Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sexually dangerous, belated addendum

So obviously the promised followup to my Sexually dangerous post, focusing on our society's attitudes towards young people and sex, hasn't happened yet. Maybe eventually I'll feel up to the task. But in the meantime, I want to point out something that I didn't say (or even think of) explicitly when I wrote the original post.

In comments, there was quite a bit of back and forth, first between ASP and myself, then between ASP and Richard, and then between ASP and Jack, and eventually I started feeling really bad that it seemed like an argument between ASP on one side and a bunch of dudes on the other. Of course the only person who really got argumentative in the whole thing was me, and that was because a) I was tired and b) I unfortunately conflated what silly Jenny was saying with what sensible ASP was saying, which, sorry about that.

Uh, anyway, now that my absorbing summary of the comment thread is done, what I want to point out is that out of the exchange between Jack and ASP came this statement of Jack's, in response to a summary of a study of rapists:
It contains the beginning of the answer of how to "handle" rapists.

Don't make them.
No one, I think, could disagree with this. The disagreement arose when ASP responded, quite accurately, that feminists have been working on this for quite some time. And it is true, and no matter how minor any individual example may seem, I do think it's valuable to point out examples of how our mass culture reinforces the attitudes that lead to so many men thinking it's perfectly OK for them to do as they please with women, regardless of how the women might feel about it. On all this, I agree with ASP 100%.


These efforts, particularly as I see them at Shakesville but also in other places (and I am not accusing ASP of doing this herself; this is simply a response set off by what she said, hopefully not to be taken as a criticism of her herself), often seem to come hand in hand with the kind of punitive impulse, and the kind of deference to power, that I was clumsily attempting to criticize in my original post (I realized later that I should have split it into two posts, one discussing the ruling itself, one discussing the reaction to it, but my own navel gazing self-criticism is neither here nor there right now).

The problem is that these attitudes, the deference to power and the impulse to punish, are in themselves extremely powerful drivers of the rape culture.

The problem with the deference to power, expressed here by McEwan's bizarrely trusting "sure, there's potential for abuse, but..." framing, expressed elsewhere in her fawning admiration for people like Hillary Clinton and Al Gore, surely needs no explanation. Rape is in large part about expressing power, the rapist declaring his total dominion over the body of the victim. A society with entrenched power structures such as we have, in which we are expected to subsume ourselves to the individuals at the top who present themselves as speaking for us, by its very nature encourages other, violent expressions of power. And this is all without even mentioning the fact that the wielders of American power have encouraged and instituted regimes of systemic rape as a means of control, around the world.

(Another aspect of the power-worship--passively allowing huge corporations to define culture for you--was ably demolished by Jack in the original comments.)

The problem with the punitive impulse as a response to rape should be even more obvious, but somehow it doesn't seem to be. I mentioned in comments to my original post that "rape is itself rampant in prisons." Your good liberal thinks that this is something that could be regulated away; of course I think differently. Rape, as far as I'm concerned, is an integral part of the prison system, a way of ensuring that the power structures that prison serves to reinforce are perpetuated on every level. But even if it's not--even if we could somehow eliminate all traces of rape and sexual assault from prisons--even in this hypothetical (if you ask me, impossible) world, the prison system, and the punitive impulse that leads almost everyone, no matter where they fall on the limited spectrum allowed in mainstream thought, to encourage it, would still reinforce the rape culture.

Opposition to the death penalty is thankfully common among liberals. In discussing it, they often rightly point out the hypocrisy inherent in killing someone as punishment for killing someone. That the implications of this line of reasoning are never explored any further is an indication, again, of how limited the range of mainstream, allowable thought is.

Because surely a moment's reflection would make anyone realize that imprisoning someone (i.e., the use of power to remove someone's agency) as punishment for raping someone (i.e., the use of power to remove someone's agency) is just as hypocritical. And if one's goal is changing the culture that creates rapists, it can only be counterproductive.

I hope it is clear that none of this should be taken as a defense of rapists, nor as an erasure of the fact that, as things stand, rape is a largely consequence-free act as far as the rapist is concerned. And no, I don't have a solution for what we should do with rapists, given that we obviously have a culture that creates them in large numbers. I do know, however, that what we currently do with them, both when we let them go free and when we do punish them, only contributes to creating more and more of them.

UPDATE I'm kind of an asshole. See comments.


Jack Crow said...

Still had this exchange on the brain.

Everything ASP wrote made perfect sense, but I still couldn't bring myself to fully accept it.

Asking myself why, the best I could isolate was that ASP (who is no Shakesculter) was lacking context.

(I could be wrong, of course.)

Stripped of all context, allowing a Leviathan to hunt down very bad men - especially sexual predators - makes all sorts of sense.

Exhibit A is a rapist fuck. Or a child molester. Or a child pornographer. Or a mob outfit trafficking in sex slaves. Or a paramilitary unit doing war rapes. Or a mercenary company that likes to "trade" out "prostitutes." Or a Hollywood studio producing swill. Et cetera ad nauseam ad infinitum.

Exhibit B is Leviathan, with its small cadre of armed staffers, out in the world hunting down all the bad men.

Without context, who could complain. Bad men get hunted, do less bad things.

Now, unless you actually provide context, the argument can float around making all sorts of sense.

Adding back the context, it's an invitation to subjugation.

Because Leviathan is the worst damned perpetrator of them all.

And surrendering to Leviathan, in exchange for the promise of future protection, seems exactly like yielding to one mobbed up ratfuck because he himself might no do rape and murder and all that bloodshed, at least not where you can see it. Oh, and because he promises to hold hostage or kill off his competitors.

Of course, I have to acknowledge that none of this addresses how to deal with all the victims-turned-aggressors who already exist.

Richard said...

Well said.

And Jack's emphasis on context is crucial. Too many of our debates proceed as if context didn't matter.

DPirate said...

Life in prison for having a boy touch your breast:

Do you suppose they'll send her to the nut hatch if she makes parole when she's 75?

ASP said...

Obviously there is no easy solution to rapists, and obviously the monstrosity of the US prison system is too frequently ignored which does not do good for anyone. I will say, though, as a person who is much more likely to be raped and exposed to other types of sexual violence than any of you guys (unless you're gay, transexual or in prison), that I prefer rapists go to prison when they rape someone. Even though the prison system is bad, currently that and the (however flawed) legal system is the only thing that is offering me protection from a rapists. Because an enormous amount of men (and many women) in the world are not only not doing anything to protect me from rapists but are actively creating a culture in which I will be exposed to risk of gendered violence. (And yes, I can see that the same people who maintain the prison system are also doing that. And if you thought I wouldn't be dismayed at the fact that these are the same people who offer some kind of protection or attempt to prevent rape, you'd be mistaken.) If you want to join the feminist efforts to change the rape culture, to change how children and people are socialized, to change how women are treated, to promote equality, to question perpetuation of oppression in popular culture - I applaud your efforts and desire to change the world. And I thank you. But until the world is changed, the options before us are: let the rapist go on raping or put the rapists in prison. Opting for the latter does not exclude criticism of prison or power or the oppressive state structures, nor does it exclude efforts to change those things.

As for hypocrisy of imprisonment - I don't agree with it. A rapist denies its victim human rights through an act she can't oppose or avoid, but a rapist is manifestly not in the same way denied human rights when he is imprisoned - he knows the law says imprisonment will be punishment for rape, and if he is raping despite of that, he has renounced willingly his rights. Yes, imprisonment is a denial of agency that is being imposed on him. Could he have avoided that? Unlike the raped woman - yes, he could have.

Also, Ethan, for someone who is not defending rapists, your posts comes very close (with accusations of hypocrisy etc) to advocating not putting rapists in prison. I'm sorry if this is an unfair accusation, but I seem to be having more and more discussions about rape recently, and I'm frequently entering them upset emotionally, and, frankly, I'm annoyed at your tone of voice in the last paragraph. Because that's a tone of voice of someone who is not exposed to gender violence, who is not likely to be raped, who is not afraid to go home late at night through dark streets thinking they have to get home soon or they'll be raped, who is not worried about having too much to drink on a Saturday night and waking up raped on a Sunday morning. It's a tone of voice a man can assume when talking about rape and not being upset or angry or afraid in the face of it. A tone of voice I cannot assume. And the more I talk to people, the more I am annoyed by it. I should probably refrain from commenting at all, but seeing as I've already written all this crap, here it goes.

Richard said...

I said "well said" in my first comment, and I meant that, but I should say that I did assume that our only option right now is to put rapists in prison--I'd rather have them there than out raping. And I think modest improvements to the prison conditions are more likely in the immediate term future than the transformation of the culture at large that would be needed to find something else to do with rapists.

Ethan said...

ASP--I'm not communicating well, and I'm sorry for that.

The focus on you in this post, I see now, makes it seem like I'm attacking you, and I'm sorry for that.

I'm coming off like a big dude-jerk 'splaining to the ladies, and I'm really sorry for that.

I want to respond to you in more detail, and I will, but I want to do it when I'm sure I'll have the clarity of mind to do it properly, which is not right now.

But I want to let you know that you're absolutely right to be pissed at me, and I'm really sorry. I hope I can clear things up soon.

Jack Crow said...


I have been sexually assaulted. I've made no bones about this, in what venues are common to us, and in other places.

As a child, but also as old as the age nineteen.

This - as with other offenses against children - is how bad men are made. (That I never became a truly bad man, I owe to love and friendship.)


To suggest that a person does not understand gender violence, on account of not being a woman, is to assume that the essence of womanhood is victimhood, essentially implying that women must be understood as victims.

And likelihood plays no part.

I won't for a moment deny the simple fact that Western civilization is a fundamentally violationist one. From the synthesis of Platonic idealism with the iron law of Biblical Judaism and Roman imperial structures, Occidental civilization has been a succession of mass murders and rapes, wholesale institutional and juridical slaughters and obscene violations of lands and peoples.

And, yes - the series of social and cultural inheritors of Christendom (Platonic Judaeo-Romanism), all part of that Occidental template, have been predicated on the subjugation of women, this until very recently, when its ruling classes switched gears and decided instead to co-opt a few of them, to better control the rest.

But please don't suggest that we must conceive of women as victims.

Or that men, as men, cannot understand victimization.

That reinforces the attitudes which permit the acting out of these cultural inheritances. And it reinforces the very position you wish to negate.

In order to arrive at a state of society where so many men are not only aggressors, but also sexual assailants, you have to take stock of how they were made that way.

Unless, of course, you're just going to deal in feminist essentialism, and assert that men are born that way and must therefore be controlled, for the sake of women-as-potential-victims.

If you are not an essentialist, then perhaps you will allow yourself to address what takes so many sons of mothers and turns them into abusers of women, and other men.

And not just sexually.

If you won't or can't address this, especially given the immediacy of your own local cultural inheritances, insisting instead that its just best to solve it with more violence, more imprisonment, more violation, more Leviathan, than you won't ever reach your destination.

Because you will be beholden to the worst perpetrators, in order to imprison a few of the lessers.

The methods you've suggested, in this and other conversations (where you argued for repression), reinforce and strengthen the hand of the chief and most well compensated violators.

If you are willing to trade out the enduring power of the Leviathan, in the off hand chance that a few - and it will only just be a few - individual offenders are locked away, you support the greater monster against the minor.

And you may likely always find yourself compromising the larger view of justice, for the sake of a few tokens of vengeance.

With respect,


Jenny said...

You're not helping here, Jack.

Jenny said...

And for fuck's sake, don't be glib: Ethan admitted he fucked up here. Leave them both alone so they can talk it out.

ASP said...

Jack, I'm sorry about you being a victim of abuse. But I don't think you are correct in implying men understand gender violence in the same manner as women. I would not propose to a black person that I understand all the facets of racism that person experiences in their everyday life, because I am not black and I am manifestly not being exposed to treatment such as black people are. I can put myself in someone else's shoes, but I will never be able to experience what they experience if I'm not black, or disabled, or transsexual, etc. I would not go around telling those people that I don't need to be them to understand what it's like to be them, but men frequently have this need. This need to explain to the woman that they know better than the woman what it's like to be her.

This is not because women are victims, nor am I trying to say you need to view women as victims. I'm trying to say that you need to see women as people who, due to numerous cultural reasons, are likely to have a markedly different living experience from the majority of men. (Why do I have to spell this out?)

To say that likelihood plays no part in how men and women percieve gender violence is, I'm sorry, absurd. I was thirteen when I developed breasts, and I spent the following two years in primary school being grabbed by boys in class nearly every week. None of those boys every had their crotches grabbed - they weren't even reprimanded because I, and girls like me, were too ashamed of what they were doing to tell the teachers - but I had my tits and ass grabbed by someone nearly every week. The fact that I have since then been exposed to a number of similar unwanted touches, and that I am likely to experience them in my life (as I ride the tram or bus, or dance at a concert - venues where several times I have been exposed to a hand or an erect penis pressing agains my ass), I would say influences how I percieve gender violence as opposed to someone who does not have these experiences or is not likely to have them. So no, I don't agree with you in saying that likelihood plays no part.

As for how aggressors are made, let us not overlook, while we contemplate that question, what is to be done about them once they are made. What is to be done with a person who rapes women, if we won't allow the oppressive state regime to put him in prison to protect potential other victims and detter him (and others) from similar behaviour? What is to be done, Jack?

And I am insulted - seriously insulted - that a desire to put rapists in prison is an act of vengenance on my part. Fuck, I am literally on the verge of tears. Haha. I am becoming too emotionally disturbed by these discussions. I should stop. But I wanted to say something. I don't know if I managed to say something meaningful, but, fuck, who cares. Am gonna go and cry a little (boohoo, the emotional little girl. blah)

ASP said...

Ethan, I didn't think you were attacking me in the post (it's a discussion, I don't feel threatened). I'm just upset, because I think I've been having too many of similar discussions lately. And I've been having seriously fucked up last few months (but that has nothing to do with any of this). So I guess I'm emotionally liable. But I don't think I'd ever manage to be anything else in discussing gender violence, so... I don't know. Maybe I just need to stop talking about this.

Jack Crow said...


A cop show that shows gays and lesbians in a positive light, and casts a strong black woman in the lead is still a show about cops.

Get it?


Let's start here, I guess: I neither suggested nor implied, never mind stated, that women and men necessarily understand victimization in an identical manner.



Jenny said...

Jack: No, but you are making assumptions of where her objections are coming from and I'll just leave it at that.

ASP said...

Jack, you said the likelihood of being a victim of gender violence "plays no part." That is saying that a woman's living experience, which is influenced by the fact that she's more exposed to gender violence, does not substantially enough influences how she perceives (the possibility of) gender violence as opposed to how someone who is less exposed to it perceives it. But look, this is how women perceive the possibility of gender violence: Schrodinger's rapist. She says in the comments: But the really problematic thing with strangers is that you DON’T know if they intend criminal assault, right up until you find yourself getting hurt and that information is too late to benefit you. And, you know, this is how many women think about men and the possibility of violence. It's how they learned to think about men and the possibility of violence. It's how the greater likelihood that they will be a victim of assault has taught them to think about men and the possibility of violence.

Jack Crow said...


Are we typing past each other?

Because I'm not even remotely asserting that women aren't aware of rape culture, or that they have it somehow easier, despite being more likely to fall prey to it.

I've only countered what I think is an essentialist sentiment, that men cannot understand victimization.

The greater likelihood that a woman will be raped, compared to a man, does not automatically translate into less understanding on the part of men qua men.

ASP said...

Did I say that men cannot understand victimization? I don't think I did. I did, however, oppose your statement that likelihood plays no part by trying to stress to what extent likelihood influences everyday experience. And experience certainly influences perception and understanding. I'm not saying men don't understand gender violence. I'm saying most of them don't (and cannot) understand it in the same way, simply because they cannot experience it in the same way, and because it does not exert the same influence over their lives. Most men don't think about or encounter sexual harassment every day. Depending on where they live, many women do think about or encounter sexual harassment on a daily basis. To suggest that this disparity does not translate into a disparity in understanding of gender violence is simply wrong.

Jack Crow said...

Again, ASP, you are making an assertion from grammar (writing words about words), not fact.

Just because women are more likely to experience systemic abuse does mean that a man cannot fully understand the consequences of social degradation.

You are asking us to accept that greater numbers automatically translates to greater understanding.

Apply that logic to any other category - for example, to wage earnings - and see if it works.

Because, applied to wage earnings, that logic suggests that because more men than women earn a greater share of wealth, men are simply better equipped to understand wealth creation.

Number is no measure of understanding.

Ethan said...

ASP, I would like to address your objections in no particular order, if that's OK.

On hypocrisy--when I say something is hypocritical, I don't mean that as an accusation. We are all hypocritical to some extent. Often the best course of action is hypocritical given the situation we find ourselves in. As I say, I don't know what we should be doing with rapists. It seems unfortunately likely that locking them up is the best thing to do. That doesn't change the fact that locking them up is counterproductive and hypocritical, for the reasons I outlined. Because of the specific way this hypocrisy intersects with my own personal version of the universal desire to avoid hypocrisy, I am extremely uncomfortable advocating that we imprison rapists, as I am uncomfortable advocating the imprisonment of anyone, for any reason. There are other hypocrisies I am more comfortable with; which ones any given individual is capable of living with vary from person to person, but we should not allow that to blind us to the fact that they are hypocrisies and that alternatives should at the very least be considered.

(As an aside, I should point out that not the nature but the strength of my aversion to imprisonment has a great deal to do with its specific context in the US, related to both historical and contemporary slavery and, more recently, to corporate control over daily life; while imprisonment has nothing but negative context anywhere in the world, I might feel differently if I lived somewhere else.)

As I said, I will not ever advocate that any human being be imprisoned for any reason, at least not seriously (I may joke about CEOs and political leaders). At the same time, though, given the seriousness of the issue and my inability to think of an alternative, I will not advocate that rapists not be arrested, either, or at least I will not do so intentionally. All I was attempting to advocate in this post was thinking about the contradictions inherent in our current approach to the problem.

I know you got pissed off at the tone of my last paragraph, and I completely understand. I wish I was better at communicating what I mean, because I honestly don't think you would be pissed off if I could get it across well.

A common theme on this blog is the frustration of being unable to change things (I may add a new tag to that effect). So much of the time I feel that I can diagnose the problem, but I am completely powerless to fix it. This is the spirit in which I intended, and obviously failed, to write this post. When I say I don't know what to do, I mean it--I don't know what to do, and it's terrible. You say I don't live with the daily threat of gendered violence, and it's true (although I did find it a little bit funny that you described both of the writers on this blog with parts of your "gay, transsexual, or in prison" aside). But I am not unaffected by this issue. As someone who cares deeply for human beings, both in general and occasionally in specific, I am hugely concerned with finding a solution to this awful problem. Not being able to find one is, again, terrible. It's a catch-22: I honestly think that we can't dismantle the rape culture without dismantling the prison culture, but without prisons, what do we do about rapists? I don't know, and I hate it.

Blogger is telling me my comment is too long, so I'm cutting off here and continuing in the next comment.

Ethan said...

Here we go.

Another problem, I think, in our exchanges on this issue is that we have very different personal intersections of idealism and realism. Does that make sense? I think everyone who sees the ways the world is fucked up and wants to change them frames that desire with a mix of the two. In this post, if I'm self aware enough to analyze it (which, and I mean this in all sincerity, is a huge if), my idealism comes in the form of talking as if the massive changes to our society necessary to stop creating rapists are possible, where my realism (I think) comes in the view that no amount of prison reformation will change the fact that prison is an inherently unjust and harmful institution. Your realism obviously conflicts with my idealism--yes, you say, 100% correctly, a rape-free world would be wonderful, but we emphatically don't have that and we have to do something in the world we have. And conversely, your idealism conflicts with my realism, where you seem to suggest (and please correct me if I'm wrong) that the legal system, despite its demonstrably poor ability to deal with sexual violence even within its own terms (rape is rarely reported to begin with, and when it is, conviction rates are vanishingly low), could be an effective protection against this violence. Somewhere mixed into all that realism and idealism and multiple perspectives, I hope, is the solution. The problem is finding it. And I hope at the very least we can agree that we are both very invested in finding that solution.

Ethan said...

I also would like to comment on the interaction between Jack and ASP, but I need more time to digest it. In the meantime:

Jenny, I'm not sure why you think your input as to whether comments in this discussion are "helping" is necessary, but it isn't. As ASP said, she doesn't need anyone's help, and I can't speak for anyone but myself, but as far as I'm concerned, your suggestion that she does, or that Jack should be giving it, is highly insulting. What's even more insulting is your description of Jack's comment, in which he discusses his own sexual assault, as "glib."

As far as "admitting I fucked up"--yes, I did. Not for the reasons I suspect you think I did, and I also did not do it just so you could clap your hands with glee that one of your pet anarchists admitted a mistake. So lay off, and go away.

Jack Crow said...


In especial awe of the "conflict between realism and idealism" line of thinking.

Really got me musing on the subject.


I hope you understand that I'm not typing with hostility. In discussions such as these, I tend to dial back the emotionally tinted language, favoring the analytical and logical. That's my own baggage, as it allows me to distance myself from my history. I'm trying hard to avoid bias, but sometimes it comes off as edged with hostility.

If I've given the impression of contempt or disdain, I apologize. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Respect to you both,


Jenny said...

Ethan, you're right, it was stupid to call him "glib". and I apologize to Jack and you.

Justin said...

An aside: I've noticed on a few comment threads that Jenny gets a lot of abuse in these here parts. I don't know exactly why that is nor do I know the history of interactions that has brought it to this, but it makes me cringe every time.

As for your post, I think your (Ethan) comments about idealism and realism make the post a lot better than it otherwise would be. I get your point that building and maintaining structures of authority and domination, as we do with the prison system, reinforces the psychological causes of rape. You've already said that you have no alternative, or, rather, that doing nothing with or about already existing rapists is not an alternative.

The difficulty here is taking singular manifestations of systemic psychosis. The problem here is that our culture is built upon tiered, hierarchical, authoritarian principles. Prison culture is one manifestation. Prison as a rehabilitation center for criminals, like rapists, is a joke. And it probably can be no other way because its fairly hard to rehabilitate someone when the premise of that rehabilitation (it is wrong to impose your will on someone else, violently) is undermined by those same underlying structures.

It is, I'm afraid, as hopeless as attempting to help a young girl understand that their self-worth should not be based on how desirable men find them when the rest of our society reinforces just that. This is partly why some people slag feminists as militants, because in demanding something as seemingly uncontroversial as equal rights as human beings, they are implicitly rejecting the existing order.

ASP said...
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ASP said...
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ASP said...

I wrote something, but I deleted it because I think my comments are unnecessary. I think the way Ethan feels about the issue of imprisonment shows we don't even have the same conceptual tools with which to carry a conversation; and Jack's insistence that men can fully grasp female experience (btw the wealth analogy misses the point by a light year, compare rather black people and white people's understanding of discrimination against black people) effectively erases my and every woman's experience because it denies the women's right to claim their collective experience, cultural conditions and history carry substantial and significant influence on their perception of the world. And because I feel I have nothing to contribute to the conversation, because my voice is essentially silenced, I am retreating before I get upset again.

Richard said...

Wow, this has just gotten worse.

I feel like you and Ethan are talking past each other, ASP, but I could be wrong (maybe I'm just reading the best into what's being said). What does it mean to advocate for or against something? The truth is our increasing dissatisfaction with the system at large ("the state"), our recognition that it is little more than organized violence (or the threat or potential thereof) against the rest of us, runs square up against the activities that that state appears to take on behalf of us--which it only does because we have collectively demanded it do so, over time, through resistance and activism, much of it aimed at much larger goals than what was actually attained. The extent to which the police apparatus pays any attention to rape as a crime against women (as opposed to a crime against a man's property or a man's honor) at all is because of feminists. This shouldn't be discounted. Our task to do our small part in making a world where rapists are not created (and where women are heard) does not negate the ongoing need for legal protections, with all the contradictions that implies.

It should be noted that the huge expansion of the prison industrial complex is in the area of drug crime, in a redefinition of Jim Crow. The prisons are not overcrowded with rapists!

Regarding the exchange with Jack, I think ASP is making an important, basic feminist, point. The point, as I understand it, is that in fact "a man" indeed cannot understand what it is that women collectively understand, even if the man in question has been individually sexually assaulted more than once. I don't see this as an essentialist argument. It's not biologically innate, but it is culturally true.

I don't know if I've made any sense, but there it is. (And I see now that ASP has deleted her most recent comments. I'm sorry to see that, ASP, and that you felt you were being effectively silenced.)

Ethan said...

ASP, if you feel like my devoting enough words to a response to you that blogger wouldn't let me put it all in one comment box is silencing you, so be it. I'm sorry you feel that way, but I no longer feel responsible for it.

Ethan said...

Justin, I took Jenny in good faith and played nice with her at first, despite knowing that she obsessively trolls all blogs she can find written by anyone more radical than the DNC. It eventually became not worth it.

Jack, your metaphor about wealth creation, as far as I can tell, would make more sense, and I think tend more to support ASP's "side" of your debate, if you put it this way: people with lots of money have a better understanding of what it's like to have a lot of money than people who don't have any. I've never had a lot of money, and while I feel qualified to talk about people who have lots of money, it does mean that I'm not qualified to talk about what it's like to be a person with lots of money.

Richard, I wish I could just let you talk for me.

Jack Crow said...


I just never stated that men can "fully understand" a woman's experience, or women.

I just refuse to accept essentialism - the argument that men, as men, cannot understand a woman's experience.

Of course, as a man, I cannot comprehend how to live as a woman, or experience an act of violation, as a woman.

But that's never been my point.

I'm arguing against the idea that one gender possess a franchise on suffering.

That's just plainly ridiculous.

And when it comes to acts of violation, the possession of one gender does not convey any advantage in understanding, over the other.

And that goes either way.

Within the larger framework of this discussion, I doubt you're going to persuade anarchists and lib-coms to embrace the State, or any manifestation of Leviathan.

Arguing for a coercive power will likely fall on deaf ears, and appeals to the victimization of women won't cut it.

Because trading out one mobster for another is still just trading mobsters.

And frankly, if I have to deal with a rapist shit bum, or the state, I know I have more of a chance against the rapist, especially working within a group, then I ever will against the State.

I'd rather a set of social arrangements where people deal with these things as the contingencies that they are, instead of trading out liberty and free association to the biggest racket with the most guns, on the off chance that the ruling class won't turn a blind eye to all manner of offense, in its own interests.

Because they won't. They never do.

Jack Crow said...

Richard: "Regarding the exchange with Jack, I think ASP is making an important, basic feminist, point. The point, as I understand it, is that in fact "a man" indeed cannot understand what it is that women collectively understand, even if the man in question has been individually sexually assaulted more than once. I don't see this as an essentialist argument. It's not biologically innate, but it is culturally true."

That really is just essentialism - since it trades on a species of "the people" as an aggregate, only restricted to gender.

It implies a gender contract that is as erroneous a construct as is the social contract.

Jack Crow said...

Ethan: "Jack, your metaphor about wealth creation, as far as I can tell, would make more sense, and I think tend more to support ASP's "side" of your debate, if you put it this way: people with lots of money have a better understanding of what it's like to have a lot of money than people who don't have any. I've never had a lot of money, and while I feel qualified to talk about people who have lots of money, it does mean that I'm not qualified to talk about what it's like to be a person with lots of money."

I'm not really making a comparison, or employing a metaphor.

I'm challenging the underlying logic.

Richard said...

Jack, above, when you argued for context, I agreed with you. Though perhaps I misunderstood what you meant, since your subsequent posts are arguments in a vacuum, seemingly ignoring context. What I mean by the importance of context is that we often find ourselves in conversations where people are arguing as if the current context does not exist. Like, around the time of the American invasion of Iraq, I often got dragged into conversations about whether, in theory, the international community ought to be permitted to "police" so-called rogues such as Saddam Hussein. Completely ignoring the political realities of Hussein himself, historical American activities in the region, ignoring everything really.

"I just refuse to accept essentialism - the argument that men, as men, cannot understand a woman's experience." You've repeated the second part of this sentence several times now. I have no idea what it means. What are men "as men"? Does that refer simply to our status as being men? What is the point of the construction?

"I'm arguing against the idea that one gender possess a franchise on suffering."

Then you're arguing against a straw argument. The point is that men, unless they go around as women, cannot understand the culture of relations as experienced by women. This is not essentialism. And even if it were, the argument against it is simply wrong.

It's a question of privilege. One of the components of white privilege is not having to think about the experiential problems of being black. The same goes for male privilege.

Anonymous said...


We definitely agree. Context is everything. If we are discussing social relations, then it all matters.

Women, as women, in male dominated society, suffer disadvantage. I'm not arguing against that, in the same way that I wouldn't argue that race plays no part, even though race itself is not essential, is in fact another social construct.

I'm just disputing the side argument which informs ASP's critique - the underlying logic.

If ASP's argument was about social construction, we'd agree.

But I don't think it is, which is why I counter it.



ASP said...

Ethan, I don't feel silenced by your words, but by Jack's insistence on erasing an entire gender's history as if irrelevant for one's perception on the world. Always with this counter-argument of presumed essentialism of womanhood, as if there were anything actually essential about womanhood. Womanhood is a social and historical construct, but that doesn't change the fact that women have fundamentally different perspectives and experiences than men. Adding to the misrepresentation of my argument here (that I have somehow claimed women possess a franchise on suffering) is also his misrepresentation that I have in our previous discussions "argued for repression" which is misrepresenting my statements, as I have actually argued for protection of the oppressed, which I don't think can be achieved without repression of oppression. But saying that I argue for repression makes my comments appear in a completely different light (if worthy at all of taking into account). As for your arguments, I don't think we can have a conversation because I think we approach things from perspectives that don't seem to be on the same plain. It's like saying "let's agree to disagree" except not really because I don't think how you feel about these issues is even applicable to my view of society, and I don't think how I feel is applicable to your (idealized?) view of society, so we don't have a "common" issue to disagree on.

Ethan said...

My view of society is, trust me, not idealized.

If you want to continue the conversation at all, which you are of course not obligated to do by any means, do you at least understand why I'm skeptical of the ability and desire of the state to deal with the problem in a way that helps at all? Richard's comment from 9:49 on the 11th sums up my point far better than I've been able to. If nothing else, the state's solution is demonstrably not working right now--even if we accept conviction rates as a measure of success, they almost couldn't be doing worse.

ASP said...

I understand your scepticism towards the state, but whereas your premise is that determent of violation of other people's rights through rescinding the violator's rights is hypocritical, my view is that it is the only (and just) means of protection of people's rights. Which is why I can only suggest improving the system, whereas you'd (if I understand you correctly) have it abolished in an ideal world. And I can't imagine an ideal world in which such a thing would be possible.

Ethan said...

Likewise, I can't imagine a world where the system is improved in a way that makes it acceptable.

ASP said...

Yes, I can see that. Which is why I said I don't think we can have a conversation, our basic conceptions are too contradictory.

Anonymous said...


Seriously, you're just reading into my words whatever you want them to mean, now.

It's tiresome.

I'm not "erasing an entire gender's history" anymore than I'm engaging in a systematic critique of feminism.

I reject essentialist logic - for any category, and that includes for men, as well.

I'll check back when you're done inaugurating me as your boogie fucking man do jour, and actually take the time to read and reply to what I've actually written.

I think once you can see that my argument is not "for subjugation," and is just in plain fact a rejection of repression, you might lose the filter long enough to see that I'm not even advocating against your argument.

I just don't like the essentialist logic, and have challenged YOUR logic, not the whole of womankind.

~ Jack

JRB said...

Dear friends,

The only thing I want to say about this is that we desperately need to be able to talk to each other, and that sustaining a dialogue is more important than whether or not we agree.

This is particularly true in the case of men and women, especially so in online forums. Women often interpret hostility in behavior that men take for granted; that's something for dudes to keep in mind as they pursue a dialogue, particularly if the goal is to sustain it, which I hope it is!

ASP said...

Jack, I don't understand what is wrong with this "essentialist logic." I am claiming that due to complete social conditioning of men and women and their entire separate histories that still exert painfully strong influence on the present, men and women perceive the world differently simply because they experience it in fundamentally different ways. The whole social position of women, and the social construction of womanhood, is essentially different than that of men and manhood, and makes the world in which a woman lives, and her experiences, substantially and irreducibly different from those of men. What is incorrect in this (essentialist?) logic?

As for the accusation that I think your argument is "for subjugation," no, I don't think that. I simply think you are wrong in claiming "men, as men," understand the female experience. The female experience is affected by all the ways woman is socially constructed and treated, which influences a woman's relation to the world in a way that it does not influence a man's. Richard put it perfectly: The point is that men, unless they go around as women, cannot understand the culture of relations as experienced by women. You, as a man, are not every day aware of what it's like experiencing world as a woman, every day. You cannot understand the female experience. That's not to say you cannot understand what it's like to be a victim of sexual violence or oppression, because female experience is not synonymous with being a victim of sexual violence or oppression.

ASP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ASP said...

It means you cannot understand what its like to be a victim of sexual violence and oppression as directed towards women as an entire separate gender. We live in that particular form of oppression every day. You don't. What is essentially unacceptable about the logic that claims that, therefore, you cannot understand it the way a woman does?

Jack Crow said...

"women as a separate gender" is exactly like "the people, of the social contract"

Bad shit is done to persons, not to categories.

The categories follow on the victimization, I understand. But they are epiphenomena, not a priori facts.

And your repeated insistence on the primacy of the category shows that you continue to misread me, willfully.

ASP said...

How are categories not a priori facts? How is gender not an a priori fact? How is the social construct of the female gender not a pre-constructed category into which a woman is born?

Bad shit is done to persons, not to categories.

Really? So the fact that over 90% of rape victims are women is irrelevant, does not point to the fact that sexual violence is primarily directed towards one category of people? And the term "gender violence" is wrong, because it emphasizes the category of gender as relevant? I suppose racism towards black people and immigrants is also not something directed towards a category of people? Jews, blacks, immigrants, gays, and other oppressed people - are they not oppressed as a category of people? Yes, bad shit is done to persons, but the bad shit is done to them because they are persons who belong to a particular category.

My insistence on the primacy of category is due to the fact that we started a discussion about gender violence, namely something directed primarily against a certain category of people.

To which your reply was that likelihood plays no part in understanding it.

Which essentially amounts to erasing an entire gender's history and social reality, because gender violence and the likelihood of being a victim of gender violence makes up a huge part of oppression of that particular gender, to which men are not subject to.

What exactly am I misreading? (I am not misreading wilfully. I went through your comments again, and if I'm misreading you then that is either because you are not stating your point clearly, or it's simply not clear enough because I'm a bit stupid.)

Ethan said...

Jack, ASP may or may not be misreading you (and if she is, she's doing it in a largely similar but not entirely identical way to the way I'm doing it), but I don't know that that "willfully" is necessary.

JRB said...

Yeah, I think we need understand what's being said before we can determine whether you guys even disagree. "Willful misreading" is a good indication that there is some miscommunication happening.

JRB said...

Can't wait for this thread to pick up again. I'm glad ASP pursued it.