First off, Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, is currently at the Ecuadorean embassy in London applying for asylum while British authorities are planning to arrest him whenever he might emerge from the building. It’s a great and ridiculous story, and I hope he pulls another vanishing act, regardless of what Ecuador decides. Assange has been under house arrest for some time facing extradition to Sweden to answer questions about the bullshit rape allegations I wrote about back when they were fresh. Recently on Twitter, I’ve seen a few things written about the case suggesting that the rape is a serious matter and that these particular allegations need to be taken seriously. This can only be coming from people who haven’t read the details or people who willfully ignore facts to maintain for themselves an image of Assange as a criminal who belongs behind bars. According to the the supposed victims themselves, Julian Assange had consensual sex with two different women on the same weekend, and he was kind of weird about it.
A few days ago I saw this, an argument that Assange should be assumed guilty by the public because… RAPE CULTURE, whatever that is. The blog is called destructural. The author shall be referred to as “the author” because I don’t see any name or handle attached to this work.
I don’t care what Sweden’s laws are, I care if Assange coercively and sexually used someone’s body without her participatory consent. The recourse to legal defenses by Assange and co. indicates the lack of a solid ethical argument.
Assange is not in “ethical trouble”; he’s in legal trouble to which a legal defense is the customary and logical response.
Let’s imagine a scenario, an absolutely generic rape accusation. A woman accuses a man of rape, he denies it, you have no other information. Who do you believe? This may seem like a painfully abstract question, and it is. But it is also the situation in which we often find ourselves when we hear rape accusations.
This is only true if we have no other information to go by. If I have no information to go by other than a rape allegation, I conclude that rape did or did not occur, and that maybe she thinks she was raped and he thinks he didn’t rape her. I have no need to decide who is and who isn’t telling the truth in such a scenario because the whole idea is completely uninteresting. The Julian Assange case is far more interesting because it’s Julian Assange, a rather famous/infamous person, and the story of what actually happened is kind of weird and funny and has been publicly available since very shortly after it happened.
The author attempts to elaborate on why we probably have nothing to go by:
The partial information that we use to make that decision in real life (what she was wearing, her reputation, his reputation, whether she reported it, their comparative size or attractiveness, whether she stayed over after or saw him again) is more confounding than helpful. Rapists, survivors, and the incidents themselves don’t share enough in common for partial specifics to be indicative. We know certain populations are more vulnerable, but the chilling truth is that rape happens so much that knowledges about what kind of person rapes or is raped and under what circumstances are more a reflection of our rape-apologizing culture than the realities of victimization.
This is a bunch of nothing. I think he’s trying to say that rape happens all the time everywhere and that we really can’t make any sense out of who’s doing at and who it’s being done to – that we can’t ever really know who to believe based on the various details of the particular story. It’s like when people invoke God’s mysteriousness to explain why he’s such an asshole sometimes. Among the allegedly uninformative details he lists whether or not she stayed over after supposed rape or whether she met with him again. This is idiotic. I can imagine a date-rape or spousal rape scenario where the victim might stay with the perpetrator, but I’m really good at imagining stuff, and saying that such details are immaterial is incredibly stupid. The author doesn’t include the possibility that the alleged rape victim’s own story might not include a description of a rape at all, which is the most important detail of all in the Assange case.
After this, our author goes off the deep end:
I think this use of partial specifics and faulty abstractions is a really bad idea, but what else do we have? The “assumed innocent until proven guilty” line doesn’t work for me, if Wikileaks has taught us anything it’s that the state produces truths about which we should remain skeptical and vigilant. Not to mention that for survivors who allege rape, the legal standard means “assumed lying until proven otherwise.” I am not a magistrate and have no pretensions of agnosticism. I propose an answer to the abstract question above: I believe her.
Second, which her do you believe? Anna Ardin or Sofia Wilen?
Third, I believe them too! They just never actually claimed a rape occurred when they complained to authorities about Assange, which they only did when they learned about each other. That’s probably another detail that we should ignore.
The author continues with some thoughts that have some merit:
I’m not talking about at the gut level; like a lot of men, at the gut level I hardly believe any rape accusations. Unless I’m there to see it or its a really obvious case, my own horrific impulse is toward denial and apology. These responses are second nature in a rape culture like ours, especially for men. Think about the depictions: no one had to stretch to imagine a CIA “honeypot” plan against Assange, we’ve probably seen more of these scenes represented in media than powerful men (who aren’t “villains”) raping women. Which do you think happens more in real life?
There’s some food for thought here, that what we’re accustomed to in popular fiction and how we imagine ourselves in any scenario will inform our sense of who is and who isn’t guilty or innocent. It’s good to be aware of such bias, but it’s way over the top to be horrified and fairly stupid to automatically assume the opposite.
The same thing goes for false accusations: I’ve had friends accused of rapes that I knew first-hand did not occur, it does happen. However, whenever it does happen, we hear about it a lot. False accusations always happen out loud and knowledge of them spreads quickly and widely, so if the total volume looks comparable to rapes that occur, that assessment ignores the huge iceberg below the surface of unreported or undiscussed rapes. Statistically, I have female acquaintances, friends, and family members who have been raped and not told me about it. Rape culture doesn’t only excuse sexual assault, it makes it disappear.
He’s trying to argue that we might incorrectly imagine a rape accusation as statistically likely to be false as it is to be true because we know about all the false rape accusations, but don’t hear about all the actual rapes that never get reported. He’s interested in the statistical likelihood of rape accusations being accurate because he’s already declared that we can’t use any of the relevant details to make a judgement. I’m not as interested in the statistics, though I’d like to see the methodology used to arrive at the
“Rape Culture” is a fantasy invented by feminists to permit all women everywhere to be viewed as victims all the time. Rape is very real and does exist everywhere, but it is not a cultural phenomenon. It is not even remotely tolerated in Western society. Animals rape. Animals do not have culture. Rape is men behaving as animals.
He continues to ponder male rape accuser judgement bias and then unloads this gem:
I also think it is possible for rape to occur with only one partner’s knowledge, that is, a rapist can not realize what he’s doing. That doesn’t make it less rape or even necessarily less detestable, but it does highlight the problems with locking one person up for a social crime.
First, according to the internet, a social crime is a behavior that violates social norms. Um.. Rape is that and much much more! It’s a serious violent crime that is still punishable by death per the US’s Uniformed Code of Military Justice. Second, there can be no crime without criminal intent. The prosecution in a criminal trial must prove criminal intent. This doesn’t necessarily mean the accused must have known exactly what he was doing, but the circumstances must be such that he should have known. That’s as deep as I care to go into that. I’m not a lawyer. The author is actually arguing that a rapist should not be imprisoned, apparently because none of us are without sin.
As Dostoevesky puts it, “We are guilty of all, before all, and on behalf of all,” and as all is the only way we can stop rape. Any society that locks someone away causes itself more damage than any criminal ever could. No bars ever. For anyone. Not for Assange, not for Bradley Manning, not even for the perpetrators of the much bigger state crimes revealed in the Wikileaks documents. It’s not worth it.
Locking up criminals is not worth doing. I don’t feel this argument needs to be addressed, but I’ll bite if someone wants that.
He finishes by apologizing for being male and for being white, that he’ll never really understand “rape culture” the way a woman does.