Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Retrospective Rationalising

Hmmm, there seems to be a new idiot zeitgeist surrounding the topic of rape at the moment, either to somehow build a straw man argument around abortion in the US or to defend Julian Assange in a bid to perpetuate what seems the most convoluted conspiracy theory I've heard in a while.

I'm not going to try and cover the facts of these recent cases as they have been covered expertly by countless others in far better posts.

I want to turn my attention to this phenomena of various people, predominantly men, trying to redefine rape. Why do they do this?

I'm hyper aware as a man myself I am potentially walking into a minefield here, but I think it is quite simple - no simply means no, before or during.

So why all these re-classifications by people? I think it is what I would call retrospective rationalising. What do I mean by this?

Put simply I am convinced many men in their past have been in a scenario that was either extremely borderline or was rape. This is probably quite hard for them to reconcile.

I think this is because of the fact that rape narratives for so long were of the violent stranger definition, therefore all other forms of non consensual sex don't or rather can't fit into the "legitimate rape" category because to do so would make countless men who do not consider themselves rapists to realise they have raped or nearly raped in their past, hence the post rationalisation we are seeing.

Bold and sweeping generalist statements I know, but let me explain my rationale.

I can already think of a handful of situations in my own formative years where I could have come quite close to crossing that boundary in a terrible mess of hormones, opportunity and drunkenness. I'm thankful I didn't but I do recognise the possibility of it amd that is scary. I think there are countless others who know this too, but won't admit it and won't recognise that it would be rape.

That's a sad indictment isn't it? That as men we have not had this conversation about where the boundaries are and what it means, recognising that our testosterone is a powerful driver that we have to control, particularly in adolescence or the discussion has been had and we didn't listen.

Thankfully I never had too much ├╝ber testosterone flowing through my body and thus became deeply irritating in sexual encounters by asking multiple times for clarity on consent - if I could have had a contract I probably would have because in my brain it deeply concerned me about either being coercive or pushy in this arena as so many teenage men probably are.

I think I thought about it a lot because I had the unfortunate encounter of being in a public toilet and listening to a group of lads conspiring to gang rape my sister when she was 15. They didn't know I was her brother.
I don't think they realised they were conspiring to rape her either, just spike her drinks until she was unconscious later at a party and then all have "a go on her", they were deliberating which order they were going to do it when I intervened and pointed out I was her brother.

Sadly I have heard a number of similar discussions like this over the years, this I think is more common than most realise.

Too many men also think the predatory approach is all part of the game, there's an element to this approach that also starts to validate rape in their minds too.

I've been on the receiving end of predatory males persistence before, I've started politely to state that "I'm sorry, but I'm not gay" to still be lightly molested by grabbing and once having my exit blocked and locking of the door, I thought then I was going to be raped myself and that feeling of violation of your consent and your personal space is unforgettable. Sadly I think women have many more stories of incidents like this with men than I do.

So I think there are many things in the melting pot, there was a severe lack of discussion about rape being about non consensual sex and the different forms that takes and may still be. Too much emphasis on rape as a violent stranger assault narrative.

Not enough discussion or education with young men about respect and consent in sexual encounters.

So when I hear people re defining rape in the ways I've heard of late, I tend to think that they have a situation in their past which is consciously or subconsciously making them retrospectively rationalise the subject.

These are just thoughts and happy to hear your thoughts.