Don’t be an Almost-Ally
[UPDATE: I see that one of the commenters quoted below has taken it upon himself to link this post from the blog in question, and to notify the other commenters that I am "ripping them to shreds." I find this puzzling, given that I 1) specifically declined to name them so as not to make them out to be "bad guys" when they're really just representing some common and misguided attitudes about rape, and 2) deliberately used gentler-than-usual language and pointed out that these are basically well-meaning folks. In light of that, I think it's pretty awesome that I'm the one he's accusing of "oversensitivity." Carry on, and welcome, new readers!]
A quick primer for those responding to allegations of athletes, celebrities, or anyone, really, accused of rape or sexual assault (with the usual disclaimer that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty):
The news today that two minor leaguers in the Colorado Rockies’ system have been charged with first-degree rape has prompted a wealth of reaction on the intertubes. Thus far, I’ve managed to stay away from the sites that I’m guessing are generating 31 flavors of victim-blaming (twenty bucks says I could find five different iterations of “She probably thought it was cool to bang baseball players and then regretted it the next morning!” within ten minutes of searching), and that’s not the sort of extreme and obvious Wrong Response I’m interested in discussing today.
No, I want to call attention to a kind of reaction that’s simultaneously better and worse—less overtly misogynistic and cruel, but potentially more subtly dangerous, in a way, because it’s offered in an ostensibly supportive spirit. I’m talking about those folks who agree that rape is a very, very bad thing….but who have their reasons wrong. They are the Almost-Allies, and they’re so close to being real allies that they might as well just go all the way.
Here are some examples, taken from—I assume—well-meaning people :
“Sad. To be 23 and know that your life is over.”
That is sad. It’s especially sad when you’re 23 and you know your life is over because, say, you have terminal cancer. It’s a lot less sad when your life is over because you made the choice to commit a violent crime and now you’re facing a lengthy prison term. You know what else is really sad? Being raped. In fact, it’s even sadder to me than being the rapist. [ETA: Yes, this commenter later added his sympathies, which I do believe are entirely genuine, for the victim. But the point is that he didn't do that until he was reminded. That doesn't make him a bad guy. But I question his framing of the rape.]
“What a shame that these kids get such an amazing opportunity to play professional baseball and they blow [it] just by doing something stupid like that.”
Okay, we’re getting a little closer. But again, look who’s missing from this sentiment: The victim herself. Isn’t it more of a shame that they violated and injured her than that they wasted a shot at playing in the bigs? Further, I’m not convinced that first-degree two-on-one rape is best described as “stupid”—not when we have adjectives like “repugnant” and “sadistic” available to us at the same cost.
“You have absolutely no game if you play professional baseball and need to rape a woman to get laid.”
Here’s another guy who understands that Rape Is Wrong but has completely misunderstood (or, alternatively, is willfully misrepresenting) why. Let’s review: Rape is not about a lack of “game.” Rape is not about wanting to “get laid.” Rape is a crime of violence and domination, and discussing it in fratty dudebro language only perpetuates the rape culture.
This one’s a bonus—directed at me minutes ago by the same commenter who posted the first comment quoted above, after I responded to a few of these postings on the other blog.
Apparently he still needs to be reminded that there are any women involved in this rape story.