The Power of Words

by subterfusex

We, the editors, take the activity surrounding the post “He’s Asking For It” very seriously.  We’ve taken several days to sort through our own feelings and prejudices in order to craft our responses.

Below are statements from our founding editors, D and F.

We request that comments on this post remain respectful and relevant.

F:

Dear Readers,

We’re sorry. I’m sorry.

I have so much to say, and I might mess up. I hope you can forgive me for any mistakes I’ve made, though I know that forgiveness must be hard right now.

We’ve seen that for the past two days, we’ve received a lot of comments on V’s post: “He Asked For It”.

(The answer is always, “no, he didn’t.” No victim asks for it to happen to them, and I can’t imagine what it must have been like to see us imply otherwise.)

Subterfuge was always a place where we could go to write about issues that felt controversial and uncomfortable for us. Our sandbox, our way to express our feelings, hopes, and ugliness.

We have found that many feminist communities start from a position of moral superiority and anger. Often, they do not examine their own nasty, ugly prejudices.

In her post V examined hers. We hated it. It was ugly. We discussed our decision for nearly a week. But we posted it because we thought it would help us examine the evilness of some deep-seated positions. Not posting it would not have made her feel it any less.

When it went live, we discussed it. I wish we had posted those discussions. You could see the side of the story we did not write.

The only way to fight our awful ignorance is to examine it, to personalize it, to understand exactly how wrong we have been.

As an editor, I should have framed the piece around a discussion. I would have addressed these prejudices in a way that made it clear that we did not endorse her position but that we acknowledged the need to have a discussion about it. As you have pointed out, this is not a lonely opinion. And we acknowledge that it is something that the feminist community does not understand.

According to Feminist Critics,

What is problematic with feminist discourse about male rape is not that they don’t discuss it at all – clearly they do – or that they don’t discuss it enough. The problem is that they [anomalise] it, that is to say, they treat it as some kind of anomalous variant of rape which, according to them, is something which normally happens to women. The latter is simply “rape”. Rape that happens to men in prison is “prison rape”. Rape that happens to men outside of prison is “male rape”. The word “female” is sometimes used as an adjective with “rape” to contrast it with male rape, but “female rape” is not used by feminists as a category designation in and of itself. It’s just “rape”. “Male rape” and “prison rape” sometimes get their own threads, effectively discoursive ghettos. But they are often excluded from threads about “rape”.

This lack of understanding doesn’t simply exist in the feminist community. It exists among traditionalist bloggers, too. The Thinking Housewife — supposedly pro-male and pro-patriarchy — expresses her view on male rape in this quote:

SPEAKING of rape, how is it possible for a woman to rape a man? As far as I know, it is physically impossible. Nevertheless, Lisa M. Lavoie, a Massachusetts teacher, has been convicted of statutory rape and will serve a three- to five-year prison term.

This is an excerpt of a comment from Ilion T:

[…] “rape” isn’t really about physical force or violence, it’s about taking that to which one is not entitled.

You ask in amazement how it is possible for a woman to rape a man. Obviously, mere overpowering force isn’t how it is accomplished; physical force is the male forte. Rather, if it is to be done, it must be by some means of which women tend to hold the advantage over men. I don’t know, psychological force or intimidation, perhaps?

Do you really imagine that the academic/Hollywood/Roissy protrayal of male sexuality is really accurate? Do you really imagine that all men are really always joyfully ready to “jump” anything which moves? Do you really imagine that a man cannot engage in sexual activity and all the while his psyche is crying out its violation?

This post — and its thoughtful and heartfelt response — shows that ignorance and the stupidity that governs our attitudes toward male rape is non-ideological. Feminists and traditionalists alike marginalize the issue. We, too, have perpetuated this insensitivity.

For that, are truly, deeply sorry.

We thank those who have commented. You have opened our eyes in an unimaginable way.

Readers, we invite you to submit guest posts. To write us emails at subterfugemagazine@gmail [dot] com. We will post what you have to tell us, if you will submit it. We want to understand you.  Please help us. We welcome anything in the way of feedback. It is a lot to ask that you show compassion, but you have already done so by your responses.

Yours,
F

D:

We do not support laws or organizations that advocate only for women who are rape victims, and only punish men who rape women. This is a fairy tale version of the world. Women are not the only victims, men are not the only perpetrators. Rape is a universal issue. Its frequency and permutations vary somewhat across time and culture, but the act of rape is no less devastating and it should be treated with the compassion and severity it deserves–no matter who is involved.

Our ideal future is one in which gender is not the issue in rape cases, in which guilt is not assumed, in which victims are not questioned and put on trial instead of their attackers, or shamed and mocked by their communities. These are injustices.

Women have fought long and hard to get the rape laws that protect them. They are still imperfect and imperfectly executed. This is why women still grouse and rage about rape laws.

But this in no way diminishes the state of male rape victims, who have even less protection, even less credibility in the eyes of society, and even fewer safe places to turn. This is the next great hurdle in rape legislation and how our culture views rape. The shift is long overdue.

We are in this together. We, all of us, regardless of gender, need to look after and protect each other. We need to educate our children about the dangers they face from others, and to fight the ugliness that can grow within them, and teach them ways to dispel that ugliness without inflicting it on someone else. We need to create safe spaces and encourage others to join us there when they have been hurt, so that they can heal. We need to legislate effectively and fairly.

This should not be treated simply as a male or female issue. It is a humanitarian issue.

11 Responses to “The Power of Words”

  1. I don’t know where to begin.

    But how about here:

    http://falserapesociety.blogspot.com/2010/09/underreporting-canard.html
    Here’s a snippet:
    “That wasn’t enough, they said. So we enacted draconian Federal Rule of Evidence 413, and many states adopted similar laws. With this law, unlike any other criminal charge, including murder, robbery, even planning the World Trade Center attacks, a rape trial in federal court and in various states allows evidence of the defendant’s commission of prior offenses of sexual assault to show that he has a propensity for committing the crime at issue. This rule, which is unique in all of American jurisprudence and widely condemned by legal scholars, allows the jury to hear about the defendant’s prior acts, whether or not the defendant takes the stand. Even mere accusations of prior sexual offenses that occurred years before — and even criminal allegations for which the defendant was acquitted — are admissible if the alleged prior act is proven by just a preponderance of the evidence (far lower than beyond a reasonable doubt). This law was enacted specifically to nab more rapists — you know, show the jury smoke, and they’ll assume there must be fire — even when there isn’t.”

    We don’t take rape SERIOUSLY enough. Read that post that details the changes in the laws and I dare you to say that with a straight face – because, apparently, because some drunken frat boys (possibly the most desireable “20” percent of arrogant jockheads) make rape jokes.

    Ok.

    It’s just a bit more complicated than admitting it’s a problem and that it’s a problem for both male and female. There’s also issues involving the expansion of the definition of rape, the amount of false claims (not the majority,but far more than 2 percent) ..ah heck. Maybe I’ll be back later if you want an actual dialogue.

  2. The main problem with the “He was asking for it” article was how “V” framed male rape as a good thing as it will get males taking rape more seriously.

    Now, just looking at the original frame up of the article without any context whatsoever, this is very iffy at first glance. What does this message imply?

    Well, the first thing that comes to mind is it’s another variation on the old “Women have been suffering for centuries, now it’s time for men to know what it feels like.” Only it’s “Now men know what it feels like to be raped, maybe they’ll start taking rape seriously.”

    In other words, framing male rape victims as collatoral damage in the fight to force men to recognize rape as a serious issue. I certainly wouldn’t want to hear this if I were a male rape victim, particularly of a female perpetrator.

    Even when she recanted in the commentary section, it still sounded like she was still implying men should still suffer to take rape seriously.

    I wondered about it being a “Male issue” when male victims are involved. What about the male victims of female perpetrators? What makes it a “Male issue” only? Last time I checked, the female perpetrators were WOMEN. Shouldn’t women also take issue with it? Why does it always fall down to MEN?

    The reasoning of “Men not taking rape seriously”, turning a blind eye to it, is certainly exagerrated to the extreme in the times we live in. All it takes is for a woman to cry rape and the next thing you know, the mob asks for the man’s head, presumed guilty until innocent. Can you say the same thing if a man accused a woman of rape? He’d be laughed out of the room.

    “He was asking for it” didn’t examine this other side of the issue, choosing only one half of the population to induce a call to arms. Maybe next time you do an article on rape, examine it from all angles. Otherwise, you’re just another piece of propaganda.

  3. Traditionalists say “men and women are essentially different”, and treat them essentially differently. Feminists say “men and women are essentially equal”, but don’t treat them equally, and there’s the rub.

    I agree that the disbelieving question “can women rape men” comes up with feminist and traditionalist people with pretty much equal frequency (feminists probably quite a bit less; many may agree that, in theory, women can rape men, but don’t think this happens to a non-insignificant number of men). Of course, this question probably comes up with something like “stranger rape” and “using physical force to rape” in mind, but, and here we get to the feminists in particular, the feminist definition for rape is far wider.

    It is so wide that many actions people think normal when in a relationship (or on a date) are seen as rape, like demanding intimacy although the other partner doesn’t want to get intimate until the partner gives in, or having sex after the other person has drunk quite a bit of alcohol. With this definition in mind, a large percentage of women get raped on a regular basis; with this definition, gender neutral as I have framed it, in mind, there are also a huge number of men who get raped on a regular basis, and this is where many feminists either a) shift the goal posts for what it means for a man to be raped, or b) deny women engage in these behaviours.

    Male victims who were raped by a woman may then often be told a) that what happened to them was not really rape, was not systemic, is hardly on the same level of suffering as *insert graphic violent description of a woman getting raped here* (simultaneously forgetting that sex with a somewhat inebriated woman who really wants to have that sex is rape according to their definition), or that women are so unlikely to do what he describes that he most probably is a liar. Considering that feminists pride themselves of being critical of gender roles and generalizations about women; considering feminists claim to be allies to those rejected by patriarchy (and yes, the patriarchy has no sympathy for men who got raped by women or even other men); considering that feminists see themselves as champions of equality between the sexes, it is deeply enfuriating to see how male rape victims are often treated in the feminist blogosphere.

  4. ZOMG you Mehnz! Enuff with the WHINING already!

    Jeez! Just knock it off and silence youselves!

  5. The main problem I had with ‘He was asking for it’ was that the Author obviously did not feel ashamed of her beliefs about male victims, she felt justified. She felt justified because she says men somehow feel about female victims what she feels about male.

    It goes beyond a callous disregard for the pain of rape victims; her beliefs about the attitudes of men towards rape are hate speech.

  6. To be honest, framing it as a discussion would not have helped unless the views were directly challenged and unequivocally dismissed as outrage, sexist, and dangerous. There is no room for discussion in such a matter, just as there is no room in discussing whether it is a good thing when innocent white men end up in prison. That does not mean a person cannot have or express that view, but it also does not mean anyone must give a person a forum with which to express it.

    Speaking as someone who deals with feminists and non-feminist responses to discussions about sexual violence against males, while the two responses are typically the same, the reasons for those views are very different. The attitudes governing non-feminists stem from the cultural notions that males can always protect themselves, males always want to have sex with females, and that females are in no way dangerous to “real” men. The attitudes governing feminists may stem in part from those views, but they primarily stem from the ideological theories of ‘patriarchy’, ‘male privilege’, and ‘rape culture’, along with the notion that women lack the institutional power to cause males any substantive harm. As Daran noted in the above quote from Feminist Critics, this results in feminists treating sexual violence against males as something other than “real” rape.

    However, V’s article went beyond marginalizing male victims. It essentially supported the violence committed against them. V attempt to rationalize this troubling view by arguing that she could not manage not to think that way even though she knew it was wrong. It is the latter that truly makes the article despicable, and it is the lack of response to that by the site moderators that makes the whole situation so troubling. If V had said the same thing about any other group of people (with the exception of white men), it is unlikely the article would have been posted.

    So while the apology is appreciated, that you gave someone a forum to make those kind of statements is still a problem.

  7. With all due respect V did NOT use the posting to analyse her own prejudice one bit. This wasn’t an article of great self reflection examining why she would feel this way and what she can do to change those views. No, it was a self-indulgent, ignorant and very sexist posting where, apparently, admitting some fake shame makes the article okay. Much like the discourse of your apology.

    I’m sorry if my response is a little cynical but the only reason I can imagine for making such filth public is that you wanted site traffic to increase. And hey; it worked. I had never even heard of this website before this article came to my attention.

    Making this article into a discussion would have been just has harmful as the original posting was. Creating an editorial ‘disclaimer’ as a preface to such an article is pointless since by your own admission you exam every article before posting. How is that not somehow endorsing the views held? During your evaluation you could have asked the writer to explore many avenues within her beliefs. Instead what came out was an article 2 (very) short sticks away from inciting hatred.

  8. No doubt Toysoldier, while the fact that the article was given a forum to begin with is problematic, it is kind of like a big Freudian slip. The editors inadvertently let the cat out of the bag in regards to some deep underlying misandry, that as F points out, exists in “traditional” women as well as feminists. Passive aggression, therefore, appears to be a universal quality in women, and is something men and boys need to be cognizant of. Abandonment and isolation are the first weapons of passive aggression. Women do it with their own children and collectively, as with the issue of boys who were sexually abused and the large number of female abusers.

    While V and the editors may have been expecting responses from like minded, men deserve it, kind of women, they were probably caught off guard by the articulate vorasity of the men responding. I appreciate F and V’s apologies. They seem heartfelt and F’s was particularly well crafted and piognant. D, however, never really apologizes at all, and like so many feminists, actually turns it into a statement to justify women who “still grouse and rage about rape laws.” “We’re in this togehter[?]” If she believed that she would have shown a little more humility for publishing an article which obviouly “shames and humiliates” male victims of sexual assault.

  9. Sorry about my somewhat tardy response.

    F said…
    We have found that many feminist communities start from a position of moral superiority and anger. Often, they do not examine their own nasty, ugly prejudices.

    The anger I can mostly cope with. I mentioned on the original thread that I saw much anger in womens groups in the late seventies and on. It was an anger I understood and respected. I knew from whence it came. But that was then.

    The moral superiority on the other hand is despicable. How dare those who deny male victims then turn around and define those victims’ experiences for them. How dare they patronise and belittle those whose experiences they have never even been motivated to learn about.

    It was in the seventies that feminist Ester Vilar wrote that the welfare of men should never be placed in the hands of women. Quite prophetic. We see today the almost total monopolisation of numerous issues and services in ways the patriarchy would never, could never, do.

    Feminists and traditionalists alike marginalize the issue.

    Toy Soldier has explained the differences very well.

    Traditionalists act from a position of ignorance. Feminists act from a position that is mostly political. Furthermore feminists often act to preserve the traditional ignorance and do so with great influence. Where feminism faced very little opposition until quite recently it has, for many years, opposed with great vigour and often successfully so, any efforts to help men and boys.

    Readers, we invite you to submit guest posts. To write us emails at subterfugemagazine@gmail [dot] com. We will post what you have to tell us, if you will submit it. We want to understand you. Please help us. We welcome anything in the way of feedback.

    I will endeavour to comply although I believe others are better at this. My perspective is that of a reformed radical feminist. I needed to detach myself emotionally from feminism as a part of deprogramming myself of a hatred of men (note that my mother, rather than feminism, created that hatred) some ten years ago. Simply put, and my doctor would agree, it was slowly killing me. I had to do something similar with my political party allegiances in my twenties and again just a few years ago. Surprisingly I found that much easier than detaching from my feminism. As a consequence I am capable of quite harsh, but very rational, analysis because much of it fundamentally targets myself and my own past and present ideology. I do suspect my bluntness – forged from a lifetime of political party room debate – may be just a tad much for more genteel eyes and ears.

    It is a lot to ask that you show compassion, but you have already done so by your responses.

    Kind of you if you consider any of my previous words to be at all compassionate. Possibly even foolish. I was angry and aggressive. That said, and Toy Soldier would confirm this, it is a learned response. For many years we went softly, softly only to find that is simply asking to be attacked and ridiculed. As with the womens’ rape activists of the eighties we’ve discovered that the only way to shatter fundamental ignorance is to go on the offensive. It seems the only way to penetrate indifference is to shock it into submission. Unfortunately, for male victims, the ignorance and indifference runs much deeper AND there is a very powerful lobby group determined to retain it’s control and monopoly. I will return to compassion later. It’s far more important and relevant than most realise.

    D said…
    We do not support laws or organizations that advocate only for women who are rape victims, and only punish men who rape women. This is a fairy tale version of the world.

    Actually, and unfortunately, it’s the real version of the world.

    Our ideal future is one in which gender is not the issue in rape cases, in which guilt is not assumed, in which victims are not questioned and put on trial instead of their attackers, or shamed and mocked by their communities. These are injustices.

    Perspective. Male victims of female abusers almost always see their abusers treated as a victim and often with more sympathy than those victims themselves. That’s assuming they can get the authorities to even take them seriously to begin with. In my home town just recently the local media made excuse after excuse after excuse for the rapist of an adolescent boy. She didn’t know it was wrong. She had post natal depression – twenty years ago. It was her maternal instincts. She’s really an angel. Just look – she was a carer for a disabled relative for a week back in the nineties. Shed a tear for the poor thing. I must say I really couldn’t give a hoot for what she wore to court but we copped that every time. I’m only scratching the surface here but the effect is to humanise a rapist – something never done with male perps – and soften up the community for the inevitable denial of justice our courts provide like clockwork.

    Since our laws were amended in the late nineties(when my aunt raped me as a child it was legal) to enable the charging/conviction of female abusers only one out of dozens actually went to jail. ONE! The consensus among victims currently is that we’d be better off if the laws hadn’t been changed. That way we wouldn’t be subjected to the media circuses, the rampant excuse making from all quarters and the inevitable denial of justice. At least the counseling help, which is the most important thing, will still be there.

    Women have fought long and hard to get the rape laws that protect them.

    It wasn’t just women. The statewide network of which I’m a part would never have been created twenty years ago without the contributions of many folk of both genders. There have always been men involved as my fellow board members continually remind me. At a personal level I garnered media coverage for womens’ groups in inner Melbourne who were doing rape activism in the late seventies – nearly a decade before any broader, overt rape activism. Note that if you are inclined to complain about male domination of the political landscape you must also acknowledge that those men enabled these things at the political level.

    But this in no way diminishes the state of male rape victims, who have even less protection, even less credibility in the eyes of society, and even fewer safe places to turn. This is the next great hurdle in rape legislation and how our culture views rape. The shift is long overdue.

    Mike Lew, author of Victims No Longer, the veritable bible for male victims, will tell you he has the easiest job in the world. All he has to do is gather them in a safe place where they can communicate with one another. They do the hard work themselves. In reality they don’t need the existing services providing the initial guidance and space is there for them. However, counselors in my state’s network acknowledge a huge expansion of their knowledge base since male victims were brought into the fold less than a decade ago. They learn from the victims themselves and the victims – who rightly understand they are pioneers – drive that learning with gusto. In this respect they seem far more proactive than our female clients. In the long run their inclusion gives us hope of developing far more effective strategies for prevention. We will never prevent all rape but we stand a far greater chance if we are fair and accepting of all victims.

    My privilege is living in the one state in Australia wherein male victims are treated with any dignity, at least by victim services if not by the broader community. My personal goal is that this model spreads to the rest of the country and, with any luck, beyond. The welfare of all victims, male and female alike, demands this of me.

    COMPASSION is currently the most significant gender gap in western cultures. It may very well be the final frontier, the event horizon if you like, in gender equality. My challenge to feminists has this at it’s core. If you are truly devoted to gender equality your real test lies in your ability to be as compassionate towards men and boys as you so easily can towards women and girls. Not just in words but in actions. For it is only beyond that horizon that true equality lies.

    A fundamental shortcoming in our communities is an unwillingness to acknowledge male pain and suffering. With that in mind I would like to suggest some reading to fill the editors’ – hopefully brief – hiatus.

    Effacing the Male was written by Canadian Professor Adam Jones who is recognised as one of the world’s leading experts on genocide. Whilst the article deals specifically with western coverage of the Kosovo war it demonstrates the means by which male suffering is hidden – effaced – from our view. In a similar vein Daran of Feminist Critics recently produced A Tale of Two Atrocities which provides a similar treatment for the civil war in the Congo. I highly recommend reading both and applying that new understanding to our media more generally. You may be startled by how severe it really is.

    Jones is also author of Gendercide which analyses the impact of genocides and similar events on both genders. His case studies are individually accessible and make very interesting reading. Genocides typically take the form of killing everything male and colonising everything female. The histories we’ve been taught, particularly under feminist influence, are frequently wildly inaccurate.

    Thanks for your patience and tolerance. Your willingness to accept and respond to new ideas is very refreshing. I suspect there may be potential for a convergence of minds and thinking in many ways.

    So don’t stay away too long guys.

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