C’mon, we can do this acting like grown-ups thing

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, December 7, 2010 12:45 EDT
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Update: Julian Assange has been arrested. Again, I must point out that if we treated rape seriously even when the accused aren’t people that are embarrassing the U.S. government, rape would probably be far smaller of a problem.

When I was in junior high school, one of my classmates got pregnant on accident. The rumor spread quickly—who knows if it was true—that she was having sex with her boyfriend, the condom broke, she begged him to quit and he wouldn’t. Even at the tender age of 13 years old, I knew that there was no way on earth that this was morally acceptable, or even close to it, and the proof was in the pregnancy that she (purportedly) begged him not to inflict on her against her will. Again, this was a rumor. No way of knowing if it was true. But what I do know is that my friends and I who were horrified were 100% right. What is amazing to me is when grown adults can’t wrap their minds around what childish virgins understand, which is that it’s wrong to fuck a woman who has withdrawn her consent, no matter when she does it. It’s assault. It’s rape, even if it’s not legally rape.

Interpol is using a rape accusation that resembles this one to put Julian Assange on their most-wanted list. As Lindsay points out, this is just silly. Sex crimes are never actually taken this seriously—we feminists wish!—and I’m annoyed to see rape used in this way, considering that rape apologists are already eager to suggest that rape accusations are about some evil bitch with ulterior motives. Indeed, as Lindsay notes, the usual rape apologist tropes are being employed, this time by people who should know better. Jill has more on why forcibly fucking a woman who has withdrawn her consent because the condom conditions weren’t met is in fact rape, and it should always be legally treated as such. The key here is “consent”, which was withdrawn. That means that the woman was non-consenting. Having sex with a non-consenting person is rape. This shouldn’t be so complicated.

I don’t know if Julian Assange is guilty, of course, but I’m deeply disturbed by the people who aren’t content with suggesting that Interpol is politicizing a crime that shouldn’t be politicized, but instead slurring the victims with the usual course of rape apologist tactics, including accusing a victim of the high crime of being a “radical feminist”. I suppose we should find this evidence against her, instead of evidence that Assange has sex with other people in the community of political radicals to which he belongs. I’m sorry, but why on earth is it so hard to believe that Assange is the kind of guy who power trips on women by promising to use a condom and then slipping it off during sex? This is one of the most common kinds of sexual assault there is, and a favorite way for guys with power issues to get cheap thrills at the expense of women, who they often feel are contemptible and weak. Are we to assume that someone who clearly gets a rise out of making the most powerful nation on the planet scramble around in a chickens-with-heads-cut-off manner doesn’t have a tendency to ego trip? Are we to assume someone who risks life and limb for this isn’t the kind of guy who might get smaller kicks out of smaller, less internationally interesting power trips? Why are we to assume that?

I’m not commenting either way on the Wikileaks documents and what they mean and how important it is that they’re released. I’m just annoyed at people’s black-and-white thinking—believing that because they support Assange’s actions in this one case, that means that his motivations must be pure as the driven snow and he must generally be above reproach. It doesn’t work that way. If anything, my experience says to me that men on the radical political fringes are quite often big assholes with power issues that they take out on women. I’ve definitely seen with my own eyes the way that anti-war demonstrators who devote their lives to the cause often have the women in the kitchen making sandwiches while the men sit around on their asses bullshitting. And I’ve heard more than one story about anarchist communes and how the women are, despite all the lip smacking about radical politics, relegated to very unradical gender roles, which are, in turn, justified by some high-falutin’ rhetoric. Certainly in punk communities where there is contempt for state power, you often see women treated like shit in ways that exceed how badly they are treated in less radical spaces. I’m not saying everyone or all the time. Just noting that it’s completely silly to think that leftists, especially in the fringe, aren’t capable of being massive dicks about women’s right to things such as bodily autonomy.

We can be grown-ups here. We can entertain the idea that Wikileaks is performing a valuable service while acknowledging the strong possibility that Julian Assange is himself an asshole who treats women like they’re objects he can exert his massive power issues on. We can criticize Interpol for treating these alleged sex crimes more seriously than they ever treat sex crimes and maintain sympathy for women who reportedly were quite afraid they had been exposed to unintended pregnancy or worse. Maybe we can even do one better than that, and accept that more than a few men who consider themselves liberals or even leftists—or may even claim to be feminists—still act like women’s concerns should be dismissed and our rights can be transgressed with ease. I’m not accusing Assange of anything, but I seriously think it’s silly to think the accusations couldn’t be credible.

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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