A quick case study in rape apologism

‘Rape apologism’ means that saying rape is not really that bad, or that rape is OK in certain circumstances, or that rape should not be taken seriously and survivors of rape do not deserve justice, or that rape in certain circumstances isn’t rape at all.

Perhaps you are thinking, “But no-one would say such things, and if they did they certainly wouldn’t be quoted extensively in the Guardian!” Well, read on…

I’m referring to this article, which made me so angry I almost felt physically sick: Julian Assange faces ‘man-hater prosecutor and media trial’ in Sweden

Rudling said he was not a supporter of Assange or Wikileaks but had taken an interest in the case after finding on the internet tweets sent by “Miss A”, one of the two women, in the hours after the alleged offences, in which she had asked if anyone was holding a crayfish party which she could attend with Assange, and later tweeting from the party that she was “sitting outside. with the coolest and smartest people. that’s amazing”.

The implication here is that, because Miss A sent a cheerful-sounding tweet and invited Assange to a party, she couldn’t possibly have been raped. Except that in real life it’s common for people who have been raped to try to normalize their experience, to behave as if nothing happened. Sometimes people are so shocked by what happened that it takes time for them to even accept that what happened to them was rape.

Rudling also translated for the court another document he had also found on the internet, entitled “A 7-point programme for legal revenge”, apparently posted by Miss A in January 2010, but deleted in November. The last point included the admonition: “Remember your victim has to suffer as much as he made you suffer.”

This isn’t actually true [1], but that isn’t the point. The point is that whether or not someone is a feminist, or hates men, or has written a document about getting revenge, does not determine whether or not that person was raped.

Assange had been subject to “trial by media”, and it was “hyperbolic and irrational to suggest there was wickedness involved” in Assange’s sexual behaviour, he said.

Ah, “hyperbolic” and “irrational”. Why not just use “hysterical” too while you’re at it? It’s so easy to dismiss accusations made by women: you don’t have to address the accusations at all, you can just claim, apropos of nothing, that the accusers are crazy.

All relationships had “moments of frustration, irritation and argument”, he said. “It doesn’t mean that the police are entitled to slip between the bedclothes.”

Assange is not accused of having a “moment of frustration, irritation and argument”, he is accused of rape. Accusations of rape should always be taken seriously. To attempt to re-brand an accusation of rape into lovers’ quarrel is to dismiss and silence all rape survivors. Whether or not Assange is guilty, it is still very, very wrong to trivialize an accusation of rape in this way.

But for me, this last quote is the real kicker:

After three “utterly consensual” sex acts, she had objected to Assange having sex with her again without a condom, but “she let him continue”. “It’s not natural to call this rape.”

This is a classic description of date rape. To feminists who are used to hearing the accounts of rape survivors this description is gruesomely familiar. A woman is with a man she trusts, a man she may have had sex with in the past. What she doesn’t know is that the man thinks that because she gave consent once he is now entitled to do whatever he wants to her, whether she consents of not. He rapes her. The victim at this point is in shock. Having been raped once, she might consent to further sex out of a desire to get the ordeal over with as quickly as possible, or out of a psychological need to normalize the situation. She might tell herself it wasn’t rape, and behave in a way that seems outwardly normal.

Look at the quote again: the speaker offers the fact that the woman had had consensual sex with Assange as evidence that she couldn’t have been raped. Apparently rape isn’t really rape if the victim has previously consented to sex with the rapist. The speaker also says that “she let him continue”. What does it mean to “let someone continue”? It basically means to “not fight back”. In the speaker’s view rape isn’t rape if the victim doesn’t physically fight the attacker. However in reality victims of rape often don’t physically fight back, for a variety of reasons.


…she had objected to Assange having sex with her again without a condom, but “she let him continue”

is a description of rape. Rape is sex without consent, and in the scene described here it is clear that consent is absent.

Finally, I love the sentence, “It’s not natural to call this rape.” The speaker is a man who I presume has never been raped, he is describing something that feminists and rape survivors have been saying for decades IS rape, and yet he thinks that HE should get to decide what can “naturally” be called to be rape.

This is classic rape apologism: real rape is when a virgin is attacked, beaten, and raped by a stranger, and then immediately runs to the police to ask for a rape kit. All other kinds of rape, the vast majority of rapes in fact – date rape, partner rape, or rape where the victim did not behave the way a rape victim “should” – are not really rape, and the victims should just shut the fuck up about it!

I am a huge supporter of Wikileaks. But for for the sake of all survivors of rape, present and future, I hope Julian Assange does stand trial. Based on the words of his own supporters it sounds like he is probably guilty, and if this is the case I hope he goes to jail.

[1] http://jezebel.com/#!5711600/how-aol-news-started-the-sex-by-surprise-lie


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