is counter productive in decreasing rape"

      ^^ This is agree with - was talking to someone this morning about how every non-feminist I've seen encounter the phrase took it at literal face value, which is just counterproductive. However, I think many things you say are incorrect - your second and third paragraphs are terrible strawmanning of feminism (as a concept) with the errors you say you've encountered individual feminists making. I suggest you seek out more intelligent feminists - I've never encountered one making the ridiculous arguments you detail.

      Something specific:

      'Watching britney spears singing terrible songs in a bikini is just there to normalize the "logical" next step, RAPE! If you point to simple marketing reasons, people tend to buy more cd's if the artist (female AND male) look good, it is pointed out that "capitalism is also part of the patriarchy!"'

      There isn't a teleological aspect to 'rape culture' (as I said, I don't think it's an effective phrase), and to argue that such a culture doesn't exist because some feminists apparently suggest there is a teleological aspect to it is, again, strawmanning.

      The high levels of objectifacation of women (which is done, as you identify, for a variety of reason - profit in many cases; look at the recent Sun cover showing a picture of a murdered model in a bikini) is seen to contribute towards attitudes that women should be objectified, and exposure to these attitudes make it more likely that a man will rape a women, that the woman will be less inclined to report the rape and the rapist is less likely to be convicted.

      If you wanted to dispute the factual accuracy of that paragraph, going into evidence, causality etc., then that would be engaging with the issue, but what your post shows is a superficial dismissal based on an incredibly common logical fallacy - some people who call themselves X's have said Y, so everything to do with X is nonsense.

      You're demonstrating the same 'us/them' mindset in dismissing any attempt at what you call for - in-depth analysis - in favour of going on about how wrong feminists are. There's no cause so good that idiots aren't part of it, and I think if you objectively look at the evidence, it becomes quite clear that whatever phrases you want to use - and just to be super-clear, again, I don't think 'rape culture' is the best phrase - there exist aspects of our culture that we *could* change that make rape occur more often than it needs to and makes it more difficult than it needs to for rape to be reported and successfully tried.

    3. "The high levels of objectifacation of women (which is done, as you identify, for a variety of reason - profit in many cases; look at the recent Sun cover showing a picture of a murdered model in a bikini) is seen to contribute towards attitudes that women should be objectified, and exposure to these attitudes make it more likely that a man will rape a women"
      Potentially the more we know what we are missing the more dissatisfied we are when we don't have it. Many people feel that television itself has contributed to that, by making those that have not far more aware of what those that have actually DO have. Couple that with a sheer increase in availability of consumer goods and you have a recipe for people feeling a greater desire to take what they want to sate their dissatisfactions. No mention of sex or women here but I don't see a substantial difference, whether it is breaking into your home to steal your goods, holding a knife to your throat to take your money or sateing their sexual desires at your expense. My point is that it need not necessarily be an issue of objectification (and do we not objectify the labourer on the farm or building site, the boxer, the footballer etc etc?) but rather an issue of showing people what it is they don't have that someone else does have.

    4. Admittedly, when I reread my initial post I too found it to be not well thought out and lacking sources. I called it a rant for a reason, that, however isn't an excuse, so I apologize to everyone who feels they wasted time reading it.

      Therefore, I understand you smell the fire of burning strawman in my rant. However I don't think I really used a strawman, at worst I unwisely conflated three different gripes of mine in my diatribe.
      1)Patriarchy theory, rape culture being a part of that or at least related, is basically presented as fact.
      2)Any or most differences in gender are cultural and any scientific research on potential biological influence is greated with hostility.
      3)Online discussions often are a clusterfuck.

      To adress gripe 2 first: I should have left this out. This is a complex discussion in itself that only makes discussion of rape culture more muddled. I'm a biology MsC student and it pisses me off to no end when I am implicitly accused of being a traditionalist or even a rape apologist when I'm curious about evolutionary reasons for our behaviour. But, again, different topic, so moving on to gripe 3.

      Gripe 3: I should have left this out too, since that can indeed be said about any online discussion. And I fully agree that a group can't be hold accountable by things said and done by followers and supporters of that group. I understand that by including it you might end up saying things like this: "some people who call themselves X's have said Y, so everything to do with X is nonsense." That isn't really fair however. Firstly, I never said "everything to do with feminism is nonsense", now you seem to be strawmanning me. Secondly, I don't think the type of arguments I presented as being used by feminists are only used by extreme supporters. That brings me to my biggest gripe, 1:

      Gripe 1) You use the NAFALT deflection, "not all feminists are like that". I am aware of the dictionary definition of feminism, equality for men and woman, and if just that was feminism, call me a feminist! But that isn't the concept of feminism I see most feminist organisations use... They add Patriarchy, and present it as historical fact.

      It is an integral part of feminist thought, not that of radical supporters :http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminism

      Comparible and even worse things than those I paraphrased are being said by prominent figures and leaders of the feminist movement, and this isn't so strange when you consider how patriarchy theory basically solely blames men for everything wrong in the world. You use the NAFALT deflection, not all feminists are like that. I know there are different brands of feminism, sex positive vs sex negative being one of the most prominent splits, but certain core assumptions are shared by most, despite differences in tactics or proposed solutions.

    5. (continuation)

      The idea of patriarchy, or parts thereof, has or have become a part of mainstream thought. Take for instance the V-Day initiative by the wellknown Eve Ensler: http://www.vday.org/home

      See how feminist thought, beyond just equality, can be seen in a high profile organisation like the UN: http://www.unwomen.org/

      These are just two examples I found rather quick, can you show me any site by a self proclaimed feminist organisation or even a person denying or even questioning patriarchy theory? Or does the burden of proof only lies with the people saying that, yes, in fact most feminists "are like that". Only Warren Farrel springs to mind, and he is despised by most feminists since he also started to pay attention to sexism against men.

      A more detailed and better worded talk about NAFALT by GirlWritesWhat: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQWoNhrY_fM

      A talk from GWW about the lack of responce to insane shit said by supposedly radical outsiders of feminism: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSaT9utl4Ys

      And a talk about Eve Ensler's speech at NOW (again, no outsiders): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuJJuK7ADk8

      Now, here's the thing: I might not agree with every argument or every conclusion GWW makes, but I agree and see truth in the core message of her analyses. I might not disagree with every argument made by feminists, I might even support a lot of what they fight for (pro-choice, pro-birth control, often pro-daycare etc.) but the more I read feminist theory the more I noticed I DO NOT agree with their core message and analyses.

      I wanted to add some further thoughts about objectification, but this post is already too long anyway.

      Goodday and thanks to anyone that took the time to read this.

      P.S. I don't read the Sun, we have crap newspapers of our own here in Amsterdam, thank you very much. *wink*

  10. The term "rape culture" implies that there is whole culture surrounding the promotion and advancement of rape - as if there are Universities specializing in rape - and entire public libraries dedicated to promoting rape - and compulsory subjects in the promotion of rape, taught alongside English and Maths.

    It is a pure fantasy and a power-play.

    1. This is why I've said (above) that I don't like the phrase - it's far too open to the kind of superficial dismissal that's contained in your post.

      People look around and see no university courses on 'how to rape', for example, and respond by dismissing the entire concept because of the name, and, often, dismissing the entirety of feminist thought along with it.

      Obviously, there doesn't need to be a university course on 'how to rape' for western culture to contain things that facilitate rape, and I think a different term could well help the discourse by nipping these kind of superficial dismissals in the bud.

  11. Succinct and spot-on, Kevin.

    Saying anymore plays into the hands of such power-seekers.

    Nicely worded piece Noel, but all it does is lend legitimacy to an absurd notion, like trying to demonstrate that the world is not flat.


    “or in seeing rape as a suitable subject for humour.”

    I would take issue with this expression. Everything is a suitable subject for humour.
    “I love children, but I couldn’t eat a whole one”.
    Cannibalism? against children? Does cracking this sick one-liner indicate a cannibal-culture? Does it indicate a child-abuse culture?
    It’s very funny and it’s very black humour. That’s all. It’s just culture.

    1. Just to add to the humour thing - as someone who struggles with depression, one of the best ways I find to combat it is black humour as regards the topic. (For example, when struggling to come to terms with it initially, I used to sing along to the Queen song 'I'm Going Slightly Mad' a lot.) This goes for the full gamut on the scale, all the way to the subject of suicide.

      Making fun of fears is a very common way of coping with them. No-one has the right to take that away from people.

      This nicely demonstrates the problem with taking offence. All too often, people either:

      a) Take offence on behalf of other people.

      or b) assume that because they find something offensive, it is uniformly offensive.

      My guess is it's caused by people who are very self-centric in the way they view the world.

      (Also, clever word play is just clever word play. With many 'taboo' jokes, the joke is the wordplay, not the subject like in colubridae's one above - Jimmy Carr is a comedian who comes to mind that has a number of jokes about subjects like rape, the holocaust, you name it, but the subject is more there for misdirection than anything.)

    2. A further point on humour:

      What is generally misunderstood is the reason *why* people object to jokes about (say) rape.

      If rape is a much larger problem than it is generally acknowledged by the public to be*, then rape jokes are just something that's contributing towards this ignorance - someone tells a rape joke, everybody laughs, because it's safe - rape is a rare crime that we have more-or-less under control, and you just need to be careful not to tell a rape joke in front of a rape victim, like you'd be careful not to tell a joke about a dead baby in front of a family that'd just lost their child.

      If people challenge rape jokes, however, they're instantly starting a debate about this general ignorance of the real extent of rape, trying to get people to realise that it's a much larger problem than they previously thought and that if we were all more aware of this, a lot could be done to combat it.

      *and there is overwhelmingly significant evidence this is the case, whether or not you believe 'rape culture' is a real thing, surveys and studies *consistently* show that rape is colossally under-reported - this is an empircal fact that all sides of any debate should obviously agree on.

    3. If rape jokes are jokes on the rapist, I'm fine with them, but there is a UK trend for rape jokes where the joke is on the victim. These jokes are only made funny by a collective agreement that the victim's status is trivial. I find these jokes offensive (and not on behalf of anyone else). If at a comedy gig where jokes like this were laughed at, I would not only feel offended, they would actually make me frightened and alienated from the people laughing. I think that fear is why other feminists focus in on these jokes as important. I would normally agree that any subject is up for humour, the important thing about these jokes is that they allow people to think something harmful to women without thinking through the implications.

    4. "If rape jokes are jokes on the rapist, I'm fine with them, but there is a UK trend for rape jokes where the joke is on the victim. These jokes are only made funny by a collective agreement that the victim's status is trivial."

      I think this misses the point (at least in some cases). When I hear a joke I don't really visualize the action and literally think that they rightfully deserve what the got. That is possibly one kind of joke or one sort of reaction to a joke, but it is not the only reaction one could have.

      Most rape jokes are in the category of black humor. Sometimes it's the shear wrongness of what's being said that is funny rather than the actual concept. It can also be the absurdity of the claim.

      And even if your dehumanizing the victim in the joke the victim isn't a person that exists. They're a fabrication of the comedian for the purpose of that joke. When I hear a dead baby joke say I don't link it to all babies.

      When I hear the joke:
      "What's the difference between a Cadillac and 1000 dead babies?
      Answer: I don't have a Cadillac in my garage."

      I don't have the reaction of "HA you put that baby in it's place! Screw all babies, I hope to find 1000 of them in my garage rather than a Cadillac." My reaction is more along the lines of "Oh wow haha, terrible (but at the same time dark humor funny)"

      Similarly the movie Dr Strangelove isn't really saying the whole world has nuclear apocalypse coming (and rightfully so dammit!)

      That's my 2 cents on this issue... sorry for the text wall.

  12. I realize that this blogpost specifically doesn't address if the evidence actually support that there is a rape culture as specified by the definition, but I really think that's a big elephant in the room.

    I can't be the only one to think that the idea that our society somehow excuse or condone rape, even passively, is complete bollocks? To me the evidence seem to support the exact opposite; rape is certainly not condoned by our society, it's seen as one of the most heinous of crimes, and few criminals are as hated and despised as the rapist.

    Also, I find the definition given by "Transforming a Rape Culture" to be... ironic. I know of only one culture that actually deserve to be called a rape culture, and that is (was?) the US prison system. It's where the term originally comes from, so it's hardly surprising that it fits wikipedia's definition to a T.
    Yet the "Don't drop the soap" US prison system would according to this definition NOT be a rape culture, since the victims of the rape was other men, and not the women victims that this definition require.

    1. A few points:

      1) I can't be the only one to think that the idea that our society somehow excuse or condone rape, even passively, is complete bollocks? To me the evidence seem to support the exact opposite; rape is certainly not condoned by our society, it's seen as one of the most heinous of crimes, and few criminals are as hated and despised as the rapist.

      I think you're making the mistake of taking a very superficial understanding of the term 'rape culture', as Kevin's post (above), although I'd say (again) that it gets misinterpreted so often that it's probably worth trying to work a new term into the debate.

      The main thing to keep in mind, I think, is that no-one (or at least, very, very few people - the rapists themselves, say, and immediate friends/family/associates who'd want to cover for them, as in the fraternity gang-rape case recently) are actually trying to excuse any specific rapes - people know rape is wrong and terrible, obviously, but it's very easy to think/act in ways that make rape easier to do and harder to prosecute whilst still thinking - as all reasonable people do - that rape is wrong.

      Take victim-blaming, for example - it's perfectly possible to think rape is a terrible thing and to *also* think that if you're female and you go out in revealing clothing and get very drunk, you are either partly to blame for putting yourself in a situaiton where it is easier for a rapist to rape you, or that any sex you have was most likely consensual - why else would you be pissed in a short skirt in a bar where people go to find sexual partners?

      Now, victims report that such attitudes put them off reporting rape (as they obviously don't want to talk about an incredibly damaging and humilitaring sexual assualt only to be ignored, blamed, or called a slut, told they were asking for it etc.), and studies indicate that such attitudes amongst officials result in investigations not being as thorough as they should be and here we have an example of 'rape culture' (once again, I think a less open-to-abuse term would be more effective) attitudes that facilitate rape and make its prosecution harder can co-exist alongside a general acknowledgement that rape is, obviously, bad.

      2) Yet the "Don't drop the soap" US prison system would according to this definition NOT be a rape culture, since the victims of the rape was other men, and not the women victims that this definition require.

      I was going to say this in response to a comment about jokes earlier - I definitely think there shouldn't be jokes about dropping the soap. Rape is rape is rape. We shouldn't get into the habit of playing different types of rape off against each other. We should acknowledge it where it exists and see what we can do about it.

  13. Dear noelplum99:
    While i deeply respect your commitment to civil intellectual discourse, I have to take issue with the "raison d'etre" of this blogpost, as demonstrated in this sentence:

    "-What I do not intend to do here is dispute the many and varied evidences given to support the notion we live in a rape culture."

    Why not, if I may be so bold as to ask?
    Not that examining the logical validity of the notion of "rape culture" is in any way a waste of time (indeed, it was an interesting approach. But to dismiss it's lack of soundness, by virtue of what I believe to be false permises, seems a bit like arguing theistic theology without adressing the matter of the existence or non-existence of god(s).

    In my personal experience (narrow as it may be), advocates of the existence of "rape culture" tends to be a truly privilegied minority of mankind: Members of socially advanced, economically afluent communities, situated within countries organised as liberal democracies.
    As far as rights, resources, social influence and empowerment, they stand far above the majority of humanity.

    And despite living in places were the culturally enforced social stigma of being a rape victim are the least malevolent (while being a rapist earns you the scorn of murderers and spouse-beaters), they seem convinced that their societies are the ones conspiring to enable and propogate sexual violence. This is not just false, it's delusional to suggest against the backdrop of the "bigger picture".

    I feel those of us who reject this notion will get nowhere, until we adress the overwelming absurdity of this privileged minority of mankind pretending the situation is far worse than it is, when put into perspective.

    We don't get better by losing sight of where we are.

    Avid fan.

    1. "And despite living in places were the culturally enforced social stigma of being a rape victim are the least malevolent (while being a rapist earns you the scorn of murderers and spouse-beaters), they seem CONVINCED THAT THEIR SOCIETIES are the ones conspiring to enable and propogate sexual violence."

      You seem to be making huge leaps here - I've cap'd the bit that sticks out.

      Why would acknowledging that rape (or misogyny, or poverty, or political corruption, or whatever) is worse in another country mean that it *isn't* a problem in your own country, or that you shouldn't attempt to make it less of a problem in your own country?

      This seems like a strange kind of reverse utopian fallacy. Either there's a problem with rape in this country (or that country, or the other one), or there isn't. Either the amount of rape is as low as we can reasonably get it and it's dealt with in as good a way as we reasonably can, or it isn't. The fact that it's worse (or better) somewhere else obviously doesn't change how it is *here* in the slightest.

      Now, you can obviously argue (as you seem to be suggesting) that rape is nowhere near as much of a problem as some (which?) feminists say it is. You can argue that rape culture doesn't really exist, or that it's not as large a factor as some (which?) feminists say it is. I'd hope that you'd be arguing in this way to better deal with the problem of rape, because it *is* a problem - no matter what reliable data you use, it's incredibly under-reported and under-prosecuted. I'm sure you're aware of the 'saddest graph', I thought this article criticising it for inaccuracies was a good example of how to engage constructively with what the author saw as an slightly misleading presentation of rape:

    2. "You seem to be making huge leaps here - I've cap'd the bit that sticks out."
      I did point out that I was speaking from personal experience, and not positive ones at that. While certainly not objective by any means on the matter, I feel it's very relevant to adress these matters in the greater context of the world.

      Which is precisely why I feel the entire notion of "rape culture" to be a detriment to any feasible solutions for the very real and notoriously awful problem of rape, in every culture.

      It takes away from real issues of rape, like the failure of prosecution and the horrible under-reporting of instances of sexual crimes, by positing what amounts to a boogeyman: cultural normalization of rape and sexual violence.

      I never suggested that rape isn't as much of a problem as some anonymous feminists suggest it is, nor that there aren't cultures that might qualify as "rape cultures" (I can think of one or two, of the top of my head).

      What I'm suggesting is that the people who are putting forward this idea tend to, paradoxially, be living and operating within cultures who would be the least likely candidates. That makes me question how in touch with the culture they purport to be rape-enabling they really are.

      It's something of a red-herring altoghether, much like your suggestion that I, at any point, suggested that rape wasn't a problem in my country or yours.

      "Why would acknowledging that rape (or misogyny, or poverty, or political corruption, or whatever) is worse in another country mean that it *isn't* a problem in your own country"

      Why would asking for a better perspective on the problem equate to suggesting that there is no problem? I ask, because you did imply that it was being implied by me.
      Nice touch

  14. Good point and deserves a response.

    When I started sketching out this blog entry it wasn't really taking shape. It became clear to me that I was simultaneously presdnting two arguments, on the one hand disputing some of the evidences for rape culture and on the other applying the same arguments elsewhere. What made matters worse was that the two overlapped which made it somewhat confused.
    As a result, I made the decision to go with what I thought was a much less well trodden path. I could instead have just written a "why the evidence for rape culture is absurd and overblown' piece but I thought, instead, applying the same reasoning elsewhere would be enlughtening.
    That said, I think doing the one sets seeds for the other. To consider the way films and games shy away from sexual violence and instead heavily disproportionately in favour of non-sexual violence shrely leads one to question the ideas that these media are obsessed with, and glorify or condone, such sexual crimes?


    1. It certainly was enlightening, though I'd love to see both sides of the coin presented in full form. Oh well, the depths of fandom greed can never truly be filled I suppose. Nice work.

      Not only is it noticeable how "media normalisation of sexual violence" seems contradictory to reality (at least in comparison to regular violence), it's also noticeable that in many ways it has steadly gotten more controversial with time, in many areas.
      Take the various fictional material concerning a certain James Bond, for instance:

      The further back you go in the history of the movie series, the more of a rapist the main character comes across as, viewed from a perspective of modern sensibilities. Consent seems almost an afterthought at best for our "hero" in his romantic conquests, as his sheer manliness overpowers any ideas of rejection on the part of the fortunate recipient. And that's before we get into Flemmings original novels.

      Yet it is today that we find ourselves in a moral crisis, trapped in a rape-culture that condones and glorifies sexual violence and transgressions on decency.
      Or so we are told, by the alarmists.

  15. Great piece! A sharp contrast to a piece in the Guardian today. Have a read, if you can understand WTF the author was on about. I pointed people in the direction of this as a much better article, so I hope you get a bit of increased traffic:


    1. Thanks, i appear to have had a little over 150 views as a result which is nice. Havent read the Guardian piece as at work atm but read a few of the comments and that gives me an idea of what to expect!

  16. To expand on Acathode's point: "I can't be the only one to think that the idea that our society somehow excuse or condone rape, even passively, is complete bollocks? To me the evidence seem to support the exact opposite; rape is certainly not condoned by our society, it's seen as one of the most heinous of crimes, and few criminals are as hated and despised as the rapist."

    There exists a process of "moving the goalposts" when rape is discussed within the framework of social-theoretical concepts like "rape culture" is the backbone of context. On one hand, you'll have individuals talk about how *assault and rape are everywhere* and how rape is normalized in our culture as evidence of a large problem. In the next breath, when other individuals protest what is, essentially, a statement against all men, the topic will change to how only a small number of repeat offenders are responsible for the majority of rapes, which is an acute and small-population issue.

    But the largest issue comes with the conflation of violent assault/rape with non-violent assault/rape (and by "assault" I mean "sexual assault"). The same terminology, framework and point-of-view is employed to discuss sociopaths who are violent and immensely dangerous, as well as individuals who engage in non-violent, "social licence to operate" (which is a theory I have little qualm with) consent violations.

    When it comes to harms, the focus is always, inherently, on the violent sociopaths who make up a very, very, very tiny tiny tiny portion of the population. When it comes to culture, the focus is on non-violent, non-sociopath examples which can provide the needed wide-definition to defend a concept like "rape culture".

    And overall, it simply teaches individuals to be afraid of what might happen. It also, in a lot of ways I've encountered, encourages people to retreat into an obsessive mindset where these awful things are made to feel so immensely important and integral to the person that it ends up causing the very sort of extreme emotional harm that continues to fuel the "angry victim" cycle of rage and exclusion.

    And on top of all of it, Feminists drive away so many individuals who would support them by playing the "us vs. them" card and engaging in insane acts of "purity test" purging.

  17. Rape culture is a way of expressing something that isn't spoken about and yet exists. The nearest equivilent is the phrase 'institutional racism' used about the Met Police Force after the Stephen Lawrence murder. The reaction to that phrase was also defensiveness, 'show me proof', and recently, the Met Police announcement that they'd sorted all the racism out thanks very much.
    The Guardian article, however obliquely written was trying to explore how assumptions can permeate a culture without it being explicit or acknowledged. I think there is a crime culture and a fraud culture in our country (UK), but that doesn't also mean there isn't a rape culture. It is a deeply provoking phrase because it suggests we are all culpable when, as we know objectively that rape is wrong, we all find that idea offensive. However... just as I believe in buying local and being green, yet reinforce global companies that work against those aims... I can believe rape is wrong, yet reinforce cultural ideas that make it invisible or easier.
    One example: the push for value for money in public services has made it harder to get both adult rape and child abuse cases to court because there aren't witnesses, the victims are 'unreliable' and the issues are complex. The same push also discourages us from persuing complex financial cases - leading to your fraud culture. If as a society, we said that no matter the cost, we wanted to persue these cases in court, we could be part of undoing our rape culture. Similarly, police accountability is a good thing, yet in London it has led to systematic non-investigation of rape cases currently in the press after regulators worked it out. In this way, we must each internalise the impact of how we behave on how our culture turns out and not think of rape as something other people should sort out.
    Institutional racism only meant a set of assumptions that didn't need to be explicit to have an impact on black and minority ethnic people. Feminists are simply calling us out on the equivilent assumptions that lead to violence and rape.
    As recipients of that message, I'd try unpicking your emotional response to the phrase and join everyone trying to educate themselves on how to undo implicit assumptions in our culture, understand how to challenge them and change it.

  18. 15 percent of Americans live below the poverty line yet when viewed through a wider lens they are privileged to live in a country that is just socialist enough to make them richer than most people in the world. Does this big picture denigrate the plight of the poor in the U.S.? I say no.

    You make excellent and sane points supporting an irrelevant argument. What do you care if the people trying to fight a particular issue focus on the one facet of our "crime culture" most relevant to their cause? Do we not, as atheists, do the same when we emphasize the harm caused by religion?

    1. Hello OGRastamon. My own response to your comment (and, feel free to ignore), would be that the feminist viewpoint seems to call for a radical societal adjustment. I have seen arguments for why video games, movies, pornography, even certain literature, should be banned in the fight against rape culture*. As a white male who does not have a tendency to rape people, this kind of talk is worrying.

      * Just to clarify, the argument mentioned was more an "it would be nice if..." kind of statement, rather than "we should make X, X, and X, illegal!" statement. The feminist making the statement wasn't deluded enough to believe that all these things COULD be banned.

  19. This is a brilliant piece. I am only recently dipping my (limited) intellectual toes into the more complex issues around feminism (and atheism). Rape culture has always bothered me, as I couldn't quite form the right words to properly say what you said in this post.

    Rape is a terrible crime, but feminists act as though it is the most horrific crime going. I can honestly say (as a man) that I would rather be raped than have my son seriously harmed, or worse. The severity of any crime is subjective, and we can't all fight every battle. It should be enough for feminists that I don't rape, and I don't support rape, rather than expect me to be on board with this notion that all men are inherently rapists, and society needs to redress that fact.