Two of rape culture’s odd failures of logic

by look i have opinions

1. On one hand, boys and men who commit sexual assault are really just doing what comes naturally. Boys will be boys. Their crimes are really just mistakes, accidents, misunderstandings. To a socially awkward dude, confused by the vagaries of body language and etiquette and consent, an indirect “no” sounds a lot like a “yes.” To bunch of boozy guys, a blacked-out woman isn’t so much a temptation as an unavoidable tripwire. They can’t help themselves. What they do is sad, even tragic, but they can’t really be blamed. (CNN famously described the Steubenville rapists as young athletes with “promising futures” whose lives “fell apart.”)

On the other hand, the idea of teaching boys and men how not to commit sexual assault is ridiculous and insulting. It implies that all men are at least potential rapists. Besides, it’ll never work. Real rapists won’t listen to that sort of advice. Real rapists are monsters. Not the boy next door with the promising future. Not that well-meaning awkward dude. Not those poor drunk guys who didn’t know what they were doing.

(This isn’t really a failure of logic, of course. It’s an effective way of creating a hazy gray area where sexual assaults can be tolerated and ignored.)

2. If a girl/woman is known to be a “slut,” any rape accusation she makes is considered suspect. A “slut” usually means a girl/woman who has a lot of sex willingly, enthusiastically, with multiple partners. Her motive for making false accusations? She wants to cover up the sex she’s had, pretend it didn’t happen, even though she enjoyed it at the time. So far, this is at least somewhat plausible. (A reasonable person might think the solution is more trouble than the problem, but we’re not concerning ourselves with reasonable people here.)

The wildly illogical part of this narrative is when it’s applied to somebody who is asleep, heavily drugged, or too drunk to know what’s going on. If she’s really a slut, and all the guys know it, what’s the point of taking advantage of her temporary vulnerability? Why rob the dairy farm when you already get the milk for free? The normal, humane response would be to let her sleep it off (or get her some medical attention) and have sex with her when she’s conscious.

(This isn’t really a failure of logic either. It’s a way of getting the victim to shut up. If she knows sex and rape are considered basically interchangeable, and she knows her sex life will be held against her, she doesn’t have much hope that what happened to her will be recognized as assault. Meanwhile, the “slut” label, and the insecurity and judgment that come with it, effectively isolate her from people who might otherwise show her sympathy.)

(Also, if anyone is seriously wondering why a guy would try to “have sex with” the limp body of a girl he knows to be “slutty,” let me explain. That guy probably doesn’t want sex. He wants to rape somebody, use her, humiliate her, feel that little jolt of power. Sex is part of that, but it’s secondary.)

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Sometimes illogic bothers me more than cruelty.

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