Can We Talk About Rape? – Part Two

February 28th, 2009 by Pelle Billing

This is the second part about rape, if you haven’t already read part one, then please do so first.

Cultural Forces

Male culture is often held culpable for glorifying sexual conquests, and this is said to be a precursor to rape, or at the very least a contributing factor to rape happening. That is an incorrect or at least incomplete claim for two reasons:

  1. The overwhelming majority of men pursue women without ever raping a single woman. In fact, many men would risk their own life or health by trying to save a woman if they ever witnessed a rape.
  2. Female culture tends to glorify man as predator just as much, or even more, than male culture does.

So what kind of female culture am I talking about? Harlequin novels, and similar examples of romantic and erotic literature for women, often describe sex scenes that would legally be considered rape in real life. A very common theme is that the man initiates sex, and even though the woman lets him know that she is unwilling (using her voice and body language), he proceeds to have sex with her, and then she changes her mind along the way.

For example, in Laura Taylor’s romance novel Anticipation, the hero scoops up the heroine, carries her to her bed, and then takes off all his clothes. The story continues:

Leaning over her, he efficiently jerked the front of her caftan apart, sending dozens of buttons flying every which way, then stripped it off her body.

‘What do you think you are doing?’ she demanded as she glared at him.

He watched her nipples tighten into mauve nuggets that invited his mouth. ‘Easing your tension,’ he announced in a matter of fact tone, despite the heat flooding his loins and engorging his sex. He came down over her, his hips lodging between her thighs, his upper body weight braced by his arms. ‘As sexist as that probably sounds.’

She squirmed, trying to free herself, and a sound of fury burst out of her when she failed to budge him.

In this quote (obtained from Taking Sex Differences Seriously), the man strips off their clothes, and then presses his naked body against her, while she is actively resisting what he is doing. The man does not rape her but he is clearly sexually assaulting her. Later in the passage the woman changes her mind and they proceed to have sex. However, since the episode starts off with coercion, it’s doubtful whether the consent can truly be trusted.

This is literature written by women for women to achieve pleasure and arousal in the reader! And the passage above is not an isolated example; a very common theme in romance novels for women is rough sex, and sex where the woman only gives consent half-way or even after the act has ended.

Romance fiction has the largest share of the consumer book market in the US, with an estimated $1.375 billion revenue in 2007. Please don’t tell me that female culture does not do its share to glorify and help legitimize rape.

Legal Aspects

I certainly agree with the sentiment that it would be desirable to be able to put more rapists in jail, since that is where rapists belong. However, we need to apply the same legal principles in rape trials as in other trials, i.e. you are innocent until proven guilty.

No person deserves to be convicted solely based on the victims’s account of events. Word against word is too uncertain a method used on its own; we need additional evidence or testimony if we are to deprive a person of his or her freedom.

Feminists sometimes claim that a believable account of rape by a woman should be enough for a conviction, since no woman would ever go through the hassle and trauma of reporting a rape that didn’t take place. This may sound plausible, but research informs us that false rape allegations are a very real phenomenon, so we cannot simply assume that every woman who steps forward is telling the truth.

The most thorough research reports available indicate that 25 percent or more of rape allegations are false, which is much higher than for other crimes (source and source). Regardless of what the exact numbers turn out to be, we have enough information to dismiss the claim that women don’t make false rape allegations, and therefore we can never let word against word be enough to warrant a conviction in rape trials.

Another common perspective when discussing rape trials is that the woman’s sexual history should be inadmissible, since she is not the one on trial. Many countries have Rape Shield laws to ensure that women are protected from questions concerning their sexual past. As much as I empathize with the woman’s right to privacy, and the exceedingly difficult situation she is in during a rape trial, there is also another person to consider.

The accused man must be given the right to defend himself, how could he otherwise possibly prove his innocence? The woman is publicly claiming that he is a man who includes rape in his sex life, but he is not allowed to talk about known facts about her sex life in order to defend himself? That is a ludicrous double standard that has no place in a fair legal system.

Similarly, we need to accept testimony regarding previous rape claims by the woman, and previous rape allegations towards the man. All relevant facts need to be admissible in order to have a fair trial.

Is This Rape?

Let’s have a look at a range of sexual scenarios, to see if it’s rape or not. I’ll offer my own opinion and you can offer yours in the comments.

You want to have sex, and have sex. This is obviously not rape.

You don’t want to have sex, but your partner does, and you choose to have sex to keep your partner happy. As far as I’m concerned this is not even nearly rape, since there is no coercion involved.

You want to have sex, but your judgment is clouded by alcohol. This is not rape in my opinion, though some feminists claim that it’s date rape – but only if the woman is drunk. I’ve yet to hear a feminist claim that it’s date rape if a drunk man has sex with a sober woman.

You are seduced, or talked into having sex. Some extreme branches of feminism consider this to be a form of rape, but most people would just call it courtship, and I agree with the latter sentiment.

Your partner threatens to leave you if you don’t agree to have sex. This is certainly a nasty situation, and a dysfunctional relationship, but I don’t consider it to be rape. You choose yourself whether to stay in the relationship, and if you really don’t want to have sex you are free to leave.

You are intoxicated to the point that you are unconscious, and somebody has sex with you. This is rape by definition, since an unconscious person is physically incapable of consent. However, these kinds of rape cases are extremely difficult to prove, since an unconscious person doesn’t fight back, so there won’t be any physical scars to support a rape case. Teenagers of either gender need to be taught not to put themselves in such a vulnerable position. If you pass out from being drunk, then you are not taking care of your own health and safety in a good way, and it is naive to think that nothing could happen.

You are physically overpowered, or physically threatened, and thereby forced to have sex. This is 100 percent rape, whether it’s a stranger or someone you know forces you to have sex against your will.

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23 Responses to “Can We Talk About Rape? – Part Two”

  1. Schala Says:

    “You are seduced, or talked into having sex. Some extreme branches of feminism consider this to be a form of rape, but most people would just call it courtship, and I agree with the latter sentiment.”

    In Japan, it is common for girls to chase boys. Girls to give gifts to boys, ie girls woo boys. Boys are the passive party, a total reversal of what we have in the West. Boys are far from being considered raped in the process.

    “The girl who chases a boy, calls and pursues him will be compromising herself. The wrong boy will take advantage of this. Moreover, it is not proper. It reverses God’s order and opens the door to sin and compromise. I can hear you saying, “I do not think it is a compromise for me to call a boy!” But look around you at the aggressive girls, who spit, smoke and cuss like the boys. Look at their sloppy dress and morals and think that when you call a boy, that is the direction you are going and the level to which you are sinking.”

    I found that and wow…think they’re the ones going with the thing about gay marriage leading to bestiality and people marrying their children? Slippery slope anyone? Doesn’t it sound like its condemning the “moral level of boys” as inherently much lower, that a lady should “lower herself to their level” is improper?

    Sorry if I’m a bit off-topic there.

  2. Pelle Billing Says:

    Schala,

    Interesting to hear about Japan. Would you say that the courtship process is completely reversed, or just that it’s accepted for either gender to pursue the other gender?

    Where did you find that quote? It does seem to be very opinionated and fundamentalist (as you point out).

    Pelle

  3. Schala Says:

    I did a google search for “girl courting boy japan”, cause it’s something I’ve heard and seen often depicted in manga and anime. I’ve seen very few instances of boys pursuing girls except in Ranma ½ (but then it’s ironic that this applies only to Akane, who has a fan club – while Ranma has 4 girls fighting each other over who will marry him).

    For example, Valentine’s Day gifts in high school, chocolate and such – comes from girls to boys, which is the opposite of here.

    I found the quote while checking search results.

    Here’s one of those search results:

    “They are not that crazy in Japan. Primarily it’s because the culture which Valentine’s Day still tries to penetrate does not possess the articulate meretriciousness of ours. Theirs is an oppressed society — oppressed by feudalism which continues to fuel it. Their extreme behavior on this day consists of a mild reversal of roles, namely, the girls can gift the boys with chocolates to express their feelings. And that’s confined to the young. Just the young.”

    I don’t know if it really is confined to “just the young” but I’ll admit manga/anime I watch has characters in the 5-20 years old range mainly.

    http://www.seasite.niu.edu/Tagalog/love.htm that one quote just above is from there

    “In essence, the things you have to remember with J and KGuys (in my experience) is to take initiative and let them know you’re interested.”

    This is from a guide to girls finding Japanese men. What this quote supposes is that subtle hints like flirting in the West won’t work on them.

    Ah finally found the link to my quote from the previous post:

    http://www.momof9splace.com/court2.html

  4. Schala Says:

    Personally, about the Filipino article quote who says Japan is “inferior” because it’s not a meritocracy of dating like in the West, I don’t find it a convincing argument. So girls should have tons of boys fawning over them simply because they breath? I like getting attention I’ll admit, I also like that I can expect a man to initiate, because I’m pretty shy and inexperienced.

    Yet I don’t think making it all one-sided is good. Boys should get attention too, and some girls should initiate. Wouldn’t it be nice if painfully shy men were not considered defective?

    I was invisible pre-transition (when perceived as more or less male). I had one girl initiate, but it didn’t last long. I like men mostly, but I only found that out at 24.

  5. Danny Says:

    Schala:
    Wouldn’t it be nice if painfully shy men were not considered defective?
    Yes it would be nice.

    Speaking of anime Schala don’t you find it interesting that in most anime when a girl has a crush on a boy she does not anywhere near the same as a boy with a crush on a girl?

    Girls with crushes are often portrayed with soft voices, giggles, and whispering among other girls.

    Boy with crushes are often portrayed with soft voices, spastic motions, sudden outbursts at the thought of some other guy with the girl of his dreams, and wait for….nosebleeds.

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  8. Allan Says:

    One thing I find missing in your articles is a clear distinction between real life descriptions where facts are presented without question, and legal contexts where there are no facts on what happened only evidence, ie. there’s often so way to know what was said or even done. Testimony is just testimony, not certainty. The difficulty of course, is deciding what combination of evidence is enough for conviction in the absence of certain facts.

    And of course, non guilty is certainly not innocent in this context.

  9. Allan Says:

    And for guys, what events create real admissible evidence of innocence.

    It’s in everyone’s interest that nobody should be in these questionable situations without repeated education about the serious, serious damage and harm of rape. And how to avoid it. More clarity about what we want and don’t. More unambiguous communication of that. Everyone has to understand and practice skills to stay far away from this dangerous situation. Our current culture is truly a rape culture, but there’re responsibilities on both sides. We each need to do our part the make date-rape a rare occurrence, were we need not fear being raped, nor allegations of rape.

    Perhaps then guys wouldn’t have so much to worry about.

  10. Pelle Billing Says:

    @Allan
    “The difficulty of course, is deciding what combination of evidence is enough for conviction in the absence of certain facts.”

    How about “beyond reasonable doubt”? Or are you suggesting that we convict people without having that level of certainty?

    “Our current culture is truly a rape culture, but there’re responsibilities on both sides.”

    How can our culture be a rape culture when the vast majority of men never commit rape? Men who rape are anomalies and not the norm.

  11. Allan Says:

    Oh cool! Comments aren’t dead here, and you answered. Thanks!

    First, I have to say, I am totally thrilled to find and read the kinds of things you are saying here. You are doing the thing I see as critically missing: you are talking about how things are for men. You aren’t sidetracked into just saying over and over, “What feminists say is all wrong”. Ok. So what’s right? You are addressing that. Second you are accepting some of what feminists say when they are talking about women’s experience and trying to create a balanced dialog. You inspire me. I’d like to try writing about men’s issues too.

    * Person A acts intentionally
    * Person B does not consent or is incapable of giving consent or is beneath a certain age
    * Person A does not reasonably believe that person B consents (Huh???)

    Don’t you mean, “Person A DOES reasonably believe that person B consents”? Or Person C doesn’t?

    Ok. Back to rape…

    How about “beyond reasonable doubt”? Or are you suggesting that we convict people without having that level of certainty?

    We are talking about the legal situation where we only have evidence and will never know what really happened. Doubt is precisely the issue without other compelling evidence, which is I think the type of rape cases that concern you. Who is credible. Enough to convict. Gender attitudes and socialization create sharp divides about what’s reasonable doubt but so it is. Women have just as much right to be on the jury as men, don’t they? And propose and vote on laws as to allowable evidence, right? I say, if you don’t like the risk, stay out of the situation. Nobody’s forcing you. Are you saying men are the more worthy to determine doubt? No. This is our legal system and democracy. It’s really no different that all other situations except the sharp gender divide. We tally the vote to decide. It’s not about everybody agreeing. Sorry. The fact that it’s changing over time also is just how it works as well. Sorry. It’s the best we’ve got.

    How can our culture be a rape culture …

    Admittedly, “rape culture” is a provocative shorthand. What I mean is, then there are all the social attitudes and all that bears on doubt and everything else. Lots going on here that matters. Too much for me to even try to address except as I said, it’s possible to change all this over time and create a different culture where this rarely happens amongst other things. I’m saying, let’s do this guys. Seriously. And now. Men and women, but men especially. And while we do that, let’s ask women to do some things for us. Like, help us in taking male victims and men with vulnerable feelings seriously. Stop the victim blaming, shaming and invisibility around that. That’s making some men very hurt and angry.

    We don’t have to change anything though. Your choice. It would be a lot of work. But if not, I say, shut up about the laws. You live in a democracy where women vote too.

    Oh… “Men who rape are anomalies and not the norm.” Right. So what?

  12. Pelle Billing Says:

    I don’t really get the whole part about democracy? Of course we live in a democracy (at least in Sweden, in the US, etc) and that is why I’m exercising my right to address some contemporary issues around rape. Everyone won’t agree with me, obviously. Women and men alike may disagree, and women and men alike may agree. Each person has a democratic right to their own stance.

    IMO though, it would represent a huge change of our legal systems in the Western world if we start sentencing people to jail without having some kind of external proof. A woman saying that she was raped and the man saying that it was consensual, without any witnesses and without any physical marks on her body, cannot lead to a conviction IMO. Some people may disagree, but if they do they are prepared to change the principle of “beyond reasonable doubt”.

    “I say, if you don’t like the risk, stay out of the situation. Nobody’s forcing you.”
    Are you serious? Men should stop having sex because the legal system has become unreasonable?

    “Don’t you mean, “Person A DOES reasonably believe that person B consents”? Or Person C doesn’t?”
    No, I meant exactly what I wrote. Read it again.

    “Oh… “Men who rape are anomalies and not the norm.” Right. So what?”
    So that means we don’t live in a rape culture. It’s not an accurate description. We live in a culture that frowns upon rape, and sentences rapists to jail (if it can be proven that rape took place). How is that a rape culture?
    We also try to raise our boys in such a way as to behave legally and to respect the boundaries of women. We don’t always succeed, and we can certainly try to do better, but to suggest that we have a “rape culture” that condones or promotes rape is preposterous.
    IMO the best ways to raise healthy boys is to promote a healthy father-son relationship, or if the father is irreversibly absent, to promote a healthy substitute relationship to a responsible male.

  13. Allan Says:

    Hmmm… maybe what I’m saying is what you said very well.

    “It’s time to start negociating”

  14. Allan Says:

    I don’t really get the whole part about democracy?
    ….
    A woman saying that she was raped and the man saying that it was consensual, without any witnesses and without any physical marks on her body, cannot lead to a conviction IMO.

    Sure it can. Tally the votes. He’s guilty. That’s democratic. It’s a jury of your peers. Not you. Get it?

    “…change the principle of beyond reasonable doubt”.

    You use the words “fair” and “insane”. These concepts are fairly irrelevant in court. But not generally to the making of laws of course. You don’t simply stand up in court and say, “Your honor, it is the defense’s contention that the charges against the defendent are fundamentally unfair and insane. The defense rests.”
    That would get you nowhere. You must use legal reasoning. Cite laws and evidence, how they apply, why other laws and definitions don’t apply, precidence, etc. That’s the legal system.

    “I say, if you don’t like the risk, stay out of the situation. Nobody’s forcing you.”

    Are you serious? Men should stop having sex because the legal system has become unreasonable?

    Yes. I’m serious.

    Not “men should” but every man decide himself. You say unreasonable, but a lot of women apparently think it IS reasonable. It’s not about everyone agreeing, remember?

    I think this is so funny…. Why are you upset? You seem to believe it’s your right to have sex with women on terms YOU find reasonable. What if she thinks it’s unreasonable?

    No, I meant exactly what I wrote. Read it again.

    Oh. Got it. A unreasonably believes that B consents. A knew B doesn’t consent or should have.

    Women, about nobody says the legal system is going to end rape. You probably know all the statistics leading to very low charged and conviction rates. So that leaves changing the culture.

    I’m not going to argue for having to accept the term “rape culture”. But the culture is what it is. And rape happens… well, “a lot”.

    Rape is one of the earliest, biggest issues for feminists isn’t it? They (and I) say “we want you to help us change that culture toward much less rape”. Ok… what do men what from feminists?

    Maybe it’s time to start negociating.

  15. Allan Says:

    Here’s a story I found on go ask Alice: “Was I raped?”

    In the beginning, I told my boyfriend that I don’t want to have sex outside of marriage and he accepted that.
    But then, about a week ago, I made a very big mistake and allowed him to take my clothes off completely and enter my vagina slightly. I know it was wrong and the following day I told him that I didn’t feel right about it and I didn’t want us to do that again.
    Unfortunately, the very next day, we were alone together, and we got a bit carried away again. But when he tried to “enter” me, I said: “I think we should stop now, let’s stop — ok? Please, let’s stop now. I don’t feel right about this.” But he didn’t… he spread my legs anyway and got on top of me. And he penetrated me quite deeply. As he was doing it, I was saying, “Stop, please, I really think we should stop,” but I didn’t push him away. I didn’t physically PUSH him or something to make him stop.
    I was quite shook up afterwards but I didn’t know if I should be angry with him or not. We are still together and I don’t even think he thinks he did anything wrong… DID he do anything wrong? Or is what he did alright because my body wasn’t saying “no”? I didn’t fight him physically. Do you think I was raped? I’m so confused and I’ve lost all my self-respect!

    I can sure relate to this scene. I could have been him in college. There’s a lot wrong with this situation for sure but what to do? Do you accept that she may be effected her whole life by this? I’d say it’s clearly rape, but I cringe at putting him in prison. How big a deal is this sort of thing? Who’s responsible? What should men and women be doing in terms of the culture that leads to this? With what sense of urgency?

  16. Pelle Billing Says:

    That’s a very interesting example, and there are so many things to tease apart.

    First of all, should a man (or a woman) stop when the partner says “no” or “stop”? Of course! If the consent is actively removed then the sex should stop ASAP.

    Things can sometimes be complicated by body language though. If a woman says “Oh please, let’s stop” while she’s unzipping your trousers, then she’s sending mixed messages, and the main message is probably that she is undressing you and seducing you.

    However, in the above example, the body language was neutral, as far as I can understand, and then the spoken words are the main message (and should be enough to stop all sexual action).

    One thing I don’t understand though, is why she said “Let’s stop”, as if it’s a suggestion or something that they are doing together? A much clearer message is “I want you to stop”. However, even what she said should be enough to get the message across.

    So what is the woman’s responsibility in the above example? She’s certainly not responsible for him not stopping, but she is responsible for playing with fire in very irresponsible ways. If she does not want to have sex she shouldn’t get naked with him! And she certainly shouldn’t do it twice, and be OK with him kind of entering her once. By crossing her own boundaries, 2-3 times she’s sending a signal to him that she is gearing up to have sex with him, and that is not a good thing if she really doesn’t want to.

    To create a safer sexual environment for men and women I think we have to acknowledge that our sexualities function somewhat differently. Women tend to get aroused more gradually, and for men it can be more of a switch on – switch off kind of thing. This means that a young woman who is comfortable with exploring her sexuality very gradually might not realize that the young man interprets what they are doing very differently, and vice versa. If they get naked and aroused together he will interpret that as a preparation to have sex, while she might see it as experimentation and intimacy but not a prelude to sex (obviously a lot of the time it will mean foreplay for her too…). Nowadays it’s politically incorrect to talk about differences between men and women but I think that we do need to walk down that road.

    Should men (and women) always stop when the partner says stop? Without a doubt. But we need to teach young women and men how to avoid complicated situations as much as possible, and not to get themselves into sexual situations if they don’t want to have sex.

  17. Allan Says:

    That’s a very interesting example, and there are so many things to tease apart.

    I put this before you for several reasons. I want to say I think this isn’t a rare or odd example, but one that represents a lot of very common issues. I’d be curious what your list of things to tease apart is, but here’s some of mine.

    Men, boys are subjected to enormous pressure to prove their manhood through sex and to show proficiency at sex right away. It’s an impossible position. I hear women saying they even expect men, boys to “know what they are doing” and it doesn’t seem to be her responsibility to teach him what she likes. He’s supposed to just know, or at least it’s his job to just figure it out. I felt pretty ashamed of being a virgin while I was one. And ashamed of what I didn’t know about. I got routinely ridiculed if I didn’t act all knowledgeable about sex as a teen. This is NOT acknowledged enough.

    Boys, men aren’t encouraged to explore all their vulnerabilities in early sexual learning. I know I went through all that with a single word from an adult man except for the “Hey, hey, hey… go for it boy!” (big grin)

    I think her being unclear was part of having trouble feeling confident and good about her sexual needs. There’s the opposite-to-boys slut-shaming training. A sigma of sex before marriage while for him it’s a badge of honor. The whole thing is a setup. “I’m so confused and I’ve lost all my self-respect!” I want to say here she just doesn’t seem to have reconciled, integrated both her desires to have sex with the pre-marital virginity her self-respect requires. That’s her impossible position.

    There’s something to that erotic treatment of idk, sort of rapish sex for women too, which again, is not acknowledged enough.
    True, men switch on and are ready for penetration really quick compared to women.

    One thing I don’t understand though, is why she said “Let’s stop”, as if it’s a suggestion or something that they are doing together?

    Now **I** have to ask… You you kidding??? lol… But then again, I understand what you’re saying too. Have you never loved someone or had deep feelings for someone? OF COURSE, she felt, thought they were doing something together. Very close and very, very together. You might say she was sort of assuming there would be consent too.

    I noticed you didn’t answer all my questions. I’m not chiding you but I wonder how important you think all these issues are. I’ll give you my answers in a nutshell.

    what to do? Change the culture.

    Do you accept that she may be effected her whole life by this? Yes in short. It won’t be easily forgotten.

    How big a deal is this sort of thing? Here, I mostly just trust women and you know what they will say.

    Who’s responsible? Both men and women. Perhaps about equally I don’t know. But whose doing all the work? Women. Men are doing comparatively nothing.

    What should men and women be doing in terms of the culture that leads to this? Like you seem to think, we need men and women to be equal partners in doing this. The current view is so one-sided and will never engender equality and mutual respect. A good step would be to articulate a point of view with mutual respect and an action plan that both men and women could get behind with men showing up in about equal numbers to women.

  18. Pelle Billing Says:

    “I’d be curious what your list of things to tease apart is, but here’s some of mine.”

    Nice one, I just gave you several perspectives in my comment above.

    “Men, boys are subjected to enormous pressure to prove their manhood through sex and to show proficiency at sex right away. It’s an impossible position.”

    Agreed. We need to support boys in developing a strong male identity that is not coupled to sexual conquests.

    “Boys, men aren’t encouraged to explore all their vulnerabilities in early sexual learning.”

    Agreed. We need to teach boys that being vulnerable and authentic is actually a position of strength, while feeling that you need to know how to please a woman (or that it’s your job to please her more than vice versa) is actually a position of weakness.

    “But whose doing all the work? Women. Men are doing comparatively nothing.”

    What kind of work are women doing? Besides radical feminists blaming men for every kind of gender problem we have?

  19. Allan Says:

    What kind of work are women doing? Besides radical feminists blaming men for every kind of gender problem we have?

    I’m not sure the scope of your question on women’s work. There’s the last 40 years of the feminist movement. All the shelters, changes to law, books written and women’s studies departments created…

    Feminists outline some selective part of men’s behavior and then simplistically attribute some seemingly conscious motive to it to slander and blame men and support theories of oppression. The radical feminists seem to do nothing much but this. As you put it, “One of the most crucial errors of feminism is that it personalizes the impersonal.“ There’s much, much more to men than this but men aren’t telling their story and adequately refuting feminist claims.

    For example, here’s an argument I would like to make. The violence in men is not directed at women to oppress them. It doesn’t serve us. It’s not our inherent nature. Men do not impose this on other men by choice (making it their fault). Instead as you say, it’s a societal structure imposed on boys by men and a somewhat lesser extent women originating in the time honored role of men as protectors and warriors and the competition between males for females (bateman principle). Boys do not have any say in this, they are victims of it in fact. The gradual adoption of this role is viewed as natural not gradual indoctrination. The very competitive aspect of male roles leads to the enforcement behavior that sustains and reinforces it. It becomes self-perpetuating or as you say, “Patriarchy serves itself“. The power and force of this experience is woefully underestimated. It’s very difficult to escape. It can partly be understood in the context of psychological trauma (1). Demanding of some men to be non-violent is somewhat like telling a rape victim to “just get over it” and stop being afraid. It’s failing to appreciate the nature, complexity and power of this kind of life experience. Unlike rape, there is no single traumatic event. It is the combination of thousands of experiences that leads to trauma effects as in cases of pervasive emotional abuse or childhood neglect. The simplistic characterizations of men by feminists then is best seen as simply victim blaming at it’s best.

    (1). Howell, E.F. (2002). “Good Girls,” Sexy “Bad Girls,” and Warriors: The Role of Trauma and Dissociation in the Creation and Reproduction of Gender. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, Volume 3, Issue 4 September 2002 , pages 5 – 32 .

    Abstract
    The thesis of this article is that substantially, “femininity” and “masculinity,” the gendered personality styles so common in our culture, are direct and indirect outcomes of trauma, and reflective of dissociation. In addition to being direct sequellae of trauma, these “post-traumatic styles” may become consensually accepted modes of interaction by virtue of vicarious and anticipatory trauma. The patterns tend to differ for females and males, reflecting social forces, including sex-typed child-rearing patterns, and biological predispositions interacting with trauma. While presenting self-states of abused girls and women often tend to be compliant, childlike, passive, masochistic, “good,” vulnerable, sweet, and dependent-characteristics often considered stereotypical for females, posttraumatic aggressivity of boys may appear indistinguishable from stereotypical “masculinity.” Aggressivity and violence reproduce trauma, which then contributes to the reproduction of gender.

    http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=jour~content=a904343574

    This is just one of many aspects of masculinity that bears exploring. Various aspects then interact in a self-reinforcing manner to create the rather rigid nature of masculinity. It’s really quite complex. Shame and how it works interests me. Sexual violence, issues in expendability.

    I’d like to ask for your feedback and advice. How can I write (and be read) about this? Do you speak in Sweden and the US about equally? Who is interested in hearing you? Is there much of an audience for these topics in the US? Your site does not have the hundreds of comments and discussions I wish it had. In short, nobody, neither feminists, traditional men, nor pro-feminist men are interested in honest, detailed discussions of male experience. Perhaps the most interested group it seems to me would be heterosexual women who find feminism far too unsympathetic to the men they know and love.

  20. Danny Says:

    Allan:
    Perhaps the most interested group it seems to me would be heterosexual women who find feminism far too unsympathetic to the men they know and love.
    While I really do like the idea that hetersexual women are interested I really wonder if they are the most interested group or is it a matter of people actively avoiding men who want to have the converstations you’re looking for. As part of the script of being a man its pretty much taboo for men to actually have honest detailed discussion about the male experience (and that taboo is reinforced by even those who claim they want to help men break their binding gender roles). I wonder how much of what men are trying to say is simply written off as “mansplaining”, patriarchal, whining or whatever the new catchphrase is that is used to keep men quiet.

    There’s the opposite-to-boys slut-shaming training.
    That would be called virgin-shaming.

    Rape is one of the earliest, biggest issues for feminists isn’t it? They (and I) say “we want you to help us change that culture toward much less rape”. Ok… what do men what from feminists?
    I think you’re setting yourself up for disaster with feminists if you take that attitude because they will interpret (perhaps rightfully) as thinking you are only interested in helping feminists when you yourself can get something out of it. Personally I would like to help change the culture but I refuse to work with anyone that thinks women’s experiences with rape (or women’s experiences in general) somehow trump my own meaning my own experiences should just be left on the back burner to gotten to when they feel like it. Its going to be hard for feminists to reach men in large numbers until they realize that they just can’t expect men to drop their own concerns and take up helping women because its the bigger issue or more important (because when you think about it that’s chivalry).

  21. Allan Says:

    I’d say, there’s a kind of emotional literacy that most men lack, by virtue of it been shamed out of them in boyhood. For most women, that is their native tongue, so they don’t understand what these men are saying or why they won’t talk sense. Men can get that back but it takes quite a lot of work.

    I speak from my emotions quite a lot, and my gf frequently tells me she so appreciates that in me. It’s just when she says, “You’re really not like a straight guy.” that I am troubled. I don’t know. Is that a compliment or an insult? lol

    Yeah, I know the bargain idea is frightfully crass. I take that back.

  22. Danny Says:

    I’d say, there’s a kind of emotional literacy that most men lack, by virtue of it been shamed out of them in boyhood. For most women, that is their native tongue, so they don’t understand what these men are saying or why they won’t talk sense. Men can get that back but it takes quite a lot of work.
    Agreed.

  23. Pelle Billing Says:

    @Allan and Danny
    Nice dialogue guys. Very constructive, and I appreciate that.

    @Allan
    “I’d like to ask for your feedback and advice. How can I write (and be read) about this? Do you speak in Sweden and the US about equally? Who is interested in hearing you? Is there much of an audience for these topics in the US? Your site does not have the hundreds of comments and discussions I wish it had. In short, nobody, neither feminists, traditional men, nor pro-feminist men are interested in honest, detailed discussions of male experience. Perhaps the most interested group it seems to me would be heterosexual women who find feminism far too unsympathetic to the men they know and love.”

    I’m Swedish, I live in Sweden and I’ve given all my lectures here except for one in the US, one in the Netherlands and one in Denmark. Who’s interested in hearing me? A few social services have been interested. Several father’s groups have been interested. I’ve set up a couple of lectures/trainings with a colleague, with several different professions present. It’s slow work in one sense, but OTOH I’ve only been doing it for a year, and I’ve alreade been on national television, so I guess I should be happy.

    My Swedish blog is much more alive than this one. I got over 460 comments on one post recently. I also update it much more frequently. Most of the readers are men, but also some women. I feel that my goal going forward needs to be to reach out to the “average and normal” men and women. Not the hard-core feminists or the hard-core traditionalists. But the group of people who will understand men’s issues if you give them the chance to do so.


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