News

Some Shit I’m Sick of Hearing Regarding Rape and Assange

I

Claim: If you think these rape allegations against Julian Assange should be taken seriously, then you just don’t get it! Wake up and smell the set-up!

Why I’m so fucking sick of it: No really, we get it. I promise. There might be like 3 people on earth who believe the timing of Assange’s arrest was pure coincidence, but I haven’t seen them hanging out in the feminist blogosphere.

The point we’re making is that they didn’t pick him up on unpaid parking tickets here. Two women have accused him of rape. Yes, rape. Rape allegations should be taken seriously.

What “taking the allegations seriously” means:

  • Accepting that Assange has been accused of real crimes, even if the authorities would almost certainly not have pursued him under other circumstances.
  • If you are a WikiLeaks supporter, understanding that it is possible for the very same man to do things you really approve of AND things you really disapprove of.
  • Being skeptical of claims that are used to discredit rape victims every day — e.g., “She wanted it”; “If she didn’t want it, then he didn’t know he didn’t have consent — it was all a big misunderstanding”; “Afterwards, she didn’t behave like I think a victim should”; “She’s just mad and trying to punish him”; “She hesitated to report it/wavered on pressing charges”; “She’s a crazy man-hater.”
  • Recognizing that all of the above are, in fact, tactics used to discredit rape victims every day, and not Really Convincing Special Facts About This Particular Case.
  • Encouraging a fair trial, if it comes to that, for both the accused and the accusers.

What “taking the allegations seriously” does not mean:

  • Presuming that Assange is guilty/Ruling out any possibility that the allegations are false.
  • Failing to understand that the pursuit of Assange was wildly out of proportion to the usual treatment of accused rapists.
  • Being a sheep with no capacity or desire to think critically about the actions of powerful people who have been embarrassed by WikiLeaks.

II

Claim: Because nobody cares about prosecuting rape under normal circumstances, it is somehow an insult to rape survivors to prosecute Assange for it now.

Someone really fucking said that? Yeah, Naomi Wolf in the Huffington Post, for instance. Money quote:

Of course ‘No means No’, even after consent has been given, whether you are male or female; and of course condoms should always be used if agreed upon. As my fifteen-year-old would say: Duh.

But for all the tens of thousands of women who have been kidnapped and raped, raped at gunpoint, gang-raped, raped with sharp objects, beaten and raped, raped as children, raped by acquaintances — who are still awaiting the least whisper of justice — the highly unusual reaction of Sweden and Britain to this situation is a slap in the face.

Wait, what? Yeah, she actually seems to be arguing that out of respect for rape survivors who never saw justice, Britain and Sweden should not prosecute an accused rapist. It’s all of them or none of them. Or something.

Doesn’t she have a good point somewhere in there, though? Sure. To wit, “Here is what I mean: men are pretty much never treated the way Assange is being treated in the face of sex crime charges.” Usually, rapists go free.

BUT: That doesn’t mean these charges shouldn’t be taken seriously. See above. And as someone who’s worked extensively with rape survivors, Naomi Wolf should damn well know better than to smear alleged victims long before all the facts are in, perpetuate a flat-out lie about the seriousness of the charges, and generally act like a cheerleader for rape culture, under the guise of someone concerned about “real” victims. Which we all know these women are not, duh, because Assange has already been tried and found not OH WAIT.

Better idea: Decry the routine dismissal of rape allegations and shameful treatment of victims all over the damned world, but maybe skip the part about how prosecuting an accused rapist somehow makes it worse.

III

Claim: He’s being charged with rape because a condom broke! It’s just because Sweden has this ridiculous “sex by surprise” law!

Why I’m so fucking sick of it, part 1: It’s not true.

Why I’m so fucking sick of it, part 2: Even if it were true, it would still be a big deal. As Jeff Fecke put it on Twitter last night, “Am I missing something? Isn’t ‘sex by surprise’ just a euphemism for rape? Or am I just too hung up on ‘consent?’”

Seriously. If you find yourself surprised to be having sex, it follows that you did not consent! And what’s another name for “non-consensual sex,” kids?

But, but, but… broken condom! This would be a big deal, too, actually! No, not the broken condom itself, but the refusal to stop putting your penis inside someone who’s told you to stop.

Consenting to sex with a condom and consenting to sex without are two entirely different things, as it turns out. A little vocabulary lesson: It’s not rape because you weren’t attracted to the guy or didn’t feel like fucking at all that night or were saving yourself for marriage. It’s rape because at some point, a rapist completely ignored your lack of consent. And yes, it is actually possible to both consent to sex and not consent to sex in the same night, with the same person! For any number of reasons, including that you are willing to have sex with a condom, but not willing to have sex that carries a far greater risk of your becoming pregnant and/or contracting an STI. Oddly enough, those risks can have a serious impact on one’s willingness to fuck! Like, enough to make a hypothetical woman say, “Stop!” when she becomes aware that a condom has broken.

And what do we call “continuing to put your penis inside a woman who’s told you to stop,” boys and girls?

Hint: The answer is not “the best known cure for blue balls.

 

 

128 thoughts on “Some Shit I’m Sick of Hearing Regarding Rape and Assange

  1. it is possible for the very same man to do things you really approve of AND things you really disapprove of.

    Julian Assange: like Orson Scott Card, except with rape allegations instead of unfortunate political views.

  2. #3 has been especially nauseating to me the last couple of days, as the reports of “holding down a woman with his weight” came out. I don’t think any woman who’s had hetero sex can’t think through that scenario: maybe you’re having a good time, you’re like “hell yeah sex, just get that condom,” and then something gets weird and there is no condom and he’s holding you down and you can’t get out from under him and you say “WTF, stop it” and he doesn’t, and who the fuck does not think that is rape and just as fucking scary as Bill Napoli’s–wait, I mean Naomi Wolf’s–list of “rape-rape”? How can you actually think through that scenario and go “sex by surprise heh heh”? It makes me fucking despair at how many straight men just flat-out think rape is okay if it’s not someone with a knife.

  3. Note to new readers: All first-time commenters have to go through moderation, so if I’m away from the computer, your comment might not show up right away. And if you’re an asshole, it won’t show up at all.

    Also, comments shut down automatically after 24 hours.

  4. You have made me so, so happy by doing this, doing this in plain English, rationally, without apology to either side and humorously. You’re pretty much my hero right now. Retweeting to all who’ll pay attention.

  5. Because nobody cares about prosecuting rape under normal circumstances, it is somehow an insult to rape survivors to prosecute Assange for it now.

    Wuh tuh fuh? How back-to-front is it possible to be? I’ve been thinking for days, the disgraceful thing is that so many other rape allegations *don’t* get taken seriously, not that some finally are being. I’m not sure I’d call it even a baby step in the right direction, but the apologists are advocating an enormous stride *backwards*.

  6. I think your ‘translation’ of the Naomi Wolf article is odd, bordering on deliberately unfair. Personally I read it as ‘the police forces (and other relevant organisations) in all these countries should be doing more to prosecute all rapists’, which seems like a much more straight-forward interpretation of the whole article and the anger it expresses at all those places and organisations which have failed raped or assaulted women.

    • Denny, that’s what I was getting at in the part where I acknowledged that she has a good point. Legitimate outrage doesn’t change the fact that she called the Assange arrest an “insult” and a “slap in the face” to rape survivors, that she wrote “I see that Julian Assange is accused of having consensual sex with two women, in one case using a condom that broke” and “the alleged victims are using feminist-inspired rhetoric and law to assuage what appears to be personal injured feelings” in a previous article, and throughout all these HuffPo pieces, she keeps using her status as a well-known feminist to bolster her argument that the charges against Assange shouldn’t be taken seriously.

      • I have to echo Denny’s sentiments on the interpretation of the quoted bit of Wolf’s article. It appears to properly read as suggesting that the _speed/efficiency_ of Britain and Sweden in this case is what is the slap in the face. Essentially saying “that the alleged victims of the Assange case are getting swifter action based on Assange’s celebrity is an insult to other alleged rape victims who do not get attended to as quickly”.

        Granted, even in that sense she’s griping about something that’s inescapable based on how we socially deal with celebrity, but I think it’s a flawed deduction to say that she is saying there should be no prosecution unless all can also be immediately dealt with, regardless of whether other writing of hers appears tinted with a preemptive conclusion about the alleged victims, favorable or not.

        • Here’s what she said in the post in question, emphasis mine:

          Keep Assange in prison without bail until he is questioned, by all means, if we are suddenly in a real feminist worldwide epiphany about the seriousness of the issue of sex crime: but Interpol, Britain and Sweden must, if they are not to be guilty of hateful manipulation of a serious women’s issue for cynical political purposes, imprison as well — at once — the hundreds of thousands of men in Britain, Sweden and around the world world who are accused in far less ambiguous terms of far graver forms of assault.

          One logical conclusion that follows from these words: If we are NOT suddenly in a real feminist worldwide epiphany, and Interpol, Britain and Sweden do not –at once! — imprison hundreds of thousands of men from around the world (who have committed rape-rape, none of this ambiguous shit), Assange does not belong in jail.

          That’s without even touching on her glib dismissal of the allegations, based on bad information.

  7. Yes, what you say.
    Consent is not really that difficult a concept. By the wonderful world of coincidence, I was discussing this on another friend’s blog recently, and it’s always worth repeating that sex without consent is rape. Period.

  8. Thanks for this post. I’m retweeting and google reader-ing as many posts like this as possible, but am a little worried that I’m just bouncing this stuff into an echo chamber. I don’t really hang out with anyone who thinks that rape is bad, unless there’s a mitigating circumstance (he didn’t know! he’s really cool!) in which case never mind bitch just wanted dinner first.

  9. Thank you for this post! Really summarized everything I’ve felt about this ‘sex by surprise’ narrative/nonsense since last week. Assange =/= wikileaks :(

    • “Assange =/= wikileaks”

      I wish more WikiLeaks fans would stick to making that point. If Assange is tried and found guilty, they’re going to have to repair the reputational damage WikiLeaks will take from that (hopefully not by screaming ‘conspiracy’ for the next ten years), and by conflating his political status with these charges they’re not helping to keep the reputation of the organisation separate from the reputation of the man who founded it.

      On the gripping hand, if Sweden do extradite him to the US once they have him in custody (before or after a Swedish trial), it’s going to look pretty rotten. I seem to recall Sweden was heavily involved in the US/UK extraordinary extradition mess.

      • Yeah, for the record, I’ll be pissed if they extradite him to the U.S. And I think it’s as likely as it is bullshitty. But, you know, sing it with me: still no reason not to take rape allegations seriously.

  10. Well said, Kate — I’ve been trying to articulate point two under “taking allegations seriously.” Posted to Facebook.

  11. Just deleted the first comment from someone who cannot grasp #3!

    I already mentioned this, but for those of you who haven’t met me before, let it be known that I am an arrogant, man-hating cunt who hates free speech, can’t tolerate dissenting opinions, and lives to preserve my echo chamber of brainwashed sycophants. So keep that in mind when trying to get a comment through moderation.

    • All hail our new comment-moderating overlords ;)

      By the way, I’m seeing a rendering glitch in your comment form here – there’s a gap above the email input, meaning it lines up with the website label, and the website input is below that with no apparent label.

      Google Chrome 9.0 on Linux, so probably not a huge deal if it works okay on more common platforms.

    • ” I am an arrogant, man-hating cunt who hates free speech, can’t tolerate dissenting opinions, and lives to preserve my echo chamber of brainwashed sycophants. So keep that in mind when trying to get a comment through moderation.”

      Permission to borrow ^that (attributed, of course), please?

      Kate, you are awesome. I’m so glad I wasn’t on my own in thinking they were entirely missing the bloody point in all this reporting.

  12. “If you are a WikiLeaks supporter, understanding that it is possible for the very same man to do things you really approve of AND things you really disapprove of.”

    True.
    But for someone to do something atrocious and then to risk their life and livelihood attempting to do something they think is morally vital, is very very unlikely.

    • Are you kidding me? I have not heard anyone actually spell out the “I don’t believe he could be a rapist because he also did something I find heroic” argument quite so clearly, but there it is. Wow.

    • “But for someone to do something atrocious and then to risk their life and livelihood attempting to do something they think is morally vital, is very very unlikely.”

      This depends on the person in question sharing your definitions of “atrocious” and “morally vital.” Bush thought he was sent by God — pretty much the definition of “morally vital” to the person who thinks it — to start the Iraq war.

      The reaction to the allegations against Assange pretty much demonstrate that a large chunk of the world don’t think rape is atrocious.

    • Unlikely? Not really. History is filled with leaders of movements, governments and religions who on one hand are doing very good things, and who on the other hand are doing very horrible things. Martin Luther King cheated on his wife, is one example of very many that springs to mind.

    • No, it’s actually not. If everybody really agreed that all rape was a horrible thing, maybe it would be. But with all this talk about “hehe, the condom broke” and “it’s physical abuse to ask a guy to pull out before he’s done,” someone who thinks he’s Mr. Morally Upstanding can justify rape with no trouble at all.

    • It would be very unlikely that someone would do something they acknowledged was atrocious, yes, but it rather depends on their moral compass, wasn’t it? Given the number of otherwise intelligent, rational commentators of both genders giggling at the idea of “sex by surprise” and rubbishing the very idea that a woman might be entitled to consent to sex with a man using a condom, and then refuse that VERY SAME MAN if he refuses to wear one for the second round, I’d say that it’s quite possible to be raped by someone who doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong, even though he is also perfectly aware that he doesn’t have consent.

      (Even though I wrote that last sentence myself and read it back several times, it makes my brain bleed.)

      Such a man might be really really good at maths and foster stray dogs in his spare time and risk his life in the local fire brigade or whatever your idea of selfless heroism is. And might, as apparently are a number of fairly well-known commenters, be under the impression that it’s ok to hold a woman down and have sex with her even if she’s told him she doesn’t want to. None of that makes him any less guilty of rape. It’s not his victim’s fault if he can’t be bothered to work out what’s acceptable and what isn’t.

  13. Confidential to latest douche whose comment I’m not approving: Actually, my part one answer links to a piece that’s based on a reading of the Swedish penal code. And I notice you conveniently ignore part two. And if you truly believe that “While the allegations are merely allegations we should ALL shut up,” I nominate you to go first.

  14. HELL yes. Thank you for the excellent answers round-up; I’m going to link this to a lot of people I know who are fucking up on #2 and #3.

  15. Oh fuck, finally! I’ve had all these conversations on Facebook with people making exactly the fallacious arguments you’re pointing out. It’s so refreshing to see you call bullshit.

  16. As a Sartre-Beauvoir-influenced feminist man in general and as one who has rape-victims in the close family in particular (and who believes rape should be punished just like murder!), I feel sorry for the two (feminist) victims (if their allegations are true) because the Swedish Govt’s timing makes Assange’s arrest rather too political (under rightwing pressure) and in future will always give him the benefit of the (political) doubt at least amongst the lefties! [I wonder why the Swedish Govt didn’t pursue the matter the second time round immediately after their first attempt in August fell through because of technically, I gather?]

  17. What angers me (and I suppose a lot of other women) is that a victim of rape is, with great probability, not served with all the publicity surrounding this case.
    Julian Assange and Lawyers have made it very clear that they have struggled to contact the prosecution and asked them to make arrangements. And this was months ago up till now.They wanted to know what the accusations were exactly, they said Assange could be interrogated etc. etc.
    None of these offers were taken up – instead of that an Interpol notice was send out and publicized (what they normally don’t do – because it makes offenders go into hiding) to “search” Assange. From the last court ruling it is perfectly clear that they knew where he was all the time!!

    My point: we should certainly not rule out the possibility that the two Swedish women were used by Assange, that is up to the court. But there is plenty of evidence to prove that they and their situation are exploited by people that claim to stand up for their rights.
    And that is what makes me sick and angry. And the moment the women have completely disappeared – so we are in the unknown if someone is pressurizing them to make this exploitation of their situation possible.

  18. Looks like everyone gets a chance to turn this into a cause célébre. Your point is, of course, 100% true and just. Rape should never be treated as trivial and an accusation should always be taken seriously and investigated as thoroughly as possible. However doing the right thing for a shitty reason does discredit the legal process and in a case where guilt or innocence is going to be a matter of interpretation (and by this i’m NOT referring to an interpretation of events, if she said, ‘stop’ and he didn’t it’s, rape regardless of how far along they were, i mean interpretation of probabilities and likliehoods and hearsay and doubt) the more pressing variable is likely to be his political status, and that might be the thing that convicts him, not the facts, or the actuality of what happened. So i guess what I’m ultimately saying is, yeah you are right, but this is not a good person to centre your argument around, pick a footballer or Jack Tweed or some other celebrity that got a girl in over her head but wouldn’t let her back out. Addendum: Naomi shouldn’t be exonerating him either, i’m really not suggesting he’s ‘off limits’ because of what he’s done, just that it should be done a little more quietly and not obscure the wikileaks agenda which regardless of his involvment is ultimately to be commended.

    • I approved this because it’s a perfect example of “I’m no rape apologist, but there are issues way more important than rape here!” I’m sure that’s not what you think you’re saying, BillyMaime, but you sound for all the world like a concern troll.

      1) I know a lot of dudebros find Nate Silver’s probability argument terribly compelling, but I really don’t.
      2) It’s hard to get a fair trial sometimes. For victims and accusers.
      3) LOL at telling me to pick other people to make this argument about. You mean like Polanski? Or Roethlisberger? OH LOOK I ALREADY DID.
      4) “Got a girl in over her head”? Jesus Christ. Get lost.

      • re: point 1)I don’t know what any of that means. Or for that matter, ‘Concern Troll.’

        What i do think is that making any comment about Assanges guilt or innocence is an exercise in futility and using as fuel for any ‘rape isn’t taken seriously’ campaign is counter-productive, because it is going to devolve into arguments surrounding his political status. Perhaps i just find it futile. That’s all i’m saying. Nothing more.

        oh and as to number 4 are you serious you don’t think people never get traped in a situation that they can’t control? which is all i meant by ‘in over their head’ perhaps ‘someone’ would’ve been better than girl, but then i’ve got more than one friend who lost their virginity to older boys who had a car and it had been fun and games for both of them up to that point and a classic example of sexual brinkmanship so ‘girl over her head’ seemed appropriate.

        I’m not replying to get it posted, just wanted to make myself clearer. Probably haven’t. Sorry for being ignorant and not properly understanding your justifiable rage.

  19. Thanks Kate. One of the most frustrating aspects of this whole situation is how fucking clear it is that these rape charges are only being taken seriously because it’s finally convenient for parties OTHER than the women making the charges. Basically, if someone wants hir rapist to go on trial and be convicted, make sure the rapist has pissed off the US government in a big way. Then you might be one of the 6% that Sady cites. (Imagine if all rape allegations were actually treated this seriously, i.e., probably exactly as seriously as they should be? Mind-boggling!)

    • Right. And that’s the point Naomi Wolf was ostensibly making, except it’s kind of undermined by the fact that she thinks it’s outrageous that Assange was arrested, and she’s on record as believing the victims are lying.

    • Well-said. Now that it’s someone in a position to really screw people, suddenly sexual violence is worth paying attention to. As a survivor, I understand Naomi Wolf’s point about how the handling of Assange is an insult to the rest of us, but it’s poorly made and her all-or-nothing conclusion is the wrong one, if only because it establishes the foundation for sophistry among violence: “You were raped for five minutes? Well, I was raped for five hours. Mine was worse, you don’t deserve justice.” That kind of thing.

  20. Awesome post. Thank you so much for managing to put in to words what I was thinking. Much as I know various governments are using the charge to their advantage an accusation of rape is an accusation of rape and the accused should stand trial regardless of who he is!

  21. Some more reasons why one might fail to get past moderation: Sockpuppeting, violating copyright, repeating debunked rumors, evincing tragically poor reading comprehension. Just FYI.

  22. Claim: Considering how few other alleged rapists end up on Interpol watch lists, as well as the timing of the charges, and the fact the British have opposed bail while the Swedish haven’t, raises the interesting question of why authorities are so keen to see this dealt with now.

      • I think the possibility of political interference in the judicial system is also an allegation that should be taken seriously.

        • The possibility of political interference in the judicial system is 100%. There is no judicial system on the earth that is free from political influence or interference.

          But a case that moves forward because of political interference is still a case. In this instance, the allegations are serious and striking. We’re not talking about parking tickets or a crime that can be proved with faked documents or bribed eyewitnesses. There may be political motivation for the case not being dropped (note that charges have not yet been filed, Assange is only required to appear for questioning) but that doesn’t mean that the case itself is a result of political machinations and nothing more.

          Consequently, we cannot simply say “justice is impossible, free him and move on.” We must allow this case to move beyond the place where the political machine can exert the most influence and into the realm where it has the least, with an impartial judge and/or jury who can hear the facts and render a verdict.

          Unless, of course, you wish to suggest that the government of Sweden will tamper with the aspects of a hearing/trial simply in order to put Assange in jail for sex crimes in lieu of any nation anywhere having to try him for violating some state secrets or espionage statutes? Is that where you and Michael Moore and the other “don’t trust the government story” proponents are going?

  23. Here’s what tears me out inside.

    I’m a liberal. I came into that consciousness despite being raised in a traditional midwest home. I am a rape survivor and help moderate a message board that opens up a supportive and healing space for other survivors.

    Despite knowing this, folks keeping having the Assange conversation with me, always about how he’s the target of a conspiracy and “It was just a broken condom.” I try to point out the facts like you did here, and I realize I’m not just defending the two women, but all survivors to some extent or another.

    As I told my husband, “I said no, and he continued to have sex with me for several minutes. Those minutes, whether they were two or nine or just one, have left me with years of scars that I don’t think will ever really heal. And you want to downplay what he did because it was just a few minutes, that turned into a few weeks, that became a few months, that melted into a few years, creating an entire lifetime imprinted by his actions.”

    Why are we liberals so quick to give pass on these fundamental issues of importance when it involves one of “our” side? What in the hell are people with kids doing supporting Roman Polanski and defending Michael Vick? When will supporting women be the priority that sticking it to the conservatives is?

  24. I keep wondering if the ‘sex by surprise’ thing is a fair translation, or if one paper published it and everyone else ran with it. I mean, the description of the crime is more like ‘sex without (full?) agreement’ – which is a lot harder to smirk at.

      • Does that suggest, therefore, a mistranslation almost deliberately designed to make the allegation sound less serious, and more like a genuine accident than a change in circumstances leading to a lack of consent to the new situation ie rape. By the legal team or by various media, I’m not sure, but certainly perpetuated by the media since, effectively downplaying the allegations. I have to say I didnt understand the situation until reading this thread, and the links, and now feel much better able to rebut the “ha-ha burst condom thats funny” comments

  25. Thank God I found you Kate! (and I don’t even believe in God… that’s how thankful I am). I’ve been saying these same things (not as well) over on Daily Kos and they’re about ready to boot me. I’ve been called a “fascist enabler” and more. That’s right. Daily Kos! Numero Uno progressive site on the internet! You want to see the “not using a rubber is rape in Sweden” meme repeated a few thousand times? Go to Daily Kos. I’m a very successful Diarist on DKos and I was pretty much resigned to dropping this whole thing — in a gotta-pick-your-battles sort of way. Not now. Now I’m feeling empowered. Thank You!

    • Oh, honey, it’s definitely not news to me that sexism and rape apology flourish at Daily Kos. I’m glad someone’s still fighting the good fight over there, and I’m glad you found this helpful!

  26. Don’t get fooled: They do NOT take the rape thing seriously!!!
    This is the agenda:
    - A. accuse Assange and do as much harm in the process as possible
    - B. catch him on the rape charges
    - C. design a strategy to get him in the USA
    - D. Prioritize USA national security over women’s rights
    - E. Extradite him to the USA and try him there for Wikileaks
    The moment C & D are in place – you won’t hear anybody anymore talk about the rape charges.
    This whole story is about pretending to defend two women who say they have been used – and using us all in the very process!! It is simply a travesty of justice.

  27. And what do we call “continuing to put your penis inside a woman who’s told you to stop,” boys and girls?

    Hint: The answer is not “the best known cure for blue balls.“

    I may need brain bleach after following that link. The assertion that it does horrible damage to guys to stop, or that they “can’t” is mind-blowing to me. Could you* stop if your grandmother walked into the room? If the fire alarm went off? Yeah, you could. Then you can stop if she says “Stop.” I’m sure it’s uncomfortable, but it doesn’t do actual damage.

    I can picture the rebuttal (which Kate won’t let through, because she’s a tyrant**) that grandma walking in or the possibility that the building is on fire is a mood-killer, so it’s different. For any guy who doesn’t see “she doesn’t want sex” as a mood-killer, please go get “WARNING: Horrible human being. Do not date.” tattooed on your forehead now.

    Seriously. There is no justification for having sex with someone who has told you to stop.

    I can sympathize with the intense feeling of disappointment of being really really worked up and not getting off. But it’s precisely for such situations that masturbation exists.

    *You here = dude making the argument you linked, or hypothetical dude who might make the same one.

    **It is obvious that I mean that in a good way, right?

  28. @Kate – there is also a lot of information on the internet from Sweden that Naomi may have read and you probably didn’t. That information is very detailed about what happened.
    One of the reasons people ‘judge’ the seriousness of complainant 1 is that the day after the incident (whateverit was) she tweeted: Julian would love to go to a crayfish party – does someone have two tickets available?? The evening of that day she tweeted: I am with some of the coolest people in the world.

    I feel that Naomi’s reaction points back at this info. – If you are raped it does hurt.
    If your are disappointed later it is a different kind of hurt – and it is not fair to equal this disappointment with the trauma of rape.

    Another reason is that complainant 1. had an article posted on the net about how to create maximum revenge if someone dispappoints your feelings.

    • I feel that Naomi’s reaction points back at this info. – If you are raped it does hurt.

      See “Afterwards, she didn’t behave like I think a victim should”.

    • That doesn’t mean anything, though. The day after a squaddie tried to rape me, I posted on my livejournal about how funny some guys’ attitudes to sex are – it was very lighthearted, even if you read between the lines. Doesn’t change the fact that I had to hold my hand over my crotch to stop said squaddie sticking his dick into me, even while I was telling him not to be so stupid. It doesn’t have to be immediate life-altering trauma to be rape.

    • Those tweets could indicate a lot of things. Could be she was trying to deny it happened. Could be she hadn’t fully thought about it and processed it. I mean, I’m not a counselor and I’ve never been raped, but it seems to me that it could’ve taken her a while to go “Wait a minute. I said no. I know he heard me. I tried to get up and he held me down. Yes, I am remembering this right. Yes, this did really happen.” And, yes, they could also suggest that the sex was actually consensual and she made the whole thing up. But they don’t actually prove anything either way. And they don’t merit giving Assange a whole wheelbarrow full of benefit of the doubt, and her none.

    • Yeah, this is where you get banned, Mirjam. Saying “She didn’t act like I think a victim would” is textbook rape apology, and Jessica Valenti, among others, debunked the “revenge article” bullshit days ago. Take it somewhere else.

    • Yeah, and I kept on dating my rapist after he raped me. Women stay married to men who’ve raped them. Children who are raped by their siblings or parents continue to love them. You basically just said nothing with this comment.

  29. Kate, I am not sure you are doing anyone any favors here. To bracket what Assange seems to being accused of with more aggravated sexual offenses under the “rape” caption and stating the case that the effort demonstrated by the Swedish justice system is warranted will undermine your efforts to be taken seriously.
    I strongly support your position that no is no even after consent may have been previously assumed.
    Sincerely, Jan (Male)

    • What do you think the allegations are, Jan (Male)? Because according to the Swedish authorities, they include holding a woman down while having non-consensual sex with her and putting his dick in a sleeping woman. In other words, Assange is accused of, precisely, rape.

      Also, you have no idea how much I wish I had a nickel for every time someone told me they agreed with me in principle, but felt I was going about XYZ all wrong and thus hurting my cause. Better explanation: We don’t actually agree.

      • Yes, that would appear to be rape if true without qualification of “non-consensual”. But consent is determined how? Signed contract? I have been happily married for years and am attuned to explicit signals but still struggle with the implicit ones. It is a bit like the male black widow spider approaching his partner.
        Naomi’s point, I think, is that Sweden’s track record pursuing sex crimes is very poor and that it would not be in the interest of the judicial system to prioritize/cherry pick on external motives other than the evidence of the case. That I think is valid.

        • Consent is determined through things like this:

          person doesn’t say yes, due to being UNCONSCIOUS = there is no consent; sexual contact is rape.

          person says yes to sex act A but not sex act B = doing sex act A is not rape, but doing sex act B is.

          See how easy that is? The determining factor is simply whether the other person has said yes.

          • person doesn’t say yes, due to being UNCONSCIOUS = there is no consent; sexual contact is rape.

            person says yes to sex act A but not sex act B = doing sex act A is not rape, but doing sex act B is.

            See how easy that is? The determining factor is simply whether the other person has said yes.

            Yep. Easy frickin peasy. If one is at all confused about consent, then it’s a good time to ask “Do you want to X?” or “Would you like me to Y?” Makes it really, really obvious. If there are subtle signals that you are confused about, again, this is where *asking* is a wonderful and useful thing.

        • But consent is determined how? Signed contract? I have been happily married for years and am attuned to explicit signals but still struggle with the implicit ones. It is a bit like the male black widow spider approaching his partner.

          Ladies and gentlemen, do not have sex with Jan (Male)!

      • Kate,
        I sense you are passionate about your pursuit and commend you for it and I mean no offense by saying that.
        I do not subscribe to the view that “if you’re not with us, you’re against us.” It led us to war.
        Keep up the good work.
        Cheers, Jan

        • Oooh, look, it’s the “feminism is finite and if we use it up on the little things, there will be none left for the big things” fallacy! Or is it the “being upset about anything less than the largest possible injustices is hypocritical” fallacy? I have a hard time telling them apart sometimes.

  30. Thank you for this wonderful, enlightening piece, but I’m still upset and heartbroken it had to be written in 2010.

    Thank you to Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic for first wondering, then doing his research, directing me here, and now agreeing with you. I love him.

    And this was another reason I had to leave progressive blogs. To see progressives, and Michael Moore pooh pooh this, along with Naomi W and Keith Olberman, makes me want to cry. For real. But I’ll get over it. Ugh. Just sickening.

  31. Can I tell you my personal story? I listen to Democracy Now every single day. For months Amy Goodman has repeated the “consensual sex” and condom misinformation. I believed it and probably repeated it. I’m not a liar nor a rape apologist. My opinions had nothing to do with my being a man. I was just wrong.

    There is a huge amount misinformation on this subject. That doesn’t make it a “lie”, as many have come to characterize it. Maybe its origins were deliberately deceptive, but not everybody who repeats it is a liar. I know that Michael Moore watches Democracy Now because he talks about it every time he’s a guest. He may have been confused, as I was, by a very ethical journalist with bad facts.

    I think your writing has been very sharp and you are exactly right on Assange, as many are in the feminist blogosphere. But I don’t think it helps to say people who have their facts wrong (and they are wrong! Michael Moore was wrong) are “rape apologists”. It makes them more defensive and creates factions between feminists and anti-secrecy advocates when we should all be allied.

    A lot of the misinformation was spread by the mainstream media, but a fair share was spread in the typically-feminist liberal media. There are particularly shitty cases, like Naomi Wolf, where a person with bad facts goes way too far, but I feel like most people making the cases you cite above (the small segment of those siding with Assange who also read feminist blogs) are just trying to defend their own acceptance of months of bad facts.

    One (admittedly small) problem is, if people can’t get the real facts without reading an article that calls them rape apologists, they are less likely to get the facts. I look forward to the day you win this fight, correct the error, and can get back to writing about how this hugely pervasive fucking error came about.

    • There is a huge amount misinformation on this subject. That doesn’t make it a “lie”, as many have come to characterize it.

      It does, actually. That doesn’t mean the people saying it are automatically bad people, but it does mean they’re propagating falsehoods. And these are people who should really know better than to go off half-cocked.

      One (admittedly small) problem is, if people can’t get the real facts without reading an article that calls them rape apologists, they are less likely to get the facts.

      If one doesn’t want to be called a rape apologist, one should probably avoid rape apologism.

      • It’s a lie, sure, but people who don’t know what they’re saying are not telling a lie. Michael Moore propagated a lie, but he isn’t a liar. He may be apologizing for a rapist, but he’s not an rape apologist, he is ignorant. (About this case, at the minimum.)

        Of course that’s just that case. Doesn’t hold for any of the arguments you refute in the article.

        re: Realistic expectations. The media is failing at this story so hard, there’s a ton of ignorance on the subject. It’s a sad sign of the times, but WikiLeaks has been a loaded issue all year, and that’s at least a contributing factor in the total blunder of this aspect of the story.

        That, a huge deficit in real critical thinking, and a bunch of genuine asshole rape apologists.

        • I think that being quick to believe anything that discredits the victim *is* of rape apologism. It’s not as blatant as making stuff up or saying she deserved it, but automatically taking the side of the accused is a *huge* part of rape apologism.

          And, yes, there’s a difference between being a liar and being wrong. But the harm done is still pretty much exactly the same. I also think it’s everybody’s job to check info before repeating it.

          • Well, it’s definitely “of rape apologism” or “a part of rape apologism”… but I don’t think that calling every individual wrongheaded person a “rape apologist” is constructive.

            I am not defending Amy Goodman, Olbermann, et al—they’re wrong—but I do think it would be better to persuade them and change their coverage than to condemn them forever.

            And likewise with the audience. With the media so wrong, not everybody has the critical faculties and education to come to this conclusion on their own. It would be constructive if more people read well-reasoned arguments (like the one we’re commenting on), instead of closing the door on the feminist blogosphere, and going back to the rest of the media where nobody is talking about the victims at all.

    • Here’s one of many such headlines.

      http://www.democracynow.org/2010/12/3/headlines#6

      Democracy Now has had Assange and his attorneys as guests on a regular basis. I realize some will condemn the fact that I gave a single news source benefit of the doubt over anybody alleging rape, but I haven’t had a lot of time this week. I realize the error of my thinking, but it’s a lot to expect everybody to do so. DM are typically very good on sex-crime victims.

      • I realize the error of my thinking, but it’s a lot to expect everybody to do so.

        It’s really not, Paul — and I don’t mean that as a snarky insult. I mean, expecting people to take rape allegations seriously instead of rushing to discredit women who report sexual assault is really not expecting a lot.

        That’s not to say it’s realistic to expect that people will give alleged victims at least the same benefit of the doubt afforded accused white men. It’s not, sadly. But my god, that’s not expecting a lot of people.

        • But my god, that’s not expecting a lot of people.

          Especially not people talking about the case while hosting or appearing on an international news/commentary broadcast.

          Or people who are, you know, posting bail for Julian Assange.

  32. Yay. Im glad someone finally laid all this out.

    My only comment outside the kudos would be that linking to huffpo and jess valentini’s pieces so heavily…well who outside those already inclined to agree would buy them as sources?

    I guess im saying i couldn’t forward this to those id like to persuade because they’ll laugh just like i do when i get the foxnews ones.

    • Well, I only link to HuffPo to criticize an article that was published there. And I link to Jessica’s posts because they’re well-researched and contain a lot of links to her sources, so people can judge where she’s getting her information for themselves. If the people you’d like to persuade can’t do that, I can’t really help you.

  33. Another reason Wolf has got me fucked off is that if she spends a lot of time concern trolling about abuse victims in the developing world, then pull the “broken condom, pfft” shit.

    Well, here’s a reality check for Ms. Wolf’s white first world privilege. She might want to go to Africa and interview HIV positive/PWA women who are literally being murdered by AIDS denialism (with a patriarchal male privilege back). Not every HIV-positive person on this planet has access to anti-retroviral drugs and ongoing specialist care and support that Ms. Wolf might just take for granted if she was a poz woman.

    Real pro-women progressives are doing the hard yard spreaking safe sex messages in places like South Africa, against considerable resistance. Perhaps Naomi would like to stop slapping people in the face who are trying to spread the very real message that correct use of a condom, every time you have sex, can save lives.

  34. I couldn’t agree more with pretty much everything you’ve written here. The more I read about this situation, the easy dismissal of these charges, using the same tired memes trotted out against every woman who’s ever accused someone of rape, by so many prominent liberals (including even somebody like Thom Hartmann who I thought was above that sort of thing), has become increasingly disturbing. I’m in general agreement with what Wikileaks is doing, and am as skeptical as anybody as to the reasons why Assange suddenly, for example, made Interpol’s most wanted list, but the fact remains he’s been charged with rape and that demands that the charges be taken seriously.

  35. Thanks for saying what should have been obvious to everyone but somehow wasn’t. Consider yourself bookmarked in my “Important Reading” folder.

  36. THANK you, Kate. I know you and others have covered this same ground elsewhere, but something about this piece right here feels like dunking my head in cool clear water on a blazing August day. I appreciate your clarity, your humor, and your intolerance for bullshit. I’m keeping this in my pocket as a reminder that no, I’m not being irrational, stupid, or hysterical as I hit wall after wall of “b-but broken condom!”, “b-but surprise sex!” and “u r uh facist teaparty enabler!!1!” nonsense over the next couple of days.

    *sniff* And watching you and SM tag team trolls upthread makes me sooo nostalgic for the SP days. Where “nostalgic” means “I respect the way you’ve turned it into an art form but I’m very happy you don’t have to deal with that noise on the daily anymore”.

    • Aw, thanks. It’s making me a little nostalgic, too. But also really happy about the “comments automatically close after 24 hours” policy. I will be glad to put this thread to rest tomorrow.

  37. I don’t really have anything to add, but I would just like to say that I really appreciate this piece. I have long enjoyed your work and ace banhammering skills.

    Oh, and the “blue balls” link was quietly terrifying in its own special way.

    • I approved this — and then immediately banned “Balzac — just so people can get a taste of what’s coming into the mod queue. There were also several other, increasingly hostile comments from him alone this morning.

      • Increasingly hostile, as in, more hostile that that?

        I am also glad your comments will close soon. Not because I don’t miss your fabulous comment threads, which usually were fun to read. But because I am sure you have better things to do than Mod-Ban Balzacs all day.

        Also, great post. Of course!

        • Much more hostile! For instance: “You ignorant fucking cunts. I just flat out don’t believe the allegations. That’s the difference. You bitches act like a woman walks on water. No woman has ever lied about rape. Right, and no man has ever raped a woman either. Fuck you all.”

  38. Thank you for explaining patiently. I’m less patient and I got fed up with people not getting what rape feels like, why it’s a serious crime, and why “she wanted it” or “she didn’t behave like I think a victim should behave” is the stupidest thing to say in the universe. So I wrote this: http://bit.ly/e0hCUR (trigger warning, somewhat graphic).

  39. Oh man, Kate. Thank you for this, and your comments badassery. I can only imagine how bloody tiring it is to go through all the ass comments. But you are awesome, and all hail Kate!

  40. Very well said. One other dimension to this: Prosecutors often try to appear vigorous in their pursuit of alleged crimes committed by the high-profile accused. They are acutely aware that the eyes of the public are on them and do not want to appear soft on crime for a whole variety of reasons, ranging and combining (depending on the prosecutor) worrying about their reputations, wanting to send a message that (despite what they may do on a day to day basis) that they do take these offenses seriously, and wanting to dispel any notion that the defendant is above the law. Of course, what happens to these high-profile defendants when other people with a stake in the defendant’s continued good reputation, at the end of the day, is another matter. Famous, wealthy or influential people tend to have famous, wealthy or influential friends and the same will bring their influence to bear if it is in their own interest (economic, social, political or in this case, ideological) to have the defendant besmirched. This is an unfortunate side effect of people’s psychological tendency (both pro and con) to equate organizations and their credibility with their leader.

  41. Has anyone seen Michael Moore’s despicable, repulsive and slimy piece on Sweden and rape today? He’s sliming up the internets with it. It almost made me cry it’s that ugly, frustrating and sickening. He does not represent a Liberal. He’s just utterly sick. The more his movies bomb, the more desperate he gets for attention. So I guess the far fringe frothing at the mouth extreme left (i.e. NOT normal liberals) has jumped the shark again and laughs and smirks at rape charges and mocks the women who make them in their asinine hatred of the President and the US. My god. And I used to call myself part of that sick group. Anyway, google it. You’ll be horrified, it’s that bad.

  42. Well said, Kate. This is one of the most comprehensive and sensible examinations of the situation. I’m pretty disturbed at the people who suddenly seem to think that rape is a trivial matter when someone you admire is accused.

    Thanks to @davidallengreen for linking to this on Twitter.

  43. I’m just so sick of hearing about how talking about stuff like this ‘trivializes’ victims of ‘real’ rape. I have known MANY women who are victims of date rape, grey rape, or whatever BS term you want to call it, and believe me, NO ONE’s experience is trivialized more than theirs.

    That Naomi Wolf article also pissed me off, the stories of twelve- and thirteen-year old girls being raped by dozens of men seemed to be there for no other reason than to say ‘this is TERRIBLE, the Assange thing is probably made up so let’s talk about this thing.’

    If just ONCE a high-profile man was held accountable for abuse of women, it would send shock waves through our society. Instead we get Michael Moore sounding like a conservative pundit circa 1991, defending Clarence Thomas as unjustly accused for ‘political reasons’.

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