An open letter to Conservative men about rape.

I am a Progressive, a Liberal, a Democrat, a left-winger, an Obot — whatever you want to call me, go ahead. I’ll own it. Hell, I’m a borderline socialist.

And in the course of my gig as an opinion writer and left-wing activist, I write a lot about “the GOP,” often in a fairly condemnatory tone.

And even so, I try to make a very careful practice not to write about “Republicans,” because what I take issue with is the party itself, its current leadership, and its official platform/policies.

I am very, very much aware that there are a lot of folks out there who identify as Conservatives or Republicans with whom I probably am in agreement on many issues, and from whom I could probably learn a thing or two. There are a lot of arguments that we could have, too, but that’s the way it goes in a democracy. We’ll part ways at the ballot box, and that might create some hard feelings.

But at the end of the day, there are some things that are not (should not be) partisan. Some things are right, or wrong, and we should be willing to cross the aisle to say so. Taking sexual assault seriously, treating it as the horror and the scourge that it is, is one of them.

Rapists don’t care what your politics are. They don’t care what your education is, how much money you make, or what your stance is on the Bush tax breaks. Rapists are criminals who cause grievous bodily harm, and far too often mental and emotional anguish. More often than not, they know their victims, and far more often than we’re willing to admit, are in fact in an intimate or familial relationship with their victims.

If you are a living, breathing adult, you know people who have been sexually assaulted. Maybe some have never told you, maybe a few have, but no matter the extent of your personal knowledge of the individual facts, the singular fact remains that someone — female or male — is sexually assaulted in the United States every two minutes. And you know some of them.

When representatives of the party we vote for say and do things that are wrong — say and do things that hurt people who have already been hurt or are already vulnerable — it is our responsibility to stand up and say “That’s wrong.” I have done this before, and I will do so again — the Democratic Party is not a collection of angels, after all. It is a collection of human beings, some of whom are exceptionally ill-informed or insensitive, and if I want the party to truly represent me and my values, I need to make my voice heard.

I doubt I’m going to reach many Conservative men with this open letter — this blog is tiny, and it’s pretty firmly ensconced on the left hand side of the blogosphere — but if you are a Conservative man, please take to task those in your party who have recently made exceptionally ill-informed and insensitive comments about women and rape.

There is no room for parsing what is and is not “legitimate” or “forcible” rape, and there is no room for mealy-mouthed apologies that try to escape responsibility for using those phrases in the first place. There is no room for likening rape to other “methods of conception.” There is no room for comparing a pregnancy resulting from rape to a pregnancy resulting from consensual sex in an unmarried relationship.

Please talk to your daughters, your sisters, your wives, your mothers. Find out what has happened to them in the course of their lives, and the lives of the women they know. Read the stories told here, sit with this information — with the knowledge that the fact of rape and the threat of it serve to shape and guide the lives of 50% of the human population — and then, please: Say something.

Say something to your party. Say something to your friends. Say something on Twitter, on Facebook, on your blogs, in your articles. Please.

Think about the women you love, and say something.

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29 Comments

  1. Ari M. Trubitt

     /  August 27, 2012

    I am a Criminal Defense Attorney. Several times in my career, it has been my displeasure to represent individuals charged with very heinous offenses, of the type being referenced here. I represent the individual against The People. I do so with vigor, with a zealous guard of my client’s rights under our Constitution. Having said that, if I saw a sexual assault taking place, I would act to stop it, by any means available to me. I had/have grandmothers, a mom, several step moms, aunts, cousins, a wife, and nieces. I also have their equal counterparts on the male side. Every Woman is someone’s (see above). Rape is not about ‘love’, or even sex. It is about the brutalization and humiliation of another human being, nothing more, nothing less. If a pregnancy results from rape, it is not ‘of God’, it is the result of human sexual cells intersecting at the most inopportune moment possible for the victim. Putting the argument directly to the religious right view that life begins at conception, if you believe in God and Heaven, then you most assuredly believe in Satan and Hell. Therefore, who’s to say that only God can control conception? Why cannot Satan send his demons among us to wreak havoc, the way God sends Angels to spread mercy and love? So, if a woman becomes pregnant following a rape, it seems axiomatic that said pregancy is ‘of Satan’, and that an abortion would prevent another Demon from entering our realm. This is why I’m Jewish.

    • (This is a great comment, and I am going to immediately go off topic to say: Ari! Oh my gosh, hi!)

    • dmf

       /  August 28, 2012

      that may be an important way to frame rape for a courtroom, but in terms of motivations rape is most often about sex, which includes domination/humiliation and other sadistic features.
      and tragically these warped characteristics often carry over into the impacts that it has on the sexuality of victims. Let’s not lose sight of the individual/private souls involved in our attempts to set public policy.

      • No

         /  August 28, 2012

        in terms of motivations rape is most often about sex

        No. Rape is about power and domination and violence. Sexual contact is just the avenue chosen to express this. Rape has very little to do with sex (In the same way, though it trivializes almost too much, that a stabbing is not about surgery)

      • Sorry, friend, I have to agree very firmly with No in this case. Rape is not about sex. It is, exactly as No says, about power, domination and violence. Sex is just the tool.

        • dmf

           /  August 28, 2012

          have you worked with any rapists? how do you know that sex is just a tool, by what scientific means do you come to this basis, separate these things out?

          • dmf

             /  August 28, 2012

            for that matter how do you come to decide what sex is about?

          • I am going to, very respectfully, ask you to not pursue this here. This is not an argument that I am willing to have, and I do not want any survivor to have to have it in my space. Here are some resources that you might find helpful: http://www.csun.edu/~psy453/rapmot_y.htm They’re a little old, but you can use them to start looking further, if you want to.

            • dmf

               /  August 28, 2012

              it’s your space and I certainly don’t mean to turn it into something that you don’t want to represent, I’ll just say that I have worked in these clinical areas for a long time and am up on the research and it is more complex than is being allowed for here which doesn’t help to address some serious aspects of the managing the problem. Please feel free to erase this so that it doesn’t go public as fits your conscience, not my intention to give offense.

    • “So, if a woman becomes pregnant following a rape, it seems axiomatic that said pregancy is ‘of Satan’, and that an abortion would prevent another Demon from entering our realm.”

      Wait. Conception as a result of rape doesn’t automatically end in abortion, and there are actually living breathing people walking around the planet who were conceived as a result of rape.

      And apparently they’re the spawn of Satan. I’m pretty stunned that this opinion was applauded by Emily as ‘a great comment’. Would either you or she be prepared to stand by such a statement in front of a child who was conceived as a result of rape?

      It should be possible to put together a pro-choice argument without demonizing (in this case literally) people in this position. It should be enough to say that it is not the responsibility of (predominantly male) lawmakers to decide what a pregnant rape victim should and shouldn’t do, what she can and can’t cope with. Make the argument about the rights of the women involved. Trying to make out that children conceived as a result of rape are somehow demonic doesn’t strengthen the argument at all.

  2. But at the end of the day, there are some things that are not (should not be) partisan. Some things are right, or wrong, and we should be willing to cross the aisle to say so. Taking sexual assault seriously, treating it as the horror and the scourge that it is, is one of them.

    Amen.

  3. MsJo

     /  August 27, 2012

    Yes. And thank you for this post.

  4. Ari what a great way to put it..

  5. When the violation of a human being’s body and mind is minimized, diminished, or obliquely encouraged by any group of us, we all suffer the indelible stain. No matter that we are decent and forthright ourselves, that we tolerate the insipid and insupportable ignorance represented by those who would seek to turn the pain of other human beings into fodder for pedantic rantings about the “ills of society.” We must stand up, we must raise a fist on high, and exclaim “No!” as loudly and forcefully as we can. We cannot stand idly by and continue to allow those who would so denigrate others to have an open forum into which they can pour their malfeasant misogyny unchallenged.

    As an American, I must be respectful of the right of any to hold a contrary opinion and to speak that opinion. I am not required to hold my tongue when in opposition to that opinion. Silence is the great killer, for it is tacit admission to the sycophant that they are right, and that only emboldens them. I will speak as often and as volubly as I can on this and many subjects, because I refuse to cede the ground of a proud and free nation to those who would cloak her in rags and bind her in theocratic chains. I must assuredly not stand by as better than half of the nation’s complement is marginalized and told — in no uncertain terms — that their violation is but a happenstance to be dealt with as if it were making supper or shopping for groceries, and that they have no say over the products of that violation.

    It sickens me that in the 21st Century, so much of dark centuries past is still represented in our modern age. Sicken me it may, indeed, but it will not silence me. Nor should it silence anyone. The chorus must rise, its voices uplifted in protest, and we must drown out this cacophony of intemperate screeds.

  6. doginajacket

     /  August 28, 2012

    Emily, the link to the Smith audio goes to an “account suspended” page. You can also hear it here, the reporter’s question starts around 1:20.

  1. [link] It’s nice to think that only evil men are rapists – that it’s only pantomime villains with knives in alleyways. But the reality is different « slendermeans
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  4. quick hit: Sexual Assault Victims Charged Up To $1,200 In Wisconsin For Cost Of Their Rape Kits
  5. quick hit: It's nice to think that only evil men are rapists – that it's only pantomime villains with knives in alleyways. But the reality is different
  6. Sexual Assault Victims Charged Up To $1,200 In Wisconsin For Cost Of Their Rape Kits
  7. It’s nice to think that only evil men are rapists – that it’s only pantomime villains with knives in alleyways. But the reality is different
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