A lot of people seem very surprised that I have a (mental) Probable Rapist list that I regularly add people to based on things they say about sexual violence. Probable Rapist is of course an upgrade from Schroedinger’s Rapist which, frankly, as a man you’re on by default. If you have a problem with that, your best bet is to work towards dismantling rape culture, not filling my Twitter mentions and blog comments with #NotAllMen.
Now, given that Schroedinger’s Rapist is a thing, I have to make decisions about my personal safety on a daily basis. Do I engage in conversation with this person or do I back away as fast as socially acceptable/least detrimental to my career prospects? Do I make arrangements to never be alone in a room with someone? Do I warn others that there’s a missing stair here? Unsurprisingly, I’ve developed some heuristics to help me make those decisions, many of them based on what people say about high-profile sexual assault cases, or about my work. Here’s a small sample of things that have got people upgraded from Schroedinger’s Rapist to Probable Rapist:
- “Julian Assange is being arbitrarily detained.”
- Brock Turner raping someone behind a dumpster was a “drunken mistake”.
- Referring to a rape victim as a “victim”.
- When I talk about consent, asking “But what about seduction?”
- “You’re only accusing him of rape because he is Jewish/queer/an activist.”
See, the most charitable possible interpretation of any of the above is that your conception of consent is so far removed from mine (and that of other people who experience sexual violence) that you are likely to rape someone and not even know it. And maybe someone needs to educate you, and some days that someone is me, but it’s not my job to do it all the time, for every Probable Rapist, and I am increasingly disinclined to do so. Of course, the interpretations get less charitable from there.
So that’s the deal: people make up their minds about you based on what you say. This should not be a shock revelation. Do with that information what you will.