Saturday, 29 November 2014

Rape Culture: How The Media Frames And Shapes The Debate

While I'm pleased to see the media working to address rape culture, I'm surprised to note that they're not really digging deep to get to the bottom of the mystery of why rape is so reviled in public while we privately enable it because we'd rather not rock the social boat. I want to talk about that disconnect, the cognitive dissonance that pretends that guns can protect you from rape on campus if martial arts fails you while ignoring or downplaying the fact that most victims know their attacker and are unlikely to go to a frat party with a gun. Seriously, search the internet using the terms "frat party rape gun" and let me know what you come up with.

It's about political bias

One of the recurring themes in campus rape stories is the ubiquity of young women in barely-there outfits seeking out frat house parties where they eagerly hook up with the "brothers." They try to make themselves look naive and vulnerable to attract them, aping their preferred prey. Assume that's true. Sexual predators and rapists aren't interested in available women, as I've pointed out before, they want fresh meat. The whole point of rape is to dominate, humiliate, and totally own both the victim and the experience. The status of a raped woman can and does become downgraded if she can't somehow prove she was an innocent attacked by a stranger. Such women can and do become the media darlings of the right because they can be used to perpetuate cherished notions of the Madonna type they want to stay at home and bear their children. The stories of frat house rape victims tend not to get the same kind of attention, precisely because they're not vanilla cases; the victim had a drink or two and willingly entered a house of sin, etc.

...the left trivializes rape by redefining the terms, while the Republicans treat it as worst thing short of murder - Dennis Prager, Sarasota speaker: There is no campus 'culture of rape', Herald-Tribune. 

If you want your story to be taken seriously by right-wingers, you'd better have been jumped by a stranger in the dark, preferably wielding a weapon or beating you up and leaving you for dead. You get extra Madonna points if you need reconstructive surgery afterwards. Excuse me, who is redefining the terms again?

Justice and the law

What would happen if a furious rape victim limped into the frat house in which she was raped and went all "I Spit On Your Grave" on the over-privileged yahoos inside? We all know what would happen: she'd end up in prison for murder. While we're told that fighting back and seeking justice immediately are signs of moral rectitude, actually trying to do so can get you into a lot of trouble if you're a woman. We're supposed to be passive, accepting this as part of who our attacker is, not his whole being.

As I pointed out before, only the left-liberals are doing anything about rape culture, though I don't believe they're always right in their approach. That they call any and all unwanted approaches and contact "sexual assault" is reasonable and fair.

A sensible approach

I don't think every sex pest case should be referred to the police but I do think we should treat such men as we treat dogs, shouting "No!" and wagging our fingers to make our point. If he becomes aggressive, we call the authorities in to Make Him Behave. I know it's not our job to control unruly men but as I have already pointed out, the vulnerable tend to be targeted. The trick is to make sure they understand that you won't slink away quietly to cry in the dark if they force the issue. It works for me. One of my landlords used to use sexually suggestive language towards certain women but he never did so with me because he knew I wouldn't tolerate it. I don't believe the "slippery slope" is a logical fallacy* and I've been proved right over and over again.

The reason rape has been politicised is because the powers that be seem to believe that the status quo can only be maintained if we continue to promote the Madonna/Whore dichotomy. Empowering women to relate to themselves, each other, and to men as intellectual beings whose value is not contingent on their sexual desirability would help to derail rape culture but if we stop pandering to men the balance of power will shift and they're not having that. Conservatism has always been about maintaining the status quo, however corrupt it is, and that is ultimately why I can't commit myself to supporting it even though I often fight with liberal lefties. Clean up the corruption and show me some respect, and I'll change my mind. I'm not holding my breath about that...

It's about money

Look, it's basic economics; you don't want your centre of learning to be known as "the rape school," so you'll do everything you can to discourage reporting rape to the authorities, promising to deal with it in-house, as it were. What actually happens is that the rapist gets away scot free and you're likely to bump into the cheery, smiling fellow, who will casually thank you for a good night out, if Rolling Stone is to be believed. What I'm not seeing is rebuttals in the vein of  "That's a vicious lie!" I doubt that I will. Okay... ever heard of "critical mass?" What will happen when the number of victims becomes too great for institutions to sweep them and their stories under the carpet? The fact that they let rapists roam freely while telling their victims to be quiet can only mean one thing: the number of victims is building up. Now that they're speaking out, things are going to change.

The media is having a massive impact now that the term "rape culture" is gaining traction. We're talking about how and why we find it so damn hard to let go of our love for celebrities even when they're accused of horrendous crimes. Of course it's the same for family members, even if you're the victim and everyone thinks you're a liar. Needless to say, it's getting eyeballs on pages with ads on as people struggle to understand and process the points being made. Fortunes can be made and lost over allegations and the fact that silence can be bought can arouse passion for supporters of the alleged abuser or the alleged victim. And of course reporting it keeps bringing the punters in. We all love a good scandal, don't we? Every new angle gives us a new way of looking at the issue, though some outlets just use different angles to reinforce stereotypes and tired old tropes, e.g. the stranger in the dark alleyway, now with guns!

It's about reflection

The story of Lena Dunham's alleged abuse of her own sister creeps me out and I find I'm inclined to agree with the people who argue that this is abuse:

“As she grew, I took to bribing her time and affection: one dollar in quarters if I could do her make-up like a ‘motorcycle chick’. Three pieces of candy if I could kiss her on the lips for five seconds. Whatever she wanted to watch on TV if she would just ‘relax on me’. Basically, anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl, I was trying.” - The Independent: We can’t handle the truth – even when it’s Lena Dunham showing it to us

That pop culture's own Síle na gig discussed opening her sister's, erm, opening, is not the issue. It's this:

Basically, anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl, I was trying.

That's what all the freak-out-ery is about. Yes, we all played Doctor when we were kids and yes, I've seen any number of little boy willies because little boys are so eager to display them to little girls and many mothers let their toddlers run around with just a t-shirt on. That's just normal developmental behaviour. Children often look at each other's bits. That's normal. Again, it's the part of behaving like a predator grooming a potential victim that makes our skin crawl. The right dives on this like a starving vulture and out comes the PaedoFinder General to pass sentence without troubling himself with due process. The trendy left/liberal types skip over the fact that we're creeped out by the line about being a predator and pretend it's all about youthful curiosity and latent sexuality.

If you read enough about psychology you'll realise that we are sexual beings from the get-go and that as we develop the way we express it changes until we are ready to engender children. Basically, we go from "What's that down there?" to "What's that you've got down there?" to "What else do I do with this besides pee?" to "Oh, that feels kinda nice" to "It goes where? When do I start?" For the last time, the pebbles in the mini-minge story is not the problem (ewww!):  it's the admission that Ms. Dunham behaved like a predator (shudder!). Yes indeed, left/liberals do the disconnected cognitive dissonance thing, too.

It's about discussion

We need this discussion, even though it's basically people shouting at each other over the garden fence at the moment. We need to know where the lines are, what would make it better and what would make it worse and that means getting more eyeballs on it and more voices talking about it. Some people seem to think that masculinity and bastions thereof is the problem. It's not, it's the fact that a parallel construct of masculinity exists in which women are prey items to be conquered and consumed, humped and dumped.

Like it or not, Family Guy's Glenn Quagmire is the embodiment of modern masculinity and a role model for a substantial subset of men in our society. He has a responsible job (he's an airline pilot), he's intelligent (he speaks multiple languages) and he's a popular member of his social circle who never condemn him for his actions even though Peter knows damn well he's a rapist. But it's all in fun, right? You know we've got a problem in society when a perverted freak like Quagmire is treated as a lovable rogue instead of a social outcast. When did we decide that women who fall into the clutches of such men are to blame for their own victimisation? They're not the ones seeking out fresh meat, are they?

So what do we do?

I propose we insist on a tender warrior model of masculinity in which men are protectors and providers who are not threatened by intelligence or success in women, and who encourage and enable women to pursue their aspirations, and that we hold men to account when they fall short of it. I don't usually encounter Quagmire types at home or at work and damn it, I don't want to. The media can and should promote this model. As for women, I'd prefer to have their academic and career goals celebrated rather than their bodies. I don't approve of pandering and in a modern society it shouldn't be necessary. We should stand or fall on our own personal merit, not on the size and pertness of our rumps but that's just my view and as a moderate conservative Christian, I'm in a minority.

Whether you agree with me or not, we do need to have this discussion and the media needs to be involved. Meanwhile we can be talking about this on our social media platforms, challenging cherished opinions and spreading the word that other options are available. That men behave badly should not be accepted as inevitable, incidents needs to be stopped as and when they occur. We can vote with our eyeballs and our wallets, supporting media outlets that don't do the victim-blaming thing or perpetuate stereotypes. We can also stop buying products advertised in ways that demean women. Since the media is all about money this ought to change the way they report on news and which adverts they take. We also need to be aware of political bias in our media choices; left-liberals may be doing more but since they also do the cognitive dissonance thing they're not necessarily reliable all the time.

I want to see real attitudinal change in our society and it starts with the man (or woman) in the mirror. We are influenced by the media but they're just a mirror of ourselves and our attitudes so we can influence them, too, in the choices we make. Rape culture is everybody's problem and we all need to do our part to deal with it.

No comments:

Post a Comment