On this episode of Reality Cast, Kat Stoeffel will tell a story that shows how hard it still is for people to deal with sexual assault appropriately. The UVA story causes the mainstream right to become a bunch of rape truthers and parents in Northern California throw a fit over sex education.
Gamergate is sputtering out as members are beginning to realize no one buys that ethics in journalism line, but the whole thing has had the side benefit of bringing attention to the issue of sexism in gaming. Feminist Frequency brought together a number of men to help highlight the ways that they are privileged in gaming, just by being male.
- Gaming *
To be clear, no one is saying it’s wrong to be able to have these experiences, by and large. We just want women to have the same right to fire up a video game without immediately being told to prove yourself or show your genitals off.
Over the years I’ve been doing this podcast, there’s been one trend that I actually kind of find surprising, and, of course, very, very troubling, which is the mainstreaming of fringe so-called men’s rights thinking into the mainstream conservative movement. To be clear, mainstream conservatism has always been brutally sexist. And there’s always been a few characters in it, like George Will, who are quick to make excuses for rapists and sexual harassers. But by the early 21st-century, some of the really grotesque misogyny of the right that openly excuses sexual and gender violence had really been pushed to the margins. Most anti-feminist energy was spent attacking reproductive rights and efforts to end workplace discrimination, not in shielding men who commit violence against women. Instead, for that, you had the so-called men’s rights movement, which is mostly relegated online where most of the participants can remain anonymous, which is important when you’re someone who is highly invested in making it harder to prosecute rape and domestic violence. Their “activism” is mostly about flooding spaces where people are trying to talk about feminism to bolster the illusion that there’s legitimate controversy over whether rape and domestic violence are serious crimes. They, for reasons of their own, many of which I suspect are deeply unsavory, want people to believe that many to most women who speak out about being victims are lying. They are sleazy, woman-hating trolls.
But now it seems they’re being treated like a legitimate target demo for conservative pundits. Fox News has generally been drifting in the direction of just more and more unhinged sexist blathering lately, but this UVA rape story situation has really just brought this crap to a boil. The unchecked glee at being given an excuse to push the myth that false accusations are more common than they are is really repulsive. And the way this is being used to discredit the efforts of anti-rape activists generally is appalling. I mean, this is rape. When Todd Akin spouted off about “legitimate rape,” most conservatives were quick to distance themselves from him. Now I worry they’d thrown him a parade. Take, for instance, Tammy Bruce going full-blown rape denialist on Fox News.
- Rape 1 *
“Authentic feminists,” ugh. For those who don’t know, this is a really common anti-feminist tactic, to call yourself the “real” feminist so that people who aren’t up on all the names and personalities in activism and media get confused and think that this is a person who means well criticizing other feminists. You get it with the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-woman, anti-choice organization. Or the Independent Women’s Foundation, which is not actually in support of female independence. Or with personalities like Christina Hoff Somers or Tammy Bruce here who call themselves “feminists,” but think that every argument in favor of women’s equality is bunk. That unwillingness to correctly identify themselves so viewers know what they’re seeing shows the level of honesty we’re working with here, which is at subzero levels.
Anyway, usually you hear the claim that women make up rape to get back at a man for dumping them, but this is a newer strategy. Instead of exploiting the stereotype of the vindictive witch, the stereotype being employed is the attention whore, a phrase thrown these days at any woman who believes she has value outside of being quiet and scrubbing things. Attention is a thing for men only, I guess. What’s frustrating about these stereotypes is that if you point out that they are stereotypes, right wingers simply note that it has happened, once or twice before, that some woman did something wrong. As long as one woman lied one time, then that means that we can throw out the overwhelming evidence that shows most women tell the truth most of the time. It’s idiotic.
On top of accusing victims of lying for attention, conservative commentators were also interested in accusing researchers of inflating sexual assault statistics, because of nefarious, unnamed agendas. Such as Rich Lowry, on ABC News, denying research that shows a one-in-five sexual assault rate on campus.
- Rape 2 *
Squeaking about the police is a way to confuse the issue. Shoplifting isn’t the same as home invasion, but you’d think I was off my nut if I said that means that shoplifting isn’t a crime. This is what I mean by conservatives going full “men’s rights.” We’re not talking about someone trying to sneak a kiss and then being rejected. In fact, the researchers specifically excluded what they call “verbal or emotional coercion” from their definition of sexual assault, so a guy who whines until you kiss him was classified as a creep but not an assailant. The survey also distinguishes by severity of sexual assault, openly acknowledging that being forced to kiss someone is not the same as being raped. So his concerns were addressed, if he had bothered to read the study. But for all that Lowry is accusing the White House and Rolling Stone of having an agenda, I think he has a much bigger and more obvious one.
- Rape 3 *
So Lowry has an agenda, and it’s pretty clearly to conceal the ugly realities of male-dominated campus life, particularly in the Greek system. He scolds about covering bases, but refuses to do it. He told an easily fact-checked lie about the sexual assault research. He argues that a discrepancy in one victim’s story somehow means the overall portrait of campus is wrong, but if you actually bother to read the story, you’ll find there’s multiple accounts that really do show a culture that just that kind of sexist culture. In fact, Lowry himself is an example of this sexist culture, using his perch on TV to shield rapists from justice by scaring victims out of speaking out. So yeah, if you’re against “agendas,” start at home, jerk.
One of the greatest rhetorical coups for the right in the last decade is convincing so many people that Planned Parenthood is not actually a boring old family planning clinic for check-ups and condoms, but some kind of exotic sex emporium where all manner of demented perversions take place. It’s gotten to the point where the mere name of Planned Parenthood sends some conservatives around the bend. It reminds me, honestly, of the way that religious right folks in the 80s were so scared of the game Dungeons and Dragons that merely saying the name would cause them to freak out. Or the way that fear of Satanic messages in music would make people afraid to even touch rock records. It’s completely out of control. And now this hysteria is touching a high school in the East Bay area of California.
- PPFA 1 *
That this has been taught for a decade without problem is your first clue as to what the issue is here. We’re dealing with a relatively recent invention, this new belief that Planned Parenthood is the devil. A few years ago, they really weren’t a particularly controversial organization outside of the abortion stuff. But now every time you turn around, some right wing nut is melting down at the very idea that you might actually bring an expert in to handle sex education. I think what’s going on here, honestly, is that as contraception use improves and pregnancy rates are going down, conservatives are beginning to panic, realizing that attacks on abortion aren’t enough, and if they want people to be punished for sex, they’re going to have to attack contraception, too. And they’re accomplishing this goal by equating Planned Parenthood with sex itself, and sending prudish adults around the bend. And that’s exactly what’s going on here, even as parents claim it’s not about being prudish.
- PPFA 2 *
I don’t even know if I need to add more to this. Really, the notion that one could expect to have a life unencumbered by sexual urges if but for Planned Parenthood showing you what a condom looks like is a theory easily debunked by a brief glimpse of all of human history. Though I do always wish I could get people who say this sort of thing to sit down and tell me about their own sexual histories. Is it that they really truly only had sex a handful of times, for the purpose of procreation, and think that’s a norm that everyone else is deviating from? Or are they just so blinded by their own hypocritical hysteria that it never occurred to them that everyone else is just as entitled to sex for pleasure as they are? I am insatiably curious for answers, but I suspect I’ll never get them.
But you can take heart, folks, because this supposed organization and supposed coalition doesn’t seem to be very big, even as it’s very loud.
- PPFA 3 *
All this fuss resulted in….one parent pulling her kid. One. That’s hardly what I’d call some kind of groundswell. Not that it would be acceptable if it were, of course, because no amount of wishful thinking is going to make kids somehow asexual, but that the parents here are by and large being responsible adults makes this controversy even sillier. But Fox News’ website is trying to keep this alive, unfortunately, and even making a fuss over the fact that the materials emphasize consent. The argument is that by teaching kids to communicate with partners about sex, that is somehow endorsing sex. I guess sex is somehow less wrong in their eyes if it’s shameful and/or coercive. Hey, as long as you’re crying afterwards, it’s a win, I guess? But seriously, good on Planned Parenthood for considering consent as important an issue as contraception. I think this message from a 90s house band LaTour still is relevant.
- PPFA 4 *
And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, let’s get stupid edition. CNN decided to spend time interviewing the least relevant person in the entire universe on the subject of sexual assault, so-called Princeton mom Susan Patton. Unsurprisingly, her bizarre hyper-misogyny was repulsive.
- Princeton Mom *
I wish I could say she’s an outlier, but she’s spouting nonsense that’s all too common. Sadly, one of the reasons we have such an ongoing rape problem is just this: Parents who think it’s perfectly fine to teach their boys that forcing sex on women doesn’t count as rape as long as you learn her name first.