This blog comes with a trigger warning, folks. Because a) it’s about Thunderf00t – and every single one of his videos should have a trigger warning – and b) Thunderf00t is going to discuss the topic of rape…Yeah. I’m right there with you. (Edit: Here’s the horrible horrible video. My apologies for forgetting to link it.) I asked a friend of mine, a respected feminist blogger, to have a look at this entry. Being a dude, I wanted to make sure there was nothing important that I missed. The edits I made based on her suggestions will appear in blue.
If pseudo-intellectual bullshit were a power source, we could solve the world’s energy crisis and still have enough left over for a trip to Pluto simply by tapping Thunderf00t’s god awful videos. Let’s start by clearing up a few misconceptions. Thunderf00t likes to present himself as a rationalist, a man who follows where the evidence leads no matter what the conclusion. In fact, he is anything but. He voices opinions that are not in any way supported by scientific inquiry, and he uses the facade of intellectual discourse to justify bigotry of the most vile sort.
Last year, he decided to do a vlog called “teach them not to rape” in which he discusses a promotional video that suggests we should teach men not to rape women instead of focusing on what the woman might have done to “bring this on herself.” Basically, he objects to the feminist slogan “don’t teach me what to wear; teach your sons not to rape.”
His argument is essentially as follows. “The largest straw-man here is that we don’t teach our children not to rape. Bullocks. Yes we do. We also teach them not to murder or steal.” Yeah, okay, buddy. But you’ve clearly missed the point of the slogan, which is that looking at a woman who has recently endured a sexual assault and trying to determine what she might have done differently is only making the situation worse. Approaching a woman – or a man, for that matter – who has recently endured an assault and saying “this could have been prevented if you had simply done _____” places the blame for the incident on her shoulders. And worse yet, it takes the focus away from the perpetrator of the crime, essentially absolving him (or her) of any wrong doing. Now, I get that people who pull out that tired old line “what were you wearing?” aren’t trying to say that a rapist is not responsible for his misdeeds. However, using that line of reasoning takes the focus off the rapist. Not intentionally, but the effect is the same nonetheless.
His next point is to claim that the slogan “don’t teach me what to wear; teach your sons not to rape” is logically equivalent to “don’t tell me to put a lock on my door; teach your kids not to steal.” And no, it’s not. For one thing, a locked door represents a physical barrier, whereas attempts to police women’s clothing are essentially a type of psychological deterrent. “Make yourself unappealing, and no one will want to rape you.” The problem with a psychological deterrent is that, unlike a physical deterrent, the effects of employing it are extremely hard to measure. For instance, here’s an old reddit where guys talk about how much they love the sight of women in sweat pants and hoodies. And there’s evidence that suggests dressing in sexy outfits may actually be a deterrent to rape. And I quote: “While people perceive dress to have an impact on who is assaulted, studies of rapists suggest that victim attire is not a significant factor. Instead, rapists look for signs of passiveness and submissiveness, which, studies suggest, are more likely to coincide with more body-concealing clothing.” You will find it on page 145 of the study. Now, Thunderf00t, are you going to follow the evidence like a good little rationalist? Or are you going to keep squawking about how women should dress?
His next fallacy goes like this. “People have different sexual drives, and the idea that you will simply be able to educate people out of their sexuality is unlikely to be successful. Take a look at all those Christians who believed that homosexuality was wrong and that all you had to do was educate people out of it.”
Rape is not analogous to homosexuality. Homosexuality is about who you are attracted to. Rape – when it is motivated by sexual desire – is about how you express that attraction. I can’t control whether or not I’m hungry. I can control whether or not I rob a grocery store to get food. The two situations are in no way analogous. My friend pointed out that rape is not so much about sexual attraction but rather a desire to dominate the victim through violence. I’ve always believed as much myself.
The reason I didn’t point this out in my first draft is because, after a half hour of Googling, I honestly couldn’t find much data on the subject. I came across several websites that claim a study from UC Berkley demonstrates that rapist are primarily motivated by a desire to exercise power over their victims. However, none of these sites provided links to the actual study. Then I came across an article by a woman who identifies herself as a third-wave feminist, and her thesis was that most sexual assault happens in the form of date rape, and that the perpetrators seem to be motivated by a desire to have sex by any means available. After that, I wasn’t sure what the consensus on this topic was, and I didn’t want to make any firm claims without knowing for sure. I’ll follow up and see if I can get some data from her. If I can, I’ll share it.
The underlying point is that homosexuality is in no way analogous to rape…And it bothers me that I even have to say that. Stupid Thunderf00t.
“Even if something is against the law, you’re a moron if you don’t take simples steps to protect yourself from that crime.” Yes, but as illustrated above the so-called precautions you suggest don’t actually do anything to minimize the risk of rape.
Thunderf00t lists the following as an example of what he calls a gray area. “It was fully consensual to start with, but as we went at it, the sex was just awful. And at the end, I asked him to stop, but he finished anyway.” That’s not a gray area; that’s rape. Thunderf00t, are you actually of the opinion that once you’ve begun having sex with a woman, you are automatically permitted to continue having sex with her until you’re finished regardless of what she says? It doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t matter if you’re three seconds from an orgasm, if someone says, “I want to stop” and you ignore her, that’s rape.
“Sure I chose of my own volition to get drunk off my face, full in the knowledge that such intoxication in a public place was going to make me more gregarious. Sure, I fully consented at the time, but in the hard light of the morning, I decided that I wouldn’t have done it if I were sober. Therefore, it was not consensual.”
Yeah, this is a straw-man.
Because no rape victim is going to open a statement with “Sure, I fully consented at the time” and then conclude it with “Therefore, it was not consensual.” If the person in question believes that the sex was non-consensual, they’re going to say something like “he took advantage of me while I was drunk.” And if you take advantage of someone when his or her judgment is impaired, that’s rape.
“You can’t go out and drive drunk, then be free from all responsibility for your actions by saying ‘yeah, I wouldn’t have driven that way when I was sober.” I just had this conversation with a friend the other night. The two situations are not analogous. When you go out and drive drunk, that’s something you’re doing to other people. When someone convinces you to have sex while you’re under the influence of alcohol, that’s something that someone else has done to you.
“What common sense precautions can be taken to reduce your chances of being raped.” The thing about common sense…it’s so often wrong. Hence this blog. His first point is that women who don’t want to get raped should avoid alcohol use (or at least moderate their intake), which I will not bother to address because I’ve already addressed that point.
Next he talks about the need to avoid submissive body language or body language that conveys vulnerability. The problem with this line of reasoning is that body language doesn’t work that way. In many cases, our bodies react to an emotion long before our conscious minds have identified it. By the time the thought to moderate your body language pops into your brain, it’s already too late.
“Wasps are smaller than humans by a factor of a million.” The average wasp is about five centimetres in length. The average height of an adult man is about 172 centimetres. Humans are bigger than wasps by a factor of 34. Which means that Thunderf00t’s last statement is wrong by a factor of 29 069. This is ultimately irrelevant to the discussion, but I would just like to illustrate how little Thunderf00t thinks about what he says before he says it.
“Your choice of clothes is a statement about yourself. And while most date rapes seem to be crimes of opportunity, there are nonetheless actions that you control exclusively. For example, if you dress and act erotically. If you put on the body language of foreplay: the strong eye-contact, the tactile touching.”
Tactile touching? Do you also have something to say about the wet water and the quiet whisper? Jesus. See what I mean? This guy does not think about what he says. It’s all pseudo-intellectual bullshit. He talks this way to sound intelligent.
“If you telegraph such information, but actually have no interest in such things, you are increasing the chances that someone will misread the signs as interest or sexual initiation.” First of all, why don’t you just use the word flirting? Second of all, so what? “If you flirt, someone might mistakenly believe that you’re into them.” And that’s a problem because… Don’t get me wrong. It’s a bad idea to flirt with someone when you’re not the least bit attracted to him or her because you might hurt his or her feelings, but how is that relevant to Thunderf00t’s point?
What the hell is your point here, Thunderf00t? Are you actually making the argument that all forms of flirting count as tacit consent to have sex? Do you honestly believe that every woman who smiles at you, who makes strong eye-contact with you, who happens to be wearing a low-cut top when she sits next to you on the bus wants to have sex with you? Are you really that stupid?
Has it never occurred to you that women might go to bars, might meet people and flirt with no intention of taking it any further than that? Have you never done that? Have you honestly never flirted with a woman with no intention of sleeping with her. I know I have. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve done that. Flirting can be fun; it can be pleasant, and it can be a stepping stone to greater intimacy. But it is most certainly not a pledge to have sex, and anyone with two brain cells to rub together knows as much.
His next point is that flirting is “the equivalent of saying you will buy someone dinner at a very nice restaurant, and then when the bill comes saying ‘Well, I didn’t mean that; I just enjoyed seeing the gratitude in your eyes, when you thought I thought you were special enough to take you to this restaurant.’ But for the record, how would that make you feel if it happened to you?”
Okay, so let me get this straight.
Thunderf00t feels that women who flirt with him but don’t take it any further than that are lying to him. And it’s particularly bad because they made him feel special until he learned the cold, hard truth. He thinks that flirting with no intention of taking it further is a form of misleading another human being.
No, Thunderf00t. You’ve misunderstood what flirting means.
Ninety percent of the time, flirting means that someone finds you attractive enough to chat with you and see if there’s any chemistry. It’s like when a prospective employer calls you and says “You have a great resume; would you like to come in for an interview?” It doesn’t mean you got the job. It just means they’re open to exploring the potential of a more permanent relationship. Yes, there are times when flirting can be used to deliberately lead someone on, but in the vast majority of cases, any misunderstanding is perfectly innocent. Sometimes people get mixed messages. It’s not a crime. What you’re saying is essentially “don’t interview me if you aren’t going to give me the job.” Fine. Then no one will ever interview you.
“Sending mixed messages will increase the number of awkward misunderstandings.” Yes…Sometimes people – women and men – send mixed messages. Do you know why that is? It’s because they have mixed feelings! Maybe someone is a little bit attracted to you. Maybe a small part of her wonders about the possibility of taking it further. It doesn’t mean she has agreed to have sex with you!
Finally about choice of clothing. Thunderf00t insists that wearing revealing clothing sends the message that a woman is looking to have sex. I don’t think that’s true in all cases. But even when it is true, it doesn’t mean she wants to have sex with the first moron who crosses her path. My friend pointed out that, in some cases – not all – a woman may dress in revealing clothing with the goal of having sex. And that’s okay! The decision to purposefully seek out sex should be respected just as much as the decision to abstain, and this is equally true for both men and women. Too often, we hold women to different standards than we do men. Women who actively pursue sexual encounters are vilified. This is called slut shaming. It’s a terrible thing because it essentially says that a woman’s sexuality must exist within very narrow parameters that she doesn’t get to define. In other words, her sex life is more about pleasing other people than it is about pleasing herself.
Men get the flip-side of this double standard. Where women who actively pursue sex are vilified, men who do not are belittled. Again, it’s essentially the same problem. Someone else tells you how much sex you should have, and by extension, how much sex you should want.
Thunderf00t seems to think that if a woman does advertise that she is looking to have sex, she should be willing to have it with anyone who makes an offer. One thing I didn’t point out in my first draft, which I probably should have, is that Thunderf00t calls flirting “the body language of foreplay” implying that he really does see it as a prelude to sex. I shouldn’t have to explain why that’s wrong.
A woman has every right to actively pursue sex, and she also has the right to decide whom she would like to have sex with.
So, there you have it.
Why did I feel compelled to respond to this? Because sometimes people say things that are so atrocious they demand analysis and response.
Hey, looking for some great fiction? Check out Symbiosis, the book reviewers have called the illegitimate love child of Star Trek and Buffy.
Available on Kindle and in paperback.
And on Kobo as well.
It’s had some great reviews!