From the annals of willful ignorance on sexual violence

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, June 2, 2009 21:27 EDT
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What’s most startling to me about this story of rape denialism coming from the University of the Pacific was not that a school official is trying to protect some male athletes by downplaying the reality of rape, but that he did so by actually using language so cliched that it’s like from the mouth of a cartoon sexist, drawn to illustrate a major rape fallacy.

“We would consider it date rape,” says University spokesman Richard Rojo, noting that he believes that “outright rape” only involves “a rapist jumping out of bushes and attacking people randomly.”

I can feel the auto-sympathy that our society generates for assailants over their victims that kicks in even in those of us who know better. Surely the confusion stems from it being one of those situations you hear so much about, those “gray” rapes. You know, where she lays there stiff and terrified, but she doesn’t say anything, and the doofus male only figures out that he raped her after waking up to find her quietly crying, and gosh, it’s her fault for not speaking up because men are daft, you know—right? Well, no, it wasn’t that situation at all.

A woman identified in court papers as Jane Doe claimed in a March lawsuit that two basketball players raped her at a May 2008 party at Townhouses, campus housing on Pershing Avenue, and that a third player came into the room where she was and assaulted her as the first two players were leaving.

Don’t let all that “claimed” language confuse you and give you an excuse to dodge the issue—the school official acknowledge that this rape did happen. So, it wasn’t a “jump out of the bushes” rape, but it’s the other kind that most people will, even if they don’t want to, admit is a brutal rape—the drunken gang rape of a woman cornered in a room at a party. Really, if you don’t think that’s a rape, you probably don’t think the jumping out of the bushes rape is a rape either.

In other news on the WTF front, Susannah Breslin wants you to know that if you didn’t find Guy Cimbalo’s “hate fuck” screed that Jesse wrote about yesterday funny, it’s because you’re a humorless feminist bore. I suppose now I’ll have to make fun of the victim in the University of the Pacific story to get my cred back, since if even a hint of sexual violence is so funny that it actually works as a substitute for having a proper wit. Really, you don’t even need to attend to the joke part when making rape jokes. Just say, “Boy, I really think about raping some ladies sometimes,” and we’re all contractually obligated to laugh indulgently, or else be tarred with the dread word “feminist” or, if male “pussy-whipped”.

To be fair, I can’t actually say that Cimbalo’s article was a long rape fantasy that rode in under the term “hate fuck”—since it’s being systematically wiped off the internet, and every cache and screenshot I try to find has been taken down, I’m shit out of luck on confirming for myself. Conservative outrage over the article is unhelpful, since they aren’t in the habit of distinguishing between consensual sex and rape themselves, and often aggressively try to blur the distinction, which means they’re easily confused on the subject, even when they know they’re supposed to know the difference, because a cheap partisan gain is on the line. I didn’t see the piece when it came out, because I just wasn’t really in the mood, and less so when some wingnut on Twitter informed me that I needed to quit worrying about minor issues like murder and domestic terrorism, because someone said something nasty about Michelle Malkin, and since Michelle has helpfully tried to ruin my reputation and get me fired in the past, I need to drop everything I’m doing and attend to her defense immediately. In so many (140) characters.

Still, Salon’s Broadsheet is helpful, and it appears that Cimbalo may have toed the official consent line while merely borrowing the zazz and mandatory laughs that a hint of sexual violence can bring to the table. Notably, he used the usually-popular-with-conservatives belief that having sex with a woman automatically degrades her, particularly if she likes it, and as more than one pornographic rape fantasy tells us, women—being dirty, subhuman, disgusting things—actually love it once you’ve used a little force to disabuse them of the pretense they erect of being a human with dignity and reduce them to a thing that is pronged. (In this extremely conservative view of sex, being pronged automatically means being degraded, of course.) So, you can officially avoid the outright rape joke while borrowing the cmonhaveasenseofhumorfeminists bullying technique into getting people to pretend it’s funny by merely hinting at violence with the term “hate fuck”. I’ve been made to understand that a hate fuck is where two people who hate each other but have sexual chemistry throw all caution to the wind and get it on. That’s the theory. In practice, I usually hear it to mean something quite close to actually synonymous with “rape her until she gives in and likes it”, which is a sexual fantasy and not a reality, but then again, you only ever hear “hate fuck” used as a hypothetical anyway.

It’s no coincidence that conservative punditry is full of women who give Cimbalo sort-of-guilty ideas about using sex as punishment. Nobody makes Michelle Malkin dress up in a cheerleader outfit. The style of conservatism she and her ilk espouse feeds directly off men who are unwilling to view them as equal citizens.

Which of course is why reading conservative reactions to it was so incoherent, because I don’t think they really quite understood why it was sexist, though they know that it is, because when they do it to women, feminists give them shit about it. Sort of how you know that it’s a raincloud because it’s raining.

This is the point where I have to carefully point out that I don’t think anything is off-limits for Teh Funny, and often, I get annoyed at feminists who are usually not survivors of sexual violence who try to defend the presumed sensitivities of those of us who are by declaring sexual violence completely off-limits for jokes. They don’t do a humorectomy when they touch your ladyparts against your will. But the problem with most rape jokes—or “hate fuck” jokes that borrow its allure without technically crossing the line—is that it’s all rape and no joke.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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