Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cads, Criminals, and the Media

Trigger warning for discussion of rape
Cecily at Uppercase Woman referred me to this excellent article by Kate Harding that critiques the way the mainstream media has been discussing the rape allegations of Dominique Strauss-Kahn as well as the historical coverage of Arnold Schwarzenegger's "groping problem" and latest news of adultery.

I must quote a bit of the Harding article here, because I know a few certain individuals, ehem, you know who you are, that won't bother clicking the link, and I think this is really important:
So, whether Strauss-Kahn is “the great seducer,” for instance, has very little to do with whether he might also be “the great rapist,” because rape is not actually seduction gone pear-shaped. It’s a whole different thing! Similarly, any consensual affairs Schwarzenegger had over the years have very little to do with his “groping problem,” which would probably be better described as “a problem with giving a tiny rat’s ass about consent.”

That’s not to say these things are entirely unrelated, mind you. There are certainly points of overlap between being a cad and being a criminal: An overblown sense of entitlement, an apparent lack of empathy for anyone you might hurt, an erection. But cheating on your wife is not a gateway drug to sexual assault. They are two different things, one of them a crime. If you’re a journalist, please take a moment now to repeat that to yourself a few times.

And then please consider this: A man who’s known for grabbing women’s breasts and asses without their consent (a crime) is not just some amusing, slightly pathetic Pepe Le Pew cartoon until the day someone accuses him of non-consensual penetration. He was actually already a sexual predator! And yet, inevitably, as soon as someone does accuse him of rape, friends who are familiar with his history of non-consensual groping will rush to tell the press that the accusations are absurd, insulting, inconceivable! Sure, everyone knew the lion liked to chase gazelles and pin them down and bat them around a bit for fun, but he would never eat one. That’s just not in his nature.

Do you see the difference? One guy treats women rather shabbily, and he should be ashamed of himself. The other guy treats women like inanimate objects he is entitled to do whatever the fuck he wants to, and he should be ashamed of himself and also held legally responsible for his crimes. The line between the two is really not all that fine or blurry, you guys! It’s actually pretty recognizable!

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