Progressive Dudes and Clueless Rape Analogies   6 comments

[Trigger warning for vile rape analogy, sexual assault, and self-injury.]

So I followed a link from Ian Welsh’s blog to read this supposedly awesome piece on Obama. It may well be awesome, but unfortunately I’ll never know. Because a few paragraphs into what’s a very long post, I came across this:

“He’s [referring to Obama] dealing with people [referring to the Republicans] whose idea of compromise is a woman having an orgasm while she is raped.”

WTF?!? Needless to say, there was no trigger warning and nothing in the post’s title or Welsh’s recommendation prepared me for this disgusting analogy. My interest in the piece came to an abrupt end and I began to feel physically sick. Images of being raped flashed through my mind. Pretending to be into it so my rapist wouldn’t kill me.

And I thought of a friend who was forced by her rapist to experience an orgasm during the attack. Afterward he claimed it couldn’t have been rape because “she came” and most people agreed with him. Worst of all, my friend blamed herself and began despising the body she felt betrayed her. Even though she understood intellectually that what another friend and I were telling her was true, that the human body responds to stimuli whether we want it to or not and that what her rapist did to her is a torture technique designed to humiliate and destroy victims, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was sick and disgusting because her body experienced arousal during the assault. As a result, she developed an eating disorder and began cutting and burning herself. THAT is the reality of “a woman having an orgasm while she is raped.”

So let’s rephrase: “He’s dealing with people whose idea of compromise is a woman being tortured.”

Hmm, somehow I don’t think that’s quite what the author intended to convey. And why, by the way, must it be a woman? Is the idea of a man or even a gender-neutral “someone” having an orgasm while raped too uncomfortable?

So that’s the first problem with dudely rape analogies: Most of them totally misrepresent what rape is. But you know what? Even if you’ve come up with a killer rape analogy that’s totally on point, in no way misrepresents or trivializes rape, and doesn’t single out women as natural rape victims, it would still be much appreciated if you kept it out of articles that have nothing to do with sexual assault.

Because while rape may be an abstract concept to you, it’s a lived reality for many of your readers. Approximately one in three women have been victims of a completed or attempted rape, and a significant percentage of rape survivors suffers from PTSD. Getting hit with a vile rape analogy when you’re not expecting it can be extremely triggering.

But it’s not just survivors who find inappropriate mentions of rape disturbing. Even women who haven’t been raped are typically keenly aware of the omnipresent threat of sexual violence and the gendered nature of this crime. For a dude to throw out rape analogies with no examination of how the threat of rape functions as a means of control and how rape culture benefits men in general smacks of unexamined male privilege.

And if needlessly triggering rape survivors and coming across as an overprivileged douche aren’t enough to deter you from peppering your writing with inappropriate rape analogies and metaphors (though, let’s face it, you’re not really progressive if that shit doesn’t bother you), you should know that you’re also alienating a growing number of your dudely readers. My partner, who is neither female nor a rape survivor, was similarly nauseated by the above analogy. While he did finish reading the article and thought it made many good points, he won’t be recommending it. Because of that one line. Because that one line is extremely disturbing, triggering, ignorant, and hurtful. That the author most likely didn’t intend for it to be so doesn’t change the fact that it is.


6 responses to “Progressive Dudes and Clueless Rape Analogies

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  1. I find the quote you provide to be egregiously offensive.

    I recently bought a book online and discovered that it starts with a very graphic scene of a man raping a teenage girl. There was absolutely NO warning in the blurb or anywhere on the website from which I bought it that this was going to be in the book. None. I was so traumatized, I was shaking. And I’m not a rape survivor. Imagine how a survivor might feel.

    Of course, I immediately placed a review on that website warning prospective readers about this.

  2. I must sound ridiculously repetitive at this point, saying “I don’t get it” about certain people’s attitudes about certain things, but I really don’t get how one can reach adulthood, be exposed to a reasonably broad spectrum of progressive thought and people’s responses, not be a misogynist and still not know any better than to say something like that.

    Sure, conservative/libertarian types who are proud of their complete lack of concern for other people say stuff like that, knowing it is certain to upset people, partly because they don’t care and partly because they want to prove how unconcerned they are with other people’s feelings, and partly because they *want* to upset people.

    And their are various things out there where people can reasonably disagree on their problematic nature. This? Not one of them.

    It would be one thing if this was all coming from little kids who just hit adolescence, didn’t really get the whole traumatic nature of this discussion or maybe had little to no interaction with girls/women. Or if it was one of those aforementioned conservatives, or a huge Camille Paglia/Katie Roiphe (sp?) fan, but .. no.

    Basically sane, thoughtful, generally decent-seeming guy. Made me cringe even more than it otherwise would because of that. And this was one of the worst of these types of analogies I’ve ever seen.

  3. While I totally support your objection to the analogy, your subsitute, about a woman being tortured is actually the point Sterling is trying to make.

    The idea, I think, is that the compromise, in Republican’s eyes, having a woman orgasm, during rape, is still doing something for her, so what’s she got to complain about.

    You, I, Sterling, and all you readers know that this is abhorent, That’s the point he’s trying to make.

    Of course he’s still failing, cuz its just an analogy you don’t make, it doesn’t work, and it hurts people.

  4. Totally, totally on target. This is why I get so irritated at all the references to “raping the earth”.

  5. Rape analogies are generally a bad thing. It’s like Hitler/holocaust comparisons when you’re talking about a politician who changed tax law or dairy farms.

    It’s just not cool using other people’s suffering to make a point. It’s not cool to risk bringing said suffering to the forefront of a victim’s mind.

  6. That was hard to read. I am sorry.

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