On a point of principle

Because 6% of college-aged men, slightly over 1 in 20, will admit to raping someone in anonymous surveys, as long as the word “rape” isn’t used in the description of the act—and that’s the conservative estimate. Other sources double that number (pdf).

A lot of people accuse feminists of thinking that all men are rapists. That’s not true. But do you know who think all men are rapists?

Rapists do.

They really do. In psychological study, the profiling, the studies, it comes out again and again.

Virtually all rapists genuinely believe that all men rape, and other men just keep it hushed up better. –Feminism 101: Helpful Hints for Dudes, Part 3

Last night on Newsnight Craig Murray decided it was his job to give the name of “Fröken A” – the first woman that Assange admits to having had non-consensual sex with (though Assange and Galloway and even Todd Akin are at one in agreeing that just because the sex wasn’t consensual this doesn’t make it you know actual rape).

Dear George Galloway:

So, the first point outlines pinning a woman down in order to force her into sexual activity. The second is tricking a woman into sexual activity to which she had not consented. The third is non-consensual–albeit non-penetrative–sexual activity. The fourth is having sex with a woman who is completely unable to consent. The fifth is exactly the same as the second.

You’ll notice, George, that the recurring theme throughout all of this is that the women were not consenting. There’s a word for sex without consent. Rape.

I find it rather concerning that you dismiss this as merely, as you put it, “bad sexual etiquette”. Bad sexual etiquette is not saying “thank you” before leaving. What Julian Assange is accused of is far more than that. It’s rape, George. It’s rape.

That makes Murray the latest in a whole lot of men (and a few women, notably Naomi Wolf) who outed themselves over the Assange case as people who think … well, so differently about sex, consent, and rape to me, that reading what they write often makes me feel mildly ill.

And equally, have outed men like PME:

Julian Assange did not come across to me as a frightened man. He came across today, in my subjective view, as an arrogant, egotistical, manipulative coward. The last few days have really changed my view on him, and not for the better. His speech took us no further. It gave no detail of anything that would happen next, of any remorse, or of any recognition of the two women who have alleged serious sexual assault. I joked before he came on that his appearance would remind me of a scene from Evita. For the drama he plied on, and for his astounding egomania, I fear I was far from wrong.

I’m not going to link to Craig Murray’s blogpost. It’s perfectly findable if you want to find it. I have linked to his blog before. He names “Fröken A” in his blogpost again, so no, he doesn’t get a link.

The essence of Craig Murray’s defence is: “Lots of other people did it! And besides, “Fröken A” deserves it.”

Some dates: The two dates on which all three – “Fröken A” and “Fröken W” and Julian Assange himself – agree that non-consensual sex took place, are 14th and 17th August. On 18th August, Assange – unworried by any of the things he has since claimed to be worried about with Sweden – applied for a residency permit.

Initially – after discussing the incidents with each other and realising that Assange had been insistent that he wanted unprotected sex with each of them, very much against their wishes, both women just wanted to find out if they could get him to take an HIV test. Not until 1st September did a public prosecutor look at the evidence and conclude that this was rape and sexual assault, and on 15th September 2010, Julian Assange left Sweden, apparently to avoid police questioning.

Craig Murray’s first argument is that it doesn’t matter because “Fröken A” talked to Aftonbladet and her name was then published in the New York Times a week after Assange had applied for a residency permit, six days before Swedish Director of Prosecution Marianne Ny concluded

“There is reason to believe that a crime has been committed,” she says in a statement. “Considering information available at present, my judgement is that the classification of the crime is rape.”

Ms Ny says the investigation into the molestation claim will also be extended. She tells AFP that overturning another prosecutor’s decision was “not an ordinary (procedure), but not so out of the ordinary either”.

On 23rd November 2010, “A file containing 100 pages of interview transcripts, investigatory notes and other material in the case”, pretrial discovery material, which had been provided by the prosecutors to Assange’s lawyer in Sweden, Björn Hurtig, and which had then been faxed to the office of Assange’s lawyer in England, Mark Stephens. Björn Hurtig advised on the cover letter:

“Please note that the documents are legally privileged information for Mr Julian Assange and nobody else.”

On 10th January 2011 the US Congressional Research Service published a report concluding that there was probably no US law that Julian Assange had broken and that even if they could show he’d broken the law, they probably couldn’t extradite him, because it would be impossible to extradite for a political crime.

Shortly after this, the highly confidential documents that had been provided to Julian Assange were anonymously leaked on the Internet. Naomi Wolf professes belief that this must have been done by the prosecutors, because how could anyone suppose that the founder of Wikileaks would do anything other than respect a “legally privileged information” notice?

The file relates how Assange’s separate sexual encounters with two women in Sweden last year led to the criminal investigation, telling the story through police interviews with the two alleged victims, and with friends to whom they’d confided. There is nothing in the extensive details to support Assange’s past assertions that the Swedish criminal probe is part of “dirty tricks” campaign against WikiLeaks.

It does not occur to Craig Murray that feminists – human rights supporters – could have any objection to his revealing “Fröken A”‘s real name, nor that he could have any ethical obligation to respect the British law, custom, and practice of protecting a rape victim’s identity given so many other people had disrespected it:

The furore that I “revealed” her name on Newsnight is a pathetic spasm of false indignation by establishment supporters.

A google search on [“Fröken A”] reveals 193,000 articles, virtually all relating to her sexual allegation against Julian Assange. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation last week broadcast nationwide a documentary investigating [“Fröken A”]’s allegations and not only naming her repeatedly, but showing several photographs of her and Assange together; it is a documentary everybody interested should watch. Literally thousands of newspapers and magazines all over the world have named her, including the New York Times and the Times of India, aside from those near 200,000 internet entries. The Twittersphere numbers are astronomical.

Instead, Craig Murray complains that the two BBC interviewers “spoke over him”, and

I was insufficiently assertive and allowed myself to be shouted down, than which I really should know better. But I did succeed in getting over the fact, with examples, that whistleblowers are routinely fitted up with unrelated charges. And all the manufactured fury at my naming [“Fröken A”] might well lead people to research her claims and behaviour, which would be a good thing. So I am reasonably relaxed.

Craig Murray’s theory appears to be not that “Fröken A” and “Fröken W” are lying but that it doesn’t matter what happened to them. He appears to think “Fröken A”‘s story and motives ought to be questioned – this looks, from his enthusiastic transcript of an Australian documentary, like a simple rape apologist judgement: because “Fröken A” had consented to sex with Assange, had been social with him before and after the night of 14th August, she cannot possibly have any grounds to object to sexual assault by Assange. He was in her bed by her invitation: she has no right to complain to the police about anything he did to her, and the police shouldn’t take this kind of thing seriously, either.

I wish I didn’t know that about Craig Murray.

The argument that Julian Assange would never have leaked the confidential documents sent to him because the account of the police investigation serves to incriminate him is undercut by the plain fact that lots of people – mostly men – didn’t think this information incriminated him. Yes, he had nonconsensual sex with both women. Yes, they were upset enough about it to go to the police. But how can that be actually rape – “legitimate rape” as Todd Akin called it?

I have blocked more people on Twitter due to this in the past few days than I think I’ve ever blocked before. I make no excuses for that: blocking was often the only way to get a set of ugly assertions off my timeline. From Garve Scott-Lodge’s blog, the last of Assange’s rape apologists I blocked:

The admissions of Assange’s lawyer are:

  1. He had sex without a condom with woman A, who had only consented to sex with a condom. Woman A indicated she did not wish this by trying to turn and squeeze her legs together, and reach for a condom.
  2. He initiated sex with woman B whilst she was asleep, without using a condom. They were in bed together, having had consensual sex using a condom twice previously in that session.

In neither case is it indicated that the woman verbally asked him to stop. If it turns out that they did, then that will change everything. Neither does either woman claim that she was frightened to speak out.

If you define rape as sex in absence of consent, then both of these cases would meet that criteria.

“Fröken W” said that she had had to keep arguing with Assange about using a condom – that he had wanted to have unprotected sex, she had insisted otherwise, and when she woke up and realised he had penetrated her in her sleep and was not wearing a condom – a double assault, since Assange knew “Fröken W” would only consent to sex with him with a condom – she had been too tired to keep on arguing. To a man like Garve Scott-Lodge, from his own comment on his blog, if a woman eventually gives in (especially if you start while she’s asleep) this makes it not really rape.

Garve Scott-Lodge argues that after all, if Julian Assange and “Fröken W” had been in a long-term relationship, it would have been okay for him not to wait to find out if she wanted to have sex with him or if she wanted him to use a condom:

However, someone in a long-term, loving relationship of whatever gender mix, who has been woken up by their partner initiating sexual contact might find it surprising to have this behaviour defined as rape. If you don’t want to have sex you can say so, though you might decide to continue in order to please your partner.

From Shakesville, 2008:

I have some wacky notions about sex.

You know — like . . . . The person who you are having sex should want to have sex with you.

Like . . . . . the whole time you’re having sex.

Go ahead, call me crazy. I’m asking for a lot, I know.

This is a followup to A Modest Proposal: The Thorny Issue of Sexual Consent from 2007:

And that’s when it hit me — my fool-proof solution to the thorny issue of “consent”:

1) Get a clear “yes” from your partner before engaging in sex AND 2) BECOME A BETTER LOVER

See, I’ve never really thought of it as a problem if my lover was chanting (or screaming) YES! YES! YES! “over and over for hours without interruption” during sex. (“Don’t Stop!” and “Keep doing whatever it is you’re doing!” also do not disturb me in the slightest.)

In fact, this situation has been so common for me that I had simply assumed that it was par for the course.

But the Julian Assange case has made two things distressingly clear: When a man you know and like/admire is accused of rape, first (and ongoing) reactions can fall into two groups, which get further and further away from each other as the dialogue about the Assange case, or any other, continues:

  1. For some people – mostly men – it’s fear first of all that this means they might be accused of rape.
  2. For some people – mostly women – it’s fear of being raped – with the added factor that many women will have been raped by a man they knew and trusted.

Although (1) is not rational nor fact-based – 19 out of 20 men are not rapists, false accusations of rape are 2-8% – the men who feel this fear treat it as very rational and not at all emotional.

Although (2) is based on solid data and rational judgement, the men who feel (1) treat (2) as an irrational fear, and demand respect for their own feelings while disregarding and belittling the feelings of those who worry about being raped.

And then there’s group (3), the men who read what Julian Assange did, and thought not “Well, there’s nothing wrong with that” but “Well, that’s exactly what I’ve done many times and I’m not a rapist, so obviously Assange isn’t either!”

The problem for those of us in group (2) is that although we know group (1) is much larger than group (3), there is usually no way to tell which is which.

Consider: if every rapist commits an average of ten rapes (a horrifying number, isn’t it?) then the concentration of rapists in the population is still a little over one in sixty. That means four in my graduating class in high school. One among my coworkers. One in the subway car at rush hour. Eleven who work out at my gym. How do I know that you, the nice guy who wants nothing more than companionship and True Love, are not this rapist?

I don’t.

When you approach me in public, you are Schrödinger’s Rapist. You may or may not be a man who would commit rape. I won’t know for sure unless you start sexually assaulting me. I can’t see inside your head, and I don’t know your intentions. If you expect me to trust you—to accept you at face value as a nice sort of guy—you are not only failing to respect my reasonable caution, you are being cavalier about my personal safety.

Captain Awkward has written some amazing stuff about human relationships and consent and how to deal with creepy guys and rapists, but this from one of her earliest posts, The Art of No:

Women are socialized to make men feel good. We’re socialized to “let you down easy.” We’re not socialized to say a clear and direct “no.” We’re socialized to speak in hints and boost egos and let people save face. People who don’t respect the social contract (rapists, predators, assholes, pickup artists) are good at taking advantage of this.

“No” is something we have to learn. “No” is something we have to earn. In fact, I’d argue that the ability to just say “no” to something, without further comment, apology, explanation, guilt, or thinking about it is one of the great rites of passage in growing up, and when you start saying it and saying it regularly the world often pushes back. And calls you names.

and a later post, The C-Word:

One of the things I explicitly want to do with this blog is to give people tools for saying “Hey, knock it off.” Defending your boundaries and speaking up for yourself is a habit that can be learned. You get more aware of where your boundaries are. You second-guess yourself less. It gets easier with time and practice. So, if you can, practice! Your voice might shake. But “no” is power.

There is power in not asking for permission to stand up for yourself. There is power in acting as if you expect to be believed and respected. But it’s not a perfect power. Rape culture is real. Predators are real. So the assumption that it’s women’s job to speak up totally falls apart as victim-blaming as soon as you start talking about predators and unsafe bystanders who are determined to get their way.

Julian Assange acted like a predator. He’s the one who did something wrong. His defenders are not acting as “human rights activists” or defenders of “free speech”: they are unsafe bystanders. They want to get their way.

Let’s just say No.

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Filed under Human Rights, Justice, Women

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