Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What the hell can you say about this?

Found this on my brother's blog. I would suggest only watching the first few minutes, as it gets rather disturbing.

Watch Saving Africa's Witch Children in Activism & Non-Profit  |  View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Rape, sex and power - and possibly some discussion of porn...(updated)

I am going to give this conversation a rest now (unless someone comes along wanting to discuss the porn). I really don't have an interest in saying things that are offensive to others and I am not sure exactly how to have this conversation without doing so. I come at it from a particular direction, where the terms being argued have very specific definitions. The distinctions being argued however, aren't important except in a very specific context. It is just not important enough to cause others distress and gets very creepy when I come off the way I am coming off in this discussion.

I am sorry for causing any discomfort.

Over at a blog that is rather new to me, The Thoughtful Animal, Jason Goldman wrote an interesting post, questioning the impact of porn on the people who watch it. Unfortunately, the discussion that followed in comments became a battle about whether porn is inherently bad, or whether it might be rather more complicated than that. This stemmed from some serious condemnation of Jason for asking the wrong question, that instead the important question would be along the lines of; "Should something like porn, that is inherently exploitative towards women and is always an act of violence against women?"

Chaos ensued, unfortunately, with me contributing rather a lot to it. Jason was really rather keen on talking about the topic he had actually written about, but of a very long comment thread, there were very few comments that addressed that topic. And Zuska joined the fray, with a post of her own, the comments again turning to chaos and unfortunately causing Zuska rather a lot of distress. When she mentioned this and her plan to close the comments in a few hours, a number of assholes took it upon themselves to, of course, be assholes about it. In particular, Joshua Zelinsky was asshole enough to explain to Zuska that she should really do her homework on the topic of pornography - feeling that her emotional and mental health are just silly little concerns. Since I couldn't say it there:

Fuck You Joshua!

What Joshua did was not a whole lot different than telling someone who suffers pathological depression, that they should just stop thinking so negatively. I think most of the half dozen or so who are reading this are probably aware of how I feel about that kind of bullshit. That is the sort of shit that pressures people to be ashamed of their own brains, to feel like their feelings aren't valid. While I am pretty sure that Zuska is unlikely to feel that sort of shame - especially over something said by an asshole on her blog, it is really fucking obnoxious, asshole.

So - that out of the way, I am not going to actually delve into the discussion about porn anymore - you have the links and if you were actually a part of the discussion, you are aware anyways. I am however, opening the comments on this post to discuss the porn issue further. If you choose to engage in that discussion here though, I will warn you ahead of time that I am not likely to play nice about it here.

What I am going to address, are a couple of comments that came up on Jason's blog, shortly before he closed comments. I said that I would address those comments here and so I shall. The comments were from Luna_the_cat & Max - with Max basically reiterating what Luna had to say. They were a response to my inference that rape is more often about sex, than it is about power. Luna wrote;
DuWayne, the one thing that I'll take issue with you on is that. Studies done with rapists have indicated it isn't really about sex; it is sexualised power, and what I recall from research I did on this a few years ago, over 60% of convicted rapists are quite overt about motivations to "get back at women" or "put a woman in her place" or similar, as well as gaining perceived status from the rape from a peer group. And from surveys done of incarcerated populations, as well as NCVS studies, most rapists are actually in sexual relationships with people other than their victim at the time the crime is committed, which knocks the whole "it's because they can't get access to sex" thing on the head. It's also borne out by how many assaults involve additional acts to humiliate the victim, like pissing on her or forcing her to thank the attacker. (yeah. seriously.) It is multifactorial, and different individuals have different mixes of motivations, but to say it's "mostly sex" isn't justified. The "it's a power play" position is justified by evidence, even though it is overtly and explicitly sexual in nature.

Date rapes or rapes of drunk/drugged victims who are unable to express nonconsent effectively, might be "more about the sex", but it is impossible to state that as a universal. There is too much variation in both the nature of the assaults and the nature of the assailants.
Ok, so if we're talking about rape defined as "random stranger assault" then yes, rape is often mostly about power. But the rape as defined by the second paragraph is by far the most common form of rape and there is no question that that is most often, mostly about the sex, not the power aspect. I am not saying that power never plays a role, just that sex plays a more prevalent and stronger role. The same is true of incestuous molestation. While it is more complicated, because power differentials so often play a role - it is also generally about the sex. This is not a controversial claim I am making either. See here, here, here, here and here. That was less than a minute of searching.

Acquaintance rape is not only by far the most common, it is also the least reported - in part because victims are either ashamed, not sure it wasn't really their fault or both. Some women are simply not aware that what happened was rape, an attitude that is common with women who were raped while partying - even if they had been drugged. A lot of the studies (data collection by the Department of Justice has been ongoing for decades now) utilize questionnaires given to both men and women. Instead of asking women if they were victims of rape, and asking men if they are rapists (yes, males get raped too and there are probably studies going on), they describe scenarios and ask women and men if they have been on either side of such scenarios. Many of these studies also ask both men and women what they believe the motivation for that scenario was - assuming they responded positively. When it comes to acquaintance/date rape, both men and women who had responded affirmatively felt that sex was the primary motivation.

I will admit that this is not an area that I have spent as much time exploring, as I have other aspects of human sexuality. More than most anything else, rape is just really hard for me to look into very much. Far too many women I know were either raped as an adult, or were raped as a child - almost always by a family member. I can't sit down and explore this issue, without thinking about so many people that I care about and what their experience with rape did to them. But I am very aware of the statistics and I am also very aware of the way these studies are conducted. Figures range from ten percent of college age women, to one in four college age women having been raped at some point in their lives. The figures for men having participated in a rape - or "act of sexual aggression," is in some studies as high as ten percent, though roughly five percent is a reasonable aggregate of the data I have seen.

So Luna & Max, that is why I made the assertion I did. I understand where you are coming from and agree that in the context of stranger rape, it probably is most often about power. There is a lot of data that would indicate that at the very least it plays a significant role. But when it comes to all rape, the data simply doesn't fit your assertion. Oh, there was another bit to address...
...It's also kind of another slap in the face for victims. "It's just sex" has been a way of telling people they're blowing the whole thing out of proportion and they just need to get over it ("besides, they want it, really") for a long time. The people who have been on the receiving end of this know that it isn't sex. It is sexualised violence.
I very strongly disagree about this being a slap in anybody's face - it is certainly not how I intend it. The motivation of the fucking bastard who perpetrated that crime has nothing to do with how horrifying the crime is. I am sorry that some women who have been raped feel this way and I do not want to seem to be invalidating anyone's feelings - that is not what I am all about. But I don't begin to see how the motivation of a sex offender, changes the proportional damage the crime causes. Whether the fucker was doing it for power, doing it for sex or doing it because voices in his head told him to, it is still fucking rape.

Seriously, I comprehend and respect the feelings of people who have been victimized by rapists. I cannot understand them, because I have not had the experience - but I also know way too many women who have been raped and definitely comprehend how terrible it is. I am not denying that power can play a role and is probably the primary role when it comes to stranger rape. But when it comes to acquaintance rape, sex plays a primary role in motivating the men who commit the crime. That does nothing to change what has been done to the woman, doesn't detract one bit from the validity of her feelings after. The reason I think this is important, is because I think that understanding the motivations behind sex crimes is an important aspect of learning how to prevent them. I may write some about that in the future, but that is a whole post, in and of itself.