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Principle, practice and ‘not all men’

@prisonerben and I had a discussion last night about, in effect, the utility of insisting that not all men are rapists. Let’s be clear here, so no-one is mistaken. I think it’s utterly useless for any man to do the not all men riff.  Ben equates my position with my asserting that he is variously, a rapist, a semi-rapist or a support of rapists. As you can tell, it was not an even tempered debate.

Here’s the issue of principle. The experience of the women I know and care about, as they have related it to me, is that all men can be rapists, that there is no distinguishing factor that enables them to separate out the rapists from the non-rapists ahead of the fact. If I insist on saying ‘but not me…’ I’m denying their experience, and it’s an experience that is universal and collective. As a matter of principle it is wrong to deny the experience of others just because it tells us some uncomfortable truths about the world we live in and are collectively responsible for. And that’s not just because I have internalized misandry, as Ben claimed. If you’ve spent your adult life arguing for socialism, as I have, you will have encountered any number of individual capitalists (like Bill Gates, or, from another era, Andrew Carnegie) who will argue that the structural critique of capitalism as exploitative is defeated by their individual charity. Women assert that rape is a structural feature of our society, not just a coincident aberration, and turning that debate into ‘Yeah but not me’ is, like refuting the exploitative nature of capitalism by pointing at a nice new library, a non-sequitur.

Here’s the issue of practice though. Suppose you disagree with women about whether rape is part of the structure of our society, used to reinforce patriarchy. Do you make that debate possible by standing on your wounded pride, and just insisting that the debate must start with a disclaimer that says you’re not a rapist? Forgive me, but that’s nothing more than narcissism. There are worse things than being called a rapist. Being raped, for instance, and too many women have the experience that a man who asserted he wasn’t that kind of guy turned out to be just that kind of guy.

If you insist on starting the debate with ‘not all men’ you’ll never get to the real debate, about how you stop rapes from happening. That debate is a real debate, and since it’s about our masculinity, it’s a debate all of us need to engage in. That must include accepting the possibility that by being ourselves we may create or shape a culture that leads others to be rapists. The least respect we can pay to women, whose collective experience is that any man can be a rapist, is to treat rape as a collective problem.

Insisting that ‘but not me..’ is a reasonable response just uses up the bandwidth in a shitstorm of self justification. Even if you disagree with me on the principles, in practice that shitstorm will just get in the way.


14 comments on “Principle, practice and ‘not all men’

  1. Wickedjulia
    May 26, 2014

    Thank you for pointing that out. This to be said loudly and often by MEN. Our allies, as a group, have been far too quiet in the face of the growing MRA movement. Instead of speaking out against the blatant hatred being expressed by ‘some men’, they have chosen to criticize women for are justifiable caution when dealing with men.

    Think about this ‘not all men’: In less than ten years, starting with the outspoken activism of one celebrity, the word n*gger is now socially unacceptable and not used in media, the workplace, academia, or polite company. Anyone who expresses blatant racism publicly faces censure. It doesn’t mean that racism has disappeared but, it means that future generations understand that the attitude is out dated and unwelcome. If we bend our wills to the task, we can make the attitudes expressed by the MRA socially unacceptable as well.

    We need our ‘allies’ to stop reminding us that ‘not all men are like that’ and start confronting the men WHO ARE like that. Make sure that they understand that their bigotry and hatred is not welcome. If you think focusing on women’s behavior is more important, you are goddamned well not an ‘ally’.


    • jemima2013
      May 27, 2014



    • Michael Shell.
      July 5, 2014

      What a load of rubbish! I absolutely hate this feminist dribble! Perhaps they should go back before the 1970s when they couldn’t get any work apart from being a nurse or a secretary or go back before woman’s suffrage. Of course in this new PC world any marginalized group is untouchable and no one can say a bad thing about them but the fact remains that there are also many women rapists and women abusers and I have a ton of evidence that proves that! If I had significantly more money and resources I would crush feminism because the pendulum has swung so far that it has become a caricature of what it used to be when it was all about simple equality and now it has become the refuse of embittered men hating women with a chip on their shoulder!


      • Lily Holland
        August 9, 2015

        What exactly is it that women get today, that has you so afraid/angry/jealous that you want to punish each and every female on the planet?

        How has the pendulum swung in the other direction? Do you make sure to park in the best-lit spot by the parking lot elevator, so that you will not be attacked by a female rapist, for instance?

        And how are women untouchable? Do provide proof, such as links to a number of instances where a woman was afforded a right that would never be given to a man in equivalent circumstances. If you have facts to put forth, rather than just a lot of emotions presented without foundation, people will be able to listen to you seriously, rather than just write you off as a spoilt baby who’s throwing a temper tantrum because the ‘mommies’ of the world won’t give him what he wants any more.

        There was no hatred in the OP’s article – while your rant is full of rage. That rage is the only aspect of your piece that I took seriously. You should, too. It can’t be healthy carrying that sort of anger around. Females make up half the population of the world, so you can’t avoid them – particularly if you are heterosexual.

        In addition, your lack of personal insight will keep you from achieving your potential as an adult, .and that would be a shame. Try to keep in mind that just because you may feel something, it doesn’t make it so. Emotions are not facts. Seek counselling and try to uncover the unresolved issues that have caused your emotions to back up into this confused hatred.

        I wish you the best of luck in your future.


        • jemima2013
          August 9, 2015

          Fleetstreet fox has a pic she tweets occasionally, saying you are trying to comment on an article you have not read. I think here this is what Micheal did, he even failed to notice that Carter is not a feminist, not a woman, and not even saying things like rape culture exist – he replied to what he assumed the piece said.
          Now this isnt a huge thing on a small blog, but i see it all the time, and often its the reply that gets the attention, not the original piece


  2. respectsexwork
    May 26, 2014

    Reblogged this on respectsexwork.


  3. georgefinnegan
    May 27, 2014

    You made an excellent point – everyone should recognize in themselves that they might be a rapist when the conditions arise. If we don’t acknowledge that, then we won’t put any effort into correcting ourselves and we don’t take responsibility for our potential actions. That, of course, goes for everyone – including women. I think the best way to fix the issue is education in consent. I saw an excellent youtube video where a very likeable woman demonstrated what consent should look like and how it can change to not consent and what that looks like. Getting more of that out there could be helpful. I also think we should back off a little from promoting the idea that sex is something that everyone NEEDS and because it is a NEED, we have to have it at whatever cost.


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  6. best kayak
    June 6, 2014

    Hi! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would
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  7. ramendik
    May 15, 2015

    Er, not all women.

    I mean, not all women agree with the view of a number of feminists that says rape is a part of the structure of our society. And you use “women” without a qualifier here.

    I don’t care much if I’m called a potential rapist. Indeed there are situations when a woman would be advised to view me as a potential rapist because she has no way to know otherwise; it would be EXTREMELY foolish and arrogant of me to be angry at that. So, no problem with your argument as such.

    I do care, however, that the women who hold, broadly, classical liberal views, some of whom are my friends, are outright made invisible when a certain view is ascribed to “women” with no qualifier.

    I grew up under the Reds in the USSR so I recognize the logic – Communism was ascribed to “workers” in a similar way. Then, Poland happened.


  8. dwpandme
    August 10, 2015

    Something interesting that is important:

    I did read this at first as assuming the writer to be female. My reaction was indignance which I suppressed while trying to read the arguments being made objectively. I noted a few criticisms and intended to comment. I thought that overall I’d done a pretty good job of being rational, and although the article had made me think, it was only really my falsification mode that had switched on. The indignance I felt in response had occupied my mind, squeezing out the freedom of association necessary for creative thinking.

    Then, while not intending to read the comments, I skimmed down to see how Jemima had reacted to angry bloke above, thinking her to have been the writer. When I read that it had been penned by Carter, my indignance pretty much evaporated instantly. This isn’t because I know anything about him or have followed him for a long time and learned to respect his opinion any more than Jemima’s, and I don’t in general feel any sort of brotherhood loyalty to men.

    I have an an idea why it is so and I don’t think it’s as simple as misogyny. However I intend to give it a bit more thought before I say any more.

    The points I was going to make are, I believe still, valid. Like the commenter above, I find it problematic that you generalise from the experiences of the women you know and care about to “Women assert that rape is a structural feature of our society” I would be very surprised if this assertion would be made my more than a tiny minority. I would have thought the vast majority of people in general assume that rape is almost exclusively committed by males because of inherent biological differences conferred on us by natural selection. Whether this amounts to the same thing because our society reflects this and perhaps reinforces it I don’t know.

    “There are worse things than being called a rapist”
    My immediate thought is that calling someone else a rapist is worse than being called a rapist. I considered carefully whether being a rapist is a worse thing than being raped and without ever having been raped, I have to say that the idea of being a rapist is for me worse than the idea of being raped.

    You claim that it’s about our masculinity. I’m not sure what that means or why you think this but I would be interested to know.

    Lastly, you seem to be inferring from the fact that women cannot tell who is and who isn’t a rapist, that we are all potentially rapists. I understand that from women’s point of view this is the case but it’s possible that’s due to lack of information rather than a fact about men. Perhaps there is a way that men could learn to demonstrate or women could learn to decipher more accurately who has that unexpressed quality within?


  9. jemima2013
    August 26, 2015

    Sorry first that we missed this comment, I think because it was on an old blog

    It always fascinates me when people assume this is a one person blog, for one thing it would make one of us a polymath of huge proportions, which is complimentary I suppose lol

    I dislike any biological explanation of rape, since it then says that rape is somehow “natural” it is also refuted by societies that exist without rape, some do not even have the word, others struggled with the concept, as the very idea of forcing sex on someone did not exist before colonialism (various south sea island tribes, amazonian and Indian groups are the ones i know about)

    Your suggestion that somehow women should be better at spotting rapists is the most worrying, are you somehow suggesting its our fault? Ask any woman, its most likely she has been raped, and most likely by someone she knew, someone who looked “normal” and nice. What signs are we meant to be looking out for?


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This entry was posted on May 26, 2014 by in Uncategorized.

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