Katy, most of the OP is about rape, how prevalent it is, and how badly treated the survivors are, including this woman. It’s something that I’ve written about often on Medium. Here’s a quote from the OP: “Every decent human being should be vocally and affirmatively against it (rape), no matter how beloved or powerful the perpetrator and no matter whether he is alive or dead.”
But as a practical matter, continuing to go about this as we are harms women. It forces people to choose between a perfect villain and a perfect hero, and there are no such things. I’ve said repeatedly that people should be held accountable for their actions but demonizing people isn’t moving the ball, and that’s what I care about.
Yes, people should be prosecuted and held accountable, but if you want them to actually get convicted, we need to create a culture that doesn’t make people choose between hero and villain. In a world with more humanity and nuance I think you could get more people on board with saying, “I’m disappointed to see someone I admired make such bad choices.” As it is now, they go after the victim because there is only room for either a bad guy or a good guy, instead of a human being who does some good things and who did some others that were not good at all, so they make the victim the bad one.
I’m not being an apologist for his behavior. I would have liked to have seen him get prosecuted, but the woman dropped the case due to the way that she was hounded. The all or nothing outlook that we have for people means she didn’t get justice and instead got traumatized even more.
A huge percentage of porn shows women being choked and roughed up and liking it. That doesn’t absolve him but it is a contributing factor, that if it were addressed in the culture would go a lot further than simply trying to punish each person after the fact. It’s this kind of thing that I am after.
Research indicates that men tend to gauge female interest based not so much on the cues that the woman is sending, but on how attractive he finds her. If she’s got on clothing that enhances how her body appears and if she is particularly nice to look at, then the fact that he is aroused becomes translated into her acquiescence.
Men who have been trained to ignore signals, such as clothing and physical attractiveness, and focus on women’s emotional expression tend to more accurately perceive women’s sexual interest in laboratory experiments (Treat et al., 2015).
So, we can sit around and berate men for being so stupid and entitled as to believe that just because they find a woman attractive that it means she likes him too, or we can actually do something that will work, like talking about that and retraining boys so they don’t grow up to act that way.
“When Nicole Bedera, a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of Michigan, interviewed male college students in 2015, each could articulate at least a rudimentary definition of the concept (of consent): the idea that both parties wanted to be doing what they were doing. Most also endorsed the current “yes means yes” standard, which requires active, conscious, continuous and freely given agreement by all parties engaging in sexual activity. Yet when asked to describe their own most recent encounters in both a hookup and in a relationship, even men who claimed to practice affirmative consent often had not.”
These young men weren’t monsters; they weren’t bad guys and certainly didn’t think of themselves as bad guys — and yet, they were self-reporting that they were sometimes engaged in behaviors that might well come under legal definitions of assault. Peggy Orenstein says, “In my own interviews with high school and college students conducted over the past two years, young men that I like enormously — friendly, thoughtful, bright, engaging young men — have “sort of” raped girls, have pushed women’s heads down to get oral sex, have taken a Snapchat video of a prom date performing oral sex and sent it to the baseball team. They all described themselves as “good guys.” But the fact is, a “really good guy” can do a really bad thing.”
These guys who said they valued affirmative consent probably didn’t have intentions to be harmful or abusive. None-the-less, their social programming around entitlement to female bodies undoubtedly contributed to them disregarding their own conscious beliefs about a woman’s full participation in deciding what kind of sexual experience they were going to have together.
Entitlement to female bodies and socialized misunderstanding of the women’s role in actual sexual consent means that for one in sixteen women, their first sexual experience is forced.
I really want that to stop but I don’t think that demonizing people is the way to do it. I remember feeling physically ill during the Kavanaugh hearings, in part because it all felt so hopeless and helpless. Yelling louder, being madder, crying more — I don’t think that’s what is going to shift any of this. That’s all I’m saying.