Well, it’s that time of the week again. Friday afternoon time! Most of us, right about now, would be planning our weekends, kicking back, wondering just how little work we can actually do before it’s time to go home, and/or potentially trying to figure out if it’s REALLY that unprofessional to start drinking at 3 PM, in your workplace. (ANSWER: Yes. And yet!) Amanda Hess of TBD and I, however, are presenting the latest edition of popular feminist entertainment GChat series, “Sexist Beatdown!”
But, geeze, you guys. Normally there’s at least SOME micro-controversy or news to dissect, in the “Sexist Beatdown.” This week, though? I mean, I can’t think of what we could possibly be covering…
Oh. Oh, right. Well then, let us proceed!
SADY: Boy, it sure is a slow news week, FOR THE LADIES! I can think of absolutely no controversOH NO WAIT. WAIT. I THINK I FOUND ONE.
AMANDA: Does it involve women alleging rape being the agents of an international conspiracy against freedom?
SADY: AND HOW! And yet, it is curious: You may be surprised to know that, as per approximately nine million deleted commenters on my very own website, prized for their insight and accuracy, “there is no claim of rape to be found in any of the reporting.” In fact, according to “Ralph,” “u r all fucking retarded, really fucking dumb……….it was consensual sex and his condom broke which is a crime in sweden u fucking retards”
AMANDA: I love how many Swedish constitutional rape scholars have just wiggled out of the woodwork all of a sudden. Can we just volley back and forth with our favorite dumb shit we’ve heard? I mean I have something to do in a couple of hours so I don’t know how far we’ll get.
SADY: Okay. Well, can mine mostly be quoting Keith Olbermann? Because, the thing is, as stupid and hateful as these people are, it is kind of not their fault. They are getting their information from the same place most of us get it: The news. And if an actual news reporter, that they rely on, for news, tells them that Assange is only charged with a broken condom and not rape, or that having consensual sex without a condom in Sweden IS rape, as Keith Olbermann and Michael Moore did, well: They’re going to repeat that. Because they SAW IT ON THE NEWS. Meaning, for the vast majority of people, that it’s TRUE by default and that there’s NO NEED to investigate further, because these people are paid to tell them THE TRUTH.
AMANDA: Right. And not just, like, present rape jokes as law? “Sex by surprise!”
SADY: “As a lawyer, I can assure you, there is a law called ‘sex by surprise’ in Sweden, and that this is in no way a popular Internet rape joke with its own Urban Dictionary entry. Because I’m a lawyer, I know about these laws, which are real, and that there is a fine of $715 for this crime I did not just make up based on a rape joke and AWWWWW CRAP YOU MEAN SOMEONE DID SOME REPORTING???? ON LAWS???? IN SWEDEN???? I’m sorry, Julian, there was no way I could have anticipated this.”
AMANDA: I think a lot of the reporting on this relies on an ignorance of Swedish rape laws, and also a strange willingness to assume that Swedes will like, prosecute you for anything? Time just published a really interesting piece about the politics of rape laws in Sweden… that unfortunately trades in the assumption that feminism may have increased rape there.
SADY: Right. Because if you clarify your laws so that more rapes can be prosecuted, more rapes get prosecuted, so clearly Feminism is just the long arm of the Man, increasing rape everywhere it touches.
AMANDA: Or, women articulating the kind of sex they want paradoxically increases the amount of sex that women do not want? Now women are speaking up, informing men when they do or do not want to have sex with them! This is the root of the problem! In Sweden.
SADY: SWEDEN: A strange and wondrous land where women can either consent or, in some strange twist of natural law, “not consent” to sex! And it turns out only the “consent” part is legal! SWEDEN IS WEIRRRRRRD.
AMANDA: Sometimes condoms are involved, complicating matters. The most frustrating part about reporting on sexual assault, to me, is the failure of so many people to accept any complexity in the narrative. Yes, women can want to have sex with men, but not want to have sex with a particular man. And yes, they can want to have sex with a particular man, but not at a particular time (for example, while they are unconscious). And yes, women can want to have sex with a particular man at a particular time under the condition that he wear a condom. And women can also want to have sex with a particular man at a particular time under the condition that he wear a condom and while he is simultaneously leaking classified U.S. documents on the Internet. That’s it!
SADY: Yup! Righty-o! They may not even be THINKING about this man’s document-leaking, while they are in the process of insisting that he wear a condom during sex, or expressing their desire that he stop having sex with them. That may not be the first thing on their minds! That man can get up, go to his day job, do good work there, help people, then go home and potentially hurt people in his private life.
AMANDA: … particularly when many people do not even view his form of sexual assault as a crime! That tends to aid this sort of scenario, in my view.
SADY: Yeah. But condoms, in particular, are such a canard. You tell the world that the guy just didn’t want to wear a condom and the chick wasn’t cool about it, and suddenly you have a large portion of the male demographic being like, “yeah! Girls are always insisting we wear condoms! It’s such a drag! If that’s a crime CALL ME A CRIMINAL.” And it’s not, actually, a crime. As long as you find a partner who’s fine with not wearing condoms, and consents to condomless sex, you can do that till the Crotch Rot eats your brain. If you find a partner who DOES want you to wear a condom, however, and you wait until she’s asleep to RAPE HER, that miiiiiight just be a problem. And the condom might just be BUT ONE of the troubling things about that scenario, right there.
AMANDA: Yeah. And I am sympathetic to the idea that Assange is being held in this case for political reasons, and had he not been an international freedom fighter his case may well have not been taken seriously. But honestly, all rape prosecutions are political. They all are. That’s why strangers are prosecuted more than acquaintances. And a lower-class minority offender may be more likely to net a conviction than a well-to-do white person. But at some point we’ve got to take what we can get, in terms of rape prosecutions. The solution to the problem isn’t to let off stranger rapists out of fairness.
SADY: Exactly. Trans women and women of color can be attacked with more impunity than white, cis women can be. Every rape case is inherently, deeply political. And if you’re telling me that this international high-profile apparently expensive DATE RAPE INVESTIGATION involving a WELL-KNOWN MIDDLE-TO-UPPER CLASS WHITE GUY seems unusual, well, NO FUCKING SHIT, BUDDY. You mean to tell me that DATE RAPE INVESTIGATIONS aren’t normally pursued across a continent???!!!! Oh, my!
AMANDA: Haha, yeah. “Something seems wrong here!” But every rape case is a lesson, and it teaches us how we treat all of these little political considerations on a smaller scale in our own communities. Failing to take these charges seriously sends a powerful message that it’s OK to vilify women who allege rapes, to release their names and send them into hiding, to trade details on their sex lives, and to minimize the charges at all costs while emphasizing the accused’s contributions to society.
SADY: Exactly. No matter what the actual truth of the Assange case may be, the effect this has on women who are raped is profound, and profoundly terrible. Because it teaches them that, if enough people like your rapist, it is literally unsafe and unacceptable for you to report your own rape.
AMANDA: Right. And when many women who report a rape face these kinds of deterrents (though rarely on an international scale), a lot of them drop out of the investigation. They refuse to testify, they drop charges. Which is often a very legitimate decision, given the circumstances. I wonder now if these women have a choice in the matter any longer.
SADY: Exactly. There are rumors that one of the women in the case doesn’t want to cooperate. Which, of course, means she’s “lying,” according to some people. And not, like, scared for her own safety. I wouldn’t be surprised if these women, who were apparently at least somewhat reluctant to take this case to court in the first place, were scared of continuing it now, in the face of these pressures. Scared, maybe, for their lives. And I also wouldn’t be surprised if the investigation had taken on a life of its own that had very little to do with these women any more.
AMANDA: Sure. And if the case is dropped it will be heralded as a victory for the freedom of the press. Which, given the backwards reporting that’s accompanied this whole sorry affair, is pathetic.
SADY: Well, at least Keith Olbermann will be able to get back on Twitter. And avoid the FRENZY!!! of ladies asking him why he keeps misreporting these allegations, or allowing them to be misreported, and so on and so forth. If this entire thing has one shining moment, for me personally — and who else would I think of a shining moment for? — it’s seeing Keith Olbermann freak out and friends-lock his LiveJournal because of “frenzied” feminist Twitter messages. Ultimately, I see I have turned this international date rape investigation and victim-blaming explosion into a reason to amuse myself with celebrity Tweets, once again. The shame!
AMANDA: Yeah. I mean, if anything, the case has reminded me that a) television and b) Twitter are perhaps not the best mediums in which to figure out rape once and for all. As evidenced by Keith Olbermann’s five-part tweet “apology” explaining how someone close to him was raped and therefore, actually, feminists deserve HIM an apology, filed shortly before gathering his toys and going home. (5/5)
SADY: IT WAS THE FRENZY, AMANDA! THE FRENZY! Keith Olbermann, unbeknownst to us all, was LITERALLY BEING TORN APART by WOLVES as he typed that highly defensive Tweet series.
AMANDA: I’m actually impressed, and disturbed, by his devotion to Twitter. There is no godly reason why Keith Olbermann should be directly responding to my Tweet (and then blocking me) within seconds, practically. At least we got through … at … him!
SADY: Yes. I think we’ve solved rape culture forever. Right? That’s how it works?
AMANDA: Yes. I believe so. But I have to say, Twitter may not have managed to convince Keith Olbermann or Michael Moore to issue an apology, or a correction, or like 20,000 dollars to a rape crisis organization (yet!), but it did encourage a lot of people to take a second look at the people who provide them news. So I just have to say that I think what you did was such a tremendous success, and such an important thing.
SADY: Well, awwwwwww. Thanks. I hope it at least got people thinking about how this stuff works. And/or about Internet activism. Which is not just for silvery-haired Australians accused of date rape, coincidentally!
AMANDA: Go forth and start frenzies!
SADY: Frenzy, my people! Frenzy like sharks in a tank full of Arby’s roast beef sandwiches!