To our male allies: a challenge

Cross posted from The Radical Housewife.

Two years ago, I participated in a MPRIG-sponsored panel on sexual violence during the University of Minnesota’s Welcome Week.  To their great credit, a large number of earnest 18-year-olds showed up to discuss an issue far less appealing than learning the forehand frisbee throw. During both the morning and the afternoon sessions, I heard a question that I remember from my own college days, asked by the bravest straight male in the room: “This is really upsetting. Are women actually assuming I’m a perpetrator just because I have a penis?”

I’m sorry if it feels that way, I said.  But don’t blame women.  Blame guys like Neal Krasnoff, author of the blog The Loyal Opposition.

Now I’m not saying that Neal is a perp any more than those college guys were, but I do know that he has a mean streak a mile wide, and he vents said meanness on his blog.  Normally, I’m of the mind to let creeps like him be.  Why send him the web traffic?  But today, the circumstances are different than when he called me a “matriarchic supremacist” back in 2008.  I can handle personal trashing, but when I read his new post about SlutWalk Minneapolis (called “If she dresses like a slut, and acts like a slut, is she really a feminist?”), I felt a response was necessary.

Last week I wrote a post about frustration with rape culture that was borderline misandrous, and I was called out as such by a secret fan of mine who linked to it on a Modern Radio discussion forum.  Since Jawknee also mentioned that I am “great” and “super smart,” I know that he must have seen my point: that rape culture curdles the souls of even sensible women from time to time.  And Krasnoff’s piece on SlutWalk Minneapolis is as soul-curdling a bit of rape apologia as I have read in a long time.  Set your TRIGGER WARNING alarm, then read him here:

“Slutwalk” ideology is not about rape, as the protestors claim. It is about an attempt to abrogate the moral agency of women. It posits that women can behave as they wish with no consequences for their acts.  …dressing up in a club miniskirt, dancing and grinding with alcohol-fueled, hypersexualized 20-something men at a downtown club, then going back to their apartment with them to presumably discuss the Brothers Karamazov. Or travelling without niqab in Taliban controlled territory. Or holding raw meat out in front of a starving dog.

Does NO still mean NO if this gorgeous Asian slutwalker does everything to say “f— me”?

I hear quite a bit from straight men about how they aren’t sure that feminism is for them, while at the same time bemoaning the guilty until proved innocent phenom mentioned above.  Well, guess what?  It’s anti-feminist jerks like Krasnoff who are making your lives difficult, fellas.  What on earth could make anyone feel comfortable comparing a woman to a slab of “raw meat”?  Sexism.  It’s not confined to small-time weirdos on the internet, either.  It’s everywhere.

Help us end it, guys. We can’t do it without your help.  We need you to speak out against this warped view of the world.  You are not dogs, and we are not meat.  We are all human beings who deserve respect, safety, and freedom.

What’s the saddest thing about a piece of writing like this?  Neal Krasnoff knows rape survivors.  He’s friends with them, he works with them, he even has some in his own family.  He doesn’t realize this, though, because no survivor would ever share her truth with a guy him.  Yet he takes to his blog and condemns these very women for failing to apply “reasonable judgment and common sense.”  I wonder how that goes over with the women in his life who were molested by family members and/or raped by their boyfriends, let alone the ones who were victimized after a night on the town.  They have my compassion and pity.  Neal?  Not so much.

Join the Conversation

  • Sam Lindsay-Levine

    Mr. Krasnoff is a horrible slimebag, his stated point of view is abhorrent, and I will cheerfully show up wherever and whenever you want to say so.

    However… how does that answer the bravest straight male in the room’s question? What validates the assumption that he agrees with, or should be associated with, Mr. Krasnoff?

    I’m a little uncomfortable because you definitely have a legitimate point that the Krasnoffs of the world are the problem, but I’m muddy on making the connection to how and when we can determine that it is a good thing to stereotype a group based on the behaviors of a subset of that group. Help me out!

    • Sam Lindsay-Levine

      Also, apparently the blog post you link to no longer exists because the author has redacted all of his posts except for two (which still display an ample level of buffoonery).

      • Sam Lindsay-Levine

        I’m sure the folks from my wife’s synagogue with whom I marched in the Minneapolis Pride parade would be intrigued to hear that marriage equality is anti-Semitism, for example.

    • ellestar

      IMO, this is a good answer to the brave male in the room:

      It’s the idea of individual men being Shrodinger’s Rapists. Women can’t know which strange (or even known, but this post focuses on strangers) men are rapists until they are being raped. Until then, they may or may not be a rapist. To help keep ourselves safe, women will then take cues based on the social situation to help sway our judgment toward “this man is probably safe” vs. “this man may be dangerous.” The article then goes on to describe which cues signal danger and which don’t.

      And while it might be upsetting for men who would never consider sexually assaulting someone to be assumed to be dangerous, it’s far more upsetting to women who just wanted to spare a guy’s feelings when she felt in danger, who did nothing, then was assaulted. Many women err on the side of caution, which means that many men will be assumed to be dangerous (or at least potentially dangerous) based on individual women’s threat threshold, which is often based on her own experiences.

      It sucks that men can get painted with the “rapist” brush when they are not. It really does. But women should be able to feel safe and do things that alleviate their fear. And often, if we ignore the warning bells, we’re the ones blamed for the assault in the end (ie. “You should have known not to come up to his apartment/drink in public/flirt with strangers.”).

      • Sam Lindsay-Levine

        Again, I’m uncomfortable – you have some great points, I have definitely read Kate Harding’s article before, and I absolutely agree that ideally everyone should be able to be safe and that “you should have known not to _____” is pure garbage.

        However – a) isn’t this essentially the same reasoning that people use to justify racial profiling by (e.g.) police? If not, what is the fundamental difference? If some particular subset of men (say, men of one race, religion, or socioeconomic status) are proportionally more likely to commit rape than the general population, should women be careful to be especially wary and distrustful of men who belong to that subset? b) As you yourself point out, I think four times as many rapes are committed by acquaintances than by strangers. Should that matter in how we think about these things? c) What does any of this have to do with Krasnoff and his stupid crap he posted to his blog? How strong an intellectual or moral connection between Krasnoff and that straight guy in the room can we draw, just because they share a gender?

        Is your answer to the straight guy “I shouldn’t be automatically assuming you are a perpetrator, but I will; I apologize in advance but my fear for my safety takes higher priority”? Or “I’m only assuming you’re a perpetrator if you’re giving me reason to fear that is the case through inconsiderate actions?”

        This is a difficult area for me and I’m trying to muddle through with your help and information! I don’t want to seem like I’m grilling you or anything – I’m just unloading all my confusion and moral ambiguity onto the ground here. Thanks for being understanding and trying to help me.

        • natasha

          It sounds similar to the justifying police to racial profile, but I think in execution it’s pretty different. When a police officer is profiling based on race, it usually means watching people of a certain race more, or perhaps following them around in their police car to try and catch them doing something. If a woman feels that a man may be a danger to her, I don’t think she’s going to follow him around to see if he does something dangerous, I wouldn’t even think of that. Most of the time a woman just tries to not be left alone with that man. And at least for me, I don’t think the “I see any man and now I’m in danger” type of thinking guys have sometimes assumed when they hear conversations about this sort of thing.

          It’s more like if I’m around a man who acts violent I’m going to steer clear of him if I can, whether he is a stranger or someone I know. I don’t try to steer clear of any and all men, but I do try to pay attention to my own red flags (which are never determined by race, religion or socioeconomic status) if someone is violent and avoid them, and I do this with women and men. I think a lot of times, some women just feel like men have more of a potential to hurt them physically than another woman, and I think a lot of that is because of gender roles (like men are stronger!), rape culture, the way our culture conflates violence with masculinity, and the way women are taught to be careful, always, to not tempt a man. It’s hard to take things like this, that are ingrained into society and our minds from a young age and have them not affect gut instincts as to which may be more dangerous a man or a woman. But even with that, I don’t believe most women see the entire opposite sex as potential rapists, but a lot of women are probably going to be more afraid of a violent man than a violent woman.

        • ellestar

          Like Natasha said, it’s different. First of all, research has consistently shown that most adult sexual violence is perpetrated by men. So any precautions against sexual violence taken are based on the actual statistical likelihood of men (rather than women) being perpetrators. Not all men are perpetrators, but unfortunately for everyone, the ones who are look exactly like the ones who aren’t from the outside.

          Also, in the situation described in the blog post I linked, people look at behaviors, not just at the fact that an individual appears to be male. That they are male marks them for future notice of behavior, but generally women aren’t assuming every male is a threat. They just watch to see if they manifest what is considered to the individual women as threatening behavior, then women avoid (or whatever) accordingly.

          • unequivocal

            It sounds like the paraphrase here is: 1) men are statistically more likely to engage in a particular problematic or illegal behavior; 2) therefore it warrants watching them more closely.

            I don’t disagree with those assessments, but I also don’t think you’re making any sort of case for how this is different from racial profiling.

          • Derivative

            There is no way of being tactful about this so…you sound like someone who has been sexually assaulted more than once.

            Views like yours make me feel physically sick. Your initial point carries the weight of publicly screaming rape in a shopping centre and calling the police there and then. Schrödinger’s Rapist has already commited the rape.

            Also, you clearly have never been properly educated in statistics. Because: “more men sexually assault than women” will never be the same as “you are more likely to be assaulted by a man”
            EG — If you are in a room of 500,000 men and 50 are rapists – 1:5000 – so 499, 950 are not rapists.
            Now say that you talk to all of them. Not all of them will get the chance to attack you. lets say 99% of the time they don’t get the chance to attack. so. 49 of all the men will get the chance to attack you. 0.0097% of them will actually be likely to attack you. even if you make this 10% of the men are rapists – that is 5,000: A population of rapists greater than most prisons. You still only have a 1% chance of being attacked. So if you were in prison with 5000 rapists you have the same chance of being attacked as you would if you were passed out in a party.

            I’m not saying let your guard down. I’m saying that you should try walking around with a sign that says this all day and see how many guys will even look at you.

            On topic: I agree with parts. He is definitely in need of sectioning and lobotomy. I can’t help thinking that dressing how you want is getting beyond the point of wearing clothes. in this video, skip to roughly 3:36. Point made. Micka’s answer and then Joe’s response “…a parent saying dress wisely” This does get to a point when it seems like one has no shame and will dress with little respect for the idea of being dressed. Like…how little is too little? Seriously? Walking past the que for places like Oceana and Liquid/Evny (British chain clubs) and I can see underpants. I’m 6’1″ when I look down, their clothes aren’t enough to cover the genitals! I’m all for freedom but I’m also for respect and general public desency. I don’t want to see other girls genitals when I’m with my girlfriend!!

          • ellestar

            To Derivative above: You’re amazingly wrong on all counts (what are the statistics on that?).

            I don’ t know how being sexually assaulted would change my views on personal safety, I’m sure it would, but I have never been sexually assaulted. I also think that discounting those things that victims of sexual assault need to do in order to cope within society once again is unnecessarily blaming. People do what they have to do in order to get over trauma. As long as they don’t hurt anyone in the process and as long as it helps them, I don’t see a problem with it.

            Secondly, I’m well-versed in statistics, thank you. I have a Ph.D. in criminal justice. My area of study was research on women’s recovery from sexual assault and have published widely in the area. This research was primarily statistical in nature and I’ve taken over 15 graduate hours of statistical classes (aced them all) and have taught college level statistics at a state university.

            As for your insistence that only 1 in 5000 men is a rapist, I would be interested in a citation. As for my risk of being sexually assaulted being only 1%, phew! That’s such a load off my mind! I’m so glad I had some man explain to me the statistics (hypothetical though they may be) because my little lady brain has trouble with numbers.

            The problem with your statistics and the assumed rarity of men who are rapists is that WOMEN CAN’T TELL FROM THE OUTSIDE WHICH ONES ARE AND WHICH ONES AREN’T. I don’t have to be a statistician to know that a man who ignores my boundaries in small public interactions might also ignore my sexual boundaries as well. Personally, I judge people as threatening when they behave threatening towards me. I don’t scream “rapist!” or knee men in groin if I encounter a strange man, or even get a creepy vibe from them. I think something along the lines of “This guy is not someone I want to be around,” and I find a way to leave. Most of the time, I even do it politely (I’m not polite if said dude will not allow me to exit). I owe no one an audience.

            As for hoping some random guys on the street look at me, no thanks. I’m happily married (to a MAN even) and not looking to cheat.

            You’re assuming way too much about me, were wrong on all counts of assumptions, and arguing with things I never came close to saying (or even implying) in my post. Your post is filled with failure.

          • Sam Lindsay-Levine

            ellestar 1 – Derivative 0.

          • unequivocal

            Jesus Christ Derivative. Where to even start?

            1) How about refraining from making assumptions about whether and how other posters have been victimized? In addition to being utterly irrelevant, it’s super creepy.

            2) I’m not sure whether you don’t understand statistics or whether you just communicate very poorly, but this:

            Because: “more men sexually assault than women” will never be the same as “you are more likely to be assaulted by a man”

            is either flat out wrong or written so poorly that it may as well be. If what you are trying to say is that “the fact that more men commit sexual assaults than women doesn’t mean that any particular woman is likely to be assaulted by a man,” you butchered your wording so thoroughly that it makes me shake my head in despair. It’s also a super sweet straw man; that thing that you’re arguing against? Yeah, no one said that.

            3) On topic: I agree with parts. He is definitely in need of sectioning and lobotomy. I can’t help thinking that dressing how you want is getting beyond the point of wearing clothes.

            What? I just – what? Do you read this stuff before you post it?

            I probably shouldn’t even bother touching this; Sam Lindsay-Levine says it perfectly below:

            Derivative, I found your comment very confusing and incoherent, but those parts that I could understand seemed offensive.

            You should screen-cap that and use it as your avatar.

  • Sam Lindsay-Levine

    Hey, we found the maximum comment depth. Neat.

    Derivative, I found your comment very confusing and incoherent, but those parts that I could understand seemed offensive. If you cannot find a tactful way of confronting your fellow posters, perhaps you should refrain from posting in those circumstances. If you are attempting to use statistical reasoning, you should use the best actual data that you can find if you intend to be able to draw any conclusions about the world we live in; inventing your own figures proves nothing. And finally, I don’t think it is or should be up to you what other people wear and I think you tip your hand when you indicate that you think other people are not feeling enough “shame”.

    After thinking about it overnight, I realized that I, too, am conditioned to expect more violence from men than from women and am more distrustful of men. (I think, although I do not have firm data on hand, that statistically speaking, an American man of my demographics is more likely to be assaulted by his own wife than a stranger.)

    So is our answer to that straight guy “yes, we are more distrustful of you because you are a man, and that, along with how men are conditioned to be violent, is one of the things feminism is trying to extinguish”? Maybe viewing men as perpetrators isn’t right and proper, it’s an injustice that we are trying to eliminate, but that requires getting to the root causes and settling them once and for all?

    • ellestar

      According to the Bureau of Justice statistics in 2004, men are more often perpetrators of violent crime. And they are also more likely to be victims of violent crime for all crimes but rape.

      I would also argue that not all women are distrustful of men. I would say that I’m not distrustful of men. I will say that I am knowledgeable that men are potentially dangerous (I will also say that I know that many women are potentially dangerous). So in social interactions, if a person starts behaving in ways that are potentially threatening, not accepting my social cues, ignoring what I say, persisting in a conversation when I try to leave, I start viewing them as a potential threat. This is true for men and women, especially if they are bigger than me.

      However, women are often explicitly told to be on guard against sexual violence from strangers. Therefore it’s more conditioned in us to watch men a little more closely. I have a problem with the idea that women should be aware of stranger sexual violence because most sexual assault happens by known perpetrators.

      And you’re right, as a feminist and as a researcher of sexual violence, I’m trying to stop rape from happening and trying to make recovery easier for victims once it does.

      I’m having a hard time feeling sorry for men who get their feelings hurt when women try to protect themselves when women still face a 1 in 4 to 1 in 6 probability of sexual violence in their lifetimes.

      • andrea

        I’ve been reading the thread and feel like there’s an important piece missing from this discussion: women.

        Ellestar says ” I don’t have to be a statistician to know that a man who ignores my boundaries in small public interactions might also ignore my sexual boundaries as well.”

        I’m just going to put it out there that when I meet people, ever, who push my boundaries in a way that is uncomfortable or threatening I avoid them in the future and am more wary around them, period. Man, woman, young, old, etc. It doesn’t matter.

        Even the men in my life exercise this kind of caution, and I’m sure that everyone does to some degree. Women also push boundaries and are threatening, similarly to men. Where sexual assault is concerned, any stranger can be a rapist. Any friend can be a rapist. Any family member can be a rapist. And even though men are by and large the most common perps of sexual assault, women DO commit this crime as well – against men and women. Painting the broad brush of ‘all men are potential rapists’ is problematic but I’m not sure if there’s an alternative as long as the current culture of acceptance: the ‘boys will be boys’ mentality.

        However, in terms of changing the discussion around assault and violence we need to STOP accusing men (specifically) of being potential rapists. Especially the guys who are interested, who do want to participate, but are pushed away as some kind of representation of their gender in the current socio-cultural context. It’s awful having the actions of a few projected onto an entire gender.

        Do you think that the Straight White Male in this post will ever attend another feminist seminar after that experience?