Another episode of “Today In Rape Culture and Inadvertent Male Privilege”

A friend posted this story of a man returning a lost camera on Twitter tonight. It’s a heart-warming story of someone going to great lengths to do a good deed for a stranger, but my first instinct was to be creeped out. The return of the lost camera (and the photos, which was really the important part) was initially so overshadowed for me by the stifling creepy crawly feeling of being invaded and vulnerable if someone had been doing that much detective work to figure out who I was and where I lived and how to contact me that I actually had to step away from the story and take a deep breath before I kept thinking about it.

When I mentioned to the friend* that posted the link that I was creeped out by it (mostly as a check on my own reaction, I suppose), he vaguely agreed that it was a little creepy but that he was mostly just amazed that the owner got his pictures back. He said that he was thinking of it “as a photographer” and that was why he was so amazed by it. Ah, I thought. There it is. I was thinking of it as a woman. As a single woman who travels alone and has lived alone. Rape culture and male privilege mean that I don’t get the luxury of looking at a story like that as someone who depends on digital everything in my personal and professional life, as a creative person who understands how devastating it can be to lose your work, as a human being who has lost family members and knows what those last pictures can mean. I have to think of it as a woman first, because if I don’t, I put myself in danger. If I lose sight of the fact that I stand a 20-25% chance of being raped in my lifetime, or of the fact that as many as one in three men have attempted or succeeded in some manner of non-consensual sexual contact in their lifetimes, I put myself at risk. And not only that, but that if I do put myself at risk, either accidentally or knowingly, and end up one of those 20-25%? There’s a very good likelihood that if I do report, I won’t be believed. That I’ll be ostracized. That I’ll be told it was my fault. That people I like and care about will unintentionally continue to victimize me with their reactions.

So men, this is why some of you say that all women think every man is a rapist. This is why you might get labelled “creepy” or get yelled at or shot down if you stick your foot in your mouth in what you’re convinced is a harmless way. Because there is far, far too much at stake for us to risk it.

*Let me be very clear, this friend is someone I like very much. He’s kind, he’s enlightened, he’s compassionate. This is not about him. He did not do anything wrong here, other than unintentionally point out just how different our perspectives are, even though he is clearly one of the good ones.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Another episode of “Today In Rape Culture and Inadvertent Male Privilege”

  1. While I understand your worry about getting raped, most rapes are by acquaintances so you didn’t have much to worry about.

    Plus, men get killed, robbed, assaulted by other men much, much more than women. About 80% of murders are by men. Mostly by acquaintance. More men have violent crimes done against them (rape,robbery, murder, assault) than women.

    http://www.bjs.gov/content/glance/vsx2.cfm

    If we put that together, your friend is more likely to have a horrible life changing event happen to him such as being brutally murdered, but neither of you are especially likely to have something happen to you from a stranger.

    As another note, most crimes are done while both victim and offender are drunk or high and are interacting in some manner. This camera thing doesn’t feel like an act which would lead to rape or any sort of violent crime. There isn’t that much at stake for anyone sitting alone at home googling names, you mostly have to interact with people, if possible while both of you are drunk or high.

    • Alright, I’m approving this comment potentially against my better judgement, because it’s such a derail, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

      Men are statistically the victim of violent crime somewhat more often than women (note that in the study you linked to, it shows that that difference has been shrinking consistently), but men are also statistically overwhelmingly more likely to perpetrate violent crime. It’s a completely different playing field than a situation where women (especially young women) account for 90% of the victims and yet such a shockingly small percentage of the perpetrators. Rape is also just about the only crime where if you are unlucky enough to be a victim, there’s only a 3% chance that your attacker will ever spend a day in jail as a result of their crime. But most importantly, it’s just about the only crime where after you’ve been victimized, you’re likely going to be re-victimized by people asking if you were drinking, if you led the guy on, if you had your pepper spray, if you tried to fight back, if you’re the perfect victim. Because otherwise? You’ll get ignored at best or mocked, ostracized, and defamed at worst. Rape is basically the only crime where as a society we consistently tell potential targets that it is THEIR JOB more than anyone else’s to prevent their own victimization. Anti-rape campaigns OVERWHELMINGLY teach women how to avoid being raped, and have only very recently and only in small volume focused on teaching men NOT TO DO THE RAPING.

      Men (specifically straight men, extra-specifically straight non-minority men), get the luxury of taking baseline precautions for their own safety and then figuring that whatever else happens, it’s not their fault for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and they probably couldn’t have prevented whatever happened anyway. Women DO NOT GET THAT LUXURY when it comes to rape. We get victim blamed. We get ignored or otherwise failed by the justice system. We get left with that nagging feeling, thanks to an incredibly screwed up set of messages from society, that it’s our fault somehow, even though WE WERE THE VICTIM OF A VIOLENT CRIME. That’s male privilege. Not worrying about the fact that the statistics overwhelmingly say you’re going to be a victim and not the perpetrator, and not worrying that if something DOES happen, you’re going to be told over and over again that it was your fault.

  2. “but men are also statistically overwhelmingly more likely to perpetrate violent crime.”

    So because a man is doing a crime against a man, its a different playing field and so, presumably, of less worry? If I am murdered by some jumped up crack dealer my death is of a different playing field to a woman who was raped by some jumped up crack dealer? Why is that?

    “Rape is also just about the only crime where if you are unlucky enough to be a victim, there’s only a 3% chance that your attacker will ever spend a day in jail as a result of their crime. ”

    http://www.griffith.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/136384/Rape_attrition_Part3_paper1.pdf

    There’s more drop off before court certainly. The conviction rate is similar to other violent crimes when you get to court. It is unfortunate that the people who prosecute don’t push it to court more, and understandable why you would be sad or outraged that a crime inflicted against you or other females isn’t more harshly punished.

    ” Because otherwise? You’ll get ignored at best or mocked, ostracized, and defamed at worst. Rape is basically the only crime where as a society we consistently tell potential targets that it is THEIR JOB more than anyone else’s to prevent their own victimization.”

    http://www.bsos.umd.edu/gvpt/lpbr/subpages/reviews/martin0606.htm

    Such advice is unhelpful to survivors. There’s wildly varying treatment for rape victims throughout the process, and in some places they’ll receive better or worse treatment.

    According to the above, the police treat rape victims pretty well as they are close to the crime, medical staff somewhat suck at it not respecting it much as a non physical problem, women are quite bad in the legal part.

    http://www.thehavens.co.uk/docs/Havens_Wake_Up_To_Rape_Report_Summary.pdf

    You’re likely to be blamed for rape if you performed another sexual act on them, got drunk to blackout, or got into their bed consensually. You’re less likely in other scenarios. If you go back to theirs or dressed provocatively you’ve a reasonable chance of facing blame from women, less from men.

    Understanding such differences is very helpful in enabling rape survivors to navigate the world. Making a blank statement just paralyses them. You can check the quality of your local services before making a decision as to what you should do.

    “Rape is basically the only crime where as a society we consistently tell potential targets that it is THEIR JOB more than anyone else’s to prevent their own victimization.”

    I do worry if i was mugged I would be told again and again I shouldn’t have been male and thus invited violence, shouldn’t have gone in a dark alley, shouldn’t have had expensive stuff, shouldn’t have gotten trusted the wrong person. Anti mugging ads overwhelmingly tell me that if I am mugged it was because I wasn’t prepared enough.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/insideout/northwest/series7/street_crime.shtml

    “Although anyone can become a target for muggers, some are more likely to become victims than others.

    A study at Manchester University revealed that men between the ages of 19 and 25 are at a greater risk, as are students and businessmen who have had an after work drink.

    Being singled out as a victim is also determined by the manner in which you behave in public.

    Professor Geoff Beattie, a leading expert in body language at Manchester University, insists that street robbers are adept at analysing body language to identify potential weakness.

    “They’re looking for people who, in their words, ‘look clueless’, who will go along with their demands,” he explains.”

    So if I blink too much or am a male between the aged of 19-25 who drinks I will be mugged. I know that certain behaviours will lead me to being blamed for the crime done against me and it sucks.

    • Look, your “but what about the MEN!!!” arguments have been tried by a lot of people before you and they don’t work. I was willing to engage and give you a chance, but I’m not going to let you come into my space and belittle my feelings and the feelings of other women because clearly your man logic is superior. We’re done.

      • Nor my what about the women arguments apparantly. It really does suck for rape victims. Told at every turn there’s nowhere to turn when there are a lot of people who do care.

  3. Lilly

    [Wow. Just… wow.

    Rape culture. It can’t exist, because men are victims of completely different crimes like muggings!]

    Anyway back to the comment I actually wanted to make when I clicked “Comment” after reading this post and before I saw the OMG WHAT ABOUT THE MENZ comments.

    What I wanted to say was, as a woman I also had mixed reactions about this story and that’s why I was interested to read your post (I clicked over here from Captain Awkward and I hope its OK that I comment).

    Part of me was really happy that the camera got returned.

    But like you I was also creeped out at the “tracking someone down from personal data” side to things. Mostly because I had an emotionally abusive ex-boyfriend who stalked me a for a while after I dumped him and then after I moved to another country tracked me down after reading an anonymous blog I kept and figuring out it was me from snippets of personal data. It made me feel really unsafe in my own home.

    So when I read the story I thought, what if the camera owner’s pictures were private? What if he didn’t want the “helpful family member” who the camera finder contacted to know he took them or know he was in the place where he lost the camera? What if he didn’t want his name or location splashed over the internet?

    Your post made me realize that it is rape culture that makes us feel these uneasy thoughts.

    • You’re more than welcome to comment, glad to have anyone from the Awkward Army stop by!

      And your thoughts definitely parallel my own, so it’s… reassuring I guess(?) to hear that. It’s not that I think there was anything in any way malicious about the guy’s efforts to find the owner of the camera, but it just strikes me as such an obvious instance of women having that instinctive “ack, kinda creepy” reaction because they can see all the ways that someone else getting and then passing along that information could go wrong for the camera’s owner, and most men just totally not even having had the life experience for their brains to make that leap or, when it’s pointed out, to see it as anything other than women being paranoid or overreacting. Put that together and you get “oh, shit, hi there male privilege/rape culture”, especially when combined with comments like above on this entry that so ASTOUNDINGLY miss the point I’m not even sure if the point is visible via a space telescope.

  4. Alasdair

    Hey, also here via Captain Awkward. Good post, but there’s one point that leapt out at me:
    “as many as one in three men have attempted or succeeded in some manner of non-consensual sexual contact in their lifetimes…”
    One in three?! Jesus Christ! I know that rapists are more common than any of us would like to believe, but I never believed there could be that many. Can you find where you got that statistic from? Because I’m desperately hoping you misremembered it. If it really is as high as that, that seems like it would provide reason enough to lock all us men up permanently for the common good.

    As for the rest of the post: yes, I can see that men and women would tend to respond to this story differently, for the reasons you explain. I’d say it’s also an example of how our modern digital world is a double-edged sword. Most of us leave a large digital footprint online, which means together with all the various tools available, a sufficiently dedicated person can usually identify you and track you down from only a little information. That can lead to happy results, like the camera story. But it can also obviously lead to bad ones, like with stalkers and violent exes. As women are more likely to be the targets of such behaviour, it’s not surprising they tend to be more protective of their personal identity than men online.

    • I can’t find the specific study I was quoting there, unfortunately. Google is failing me and apparently I didn’t bookmark it. That particular study was an interesting one because they asked a group of men if they had committed sexual assault without specifically saying the word rape (but describing behavior that is rape), which resulted in a big jump in how many men self-disclosed. I was able to find another statistic from a survey of college aged men referenced here that says that “43% of college-aged men admitted to using coercive behavior to have sex, including ignoring a woman’s protest, using physical aggression, and forcing intercourse”, so granting for variation based on different samples, we’re talking about relatively similar numbers. I point out these numbers not to say that all men are horrible or every man is a rapist in waiting or anything, but I think it’s a really stark reminder of how many behaviors that are rape or sexual assault get written off as “boys will be boys” or similar, which just invalidates the damage they can do. Men aren’t given the credit for being able to NOT behave like that, and then women end up being hurt because of it.

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