Friday, October 30, 2009

Compounding the disappointment

The BMJ (British Medical Journal) British Journal of Criminology has declared the widespead use of date-rape drugs to be an urban myth. This depresses Tressugar, but I am GLAD to see it said so clearly. It drives me batty when people get so earnestly grave and serious with their roofie-warnings for young women. When people use oversimplifications/exaggerations like this to pretend to confront a problem as complicated* and serious as rape, it creates a sense of complacency.

Tressugar says:
It's troubling that some experts and the media cannot find a way to remind people about the dangers associated with binge drinking without discrediting women who have been victims of sexual abuse.
I think it's conceding too much to say that this is a discredit to victims of rape. I imagine that blackout-drunk women pushed into sex haven't played out in their minds exactly what all the possible consequences of extreme drunkenness could entail. I don't think that acknowledging that a victim's actions contributed to the situation in which they were vulnerable is a discredit; it's a simple acknowledgement of cause-and-effect. To me, it's like the math that you do when you decide whether or not to buy health insurance. You can do a bunch of things to lessen the likelihood that you will become very very sick, but you can't eliminate the possibility. Shit happens, and blame isn't really the point, especially because the one who actually pays is the victim. I ignored/didn't really notice a constant headache for a couple of months, and if I'd noticed it sooner, I just might have been able to prevent the devastating illness I ended up with. But maybe I couldn't have; I don't know. I'm not in charge of these things. I'm also not in charge of how people around me act, and neither is any other drunk woman of the people she's with. Glossing over the contributing factors to anything works against the possibility of preventing it.

So the roofie lie is dangerous in two ways: it leaves people more vulnerable to rape AND it discredits the anti-rape cause, which its detractors would say collapses without an overcautious but shamelessly deceived victim. There's nothing just-so about the story. The last thing I expect out of the godless, random universe in which I live is fairness. It's up to people to enforce that.

Of course, the number one contributing factor among the things that make rape happen is the action of the rapist. It's really not possible to control all the influences upstream from there; most people who get drunk don't get raped or commit rape. But a lot of people who are raped or commit rape did get drunk beforehand. I mean, how many hundreds of times have you heard the story about the marathon-running only-organic-vegan who died of a heart attack at 55?

Justice is not natural, so we have to consciously choose it. We can and should BLAME THE RAPIST FOR RAPING. It's not a crime (or even really impolite or unwise) to get drunk; It is a crime to rape. You don't just increase the chances that someone will be raped when you rape them - you decide that you will rape. You may get away with smoking cigarettes for a couple of decades without related health problems, but you will definitely have created a problem if you fill your kid's sippy cup with bleach.

It seems pretty simple to me, but a rape culture's self-enforcement doesn't get it, (link via Amanda from Pandagon) and refuses to, so if I'm going to really face facts here I'm not going to hold my breath until our sick culture can acknowledge what the facts mean.

Someone got raped? Let's think of anyone we could blame who is not the rapist! Maybe...the victim! Yeah, she's a total slut!

It's pretty nice when the stars align so that your drunken escapades don't end up with some guy raping you, but that doesn't make you better than the people whose did. I know I've never drunk so much as to black out again for a couple of reasons: a) I don't want that to happen to me again and b) it's just not fun to be falling-down drunk, or to have the falling-down drunk hangover.

*I know that people claim it isn't complicated, but I'm not convinced, and I find it seriously counterproductive to gloss over the complications of the subject. There are a lot of debates about what is and is not rape, and to use some pop-cultural examples, I think it's pretty damn clear that Joan was raped by her fiance, but Pete did not rape the babysitter that lived down the hall. He used some deception and unfair coercion, but he "convinced" her to sleep with him, and in the face of her disadvantage, she relented. That transactional view of sex is icky, sure, but it seems to be an actual way people carry out their sex lives. I'm not willing to define rape down to where it is the primary mode of sexual interaction between two people who are getting a raw deal out of their sex lives, but basically comfortable with it.

A stereotypical woman who "gives" sex to her partner in exchange for love/security/material support may in fact be satisfied with her sex life. It's obviously not a great way to negotiate a sexual relationship - to me it's downright creepy - but if it helps some limp through patriarchal control of their lives, I say let them keep it as long as they want it.
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