This weekend, there was a minor kerfuffle over yet another poorly sourced assertion that people evolved in just such a way as to uphold the meanest, ugliest, most essentialist gender roles the patriarchy ever produced. This time, it was over the shoddy theory that men and women evolved to constantly be in a violent struggle over the vagina, with men trying to force sex on women and women trying mostly to avoid getting pregnant by rapists (though, bafflingly, being more cool with rape when they’re not ovulating). The article reinforced tired, disproven ideas about rape, the most disturbing being that it’s an act of horniness instead of violence, when the more established research shows the opposite. Emile Yoffe and I addressed the flaws in this article, so I’m not going to rehash the science issues here.
What I do want to talk about is the emotional reasoning for why something “feels” true. Often, the evidence for the truth of a reactionary claim like, “Men are programmed to rape,” is that the very discomfort it provokes makes it true, or at least makes the objections to it false. Jesse Bering, the writer of the original piece, plays this card:
Thornhill and Palmer, Malamuth, and the many other investigators studying rape through an evolutionary lens, take great pains to point out that “adaptive” does not mean “justifiable,” but rather only mechanistically viable. Yet dilettante followers may still be inclined to detect a misogyny in these investigations that simply is not there. As University of Michigan psychologist William McKibbin and his colleagues write in a 2008 piece for the Review of General Psychology, “No sensible person would argue that a scientist researching the causes of cancer is thereby justifying or promoting cancer. Yet some people argue that investigating rape from an evolutionary perspective justifies or legitimizes rape.”
This is a facetious analogy, because it doesn’t acknowledge the truth, which is that not everyone is as anti-rape as they are anti-cancer. Or, should I say, as anti-rape culture. A lot of rape apologists aren’t so much pro-rape as they are supportive of a culture that makes rape common, which is an important distinction. (See: Wolf, Naomi.) The fact that the topic makes some people uncomfortable isn’t proof that the objections to it are somehow more emotional or ideological than the support of it. On the contrary, I would say that the supporters are the ones whose emotional investment in this being true is clouding their judgment.
Think about the perceived benefits to many if rape is programmed into men, and a function of horniness and biology and not of violence and misogyny. Just right off the bat, it means that they can throw up their hands in the air, treating rape like it’s an inevitable problem and there’s nothing they can do about it. But more importantly, they get an excuse to support the main benefit they perceive in rape culture, which is that it puts all responsibility for rape in the hands of the victims, and therefore used to shame and control female sexuality. After all, the argument here is that men are naturally disposed to rape and women are naturally disposed to protect themselves. Therefore, the responsibility is shifted towards women, the only gender who has been given any control. This, in turn, can be used as an excuse to restrict women’s movements and choices, and to, a la Naomi Wolf, say they had it coming if they engage in casual sex. It also gives men cover to do a lot of abusive things that fall short of rape, saying they can’t help themselves, a freedom a lot of men would like to reserve for themselves. (Such as, say, cheating while reserving the right not to be cheated on.) Of course, a lot of men aren’t willing to be portrayed as out-of-control beasts, but clearly some figure that’s a reasonable price to pay to get these benefits.
And so I have to ask, who are the ones telling uncomfortable truths, that we must accept even if they make us uncomfortable? I say it’s the feminists. The fact that our truth, that rape is not inevitable, makes a lot of people uncomfortable doesn’t make it more true. But it doesn’t make it less true, and more importantly, it doesn’t mean that we’re the only ones with an emotional investment in the outcome. Our rape apologist opponents are invested as well, often more so.
‘You lost me’: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez graciously defuses confrontational question
In an appearance on ABC's popular daytime talk show "The View" Wednesday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke about what she called a "disconnect" between centrist, establishment members of the Democratic Party and progressive lawmakers who have been viewed as agitators in the party.
Co-host Whoopi Goldberg said that while she had applauded Ocasio-Cortez's surprise victory in her 2018 primary against Wall Street-backed former Rep. Joe Crowley, she has since cooled on the lawmaker due to what she views as a dismissal of baby boomers' past activism. Ocasio-Cortez has pushed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to back a Green New Deal, called on her fellow Democrats to support Medicare for All, and criticized Democrats who take big-money donations from the financial, for-profit healthcare, and fossil fuel sectors.
Security experts sound the alarm on Russian interference in the 2020 election: Their campaign is ‘underway’
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WATCH LIVE: Trump tries to distract from the Democratic debate with his own rally
President Donald Trump is on a west coast swing to raise Beverly Hills cash. But Wednesday, Trump will deliver one of his classic rambling speeches to a room full of fans in an attempt to distract attention away from the Democratic debate in Arizona.
MSNBC intends to air the debate, where former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg will appear for the first time on the debate stage. There are expected to be fireworks on the stage as Democratic candidates like Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) criticize the former mayor for buying his way into the Democratic debate and the primary.