Tuesday, May 30, 2006

If we had world enough: Opposition & Choice in Social Activism

(Warning: This is another one of my holier-than-thou, musings on life pieces. Just so you know.)

Scenario 1:

You're driving a friend back to her place. She tells you to turn right from the next intersection. You point out to her that turning right there will involve going miles out of the way and is the wrong way to go to get to her house. You're much better off turning left. She immediately accuses you of being opposed to getting her home. She wants to know why you have this discriminatory attitude towards her house. She says you have vested interests because it happens to be your car. That you're secretly planning to abduct her. Not once in all this does she tell you why she thinks turning right may the best way to go.


Scenario 2:

Your school-going nephew is setting up a stall in his school fete. He wants to make enough money out of the stall to buy the latest Playstation (or whatever other meaningless thing kids today crave). His big plan is to sell cars from this stall. His logic is that a) people buy cars b) people make money selling cars. What could possibly go wrong? He wants you to come stand in the stall and help. You point out to him that you don't think anyone is going to buy a car from a school fete. He wants to know why you're against his making money. He feels that you must not want him to be financially independent so you can keep him dependent on your for presents. He accuses you of being useless and unsympathetic to his cause.


Sounds ridiculous doesn't it? Yet these are exactly the kind of arguments I find myself repeatedly getting into on the blogosphere. Take a stand against reservations (because you think it's a meaningless measure that will not help the truly backward) and you're automatically elitist and unconcerned with the plight of the deprived. Criticise some feminist rant (because you think it's doing more harm to the feminist cause than good), and it's obvious that you don't wish to contribute to the fight for gender equality, that you don't care, that you think it's not your problem and that you probably don't understand feminism in the first place.

Well I for one am sick of it. So, three points:

1. Who's not for you is NOT against you

Silence is not consent. Inaction is not support. Just because you don't go out of your way to protest something doesn't make you culpable for it. That's just the kind of irrational guilt people want to thrust on you so they can manipulate you for their own ends.

The reality is that we're all implicated in a thousand social and political evils. Global warming, species extinction, destruction of biodiversity, poverty, AIDS, sectarian violence, genocide, rape, murder, illiteracy, malnutrition, gender equality, gay rights, abortion, nuclear arms - the list of causes that we could all potentially contribute to is endless. In an ideal world, of course, we would all actively seek ways to cure these ills, we would all be out there everyday trying to do our bit for the planet. Obviously though, that's not realistic. What we can (and should) do is prioritise - pick the two or three causes that we feel we want to fight for, and take active (or semi-active) steps to contribute to them. For all the others, we can only hope to give them our tacit support - signing petitions, voting for political actors whose view on these issues is consistent with our own, ensuring that we ourselves and those around us are not acting in ways inconsistent with our views on these topics. And that's it. This doesn't mean that we're condoning these problems, or that we're against the people trying to solve them. It simply means we're human and can only do so much.

That brings us to a second question, though. How do we choose the one or two issues that we do choose to support? Obviously, criteria for choice will vary, but I suspect a few trends may be general. First, we will tend to choose causes that influence our lives most directly, and where our own interests might conceivably be at stake. Second, we tend to choose causes where we believe we can make a real difference - either because there are specific things we can do that would seem to have real results, or because there is too little support for the issue and therefore our voice could make a much larger marginal difference. Third, we may choose causes where we believe that the leaders of the movement have a well-thought out, realistic plan that we approve of. If we happen to like the leaders of the movement, if we feel a sense of solidarity with them (even if our own interests are not directly at stake) so much the better.

Obviously, the factors above come together in some sort of notional weighted average, so that one may partially compensate for the other. So for instance, if we really have strong emotional reasons for caring about a cause then we may choose to set up our own initiative if we feel that current initiatives are rubbish. But the fact that we don't do so, doesn't mean that we don't care at all - it just means that we don't care enough to set up our own NGO - though we may well care enough to contribute if someone came up with a plan that we thought was worth doing.

2. Disagreement with means is not disagreement with ends

There's an even more pernicious version of the 'If you're not for us you're against us' formulation though. It's the 'If you're not for our specific proposal, you're against everything we're trying to achieve' argument. That's just silly. Agreement on ends does not guarantee agreement on means. It is not inconsistent to agree with what someone is trying to achieve but disagree violently with how they want to achieve it. In fact, that's a large part of the point of public debate. If anything, it's precisely the people who agree with your objectives who are least likely to be impressed by your good intentions.

Meaningful discussion of public issues doesn't just involve agreement on what the problem is, it also involves an objective yet critical evaluation of various availabe solutions. It involves asking the questions - will this work (why / why not)? Could it be done more effectively and efficiently? Is it ethical? What are the consequences it has for other people? How should it be communicated? Assuming it's worth doing, how should it be implemented? What factors will aid or threaten it? Details matter, and any or all of these questions could be the basis for criticising a movement or a point of view whose end objective you agree with. That doesn't mean you're against progress. That doesn't mean you're trying to sabotage the end-goal. It just means that you refuse to participate in a false solidarity that will involve you in a compromise that you're unwilling to make, or cause you to lend support (or seem to lend support) to a set of actions you don't agree with. And it means that you're interested in finding a real solution to the problem, rather than acceding to whatever incoherent rhetoric you might be expected to subscribe to.

3. The attention budget

You could argue, of course, that as long as the different means are non-contradictory, why bother to debate. Why not go ahead and implement both. This is the 'you agree to my proposal and I'll agree to yours' argument. The trouble is that political and social capital is rarely infinite. In most cases we have just enough resources, just enough energy, just enough momentum to implement one or two key initiatives at a time. Which is why it's so important that we choose wisely, prioritising the projects that will make a difference over those that sound nice but will achieve nothing. That is why we need to question the efficiency and efficacy of every action we take for a cause. Doing the wrong thing, or doing something that's ineffective is not costless. There are multiple opportunity costs involved: the cost of lost time, as we implement projects in sequence or wait for the results of previous projects to come in; the cost of lost resources - especially man-hours and socio-political support, all of which may take time and effort to replenish; the cost of disenchantment among supporters and loss of credibility among external stakeholders.

The analogy of a budget line is an apt one. Socio-political initiative is limited, which is why we must spend it in ways that maximises the total utility for the parties we are concerned with.

Notice that this issue of a 'budget constraint' is closely linked to the 'choice of causes' mentioned under point 1. If effectiveness is one of the criteria by which people choose social programs to support, then programs that can demonstrate that they have a clearly thought out action plan will, ceteris paribus, end up attracting more support. This in turn will make their chances of success greater, thus attracting even more support and setting off a virtuous cycle. By contrast, movements where so called leaders can do little more than offer vague platitudes and general exhortations, will be seen as not worth investing in, even by people who implicitly care about their aims.

Again, you could argue that this is unfair. That you should evaluate social causes on the basis of the seriousness of the problem, not the ease of the solution. There are two problems with this. First, it's pretty hard to find a basis on which to choose between social causes based purely on the merits of the problem. Is the AIDS epidemic more concerning than rape? Is education more important than choice about abortion?[1] The second problem is that it's just naive to expect people to go out of their way to think through possible solutions to every problem and then pick the one they want to pursue. Realistically, there's a market for social attention, and causes that compete most effectively in that market, that do a good job of 'selling' themselves and generating support and buy-in from well-meaning citizens, are the ones that will win out. The rest will just not get solved. And the faster champions of a particular cause realise that, the quicker they're going to be able to solve the issue they're concerned with.

Notes

[1] Of course, there will always be some people who will have strong emotional reasons for preferring one cause over all others. They're what I could call cause-loyal consumers. My point is that those people are going to support you anyway. What you really need to do is build alliances with people who don't think that this is the one and only issue in the world, and convince them that your cause is where their contribution would deliver the most value.

62 comments:

Aishwarya said...

Read the comments.

Falstaff said...

See my reply.

My overall point is just this. You can take the Dworkin approach, and justify it till you're blue in the face. You can go on making speeches that say men who aren't for us are against us, and must stand up and be heard if they don't want us to assume that. There's nothing 'wrong' with that in the well-intentioned, 'it's a logical argument sense'. I just don't believe it's going to help. I see no reason to believe that the Dworkin approach is the most effective or more efficient way to achieve gender equality.

I'm not for a moment saying that men shouldn't support the feminist movement. Your post claimed that Dworkin's speech was the best statement for that point of view that could be made. I'm only saying that I don't think it is. I think it's a very poor, incoherent statement, and one that will win the cause few friends.

MockTurtle said...

Falstaff, your analogies of selling cars and driving cars are a bit off-point because the issue is not really about you and why people should not typecast you based on your opinions (or lack thereof).
The real issue is simply a social phenomenon - and that's all that rape is. Men and women are, unfortunately, only a few evolutionary steps away from base animals and our instincts have not changed very much since then. Men are physically stronger than women and they have the subconscious need to plant their seed in every available womb. That gives them the means and the motivation to commit rape. Nothing anyone can do will ever change that.
Some men are fortunate enough to be able to mask their id, often out of fear of the consequences. Many others have less to lose and will obey their instincts.
It is pointless to decry men who do not speak out or rally to the feminist cause. Rape, like every other crime, is a product of circumstances. Would protests or shows of solidarity against murder decrease its occurence?
Logically, the only way to curb rape is by tilting the risk/reward ratio against the rapist. Lobby (or, in India, bribe) lawmakers for stricter laws and for better processes to allow victims to come forth. That will not take away the inclination to rape, but will help curb the propensity for the rapist to act on his intentions.
Finally, it is not really blaming women when men tell them to be careful of how they dress and where they go. It's just common sense. There are some parts of town that I will not go to after dark, and especially not in a fancy car. If I do, there's a high probability that I will get mugged. It is still the mugger who is to blame for the crime, but does that mean that I should not have been more sensible?
I'm all for stricter laws against crime, but I also know for a fact that removing the motivation behind any kind of crime is practically impossible.

Falstaff said...

MT:
First, the logic of the car example isn't what my nephew thinks of me. That's secondary. The logic is - my nephew has a problem. He says he wants my support to solve it. I want to help him, I want him to earn money from his stall. I just don't think that selling cars is the right way to do it. The big problem here is not that my nephew is going to hate me. The big problem is that he's going to go try sell cars in a fete and it'll get him nowhere and we'll all be worse off. And he won't get the opportunity again.

This is not a post about rape or about feminism - it's a post about a general tendency in all sorts of debates. The rape / feminism thing is just an example.

That said, my two bits on your comment on rape.

I share your scepticism about public protests as a means of quelling rape, and I agree that any realistic solution will probably involve looking more closely at the law and order process. more generally, I think having a specific actionable proposal would be useful.

I don't agree that

a) Rape is somehow 'natural' and those who don't rape are only masking their desires out of fear of circumstances. That's crap. I have no desire to offer violence, sexual or otherwise, to anyone. The very idea disgusts me. And I think rapists are monstrous and wrong and deserve every punishment we can give them. I refuse to accept arguments that say rape is a product of circumstances. I refuse to admit arguments that say rape is some sort of natural male tendency. That kind of cheap / easy justification is how rape gets propagated, and I, for one will not support it. My argument for why social protests won't work is simply that I don't believe that rapists think that all men support them. So telling them that we don't - that we're strongly opposed to what they're doing, is only telling them what they already know. Why would that stop them?

b) I'm also strictly against arguments that say women should take precautions. The point is they shouldn't have to. It's easy to say that taking precautions is being 'pragmatic' but that's like saying people of a particular religious faith should not practise their religion because it'll only incite violence against them. Women should have the freedom to dress how they like and go where they want - and by asking them to not exercise their freedom, you're only helping those who want to curtail it. The trouble is that once you start voluntarily giving up your freedoms, it never stops. What happens when rapists start attacking office-going women - do we advise women to stay at home and rear babies then? That way oppression lies.

And it's easy to say you're not 'blaming' them, but it does mean that you're saying they have some responsibility for what happened to them (which is nonsense) and it's a very easy step from saying they could have avoided it to they were to blame. I'm not encouraging anyone to go wandering about the streets of Delhi at 2 in the morning wearing a mini-skirt. But I'm willing to defend her right to do so. And will not condone arguments that say this makes her somehow to blame if anything happens to her.

Oh, and personally I'm fairly sceptical about the whole 'it's the way they dress / it's the places they go' hypothesis. I suspect that is genuinely a patriarchal myth. Go read the posts on the Blank Noise project. Almost all the experiences involve women (often 'conservatively' dressed women) in public places in broad daylight. I personally, am not aware of any statistics that show that wearing a mini-skirt significantly increases your chances of getting harassed / raped. Even if such statistics exist, it wouldn't change my stand, of course, but I'm not even sure the point is worth discussing.

To be clear - it is not pointless to decry men who do not rally to the feminist cause. It is pointless to assume that they're not doing this because they're men and therefore support the rapists. It is pointless to harangue them for not being able to put an end to rape without offering the slightest practical solution on how this is to be done. It is pointless to try and get them to support the feminist movement by calling them homophobic near-rapists and making it sound like it's all their responsibility. Encouraging greater male participation in the movement for gender equality is a great idea, and a necessary step, just as affirmative action to correct economic and social disparities is a great idea, but there's a right way to do it and there's a wrong way.

MockTurtle said...

Trust you to twist the issue.
Let's discuss this like rational adults - and not simply to score cheap brownie points with the masses. (By the way I responded after reading Aishwarya's links)

1) Rape, twisted though it may be, does stem from a natural urge. The animal kingdom is full of examples of sexual attacks of the dominant against the submissive - often among the same sex.
Having said that, I never claimed that the only thing holding men back from rape is fear of the law. But it is a large motivator for those inclined towards rape from holding back.

2) You would not advise women to take precautions? That's just dumb. We're not talking about allocating blame here. It's simply a question of safety and of common sense. Certainly, no laws should be passed dictating what women should wear or what places they should visit after dark, but are you seriously encouraging women to walk down shady alleys in bad neighborhoods just to prove a point?

3) Rape is a serious crime, just like other serious crimes. It is committed by the same criminals who commit other serious crimes. And just like other serious crimes, the circumstances are partially to blame. I realize that you consider yourself far above the criminal class, but if you were exposed to an abused childhood, were brought up to believe that women were disposable, had a raring libido and nothing to lose - given the right circumstances you would be capable of the worst too.

If rape is to be tackled, it should be done honestly. A holier-than-thou, but-I-would-never-do-such-a-thing attitude helps no one. The possiblity lies in every man and if you want to fight it, you must first face it.

hatshepsut said...

Falstaff:

In response to your statement-

"I think having a specific actionable proposal would be useful."

there are many feminist writers who share that belief and who outline such strategies. My idea of being useful is to point the readers of this blog to such texts, since many of the accusations levelled against feminists as lacking actionable proposals in the blogosphere are old ones and have been already refuted.

Specifically, I would like to point junta to Chapter 12 of June Jordan's book "Some of us did not die". It ends with strategies for resistance to intentional, violent domination (including rape and other kinds of violence).

Also, Germaine Greer who tends to invoke rather extreme responses in me, some positive and some negative, in 2000 in "The Whole Woman" writes extensively on the issue, again suggesting concrete ways to combat the problem.

I urge you to look at more recent, post 2000 writings (Dworkin is hardly the representative voice of the feminist movement today).

As a movement, feminism does not have one cohesive voice - and I think it unfair to clump all feminists together (and I'm not saying you're doing that, but I know many people who do), just as it is to categorize all men as rapists in one fell swoop.

Also about "looking more closely at the law and order process" - that's just a loaded issue. And it's not as if women's groups are not doing that. It's just fraught with virtually unwinnable situations. The chances of dominantly patriarchal institutions of law-making revising anti-rape laws, making them more humane, are bleak. Sections 155(4) and 146 of the Indian Evidence Act 1872 were only revised at the end of 2002 "so that the previous character of a rape victim in her cross-examination is no longer relevant". And that's only the tip of the iceberg as far as what's wrong with the IPC (Indian Penal Code)is concerned.

There has been campaigning, there have been protests, there have been directives from NGOs like Amnesty International, but to change the law and order process, you need to alter the political will and vested motives of the law-makers and politicians. And given that they rarely see this fight as having much in it for them, it's a bitch of a problem. How would you suggest the diseased law and order process re: rape is revised, given the sticky situation of having corrupt formulators of law and executors of order? Genuine non-belligerent question.

Hatshepsut

Neela said...

Falsie. Nice post. btw, am I the only Supreme Intelligent Being left on this planet who got the Big Picture message of your post about the danger implied in the "if you are not for us, you are against us" message implicit in the debates on the blogosphere? And was it my dratted consultant training that made me weep nostalgically when I read that "implementable, actionable" thing?

But well written. And a nice change from those suicidal, maniacal posts you write (oh come now, you ARE jealous of our lovely windows-encrusted, escalator-heavy building which stands in modern reproach to your horrid stone and Rodin-sculptures-in-the-lobby structure, aren't you?

n!

MadHat said...

The thing is people buy into dichotomies that do not really exist. This Bush attitude is what promotes intolerance and extinguishes debates. I find this characteristic of fundamentalism - both right and left.

We need to accept that there are a pluralism of views and a variety of views regarding any issue.

I see the same thing happenning with the reservations issue. It is not a simple dichotomy of for or against. Amidst all the anti-reservation protests, I do not see unity. I see diverse opinions and most of the protests against reservations do not have a clear-cut distinction as to what they are exactly protesting against and what their demands are. I can only speak for Bangalore. The mail I received for the recent (three days ago) protest march against reservations did not mention anything except that it was "against quotas".

I find this idea of dividing people into dichotomies a disturbing trend that will only foster hostility and little understanding/debate.

PS. Not commenting on the debate regarding feminism and rape because I do not think that was really the point of the post. But the discussion in comments illustrate the diversity of views that exist regarding any contentious issue.

Bewra Kekra said...

Feeding the troll, sorry. (Mock Turtle, by the way, is too good a name for a troll.)

You may be discussing like an adult, but hardly a rational one. Saying that something is a fact, does not make it so.

That fact is that, in trying to paint the all the males of the human species black, you are actually justifying rape.

The fact is, that if rape were "natural" as you so authoritatively claim, no one and I mean NO one, would be protesting it.

The fact is - and any person with a rudimentary knowledge of biology would tell you - that sexual attacks of the dominant against the submissive are a creation of twisted human minds. For nearly all species of animals sex is an urge that comes up, say once a month, and you find packs of extremely horny males running after extremely horny females and the winner (this may be judged by the males among themselves, or just as often, by the female) gets laid. If I stretched the above example to humans, I would not expect to be taken seriously. Neither should you.

The fact is that rape is a crime, just as murder is a crime - and the people committing these crimes know that. And they know that they do not have the approval of humankind in general, and will endure punishment if caught, but still go ahead. If I read in the newspaper that a woman murdered a child, say - would I be justified in assuming that you, Mock Turtle, just by virtue of being a woman, are a potential murderer? More than that, that ALL women are potential murders and I should scream and shout and ask them to prove that they are not, before I judge them innocent?

And lest you accuse me of twisting the issue - the issue is not whether rape (or any other form of force / subjugation for that matter) is bad or whether something should be done to minimize it. Of course it is, and of course things need to be done. The issue is 'what?' and 'how?' and the fact that shrieking pseudo-feminists like you, who sit in the comfort of their homes and do nothing except rail against all of man-kind do no justice to the issue and others who are genuinely concerned and involved.

Oh, and by the way, do make sure you read posts before replying to them – no where, is Falstaff “encouraging women to walk down shady alleys in bad neighborhoods just to prove a point.” Go back and read again – “I'm not encouraging anyone to go wandering about the streets of Delhi at 2 in the morning wearing a mini-skirt. But I'm willing to defend her right to do so.”

You may begin ranting again, now.

Falstaff said...

MT: You call it rational debate, I see nothing but apologism for what is a terrible crime. I could make the 'natural urge' and 'victim of circumstance' argument for pretty much any crime you care to come up with. As far as I'm concerned, all this psycho-evolutionary mumbo-jumbo about where rape comes from serves no purpose except letting rapists off easy. Still, you're welcome to delve into it if you like - as long as we're clear that none of this changes by the slightest iota the responsibility of the rapist for his own actions, and therefore his eligibility for the strictest censure and punishment. I still don't buy the 'it's a possibility that lies dormant in every man' (that incidentally, is very close to what Dworkin's saying) in the sense of adult inviduals. You're saying that rape is deviant behaviour conditioned from childhood. All the more reason to weed out the deviants, and to attack the prejudices that reinforce genderist stereotypes.

Oh, and as bewra kekra says, I didn't say women should go to dangerous places to make a point, I said that women should go where they want to, when they want to, and I refuse to advise them against it, or argue that any violence they encounter could have been avoided if only they'd stayed meekly at home.

hatshepsut: Thanks for the references. I have actually read the Greer, but the June Jordan is new to me. Shall find.

Just to be clear: everything I said on Aishwarya's post was meant to be a critique of Dworkin and her version of feminism - I wasn't for a moment implying that she's representative of the sum total of feminist thought (I'm not that well read on feminism, but I've read enough to know that), on the contrary, I was saying precisely that she shouldn't be representative of feminism at all, because people like her do a lot of damage to what is otherwise a perfectly good cause.

And yes, the multiplicity of feminist voices and the fact that most of us end up taking whichever branch we happen to read as the 'authentic feminism', rather like the blind men of Hindoostan is a serious problem. I think it would be hugely useful, actually if feminism could actually delineate some of these sub-camps and give names to them so we could discuss them more efficiently (maybe that classification already exists and I just don't know about it - in which case I'd love to hear).

Finally, on the legal issues: I recognise that it's a difficult problem, and not one that I personally have a solution to - I'm hardly an expert on law or gender issues. The point is that instead of seeing rants like Dworkin's it would be nice to see a proposal that laid out a potential solution to the legal quandaries - highlighting the trade-offs involved. I don't know what that would be, but I'm sure there are people out there who've thought long and hard about this and have a point of view. I'd love to see those point of views discussed in public, and if some sort of petition / action emerged out of that discussion I'd be happy to sign / support it any way I can.

Neela: I don't think Supremely INtelligent Being-ness is involved - I suspect a combination of consulting experience and PhD training will do it.

And ya, right, I'm jealous of your ugly, soulless building. At least my office has character.

madhat: I couldn't agree more. I think the issue is one of level of detail. At a very, very detailed level, the for or against dichotomy often works. It's when we start abstracting from that to higher order discussions that we get it wrong. Take the reservations thing. at the level of '50% reservations for OBCs in IITs and IIMs' it is for or against. But there are dozens of reasons why you could be against the proposal, all different. At the level of 'helping the backward classes' there is no for or against. There's just a range of views on what form that support should take.

But I think the issue isn't just plurality of viewpoints all lumped into one term, it's also plurality of identities being overlooked for narrow identity definitions. The point is very similar to the one that Sen makes in Identity and Violence (which I talk about here:
http://momus.wordpress.com/2006/05/14/same-difference/
The real danger is in lumping not ideas, but people into categories (like male, upper-caste, muslim) and assuming that this tells us what their views are. That kind of thinking not only shifts the debate from differences between ideas to differences between people, it also strongly reinforces the narrow 'for and against' kind of thinking, because it makes it easy to ignore what the other person is actually saying and assume that he or she has mala fide intent, based purely on who he or she is. It's the "he doesn't agree with Dworking because he's a man" argument.

bewra kekra: thanks for the quote - it's good to know someone reads these things. the rest is between you and MT. enjoy.

MockTurtle said...

Ok, so let's break it down into simple points.

- Rape does stem from animal (natural) instincts - the instinct to dominate and the instinct to fornicate. (For the imbecile who ranted on this post about the phenomenon not existing in the animal world - watch the Discovery channel or read this book)

- Most men do not act on their animal instincts, but there are a vast number who lead desperate lives or who feel that they can get away with anything. You can call these people the criminal class, the socially backward or the under priviledged, but that does not take away from the fact that they exist and always will. Trying to "weed out the deviants" is like attempting to empty the sea with a tea cup.

- If you want to stop a phenomenon like rape you need to address it squarely and unemotionally. First avoid dangerous situations and second deter the criminal. When you say that you "refuse to advise" women to avoid places and situations that are risky, it flies in the face of practically every handbook that women write for other women to avoid rape.

- Detering the criminal is probably the area where the most can be done. Arab countries have low incidences of rape because in addition to hiding their women away they also punish the crime with death. While I'm not advocating for harshness on that scale, it is probably the only rational path to go down if you want to put an end to rape.

Falstaff said...

MT: Okay, you want to deal in interpretive mythologies, try this one:

"Rape is not about sex. It is about insecure men who feel threatened by women and feel they can 'dominate' them through violence. It's the ugliest manifestation of a desperate power struggle. All this crap you keep spouting about sexual instincts is arrant nonsense."

Or this one:

"Violence against women is an innate trait. There are men who are rapists and men who are not. Economic deprivation has nothing to do with it. Except that poor men who rape are more likely to get caught / sentenced".

I'm not saying the arguments above are true, necessarily. I'm saying they're as true or false as any other bogus theory about 'human sexuality' that you can come up with. You want to watch Animal Planet and come up with 'scientific facts' about human behaviour, be my guest. Don't expect me to buy into that kind of psuedo-science.

The only purpose your 'unemotional' theory serves, as far as I can see, is to justify the unjustifiable. To say "oh, poor rapists. They're deprived and underpriviliged which is why they rape" or "they're only doing what comes naturally to man, after all". That's how patriarchy functions. That's how it gains power. And that's rubbish. These are not people with deprived childhoods acting out their natural inclinations. These are sick deviants. I know plenty of teenage boys from terribly deprived homes who are perfectly decent to women. All that this argument of yours amounts to is a ridiculous attempt to justify their actions. And I don't accept that. Period.

Oh, and let's be clear - the rape 'issue' isn't just about prevention of rape. It's also about rehabilitation of the victims, of ensuring that they get the support they need and deserve. And the first step to achieving that is to recognise that they're victims, pure and simple. They are not stupid women who could have avoided what happened to them. They are not responsible. A woman gets raped and you want to tell her that she should have been smart enough not to go there? How vile is that?

Obviously there are places and times where it's a bad idea to go. That's true for men as much as it is for women. There are lots of places I wouldn't advise anyone to go - places I wouldn't go myself. But I wouldn't offer different advice to men and women. I wouldn't say - oh, I can go out to such and such a place and such and such a time, but you shouldn't because you're a woman. Or you shouldn't wear that because you're just asking for trouble. Saying that is actively advancing the patriarch's cause.

Alok said...

Falstaff: Finding a "natural" cause of some behaviour is not the same as justifying it at all. There is a world of difference between "what is" and "what ought to be". In moral philosophy it is called naturalistic fallacy. You can not justify something by calling it "natural".

But that doesn't mean we should not attempt to find out where that urge for violence, domination and rape comes from. Is it from culture or environment or is it something more fundamental? And I think it is a purely scientific and empirical problem. And I think there are respectable scientists working to find exactly that. I am surprised you call it "pseudo-science" because some of the best names in contemporary science would tell you how rigorous their field is -- try books by EO Wilson, Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker etc..

And I know this has absolutely nothing to do with your original post with which I agree wholeheartedly. :)
And I am not surprised at all with your finding issues with Dworkin's version of paranoid anti-liberalism when it comes to feminist action. Just check out her solution to the porn menace...

MockTurtle said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MockTurtle said...

Ok, now I don't even know what you're arguing about anymore.
You seem to vacillate between agreeing with me, that if you want to avoid being a victim of crime you should avoid dangerous environments, and continuing with the boneheaded notion that women should not be discouraged from entering potentially risky situations.
Also, I have never advocated different advice for men and women. To avoid becoming a victim of rape you need to use your common sense, this is also true for any man or woman who wants to avoid becoming a victim of any other crime.
As for calling the behavioral evolution a "pseudo-science" - come on! Now I know you're arguing just for the sake of it. You don't believe in evolution now? Was Scopes in vain? I never put you down for an ultra-conservative ass.
Anyway, here's my argument in a nutshell. All men have a set of basic urges - sex, food etc. The reason that the average man does not rape or steal food is because he has a more evolved ego and superego that keeps his instincts in check.
Some people cannot or choose not to control their id. They act, in disregard to social mores, to fulfill everyday instincts. This does not justify the crimes they commit (What does 'justify' even mean?). It just provides an explanation for the act, for a rational person who wants to cure the disease instead of weeping over its symptoms.

bewra kekra said...

To my dear Mock Turtle.

This imbecile knows that the the book you pointed me to is a study of chimpanzees in captivity - hardly a "natural" state. De Waal also takes pains to make clear that you should not read too much into such connections.

That out of the way -

You say your basic argument is that "men have basic urges - sex, food etc." Am I to assume that you mean men as in humankind? Or men as in the male of the species? If it is the latter, do you mean to say that sex and food are something that women do not want? Or if it is the former, am I to draw from this the conclusion that all women too are actually barely contained rapists?

Something tells me you'd not like to see your logic extrapolated to that area.

As for your other arguments, it is plain to see that you're toning down your words from that assinine first comment, while defending them with increasing belligerence. It's obvious that you don't know what you are arguing about, so (even though this isn't my blog) please refrain from making more of a fool of yourself, think things through and then post. We may have a sane discussion, then.

Falstaff said...

Alok: Oh, I"m not saying the scientific pursuit of the causes of human behaviour is psuedo science. I'm saying Mock Turtle's watching Animal Planet and reading Freud for Dummies and then deciding that rape is all about the 'animal instincts' that some men cannot control is pseudo science. If you're at all familiar with the psych literature (of which Dawkins and co. are more the populist end) you know that human action is the result of a massive complex of cognitive and contingent forces, open to multiple interpretation and almost impossible to find a determinate cause for. It's not as simple as "everyone has a sex urge, some people can't control it". That's nonsense.

Hatshepsut mentioned Greer. Greer writes:

"we have realized at last that rape has nothing to do with lust and everything to do with loathing; sexual harassment too is based in hatred and resentment of the female interloper" (The Whole Woman).

And yet, MT, because he watches Animal Planet, KNOWS that Greer is wrong. That's just tripe.

And I know that technically saying something is natural is not justifying it - but a) it's a common enough fallacy - one regularly evoked by people who want to justify rape b) there's no reason to believe that rape is natural - that innate sexual urge is a dominant or even important driver of rape crimes (except for MT's armchair theories) c) By assuming that it is driven by uncontrollable sex urges, we are absolving the actual perpetrator of all responsibility of it - the act may not be justified, but the 'fault' for it lies with something external to the actual criminal. That's suspiciously convenient for the patriarchs isn't it? d) It also implicitly implies that there's no point doing anything about changing perceptions of rape or any of the other stuff the feminists want - because it's not going to change 'the fundamental nature of man'.

Bottomline: We don't have the science to truly understand the motivations for human action. We only have our interpretations of it, and some experimental and emperical work to back up our different theories. We're not in a position to say what really drives rape (or even to say that it's the same or similar causes in every case). We're not in a position to even be able to tease apart ex-post what the 'cause' might have been. We're almost certainly not in a position to fix it. So the best thing we can do is stick to the clear principle that people who commit rape do so of their own free will and are therefore deserving of punishment. Anything else is just contributing to the the problem.

MT: Okay, so we're agreed that women should be advised not to go to places where no reasonable safety consciousness person wouldn't go. (As if they weren't doing that already. As if that's going to make any difference to the incidence of rape / sexual harassment).

And please - your argument does not follow directly from evolution. Men evolved from animals, therefore the male urge to rape can only come from animal instincts that he's unable to control. And this inane 'insight' of yours will help us solve the problem how, exactly? If you want to claim science for your side find me some emperical evidence. Find me a means of refuting the theories I propounded in my last comment, and a test that would lay your theory open to refutation, but uphold it. Otherwise don't try to disguise your own prejudices under the name of science.

MockTurtle said...

Not really sure why you're behaving like an upset child today, Falstaff. Did the rebuke heaped on you by Aishwarya's readers cut you to the quick, spurring you to launch vapid, Quixotic attacks on anyone you percieve as not toeing the line with the feminist point of view, thereby hoping to enhance your standing in their eyes?
Isn't this what your blog posting was all about in the first place? What happened to all the talk of "Who's not for you is NOT against you" and "Disagreement with means is not disagreement with ends"?
If I am in agreement with you that rape is a terrible thing and that something must be done to stop it, why does my opinion of the cause of rape irk you so? Or were those rules applicable to everyone but yourself?
Let me tell you a story from 10 years ago. Our mess boy in college once came to my friends for help because his uncle was attacking his mother. Being in the student union at the time, someone came to me and I got a group together to go over to the slum where they lived. It was too late of course and by the time we reached the drunken uncle had finished raping his own sister and a group of their neighbors had done nothing out of fear of the uncle, and because they claimed that his sister was a 'loose woman' anyway. After giving the drunkard a sound thrashing we turned him over to the police station. The cops took an FIR from me (the boy's mother refused to accompany us) and then - they let the man go. Do you know why? It turned out that rape in Indian slums is a very common thing. It happens with such regularity that it is accepted as a fact of life by rapist, victim and policeman alike. Most victims don't even complain because they're terrified of the police. The perpetrators look upon it as their natural right.
This is what I mean by crimes being perpetuated by circumstances, not simply by sick and twisted people.
It is not possible to take the thought of rape out of the minds of every man. It exists and there will always be some who will act on the thought. These are not the people who read the fancy arguments on the blogosphere or who are influenced by marches or studies or shows of solidarity. For them, rape is an extension of their natural sex drive and they will grab at any chance they get.
Marauding armies until the recent past always looked forward to raping the women of the lands they defeated (not just in the past - look at Darfour), as a part of the spoils of war. It was not because each of these soldiers had a mental disorder, but because that's just the way things were done back then. Again, its not pleasant, but its the truth.
The only way to curb this form of rape is by improving social structure, perhaps by implementing draconian laws to castrate or execute rapists with a short and simple trial. But is that the country you want to live in? A balance needs to be found.
My point is simply this. If you consider the disposition towards rape to be some twisted mental defect that has to be individually targeted, then you are fighting the wrong war. Man is at heart a base animal and sometimes some parts of society evolve slower than others. We need to try to change social circumstances to help build a more civil society and thus reduce all crime, including rape.

Falstaff said...

MT: And you think the fact that the police let the man go is a good thing???!!! That because he comes from a slum, it's okay to let him go? That until we solve the problems of poverty we should just let people go on raping with impunity?!!!

All people living in slums are not rapists. Those who are should be treated exactly as we would treat rapists from any other segment of society. Being poor is not an excuse. Being a soldier is not an excuse. You say you want to change social norms - not letting people plead special circumstances based on their social position is the first step to that. Saying "it's okay to rape because you live in a slum and are therefore less evolved" is increasing the problem. That's why I'm horrified. That's why I'm reacting emotionally.

Oh, and question: what happened to the mother? what did you do for her?

Also, as I've said a dozen times already, if you have some evidence for your claim that all men think of rape (other than your own armchair deductions, and self-introspection) let's hear it.

MockTurtle said...

*Sigh*.Ok, I'm running out of ways to say this, while you keep sceaming "So, you think rape is a good thing? You want to justify rape!!?" But being a dilligent (and argumentative) Bong, I will try yet again.
Picture this, you go to the zoo with your family. You're standing in front of the lion cage at feeding time. The big male lion walks over to where the smaller lions are being fed, growls loudly and proceeds to eat their meat while they back off in fear. How do you react? You smile and take a picture. What you just witnessed was armed (or toothed) robbery.
Next you walk over to the monkey cage. The large male Capuchin monkey mounts an unsuspecting female from behind, without asking for consent, and proceeds to have his way with her. Mothers cover their children's eyes, young louts hoot and whistle. Do you call the zoo-keeper to save poor Mrs. Capuchin from rape? I don't think so.
Now flash-back (in black and white) to the Roman invasion of Gaul two thousand years ago. A centurian exhorts his troops to fight hard and think of all the rape and pillage that lies ahead of them when they win. The troops cheer.
Move forward to Katrina-struck New Orleans, law and order breaks down and bands of young men are quickly on the streets. They smile and wave at the cameras as they break into electronics stores. At night they roam around looking for easy targets to rob and rape.
What is similar in each of these situations? It is this - from time immemorial, the strong have always exploited the weak. Dominant members of society have always felt that they have a right to the posessions of the submissive. Among animals, monkeys, ancient and modern man rape and robbery have always been forms of exploitation or ways to claim the spoils of the victor.
When a Pakistani panchayat sentences a woman to be raped by those who have a grouse against her family, it is not that they have all temporarily lost their minds or become sexual deviants, but that they consider the women of that family to be a commodity that can be sacrificed to pay for a crime.
It is only among modern, progressive, law abiding societies that women have stopped being considered property that can be claimed by the strong.
When you claim that rape is solely the domain of the mentally ill, I believe that you are in the minority opinion and that the burden of proof falls squarely upon you (and proof does not constitute a quick Google search for quotations that match your claim).
If there ever was an armchair theory - it is yours. That is what Aishwarya and her readers were attempting to tell you on her post, and if you could drop that persecution complex of yours for a couple of minutes and try and understand what people are telling you, maybe you would get that.
It is not enough for men to say that it's only a small subset of their sex (which certainly does not include them) that are twisted enough to commit rape. That is simply untrue. The propensity towards rape is a social ill and must be treated as such.

MockTurtle said...

...oh, and as regards my mess boy's mother. This isn't a fairy tale and it has no fairy tale ending. That night was the last I saw or heard of either the rapist or his victim. We were college kids - when the victim told us to get out we left her alone. As for her brother, we figured the hiding we gave him was punishment enough.

MockTurtle said...

..and before you say it again - I don't think anything is a 'good thing' or a 'bad thing'. I believe in true and false, not right and wrong. I may not like a situation, but that does not mean that the situation does not exist. My opinion on the moral right or wrong of the matter is irrelevant to the discussion.

warya said...

Hmm I'm not even sure I should jump into such an emotionally charged battle (what with this being my first comment on your blog), but I cannot help myself.

Falstaff, you seem to be misreading mockturtle's comments almost on purpose. Are you doing this for effect? I don't think anyone condones the police letting the man go. No one is saying that rape should continue unabated until poverty somehow disappears, or that all people who live in slums are rapists.
But is it really so horrible to try and understand what it is that drives rape? Surely we agree that it is a crime and should be treated as such. Is trying to understand the circumstances that surround and contribute to a crime the same as making excuses for it?
That said, I do not agree that all men think of rape, I take issue with the liberal use of Animal Planet in this discussion and I see people's objections to the Dworkin speech. But rape is a cuttingly emotional issue, you know. It is difficult for women in particular, I think, to talk of it with so-called rationality because it invokes a visceral response. I don't mean to pull gender on you here, but I don't think sympathetic men can even begin to understand the horror of it (in a hopelessly trivial aside, let us say it is kind of like my trying to understand the humiliation of impotence). Not at all saying that men cannot feel strongly about it as well. Do go ahead and use this as a plot device to ridicule me, but rape evokes in me an anger I didn't even know I was capable of, an anger against all men. Is this justified? Of course not. But it is there nonetheless, and it seems like the anger of centuries, and the anger of all women.

Rape is one of the unforgivable crimes, along with child abuse (and in my opinion, cruelty to animals). For isn't a similar impulse involved? Violence against a physically weaker being, and a reliance on the culture of silence or uncaring (mental illness is a minefield i'm not about to walk now). When the people in that slum didn't do anything for the woman who was raped, or she refused to go to the police to file a complaint, don't you see this as a massive problem as well? I agree with MT that it is a social ill we are talking of here. And we do need a system of rehabilitation for the victims (we seem to think that a bit of fresh air and time can take care of anything).

You say that the Dworkin approach isn't 'going to help'. I offer a thought: perhaps it is not always about quantifiable results? Perhaps, to address an oppression that has gone on since (pardon my French) time immemorial, one has to be willing to hear out the rage and the grief. Dismissing it as a rant does nothing to address the emotional overspill that so many people (women in particular) don't know what to do with. Seeing where a rant springs from is part of finding a solution, I think.

I must say that i found myself nodding vigorously while reading your post, though.

Not bad for a first comment, eh? The longest I've ever written.

Falstaff said...

Warya: Welcome. Good to see your comment.

On my reaction to MT. I don't think I'm misintepreting him. Or only a little (I'm probably being more emotional than I should be, but apologies for rape under the pretence of being reasonable anger me. I would thing you would empathise :-)). My point is the following:

a) Either we agree that rape is an terrible offense, one that social circumstances cannot extenuate and that must be strictly punished no matter what the background of the rapist. In which case I fail to see the point of propounding half-baked, lop-sided theories about the causes of rape, unsupported by any empirical evidence or basis except what MT seens on television.

Or we argue that social circumstances should matter, rapists are products of social conditions and therefore are not to 'blame', in which case we help perpetrate a mentality that sees rape as acceptable.

So MT's argument is either irrelevant, or unacceptable. Either way, I have no wish to debate such foolishness any further.

b) The reason it's a half-baked / lop-sided theory is because it seems to assume that all violence against women can be broken down to a single cause. I can't think of a single human action where the cause-effect relationships are that neat. Least of all rape. There are plenty of theorists out there (see the Greer quote above) who would argue for a dozen other interpretations of why men rape. We have no way of proving / disproving any of them. And the reality is that rape is probably an amalgam of all those different factors. I'm happy to see genuine exploration of what causes rape. MT's 'theory' doesn't do that - it just makes up a reason he seems fond of and pretends that that's all there is to it. It's a clever exercise in fiction.

Worse, it's a work of fiction that takes the one reason among many that is least amenable to change. What solutions does MT offer to attack his One Unique cause of rape - socio-economic development! As if there were nothing else that we could influence to make rape less acceptable. No point changing representations of women in media. No point providing support to rape victims and trying to change the perception of rape in society. No, let's just leave the victims to their fate and sit around and wait for men to evolve. Maybe MT's argument is partially valid. But I fail to see how it's useful.

Animals in the wild do lots of other things, btw. They kill. They maim. They eat their young. Can we assume that we should 'understand' such behaviour among the destitute and not condemn it, because it's 'natural instinct'?

c) As you say yourself, there's no reason to believe that all men think of rape. In my personal opinion that's garbage (MT, of course, takes the convenient route of accusing me of being in denial - easy isn't it - come up with your own pet theory, don't bother proving it, just accuse everyone who disagrees with you of 'not facing the facts').

I know it's easy to fall into the trap of believing that if you're a woman and horrified by the ugliness of rape. I understand that, though i can't (and don't) pretend to share in the outrage. But that assumption is precisely what we need to fight against, because that kind of paranoia is exactly what will keep decent pro-feminist men out of the feminist cause. They won't be able to contribute because women won't trust them. And then the fact that they don't contribute will be used to 'prove' that men don't care. That's the vicious cycle we need to break. MT's argument only adds fuel to that paranoia.

Bottomline: Let's think about MT's 'story'. MT believes that it was okay to let this rapist go. That a 'beating' was punishment enough. So in MT's world, men living in slums can go on raping with impunity and we'll just keep beating them but we won't prosecute them any further because they're slum dwellers and victims of circumstance. Because they live in a social structure where rape is acceptable.

Is that really the kind of society you want to live in? And if not, then do you see why I'm opposed to his argument - given that that kind of society is the logical outcome of it?

MockTurtle said...

Wow! This is like banging my head against a brick wall.
Is anyone else reading this? Can you see how pointless it is to try and discuss anything rationally with Falstaff?

warya said...

A couple of quick responses, yes?

An exploration of social circumstances is essential, and it does not make rape acceptable, but attempts to comprehend the factors that create an environment where it is seen as acceptable. Don't you see the difference? Because rape is tolerated in Indian society, and I think that's what MT meant when he said a beating was punishment enough. Of course it wasn't okay to let the rapist go, he should have been castrated and had his balls stuffed in his mouth...sorry, did i say that out loud? but if he was released, then god, at least he got a thrashing. In your own words, falstaff, we do what we can. We may not be able to change the way the law operates overnight, but at least we could beat up the rapist. Is it a solution? No. Might it make him think twice before attempting such an act again? We can only hope. Not campaigning that he be brought to justice isn't the same as not believing that he should have been.

Secondly, pro-feminist men do contribute all the time, and women do trust them (you). I think we might just want y'all to speak up a bit more and indulge in a little bit of all-round healthy self-loathing. Not too much to ask, surely.

warya said...

note: am not endorsing vigilante justice, so don't you jump at my throat.

Falstaff said...

warya: from my earlier comment:

"I'm happy to see genuine exploration of what causes rape. MT's 'theory' doesn't do that - it just makes up a reason he seems fond of and pretends that that's all there is to it. It's a clever exercise in fiction"

We're back to levels of analysis. I'm not against 'exploration of social circumstances' I'm against half-assed theories that claim that it's all about id and libido and that's it - all that based on visits to the zoo and Animal Planet re-runs. Don't you see the difference? I'd be happy to engage in discussions of real research of why men rape and how much of it is individual vs. social. I'd be happy to think about what could be the various social factors influencing rape and how we could work to change them. I don't see any of that.

You say of course it wasn't okay to let the rapist go. I agree. MT on the other hand says "we figured the hiding we gave him was punishment enough". Not 'we couldn't do any better'. Not we tried to make the case stick, got the press involved, raised a stink about the fact that the police let him go. No. They figured the hiding they gave him was enough. We do what we can is fair argument. But I'm not convinced that nothing more could have been done.

At any rate, if the issue is that the legal system doesn't prosecute rapists, then that's a different issue and we should talk about how we change that. I would think highlighting cases where they let rapists off would be a good place to start. But I'm happy to hear other proposals on how that can be changed. Again, I can't see anything that MT is saying on that - except let's just wait till society evolves by itself.

Notice also, that the inefficiency of the justice system has nothing to do with all that poppycock about animal urges and id . It has nothing to do with the allegation that every man is a potential rapist. It's not even clear to me that it has anything to do with economic deprivation (are police officers who let slum dwellers go stricter when it comes to rapists who are better-off? I doubt it). It seems to be about a flaw in the police system, an attitude that says rape is not a serious crime and it's okay to let people off. That's an attitude we need to change. Let's investigate that attitude and try to figure out how we can change it. Let's not spend our time visiting zoos and philosophically bemoaning the fundamental beastliness of man. That won't help.

Anonymous said...

eeehh..agree w/ falstaff, disagree vigorously w/ turtle-boy. falstaff very able to defend his own stance, so won't bother commenting on it. But.
to the following comment,

"I think it would be hugely useful, actually if feminism could actually delineate some of these sub-camps and give names to them so we could discuss them more efficiently (maybe that classification already exists and I just don't know about it - in which case I'd love to hear)."

Yes, there are delineations. Lots of delineations. Radical feminism; liberal feminism; new-wave feminism. If I was less lazy, or my feminist theory classes were less in the distant past, I would look 'em up for you.

warya said...

I do see the difference (i did allude to my dissatisfaction with comparisons to animal behaviour earlier), but i was responding to:
"Or we argue that social circumstances should matter, rapists are products of social conditions and therefore are not to 'blame', in which case we help perpetrate a mentality that sees rape as acceptable."

Because to an extent, we are all products of social conditions, although it doesn't absolve us of responsibility.

You're not being fair, you know. In your original post, you mentioned the guilt that comes from being told that you're not doing anything, or not doing enough. Some of us take up activism or start an NGO. Some of us get the press involved, raise a stink. Some of us beat up the offender. Some of us write about it. You weren't there, and don't know the circumstances. The woman might not have wanted to press charges. She didn't even go to the police station. Anyway, this is beside the point.

We are otherwise basically saying the same thing, and I'm not here to argue MT's points of view, so that will be all from me tonight. Thank you for an interesting argument, though. And for the contempt :)

warya said...

note: Not beside the point, actually very much to the point, but you know that already. So I will stop now.

Falstaff said...

warya: Fair enough. So I'll amend my statement, changes in brackets []

We have two options.

Either we agree that rape is an terrible offense, one that social circumstances cannot extenuate and that must be strictly punished no matter what the background of the rapist. [That said, it's useful to logically and empirically explore the many different causes of rape that will help us to design initiatives that will help bring down its incidence. I STILL] fail to see the point of propounding half-baked, lop-sided theories about the causes of rape, unsupported by any empirical evidence or basis except what MT seens on television. [And then assuming that they're true, and accusing anyone who doesn't agree with them of being in denial. ]

Or we argue that social circumstances should matter, rapists are products of social conditions and therefore are not to 'blame', in which case we help perpetrate a mentality that sees rape as acceptable.

There. Now you're saying that MT is saying the former, not the latter. Okay, maybe. It still doesn't change the fact that his theory on why rape happens is sheer nonsense, and does nothing to help bring us any closer to a solution. On the contrary, it leads logically to a view that there's no point doing anything (except maybe beating up the odd offender), because we're all descended from animals and every man is a potential rapist.

You say I'm being unfair and contemptuous. Maybe. But in a dozen comments on this blog he hasn't provided a single reason for us to believe his theory (other than the fact that he seems to believe it), or a single actionable step that could come out of said theory, despite the fact that I've repeatedly asked for both. All I have is one story, selected by him, as to how rape is dealt with.
Maybe there were extenuating circumstances. Maybe he has a lot of other ideas on how rape can be solved. Why doesn't he share these with us then? Why the secrecy? Given that in a day's worth of comments not a single one has come up, I can only assume that he has no evidence and he has no other solutions.

You're telling me he's not saying that the fact that rape comes from a natural sexual urge (however questionable that assumption may be) is justification for rape. Okay. What is he saying then? It's not a justification. It can't be solved. Changing the laws to make them more severe won't help. So we're all supposed to sit around and feel sad that man is an animal? What other logical conclusion is there? What am I missing?

Finally, the story. Given that that's his one shining example of how rape is handled, I can only assume that that's how he thinks it should be handled. And I disagree with that. If he thinks that was the wrong way to handle it, if he thinks there were reasons why it was the only way it could be handled, surely it would have been sensible to talk about them. It's his example, not mine, after all. I could go on assuming that those reasons exist and he just hasn't told us about them. That, apparently, would be fair. Equally, I could assume that the rapist he talks about actually had plenty of reasons for what he did, even though he didn't share them with us. Maybe that would be fair too.

I'm trying not to be contemptuous, believe me. I'm trying to be fair. I'm trying to be patient. But half a dozen repetitions of some bogus theory that tells me I'm a potential rapist without providing a single scrap of evidence for it is a little more than I can take.

bewra kekra said...

Mock Turtle, you didn't enlighten me on this point:

You say your basic argument is that "men have basic urges - sex, food etc." Am I to assume that you mean men as in humankind? Or men as in the male of the species?

If it is the latter, do you mean to say that sex and food are something that women do not want/need?

Or if it is the former, am I to draw from this the conclusion that all women too are actually barely contained rapists?

MockTurtle said...

Ok, let me try to be as clear about my position as possible, since I am obviously talking to someone who does not want to understand another point of view, or pehaps is not intelligent enough to do so.

1) I believe that rape is a social problem and not just an issue with a few individuals. As proof I give you (once again) the case of Mukhtar Mai, who in 2002 was sentenced to be gang-raped by a village Panchayat in Pakistan. This is not as uncommon as you may think in some parts of the world. Also (again) I cite the example of Darfour and other war zones where marauding armies or militias rape in large scale as a part of the spoils of their victory. In all these cases, the perpetrators were not sexual deviants, but were actually acting in accordance with the notions of their peers. Rape in smaller, individual cases also results from men who believe they have a right to fulfil their sexual desires on unwilling women. All this, I believe, roots from a long standing societal view of women as property and not as individuals.

2) I believe that the basic seed for rape exists in every sexually active man. When you see a pretty girl in the street and have a sexual thought about her (without her consent) - that, right there, is the basic seed for rape. If you claim you've never had one, then go back and sit under your Bodhi tree where you belong.
The fact that you do not act on your thought and that your thought does not involve the use of force is what differentiates you from animals and rapists (is there a difference?)

3) To solve rape, I say (as I have repeatedly) it is not enough to simply wait for it to happen and then hold forth the perpetrator as a sexual deviant and punish him. It is also imperative to recognize the social reasons that allow men to treat women as mere sexual objects. Once society recognizes this, it will be neccessary to draft harsher laws to help alter the perception that women are fair game and to ensure that as a society we think twice before exploiting them. But without changing social attitudes, any other solution treats the symptom and not the disease.

4) All this has been said before at length, but now I ask you - what exactly is your suggestion Falstaff? I gather that you are saying that rapists are not normal members of society in that their thought process is so radically different from yours, regardless of social influence, that they are each somehow deviant. Do you not consider it too much of a coincidence that all pillaging armies are comprised of similarly mentally deranged people and that every member of the panchayat that sentenced Ms Mai in Pakistan had the same mental affliction? And what about all those Bihari politicians who wear their rape cases as badges of honor? Are they all similarly handicaped?

Can you honestly tell me that you see no corellation whatsoever between a society's perception of women and its occurences of rape?

Here's your chance to prove that when you make statements such as "Meaningful discussion of public issues doesn't just involve agreement on what the problem is" - it is not just hypocritical blather.

MadHat said...

@falstaff: That is a very interesting point you make. If you do divide any point of view into atomic units, the dichotomy would work. Yes, that is true. Though, I do not think if '50% reservation for IITs and IIMs' would be considered as an atomic unit.
Yeah, I am in the process of reading the Sen book. If people want a short intro to the book, they can hear Rushdie and Sen talking about it here.

It's the "he doesn't agree with Dworking because he's a man" argument.

Not sure if Aishwarya is really saying that.

PS. My comment seems to out of context amidst all this discussion about rape and man. But I have to say that I am apalled by what MockTurtle is saying...

Falstaff said...

MT: Ah, but I don't disagree with either point 1 or point 3. I never have. I've said all along that there are multiple causes for rape, both social and individual. You're the one who seemed to be insisting that it was all about id and ego and similar rubbish.

I agree that an exploration of the social attitudes that lead to rape are warranted, and that credible attempts to solve rape must be based on initiatives that attack these attitudes. I contend (as you now seem to agree) that the fact that rape is in accordance with the general prevailing attitude no way alleviates the gravity of the crime or the stringency of punishment it deserves. Social influence may be a cause, but it's not, in any measure, an excuse.

I don't agree that having sexual thoughts about a woman equals a propensity to rape. More importantly, I don't see what any of that has to do with the argument you're now making. The social attitudes that need to be changed have nothing to do with evolution or animal spirits - they are social constructions created by men. And they are amenable to change through a number of initiatives, many of them involving change in the legal system, others involving use of the media, yet others involving initiatives in education. None of that has anything to do with 'man as an almost-beast'. If this is what you were trying to say, why didn't you just say it to start with, instead of blithering on about how rich people who have enough food to eat can control their id, and animals in zoos? Oh, never mind.

I've never said that society had no influence on rape. That's purely your imagination at work again. My point all along has been that the causes of rape are many and complex and at all levels of analysis: social, individual, family, community, etc. Rape may be influenced by circumstance but is not a product of it. Individual choice exists. And making it all about sex, and only about sex, is silly. I said:

" Rape is not about sex. It is about insecure men who feel threatened by women and feel they can 'dominate' them through violence. It's the ugliest manifestation of a desperate power struggle."

That's a social argument. I also said:

"human action is the result of a massive complex of cognitive and contingent forces" (contingency, of course, is social, as is cognition);

and

" We're back to levels of analysis. I'm not against 'exploration of social circumstances' I'm against half-assed theories that claim that it's all about id and libido and that's it...I'd be happy to engage in discussions of real research of why men rape and how much of it is individual vs. social. I'd be happy to think about what could be the various social factors influencing rape and how we could work to change them"

I quoted Greer as saying that sexual harassment is based on resentment of the female interloper. Again, a social argument.

As usual, you weren't reading. Or were reading selectively. I made one statement that said that rape was entirely about innate tendencies and had nothing to do with social factors. It was a statement in quotes. It was a deliberately obtuse statement meant to illustrate how meaningless theories that made a single factor the entire basis of rape, such as your 'it's all about who can control their sexual urges' theory, were. I actually say: "I'm not saying the arguments above are true, necessarily. I'm saying they're as true or false as any other bogus theory about 'human sexuality' that you can come up with." The terms I used to describe that statement are 'interpretive mythology' and 'psuedo science'. Yet you claim that is my 'stand'. Sigh. My own fault for assuming you were capable of understanding nuanced argument, I suppose.

At any rate, now that we agree that attacking rape is about understanding and changing attitudes towards women and not about beating men up and letting them go because they happen to come from slums, or getting women in particular to stay at home and dress conservatively, can we please stop this madness? Or do you have any other red-herrings you want to advance to make this even more pointless?

Falstaff said...

madhat: yes. The point, of course, is that we very rarely deal in unambiguous units. Which is why we need to remember that opposition to a particular proposal can come from many causes.

There's this silly rhyme I read somewhere. It goes:

"On his death-bed poor Lubin lies:
His spouse is in despair:
With frequent sobs, and mutual cries,
They both express their care.

A different cause, says Parson Sly,
The same effect may give:
Poor Lubin fears that he may die;
His wife, that he may live."

- Matthew Prior.

The key is the 'different cause giving same effect' line. That's why we need to take the trouble to understand why someone opposes us rather than assuming that if they oppose us at all, they must be against everything we're saying.

And I know Aishwarya isn't saying that. But it is my impression that other people on that comment board are. Maybe I'm just being paranoid. But being described as a male troll who doesn't care about security for women because I question Dworkin is a little extreme, I think.

Anonymous said...

As a woman, I am so apalled with views held by MockTurtle(though I know not why given that such a view is neither new nor unique to MockTurtle), that I am complelled to pen down is this brief protest. To justify rape on such superfluous and nonsensical grounds is abhorrent. And reading the his/her comments makes me momentarily sadder as I ask myself "Education - whither does it take one?"
Annamika

MadHat said...

True. An opinion on something is actually an amalgamation of opinions on various little things and how much weightage one gives to each different thing.
But more often than not, we tend to look at the end and not the path. This happens for a variety of reasons. One reason that is purely realistic is that one does not have the time to listen, assimilate and understand each different person's point of view. And a dichotomy is easier to understand than a complex amalgamation of reasons.
Even if you buy into the dichotomy, it helps if you understand that this is a simplistic view.

I read your critique of Sen's book. Yes, I did notice the repeatitions. I will comment on that after I read the entire book.

Tabula Rasa said...

what an entertaining debate to happen in on! two of the best name-slingers repeatedly firing past each other -- good stuff, guys!

my only contribution is this -- falstaff, when you say

"Social influence may be a cause, but it's not, in any measure, an excuse."

aren't you mixing up an "excuse" / a "justification" (as annamika would have it) with an "explanation" (which was my reading of mt's pov)? i don't know if you've read stephen pinker or not, but that's the point he keeps coming back to -- people have a gut hate for these sociobiological type theories, since they take explanations to be justifications (and then attribute them to the person making them).

Falstaff said...

tr: Sigh. I'm so sick of saying this. I KNOW that. Believe me, my understanding of sociological theory goes way beyond reading people like Pinker. I'm not saying for a minute that social influences being a cause means it's a justification. I'm saying exactly what you're saying - that they're not.

It's not clear to me that that is what MT was saying. It may be your reading of his pov, it wasn't, and isn't, mine. Statements that say that rape is 'nothing more' than a social phenomenon, statements that say a beating is punishment enough for a rapist who comes from a slum, suggest to me that MT is saying we should treat rapists differently based on their social background. I was just clarifying, repeat clarifying, that I don't agree with that. So we could be CLEAR that we weren't saying that social causation was justification. All he needed to say was, yes, I agree, rapists should be treated equally no matter what their social circumstances. And then he could have gone on propounding whatever poppycock theories about the nature of said social causation as he wanted.

But in a dozen comments he never said that. Instead he kept making arguments that at least suggested that he might have sympathy for rapists based on their social circumstances (see the bit about soldiers seeing rape as normal for instance).

Maybe I was misinterpreting him. But I think it's an important enough point to have clearly stated, rather than obfuscated behind some mumbo-jumbo about id and super-ego, leaving it open to misinterpretation. I was just trying to make sure that there was no such misinterpretation possible. Period.

e.g. From my earlier comment, read this:

"Either we agree that rape is an terrible offense, one that social circumstances cannot extenuate and that must be strictly punished no matter what the background of the rapist. In which case I fail to see the point of propounding half-baked, lop-sided theories about the causes of rape, unsupported by any empirical evidence or basis except what MT seens on television.

Or we argue that social circumstances should matter, rapists are products of social conditions and therefore are not to 'blame', in which case we help perpetrate a mentality that sees rape as acceptable.

So MT's argument is either irrelevant, or unacceptable. Either way, I have no wish to debate such foolishness any further."

Read that last paragraph again. Can I be more clear about the fact that I don't know which interpretation MT is taking? That I'm not saying he's assuming one or the other, I just can't tell. What part of that comment did you not follow?

Falstaff said...

P.S. My apologies for the somewhat trenchant reply, but I'm tired of people taking things I say out of context and grossly misrepresenting them.

MockTurtle said...

Falstaff, since you are so fond of quoting yourself to show how you are being persecuted, I thought I'd do the same, since you obviously need to have your face rubbed in a fact to recognize it. 'My own fault for assuming you were capable of understanding nuanced argument'.
As the comments below show, I have repeatedly said that I believe that rapists are criminals who should be harshly punished, and that behavioral evolution should be used to understand the motivations behind rape so as to search for a social solution, and not to justify the individual act.
It was you that was too obtuse to understand that.

"This does not justify the crimes they commit (What does 'justify' even mean?). It just provides an explanation for the act, for a rational person who wants to cure the disease instead of weeping over its symptoms."

"To solve rape, I say (as I have repeatedly) it is not enough to simply wait for it to happen and then hold forth the perpetrator as a sexual deviant and punish him. It is also imperative to recognize the social reasons that allow men to treat women as mere sexual objects."

"The only way to curb this form of rape is by improving social structure, perhaps by implementing draconian laws to castrate or execute rapists with a short and simple trial."

"Rape is a serious crime, just like other serious crimes. It is committed by the same criminals who commit other serious crimes. And just like other serious crimes, the circumstances are partially to blame."

"Detering the criminal is probably the area where the most can be done. Arab countries have low incidences of rape because in addition to hiding their women away they also punish the crime with death."

Furthermore, I never once said that "beating is punishment enough for a rapist who comes from a slum". I said that as college kids we figured it was all the punishment that we could mete out. What were you expecting us to do? - murder him?

I was planning to give your juvenile petulance a pass until I saw you attempt to bite off poor TR's head when he stuck it in to say 'Hi'. You are normally an intelligent and entertaining writer, but of late you have been behaving like a cranky, one-dimensional, arrogant ass!

Falstaff said...

MT: Thanks. But you're only proviing my case. Notice that in all those quotes no where do you say that rapists should get the same punishment independent of social status. Which was the only point I wanted clarified. I never thought you were saying that rapists shouldn't be punished. only that they should be punished differently. Nothing you say in any of these quotes says or implies that you don't believe in easier punishment for the socially backward. The example you cite does actually let someone off easy, because he comes from a slum. Based on that, I think it's perfectly reasonable to question whether you think people from different social backgrounds should be treated differently.

And you emphatically did not say that a beating was the only punishment you thought you could meet out. You said you thought it was enough. There's a big difference. Also, if the point of that example wasn't to say how you thought rape should be handled, why the hell did you bring it up? Your tone throughout that example clearly implied you think you did the right thing. Nothing in that comment suggested that you felt helpless, or felt that you hadn't done enough. And I still don't know why you couldn't have made the case stick.

You say I'm being petulant. You say I'm being cranky. Forgive me for being stickler enough to want to be completely clear on a point as important as the fact that social causation does not alleviate the heniousness of rape as a crime. Forgive me for being angry when people say things like "we should advise women to stay at home and wear conservative clothes" or that "rape is a natural male tendency". If you're reading the comments on this post you know that I'm not the only one who thinks your stand on this is incoherent at best, execrable at worst. If you find that boorish or one-dimensional, do me a favour and stay off my blog. You won't be missed.

MockTurtle said...

Fine, so I did not explicitly state that all rapists should receive the same punishment, but neither did I state that they should not. Why would you assume that I meant one or the other? You never directly asked for clarification of that one nuance.

Yes, in the one example that I was exposed to the rapist got off with just a beating, but that was not for any want of effort on my part. The point of the example was to display social apathy towards rape in India. An attitude that I said needed mending.

As for doing the 'right thing', I have told you repeatedly that I am not claiming that anything is right or wrong, I'm just laying out the facts as I see them.

Regarding the comments on your post, you'll see that a lot of your more intelligent readers have repeatedly tried to tell you that your assumptions of my arguments were way off.

And who was it that you claim said "we should advise women to stay at home and wear conservative clothes" or that "rape is a natural male tendency"? Certainly not me. I only said that women should use common sense to avoid dangerous situations and that rape is originated in the male desire to dominate and fornicate. There's a world of difference.

Finally, the question of staying out of your play-pen because I don't agree with you; Don't expect me to do you any favors. But I'm glad that your readers got to see first hand that your initial premise for this blog - the whole attitude of accepting diverging points of view and understanding differing means towards the same end - was all mere hypocritical whiffle.

A nonny mouse said...

Mock turtle: You argue with me? NO SOUP FOR YOU!! (Seinfeld fan, anyone?)

Falstaff said...

a nonny mouse: :-). Please, sir, can I have some more?

Actually, more like: Mock Turtle, you don't like my soup? Then don't keep asking for seconds.

A nonny mouse said...

emmm... falstaff...actually i was talking about you behaving like a dick...

Falstaff said...

mouse: Yes, I know. Whatever. You're entitled to your opinion.

I think it's amply clear to anyone who carefully reads the comments on this post that MT's the one who has dramatically changed his stand since his first comment, to the point where he's now denying what he said; whose entire argument has consisted largely of fanciful and dangerous assertions unbacked by any empirical evidence, coupled with meaningless non sequiturs that contributed nothing to the debate; who, unable to attack my arguments, has repeatedly impugned my personal motives, attacking and insulting me instead; and who is now trying to claim that I misrepresented him, where all along I've clearly said that I'm not sure how to interpret what he's saying and would like to get both some clarification of his stand and some evidence of his willingness to accept that there are multiple interpretations of the causation of rape and that his version is far from definitive.

I'm not going to bother carrying on with this because it's clear to me that it's going to take us nowhere. And I see no reason why I should continue to take abuse from someone when I'm not twisting his arm to be here in the first place.

Maybe you're right and I am acting like a dick. I think I have sufficient provocation though.

Oh, and before you go there - I'm happy to accept criticism. I think I've proved that sufficiently in almost a year of blogging, including some fairly trenchant abuse from MT himself on earlier posts. That does not, however, extend to accepting incoherent insults from someone whose definition of 'intelligence' is people who support even some of what he's saying. If other people out there think I'm being unreasonable, and can show me why, I'm happy to apologise. Nothing MT has said has convinced me of that.

Cheshire Cat said...

Falstaff & MT, now don't you two see that you're in love with each other?

Falstaff said...

One last comment on this (I don't really think I need to say this, I'm hoping it's obvious, but just in case).

MT's Argument:

1. Dealing with rape:

a) Changing motivation is impossible:

In his first comment MT says:

"I also know for a fact that removing the motivation behind any kind of crime is practically impossible"

Two comments later he says:

"Detering the criminal is probably the area where the most can be done. ...While I'm not advocating for harshness on that scale, it is probably the only rational path to go down if you want to put an end to rape"

Notice - changing motivations is impossible, the only thing we can do (other than telling women to avoid dangerous situations) is to increase the penalties for rape. Logically, that means that we cannot change social attitudes.

In case there was any doubt about that, MT then says, laying out his argument in a 'nutshell':

"Some people cannot or choose not to control their id. They act, in disregard to social mores, to fulfill everyday instincts."

So social mores are against rape, but this does not deter men who are driven by animal instincts. Logical conclusion: a) social mores do not need changing. b) Changing them won't help because rapists are going against them anyway.

MT does, however, acknowledge that society plays a role in rape. This is what his version of changing social structure is:

"The only way to curb this form of rape is by improving social structure, perhaps by implementing draconian laws to castrate or execute rapists with a short and simple trial.".

Again, no change of attitudes, no emphasis on norms. Just change the laws. Oh, and then he backs away from that as well.

The only logical conclusion to be drawn from all this is that MT does not believe that changing social attitudes is worth trying. No matter what he finally ends up saying.

b) However, exploring 'social' causality is still important.

MT maintains however, that rape is only a social phenomena ("a social phenomena - that's all that rape is"; logically, if it's just a social phenomena then individual responsibility for it cannot be ascribed, but never mind). Some men "cannot" control their ids. Rape is committed by the "vast number of men who lead desperate lives". And we have to understand that and take "a balanced view".

Now, if nothing can change the motivation of men to rape because it's genetically conditioned, then why do we need to understand social causes? By MT's logic (notice, MT's logic, NOT mine), we can't change them, can we? The only thing we can do then is 'understand' and 'take a balanced view'. What could that consist of but leniency for criminals from deprived backgrounds? And if someone can't help themselves (as MT claims) then surely he deserves lesser punishment? If all criminals are to get the same punishment and it's "practically impossible to change motivation" then isn't discussing social motivation a waste of time?

MT claims now that he has been saying all along that we should try to change social attitudes.

"To solve rape, I say (as I have repeatedly) it is not enough to simply wait for it to happen and then hold forth the perpetrator as a sexual deviant and punish him. It is also imperative to recognize the social reasons that allow men to treat women as mere sexual objects. Once society recognizes this, it will be neccessary to draft harsher laws to help alter the perception that women are fair game and to ensure that as a society we think twice before exploiting them. But without changing social attitudes, any other solution treats the symptom and not the disease."

But as the points above show, that's a bare-faced lie. It's not what he's been saying all along - it's what he started saying at the end of the discussion.

2) MT's theory of 'social' causation.

Oh, and while we're about it, lets not forget MT's grand theory of causation of rape. In his first comment he says:

"Men are physically stronger than women and they have the subconscious need to plant their seed in every available womb. That gives them the means and the motivation to commit rape. Nothing anyone can do will ever change that."

This argument is repeated ad nauseam, though no evidence is provided for it, except watching animals in a zoo.

Now if MT's point was (as he now claims) that we need to find ways to change the social attitudes that drive rape, then how is this relevant? Will changing attitudes make men weaker? Or change this genetic inclination of theirs to dominate or fornicate? Presumably not. Are the social structures and attitudes that promote rape evolved from animals? Presumably not, since last time I checked animals did not have social attitudes. So what is the point of this? And if MT really wants to find solutions to the issue of rape, as he now claims he does, how does this take us any further on that path?

Also, what's the justification for it? I have stated repeatedly that I don't believe this argument is true, that I know of no evidence that says that rape is a natural instinct prevalent in all adult males in the twenty first century. I've asked him thrice to provide some evidence for this. Not once has MT offered the slightest shred of it (the best he can do is describe lions feeding in a zoo - as if the fact that lions are beasts was ever in question). I therefore continue to maintain that this is an unproven psuedo-scientific hypothesis, that MT cannot back up and has introduced only because he wants to obfuscate the issue.

3. The example

MT offers one example, which he claims will explain his theory. In this example a woman living in a slum is raped. MT and his friends get together and beat up the rapist. Then they hand him over to the police, who promptly let him go, because

"It turned out that rape in Indian slums is a very common thing. It happens with such regularity that it is accepted as a fact of life by rapist, victim and policeman alike. Most victims don't even complain because they're terrified of the police. The perpetrators look upon it as their natural right."

MT does not tell us if he did anything further to try and make the case stick. He says only that "we figured the hiding we gave him was punishment enough". Note: Not we couldn't do anything else. Not it was out of our hands. It was PUNISHMENT ENOUGH. This example is accompanied by a lot of stuff about how soldiers used to consider it their right to rape women too, and that this kind of thing is "not pleasant but it's the truth" and "a balance needs to be found".

TAlking about this example now, MT says: the man got away but it was not for want of trying on my part. But we have no way of knowing that. He's told us of nothing he did to try and keep the man in the justice system. He also says that "The point of the example was to display social apathy towards rape in India. An attitude that I said needed mending." This is another lie. He does not say anything about social apathy, he says only that: "This is what I mean by crimes being perpetuated by circumstances." Nothing is said about mending them or how that can be done. Apathy is never mentioned - only 'circumstances', which, as I've pointed out above, has so far consisted of men living desperate lives, not the legal system being apathetic.

MT also claims, referring to this example that "The only way to curb this form of rape is by improving social structure, perhaps by implementing draconian laws to castrate or execute rapists with a short and simple trial". If you think about it for half a second, implementing draconian laws won't help if rapists aren't even going to be charged. The right solution is obviously to get the current laws to stick, but MT's only solution is "execution of rapists with a short and simple trial". If that isn't illogical I don't know what is.

4. Women avoiding rape

In his first comment, MT says "it is not really blaming women when men tell them to be careful of how they dress and where they go. It's just common sense." So presumably he's in favour of men telling women to be careful how they dress and where they go. He later denies this, saying he never said it was applicable only to women (so presumably now men are supposed to be careful of how they dress as well!). He also now claims, now, that he was only saying that women should use common sense themselves - but that's not what he's saying - he's saying men TELLING women is common sense. There's a difference.

Oh, and in my first response to that argument I also pointed out that it wasn't clear to me that women weren't already avoiding 'dangerous' places, or that sexual harassment or rape was by any means limited to those places or to women wearing 'revealing' clothes. So it's not clear why advising women to do these things would help. Another point that MT conveniently ignores.

You could argue that I'm misrepresenting him, that there are other things he said that I'm not quoting. That's probably true. My point is only that a logical evaluation of everything he is saying makes a strong case for the interpretation that his initial stand on the issue did not include changing social attitudes or even exploring them as a cause, that his initial stand was that rape is about sex and the motivation for it cannot be changed, we can only try to punish it and even there we have to strike a balance keeping in mind the social circumstances that leave men helpless not to rape. And that in some cases a beating may be enough. At best, he meant what he now claims he meant and he was just expressing himself really, really badly. Which explains why I've repeatedly asked for clarifications.

My argument:

I've tried all through the discussion to be as open to different points of view as possible. I've said all along that there are many different interpretations of what drives human action and that we're not in a position to say that one or the other is the right one and that the reality is that they all play a part in some way or the other. I personally do not believe that all men have an inherent propensity to rape, and in the absence of any evidence for that claim I'm not going to accept that. I've always been open to MT believing it, however. In my second comment to him I say:

"As far as I'm concerned, all this psycho-evolutionary mumbo-jumbo about where rape comes from serves no purpose except letting rapists off easy. Still, you're welcome to delve into it if you like - as long as we're clear that none of this changes by the slightest iota the responsibility of the rapist for his own actions, and therefore his eligibility for the strictest censure and punishment."

And that the right way to attack rape was to:

" weed out the deviants, and to attack the prejudices that reinforce genderist stereotypes"

It should be clear to the meanest intelligence, that a) I'm not saying the MT is implying that his theory justifies rape, I'm just not sure what he's saying, and I want to be clear that letting criminals of easy because of social circumstances is not acceptable to me and that b) I think a key part of action against rape is attacking prejudices that reinforce genderist stereotypes - i.e. changing social attitudes. (I also say in a later comment that the rape issue is also about helping with rehabilitation of victims and that the first step to that is changing how they're perceived by society). All this, of course, MT conveniently ignores.

That's the stand I've stuck to all along. I've also said repeatedly that I'm interested in exploration of social causes as long as it's on a scientific evidence. MT's rants do not qualify. Why? They have no evidence backing them. They have no real logic (man evolved from animals => all men must do what some animals do. Huh?). And worst of all, they're not falsifiable.

I've said I believe in encouraging debate between different points of view, and that it's important to recognise that there may be different means to getting to the same ends. That doesn't mean, however, that I'm going to accept, without evidence or logic, any half-baked 'means' someone comes up with. Nor does it mean that I'm interested in getting into arguments with people who make muddled, contradictory statements and who claim that they've 'always' been saying what they've only started to say.

The other point of my post was that just because someone disagrees with your means, you shouldn't assume they disagree with your ends. I've never accused MT of being pro-rape (though he has assured me that I too am a potential rapist!). I've tried to keep the debate focused on the ridiculous means he has been proposing. MT, on the other hand, has repeatedly proved my point with the post by assuming that I'm only saying what I'm saying because I'm trying to impress the masses, because I've been "cut to the quick" by the discussion on Aishwarya's post, that I'm being petulant and an obstinate ass. That's a classic example of assuming that the other person couldn't possibly have a different point of view, and impugning his motives or his character instead. I think I've taken that kind of childish abuse long enough. I don't intend to take any more.

As I've said, I'm still happy to debate real points of view on rape or any other issue in this comments space. The inconsistencies above convince me however, that MT is not a person worth having a serious discussion with, so I'm not going to bother. And if that makes me a dick, that's just too bad

Falstaff said...

Cat: :-). Ya, totally. It's all of MT's 'natural' animal instincts. I just can't seem to resist them.

A nonny mouse said...

:D hahaha ...falsie you sure are a NUT ...do you write a book every times someone pisses you off? ...or only when you suspect that you are in the wrong? :D

MockTurtle said...

Since we are all adults, and in the attempt to be the better man, let me say this: Falstaff, I apologize.
I can see that you are extremely upset and I realize that I often have that effect on people (It has been said to me, many a time and oft).
I was not trying to aggravate or provoke you, just trying to participate in the discussion with my point of view. I ratcheted up my rhetoric when I thought you were being insulting. Maybe I was wrong.
Anyway, I have no grouse againt you, or anyone else for that matter. You seem like a nice enough person, so I'll just assume that I caught you on an off day. You can assume the same of me if you like.
So, peace?

Falstaff said...

MT: I'm not "extremely upset". Just tired and exasperated. I'm sick of being quoted out of context, sick of having things I say twisted out of shape, sick of having to clarify something again and again. The point of that last comment is to take one last shot at clarifying what my position is and what issues I have with your position. If I really were upset I wouldn't bother. It's because I continue to be optimistic, despite all the odds, of reaching a conclusion, that I keep replying to this stuff.

So. Two things:

a) I wasn't trying to insult you and have no grouse against you personally. I do have a grouse against your argument because I think it's flimsy, inconsistent and open to very damaging misinterpretations. Which is why I've been trying all along to get you to clarify it. As I've already said, I'm more or less okay with what you're finally saying, I just don't see how it follows from what you started off with. But never mind.

b) Don't apologise to me because I'm (supposedly) upset. Apologise to me, if at all, because you see why your initial arguments were unclear and misleading and that I wasn't trying to misrepresent you, I was only trying to make sure you weren't saying what you could have been.

As for peace - I certainly don't intend to comment on this post any longer. I suggest we agree to disagree on the "rape as a natural urge" bit and let it rest in the knowledge that we both agree that the solution to rape involves changing genderist attitudes, improving the efficacy of the justice system, and ensuring support and rehabilitation for rape victims. And let other people decide for themselves which of us has been saying that all along.

Tabula Rasa said...

permit me a mild rebuke. you write very well, but at times get too verbose. the problem with using too many words is that sometimes they may be turned against you -- not out of malice, but because of your imprecision. for example, on your comment to me, you said --

"Either we agree that rape is an terrible offense, one that social circumstances cannot extenuate and that must be strictly punished...

Or we argue that social circumstances should matter, rapists are products of social conditions and therefore are not to 'blame'..."

this is you quoting you, so hopefully not out of context.

you and mt have both agreed that rape is terrible and must be strictly punished. that was point #1, which i also agree with. my point, which you also say you agree with, is that social circumstances matter because they are an explanation. (one of many factors, as you have said elsewhere.) however, the phrase "therefore not to blame" extends the reach of the "social circumstances" variable from explanation to justification. so you have again conflated explanation with excuse (your word).

that's how i "followed" your comment.

that said, your verbosity does have two very useful purposes. (1) it's entertaining, although i should caution you that not everyone will read every structured sentence with the care that you frame it. and (2) it amplifies the rewards to be gained from trolling you, as a nonny mouse has so artfully demonstrated here.

Falstaff said...

TR: Ya, well, as long you're entertained.

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