Saturday, 7 May 2011

Slutwalking

It is scarcely believable, but apparently Slutwalking is taking off.

The idea is in response to some comments by a cop giving advice on personal safety to students in Toronto, Canada.
"You know, I think we're beating around the bush here," Michael Sanguinetti began, blandly enough, as he addressed the 10 students who turned up for the pep talk. Then he said: "I've been told I'm not supposed to say this – however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised."
This was taken as blaming the victim for the crime of rape, and the response was Slutwalking.

Of course, and this shouldn't need saying, but I'll say it anyway, any man who assaults a woman, sexually or otherwise, is committing both a crime and a sin, and is responsible before God and the courts for that.

But to infer from that obvious proposition that women and girls are therefore absolved of any responsibility for their actions is absurd.

If I leave my wallet on the dashboard of my car, leave the car unlocked with the windows open, and go for a long walk, and somebody pinches my wallet, then that person is responsible for his actions: he has committed a theft and if caught will rightly be punished.

However, it does not seem to me to be out of order for the police to advise me not to do such an idiotic thing, and after the event, to point out that I was, to some extent, responsible for what happened. That does not in any way reduce the culpability of the thief - but I can't reasonably say that I had no responsibility whatever for the theft.

In the realm of sexual behaviour, we have further complications. Our clothes and our behaviour sends out messages: a woman who dresses in a way which she knows will send out a message that she is sexually available does have some responsibility for that. We also know that men are far more susceptible to visual stimulation in the field of sexual arousal than women. The data on pornography alone verifies that. Some women simply don't seem to get that; and some do and enjoy provocative teasing...

So I will continue to teach my daughters to dress and behave modestly, and that if they dress and behave like sluts then they will have some responsibility if men take that at face value...

15 comments:

Anne said...

What utter bilge. You're talking about responsibilisation. The cops comments are stupid because you're more likely to be raped by a friend, relative or partner. In the UK most murder is committed by a man on his female partner. It's patriarchy not responsibility that's the issue. God I'm glad you're not my father.

Ben Trovato said...

Thanks for your comment, though not sure I understand it all....

What does responsibilisation mean?

In what way does the fact that most rapes - but by no means all - are perpetrated by people known to the victim invalidate the cop's advice?

Murder is a separate - though I agree related - issue. I nowhere claim that the cop's advice is all that is necessary to resolve the profound societal problems that lead to murder and rape of women by men; clearly it is not - but the students' knee-jerk response, looking to take offence where none was intended, seems infantile to me. As does slutwalking.

And you never know, if I were your father, you might get used to me...

Anne said...

Rape is an expression of power and punishment not sexual desire. Most of those women who were raped were just wearing their standard clothing. They were not dressed to titillate. They were with a family friend, their husband or family member when the man in question decided to express power over them. It is not about what women wear.

Most men are not rapists and would not rape a woman even if she was dressed 'provocatively'. No means no. Your opinion of men is clearly poor. Are you really talking about yourself and your inability to control your desires?

Responsibilisation means you place the responsibility for the crime on the victim. You're an apologist for stranger rape.

The 'excuse' that you offer which is insulting to men is that they are some how uncontrollable and a victim to their baser instincts this is a rubbish 'establishment and patriarchal' response to a complicated argument.

How you can raise your daughters in such a noxious environment with such opinions is beyond me. If they express their sexuality then that is bad but if men express their 'sexual need' then that is understandable.

You actually disgust me.

Ben Trovato said...

Anne

You misinterpret and misrepresent what I say and make assumptions about what I think that are far from accurate.

Where we agree is that rape is an appalling and inexcusable crime.

Beyond that, you clearly have a strongly held set of beliefs and views on this subject, which you treat as absolute truths, and interpret everything from within that framework: in particular treating general assertions as absolute truths.

“Rape is an expression of power and punishment not sexual desire.”

That is an assertion that may often be true, but that is not the same as always being true. To assert that there is never an element of sexual desire in any rape is going way beyond what the evidence supports.

“Most of those women who were raped were just wearing their standard clothing. They were not dressed to titillate. They were with a family friend, their husband or family member when the man in question decided to express power over them. It is not about what women wear.”

The last sentence treats the ‘most’ of the first as though it were ‘all.’

“Most men are not rapists and would not rape a woman even if she was dressed 'provocatively'. No means no. Your opinion of men is clearly poor. Are you really talking about yourself and your inability to control your desires?”

This is a sequence of non sequiturs, ending with erroneous statements and assumptions about my attitudes and behaviour.

“Responsibilisation means you place the responsibility for the crime on the victim. You're an apologist for stranger rape.”

This is absolutely not the case. I made it quite clear in my blog that I hold the rapist completely accountable for this crime.

“The 'excuse' that you offer which is insulting to men is that they are some how uncontrollable and a victim to their baser instincts this is a rubbish 'establishment and patriarchal' response to a complicated argument.”

I offered no such excuse.

“How you can raise your daughters in such a noxious environment with such opinions is beyond me. If they express their sexuality then that is bad but if men express their 'sexual need' then that is understandable.”

I hold no such opinions.

“You actually disgust me.”

You are disgusted largely by a figment of your own prejudices.

I will put it on the record once again that I make no excuse or apology whatsoever for rape, which is a deplorable crime.

However, I stand by the view that people (men and women) have a responsibility for how they dress and behave, and the impact that has. If it contributes to a society in women are increasingly viewed as objects, and colludes with a culture that sees women as the sexual playthings of men, that is clearly unhelpful to say the least.

To say they are responsible in that way does not in any way excuse rape or any other violence against women, nor offer any apology or excuse for the people who perpetrate such crimes.

Quinn said...

Is there a problem with your blog that people can no longer respond to this latest column?

Quinn said...

Linda Fairstein, former head of the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney's office, defined rape succinctly: rape is a crime of power with sex as the weapon.

She's correct. Rape has little to do with sex. If it didn't, we would never hear of an eighty-year-old woman or a three-month-old baby raped. Yet, they are.

Which of them was dressed provocatively?

Males who rape are inadequate losers and the only way they can feel powerful and in control is to humiliate, overpower and control a weaker, smaller victim.

Do some research. Read Susan Brownmiller's, Against Our Will. Charlotte Pierce-Baker's, Surviving the Silence. Roy Hazelwood's, The Evil That Men Do. John Douglas', Journey Into Darkness. Pay special attention to the chapters on Sue Blue. Her rapist didn't use a body part to violate her. Instead, he used a three-foot-long tree limb inserted nearly the entire length. Yes, it penetrated her diaphragm, ultimately killing her.

Please, if you want to teach your children anything, teach them confidence, to be strong women. Rapists tend to avoid them like the plague.

Ben Trovato said...

Quinn

Rape may have little to do with sex, but has a lot to do with (some) men's attitudes to women. Slutwalking, and prostitution more generally, seem to me to contribute to a culture in which women are viewed as sex objects, and as at men's disposal.

You should meet my daughters: very confident young women all three of them. No conflict between that and not feeling the need to flaunt their sexuality in public.

Quinn said...

By continuing to stroke the patriarchal view that women invite rape by the way they dress, you are perpetuating a myth.

Women do not invite rape no matter how they dress--or undress. Again, if this were so, then no infants or elderly would ever be raped. Neither would small boys become victims of rape.

Yet, they all do.

Ever hear of Westley Allen Dodd? He was a real piece of work. His little crime spree began at a very early age (his teens) and most of his victims were young male relatives, including one as young as two.

His last three victims were the ones to gain him notoriety and the death sentence. He raped and killed two young brothers before moving on to a four-year-old whom he also molested and killed.

Where was the sexual provocation in these instances?

Or how about the piece of work named Michael Frederick Schmidt? His most recent victim was a nine-month-old baby girl whom he and his wife were supposedly babysitting. The baby was so injured she required surgery to repair the damage.

This is the part where you really need to pay attention. The violence of the crime.

Yes, violence. Never are rapes perpetrated by caring, loving partners spurred on by the flash of a woman's breasts or buttocks. Not even by those rapes committed by the "gentleman rapist" types. Those guys like to hold a knife to a woman's throat while they commit their atrocities, all the while asking the woman, "When can I see you again? I've really enjoyed this; how about you?"

The violence doesn't stop there, nor the humiliation.

Many rapists love to humiliate their victims. One way they have of doing this is to rape them from behind, (pay attention--sequence is important)then insist on oral sex. In between, he may beat her brutally or use objects to fulfill his violent cravings.

If the woman is lucky, she may only suffer humiliation. For other victims, black eyes, broken jaws, missing teeth, internal damage, blunt force trauma, venereal disease and possible pregnancy may result.

How much of that has ANYTHING to do with sex?

Not one iota.

Rape has little to do with the victim and everything to do with the perpetrator.

As an example, Edmund Kemper's own words explain it better than I:

When asked what he thought when he saw a pretty woman walking down the street, he replied: "I'd like to go out with her." After a brief pause, he continued, "I wonder what her head would look like on a stick?"

Did you know that during ancient times, armies of opposition frequently raped the women of the vanquished to illustrate their domination over the losing side? Why? Because it was a way to truly humiliate not just the women, but the men, thus keeping them under control.

Go ahead and teach your girls to dress modestly--but please don't expect it to protect them from rape.

Ben Trovato said...

Quinn

You are making a huge and illogical leap from the proposition (with which I agree) that many or most rapes are about violence, power, humiliation etc to the conclusion that there is no element of sexual arousal etc in any rape. That is a non sequitur.

Further I am not talking primarily about one women dressing as a slut and provoking someone to rape her - a fairly remote contingency as we both agree.

But women choosing to dress as sluts is in my view a contributor to a culture in which they are denigrated, objectified and treated as sexual things for the benefit of men (that is after all the myth of prostitution). Such a culture is on in which rapes are more like to occur in my view.

Thus my wanting my daughters to dress modestly is not primarily a strategy to prevent them being raped, though it may reduce the risk (and I recognise that you will not agree with that) but because I do not want them to be part of a culture that views women in that way: as sexual things for the pleasure of men.

Quinn said...

Let me try this again since I'm evidently not being clear.

Rape is a crime of violence and sex is the weapon.

Look at that sentence in another way:

Murder is a crime of violence and ________ is the weapon.

Is the weapon the motive for murder?

Nope.

Neither is the weapon the motive for rape.

Power is the motive,nothing more, nothing less and how the victim dresses, just as for murder, has no bearing on whether or not a female (regardless of age) or a toddler (regardless of gender) becomes a victim.

By stating that choice of dress is a factor in why a rapist chooses their victims, blame is place on the victim. This has been proven wrong time after time over the years.

As I said previously, I hope you take the time to research this subject and learn the facts behind the myths. And then, pass on the truth to your daughters.

The Guild Master said...

If rape has nothing to do with sexual titillation, nothing at all, no never, explain to me the fact that much pornography exploits rape or forced sex to arouse the viewer. Or is pornography about empowering the user? Rape and sexual arousal do not exist in nice, neat, little hermetically-sealed containers never meeting each other.

Ben has a very powerful point which you keep avoiding: the sexual commodification of women creates a society that is hostile to women. Women who choose to dress like commodities are contributing to this problem. Slutwalkers, like many rapists, are doing what they do for power. Two wrongs do not make a right. They have both corrupted the purpose of sex. Sex is for procreation and the expression of love between a man and woman within marriage. Anything else is wrong and will end up, and has ended up, hurting an awful lot of people.

Ben Trovato said...

Quinn

You make a lot of absolute statements, claiming whole truths from particular examples.

"Rape is a crime of violence and sex is the weapon."

That applies, certainly, to the most violent and pathological rapes, which you seem very fond of citing in all their brutality and depravity.

But does it really apply to every date rape when two young people are enjoying an intimate evening, but one then chooses to stop, when the other thinks the message all evening has been 'yes, yes, yes,' and then refuses to hear or believe the 'no.' That is certainly a rape, but doesn't fit into your categorisation so neatly.

And as the other commenter notes, you have totally evaded the societal context within which rape occurs: women viewed and treated as sexual commodities.

Your politicised view is not very nuanced...

Quinn said...

Rape is a crime of violence and sex is the weapon--yes--I stand by this even for date rape.

Now, the question is why.

Simple answer--the definition of rape: forced intercourse without consent.

What part of power and control is not inherent in that definition? That is the commonality between all rapes whether committed as stranger rape, incest rape or date rape.

The second part, without consent, covers date rape drugs such as rohypnol, ketamine and GBH. Such drugs take away a person's ability to say no--or yes. Each act differently but the end result is to put the drugged person under the power of another.

Date rape is, in some ways, better than stranger rape and in some ways, worse. Better because there may be less of a physical danger; worse because someone in a position of trust disabused the trust.

Still, that element of commonality remains--the use of force/lack of consent.

And back to your statement in your original post, "But to infer from that obvious proposition that women and girls are therefore absolved of any responsibility for their actions is absurd." What part of "without consent" is not understood?

Your follow-up scenario--wallet on dashboard, etc.--is interesting. Would you say John Lennon asked to be murdered because he made himself rich and famous? Is someone driving a shiny-just-off-the-lot Jaguar asking to be carjacked? Whether or not you locked your car doors, rolled up your windows, etc., doesn't change the fact that if someone wants to steal from you, they didn't need to see your wallet to do so. All they had to do was a.)mug you, b.) break your car window.

The same is true for a rape victim. If someone chooses to rape another person, regardless of the safeguards or lack thereof, they will do so.

As for my avoidance of "societal context," every comment I've posted is in direct response to it. Clothing makes absolutely NO difference to a rapist because his ultimate goal/motivation is not sex. It is power.

Just ask any woman who has been raped while wearing a jilbāb and burqa.

As a side note, I'm not particularly fond of today's fashions for girls or women. Regardless, choice in clothing, even revealing, snug clothing does not grant the right of intercourse to any man whose eyes happen to light on her, unless she consents.

The Guild Master said...

You have changed your definition of rape. You started off by agreeing with Linda Fairstein's definition:
'Rape is a crime of POWER with sex as the weapon'

and have now switched by sleight of hand to a different definition:
'Rape is a crime of VIOLENCE and sex is the weapon'.

Power and violence are not the same things.

Both definitions are exclusive and fail to recognise that a person may have, and often does have, more than one motive for a crime. In the case of rape that can include a sexual element, a very strong sexual element, as is shown, for example, in the case of Thomas Schiro (1981), whose rapes were fuelled by a lifelong addiction to pornography and living out the extreme sexual fantasies deriving from the material he read.

Ben Trovato said...

Quinn,

One problem with your approach is that by insisting on the use of force, you make the likelihood of conviction for rape much lower, and it is already very low.

But you introduce a defence that goes: 'I didn't force her' rather than 'she didn't say no' which is the only legitimate defence against rape (other than 'it didn't happen'). You are implying a woman has to fight back for it to count as a rape. Given the psychological bullying many women sustain at the hands of men, (and indeed the mere prospect of physical violence implicit in that) that is outrageous.

In particular, date rape would be even harder to prosecute, as you would have to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt not only that there was no consent, but that force was used or threatened. In the case where a boy was drunk/stoned etc that might not apply - but by the traditional definition, without the 'force' element you are so fond of, then lack of free consent is all that needs to be proved.

Further, by denying that there is anything women can do to affect the likelihood of rape, you are further disempowering women.

This is all because you assume that to admit any such possibility is to reduce the blame on the perpetrator.

It is that illogicality I oppose.

I would go the other way, and say:

1) a rapist is fully and completely culpable for the crime;

2) to the extent that we collude with a culture that encourages men to see women as objects for their sexual pleasure, or that encourages women to evaluate themselves in that way, (and I think immodest dress and Slutwalking both risk doing that - though I would add that there are other and worse excesses, in particular pornography, which are seriously problematic in this regard), we are all responsible to some extent for the rapes that occur in our society;

3) that responsibility, which we must not shirk, in no way diminishes the culpability of any individual rapist.