The Thin Line Between An Ordinary Guy And A Rapist

(Some of this post is derived from comments I wrote in the “nice guys” thread. This is a “feminists and pro-feminists only” thread.)

It’s common, when feminists and non-feminists talk, to see a great deal of mix-up over the terms “misogyny” and “woman-hating.” Many people, feminist and non-, tend to treat the two terms as if they’re interchangeable — but they shouldn’t be, because it’s not useful to have two words with the same meaning.

Wikipedia does a good job describing how feminists use the word misogyny:

Misogyny is hatred or strong prejudice against women. The word comes from the Greek words μίσος (misos, “hatred”) + γυνη (gunê, “woman”). Compared with anti-woman sexism or misandry (hatred, strong prejudice against men), misogyny is termed by most feminist theories as a political ideology like racism and antisemitism that justifies and maintains the subordination of women to men.

“Hatred or strong prejudice,” not just hatred.

Hatred, in contrast, means “Intense animosity or hostility” (according to the American Heritage dictionary). But it’s possible to be strongly prejudiced against someone without feeling intense animosity. Think of a father, for example, who loves his science-minded daughters, but at the same time feels that women are intrinsically incapable of being great scientists or mathematicians. We don’t have to doubt his love for his daughters, or suppose that he feels intense animosity towards them, to recognize that his beliefs are strongly prejudiced against women (including his daughters).

This brings me to rape. Many feminists believe that most rapists act out of hate — that is to say, out of “intense animosity or hostility” towards women. I think that these feminists are mistaken. There are some rapists who are motivated by hatred of women, but my belief is that they’re a minority.

When a shoplifter robs a store, he’s not doing it because he feels animosity towards the shopkeeper. He’s doing it because he wants something, and he’s doesn’t care what the shopkeeper wants. It’s not hate, because it’s not that personal.

A rapist wants sex, for whatever reason — maybe he’s horny, maybe he’s hypermasculine and so is driven to “prove” his masculinity over and over, maybe he’s being pressured by his male friends. But the important thing is that he feels so much entitlement to have what he wants (or what he imagines he “needs”), combined with so little empathy for women. For him, what he wants is a matter of great importance, while what a woman wants doesn’t matter.

Rapists are not, unfortunately, a species apart from ordinary heterosexual men. They’re towards the end of the spectrum, but their attitudes are not abnormal.

Consider a young man who is, as our legal system defines the term, not a rapist. Maybe he competes with his guy friends to see who can “hit” the most women. (The slang phrase “I hit that,” meaning “I had sex with that woman,” is amazing for it’s ultra-concise equation of sex with violence and women with objects). Or maybe he’s just desperate to have “done it” with one woman, just so he can feel like he’s a man. Or maybe he feels deprived because he has had sex, but not lately, and not as much as he thinks others are having.

He doesn’t use physical force or threats to have sex with women. But he manipulates. He plots with his friends, or in his mind. He makes sure her drink is never empty. He contrives to separate her from her friends so he can be alone with her.1. He says “if you really liked me you’d do it with me.” He wonders if she’s a prude. He accuses her of leading him on.

He’s acting like a safecracker trying trick after trick to get into a safe. And that’s wrong, because a safecracker doesn’t give a damn about whether or not the safe is enjoying the interaction. A safecracker doesn’t care if the safe is left with permanent damage. All the safecracker cares about is getting what he wants.

His approach to sex is based in manipulation, and coercion, not about mutual flirting and seduction and fun.2 Maybe he’ll luck out and not hurt whoever he has sex with; maybe she’ll have wanted it just as much as him, maybe she’ll tell her friends “I hit that.” But maybe not. Maybe she didn’t want it, maybe she was manipulated, and maybe she’ll be left emotionally hurt and appalled by the whole relationship.

He’s a misogynist because he was willing to take that chance. He didn’t care enough to make sure it was the former, not the latter — and in that utter indifference to what the woman wants, he’s on common ground with rapists.

It’s not “intense animosity or hostility,” but it sure as hell is misogyny. And it’s not how every guy acts all the time — but it’s how many guys in our culture have acted, at least some of the time. It’s ordinary male behavior. And that’s why I think our culture’s entire dominant conception of masculinity, especially in regards to sex, needs to be reformed.

  1. None of this is new. In the 1950s and 1960s, this same guy would have contrived to “accidentally” have his car run out of gas with her in some remote spot []
  2. Just for the record, I’m all in favor of casual sex that’s based in mutual flirting and seduction and fun. But the word “mutual” is essential. []
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52 Responses to The Thin Line Between An Ordinary Guy And A Rapist

  1. 1
    Myca says:

    I agree down the list, and it’s really damn depressing.

    Sigh.

    I think the main point is that if you care about someone as a person, you will respect that person’s choices in regard to their own body, period.

    I have recently fallen in love with a Jehovah’s Witness girl, and it’s had me thinking a lot about this in regards not just to sex, but also to religious beliefs, political beliefs, and other sorts of personal boundaries. It’s a bit of a sidetrack, but if you don’t love someone the way they are (sex or not, different religion, etc), you don’t love them. If your plan is to trick someone into something or even, really, to argue them into it, I think that’s acting in bad faith.

    —Myca

  2. 2
    Sailorman says:

    There’s also the added “violence” aspect. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen you mention it in other posts, but since you didn’t write it here it seemed worth bringing up.

    Some rapes are undoubtedly because the rapist “wants sex.” Even those rapes, which are not necessarily motivated by violence, can be violent. But plenty of rapes are about the rapist primarily wanting to hurt someone or wanting to be aggressively dominant. Those acts are more accurately characterized as violence, not sex, even though that violence can be expressed in a sexual fashion.**

    Anyway, good post. I think you did a great job discussing a lot of problems, and making parallels to rape theory, without going down the Derail Highway of “…therefore these things are/aren’t/shouldn’t be/should be inherently rape”

    BTW: Because you mention the “thin line” I also think it’s important to realize that no matter what the laws are, there will always be a “thin line” between legal and illegal behavior. That’s just a function of how laws work. No matter how restrictive rape laws are (and as you know, I think they presently suck at properly defining rape–in theory, they could be a lot more restrictive) you’ll always have some behavior that is “just” legal, and “just” illegal. You’ll also always be able find at least a few people who think the line should be moved.

    **I have heard people say that almost all rape is properly characterized as “motivated by violence” and not “motivated by sex.” I don’t know how accurate that is so I used “some” and “plenty” instead.

  3. 3
    mythago says:

    This is exactly what Catherine Mackinnon talked about, in the comments that got distorted into “all sex is rape” – our culture makes very little distinction between rape and “normal” behavior than men are supposed to engage in to “persuade” a woman to have sex. So punching her until she gives in is obviously rape, but refusing to take ‘no’ for an answer, lying, engaging in sexual acts unless she actually physically prevents you, etc. are A-OK.

  4. 4
    Amanda Marcotte says:

    Oh, I don’t know—the percentage of men radiating blatant hatred of women is high enough for me to suspect they’re the same as rapists. Certainly the guy who assaulted me showed that he was full of blatant hate when he started cussing me out when his assault was intercepted.

  5. 5
    Amanda Marcotte says:

    But agreed that a lot of the acceptable disregard for consent—and the desperation some guys show in comments when they start grilling you for how much coercion is allowable in your mind before it’s rape—is common as hell, and probably does lead to rape. At the moment of force, though, the rapist is often angry at the woman for depriving him of what is “his” and views himself as punishing her, I would think.

  6. 6
    Ampersand says:

    I’m sure you’re right in many cases, Amanda. But I’m also sure that many rapists are so indifferent to what the women they’re raping is thinking that they don’t care about punishing her; it’s not that personal. They might even walk away believing that what just happened was consensual and she probably had a great time. There are some date-rapists who are genuinely shocked to find out that what they did is considered rape by anybody. (I don’t say this to defend them in any way, of course — they’re misogynistic scumbags, in my view.)

    It’s a spectrum, from the totally angry rapists on one end to the totally indifferent rapists on the other, and probably most rapists fall somewhere between the two extremes. I’m not saying that there aren’t rapists who rape out of active loathing of women – of course there are. But I think talking about that kind of rape as if virtually all rapists are motivated that way, is probably not correct.

  7. 7
    Ampersand says:

    Mythago, I agree that this gets into MacKinnon’s way of thinking, and also Dworkin’s.

  8. 8
    Ampersand says:

    Sailorman, I think the “rape is about violence, not sex” idea is looking at rape from the victims’ perspective. And that’s fine; it’s totally right for feminists to be concerned with the victim’s perspective.

    But in this post, I’m talking more about what rape looks like from the rapist’s perspective — especially date-rapists. And I think for many of these rapists, what motivates them is that they want sex. Maybe sex plus violence, in some cases, but the sex is part of what they want.

    Not all rapes are violent. Some of them use very little physical force at all; it seems unlikely that those rapists are motivated by a desire for violence.

  9. 9
    Crystal says:

    The anthropologist Peggy Reeves Sanday has done extensive research on rape and its cultural variances. According to Sanday, there are “rape-free cultures” (like the Minangkabau of Sumatra) and “rape-prone cultures” (like ours). In rape-prone cultures, women hold lower status; men think of women as their inferiors, and often there is a prevailing view of women as silly creatures. Moreover, interpersonal violence across the board is much higher, between men as well as men on women. It’s acceptable, even laudable, to use violence to get one’s own way or enforce one’s own ends.

    So what this boils down to is a man thinks: “It is okay for me to use coercive means to get what I want, let’s say sex, from this inferior creature. MY needs and wants matter. HERS do not.”

    Meanwhile, in “rape-free cultures” it is not acceptable to use violence to get one’s own way, and women are considered equal to men. So it will not occur to most men to try to rape, because a) women are people, not inferiors, and their wants and needs matter, b) it is not acceptable to just take what one wants by violence, and c) if you DO rape you will be considered less than a man and punished.

  10. 10
    mythago says:

    At the moment of force, though, the rapist is often angry at the woman for depriving him of what is “his” and views himself as punishing her, I would think.

    What Amp was getting at is that for all but a minority of rapists, the motivation for the rape is not hatred of women. They don’t think much of women and get angry if she dares to act like a human being, but the point of the rape is not to hurt females. There is a very nasty subset of rapists who act for this very reason (rapists who prefer elderly women are often in this category) but for most of them, that’s not the whole point of rape.

  11. 11
    Sailorman says:

    But in this post, I’m talking more about what rape looks like from the rapist’s perspective — especially date-rapists. And I think for many of these rapists, what motivates them is that they want sex. Maybe sex plus violence, in some cases, but the sex is part of what they want.

    Not all rapes are violent. Some of them use very little physical force at all; it seems unlikely that those rapists are motivated by a desire for violence.

    There are a lot of other options but “violence” and “sex” that motivate people, though. I think a lot of sex that happens in this world isn’t primarily “about sex,” if you define “about sex” to mean a focus on sexual pleasure and release.

    And this isn’t a bad thing. Sex can be primarily an expression of love, for example, rather than primarily about pleasure. Or it can be an expression of jealousy, or anger, or a (non-gross) attempt to connect, etc.

    That said, I think only small percentage of things that are legally rape are primarily “about sex”. Mostly because the legal bar is fairly high. Those are more likely to be about power, or a desire for domination and/or control.

    I think you raise a fascinating point. Practically speaking, some of the dividing line between rapists and non-rapists stems, oddly enough, from whether they DO want sex. I’m not saying that this is a good thing, but there appears to be a convergence of criminal law with that particular desire. This is true even though the “want sex” isn’t part of the law: In effect, people whose primary motivation is wanting sex may do a lot of things that are problematic, but tend not to cross the “illegal” line as frequently.

    A quick definition request: You can have good conversations with any definitions, but not easily without them. for the purposes of conversation, can we agree on terms? (e.g. it would help to know whether the words “rape” or “rapist” are meant to include only criminal acts. If so, you need another term, “moral rape” perhaps, to cover the victim perspective. Same thing for “date rape”, which gets defined in a lot of differing ways.) I’m not attached to any definitions in particular but it would be awesome to avoid the constant qualifying that stems from everyone using different meanings for identical words.

  12. 12
    Paul says:

    Amp’s description of what I am going to call “quasi-rape” (for lack of a better term) reminds me of the adage that the opposite of love is not hate, but rather indifference (in this case indifference to whether and in what form the other person wishes to engage in sexual relations).

  13. 13
    curiougyrl@gmail.com says:

    Part of the reason that hatred of women (note the collective noun) vs misogyny feels like a distinction with out a difference to me, or more objectively from the viewpoint of a rape victim and/or feminist, is that you’ve completely ignored the degree to which the sex that (date)rapists want, and which is so often the motive for rape, according to you amp and sailorman, is often violent and designed to demonstrate female inferiority, to humiliate. This element of feminist analysis is absent from you argument.

  14. 14
    Ampersand says:

    Mythago, I agree with you (post #10). Which shows, I guess, that you understood me correctly.

    Curiougyrl, I think that it’s important to understand what rape looks like from the rapists’ point of view, to give us a better view about what in masculinity needs to be changed.

    I think there’s a large subclass of rapists – especially date rapists — for whom it’s really not about demonstrating female inferiority or about humiliating women. In a very real way, for a significant number of rapists, it’s not about women at all. (IMO). I think that understanding of how rapists think is often lacking from feminist discussions of rape, which is why I concentrated on it in this post.

    Updated to add: I’ve done something to my left hand in my sleep, which really hurts now and objects to all this typing. So I probably won’t be posting again today. Just so folks know. :-)

  15. 15
    exelizabeth says:

    I appreciate this post a lot. Most of what I’ve been thinking about in terms of feminism recently could be more accurately described as “gender relations” and gender roles. I think that feminism may be nearly stalled in its tracks because too many of us refuse to look at things from men’s perspectives: what they are taught about masculinity, what they are taught they are entitled to, etc.

    Your comment here sums it up exactly:
    “I think that it’s important to understand what rape looks like from the rapists’ point of view, to give us a better view about what in masculinity needs to be changed.”

    Concepts of masculinity are hugely problematic and largely ignored. It’s rarely talked about. Unless we start talking, and get men to start talking, we’re treading water if not losing ground.

  16. 16
    Donna Darko says:

    Indifference to women is a form of hatred which you wrote about beautifully here:

    I think the problem here is that most people think of “hate” as meaning active loathing (wide eyes, clenched teeth, balled fists, etc.) for the hated object. But when we’re talking about things like bigotry and misogyny, that may be too narrow a view of what “hate” means.

    To use a specific example, I don’t think most rapists “hate women” in the sense of being angered by women, personally disliking women, or actively wishing ill on the women they meet. I think most rapists are indifferent to women. They want what they want, and what the women wants isn’t something they’re interested in.

    In the personal sense of the word “hate,” rapists don’t hate the women they hate, any more than shoplifters hate the owners of the stores they rob. It’s not that personal.

    But it’s still a form of hating women.

  17. 17
    Piers Cawley says:

    As a man reading the post I’m (as I often am when I read stuff here) more than a little uncomfortable. Reading it I found myself thinking: “Been there, done that, grown up now.” I don’t _think_ I’ve ever had sex without my partner’s consent, but the fact that I’m not sure is worrying all by itself.

    Even at the time I loathed the culture of ‘going out on the pull’, but it didn’t stop me.

    My personal feeling is that an awful lot of rape is as much about entitlement and idiocy as it is about sex. Male Privilege does its damage to men by laying down a bedrock sense of entitlement to our privileges. Date rape and the kind of manipulative near rape describe seem to be as much about men “Getting what they deserve”. I’m sure that in the mind of the rapist, an alcohol and/or rohypnol assisted conquest doesn’t count as rape because it “isn’t violent.”

    I’m sure too that an awful lot of men are like I was – blithely unaware that their actions could, quite reasonably, be seen as either rape or something damned close to it. It may well be why there are so many negative reactions when people point up such interpretations. “This person is saying I’m a rapist! Well, obviously I’m not so they must be shouted down with all the passion I can muster! Bloody feminists! Lesbians the lot of ‘em I shouldn’t wonder! It’s political correctness gone mad!” and we retreat behind a wall of slogans because we’re not prepared to admit that me might possibly have done bad things.

    All I can do is face up to the fact that I have, through ignorance, done bad things. I can’t go back and apologise, all I can do is resolve to try not to be so bloody stupid again.

  18. 18
    curiousgyrl says:

    Something about this post really gets under my skin. Its not that its wrong exactly, or that I dont think its valuable to understand masculinity or something–that is, after all, something I’m very interested in.

    I think it might be the overall sense that this is something feminists dont recognize or havent thought about, and I think thats not true. If you’ve ever been raped in the “indifference” circumstances above you may spend years contemplating exactly what that guy was thinking–I know I did. The insight that “ordinary male behavior” is “intensely hostile” to women was an important element of partially resolving this stuff for me.

    I mean, I get it that men may not *feel* hostile, but explaining to them why /how they are (ie, if men treated men the way they treat women, it is percieved as hostile) is the job of feminism, not creating a subset of not-so-bad rapists who didnt mean it.

    Regular non-feminist discourse puts this message out all the time.

    Sorry if that was not so clear, still working through this.

  19. 19
    curiousgyrl says:

    I guess I’m saying that the events you describe only count as indifference rather than hostility becuase, “hostile” is a relative term and the omnipresence of such male “indifference” means it seems normal, rather than hostile, to most men and many women. Its feminism’s job to disrupt this normalcy, and I’m not sure that this distinction–real as it may be from the perspective of men–does that.

  20. 20
    Ampersand says:

    I’m definitely NOT trying to “create a subset of not-so-bad rapists who didn’t mean it.” If that’s how I’m coming across, then I agree that’s a real problem. My point is that “normalcy” is often deeply misogynistic and very close to rape.

  21. 21
    curiousgyrl says:

    this discussion kind of reminds me of the “intent” issue that come up in raceism posts–its not that its not an important thing to point out, but it seems important to emphasize that intent isnt the central issue. I know you think that, and your post says that, but intent is, of course, the central issue of the post, thus my discomfort.

  22. 22
    curiousgyrl says:

    its the same thing with the its “about sex” issue–if its “about sex” for you and not for me, we have a problem. in fact we have a problem with what “sex” is.

  23. 23
    Stefanie says:

    Nice work. I love the safecracker analogue. I think the one thing that the post is missing is that (many) women enjoy sex too – so there is no need for men to be a safecracker and try to trick them. I think the whole sexual script in our society has to change into the idea of two equals enjoying each other instead of the dominant way you (accurately) described.

  24. 24
    mythago says:

    intent isnt the central issue

    It’s not the central issue in “is this wrong?” But if we’re trying to change attitudes about rape and prevent rape, attitudes ARE important. It’s not about some rapists being nicer than others, or some rapes being not so bad. It’s about changing attitudes that lead to rape.

  25. 25
    curiousgyrl says:

    “changing attitudes that lead to rape”

    sure, I agree, but I’m not sure this goes far enough. It isnt just (from the men’s POV) ” I should make sure my partner is having a good time” as needing to rethink what a good time is, exactly.

  26. 26
    Polymath says:

    crystal writes:

    c) if you DO rape you will be considered less than a man and punished.

    as a characteristic of cultures in which rapes are rare. this goes to the heart of rape in our culture, IMHO. most of us who theorize on this blog probably do subtract manliness points (and lots of them) from rapists or the almost-rapists amp describes so well in the post, but society at large doesn’t.

    peer pressure is a very very strong motivator. if most men just didn’t accept manipulation of women to get sex, and enforced that idea that all sex simply must be mutual and consensual (“women only agree to sex with real men”, or something like that), there would be a lot fewer almost-rapists, and significantly fewer rapists.

    so…what’s the way to change the behavior of men? i wish i knew.

  27. 27
    Donna Darko says:

    There are social norms for men to not appear gay. Pressure comes from peers and an underlying threat of physical punishment. Acting like man includes putting down gays, women, minorities or anyone uncool and sleeping with women.

  28. 28
    Auguste says:

    It isnt just (from the men’s POV) ” I should make sure my partner is having a good time” as needing to rethink what a good time is, exactly.

    Would you mind elaborating on that? I’m not sure I’m reading it correctly, or perhaps I’m inferring a wider applicability than you intend.

  29. 29
    Lu says:

    It isnt just (from the men’s POV) ” I should make sure my partner is having a good time” as needing to rethink what a good time is, exactly.

    Would you mind elaborating on that?

    There’s more to it than this, I think, but as a very simple start, if a man browbeats, coerces or manipulates a woman into going to bed with him and she then (immediately or eventually) obviously enjoys the sex itself, that may count in his mind as “making sure she’s having a good time” or as meeting Amp’s “enthusiastic participation” standard, especially if he, in his mind, works hard to make sure she’s enjoying it, by spending what he considers an inordinate amount of time on foreplay, for example. If she’s reluctant before and regretful after, that’s her problem, in his mind, because she had a good time.

    (This scenario doesn’t rise to the level of legal rape, but the man is thinking like a rapist because he wants sex and will get it any way he can short of brute force; “making sure she enjoys it” is not genuine concern for the woman but part of his dominance game, and she is not a player but a pawn in that game.)

    (Edited to add words in bold to make it clear that I’m not putting down BDSM here, I’m putting down treating people as chess pieces.)

  30. 30
    Sailorman says:

    rethinking this: why do folks insist on using “rape” or “almost rape” or “like rape” to describe things that, well, aren’t rape?

    I can see it if you think those things should be legally punishable. (in other words, it makes perfect sense if you think those things ARE rape)

    But if you DON’T want to put those in the legally punishable category, then I wonder if it’s not such a powerful word as to be ineffective. It’s polarizing. You’ll get men to admit their behavior is “wrong” or “bad” way before you’ll get them to admit it’s “almost rape” or “very similar to rape.”** So using those terms increases the “preaching to the choir” aspect. I’m not sure that’s functionally a good idea.

    And it’s also a bit a priori which i find sort of annoying: because rape is bad then “…____ like a rapist” means ___ is very bad. So using that label assigns those things a “fault level” that is fairly high.

    The problem with THAT is that these conversations inevitably contain a lot of things that differ hugely in how bad they are. But because “like a rapist” = “veryvery bad” that makes no sense: surely telling someone they’re “prude” because they won’t sleep with you is in an entirely different category from, say, filling someone’s drink with the goal of getting them drunk enough to agree to sleep with you when you know they wouldn’t do so sober. **

    There are a few–very few–generalizations one can accurately make, when one includes such disparate behavior. Why is “calling someone a prude” lumped in as Teh Eevil Misogyny together with wanting to rape someone? That’s just ludicrous.

    Are some of those things bad? Yes. Some are VERY, VERY, bad. But some are, in the grand scheme of things, not that big a deal. And if there’s not going to be any distinguishing between those categories, I don’t think this is a good argument.

    **The power of the word “rape” is not necessarily beneficial. A parallel exists in racism. There used to be things that were referred to as “prejudiced,” which was sort of “racism lite.” Now, “racism” has been deliberately expanded to include all of that, and a whole lot more. The benefit? People get to use a very powerful and socially unacceptable word, “racism,” to control and comment on behavior. The downside? You might have gotten someone to admit they’re a bit prejudiced; not many people will admit to being racist.

  31. 31
    mythago says:

    And now we’re derailing into the discussion of how much we should tiptoe around wrongdoers’ feelings lest they retreat into denial.

  32. 32
    Lu says:

    But, Sailorman, saying “aw, c’mon, don’t be a prude, I’ll make you feel good*” and getting a woman drunk and holding a gun to her head all have in common that the woman’s feelings aren’t important: she’s not a person but a prop, as Amp put it so well. What we’re discussing is how to get men to recognize this common way of thinking, and to reject it, to treat women as people.

    Your argument is that the word “rape” is so inflammatory that men’s defenses go up and the message can’t get through. That’s possible, but the flip side is that unless you point out the common thread in fairly shocking terms, the “don’t be a prude” guy will never see it. (He may not anyway, but that’s no reason not to try. He’s already in denial, there’s no need to worry about pushing him into it.)

    One thing that seems to work better than anything else is for a boy to watch his father (or father substitute) treat women like people, consistently, over a long stretch of time. But unless we can prevent misogynists from breeding (Sheri Tepper, call your office), we have to take other approaches to try to reach most men.

    *I reiterate that the important word here is “make.” For the man who says this, it’s all about making the woman do and feel what he wants her to.

  33. 33
    Sailorman says:

    mythago Writes:
    May 13th, 2007 at 3:20 pm
    And now we’re derailing into the discussion of how much we should tiptoe around wrongdoers’ feelings lest they retreat into denial.

    If the goal is to stand around, share a (virtual) beer, and bemoan some group’s behavior, then the feelings of that group are moot. Nothing wrong with that in principle, and certainly any political movement needs communication within the “core” to happen.

    But.

    If the goal is to actually engage that other group in conversation to try to convince them of something then the feelings of that group are pretty damn important, dontcha think?

    If you’re not going to differentiate in terms–whether it be “wrongdoer” or “rapist” or “almost rapist”–between someone who calls a girl a prude and stomps off in a huff, versus someone who goes for the “drunk hit”, then you’re not speaking a common language that makes sense outside a very limited audience.
    Since the post seemed NOT to be about the “standard” rape issues, and seemed to be about the more generic masculinity issues, that by definition means it’s got a larger audience. And IMO presentation matters.**

    Lu Writes:
    May 13th, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    But, Sailorman, saying “aw, c’mon, don’t be a prude, I’ll make you feel good*” and getting a woman drunk and holding a gun to her head all have in common that the woman’s feelings aren’t important: she’s not a person but a prop, as Amp put it so well. What we’re discussing is how to get men to recognize this common way of thinking, and to reject it, to treat women as people.

    yes, they have that one thing in common. But they are, in most other respects, totally different. When you focus solely on what those things have in common without acknowledging that they are as a whole quite different, it becomes nonsensical.

    E.g., are you now, adding “putting a gun to her head” to the things that are like calling someone a “prude”? What’s next: “well, calling someone a prude has a lot in common with raping her, then killing her afterwards”? Does the extension ever hit a “wait a minute, this doesn’t make sense!” mark? When?

    Comparisons can be made between almost anything. Your disagreement can be compared (accurately, so long as I limit the comparison) to the insane person I met a month ago, who violated Godwin’s Law in his very first post. But–like the gun vs. the “prude” comment–they are much more different than alike.

    **Amp, if you want this to be a “never mind the audience” post, let me know. I’ll drop this line of thought pronto.

  34. 34
    Donna J says:

    Amp, I’m sorry this is off topic. Your link to email you isn’t working. I wrote a post today that includes one of your cartoons. I didn’t ask permission because I want you to see it in context with the post first. Please take a look, if you want me to remove it I will, and I’ll rewrite the post with a link to the cartoon here. (It’s on the blogger server now so I’m not using your bandwidth, anyway.) It’s here.

  35. 35
    mythago says:

    If you’re not going to differentiate in terms

    You don’t have to waste time and effort “differentiating in terms”. We’re talking about words like consent and respect and empathy. You don’t ever have to use the R-word if you’re trying to tell people that they’re being selfish and thoughtless, that women are people, that treating the opposite sex as an enemy and sex as some kind of bizarre capture-the-flag game is not only counterproductive, but immoral and shitty behavior.

  36. 36
    Mandolin says:

    Sailorman,

    The legal system is not the sole arbiter of meaning. Period.

  37. 37
    Mandolin says:

    “Your argument is that the word “rape” is so inflammatory that men’s defenses go up and the message can’t get through. That’s possible, but the flip side is that unless you point out the common thread in fairly shocking terms, the “don’t be a prude” guy will never see it. (He may not anyway, but that’s no reason not to try. He’s already in denial, there’s no need to worry about pushing him into it.)”

    Even if the “don’t be a prude” guy never sees it, we have to tell women that his behavior is unacceptable, that they have been coerced into sex, and that they don’t need to blame themselves for being traumatized.

  38. 38
    curiousgyrl@gmail.com says:

    Lu, thanks for explaining my point so much better than I did. :) Whats fun about sex–this is a key question. I personally would not enjoy sex with an uninerested/uwilling partner, end of story. its not sex. its something else and something gross. If it was really all about orgasm, masturbation would be just as good, which we know, culturally it is not.

    I think the direction this thread has taken (who was ever talking about “dont be a prude” low-level coercion guy, until Sailor did? The post is about hostile rapists vs indifferent rapists) supports my point that there is a danger in reinforcing the rapist-eye-view distinction in this post–our job is to engage with this yes, but to disrupt it. I see Amp saying there is a real and significant distinction here that I just dont see.

  39. 39
    Sailorman says:

    mythago, I agree. You don’t have to use the rape word. You can talk about why “prude” insults are bad or sexist without bringing up rape at all. But we are, and I think it’s a bad idea.

    Mandolin: I’m well aware of that. See, e.g., the bottom of post 11. But a host of people using different definitions is a bit like the tower of babel. And since most people know the legal terms, then absent some other clarification they make the most sense to use.

    I figured you’d at least have posted, you know, something related to rape/definitions of rape/etc that I missed to get into the “…. Period.” snark. but you haven’t.

    So, back atcha: rape is a legal term of art. Like other legal terms, it has a meaning in that sense, which is relatively fixed. It also has a nonlegal meaning, that is extraordinarily similar to the legal one.

    While words in general are not defined by the legal system, SOME words are basically defined that way. Rape (along with murder, for example, and burglary), which is a crime whose basic definition hasn’t changed in centuries, is in that category.

    Still, if you want to use the word “rape” to refer to nonlegal rape like, say, technically consensual sex where the consent was achieved by one person being a lying sack of shit, then as i said before I’m all for it. But come on: if someone wants to use a word in a way that doesn’t match society’s general usage, and isn’t in the major dictionaries, then it’s not unreasonable to ask the person who wants to tweak the definition to at least make that clear, ya know?

  40. 40
    Sailorman says:

    after reading curiousgyrls crossposted comment I realize I’m derailing this thread, so I’m dropping out to lurk for a while.

    I don’t know how to delete my old post though.

  41. 41
    Mandolin says:

    Sailor,

    You wrote this: “I can see it if you think those things should be legally punishable. (in other words, it makes perfect sense if you think those things ARE rape) ”

    That suggests that the only definition of rape that is acceptable is one with a legal ramification, because it suggests that one only thinks things ARE rape if one seeks to make them legally punishable. That means that you’re saying that a personal definition of rape should be consonant with one’s desired legal definition of rape, and thus that the deciding factor of rape is the legal system.

    If it’s not what you meant, then you expressed yourself poorly.

    You’ve made this argument before; it’s been rebutted before; like curiousgyrrl, my patience with you coming onto an unrelated thread to make it again is limited.

  42. 42
    Maia says:

    I understand what Amp means about rapists who are indifferent to consent. Most of the men I’ve known who have raped women have claimed not to realise that they were doing it.

    But one of the things I’ve noticed, when people I’ve known have been raped by these ‘indifferent rapists’ – is that they react just as angry and entitled and are just as likely to trash the survivor, as any other rapist. In this they make it clear that they do hate women who get in the way of their sense of entitlement, or inconvenience them in any way.

  43. 43
    Dianne says:

    Most of the men I’ve known who have raped women have claimed not to realise that they were doing it.

    Maybe they didn’t. Maybe they were truly so disconnected from the woman involved that they couldn’t tell the difference between, for example, a woman who was responding enthusiastically to their advances and one who was struggling to get away. I don’t know where that idea gets one…apart from it makes these guys–and the society in which they are considered “perfectly normal”–seem even more screwed up than before. Maybe there is some room for education? Could education help these guys learn to watch for signals from their partners and potential partners? Would they even be willing to learn?

  44. 44
    curiousgyrl says:

    have claimed not to realise that they were doing it.

    which never really jibes with the whole plan-to-let-the-car-run-out-of-gas or get-her-really-drunk methods of practicing indifference, in my opinion/experience. They knew they were doing it, they just believed they have a right to, and (perhaps rightly) that it is a normal thing to do. And that its not *really* rape.

    Meanwhile, the “hatred” rapists, it seems to me, often, though not always, hate women impersonally, if not indifferently. Its still not about you, even when its violent. In fact the not-about-you thing is the central element of all rape.

    So if the legit question that Amp is asking is “how do we get men to recognize rape?” –especially when it means seeing their own behaviors in a new, possibly ugly, light–I think this distinction is less than useful. However, another way to follow Amp’s logic is to stop describing misogyny as “hatred of women” and describe it in more specific ways.

    That might be something I could get behind. Though I would like to emphasize that the problem with ‘hatred’ as a description is its lack of clarity, not its tendency to make men uncomfortable. There is no way to talk to men about chaning their behavior which will not have that effect at some point, i think.

    Anyway, I think I actually agree with Amp overall upon readinig the post, but partially got set off by people in the thread calling “indifferent/ignorant” rape “quasi-rape” and focusing on legal definitions, not on the main point of the post which sees misogyny as widespread and at the heart of all rape.

    I do think the post is written in a way that can reinforce kind of view, though i get it that that is not the intent. 24 hours later, I realize its not really amps fault that others took it there.

    PS–to paul, I dont know about your situation, but it is certianly not true of all men that they cant “go back and apologize” for actions and behaviors they now find disturbing/shameful/potentially seriously harmful to another person. In my case an aopology would give me a major boost of hope for the world, but i’m not holding my breath.

  45. 45
    Paul says:

    PS–to paul, I dont know about your situation, but it is certianly not true of all men that they cant “go back and apologize” for actions and behaviors they now find disturbing/shameful/potentially seriously harmful to another person. In my case an aopology would give me a major boost of hope for the world, but i’m not holding my breath.

    I’m not sure why you felt it necessary to address that comment directly to me (especially when you’re quoting someone named Piers) :-)

    (I may respond to another part of your comments in the thread that Mandolin has opened on the legal and personal definitions of rape, but I want to see what other comments are there first).

  46. 46
    curiousgyrl says:

    -sorry,, my mistake. early morning fog brain.

  47. 47
    Jake Squid says:

    As to indifference vs. hate… Pepe La Pew is a great example. He’s obviously willing (and often attempting) to rape the cat. However, he doesn’t hate women – he just doesn’t see the cat (who doesn’t have a name, does she? Hmmm.) as a person like himself. He is completely indifferent to her wishes. And we wonder where attitudes like this come from? I saw these cartoons from the time I was 3 or younger.

  48. 48
    Claudia says:

    Question: If a man and a women were at a bar there having drinks, having lots of fun and she likes him, but at the end of the night when he brings her home she is nearly passed out and he has sex with her. Would that mean he raped her?

  49. 49
    Mandolin says:

    If by nearly passed out, you mean “insensible to what’s going on around her,” then yes.

    Probably yes anyway, but I have a sense of a lurking attempt at a “gotcha.”

  50. 50
    Piers Cawley says:

    Claudia: Yup, smells like rape to me, no question.

    About the only possible excuse the man could come up with would be “I was too drunk myself to realise what state she was in”, but excuses like that are why British English has adjectives like ‘piss poor’.

    curiousgyrl: As to why I can’t go back and apologise, it was near 20 years ago and I simply have no idea how to get in touch with the girl; I can’t even remember her name. I’m absolutely certain that what happened wasn’t what the legal system would describe as rape, but that’s rather beside the point.

    Amp: Have you ever heard Richard Thompson’s song ‘Read About Love’? The lyrics are at http://www.richardthompson-music.com/song_o_matic.asp?id=172 definitely one of those songs that hits you between the ears.

  51. Pingback: A very late response « Sublunary Limins

  52. 51
    KellyMac says:

    [Kelly, your blog -- conveniently linked to in the space we provide for URL -- is called "A woman against feminism." Don't be an ass and try to argue you're a feminist. Stay out of this thread, and others marked feminist-only. --Mandolin]