I do not understand “rape culture”

Trigger warning: discussion of rape

Someone brought up “rape culture” in the comments to my last post.

Now I really should stop criticizing feminist ideas, because doing so is both mind-numbing and mind-killing and makes me feel like a bad person. It apparently gets me emotional enough to start making bad arguments, one of which I decided to retract in the last post (see edit history at the bottom). And after this I promise not to write another post about it for a couple of months. But I just wanted to express how confused and skeptical I am of the term “rape culture”.

I mean, there’s one way it sort of makes sense, and that is in naming a certain small and circumscribed cluster of people. I’ve heard the phrase NASCAR culture to refer to people who dress up in NASCAR clothing and go to races and obsess over the sport. Total annual NASCAR race attendance is about 1% of the United States, so calling 1% of the US “involved in NASCAR culture” seems fair enough, though it also seems more philosophically perilous than just saying “1% of people like NASCAR”.

Compare the term “car culture”, as in the phrase “America is a car culture”. It means that most Americans like cars a lot, and even those Americans who don’t like cars have absorbed pro-car memes and gladly accept propositions like that everyone should have to pay taxes to help maintain the highway system. And that it’s really hard to, say, bike to work everyday, and most people have agreed to be okay with that as a society because we implicitly accept that cars are a part of the natural order. Here the claim isn’t that 1%, or 10%, or whatever, of America is a car culture. It’s that American society itself is a car culture in some fundamental way.

If someone wants to point out some rapists or rape apologists and claim they are rape culture in the same way NASCAR fans are NASCAR culture – well, this is still asking for the term to be abused. But when people try to pull the second meaning – America “is” a rape culture – this is the part that has me throwing up my hands and wondering what the heck they are thinking.

As I understand it, here are the claims involve in “rape culture”.

1. Society treats rape as less horrendous and more excusable than other crimes
2. The criminal justice system is unusually loaded in favor of rape suspects and against victims
3. People are more willing to blame rape victims than victims of other crimes
4. Misogyny in society causes sexual objectification of women, which latently condones/promotes rape
5. The general tolerance of rape is a sign that society is biased against women and doesn’t care about their problems

Every single one of these claims seems to me diametrically wrong.

Claim 1: Society treats rape as less horrendous and more excusable than other crimes

I’ve never seen Dexter, but I hear it’s about a serial killer who goes around murdering people but is otherwise a pretty neat guy.

I’ve never played Grand Theft Auto, but I hear it’s about a thief who goes around stealing people’s cars and stuff but is otherwise pretty likeable.

I’ve never seen Silence of the Lambs (I HAVE NO EXPOSURE TO POPULAR CULTURE, SORRY), but I hear it’s about a really urbane and sophisticated cannibal who eats people’s brains and who became one of film’s most popular and respected characters.

Sweeney Todd (finally, something I’ve seen!) combines theft, cannibalism, and bloody mass murder into a huge extravaganza of crime, and people happily show it to their teenage kids as a fun family movie (as well they should, because it is great)

So having likeable and sympathetic murderers, thieves, and cannibals is totally a-okay. You can even get away with likeable and sympathetic Nazis – think Franz from The Producers. Now, tell me, can you imagine a popular mass-market TV show whose hero was a serial rapist? How about a computer game in which the object was to rape as many people as possible?

Let me take a different tack. I have a file on my computer where I collect jokes that I like. I’m pretty hard to offend, so the jokes aren’t really sorted by offensiveness in any way. Looking through it, I see two jokes about cancer, one about AIDS, one about bestiality, three about murder, one about natural disasters, one about terrorism, one about cannibalism…and zero about rape.

I have no doubt that rape jokes exist, but you probably need to be listening to a particular sort of shock jock for them. As opposed to jokes about murder, jokes about cannibalism, jokes about terrorism, et cetera, which are so utterly neutral you can find them in children’s books if you want. Even Holocaust jokes are more common and more widely accepted than rape jokes.

My point here is that far from being unusually blase about rape, society treats rape as a special kind of evil, worse than murder, worse than cannibalism, worse even than the Holocaust, something that is never sympathetic and never funny. Further, it is practically alone in being treated this way.

I’m not complaining about this. Because there are so many rape survivors likely to be traumatized at discussion of rape, this is probably a good thing. But ignoring this reality and claiming we are in fact more willing to excuse lighthearted discussion of rape than other crimes is just false.

Claim 2: The criminal justice system is unusually loaded in favor of rape suspects and against victims

Conviction rates for rape are similar to or higher than those for other forms of violent crime. In Britain, About fifty seven percent of rape trials end in convictions, compared to fifty six percent of trials for other violent crimes.

The claim that the criminal justice system is loaded against rape survivors mostly comes from the difficulty of getting cases to trial in the first place. But there are more charitable explanations for this.

Most rapes are crimes without witnesses. If the accused claims the sex was consensual then even DNA cannot provide corroborating evidence against this story. The courts are presented with a “he said” / “she said” dilemma. Because the legal system enshrines the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” – that is, erring in favor of the defendant when a guilt cannot be established “beyond a reasonable doubt” – this situation usually results in acquittal.

Therefore the police have two options in a case where someone comes to them to report a rape but has no corroborating evidence.

The police can tell the survivor there is not enough evidence to press charges, thus saving them the trouble of a long and psychologically traumatizing trial which will inevitably end in an acquittal. If they go this route, then people accuse them of rape culture because of their “culture of skepticism” where they doubt all rape allegations.

Or the police can bring the case to trial, in which the jury is asked to distinguish between the prosecution’s claim that an assault was rape, versus the defense’s claim that it was consensual. If there’s no good way to establish what actually happened, the trial will usually devolve into character assassination – that is, the prosecution will try to prove the accused is the kind of person who would rape and then lie about it, and the defense will try to prove that the survivor is the kind of person who would consent to sex and then lie about it. If they go this route, then people accuse them of rape culture because of their “slut shaming” in which it is acceptable to character assassinate a rape survivor.

But I have yet to hear a good proposal about how to avoid these problems without dropping the suspect’s right to be “innocent until proven guilty” and have his “guilt proven beyond a reasonable doubt”. If you keep those in place, then somebody somewhere along the line has to be responsible for doubting the survivor’s story, and in many cases, even in the overwhelming percent of cases where rape really occurred, the evidence at hand just won’t provide any beyond-a-reasonable way to dispel those doubts.

The failure to remove “innocent until proven guilty” is not a sign of a special and unusual “rape culture” in which rape trials have a higher burden of proof. Indeed, rape shield laws make rape trials a special case where the victim has more rights, and the accused fewer, than in other sorts of crime. These are followed vigorously, sometimes off a cliff. Other than that, it’s just insisting on the same standards as every other sort of trial.

Some might claim that rape is a special case where burden of proof is unnecessary. But anti-death penalty groups have found that in fact many people are falsely convicted – and even executed for rape. The Innocence Project estimates that between 8-15% of rape convictions are false, and many of the people found to be falsely convicted were going to remain in prison for the rest of their lives (and needless to say a disproportionate number of them were minorities). The Project notes this is somewhat higher than for other crimes like murder. These numbers correspond pretty well with the generally accepted statistic that about ten percent of rape accusations are false (uh, assuming our criminal justice system has an accuracy of about equal to chance. We should probably do something about that.)

So although rape cases are incredibly heart-breaking and there are no good options, the criminal justice system seems caught between a rock and a hard place. I see no evidence for rape culture here either.

3. People are more willing to blame rape survivors than victims of other crimes

When I lived in Ireland, my friend got his bike stolen. He was immediately subjected to a barrage of questions like “Did you lock it right?”, “Are you sure you locked it right?” “Was it in a really visible spot?” “Don’t you know that brand of bike lock is easy to cut through?” and “Why did you even keep biking when you knew there was so much bike theft in this area?”.

This seems to be my experience with most types of crime. If you get mugged in a dark alley late at night, people will tell you “Well, duh, it’s your own fault for walking alone in a dark alley late at night with lots of money on you.” If you get carjacked, people will tell you the brand of car alarm you should have bought.

And goodness forbid you get scammed. People will either tell you it’s because of your own greed (“You can’t scam an honest person”), tell you all sorts of stupid signs to look for (“Did the guy have a scammy aura about him?”), or refer you to the Better Business Bureau and a bunch of other websites that no sane person possibly checks before every single time they do business with an honest-looking person.

Cracked even thinks this is an appropriate topic for a comedy article – here’s Four Types Of Victims We Have To Stop Feeling Sorry For. People who get mauled by animals are number three – why were they hanging out near animals, anyway?

In fact, it seems that in every case where someone has just had something bad happen to them, it’s a tradition to tell them ways they could have prevented it.

I do not want to justify the “advice” people give rape survivors. Some of it seems broadly good (if you’re meeting a strange man for a date or something, do it in a public place), but much of the rest seems well-intentioned but actively wrong (it’s been pretty well established that the clothes you are wearing do not affect sexual assault rate). Whether the advice is good or not, giving it to someone who has just been traumatized is without a doubt a stupid decision, and giving it in place of punishing an actual perpetrator is an obvious miscarriage of justice.

But as far as I know, this stupid decision is only ever criticized in the case of rape. The difference between rape and other forms of tragedy is not that rape is the only tragedy in which people try to advise survivors how they could have avoided it, but that rape is the only tragedy where a person giving such well-intentioned but stupid advice gets their name plastered over the national news and has a Slut Walk organized against them.

If rape culture means people being unusually tolerant of or unsympathetic to rape, I cannot find a sign of rape culture here either.

4. Misogyny in society causes sexual objectification of women, which latently condones/promotes rape

Split this one into two categories. Why is there so much sexual objectification of women? And does sexual objectification of women implicitly condone rape?

The reason there is so much sexual objectification of women seems really really obvious. People really like sex. That’s all. There is no need for any more conspiratorial or uncharitable explanation.

If you look at gay men, they sexually objectify men all the time. If you look at products aimed at women, whether it be women’s magazines, perfume, whatever, once again, they’re plastered with images of sexy men.

Heterosexual men have more social power and money than gays or women. They also are perceived, rightly or wrongly, as being especially obsessed with sex. That means if you want to sell thing to people with lots of money – the best type of people to sell things to – using pictures of sexy women is pretty much your best bet. There is no further conspiracy theory required for why people present images of sexy women in society. The idea that it has anything to do with secretly being okay with rape is somewhere around Roswell-level plausibility.

Nor does the sexual objectification of women necessarily imply that rape is okay. Let’s take actual objects. Our society is obsessed with consumer goods. It demands loudly and viciously that people try to get as many consumer goods as possible at every opportunity it gets. But no one implies that our society is secretly condoning theft.

Saying “Desire consumer goods!” is a very different message from “Be willing to break the law, hurt others, and commit morally repulsive actions in order to obtain consumer goods!” Likewise, putting up pictures of sexy women does not have to be part of a rape culture where people imply that raping those same sexy women is okay.

5. The general tolerance of rape is a sign that society is biased against women and doesn’t care about their problems

Society is obsessed with gender and gender-related issues which is exactly why rape is treated as so much more interesting a problem than anything else.

One especially interesting data set is information about cancer funding. Here’s a graph of research dollars spent on cancer type per deaths caused by that kind of cancer.

Breast cancer gets a very disproportionate amount of funding compared to other, deadlier types of cancer. No doubt this is because of successful initiatives like the Pink Ribbon campaign, but these initiatives are themselves due to the fact that any gendered issue is naturally more interesting than any ungendered issue. My guess is this is also part of why prostate cancer (gendered issue relating to men) is in second place, although that could also be its unusually high morbidity/mortality ratio.

The point of this graph isn’t to knock breast cancer research, but instead to note that people disproportionately ignoring women’s issues because they don’t care about women is the exact opposite of the way the world works.

Google Trends shows that ever since the national news story broke, more Americans are searching for information on the Steubenville rape case than on the entire country of Syria, which you may remember has during that period been undergoing a bloody civil war which risks turning into World War III at any moment. Think about it. A single rape case is more important to our culture than a war in which somewhere between 70,000 and 120,000 people have been killed.

This is not the sign of a “rape culture” that dismisses and excuses rape. This is the sign of a culture that has fixated upon it, placed it somewhere between child pornography and al-Qaeda in the List Of Things Everyone Must Talk About All The Time. This is the sign of a national obsession.

If you want to accuse the people in Steubenville who didn’t do anything to help the poor victim of being part of a “rape culture”, then go ahead (but do remember that the same thing happens in every type of crime and is a well-known cognitive bias having nothing to do with rape per se).

But if you want to accuse the American population that paid twice as much attention to it as to the entire Syrian Civil War of trying to deny that rape exists or push it under the rug or something, what are you thinking?

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80 Responses to I do not understand “rape culture”

  1. Anon says:

    “How about a computer game in which the object was to rape as many people as possible?”

    Have you played Sengoku Rance? It’s actually a pretty good game. There are many other Japanese porn games with a rapist protagonist, but most are pretty poor as games.

  2. rachael says:

    I thought this was largely well-reasoned and tried to be respectful, but contained some unfortunate logical errors and was ultimately too much rooted from your own experience without acknowledgement of how small your sample size is and how your maleness affects your perceptions here. An example of this is the list of crimes which you have personally seen people victim-blame others about, such as having your bike or wallet stolen. Well, thanks to the magic of small samples, my experience is diametrically opposed to yours: I’ve had my bike stolen twice and my wallet stolen once and nobody ever asked me anything about what precautions I took (the police asked what kind of bike lock I used, that was it). But when people have been sexually threatening towards me (thankfully it’s been rare, but I have had it from both men and women) I consistently field questions about whether I took precaution and what my role was in the situation. And this is the experience of almost all my female friends – in fact I seem to have got off REALLY light compared to most of them. And “in my personal straight man experience nobody extra-badly victim-blames female sexual assault victims, therefore, this does not happen in general” is a pretty bold line to stand behind if you think for five minutes about (1) confirmation bias and (2) who these women are likely to talk about these victim-blaming experiences with (ie other women). I think this is a pretty textbook case of how privilege makes us blind to other people’s realities.

    I think there are places where you made some logical errors. You’re totally right that the objectification of women DOES happen because straight men have the most social/economic power, but that does not mean it is magically NOT feeding into a culture that views women as commodities who can therefore be coveted in some weird ownership framework, to the extent that the rape of women is routinely compared to theft and only the magic words “I have a boyfriend” could get strange men to leave me alone in public since I was 12 (I tried “I have a girlfriend” just for fun, but it did not work).

    Your point about Steubenville google analytics is also a really misleading and weird comparison – people are nationalistic and racist and uninformed about global politics, that’s why Americans don’t care about Syria, not because they somehow care more about one rape than mass slaughter! There are literally thousands of well-known rape cases in india/syria/sudan/DRC/etc which Americans aren’t googling either, and if 70-120K people were suddenly murdered in the US or Canada or a country that seems “like” the US you can bet it would get more US google hits than any rape case.

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  5. Zachary T says:

    “Breast cancer gets a very disproportionate amount of funding compared to other, deadlier types of cancer.”
    Do you think this might be, in part, due to the over-fetishization of female body parts? I suggest you read up on objectification theory.

  6. Douglas Knight says:

    Broken link should be sometimes off a cliff.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’ve never seen Silence of the Lambs (I HAVE NO EXPOSURE TO POPULAR CULTURE, SORRY), but I hear it’s about a really urbane and sophisticated cannibal who eats people’s brains and who became one of film’s most popular and respected characters.

    Although the 1991 film is probably the characters most well known appearance, earning an Academy Award for Anthony Hopkins for his portrayal of the cannibalistic serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lector, Lector is in fact the centerpeice of a profitable multi-media franchise, which began with the 1981 novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, and continues to the present day in the form of the critically-acclaimed TV series Hannibal, the second season of which will air on NBC in a few weeks.

    Here’s the kicker: whle NBC’s Hannibal is a a visually stunning show that prides itself on depicting death and violence in a gruesome, yet artistic manner, there’s one form of violence that the show’s producers have repeatedly claimed that they will never, ever depict. Three guesses as to which one it is.

  8. Patrick says:

    Scott, I think the trouble is definitions. Strictly speaking, ‘rape’ denotes “sex without consent”. But the word ‘rape’ evokes its most vivid prototypical example: a women (perhaps at knife or gunpoint) being forcibly penetrated.

    “Rape-culture” then is not a culture of people who forcibly penetrate women and their apologists. Rather – “rape culture” refers to a culture that devalues consent. In other words, a culture which implicitly upholds the proposition that “you don’t need someone’s consent in order to have sex with them.”

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  11. Anonymous says:

    “How about a computer game in which the object was to rape as many people as possible?”

    There are some Japanese games like that, e.g Sangoku Rance.

  12. Eoin says:

    I *still* haven’t gotten another bike yet.

  13. You may find this interesting, on an anecdotal level, as the kind of thing that goes on an awful lot of the time:

  14. Featherless Biped says:

    It’s like “car culture”, not like “NASCAR culture”. Nobody has to like cars in order for America to count a car culture–things just have to be set up in a way that encourages driving and treats it as normal. This is compatible with most people, or even all people, hating their daily car commute. Similarly, America can be a rape culture even if the majority of Americans hate rape (or more realistically, the subset of rape that they actually label as rape). If the culture is set up to encourage rape and make it seem normal, then it’s a rape culture even if people’s attitudes toward rape are explicitly negative. (This is also a way that America could be considered a racist culture–most Americans believe racism is bad, but the society is set up in a way that systematically advantages white people over everybody else.)

    You also sound like you’ve missed something important on “objectification”. It’s one thing to sexually desire somebody; it’s another to treat them as though your sexual desires were more important than their comfort and safety. The concept of “objectification” probably conflates them, but it’s the second one that’s really the issue here. The second one can happen even when you don’t sexually desire someone; for instance, if you make unsolicited comments about how ugly and sexually undesirable they are.

    Your claim about perfume advertisements can easily be checked by Google image searching “perfume ad”.

  15. Pwno says:

    I think rape is so stigmatized because it “onfairly” depletes the population of women ready to bear children with others in the tribe. It’s like a combination of murder and robbery.

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  17. Doug S. says:

    If anyone can successfully tell a joke about rape, it would have to be George Carlin.

  18. im says:

    What I sort of notice is that in the old days, before any feminism, rape was treated in a way that treated it more like ‘theft of women from their rightful men’ and now that we are supposed to have equality, it seems to get ignored even when trauma is clearly visble.

    • Mary says:

      One notes that under Roman law “she consented” was not a defense against rape charges.

      The civil law punishes the crime of ravishment with death and confiscation of goods; under which it includes both the offence of forcible abduction, or taking away a woman from her friends, of which we last spoke; and also the present offence of forcibly dishonouring them; either of which without the other is in that law sufficient to constitute a capital crime. Also, the stealing away a woman from her parents or guardians, and debauching her, is equally penal by the emperor’s edict, whether she consent or is forced: “sive volentibus, sive nolentibus mulieribus, tale facinus fuerit perpetratum.” And this, in order to take away from women every opportunity of offending in this way; whom the Roman law supposes never to go astray without the seduction and art of the other sex: and therefore, by restraining and making so highly penal the solicitations of the men, they meant to secure effectually the honour of the women.

      Which helps make explicably the laws where she can instead choose to marry the man rather than have him punished.

  19. Mary says:

    It can’t be because breast cancer is gendered. Otherwise, prostrate cancer would be overfunded in the same manner.

  20. Federico says:

    I have no doubt that rape jokes exist, but you probably need to be listening to a particular sort of shock jock for them.

    By far the most popular joke ever on “Sickipedia”, the compendium of sick jokes, is this, and it is one among many.

    Sickipedia is a shock site, but like 4chan its popularity is quite widespread in the UK.

    Mike Stoklasa, whose brutal dissection of the Star Wars prequels has been lauded by such mainstream figures as Simon Pegg and Roger Ebert, also makes a number of rape jokes, e.g. at 5:20 here.

    I’m not sure why Daniel Tosh got in trouble, but clearly not everyone is offended by these jokes, so I don’t think the above argument is quite right; however there is a truth lurking herein.

    Consider Fanny Adams, a little girl who was brutally murdered in Victorian England. The expression “sweet FA”, sweet Fanny Adams, derives from British Seamen who decided that their unappetising tinned mutton rations must be made of her butchered remains. I doubt that a rape victim would be made the subject of such a callous expression.

    Thomas De Quincey wrote a celebrated essay, On Murder Considered as one of the Fine Arts. I cannot conceive that rape would ever be considered a fine art. And even in the cultural gutter, rap artists boast of their murderous prowess, but seemingly not their propensity to rape women.

    Rape scenes on film, such as in Blue Velvet or Last House on the Left, are never as stylised and artistic as murder scenes are in e.g. the giallo genre, so rape must be even more taboo.

    The type of rape joke I would never expect to see is one in which the woman’s emotional state, when threatened by a serious prospect of rape, is mocked. Stoklasa’s joke obviously targets George Lucas, and the Sickipedians are subverting social niceties at quite a remove from an explicit rape scenario. On the other hand, the “butt” of the joke at the end of this mainstream advert is Wyclef John himself—so although we have no undue tolerance for heterosexual rape, there is an alarming prison rape culture.

    • What’s high-status for a traditional rapper is to be physically superior to men and attractive to women. A propensity to rape would suggest that you aren’t attractive enough to have voluntary sex, which undermines the overall status claim. For that reason rape is mostly used in the rap songs I’ve seen as a way of punishing and intimidating one’s foes, robbery victims, etc., and of proving how generally ‘extreme’ you are; it’s about power and violence.

  21. woopwoop says:

    If you want a national and legal culture that dismisses, downplays, blames the victims of, and ignores rape, look no further than the uk, with regards to men who are raped, particularly by women. As I pointed out in your previous post, rape laws in the uk are gendered such that women can’t be accused of rape AT ALL unless they were assisting a man in raping a women, and even that is established by precedent, and not actual wording of the law. Even the possibility of a man being raped by a man is relatively new.

    • Berry says:

      Men being raped by women also answers criteria (1) and, arguably, (3) in the US at least, you can look at movies where male’s are raped by women for comic effect or it is treated like it’s “not really rape”. (“Wedding Crashers” is a fine example. It happens more than once, and the male character eventually falls in love with his rapist.)

    • atreic says:

      You keep saying this, and it is techincally true, the definition of “rape” in UK law is “penetration with a penis”. As a woman does not have a penis, then they cannot “rape”, in the legal definition of the word. If a man was to commit an assult on a woman by inserting his fingers in her vagina, that would not, legally, be “rape”.

      However, there is another crime, “assult by penitration” which carries the same penalty of life imprisonment, and covers non-consensual anal and vaginal penitration by any part of the body or other impliment. And there is a third crime, “causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent”, which covers the case of being forced to penetrate a vagina or anus without your consent (eg the ‘women rapes man’ typical scenario’) which also carries the same penalty of life imprisonment.

      So it is true that the term ‘rape’ has a very narrow legal definition in the UK, and is entirely penis obsessed (a woman who was transgendered but still had a penis could be accused of rape, just to be pedantic to your point). But all the other types of similar sexual assult without penises involved also carry the same penalty of life imprisonment.

  22. Deiseach says:

    Cherry-picking some of the points you make:

    (a) Rape culture. Okay, I think I broadly agree that this is a philosophical construct too far. But Scott, you don’t like feeing the burden of proving that hey, you’re not a rapist, 24/7? Congratulations, that’s how (up until recently and still is, in many parts of the world) it was/is to be a woman – you had the responsibility for not just your own behaviour, but the possible behaviour of those of the opposite gender. Part of the idea of modest dress and behaviour was not to incite lust in men, because men couldn’t help themselves once their passions were stirred and if you stirred them, that was your fault, whether you intended to do so or not.

    (b) Rape is considered a heinous crime and is much more unacceptable even as a topic of jokes. Again, this is relatively recently and due to exactly the kind of women kicking up a fuss and yelling and carrying-on about it that you describe as going too far. Perhaps now, once the seriousness of it has been established, there is not the necessity to make the noise and go over-the-top, but that may be a hold-over from the days when the only way to get attention to the matter was to yell and make broad, exaggerated claims.

    (c) False accusations. Yes, these happen. Yes, the presumption of innocence is a vital legal principle.

    (d) Blaming the victim and precautions in general. Again, nowadays and relatively recently, everyone is supposed to take sensible precautions. But to take your example – if a man walked down a dark alley late at night in a bad part of town and got mugged, agreed, there would not be a lot of sympathy for him. But suppose he was walking in town, in the middle of the day, down a normal busy street, and got attacked? It would be much less likely that people would say to him “Well, you know there have been a lot of robberies lately, why did you go out at all?” Yet women are expected to abide by curfews and limitations on their movements when they are the ones who are being targeted as victims by serial rapists, etc. Nobody suggests “We are instituting a local curfew where we ask all men to stay in their homes between nine o’clock at night and eight in the morning”.

    (d) Perfume ads etc. in magazines. Have you read any women’s magazines? Seen the kinds of advertising? They may have toned down recently, but there is still a greater likelihood of seeing naked women (either in floaty, romantic poses or sexually suggestive poses) than of men – depending on the brand, of course.

    (e) Consumer electronics ads on billboards. Oh, Scott. You didn’t mean to go there, I know, but think about it for a second: imagery of women in ads equated to imagery of products in ads. What are the products intended for? To (at least suggest the) gratification of desire. You expect your new phone, pc, tv, whatever to do what you want and if it doesn’t fulfil that function you are dissatisfied with it. What function do the sexy images of women suggest they fulfil? What purpose other than gratifying the desire they evoke? Are they supposed to have minds of their own?

    • atreic says:

      Ah, I came here wanting to make a comment like (e), but you have already made it for me, and much better. Putting up a big picture of Fry’s Electronic’s Store, and saying ‘come here to buy Amazing Galaxy Phones’ encourages people to think that electronics stores are places that exist to sell them phones, an outcome that works well for all concerned. Putting up a big picture of a semi-naked women encourages people to think that women are things that exist to be naked and sexual for them, which is an outcome that is slightly less desirable at a population level.

  23. Daniel Armak says:

    somebody somewhere along the line has to be responsible for doubting the survivor’s story, and in many cases, even in the overwhelming percent of cases where rape really occurred, the evidence at hand just won’t provide any beyond-a-reasonable way to dispel those doubts.

    Since you say that these are cases where “rape really occured”, you must be using a different standard from the legal one to decide which defendants are guilty. What is that standard and the source of the “overwhelming percent” datum? The Innocence Project gives some information on falsely convincted people, but what info do we have on falsely acquitted defendants?

  24. Joe from London says:

    Hm, I began typing a message of agreement and then realized the facts aren’t as I thought they were. To avoid publication bias, what I had planned to say was that I virtually never hear or read about Chris Brown in any other context than “ZOMG how is he still allowed to sell music given that he hit a woman?!”, which (since I was not able to think of any celebrities who have raped women) I would use as a proxy for how ‘society’ treats men who have committed acts of violence against women. I then Googled “celebrity rapists” and saw Mike Tyson pop up. I have heard more about his biting a man’s ear off than about his being a rapist. There was a list of athletes who have been charged with sexual assault, but I had never heard of any of the others. (I HAVE VERY LIMITED EXPOSURE TO POPULAR CULTURE)

    Further disclaimer: as far as I can make out, his rape conviction comes from a he-said, she-said case in which there was some circumstantial evidence for non-rape (she allegedly filed some fake rape charges. Citation needed) and circumstantial evidence for rape (her physical condition a day after having sex was “consistent with rape”. Scott, you’re a doctor. Is that a thing?). I am more confident that Chris Brown hit Rihanna than I am that Mike Tyson raped Desiree Washington.

    • ozymandias42 says:

      There are a lot a lot a LOT of celebrity men who have been accused of rape or abuse; I know because for a while I was trying to avoid media made by people who had been accused of rape or abuse, and realized that this was completely impossible.

      I’m not sure why Chris Brown is more well-known than other abusers, but my intuition would be that part of it is that the evidence that he committed abuse is very good, and part of it is his race.

      • Berry says:

        He also abused someone famous, while many of the other sexual assault/rape cases by celebrities were against non-celebrities or people who’s names were never disclosed [read: Kobe].

      • Joe from London says:

        Sure, but ‘accused’ is consistent with a model of the world in which no male celebrities have ever raped someone. The benefits from a false rape allegation are much higher if the alleged attacker is wealthy/famous, so if you’re going to file a fraudulent rape claim, you stand to benefit from accusing a rich man.

        That’s not to say that all or most celebrities who have been accused of rape are innocent, only that I think a much higher percentage of celebrity rape claims are fake than of non-celebrity rape claims.

        Do you have a list of celebrities who have been convicted of rape?

      • suntzuanime says:

        Doesn’t boycotting people on the strength of an accusation violate the holy principle of innocent until proven guilty?

        • Randy M says:

          Individuals can have different criteria than courts, which is somewhat justifiable because boycotts aren’t as bad as imprisonment.

    • Berry says:

      I hope you’ll allow me a tangent, now that Mike Tyson being a dick to women has been mentioned, about the most badass anecdote I’ve heard about a philosopher:

      “At yet another party he had befriended Sanchez [Fernando Sanchez, a fashionable designer famous for women’s underclothes].[A.J.] Ayer was now standing near the entrance to the great white living-room of Sanchez’s West 57th Street apartment, chatting to a group of young models and designers, when a woman rushed in saying that a friend was being assaulted in a bedroom. Ayer went to investigate and found Mike Tyson forcing himself on a young south London model called Naomi Campbell, then just beginning her career. Ayer warned Tyson to desist. Tyson: ‘Do you know who the fuck I am? I’m the heavyweight champion of the world.’ Ayer stood his ground. ‘And I am the former Wykeham Professor of Logic. We are both pre-eminent in our field; I suggest that we talk about this like rational men.’

      Ayer and Tyson began to talk. Naomi Campbell slipped out.”

  25. I think it’s naive of you to accept SAVE as an “anti-violence group” when it seems mainly to cover “men’s rights” type stories. The study they cite shows only that the wrongful conviction rate for rape IN VIRGINIA IN THE SEVENTIES/EIGHTIES was high. I suggest that it was easier to fit someone up for rape before DNA tests were available, and I further suggest that maybe the 70s Virginia police tended to fit up certain men for rape to boost their clear-up rates or just on general racist principles.

    Why do you take that one study as good evidence of wrongful conviction rates today? There was a more recent study that suggested the false reporting rate for rape is the same as for other crimes – you should at least consider that instead of cherry picking.

    Your conclusions in section 1 are classic over-generalising from fictional evidence – or more precisely, assuming that the mores displayed in fiction accurately reflect real Homo hypocriticus social attitudes. In fact, when popular or powerful men rape, it’s ignored or the victims are vilified, even if there’s clear photographic evidence.

    Imagine a load of college athletes had killed a girl and dragged her body around a series of parties, and when pictures were circulated, their coach covered it up and most of their community blamed the dead girl as a troublemaker. Or imagine if your bike was stolen, and when people saw the CCTV footage of it happening, it ruined your reputation among your peers to the extent that you were driven to suicide. Those are the correct thought experiments to conduct when thinking about how rape is treated differently.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Can you link me to the better and more recent study? (I certainly have no objection to the claim that the false conviction rate for rape is the same as for other violent crimes, I just didn’t find this study)

      I only looked at SAVE briefly, but it seemed legit. The same study was on a bunch of other sources as well. I also took a look at some of the studies on this article, but I didn’t link to it because it was FOX News.

      Can you give an example of there being clear evidence for rape and it was ignored and the victims were vilified?

      EDIT: I’ve replaced the SAVE link with a link to the same study by The Innocence Project.

      • amuchmoreexotic says:

        Here is a 2005 British study that seems to be one of the more comprehensive. It initially finds 9% of reports are false, but more carefully applying the Home Office counting rules reduces that to 3%. “Even the higher figure is considerably lower than the extent of false reporting estimated by police officers interviewed in this study.”

        Now 3-9% detected false reports is not mathematically inconsistent with 10% undetected false reports leading to wrongful convictions, but most reports don’t even get to trial. You’d have to believe that investigators find it easier to get a conviction based on a false report than to detect one, which seems ridiculous. So I find it very hard to believe that the old Virginia DNA study you cite represents what happens now.

        You’re also falsely assuming that a wrongful conviction can only result from a false allegation. But just because 8-15% of men were wrongly convicted of an assault, that doesn’t mean the complainant wasn’t assaulted – the police might have caught the wrong man. In fact, the fact that this study is based on DNA makes that the most likely scenario – for the convicted man to be exonerated by later DNA testing, there must have been semen residue collected that didn’t match the alleged perpetrator.

        Of course, maybe for some reason false allegations are less common in Britain than in the US, but an alternative hypothesis explaining the Virginia study is that before DNA testing, the police got their rape detection rate up by pinning rapes on innocent men, whereas now we have DNA testing, they try to get the victim to retract or drop their allegation so they can record a ‘no-crime’.

        The Met police were recently caught doing just that, with no apparent punishment for the officers involved.

        If you look at the range of estimates for false reporting on the Wikipedia page, it seems like there’s a big range, but the more credible studies seem to find lower estimates. I’m also certain that the police tend to ‘no-crime’ as much as they can. Maybe that’s out of expediency rather than anti-women sentiment, but the effect is that a particularly hurtful crime which disproportionately affects women isn’t taken seriously.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Hm, on second thought, I’m not sure what it would mean for DNA to prove that a rape did not occur. That would suggest that all the cases listed above are examples of the wrong person being convicted of a rape that actually occurred.

          On the other hand, I don’t understand the math used in your paper. They say for example that there are 44 probable cases and 33 possible cases, and then place the total number of probable and possible cases at 66. And how did they handle the cases where the police didn’t record their explanations? And are they claiming that the police never err on the side of caution and let something they’re not sure about (which might be false) go to trial?

        • ozymandias42 says:

          Yeah, the Innocence Project specializes in rapes that happened but where the wrong person was convicted for some reason (often stranger rapes).

          There really isn’t a lot of good information about how common false accusations of rape are.

      • amuchmoreexotic says:

        Here’s an example where there was (photographic) evidence of gang rape, the victim was bullied to death, the police did nothing:

        Even after some of the rapists at Steubenville were convicted, lots of people still shit-talked the victim on social media etc.

        It’s definitely the case that being a rape victim is somehow seen as less deserving of sympathy than being a victim of other serious crimes. You cite victim-blaming in relatively trivial crimes like bike theft and being scammed, but if you’d been stabbed (which might actually be less likely to give you PTSD than being raped), would your friends give you stabbing avoidance tips?

      • grendelkhan says:

        Quite belatedly, here’s a review article on the topic, which notes (among other things) that cases classified as “unfounded” don’t necessarily reflect false reports of any kind, and, eventually, that the model of a false accusation with which we’re familiar, a woman declaring that actually-consensual sex with a particular man was not consensual, is a subset, possibly a small one, of the events reported as “false accusations”.

        It’s a relatively short artlcle, and quite worth reading.

    • Eric Rall says:

      That article’s main sin appears to be using the wrong denominator for the numerator. Both should be based on the same burden of proof, but the author compares proven cases of false accusation of rape to the total number of accusations of rape, assuming that all accusations are true unless they’re proven to be false.

      The pie chart should have at least three categories: proven false accusations, proven true accusations (convictions), and cases where the accusation has been proven neither true nor false beyond a reasonable doubt.

      It would also be useful, if good data is available, to break down proven false accusations between malicious accusations (where the accuser deliberately slandered the alleged perpetrator) and mistaken accusations (e.g. where the accuser was actually raped, but mistook the identity of the perpetrator).

  26. suntzuanime says:

    The problem, I think, is that there is no one “society”, there is no one culture. Some cultures are rapier than others. You live in a pocket of civilization, where people basically think rape is pretty bad. There are pockets of barbarism too. And I think this fundamental misunderstanding drives many of your posts. You look at social-justice people reacting to barbarism and you think they’re overreacting because the people you interact with are all-in-all pretty civilized. To some extent this is the social-justice people’s fault for making the same mistake you do, and claiming all society is a rape culture because there are rapey pockets here and there. But I think we need to recognize the diverse tapestry that is American opinions on rape.

    • Ben L says:

      I’l preemptively point out that talking about what jokes get people fired, national conviction rates, and national google trends are very explicit attempts to be outside a given social circle, and several parts are logically based rather than anecdotal. I still nitpicked a few things but this is a far cry from a thorough critique.

      • suntzuanime says:

        The justice system is, for all its flaws, part of “civilization” and not “barbarism”. The system where we destroy comedians for making the wrong sort of jokes might seem intuitively barbarous, but since we use social sanction rather than knives, it probably counts as civilization. Wasn’t there a post on the old website about formal power vs. informal power? Formal power might be arrayed against rape, but not informal power.

        • Ben L says:

          While I am having trouble following, I would say that this sentence: “Formal power might be arrayed against rape, but not informal power.” is what is contraindicated by this post. Furthermore, there is a very vocal claim that neither is arrayed against rape.

          Incidentally, would you consider this formal or informal anti-rape efforts?

          The fact that these guys had it enter into their heads that this was a good chant to yell around the freshman dorms is what I think of when I think of rape culture. (See also the title nine lawsuit and “we love yale sluts” for those interested).

        • Oligopsony says:

          But the justice system is knives! It doesn’t seem to me that civilization-barabarism distinctions are ever particularly useful. We all have rules and use violence of various kinds to enforce them. The content of the rules differs, and is worth caring about, but if you’re just using barbarism-civilization to distinguish between rules you endorse and rules you don’t, you can avoid smuggling in assumptions by just using obviously indexical terms like good-evil.

  27. Ben L says:

    I overall agree.
    1. Might be a personal bias, I hear of rape jokes more often.
    2. Very interesting, the conviction rate is new but the difficulty coming to trial is not. Perhaps we need to spend some effort encouraging women to fight and receive bruises if possible for corroboration, with the possible downside that women who don’t or cannot will be taken less seriously.
    3. I think the problem is that unlike many other crimes, people don’t stop at saying the victim could have done more, but also take away the legitimacy of her complaint.
    4. Pretty much agree
    5. American’s are uniquely(?) self centered. I bet there are *way* more things besides rape that are also googled way more often than Syria. American’s google “Brazil” more often too. Steubenville barely exceeded it. Boston, of course, blows it out of the water, and did before the terrorist attack too. It’s more a matter of what the media reports, a video of a crime is far more audacious and newsworthy. It’s more the idea of young unrepentant rapists who are so obviously guilty. Christopher Dorner also exceeded both at peak.

    Lastly, a bit of evidence that telling men not to rape is helpful:
    or amazingly, people who are confused as to what rape is:

    • hf says:

      with the possible downside that women who don’t or cannot will be taken less seriously.

      Also with the possible downside of women dying more often, if they have reasons for their current behavior!

      I do agree with much of what you say. I should also point out that if we trust Scott’s numbers, rape followed roughly the same pattern as other violent crimes (see: leaded gasoline). I don’t fully trust his numbers, because I think they largely ignore marital rape. But if not for your last point I would assume that change had already occurred, with no further marginal gain from education.

  28. hf says:

    I’ve taken ‘rape culture’ to mean that people are so willing to accept rapists in their group, perhaps by making excuses for why it wasn’t rape, that the probabilities are nearly independent for different men in a strange group.

    I’ve never seen Dexter, but I hear it’s about a serial killer who goes around murdering people but is otherwise a pretty neat guy.

    No. But let’s talk about Showtime anyway. I just watched a bunch of their show “House of Lies,” and the main character has sex with his ex-wife at least once after she tells him to stop. Now, she does seem like even more like a psychopath than he does, and probably wants to have sex with him. I have no idea if this fictional situation (which the writers chose to portray) is more representative than a serial killer who originally goes after other killers. I suspect they’re both rare.

    Oh, and then there’s this.

    I have no doubt that rape jokes exist, but you probably need to be listening to a particular sort of shock jock for them.

    No. The same bloody Cracked article that you link goes on to defend Daniel Tosh, quoting him in the process. And remember, I’m arguing that if Tosh’s audience had around 11 guys besides himself, the room more likely than not held a rapist.

    It seems to me that most conversations about famous recent crimes lead to prison rape jokes if they go on for more than a few seconds. And I know I’ve heard quite a lot of people besides Tosh make rape jokes on Comedy Central. Also Bill Maher, I believe (HBO rather than Showtime).

    Now, this business of blaming victims of other crimes is fairly new to me, so you may have a point there.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I agree that prison rape seems joked about much more often than other kinds of rape.

      Yes, that article is where I was reminded of Daniel Tosh’s existence. And it was, in fact, about people listening to a shock jock. I’m not sure where we’re disagreeing here. Do you not agree that jokes about rape are much rarer than jokes about murder, cannibalism, Nazis etc, and that people who use them are much more likely to be criticized?

      • hf says: is not a shock jock, even if we ignore the usual “radio broadcaster or disc jockey” clause. Yahoo!Answers is not a shock jock. The bulk of video-gaming culture is not a shock jock.

        So I’m not sure which is more common, and I strongly disagree that Rape jokes << Murder jokes if you actually meant to say that. I also don't care that much:

        I'm arguing that actual rapists are much more likely to be hearing or telling a given joke than are actual murderers or Nazis. Also, most people would not "joke" to KKK members that some people just need lynching. This in fact seems like a major reason for the difference in covariance.

  29. Alex says:

    I have never really understood the term rape culture either, but I was disappointed with your treatment of 1, since it was limited to fiction. I was hoping you would address the Steubenville rape case:

    A rant about the case:

    That seemed to be a glaring example of rape being treated as excusable, and I don’t think it was a unique case (I haven’t yet looked into the other cases that are commonly cited).

  30. Fnord says:

    Society treats rape as less horrendous and more excusable than other crimes

    Keep in mind that GTA is the game that got congressional hearings held because it portrayed consensual sex. And by “portrayed” I mean “was not actually possible to find in the game unless you modified it with third party tools”. So it’s safe to say that society has certain issues with portraying sexuality in general, which is not exactly news to most feminists I know.

    Which brings us to what might be fairly called rape culture, because popular portrayals of sexuality and consent are so screwed up that they actually do portray problematic situations up to and including things that are at least ambiguously rape. They just don’t call it rape. Speaking of Cracked. Or the way the manufactured Fox News outrage about the very existence of a sex scene in the first Mass Effect acted to deflect attention to the fact that the PC can have a romantic and sexual relationship with a military subordinate over whom they exercise direct command authority, which is actually a situation with serious potential for coercion and other problems and would almost certainly be illegal fraternization if it took place under (for example) the UCMJ.

    So, you’re absolutely right that when popular culture talks about any act with the actual label “rape”, it’s treated as A Special Kind of Evil. But, at the same time, very problematic things are portrayed that aren’t labeled “rape”.

    The criminal justice system is unusually loaded in favor of rape suspects and against victims

    Trigger warning: this section contains descriptions of rape and false rape allegations.

    Remember the time the Catholic church discovered a bunch of priests were serial killers and covered it up? How about the time that a major university found out that a big name coach killed his wife for the insurance money and then did nothing about it?

    This is not to say that your points are invalid, either. The fact that so often gets missed by both sides of this argument is that “many people who are accused/arrested/convicted of rape are not actually guilty of rape” and “many actual rape victims are not believed/dismissed by police and prosecutors/pressured into not reporting” are not mutually exclusive.

    In fact, to the extent that the dominant cultural narrative of what rape is doesn’t match the way rapes actually happen, there’s a certain advantage to being a false accuser, in that if you’re making up a story anyway, you can make up a story that matches the dominant culture narrative of rape. The false accuser says “I was totally sober and he came out of nowhere and stuck a gun in my face and said he’d shoot me if I didn’t have sex with him,” which is a set of events that’s highly atypical even in the already atypical subcategory of stranger rapes. But it’s undeniably rape, not something the culture describes in part one portrays without labeling it “rape”. So the police are happy to head off and coerce a confession, pay off a jailhouse snitch, hire a pseudoscience expert, and all the other things that happen to “prove” a false conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.

    And then someone comes along and says “I had too much to drink at a fraternity party and passed out and then I wake up and one of the guys I met at the party is having sex with me”. And everyone says “what kind of a women gets drunk enough to pass out at a party, you alcoholic slut? Probably the kind that will have sex with somebody they just met at that party anyway. Real rape is what happens when a guy comes out of nowhere and sticks a gun in the face of a women who’s totally sober, and I know this because I convicted a guy for doing that just one paragraph ago.”

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “How about the time that a major university found out that a big name coach killed his wife for the insurance money and then did nothing about it?”

      Are you talking about the Jerry Sandusky case? If so, it sounds like you have to claim our society is unusually tolerant of child molestation, which seems to be an even higher burden of proof than regarding rape.

      …and if not, then the Jerry Sandusky case is exactly the “university found a big name coach…” example you think forms a reductio ad absurdum.

      • Oligopsony says:

        The Sandunsky case is for the reasons you mention probably not the most stellar example, but high school and collegiate athletics are more generally an unusually clear example of rape culture. Steubenville especially is a great example, since so much of what went on at various levels (including of course the media coverage) became a matter of public record.

      • Fnord says:

        If so, it sounds like you have to claim our society is unusually tolerant of child molestation, which seems to be an even higher burden of proof than regarding rape.

        It happened with Sandusky. It happened with the the Catholic church. It happened in the Mormon Church. It happened in the British foster care system. And I picked child molestation cases because there is no question about he said/she said and consent; if an adult is having sex with a child, it’s rape period, with no official room for confusion. But we see cover-ups nevertheless.

        The fact that society pays lip service to treating sex crimes (particularly sex crimes against children) as “A Special Kind of Evil” hardly means that that’s actually what happens. Nor, for that matter, does the fact that it’s happy to use them as bludgeons against people who are already low-status.

        In particular, there seems to be this dynamic where anyone that gets the actual label of “rapist” or “child molestator” is treated as the lowest of the low. But there is huge reluctance to actually attach that label to anyone (at least if they’re not already in an out-group).

        I know you’re familiar with how sometime people treat questions of fact as emotional signalling. Apply that reasoning here. If people treat an accusation/conviction of rape as a “boo” for the rapist (and all the more so for child molestation), what happens?

        You get cover-ups and denial when high-status people or in-group members commit it. And denying the label is just as important as denying the actual facts. You get false accusations and flimsy evidence against low status people and out-groups. You get people playing status games trying to outdo each other in condemning it.

        And to the extent that rape acts as an affirmative defense to “boo sexually active woman”, what happens? More false accusations. Inquiry into other signs of the victim being sexually active or otherwise immoral.

        • Elissa says:

          This is, I think, a really strong and interesting argument– treating rape as unthinkably evil is probably causing rape coverups– and I would like to be able to point people to it. In this light it is even possible to interpret talking about “the lasting effect on two young men being found guilty in juvenile court of rape” in a way that might not make flames come out of the side of people’s faces. Do you know of a blog post or article that makes this point in more detail?

        • Max says:

          I would say that it’s not that we hesitate to treat rape as a serious crime, but that we legally define rape in a very broad way, and then implement labels and punishments in nominal accordance with that definition, when that definition doesn’t necessarily conform to everyone’s moral intuitions regarding how bad certain acts are.

          Holding a gun to someone’s head and forcing them to have sex with you or you’ll shoot them? For confirmed perpetrators, this is usually treated with fiercer condemnation than shooting the person outright would have been. Having sex with someone when you’re really drunk and they’re really drunk and afterwards they decide that they wouldn’t have given consent if they had been sober? Much more ambiguous. But if a person is legally convicted of rape for the second, then they will still go to jail for years and acquire the labels of “rapist” and “felon” for the rest of their life. Similarly, all sexual contact with people too young to legally give consent is legally child molestation, and so anyone who is convicted of it will receive extremely harsh sentencing, and the labels of “felon” and “child molester” will follow them for the rest of their lives.

          But since the punishments and stigma of the labels are less in accordance with the severity of the specific acts of the perpetrators, and more in accordance with the severity of the *archetypical* acts associated with the labels, it’s no surprise if people become hesitant to apply them to people who commit acts which are less than archetypical in magnitude.

          I would suggest that there is a great deal less distance between an average act of legal murder and an archetypical murder than there is between an average act of legal rape and an archetypical rape, so people are generally less hesitant to apply the label of “murderer” to the average legal murderer than they are to apply the label of “rapist” to the average legal rapist.

          It’s not that our society considers noncentral acts of rape or molestation to be particularly excusable, but since they’re attached to the labels which carry the tremendous weight of the archetypical acts, it makes people hesitant to apply those labels.

        • Fnord says:

          “Do you know of a blog post or article that makes this point in more detail?”
          It’s related to Pervocracy’s concept of the Slavering Beast narrative. And I’ve discussed it a few other places.

          But, unfortunately, I don’t know of any on-point detailed articles, though I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else thought of it and wrote something that I just haven’t seen.

      • Fnord says:

        If so, it sounds like you have to claim our society is unusually tolerant of child molestation, which seems to be an even higher burden of proof than regarding rape.

        Long comment is long aside, you said yourself that nearly ever murder is investigated. Would you say the same thing about rape or even child molestation?

        • Scott Alexander says:

          This is a false comparison. If there’s a body with a knife sticking out of it, then the only question left is who did it. A better comparison might be to crimes like mugging, where one has only a victim’s word to go on.

          As far as I know, most of the claims that rape and child molestation have been ignored have been claims that some organization that stands to lose face (the church, a university) has kept them from the police. I’m not sure to what degree that happens with other crimes. I don’t think bishops and coaches steal enough for it to be an issue. Maybe drug use would be the best comparison here?

        • Fnord says:

          If there’s a body with a knife sticking out of it, then the only question left is who did it. A better comparison might be to crimes like mugging, where one has only a victim’s word to go on.

          I think you’d need to assume a startlingly high rate of false accusations for this to account for the difference.

          It’s true that crimes like muggings aren’t, on an individual level, investigated to the anything close to the same degree as murders, either. But I don’t think that’s because police departments are saying to themselves, about 90% of the muggings that come in, I think the (alleged) victim is making it up. It’s because they don’t allocate the resources to individually investigate those crimes, specifically because they’re not treated as serious crimes.

          Maybe drug use would be the best comparison here?

          If we can agree that drug use is the best comparison, even if the conclusion is that rape is less tolerated than drug use (which is my guess), we’re still pretty far down the scale of “treating rape as a serious crime”.

      • im says:

        Both Steubenville and Sanduzky have the peculiarity that the rapist was considered a hero before the rape and people would have defended them in any event.

  31. BeoShaffer says:

    I hate to be the bearer of TV Tropes, but since it is ridiculously and obviously relevant

  32. James Miller says:

    A counterargument is that fear of being raped imposes a truly massive utility loss on women (perhaps for evolutionary psychology reasons), a loss so large that my any utilitarian measure society devotes a relatively trivial amount of resources to fighting rape.

    Also, it’s possible that many men read about the Steubenville rape case to experience a vicarious thrill.

    I admire your courage to write on this topic. The you that wanted to become a philosophy professor would have paid a high expected price for doing so.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I am sympathetic to the argument that from a utilitarian point of view we are not doing enough to prevent rape. But this seems like a totally different argument than that we are specifically ignoring it or flagging it as a subject to tolerate.

      Please don’t bring up “admire courage” stuff. I find the meta debate about who is courageous/unpopular even more tiresome than the object level debate here.

      I am extremely disturbed by your Steubenville hypothesis but have no evidence against it.

      • B_For_Bandana says:

        >I am sympathetic to the argument that from a utilitarian point of view we are not doing enough to prevent rape. But this seems like a totally different argument than that we are specifically ignoring it or flagging it as a subject to tolerate.

        Actually, in folk politics those are exactly equivalent. Maybe that’s where your confusion is coming from. 🙂