(Trigger warning for discussion of rape.)
So, I have been following an argument about misogyny and rape (culture) going on here. The conversation also reminded me of a conversation with someone I knew on an online forum. The two sides of the argument went something like this: On one hand, you have a guy who is blaming rape on the male libido. On the other side of the argument, you have a few people who are attempting to explain that rape is about control and aggression and has almost nothing to do with the actual sex drive.
Guess which argument was the feminist one, and which argument was the non-feminist one. (Spoiler: the feminist argument is the one that assumes men are capable of controlling themselves. The non-feminist argument is the one that states men are incapable of controlling themselves because of their libido.) It has always been interesting to me that the argument that men should be able to control themselves and not sexually assault or harass women is almost always read as “feminists think all men are evil,” instead of “feminists believe that men should not sexually assault or harass women.”
As I stated previously, the Tumblr conversation reminded me of a conversation on a forum that I used to frequent. The gentleman I was talking too seemed to have the impression that men are inherently predatory. And by “predatory,” he actually meant “rapists.” He believed that men are exclusively driven by their libidos and sexual frustration. It therefore fell upon women to follow certain rules and resign themselves to the “fact” that any male they were interacting with wanted to rape them.
However, when I mirrored his statements back at him, he immediately began stating, “Not all men are rapists.” I pointed out that I had been mirroring what he had said, and also stated that I did not believe that all men are rapists. (I did however point out that he seemed to hold that belief.) He accused me of twisting his words. When I pointed out he was the one stating men are natural predators (and women are prey) he again stated I was misrepresenting his words.
At one point, when we were discussing the concept of libido, I pointed out that women also have a libido and experience sexual attraction. He stated that women are not capable of the sheer monstrous levels of predatory desire that men possess. (I suspect he has never actually witnessed some of the extremely predatory conversations about sex I have read among women.) To illustrate his point, he even described an occasion where he witnessed a man reaching out to grab a woman without provocation. (Why he only “witnessed” the apparent assault instead of doing something about it, I have no idea.)
This was a very frustrating, and entirely predictable argument.
The problem I think is that the non-feminist man (or woman for that matter) is not able to understand that sexual assault and rape are functions of aggression and control, not necessarily, “sexual desire.” I suspect the root cause of this misunderstanding is the non-feminist is likely to consider sexual desire as the primary reason for rape, instead of it being at best a component of rape. (Put more crudely, they think of rape as being primarily about getting off instead of it being ancillary to controlling and humiliating the victim.) They are confusing a “desire to have sex” with a “desire to aggress and assault.” (If some conversations with former instructors when I was taking Criminal Investigation courses are any indication, they also confuse controlled fantasies of aggressive sex and bondage with a desire to be assaulted non-consensually.)
The “that’s just how guys are,” argument is hurtful and insulting to men, or it should be. Instead, it seems to be an excuse. The argument says, “I don’t have to change my behavior, even it if it is threatening and unwanted because I am male and I have an uncontrollable desire to have sex. My sexual desire trumps anyone’s right to not be harassed or assaulted. If I commit assault it is therefore not my fault because of my uncontrollable desires.” The argument also says, “Women must behave in a certain way to avoid my assaulting them but at the same time, they must be available for me to have sex with because of my overwhelming desire to have sex.”
Of course, the person conforming to this argument under no circumstances wants to be seen as a potential rapist! They are of course one of the “good guys,” and they are terribly hurt if you make a statement that men cannot be trusted. (Even though the “good guy” is the one saying that men cannot be trusted and is actually being agreed with.) This is also very frustrating. It is kind of impossible to have a dialog about anything if half the argument is spent defining terms in a way that it is mutually understood. When seeing these recurring conversations about rape, it often seems to me as if two different languages are being spoken, without a way to translate.
As a bonus to this very long ramble, here is a List of Rape Myths.