This is our truth, tell us yours
We have written previously of Ched Evans, and also of the desire of some to shout “not all men” above the voices of those talking about violence perpetrated against them. This post by Carter is especially important in understanding how we both feel about the need of some to speak rather than listen.
Since Evans was found not guilty there have been a clear division in those commenting on the case, between (usually men) saying his behaviour was nothing out of the ordinary, and just what some men do, and (usually women) saying he is a rapist. It has reminded me of the old “all swans are white” logical fallacy. People seem determined to claim one of two things, either Evans, and men who act as he does are just “men” as in this is normal behaviour, for men, and not rape, or they are “rapists” and whilst some might claim all men are rapists, the argument actually is that they are separate from, or a subclass of the group “men” called rapists.
Its a reversal of the someones sister/daughter/mother trope, you can be a rapist, and thus excluded from the class of men (where the class of men is those we see as sons/brothers/fathers/husbands) or a man. Again, I am leaving to one side the idea that all men are rapists beloved of the second wave.
My thought is, that whilst many are well intentioned by creating this separate category of “rapist” as they try to highlight that rape is a bad thing, in fact they are not helping. Look at the first group, those men saying that what Evans did is just what happens, not rape, just a drunken night out. It is undoubtedly the case that many of the men using this argument are doing so because they have had sex with someone too drunk to give informed consent. To accept what Evans did was rape is to put themselves into the class of rapist.
SO what I can hear you say, if they have raped someone they belong in that class. But where does that actually get us? For a long time we have argued here how many children were left vulnerable by the danger stranger idea of child abuser.. Briefly, we were told to watch out for the dirty old man in a raincoat with puppies, but not the presentable, respectable, well spoken man with kind words. As it was, so it still is, protecting children coming second to allowing adults to sleep safely and unworried.
Our picture, the picture still allowed to dominate in the public mind of a rapist is still the knife wielding stranger who lurks in dark allies. This harms victims, as they hear of “real rape” and are questioned about previous consensual sexual behaviour to prove it “wasnt really rape”. It also gives those whose consent violations do not resemble those traditional dark stranger narratives to say well, what I did was not rape, I am not a rapist.
As a society our desire to say how abhorrent we find rape (at least some of us) means we are saying you can be a man, a father, a lover, a son, or a rapist, and once the divide is crossed their is no turning back. The reality is that someone can be a good father, son, lover, and also have committed rape. This might have some people up in arms, so committed are they to the idea of rapist as a separate identity. This commitment is about protecting everyone except victims though. Some men who are perfectly good people now will have raped in the past, some men who will grow and develop into good people will commit rape now. This is not to excuse their behaviour, in fact currently the opposite is the case. Men are not seeing what they did, or do, as rape, because they do not see themselves as fitting the identity of rapist. How can I be a rapist? They ask, when I do X, Y and Z which are non rapist things.
Its going to be a hard road to move from our position of rapist or man, without falling into the all men are rapists trap. The consent education classes are one way advances are being made, but they are being resisted by those most invested in the stranger with a knife view of rape. Until we are able to move into a world where rape is seen as something someone does (or did) and not an identity I cannot see how we move forward however. If we want someone to change their behaviour there has to be regret or remorse about that behaviour. Genuine regret, not regret they were caught. The first step to remorse is acknowledging that their behaviour was wrong, to get to that place far more men need to be able to acknowledge they may have been guilty of consent violations. Its not enough to simply say thes men (and sometimes women) are beyond help, because that leaves millions of victims at risk.
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