A rape in progress

Please read the following vignette of an actual incident.

I am a scientist observing the culture of the Namoyoma people. I am sitting in a shady spot just outside the village, writing up some notes, and I observe a disturbing event. Four men are trying to drag a young woman from the road into the nearby forest, and from what I hear them saying, they intend to rape her. There are also four older women trying to drag the young woman back to the village, and they are yelling that she must go back to her father’s house where she will be protected. The battle over this young woman continues for quite some time, and the whole time I consider if I should be involved. I am here to study these people, not to interfere. Yet a rape is, at least according to my cultural norms, a bad thing. Do I get involved or not?

Eventually, the four younger men, stronger than the older women, succeed in dragging the young woman into the bush. I assume they raped her. I felt bad about not helping, but I really had little choice in the matter. I did not come here to change things, I came here to observe and to learn. Intervention could have unforeseen consequences. This culture of rape and male dominance is the way things are in this society. It would be foolish and unethical to try to change it no matter how much I disagree with it.

That is a real story, and I’ve changed the details enough so that it might be difficult for you to track down where it comes from. This is because I have no intention at this time of getting into a battle over this particular incident. Rather, I tell you this story to ask the question: Is it appropriate for you, as a private citizen living in some country like the US or Australia or wherever you are reading this from, to get involved in changing the way that people’s cultures operate in areas where you happen to think they are wrong? In a culture like the one described above, where rape of women by men is “normal” and “typical” and “happens all the time” one can certainly feel badly for the women, but can you, should you, actually intervene?

My own answer to the question is substantially different from that of the person who first told the story I relate above. The answer is: “You are asking a stupid question in a stupid way, and need to step back and think about what you are saying.”

Rape may well be a “normal” and “day to day” occurrence in this culture, simply by virtue of the fact (= tautology) that it happens all the time. But there are two reasons why one should not fail to intervene.

One of these two reasons (and I hesitate to prioritize them) is that while rape is “normal” and “frequent” resistance to rape is as well. In the story cited above, there are two opposing forces, but the researcher observing them seems to focus only on one of the two. What about the perspective of the older women pulling on the other arm of this young girl? Are they not part of this culture as well? And certainly the young girl herself is at least as much an example of resistance as she is an example of object. If you must be logical and reflective in the manner of the hapless observer cited above, rather than activist, please consider that not wanting to be raped is a cultural norm as well. Duh.

The other reason is that rape is wrong. Call me a cultural chauvinist if you like.

This post is part of an effort that I was made aware of in a letter from Sheril Kirshenbaum, but with which a lot of people are involved. It is called Silence Is the Enemy, and you can read about it at The Intersection Blog at Discovermagazine.com.

The above example is from Latin America. Recently, mass rape as a tool of warfare has become increasingly exposed (this is not a new phenomenon) in Europe and Africa as part of very recent conflicts. When generation-long warfare is combined with child-solder strategies, as has happened in Liberia, the Congo, and parts of Uganda in recent decades, young men grow up understanding that sex = violent rape, and a sort of post-Apocalypic rape culture often emerges. I’ve provided a handful of links below that you should follow to learn more about this phenomenon. I also recommend the classic but not out of date Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape by Susan Browmiller, and the more recently published examination of former Yugoslavia, Rape Warfare: The Hidden Genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia

Men, by and large, have a rape switch. All men are capable of rape. Most men are enculturated in a way that reduces rape, and in some societies it is probably true that most violent rape is carried out by individuals who are reasonably labeled as pathological. In other societies, this is not so true. In post war societies such as those described in some of these links, or any society in a state of war, rape becomes routine. The rape switch is flipped to the on position as a matter of course. Most men who were in combat in Viet Nam raped. Similar circumstances have been documented for other wars. I mention this not only to emphasize the depth and breadth of this problem, but to avoid what I fear will be an assumption as Silence Is the Enemy progresses that this is a problem exclusive to the dark skinned of the third world. This is a pan-human problem. None of us, none of our societies, are immune.

Follow the links on Sheril’s blog. Read about this global and serious problem. Donate money to the causes mentioned here and on other blogs. Many of us bloggers who gain income from our blogs are donating some portion of this month’s take to these causes. Take some of your cash and put it on the line as well, please.

Blogging:

The Intersection: Silence Is The Enemy, Sheril’s initial post.

The Intersection: Blogger Coalition, a link farm.

Quiche Moraine: Stephanie wrote this.

Information and commentary:

New York Times OpEd: After Wars, Mass Rapes Persist

CNN.com commentary: War on women in Congo

Do something:

If you are an American, you can write to Congress

Give something. Consider doctors without borders. Me? I’m got my own favorite, the Ituri Forest People’s Fund.


… Continues …

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Comments

  1. #1 Heidi Anderson
    June 1, 2009

    Wow Greg. I am right there with you. I understand the “prime directive” that this researcher felt, but would they have stood back and watched a baby being murdered? Or a Jew being led to the gas chamber?

    WTF?

  2. #2 annasbones
    June 1, 2009

    “Yet a rape is, at least according to my cultural norms, a bad thing”

    I am profoundly, beyond words, disgusted.

    Rape IS NOT ACCEPTABLE NO MATTER which culture you come from. Our greatest loyalty should ALWAYS be to help others who need us.

    This comment is highly arrogant, ethnocentric, prejudiced and borderline imperialist.

    In MY culture, witnessing such a thing and not doing anything about has a name: ‘accessory to a crime’.

  3. #3 CyberLizard
    June 1, 2009

    I very much appreciate the effort to expose and prevent the systematic raping of women throughout the world. I must take exception with one thing you wrote:

    Men, by and large, have a rape switch. All men are capable of rape. Most men are enculturated in a way that reduces rape, and in some societies it is probably true that most violent rape is carried out by individuals who are reasonably labeled as pathological.

    Perhaps it’s a result of my enculturation, but I do not believe that I am capable of rape any more than I believe I am capable of beating my wife or shooting someone because I disagree with them. Of course nearly all humans are physically capable of performing almost any act, but a lot more goes into whether or not someone is capable of carrying out such an act than merely their physical capability.

    Your examples then go on to show more about the dehumanization of war than of any so-called rape switch in men.

  4. #4 VHG
    June 1, 2009

    disgusted with that blog..and the blogger..i’d argue that rape is a norm and regularly happens in these UNITIED STATES OF AMERICA ..but it is a crime and is punishable by law…

    and should someone from another country visit the U.S. as a researcher, studying this culture, and find themselves face to face with this typical crime ocurring in this country, i would hope the researcher would at a minimum, call 9 freaking 11!

  5. #5 j.t.delaney
    June 1, 2009

    “Most men who were in combat in Viet Nam raped.”

    This is a very bold statement — what do you have to back this up?

  6. #6 amphiox
    June 1, 2009

    Taken to its logical conclusion, the compulsion to intervene, the ‘rightness’ of intervening, means the rightness of invading another country, such as Iraq, to remove a government engaged in oppressing the people, particularly if the people had displayed evidence of ‘resistance’ by revolting in the past.

    Granted this was not the primary reason for the war in Iraq, but it was one of the varied justifications, and one of the reasons that certain people and governments of more liberal bent did, at least initially, support the war. It also means that it would be right for another country to invade in any and all circumstances in which a government is oppressing the people, and the people have already demonstrated past attempts at resistance to that government.

    In the case of this one researcher we must also consider the likelihood of his potential intervention having the desired effect. Would he, alone, have been able to prevent the rape by intervening, or would he have found himself overpowered by the four men, possibly injured or even killed? And would his intervention, in failing, have resulted in the young woman being killed?

  7. #7 Bob
    June 1, 2009

    Two things:

    1) The fact that there were other members of the culture trying to prevent the rape shows that it is not an accepted norm. There were people fighting to stop the rape. Obviously they knew it was wrong and not just something that happens. On Star Trek, this would allow Kirk or Picard to help because the culture was asking for help. No conflict with the Prime Directive.

    2) There is right and wrong in the world and I could not live with myself if I sat by passively and watched someone come to harm when I could have stopped it. That’s why I’ll never be an anthropologist or a nature photographer. If the choice is between losing my job and losing myself, I’ll lose the job. I would help the woman, I would rescue the prey animals and I would feed the predators. That’s the way I am and I will not compromise it.

  8. #8 Elizabeth
    June 1, 2009

    CyberLizard: The difference between the number of men who rape when rape is quasinormalized and those who do when it is not is very large. You have a switch.

  9. #9 Jackal
    June 1, 2009

    What exactly would you expect our congress to do, and what should we be asking them to do?

  10. #10 Alex Besogonov
    June 1, 2009

    “Is it appropriate for you, as a private citizen living in some country like the US or Australia or wherever you are reading this from, to get involved in changing the way that people’s cultures operate in areas where you happen to think they are wrong?”

    Yes.

  11. #11 Greg Laden
    June 1, 2009

    Jackel: What do do is a tricky, but excellent question.

    I would suggest staring out by writing to each of your reps (for the US that’s two senators, and one member of the house) and asking what they are doing. If a few notes come along in this regard, an aide will be dispatched to find out what the are doing and this will shake up the ant farm a little. It is likely that someone is doing something somewhere.

    The next phase might be a followup letter/email, including a note to each of the chairs and ranking members of the appropriate committees.

    What can happen in these sorts of situations include the following:

    Military aid is withheld from a country that does not show active movement in a certain policy direction.

    Economic and/or humanitarian aid is held until it is shown that some/much of it will be use in a way that is productive. Typically, much of this money is going ot graft anyway, so it is not like people are going to starve because some big whig doesn’t get paid off.

    USAID and the Embassy can take specific actions and will do so if directed by Congress and The White House

    (Oh, a letter to the state department and to the white house is of course a good idea as well).

    It takes more than on letter, so you might as well start out with something that points to the blog swarm and asks questions.

  12. #12 Maria
    June 1, 2009

    I’ll just put this out there.

    This person (guy?) was there as an observer. It presumably took some time for him to be accepted in that role. Breaking it might endanger the woman’s standing in the society (she was helped by an outsider), and the researcher’s position, as well as the access granted to other researchers further down the line. And this could have consequences of its own for the village itself – without knowing more I can’t really say, but they may be more reluctant to accept some modern technologies that would save lives, or any number of things.

    The status of an anthropologist in this situation, as I understand it, is really to be as invisible and unobtrusive as possible. If you open the door to moral judgment, then I think you open the door to abuse by the researcher – rape is unacceptable, maybe theft is ok. Where’s the line?

    For what it’s worth, in my mind this only applies to researchers and other roles where establishing trust in the community is important. If someone were traveling through the village and wanted to act, I would expect them to do so.

  13. #13 DuWayne
    June 1, 2009

    Written up here.

  14. #14 PhilB
    June 1, 2009

    Elizabeth: “The difference between the number of people who abuse drugs when drug use is quasinormalized and those who do when it is not is very large. You have a switch.”

    I also have support #5’s request for evidence to back up the Vietnam statement. Yes, it did happen and it’s shameful, but lets try to be accurate about the degree to which it occurred.

    I just have to disagree with the concept that somehow all men are potential rapists, sexual preditors, perverts, etc. It’s been said elsewhere but you might as well say that all people are potential murderers, or all high school teachers are potential sex offenders.

  15. #15 Lobster
    June 1, 2009

    I’m not sure your evaluation is fair, Greg. You say the conflict was, “do I stop this rape or not,” as if one considers the “rape” to be the only activity here; that the resistance is not as significant as the rape. But from the quote you’ve selected, it seems the individual is not getting involved because he thinks it unethical to get involved at all. He focuses on the rape because he WANTS to stop it. He wants to justify his inaction to himself and he feels no guilt over allowing the women to resist. Your point that he did not wish to impose his beliefs upon a culture is well taken; indeed if he had helped the old women he would have been participating in the culture… but he was not there to participate.

  16. #16 Stephanie Z
    June 1, 2009

    PhilB, I will state it right here and now: all people are potential murderers, and all teachers are potential child abusers, albeit probably not sexual abusers. There’s nothing special about humans that make any of us immune to violent impulses. We spend a hell of a lot of time getting from toddlers, where violence is the normal means of settling disputes, to something we recognize as adults. And it doesn’t take for everyone.

    There is no “them” who are the violent ones. “They” are “we,” however much it might comfort us to deny it, and you don’t need to look very far to find examples to support that. Murder happens in every society, at every “level,” and in all sorts of situations. It wasn’t that long ago that corporal punishment was the norm in schools, and it still is in many. There is no immunity.

  17. #18 eddie
    June 1, 2009

    Last time I visited Discover blogs site I got ads for the templetons. You’ll understand if I only want to follow the less pro-rape links.

  18. #19 D. C. Sessions
    June 1, 2009

    “Yet a rape is, at least according to my cultural norms, a bad thing”

    I am profoundly, beyond words, disgusted.

    Rape IS NOT ACCEPTABLE NO MATTER which culture you come from.

    1) Please note the “at least” — Greg’s statement encompasses yours.

    2) “Wrong” is a cultural value. Barring appeals to the supernatural, there is no “wrong” outside of a cultural context. That doesn’t mean that we are bound to respect cultures that tolerate or encourage behavior that we find abominable; that would itself be a cultural value judgment.

    Anyone who holds cultural autonomy as absolute has simply written themselves an excuse to avoid standing up to be counted. Fortunately, their sacred noninterventionism keeps them from disrespecting my cultural mandate against standing by while evil is done.

  19. #20 Bridget McKinney
    June 1, 2009

    There is a difference in my mind between trying to avoid passing judgment on a culture by interfering in normative cultural practices and compartmentalizing to the point of dehumanizing the people you are observing.

    I understand and respect and applaud that this guy was there as an observer to learn more about these people. However, it seems to me that he forgot somewhere along the line that they are, in fact, PEOPLE. He’s not studying ants or hyenas or even chimpanzees. These are other human beings who are themselves persons. By taking his observation to the level of ignoring a horrendous crime (if the woman and her female relatives are resisting it *is* a crime) in progress, he reduces these people, if not to the level of animals than certainly to something *other* than human in his mind.

    Absolutely chilling. And some of the comments here so a similar level of disturbing detachment and willingness to label another culture as a “them” rather than US.

    Stephanie Z was absolutely correct in stating “‘They’ are ‘we’…”

  20. #21 eddie
    June 1, 2009

    I’m sure you’ve all read this one before. It’s worth reading again in this context, to get a handle on what the govt. may do to help.

  21. #22 Greg Laden
    June 1, 2009

    My statement about rape in Viet Nam comes from an undergruate thesis I supervised, and the data for that thesis come in part from Browmiller’s book, cited in the OP.

    To learn more about rape in Viet Nam you can also look here http://lmgtfy.com/

  22. #23 Shadow Caster
    June 1, 2009

    There is such a thing as “Universal Morality”. He/She should have stopped the rape.

  23. #24 RL
    June 1, 2009

    Drop the field note book and all the pretentious over-intellectualizing about “what to do, what to do…” Pick up a heavy-ass object like a shovel and go beat the piss out of those rapists.

  24. #25 xavier
    June 1, 2009

    There does not need to be a universal morality for certain moral virtues to prevail.

  25. #26 Ray V.
    June 1, 2009

    I was in Viet Nam. If this statement is restricted to combat soldiers (not every soldier in the theater was a combat soldier) who were there for full stints then yes, this is an understatement.

  26. #27 PhilB
    June 1, 2009

    RL: Given the situation as presented in the OP, it’s really easy to armchair quarterback this. It’s probable that said researcher was not trained or prepared mentally for a potentially violent confrontation. Lack of courage may certainly be regretable but not a moral failing on his part.

    Most people hope we would be the hero given the choice, many have to face the fact that when opportunity presents itself we don’t have as much courage as we’d hoped.

  27. #28 PhilB
    June 1, 2009

    RL: Given the situation as presented in the OP, it’s really easy to armchair quarterback this. It’s probable that said researcher was not trained or prepared mentally for a potentially violent confrontation. Lack of courage may certainly be regretable but not a moral failing on his part.

    Most people hope we would be the hero given the choice, many have to face the fact that when opportunity presents itself we don’t have as much courage as we’d hoped.

  28. #29 PhilB
    June 1, 2009

    Whoops, sorry about the double post.

  29. #30 RL
    June 1, 2009

    Yeah, I guess the anthropologist in question must have slept through the “AN756: What to do when witnessing a rape in the field” class. They certainly lacked proper training.

    What was that I said about over-intellectualizing…hmmm?

  30. #31 PhilB
    June 1, 2009

    Have you ever even been in a fistfight? As an adult, not one-punch-the-bully-in-junior-high shiat. You can continue to believe that everyone with no training or experience can be John Wayne or Jackie Chan, but the fact of the matter is no. Stop watching movies and experience the real world for a while.

  31. #32 Jason
    June 1, 2009

    Yeah, I guess the anthropologist in question must have slept through the “AN756: What to do when witnessing a rape in the field” class. They certainly lacked proper training.

    What was that I said about over-intellectualizing…hmmm?

    Because you, RL, would have beaten the four men with the sheer force of your overwhelming masculinity and won the day.

    Should he have tried? Absolutely. Likely outcome: he gets badly beaten and she still gets raped.

  32. #33 RL
    June 1, 2009

    Yeah, my Netflix subscription has really done a number on my rape-stopping ability. Shame on me.

  33. #34 RL
    June 1, 2009

    I might have gotten the piss beat out of me. I claim no hypertrophied sense of of masculinity, but I certainly would have tried to stop it. I certainly wouldn’t have written about it after the fact.

  34. #35 Irene
    June 1, 2009

    People do interpret Browmiller’s statistics differently, and IIRC, she gives ranges and these ranges depend in part on what is included in the “rape” category. But “a lot” or “most” is what I recall from having read “Against our will” way back when it was still current reading.

  35. #36 catgirl
    June 1, 2009

    Well, if someone were committing a murder in a way that was common or acceptable in that culture, should we interfere and stop it? I know that rape is not quite as bad as murder, but it’s pretty far up there. I understand that anthropologists want to observe, but we shouldn’t be so afraid of changing a culture. Cultures change constantly. There’s no such thing as a static culture. This observer should have interfered and helped the woman, even if it meant influencing the change of a culture.

  36. #37 Paul D.
    June 1, 2009

    I recognize where this passage comes from, though it is indeed nicely disguised. Since it is published, no real need to do that.

    I agree that there are often going to be contextual factors, and it may in fact be the case that one cannot intervene in everything that happens. But one can take a stand against a certain behavior and still do ethical fieldwork.

  37. #38 heather sf
    June 1, 2009

    The story sounds like a theoretical excuse for being scared. And to tell the truth…I don’t know what I would have done. No cops, four guys….and I’m also a woman.

    Really, can someone that thinks he (assumption) should have ‘stopped’ it explain what course of action should have been taken? Are we saying that he should have suggested to the men that rape is wrong? Perhaps the influence of a male saying “don’t do this” would have been helpful?

    I think it’s pretty presumptious to assume that there was something he could have done. That doesn’t mean he couldn’t have tried something…I just don’t see what would have gotten the men to let the woman go without a display of greater force to make them…(gun? “shovel?”?) Then that brings in all sorts of problems of retribution. In my experience of violent culture, when someone makes you not do something by a display of force it’s pretty common to just go get more of your friends and get them later. This could have snowballed…

    He was probably terrified. I think what’s inexcusable is the long bullshit explanation of ‘cultural norms’, and the offensive call to ‘ethics’ to explain his lack of action. Greg is right, resistance is clearly a cultural norm too.

    Finally, if we are really suggesting that researchers intervene in these situations, we should discuss the actual mechanics of how to intervene.

  38. #39 Greg Laden
    June 1, 2009

    Oh, Heather, I can explain that because I have stopped it myself. Not exactly the same scenario: Fewer men, but with guns. I’ve done that a number of times.

    I find it interesting that most commenters assume that one wades in with violence, and then it’s a matter of numbers, strength, weapons, getting beat up, etc.

    I’ve done it with humor, I’ve done it with paperwork, I’ve done it with ridicule. It is not without risk of getting killed, but violence is not necessary. In fact, I would not even attempt to stop such a thing with violence. It wouldn’t work, and the woman would be beaten, most likely. You need to use the strongest muscle in your body: The one between your ears. And I’m not talking about the temporalis.

  39. #40 catgirl
    June 1, 2009

    heather and others who think he couldn’t have done anything: four women were pulling the victim away from the four attackers. The rapists did not beat up or hurt the four old women. The observer should have helped the four women in pulling the victim away from the attackers. His or her life was probably not in danger, considering that four old women were brave enough to fight back and they weren’t hurt because of it. Of course things could have gone wrong with interference, but there’s no reason to assume they would.

  40. #41 Greg Laden
    June 1, 2009

    See? Even catgirl is saying to go in and start pulling.

    I’d start by shouting “Hey, what are you doing with my [fill in vaguely believable but utterly impossible kinship term …] Like, if with the Yanamamo, I’d say “Get your hands off my suaboya! You are not waweteri enough to have her!

    This would result, very possibly, in a discussion of why I think she’s my father’s sister’s daughter. And, perhaps most importantly, it would simply alert these distracted men to the fact that they are kinda being watched. How much that matters depends on a lot of things.

    OF course, calling some guy “not waweteri enough” can get your ass kicked…. But it could also lead to an interesting discussion of social norms and the value of behing homicidal yet nice at the same time, etc. etc.

  41. #42 DDeden
    June 1, 2009

    @#6: “In the case of this one researcher we must also consider the likelihood of his…”

    his?

    not her?

  42. #43 Greg Laden
    June 1, 2009

    DDeden … nice catch. This is a he, though, as it turns out.

  43. #44 Elizabeth
    June 1, 2009

    I assumed “it” was a he as well.

  44. #45 PhilB
    June 1, 2009

    I think it’s not necessarily that you go in with violence, but just the recognition that as Greg puts it, things can escalate to where you “can get your ass kicked.”

    I agree with Heather in that, I can’t blame a person for being too scared to do something given that situation. But, rationalizing things with “I really had little choice in the matter” is being dishonest with oneself at best.

  45. #46 the real me
    June 1, 2009

    Once again, the colonizing force of western feminist ideology is at the cross roads: do we continue to focus on male to female sexual interaction when we “objectively” observe a culture, and continue to phrase male to female sex as “rape”; or do we discuss the thousands of other forms of touch that women bestow/coerce’manipulate upon women from birth and also describe that as rape?
    naaaawww…lets just focus on so-called “male” behaviors instead, and classify those behaviors as ‘violent rape’.

    Herein is described yet another scenario where we not only force the wesern paradigm of power on yet another society, but we obliterate the possibility of “ritual” in the scenario–and instead, force our own “rape ideology” intio the forest…

    This one example above not only forgoes any possibility of describing what could be a ritual defloration, but forces the language of “us-v- patriarchy’ onto the Yanomami. But other examples ( cut/paste the link below) clearly show that coercion/rape are not just male behaviors.

    Here (below) are some Yanomami girls acting out behaviors of sexual touching that are most likely symptomatic of female/maternal “improper touch” and coercion. Yanomami women are also known for fondling the genitals of young non-consenting males, as are many other matriarchs in many other cultures, and not always in a ‘pleasing’ way.

    “The other girl insisted so much that she[ the girl being coerced]finally consented. She discovered then that prolonged fondling could give pleasure..”

    http://books.google.com/books?id=NPQx57V7_FsC&pg=PA68&lpg=PA68&dq=yanomami+sexual+practices+fondling&source=bl&ots=Is3nM1-de1&sig=pOIk9Rkg1yIVFu2bJJ4GPTo135s&hl=en&ei=P1UkSuHSL4e0NcyZvYEF&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1#PPA68,M1

    So, instead of patriarchal fantasies of power and sexual projection cast upon ‘others’, in these cases we clearly have matriarchal/lesbian projections onto these people.

  46. #47 the real me
    June 1, 2009
  47. #48 Webs
    June 1, 2009

    Anyone who thinks that the rape in the story is okay or should proceed, no matter the circumstances, needs to read Night by Elie Wiesel. As he said at the Nuremberg trials, “You may not have pulled the trigger, but standing by while someone else does so shows just as much guilt.” (not an exact quote but pretty much the gist).

    I must say I feel strongly about this issue and feel that it’s our duty in any community to stand up for others.

  48. #49 mysie
    June 1, 2009

    The highest level mandate of being a human is to protect human life and prevent harm. If helping means risking personal injury or losing your job, so be it. Cultural sensitivity is all well and good, but we have a responsibility to eliminate the culture of rape, torture, and murder.

  49. #50 Eamon
    June 1, 2009

    Elizabeth@8

    “CyberLizard: The difference between the number of men who rape when rape is quasinormalized and those who do when it is not is very large. You have a switch.”

    First, I think you should define exactly what you mean by ‘quazinormalized’.

    Second, if you totally believe what you say in your first sentence – then in your second sentence you should write “You probably have a switch”. I wonder why you didn’t?

  50. #51 heather sf
    June 1, 2009

    Thanks Greg, your example makes a lot of sense.

    I don’t think that violence is a good choice in that situation (or almost any), and I was having trouble imagining a way to break up the scene without some sort of force being involved.

  51. #52 unreal
    June 1, 2009

    real: right, we get it.

  52. #53 Elizabeth
    June 1, 2009

    Eamon, probably could fit. But maybe not. It is not like this is some rare phenomenon we get to observe only now and then.

  53. #54 Ang
    June 1, 2009

    Rape may well be a “normal” and “day to day” occurrence in this culture, simply by virtue of the fact (= tautology) that it happens all the time.

    Rape is not ever normal and day to day.

  54. #55 Eamon
    June 1, 2009

    Elizabeth @ 53

    “probably could fit. But maybe not. It is not like this is some rare phenomenon we get to observe only now and then.”

    How often do you observe all males on the planet turning into rapists?

  55. #56 Andrew
    June 2, 2009

    The highest level mandate of being a human is to protect human life and prevent harm. If helping means risking personal injury or losing your job, so be it. Cultural sensitivity is all well and good, but we have a responsibility to eliminate the culture of rape, torture, and murder.

    … depends. I watched this really weird episode of House last night …

  56. #57 Eamon
    June 2, 2009

    The highest level mandate of being a human is to protect human life and prevent harm. If helping means risking personal injury or losing your job, so be it. Cultural sensitivity is all well and good, but we have a responsibility to eliminate the culture of rape, torture, and murder.

    Easier said than done. In certain societies you can become an outcast if your intervention causes trouble – Japan for example.

    Also, what if the person in a position to try and do something is the sole breadwinner of the family? Should he or she risk having their family end up out on the streets just because mum or dad ‘tried to be a hero’?

  57. #58 GBM
    June 2, 2009

    I think that many commentators on this thread are being unduly unrealistic about the prospect of a one vs four fight; that situation is something that even world-class martial artists fear. Think about it for a minute—say you managed to grab a shovel; what exactly are you going to do with it? Even if you manage to sneak up behind them and whack one of them over the head, you are going to have three angry, possibly armed, possibly trained or experienced individuals on your hands. Even if they are none of the above, you are almost certainly going to end up trying to fight one man in front of you while somehow simultaneously blocking or dodging the attacks of the attackers on your blindside.
    I think that a very plausible case could be made for owing an obligation to attempt to shame or negotiate with the attackers or perhaps join in with the old women, but considering the severe risk of death or serious permanent bodily injury, on top of the unlikelihood of successfully preventing the rape, arguing that a person has an obligation to face such odds in defense of a stranger seems radical to say the least.

  58. #59 Elizabeth
    June 2, 2009

    Eamon: the point that is being made is that every kind of man, across all different ways of defining what a man is, when put in certain situations has often been found to rape (not always). This is true often enough that the idea of a potential to rape being present in men in general is a reasonable guess and it is a safe bet.

  59. #60 Todd I. Stark
    June 2, 2009

    I’ve been in situations where I’ve intervened successfully against an assault, situations where I’ve been beaten up for trying to intervene, and several where I decided not to try to intervene either out of fear or out of judgment that I couldn’t help anyway.

    My conclusion so far is that in nearly every case where I didn’t act, I later regretted my inaction.

    I suspect that this tells us something about how we are wired. Some part of us wants to help the vulnerable even at our own risk, we just don’t always act on it. We often calculate the odds or focus on the fear instead of acting. If we acted on it more, I think people would be victimized less. That’s one of the reasons why people hold up courage as a virtue, even though it may defy individual strategic sense. That’s regardless of where the motivation to victimize comes from. We can certainly respect the integrity of a journalist or researcher, but there’s a deeper admiration due to someone who goes in harms way to help others.

  60. #61 Eamon
    June 2, 2009

    Elizabeth@59

    has often been found to rape (not always)

    “has often”…”not always”

    That doesn’t read very definite to me.

    This is true often enough that the idea of a potential to rape being present in men in general is a reasonable guess and it is a safe bet.

    Is this a roundabout way of saying the old sexist canard:

    “All men are rapists”?

  61. #62 Elizabeth
    June 2, 2009

    Eamon, in my apartment I have several lights, and at the moment most of them are switched off. Most of them can be switched on. But there are some bulbs that are not screwed in.

    You insist on an argument that every man is a rapist, period, and absent that argument you claim that very few are. What is the point of making that kind of argument?

  62. #63 Ron
    June 2, 2009

    In MY culture, witnessing such a thing and not doing anything about has a name: ‘accessory to a crime’.

    Tsk tsk tsk. That’s not very tolerant of other cultural norms.

  63. #64 Eamon
    June 2, 2009

    Todd@60

    but there’s a deeper admiration due to someone who goes in harms way to help other.

    Too true.

  64. #65 Eamon
    June 2, 2009

    Elizabeth@62

    Pardon me for saying this, but you seem to be trying to switch sides.

    You said: “This is true often enough that the idea of a potential to rape being present in men in general is a reasonable guess and it is a safe bet.”

    Did you not?

    You also say:You insist on an argument that every man is a rapist, period, and absent that argument you claim that very few are. What is the point of making that kind of argument?

    Sorry, how can you read me saying:

    “Is this a roundabout way of saying the old sexist canard:

    “All men are rapists”?”

    as me insisting “every man is a rapist”?

  65. #66 Elizabeth
    June 2, 2009

    Eamon: You are not reading any of this carefully. I happen to agree with the original post (this and the other on the same topic). Just like a man or a woman may kill to save their own baby (or not in some cases) and thus one can postulate a “kill switch” that happens under certain circumstances it seems that there is a “rape switch” that is likely to turn on when young men are sent off in war and are in a particular circumstance. I think this is correct. I can not tell what your opinion is because you are not being clear at all. One wonders why.

  66. #67 Stephanie Z
    June 2, 2009

    Eamon, Elizabeth and Greg really aren’t saying anything different than I said in a comment up-thread. No matter how many times you get Elizabeth to repeat what she said, it’s still not going to be anything for you to pounce on, because it just isn’t that controversial. Uncomfortable, perhaps, but nothing particularly radical. Voice your objections to what she is saying, or give it up.

    Elizabeth, if you’re the same Elizabeth who’s indicated once or twice that you may be in the Cities, would you consider coming to the Quiche Moraine launch party? I’ve been a fan of the way you don’t let yourself be baited in these arguments for quite some time, and I’d love the opportunity to buy you a beer.

  67. #68 Anonymous
    June 2, 2009

    Greg said: “Men, by and large, have a rape switch…”
    Elizabeth said (to CyberLizard): “You have a rape switch.”

    That’s a pretty personal and specific statement to make. Even if Greg’s statement is true, isn’t the prejudgement of an individual (“You have a rape switch”) based solely on gender, I don’t know, the definition of sexism?

    I may not be reading carefully (and I suspect there are equal parts not writing carefully), but I don’t really see how “all men have a rape switch” (which seems to be the case Elizabeth was making upthread, though appears to have softened now) and “all men are potential rapists”. Maybe you can clarify the analogy a bit more. I get light (rape) and the switch (“quasinormalization” of rape), but what’s the bulb that some are missing? How is no bulb functionally different from no switch?

    “it’s still not going to be anything for you to pounce on, because it just isn’t that controversial.”

    Uncontroversial is not the same as correct.

  68. #69 Stephanie Z
    June 2, 2009

    Anonymous, neither is it the same as incorrect.

    As for the switch, we’re all capable of violence and cruelty–to a degree most of us would prefer not to consider. We rein that in in lots of different ways, but there are circumstances that not only loosen the reins but also whip us toward expression of that violence. War is one of those circumstances. Desperation and thwarted entitlement are others.

    However, violence, like just about everything else about being human, is variable. Some may rape; some may torture. Some may simply obliterate their target. The impulse isn’t fundamentally different, but the expression is.

  69. #70 Anonymous
    June 2, 2009

    Anonymous, neither is it the same as incorrect.

    Of course not. I’m not suggesting otherwise. I was just taking issue with the idea that there’s not anything to pounce on *because* it’s uncontroversial.

    As for the switch, we’re all capable of violence and cruelty–to a degree most of us would prefer not to consider. […] However, violence, like just about everything else about being human, is variable. Some may rape; some may torture. Some may simply obliterate their target. The impulse isn’t fundamentally different, but the expression is.

    Surely you can see the difference between “All people have a violence switch” and “All men have a rape switch”

    And the difference between that and “You have a rape switch”, which is insulting, possibly incorrect and something to pounce on.

  70. #71 Stephanie Z
    June 2, 2009

    And you can surely see the difference between “All men have a rape switch.” and “Men, by and large, have a rape switch. All men are capable of rape.” as well as the difference between “You have a rape switch.” and “You have a switch.” If you want to argue distinctions, please pay attention to them.

  71. #72 john l
    June 2, 2009

    Must I point out that the fact that there was resistance says nothing as to whether it’s culturally acceptable or not. Or if it does, then, pretty much by definition, there’s no such thing as a culture that condones rape. After all, if there’s no resistance — none at all — then it’s not rape (unless you take the notion of consent very literally). But if there is resistance, then, at least by your standard, it’s not a norm. This strikes me as perfectly circular.

    That said, I agree with #39.

  72. #73 Robert Bruce Thompson
    June 2, 2009

    However, violence, like just about everything else about being human, is variable. Some may rape; some may torture. Some may simply obliterate their target. The impulse isn’t fundamentally different, but the expression is.

    Killing and rape are fundamentally different. Nearly all men (and women) will kill if necessary to protect themselves or loved ones. Many, including me, would kill to protect innocent bystanders. But there is a fundamental difference between killing if necessary and killing if the opportunity presents itself. Only a small minority of men (and a smaller minority of women) would kill simply because they had an opportunity to do so.

    Rape is never necessary. What’s the guy going to do, plead “I’m sorry, your honor, but I had no choice. I had to rape her.”? Most men will no more rape simply because they are given the opportunity to do so than they would kill simply because they had the opportunity to do so. Most men, in fact, are protective of women, and think of rapists in the same way they do of child molesters.

    As to physically coming to the aid of a women who is being raped, I think it’s situational. Nearly all men would be inclined to do so, but might decide that discretion is the better part of valor. Thirty years ago, I was 26 years old. I’m 6’4″ tall, weigh 230, had a black belt in Shotokan karate, had attended gunfighting school, shot regularly in combat-pistol competitions, and was always armed. Back then, had I seen a woman being assaulted, I would have run over the guy like a Mack truck.

    Nowadays, I’d like to think I’d still come to a woman’s aid, but I’m not sure I’d do much more than just yell at the guy. I’m 56 years old, have family responsibilities, lead a sedentary lifestyle, and am seldom armed.

    But I still do stuff like walking women to their cars at night. My size alone is intimidating enough that any bad guy with even a modicum of sense is going to look for an easier target.

    And sometimes when I’m walking back from escorting the woman to her car, I’ll see another woman alone in the parking lot. Wow! What an opportunity! I could rape her if I wanted to. Apparently, I must be an unusual man, because that thought never crosses my mind. Instead, I just keep an unobtrusive eye on her until she gets to her car safely. And you know what? That’s how about 99% of guys behave.

  73. #74 Elizabeth
    June 2, 2009

    To clarify: “YOU” meant men in general. A switch is a switch because it can be turned on OR off. A light bulb represents context, social norms, repression, and the sort.

    It is not true that all men have a rape switch. Only the normal ones.

  74. #75 davis
    June 2, 2009

    “I am seldom armed”

    I want the tee shirt

  75. #76 brit
    June 2, 2009

    RBT: I do not think that all rape is the same, and that some acts of rape are as much an act of violence as much killing. You seem to be talking about justifiable killing in relation to (unjustifiable) rape. I agree that there is not a justifiable rape, but what about the comparison between unjustified killing and (unjustified) rape?

  76. #77 john l
    June 2, 2009

    @74 Then will you conede that all women, or all normal ones, have a ‘beat up the kids’ switch A ‘shake the baby to death’ switch, a ‘drown them in the bathtub switch”

    So what would you do if you were sitting by the side of the road, and saw a young mother chasing and capturing a toddler, whom she then smacks a number of times, or then perhaps ties to a whipping post and breaks out a length of rubber tire.

    What would you do?

  77. #78 Annie
    June 2, 2009

    John: I think your argument about circularity is itself a bit circular. Maybe you can rephrase. I see the argument that “rape is part of the culture and therefore stopping it is interference” as falsified by the resistance mainly because of the interference part and not the part about cultural norms.

  78. #79 john l
    June 2, 2009

    @74 Then will you concede that all women, or all normal ones, have a ‘beat up the kids’ switch A ‘shake the baby to death’ switch, a ‘drown them in the bathtub switch”

    So what would you do if you were sitting by the side of the road, and saw a young mother chasing and capturing a toddler, whom she then smacks a number of times, or then perhaps ties to a whipping post and breaks out a length of rubber tire.

    What would you do?

  79. #80 john l
    June 2, 2009

    Annie, let’s look at it this way: If a woman resists, in a culture that allows for rape, if there is at least one more cultural norm that can stand head to head with and therefore we can help them. But then all we’re doing is showing that there two conflicting practices, and we have chosen to support one. In doing so we say that rape is not a norm, after all, since women and their friends will fight it.

    So, (1) If there is resistance, rape is not a norm, or at least an dominant one. There are other, contrary norms that compell assent. And (b) if the victim puts up no fight at all, doesn’t try to run, doesn’t shout for help, doesn’t even say, “No!”, then it’s hard to argue that she was raped at all.

    This doesn’t mean that there’s no rape, of course (there would be if the woman fights back, by herself or with her friends, and fails). But it does mean that there’s no such thing as a culture which condones rape.

  80. #81 Stephanie Z
    June 2, 2009

    John, you argue as though culture were monolithic or as though everyone in a group belonged to the dominant culture. That’s absurd.

  81. #82 Greg Laden
    June 2, 2009

    Or John is perhaps confusing “cultural norm” with “accepted practice”

    Where I live, it is accepted practice that if you find an object of some potential value you make an effort to find its owner. The actual thing people do, the norm as it were, is not the same as the accepted practice. There are a whole bunch of circumstances under which you just pocket the thing and don’t make any effort whatsoever to find its rightful owner. There are even conditions under which one might simply ignore the thing like it was not there in order to not face the question of what to do about it.

    Really, I just want to caution against getting hung up in terminology.

  82. #83 Robert Bruce Thompson
    June 2, 2009

    RBT: I do not think that all rape is the same, and that some acts of rape are as much an act of violence as much killing. You seem to be talking about justifiable killing in relation to (unjustifiable) rape. I agree that there is not a justifiable rape, but what about the comparison between unjustified killing and (unjustified) rape?

    Either you missed my point entirely or I didn’t make it very well. All rapes, if the word is properly defined, involve force or the threat of force. (I consider using GHB or other date-rape drugs a form of force; in effect, a man who uses such drugs to overcome resistance from a woman is initiating force against her.)

    Normal people, male or female, do not initiate force against other people except in self defense. Killing may at times be the best or only means of self defense. Rape is never a form of self defense, and is never justified.

    Normal men, which is to say the vast, overwhelming majority of men, would not rape a woman merely because they had the opportunity to do so, even if there was no chance they’d be held accountable for doing so, any more so than normal men kill unnecessarily merely because they have the opportunity to do so without fear of facing consequences.

  83. #84 brit
    June 2, 2009

    I think we essentially agree for the day to day. But rape is used in war time as a weapon of violence just as guns are used. That is not the same thing.

  84. #85 Stephanie Z
    June 2, 2009

    Robert, bullshit.

    It was a perfectly normal guy who didn’t want to let go of me when I was in my late teens. We’d been hanging out, kissed a little bit, but I was done. He wasn’t. It took making it very clear that one of us was going to be injured to get him to realize I meant it and let go.

    If I had been more intimidated (he was a big Navy boy) or less sober or less willing to risk hurting him or being hurt, there’s a very good chance it would have ended in rape. The fact that he was horrified when he figured out I really did mean it wouldn’t have changed that at all.

    He was normal, just young, uneducated in these things and not as bright as he could have been (part of the reason I was done).

  85. #86 john l
    June 2, 2009

    @ 78: If you want to do it that way, it’s all the same to me.

    @ 81. No, I’m not arguing that all people belong to the dominant culture: quite the opposite: that was my point.

    @82. “Accepted practice” has the same problem as “cultural norm”: accepted by whom? For the other women who tried to fight off the rapists in the example, it certainly wasn’t acceptable, or a “norm” (if we take ‘norm’ to have a…normitive sense).

  86. #87 Robert Bruce Thompson
    June 2, 2009

    Robert, bullshit.

    It was a perfectly normal guy who didn’t want to let go of me when I was in my late teens. We’d been hanging out, kissed a little bit, but I was done. He wasn’t. It took making it very clear that one of us was going to be injured to get him to realize I meant it and let go.

    If I had been more intimidated (he was a big Navy boy) or less sober or less willing to risk hurting him or being hurt, there’s a very good chance it would have ended in rape. The fact that he was horrified when he figured out I really did mean it wouldn’t have changed that at all.

    He was normal, just young, uneducated in these things and not as bright as he could have been (part of the reason I was done).

    But he didn’t rape you, right? You made your wishes clear and he desisted. As to the rest of it, as an attorney would say, you’re assuming facts that are not in evidence. Did you report the incident as an attempted rape? If not, why not?

  87. #88 Stephanie Z
    June 2, 2009

    You made your wishes clear and he desisted.

    After I made my wishes known and he persisted. After I caused us both a certain amount of pain. You quoted the paragraph about the circumstances under which I might not have been able to do that. Read it again.

    As for whether or not he was normal, how many stories like this do you need to be convinced? How many with those different circumstances? If you haven’t heard plenty of them, I suggest you’re not listening. At the very least, what you’re saying right here is telling people you’re not eager to listen.

    Not that it’s any of your business, but no, I didn’t press any charges. I settled for some intensive education while he was shocked and listening. I could have been wrong about how receptive he was (although I’m usually right about that kind of thing), but that was my decision to make.

  88. #89 john l
    June 2, 2009

    Yeah, Stephanie, I don’t get what the point of this story is, aside from putting forward the somewhat contradictory ideas that (a) you’re a tough chick, and (b) you’re a victim. As far as I can tell, the guy “didn’t want to let you go”, but you made it clear that you wanted him to, and that was that.

    This doesn’t make anybody a rapist, or a potential rapist, any more than shoplifting a candy bar when you’re 14 makes you burglar.

    More to the point, how did this thread come to be about you? It strikes me as a wee bit narcissistic of you, to turn a thread about the scope and limits of cultural relativism into an account of What Happened to Me When I was a Kid.

    Just remember, Steph: it’s all about you. Everything’s about you.

  89. #90 john l
    June 2, 2009

    Stephanie, aside from proposing the somewhat contradictory ideas that (a) you’re a tough chick and (b) you’re a victim, I don’t see why you’re bringing this up. The guy “didn’t want to let go”; you told him that you didn’t want the same; he let you go. I don’t see how this makes him a rapist, or a potential rapist.

    More to the point, it seems a wee bit narcissistic of you to take a thread about the scope and limits of cultural relativism, and turn it into a discussion of What Happened to Me When I Was a Kid (and more than a little comical for you to suddenly announce to anyone who questions your interpretation that it’s “none of your business”. I mean, come on).

    Just remember, Steph: it’s all about you. Everything’s about you. Don’t ever forget that, and don’t let anyone else forget it either…

  90. #91 john l
    June 2, 2009

    Apologies for the double post: moderator, please feel free to delete one of them (along with this). Y’all’s website seems to have a mind of its own.

  91. #92 Stephanie Z
    June 2, 2009

    Way to be “not even wrong,” John. This is a thread about rape. It’s getting pretty clear that you’d prefer it not be, but that doesn’t change the basic fact.

  92. #93 john l
    June 2, 2009

    No, Stephanie, this is a thread about you, and what a kickass woman you are.

  93. #94 Stephanie Z
    June 2, 2009

    Did you have a point to make about rape, John, or are you just trolling for the fun of it?

  94. #95 john l
    June 2, 2009

    Sure, I have a point, to exactly the same degree that you do. Your point is that “all men are capable of rape”. My point is that, for any non-trivial understanding of ‘capable’, No, they aren’t.

  95. #96 Greg Laden
    June 2, 2009

    are too

    I’m writing a post expanding on this, it will be up tomorrow.

  96. #97 Stephanie Z
    June 2, 2009

    How about you actually provide some argument in favor of your point, then, instead of jumping all over the women in this thread and trying to insist it’s about anything other than rape? While you’re at it, want to explain how war is trivial, given the scale on which it happens?

  97. #98 john l
    June 2, 2009

    Well, I don;t see you providing anything like an argument yourself, but if you insist…

    There’s trivial sense in which anybody is capable of anything, under the right circumstances. There’s a sense in which women are ‘capable’ of cannibalizing their babies, I guess, but it would be a bizarre thing to point out.

    Just so, to say ‘most guys are capable of rape (given the right circumstances)’, is completely vacuous, since the only coherent way you can explain the right circumstances is, ‘You know, the circumstances that turn men into rapists.’ And for any specific circumstance you can name — war, for example — it’s empirically false. It is simply not the case that more than 50% of soldiers commit rape, and to say that they do is very nasty canard against soldiers, men, and so on. It just isn’t so, and I defy you to produce any understanding of “war”, “men” or “rape” short of the Dworkin idea that all intercourse is rape, which would indicate otherwise.

    I mean, look at it this way: Do you think most gay men are capable of rape? Or are you suggesting that gay men aren’t ‘real’ men?

    See, once you start down this path, it gets untenable very quickly. It’s exactly like saying “all black people are capable of theft”. It’s true only in the very limited sense in which everyone is ‘capable’ of everything — in which case it’s just bizarre to single out black people. I mean, honestly, do people let you get away with making similar claims about, say, latinos? Or just men?

    Bigotry is bigotry. Dumb generalizations are dumb generalizations.

  98. #99 Andy
    June 2, 2009

    European colonialism made these sorts of judgments in the last couple of hundred years, and although many of those judgments were appalling, the following quote attributed to General Napier regarding the Hindu practice of Suttee (immolation of a widow on her husband’s funeral pyre) is certainly food for thought…..

    You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.

  99. #100 Andy
    June 2, 2009

    Do you think most gay men are capable of rape?

    Yes. You give the impression of regarding rape as nothing more than non-consensual sex. It can be far more than that – the urge to project power, to dominate, humiliate and hurt, to sublimate hatred and loathing, to rob the victim of their identity and self-worth.

  100. #101 john l
    June 2, 2009

    @ Andy: Ah, good. Then presumably all women are capable of rape. Indeed, all women are capable of raping children; and it’s only a flimsy veneer of civilization that keeps them from doing so. So all women are basically latent child molesters. And… — Wait. Where were we? Before we got started down the road to ludicrous nonsense?

    That’s right, I remember. Something about whether or not one should intervene when one witnesses a rape in a country not one’s own. Which was an interesting question, until Stephanie started mouthing this pointless guff about how all men are capable of rape, which she knows because some guy wouldn’t stop hugging her when she was a kid. Until she told him to.

  101. #102 Stephanie Z
    June 2, 2009

    John, see what Andy said about gay men. For that matter, see what “real me” has to say about women. Then see what Brownmiller and Ray have to say about combat soldiers in Vietnam. Read the humanitarian reports about the recent conflicts where the scope of rape has been charted. If you want to argue with them, find something better than “What a nasty thing to say.”

    If the circumstances under which most men will rape were rare enough to be “trivial,” we wouldn’t be having to do this blogswarm. There’s no shortage of rape victims, though. That means that understanding and examining those circumstances is important, even if they don’t happen to be your circumstances. Without doing that, how do we stop it?

    If you’ll go back up and read the post you thought was about cultural relativism, you’ll discover it’s promoting an initiative called Silence Is The Enemy. This isn’t the best place to be trying to silence people.

  102. #103 Stephanie Z
    June 2, 2009

    And John, read the whole post. You’ll discover that Greg was the one who first said all men are capable of rape. But you don’t want to argue with him, do you?

  103. #104 john l
    June 2, 2009

    1. Don’t be silly. I’m not trying to “silence” anybody. On the contrary: I think you’re a fool, but you can prove this by speaking far more than I can by calling you out.

    2. Sure, I’ll argue with Greg. I mean, it’s his website, so I suppose he can ban me, but I somehow doubt he will. I was just waiting for his post expanding on what he meant. And, who knows, I might even agree with him. If not, I’ll say so.

  104. #105 Greg Laden
    June 2, 2009

    john l

    You are correct in that saying “there are circumstances…” in and of itself is actually a tautology and of little meaning. It is vacuous. The argument needs to be specified more than that.

    And is has been. There is a huge literature on this. I’ll put up a post tomorrow AM with something for you to chew on.

    Which percentage of soldiers in combat settings have raped has certainly been over 50% in a number of different settings.

  105. #106 Greg Laden
    June 2, 2009

    Woa didn’t mean to put such a damper on things… What, is everybody afraid of a little data that might be coming down the pipe???

    Oh, hell, maybe I’ll put the post up now…

  106. #107 Stephanie Z
    June 2, 2009

    Actually, Greg, John had me so intimidated with the thought that I might turn out to be a fool that I just lapsed into silence.

    Or maybe I had a meeting. After all, he’d already set the bar for looking foolish pretty high.

  107. #108 john l
    June 2, 2009

    As for me: today was my day off, so I had time to be as voluble as I was. Tomorrow’s work, though, so it make take me a few days to respond.

    By the way: I was in Ituri myself, based in Bunia, but going as north as Nizi. I was covering the war there back in 2003. Always nice to meet another graduate of that particular academy.

  108. #109 Trey
    June 2, 2009

    Wow, Greg, usually you’re right on but here you bit off more than you can chew.

    “Women, by and large, have a murder switch. All women are capable of murder. Most women are enculturated in a way that reduces murder, and in some societies it is probably true that most murder is carried out by individuals who are reasonably labeled as pathological. In other societies, this is not so true. In post war societies such as those described in some of these links, or any society in a state of war, murder becomes routine. The murder switch is flipped to the on position as a matter of course. Most women who were in combat in Iraq murdered. Similar circumstances have been documented for other wars. I mention this not only to emphasize the depth and breadth of this problem, but to avoid what I fear will be an assumption as Silence Is the Enemy progresses that this is a problem exclusive to the dark skinned of the third world. This is a pan-human problem. None of us, none of our societies, are immune.”

  109. #110 Eamon
    June 3, 2009

    Elizabeth@66

    I can not tell what your opinion is because you are not being clear at all. One wonders why.

    I think you might be trying to fling a bit of mud there – seeing if it would stick.

    On the matter of not being clear, you have said:

    when put in certain situations has often been found to rape (not always).

    This is pretty unclear.

    You have a switch.

    Which you had to expand upon, because you weren’t clear:

    “YOU” meant men in general.

    Are you not sure you wanted to say “You people”? It’s the only explaination that makes sense with you replying to a specific poster with the second personal pronoun.

  110. #111 Trey
    June 3, 2009

    This one is even better.

    “Women, by and large, have a child abuse switch. All women are capable of child abuse. Most women are enculturated in a way that reduces child abuse, and in some societies it is probably true that most child abuse is carried out by individuals who are reasonably labeled as pathological. In other societies, this is not so true. In post-industrialized societies such as those described in some of these links, or any society in a state of population expansion, child abuse becomes routine. The child abuse switch is flipped to the on position as a matter of course. Most women who are in population expansion in America abuse children. Similar circumstances have been documented for other population expansions. I mention this not only to emphasize the depth and breadth of this problem, but to avoid what I fear will be an assumption as Silence Is the Enemy progresses that this is a problem exclusive to the dark skinned of the third world. This is a pan-human problem. None of us, none of our societies, are immune.”

  111. #112 Anonymous
    June 3, 2009

    If you want to argue distinctions, please pay attention to them.

    Spare me, Stephanie. The switch being discussed in this comment: “The difference between the number of men who rape when rape is quasinormalized and those who do when it is not is very large. You have a switch,” which follows directly from conversation about a rape switch, is clearly the rape switch and not a generic ‘violence’ switch. This isn’t Greg-Laden-Grade-12-or-higher reading comprehension, it’s basic 3rd-grade-or-lower reading comprension.

    The distinction I made in the previous post is a real difference in both meaning and sentiment. The distinction between “men in general…”, “all men…”, “normal men…” is pedantic, legalistic wrangling.

    Now, I see that Greg has a post up discussing the veracity of the claim. I’ll read it with interest and (un)happily be proven wrong if that’s the case.

    But I do have a final thought before I head over there, which applies to other discussions as well. What purpose does the sexist and generic language serve? What does calling me, and men in general, a potential rapist accomplish beyond creating an atmosphere of fear and mistrust and, to use parlance used around here, alienating potential allies? Sure it gets people talking and thinking about rape, but that can be done without being accusatory. And as you can see here, saying ‘men in general have a rape switch’ tends to get the response ‘no we don’t!’ rather than ‘oh shit, this is a real issue that affects everybody, what can we do to help?’

    Of course if it’s true, it’s true and that’s reason enough to say it, I suppose.

  112. #113 erin
    June 5, 2009

    Right, wrong, cultural norms, appropriate research methods, objectivity, and so on are not even the point here. The point is not even that rape is such a commonplace scourge in some cultures, including our own.

    The issue is that a person was raped, and another person who could have intervened chose not to.

    If his excuse had been “I am in a wheelchair and I couldn’t do anything” I’d ask why he didn’t go for help.

    This researcher needs to recognize that these “subjects” are not animals. They are people. He watched a person come to harm, and made excuses for it. He is unapologetic.

    How many who read this could sleep at night if they’d seen this event, and known another human had been hurt and violated in a primal way that, if they live, will affect them for the rest of their lives.

    This person did not deserve to be raped, based on living in a geographic region where it is “commonplace.” It is commonplace here, where 1/3 of women will go through it at some point in their lives.

    It is utterly ridiculous to focus on anything other than the plight of another person in danger. If you watched a person get dragged into the bushes by four others here, or alternately, if you saw a person who was drunk at a party and passing out being brought into a room by one or 4 or any number of people, would you watch? And tell yourself it’s wrong to get involved? Four others likely at greater risk than you became involved. Why wouldn’t you go help them save another person? Did he not realize it was a person?

    If you watch it happen and say nothing, you are guilty. It’s inhuman.

  113. #114 Greg Laden
    June 5, 2009

    Erin: cheers.

  114. #115 erin
    June 5, 2009

    Right, wrong, cultural norms, appropriate research methods, objectivity, and so on are not even the point here. The point is not even that rape is such a commonplace scourge in some cultures, including our own.

    The issue is that a person was raped, and another person who could have intervened chose not to.

    If his excuse had been “I am in a wheelchair and I couldn’t do anything” I’d ask why he didn’t go for help.

    This researcher needs to recognize that these “subjects” are not animals. They are people. He watched a person come to harm, and made excuses for it. He is unapologetic.

    How many who read this could sleep at night if they’d seen this event, and known another human had been hurt and violated in a primal way that, if they live, will affect them for the rest of their lives.

    This person did not deserve to be raped, based on living in a geographic region where it is “commonplace.” It is commonplace here, where 1/3 of women will go through it at some point in their lives.

    It is utterly ridiculous to focus on anything other than the plight of another person in danger. If you watched a person get dragged into the bushes by four others here, or alternately, if you saw a person who was drunk at a party and passing out being brought into a room by one or 4 or any number of people, would you watch? And tell yourself it’s wrong to get involved?

    If you watch it happen and say nothing, you are guilty. It’s inhuman.

  115. #116 Greg Laden
    June 5, 2009

    Erin: Cheers.

  116. #117 the real meme
    June 5, 2009

    Boo to that…the original author stated “I assume they raped her.” How many men are sitting in prison today over that assumption versus proof?

    It’s like saying ” I assume she was asking for it.” How rude, and invalid on its face…

  117. #118 MC
    June 21, 2009

    I hate to say this, but…

    Nature does not have a conscience. The urge to rape would constitute an evolutionary advantage. So would an urge to submit to rape.

    There are cases, such as in the Congo, in which people were forced to rape family members. Presumably there are ‘soldiers’ in some conflicts who wouldn’t even be there (much less commit rape) if they weren’t conscripted. What do you think would happen if four soldiers raped a woman and Number 5 refused?

    So…what should be done? Personally, I’d try indoctrinating men to consider themselves incapable of rape. Or teaching them that they have free will and can fight such an urge. If that’s not the case, then humans aren’t sentient beings and it doesn’t matter what happens to anyone anyway.

  118. #119 Greg Laden
    June 21, 2009

    The urge to rape would constitute an evolutionary advantage. So would an urge to submit to rape.

    BZZZZTTTT!!!

    That was the Naturalistic Fallacy Buzzer going off.

    OK, you may be right. Or you may be wrong. But in order to make the statement that the urge to rape or the urge to submit to it has a fitness advantage you have to back it up with more data and a more explicit model.

    This, of course, is the main subject of Thornhill and Thornhill’s book, which I think I’ll post a review of in a day or two.

  119. #120 G.
    July 21, 2009

    “Humans, by and large, have a rape switch. All humans are capable of rape. Most humans are enculturated in way that reduces rape,”

    :-p Fix’d.

    Women are more or less as capable of rape, most of them just are in environments where they do not realize it since female rape of men or women is usually treated like a joke.

    Which is freaking infuriating if you know victims of rape, including rape by females.

  120. #121 Osama
    December 22, 2010

    I’d help the guys trying to drag a jew to a gas chamber ^^

  121. Walker Texas Lawyer specializes in Personal Injury Law (i.e., ambulate chasing) and apparently is not above exploiting violent rape of innocent women to promote is his product. The note below (in block quotes) is the spam that he left on my site. It is an unattributed cut and paste from earlier on this blog. So, Walker Texas Lawyer is not only a slimeball for exploiting rape to get business, but he is also a plagiarist. Is this the kind of attorney you would trust to handle an important mater for you? I think not.

    The battle over this young woman continues for quite some time, and the whole time I consider if I should be involved. I am here to study these people, not to interfere. Yet a rape is, at least according to my cultural norms, a bad thing. I am capable of rape any more than I believe I am capable of beating my wife in Houston or shooting someone because I disagree with them. Which will require a personal injury attorney.

    Please note: In the original spam,the stolen quote was not block-quoted. I added that formatting.

    -pissedblogowner

  122. #123 gwen
    March 10, 2011

    As a young teen, soon after I came to this country, I was the victim of an attempted kidnap/rape. As my attacker pummeled me under a streetlight that evening, I could see the father of one of my playmates watching what happened without making any attempt to intervene. If he would have just yelled out, he could have made a difference in the length of time I was beat. In my eyes, he was just as much a monster as the stranger beating and attempting to drag me to his car. I was lucky in that I was able to get away and run for help. I confronted him about it soon after, and my parents ended their friendship after I told them what happened.

  123. This culture of rape and male dominance is the way things are in this society. It would be foolish and unethical to try to change it no matter how much I disagree with it.

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