You know, we’re just too hard on rapists these days
The latest questionable post on Feministing is not what I would have initially expected upon reading the first line, especially considering my experience with the man-haters of feminism. But when I dove deeper into the post, it started making more and more sense… at least, from a liberal standpoint.
I think we need to stop demonizing rapists.
I feel a little strange saying this, especially when violence against women is an under-addressed issue, and most rapists go free because no one will believe that they could have committed sexual assault. Women are typically blamed while men escape any consequences for their actions.
But I think a big part of that problem is that we demonize rapists too much.
Everyone pictures rapists as psychopaths, hiding in the bushes with knives. As feminists we’ve worked really hard to dispel that myth, explaining over and over that most rapists assault someone they know – friends, acquaintances, dates, and partners.
A big part of the reason that people aren’t catching on to what that really means is that they are still picturing men who commit sexual assault as evil or morally corrupt. If their friend isn’t evil or morally corrupt, he couldn’t possibly commit sexual assault.
Some rapists are just master manipulators, and hide the fact that they are vicious predators, as evil as any real human could be. I don’t really believe in evil, and I’ve known men personally who were certainly not anywhere near it, yet still committed the horrible crime of rape. A lot of guys who commit sexual assault actually do have a conscience, and actually don’t want to be sexually assaulting women.
We need to become more effective at separating the act from a good vs. evil judgment of a person. We can’t be naive and think that having a polite chat with a rapist will necessarily stop him, but we have to acknowledge the complexities of individuals. There are a lot of men who need a lot of education, but we need to find a way to talk about rape that places the responsibility for rape squarely on the perpetrator’s shoulders without *necessarily* condemning him forever.
We need to show people that they can reconcile their belief that their friend has a good heart with the reality that he has committed rape. Rape is a terrible crime with terrible consequences, I know this personally. But when so many men think that the whole sexual assault discussion doesn’t apply to them or their friends because they aren’t knowingly, intentionally, maliciously committing sex crimes, we’re losing an audience that might actually want to change.
Just as we need a performance model of sex (as articulated brilliantly by Thomas Macaulay Millar in Yes Means Yes), we need a performance model of sexual assault. The crime is about the actions of an individual, not the goodness or evil in his or her heart.
One commenter added onto this idea:
I’m not sure the OP is so much as saying that rapists can be good people, but that rapists are often OTHERWISE good people, and that demonizing rapists as monsters makes it easier for rapists, potential rapists and peers of rapists to say “well, that doesn’t apply to me or my friends, because we are good normal people, who don’t plot attacking women in alleys.”
Oh, and several commenters mentioned that rapists are not born, they’re created. And who creates them? The patriarchy!
What this really comes down to is the classic liberal love of moral relativism. There’s no such thing as “good” or “evil”. What is “right” for us is not necessarily always right, and what we see as “wrong” may be seen as “right” in “other” cultures. And the failure to recognize the difference between good and evil, the failure to recognize that evil does actually exist, can be dangerous for this country.
The thought that we demonize rapists too much is preposterous. The poster, and a large majority of the commenters, are saying, over and over again, that rapists can be good people that just did something bad. And it’s interesting to note that this is coming from a community of feminists, who whine incessantly about men and the “patriarchy”.
Now, I do not necessarily think that all rapists are evil. But I don’t think it is possible for any person who would commit rape to be a good person. I don’t think anyone who would commit murder can be considered a good person, either. You cannot separate someone’s actions from who they are, which is the argument being made here. I don’t care if some rapist spends time with blind-deaf orphans who live in the projects every day — if he then turns around and rapes women, then he is a bad person. A good person does not commit evil actions. Saying that you condemn the actions without condemning the person is nonsense; the person is the one who did it. And these women are sitting here talking about how you “don’t know what’s in their heart”?? It’s complete BS. You cannot have a good heart and commit an evil act. It’s basically an argument of moral relativism.
This entire premise is just another example of how deeply rooted in extreme liberalism modern feminism is. It isn’t about what’s best for women; it’s about following an ideology.