Almost Diamonds has two interesting posts on the Julian Assange sexual assault/rape accusation/charges. I want to make a comment on part of the second post, but this may not make a lot of sense to you until you read both of them. They are concise and compelling so you will not regret the time you spend on them:
The issue is that of jealousy or resentment. Some Assange defenders, for some reason, seem to feel the need to point out suspicious or negative aspects of the women, their actions, reactions, decisions, etc. One of these issues is the idea that each of them agreed to at least some degree to have sex with Julian (though what happens after initial activity may have gone off track) and then only after learning of each other’s plight, pursued a complaint. Stephanie, in her post, goes into detail on this issue including questioning the legitimacy of the premise, but that’s not what I want to comment on. I want to comment, rather, on the idea that if they experienced jealousy or resentment that this is somehow to their detriment and indicates a weakness in their subsequent decisions, and perhaps even invalidates their complaints.
It does not.
I don’t want to go all Evolutionary Psychology on you but bear with me. Sexual jealousy is there for a reason. I’m pretty sure the extent, nature, and details of sexual jealousy in typical humans is culture-dependent, even if this behavior makes use of deep limbic emotions. I’m also pretty sure that sexual jealousy is shaped in some cultures to enhance certain behaviors (and allow them by others not directly involved but who know about them) that are abhorrent. The fact that there are societies in which women are routinely tortured or killed over issues of sexual access gives sexual jealousy a rather bad name. But that is humans, and human culture, making the worst of it as often happens. There is a good argument that a certain degree of sexual propriety and it’s concomitant emotional bells and whistles makes good sense for human beings in cultural contexts where these emotional tools can be used sensibly, which to me includes both egalitarian foraging societies and progressive middle class European subcultures (which are very similar to each other in many ways).
Consider a hypothetical case that is NOT what happened here in magnitude but may be what happened here qualitatively. Imagine yourself (as an unattached person) meeting someone and sleeping with them. Then two days later the next person you meet who knows that person mentions that they just slept with that person. Then a few days later, the next person you meet who knows this person mentions that they slept with that person. And so on and so forth.
As an aside, I’d like you to think about how this would play out, in terms of judgments we or others may make about people, if you are a heterosexual male and the person who seems to sleep with everyone you met is a heterosexual female. Then re-imagine this with the sex roles reversed. Then re-imagine this with you and the other person being gay men, then lesbians. If you like, throw in bisexuality but I recommend not because this is going to take forever as it is.
Well, that exercise is not the main point I want to make but in thinking this through you may have exposed a multi-standard (like a double standard but with more standards). Maybe not for you, for how you judge other people, because you would never misjudge anyone I’m sure, but how society might. The admirable stud vs. the whoring slut themes come to mind. A digression, but a worthy one.
Back to the point: If you did not know that your one time lover was about to sleep with every third person s/he met over the coming weeks, or just had over the previous weeks, you might be suddenly shocked or at least surprised. You will probably not have a purely intellectual response to this new knowledge. There will be shades of something that one might call jealousy even though you two never discussed or expected commitment, but it is called sexual jealousy only because that is the name we use for it, and it invokes questions of commitment only because our culture tends to make the link. What is really happening is that you are experiencing an evolved and generally useful off-putting emotional reaction designed by selection to do a number of things, including limit disease exposure and avoid potentially dangerous social situations. Also, you charge for your intimacy (we all do). Intimacy of any kind has costs and risks. You just found out that your one time partner is shopping at Good Will while you’re shopping at the Gap. If you were merely friends, that should not really matter. But if you are shopping together, that’s a conflict.
Of course these woman would experience sexual jealousy. If they were men, many who are pointing this out would not have seen that as something they were doing wrong. Of course men would be negative about the sluttish behavior of the chick they just bagged, right? But as women, their sexual jealousy is seen as unseemly or inappropriate or a poor reason to develop bad feelings, but in fact, such feelings are a prerequisite for narcing on someone. Their assessment of Julian Assange dropped, their estimate of their own cost and return from their relationship was quite properly re-calibrated, and their sense of risk was heightened. At face value, I’d say they acted in an entirely appropriate manner when they thought of making a case after finding out about each other, if that is in fact what happened. That’s what any reasonable person would do.