Monday, September 22, 2014

Helpless Girls: Self-Defense Doesn't Work, Contributes To "Rape Culture"

Many of the currently-fashionable confusions here, concentrated for easy consumption:
Hofland blamed the popular song, “ Blurred Lines” and rape jokes for perpetuating rape culture in everyday events and details. She also claimed that teaching women self-defense techniques such as fashioning a weapon out of keys by sticking them between knuckles, possessing pepper spray, fighting back against an attacker, and consistently being aware of one’s surroundings contributed to rape culture.
“We should be telling people not to rape people,” she said. “All these things we tell women to do...they don’t bring down the number of rapes that happen. They don’t.”
It's bad enough that these ideologically-motivated myths are being propagated at all. It's worse that they're being disseminated with public money. But perhaps the most worrisome thing is that students are being indoctrinated with them at university-sponsored events.

I again assert: this is the political correctness madness all over again.

"Blurred Lines" is shitty music, but it is not about rape. We do not live in a "rape culture." If we did--or if the concept even made any sense--teaching women self-defense would not contribute to it. Teaching women self-defense techniques does, in fact, lower the number of rapes. And, though we already do tell people not to rape--it's one of the clearest messages society sends--teaching self-defense is in no way inconsistent with doing more of it.

I don't think I can continue to blame the "far-ish left"...

This has become a problem for liberalism per se.


Anonymous cb said...

Could you give me a timeframe when you feel the general liberal attitude has switched from sane, reasonable rape prevention strategies to what you call "politically correct madness"?

I've definitely felt that the conversation has shifted within the past 10 years or so and wanted to know if you felt similarly or if you feel it's a more recent or longer-lived change.

11:20 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I don't have a very good guess myself. I guess I thought that things were going in a good direction overall--really emphasizing conscious attention to consent, and that... There has always been a kind of rape extremism on the leftmost edges of feminism, IMO...but I suppose I didn't really see any of the current specific types of nuttiness until the last year or maybe two...and didn't see it creeping into more centrist sectors of liberalism until the last year or so...

Is that consistent with your observations?

1:47 PM  
Anonymous cb said...

I've become gradually more aware of gender-based issues over the past 10 years or so, so my perception is that things have been trending in this direction for quite a while, but I have trouble disentangling my personal experience from the conversation in general.

Your link is broke, so I can't comment on the article in more detail, but I will say that the model of consent pushed by the song ("you know you want it", "but you're a good girl" etc.) is not something I would want my son or daughter absorbing uncritically. I find the "enthusiastic consent" model much more appealing.

I'm sympathetic to your points about self-defense strategies, etc., but I also think many of the arguments about "rape culture" are reasonable and have a strong evidence base (it's hard to read stories such as steubenville, roast busters, rotterham, etc. and not draw the conclusion that we, as a society, still got some work to do.)

I also find it quite plausible that at least part of the long-term downward trend in sexual assault is due to the changing conversation about men's and women's respective responsibilities in determining consent. I think campaigns like this are a step forward, and I would definitely classify "Blurred Lines" as a step backwards.

2:22 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Seems like a good campaign, and I'm happy to see any reasonable steps that mitigate the problem.

But I can't agree about "Blurred Lines." Just another crappy pop song, IMO. If we've got to indict that song, we've got to indict not only a huge chunk of pop music and pop culture (which is pretty crappy in a lot of ways), but we've also got to indict a huge swath of the ordinary ways adults talk to each other when sex and eroticism are afoot. I think anti-"Blurred Lines" hysteria can only be sustained by taking a giant step toward the kind of puritanism that so much of this stuff entails. But we need to be anti-rape without being anti-sex.

The biggest objections to the song seem to be that it includes the line "you know you want it"--pretty tame stuff by the standards of actual grown-up sexual interactions...

Or so I say.

2:36 PM  
Anonymous cb said...

"If we've got to indict that song, we've got to indict not only a huge chunk of pop music and pop culture (which is pretty crappy in a lot of ways), but we've also got to indict a huge swath of the ordinary ways adults talk to each other when sex and eroticism are afoot."

I agree with this statement, though "indict" is too strong. (One can be critical without condemning.) You and I just draw different conclusions.

And I don't think it's anti-sex or puritanism to send young men the message: "If you're not 100% sure she's into it, especially if she's drunk, you should probably just go home."

3:29 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I agree.

But there's just nothing notably "rapey" (as they say) about the lyrics to "Blurred Lines." It's a complete fabrication.

Let me reformulate my claim: I see no possible way to criticize the lyrics of "Blurred Lines" without being puritanical.

The view we would have to adopt in order to make the lyrics of "Blurred Lines" pro-rape is a view which is inherently condemnatory of much that is good about sex. It's a view according to which sex is only permissible if it's tentative, hesitant, timid.

We can be passionately anti-rape without classifying things like people saying "I know you want it" as impermissible. The song is clearly about someone making an *offer* of sex to someone else, not someone *pushing* sex on someone else.

Anyway, I disagree, but appreciate your comments.

6:48 PM  

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