Does Righteousness Recuse One From A Rape Investigation? A Re-Post.

Posted on December 9, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Note: This post  is a re-post of the post I made yesterday, with changes I think make my point a little clearer:  I have not convicted Assange in the “court of public opinion”, but I worry some have done the opposite.  As before, this post uses strong language and opinions-if you don’t like one of those two things, then stop reading now….

Assange: Monster or Martyr: You Decide

I love Wikileaks. Watching governments scramble to spin information that was never supposed to be fodder for water cooler conversation fuels my two greatest loves, politics and Schadenfreude.  I enjoy feeling like I am doing my part in “sticking it to the man” every time I come across an embarrassing revelation that diplomats are far from diplomatic, that the arrogant and power drunk world Governments are powerless to being brought down a notch by the changing dynamics of the information age.   We all love a good David and Goliath story.  I am heartened to know that the web of conspiracy I regularly envision going on in the smokey backrooms of government is real and my tin foil hat just became a little more fashionable.

These leaked memos are not what I want to talk about though.  Nor do I want to talk about the apparent Shakespearean flaw that allows Governments to condemn Wikileaks for disseminating information that was apparently easier to access than a Twelfth Grade Math class pop quiz.  Those subjects are better described by other media sources and bloggers.

I want to talk instead about the sexual assault allegations being levelled at Julian Assange, the public face of Wikileaks and the current poster boy for martyrdom in the cult of personality.  If you want to read some background on these allegations as well as a leveled insight into the facts at hand, I suggest these two posts by my friends Stephanie and Jason.  I won’t be quite as diplomatic as them, but I think that my analysis is fair and accurate none the less.

Assange: Revolutionary or Rapist- You Decide

We Report: You Decide……The Jump To A Conclusion

Rape is a serious allegation.  Stephanie has done a really good job of explaining what constitutes sexual assault, and I think it bears repeating:

It doesn’t matter whether a woman consented to have sex with you. If she tells you to stop, and you don’t stop, that is still sexual assault. I don’t care how frustrating it is or whether you hate her for the rest of your life for it. Sex you have with someone without their permission is rape.

Let’s say that again: Sex you have with someone without their permission is rape.

One more time just for clarity: Sex you have with someone without their permission is rape.

Consent in a sexual setting is always conditional.  If your partner is doing everything right you might be in bliss one second, but you still have the right to draw a line in the sand with your own body.  You may love the blowjob you are getting but draw the line at the finger she’s slipping up your asshole.  You may like being tied to the bed but have your ornithophobia kick in when she pulls out a feather.  Hell, you may just love everything that’s happening until her dirty talk reminds you of your perverted Uncle Louie.  Consent is conditional- end of story.  As a man, I am in the enviable position of being in the ultimate position of power in most of my sexual encounters- so this conversation gets layered with even more complications when the consent is withdrawn by the non-dominant partner.

Every single person has the fundamental right to withdraw consent, to have ultimate control over their bodies.  Every single person.  Whether it is me, my wife, some girl in a tight dress and a chip on her shoulder I picked up at the bar, or a five hundred dollar prostitute; every human being has a right to conditional consent.  Get that through your thick skull because it is important.

Does saying yes to a condom but no to bareback make your consent partial?  Read the above paragraph.  Does a nasty little post you once wrote about getting back at your ex make your ability to consent questionable?  O.K., read my lips…  Does a prior relationship with a shady government agent mean that there is no grounds to investigate a rape-consent case??  Say it all together now- Re-read the above paragraph.

Does the controversy surrounding Wikileaks and Assange mean that he is immune from both an investigation into rape allegations and a serious look at the potential fallibility of a man who has done a great public service?

Assange: Predator or Persecuted- You Decide

Assange may be a modern-day martyr for the public’s right to know.  Guess what?  Bill Clinton was the best president in recent memory.  He was also a shitty husband who abused a position of power to get his flute cleaned.  Martin Luther King was the driving force behind  the inalienable right of my sister-in-law being able to sit at the same table as me in Georgia.  He also stuck his dick in anything that wore a skirt in his hotel room.  People can be great leaders, great innovators, visionaries, martyrs, and heroes and at the same time be pricks.   I would go so far as to claim that those things that made them capable of greatness also made them capable of shittyness.  Bill Clinton was a charismatic, arrogant, brilliant, never-say-die, charmer who had an almost savant-like capacity to deliver empathy.  That is what made him a great president, but also a fantastic philanderer and sexual predator.  MLK was likewise a charismatic man, one who must have had a slight case of antisocial personality disorder when it came to conforming to societal pressures and expectations.  Those things made him an enviable crusader, and also a world-class adulterer.

Hell, I like to think I am a pretty good person.  My friends probably think so.  Have I done some pretty shitty things in my lifetime?  Sure.  Can I attribute many of my greatest achievements as well as my most elegant ass-hattery to the same root personality?  I think so.  I am only human, even if I don’t always appear to be a good one.

What I am getting at here is that no-one seems to be talking about the fact that the head of an organization on a kamikaze mission to destroy the curtain between the All-Powerful Oz and an awestruck and frightened audience is also likely to be an arrogant, never-say-die, crusader with a lack of concern for the consequences of his actions.  That is also a pretty good description of a sexual predator.  I’m not saying he is guilty, but I don’t believe for a second he lacks the capacity to victimize a woman.

This whole case may be a footnote in his obituary, like MLK, or an all-encompassing reason to consider his legacy tainted and worthless, like Clinton.  What was the difference between the two?  Emotional investment of the public conciousness.  MLK is the father of civil rights, and even if you wear bedsheats on the weekend and maintain Tyler Perry movies are as much a civil rights violation as assigned bus seating, you don’t get to say those things in polite company.  Civil rights, or the appearance of it, is a cornerstone of the New American Zeitgeist.  MLKs is the legacy of a hero.  Bill Clinton has the distinction of being a great Democratic President. Those last two words should have given it away.  He will always have Republicans to remind us that he made bad choices.  He is also a President, and therefor, a politician.  Even the greatest (No, let me change that, Especially the greatest) politicians must learn the fine art of compromise. Compromise, when done right, ensures no one is truly happy.  Idealism is the pitchfork of the revolutionary and the filter of the representative.   To stubbornly refuse ground in politics is how progress begets revolution, or how to win a Republican Presidential nomination.   The emotional investment of the public will determine the heads-or-tails narrative of whether someone is a Hero or a Bum.  Based on this, whether cleared of the charges or convicted of them, Assange will likely still be canonized as the Patron Saint of the Public Interest.

All this is beside the point.  We have bestowed upon Wikileaks, and by association Assange, a mythological narrative that we don’t wish to taint with the cumbersome clothes of reality.  Reality is not a question of martyr or monster, good or evil.  Reality is about having all the facts and understanding that the world exists in shades of gray.  We don’t have all the facts.  Assange may be a great man, but that doesn’t mean he is infallible.  In the real world we collect all the evidence available and come to an informed, not emotional, opinion.  This is what those who refuse to believe the allegations are true are missing.  They are making an emotional judgment based on a selective mythology.  It is tempting.  It is wrong.

Assange: Hero or Huge Fucking Dick- O.K. so I’m running out of these, but Decide Anyway….

In the same way, his accuser may have done some shady things in her life , as has been alleged.  With most of our understanding of her being fed to us by Assange’s lawyer and a sympathetic media, it is not surprising that is all we know about her.  Imagine for one moment if you will, that I am about to introduce you to an audience of millions.  Now imagine that I choose your five dirtiest little secrets, the ones that even you yourself try to imagine never happened, and rhyme them off before saying “Without further Ado…”. That is what you are seeing about the victim right now.  Maybe she volunteers at a soup kitchen.  Maybe she helped to draft human rights legislation.

What you are witnessing right now is not “We Report-You Decide”, it is “We Decide What You Need To Know So That You Can Arrive At The Same Decision We Have” ; that is media.  It always has been and it always will be.  It is up to you to rise above it. There is a lot more to this case than black and white.  Nothing is black or white, except Hitler.  He sent his Black and Shades Of Gray to a concentration camp for the sole purpose of giving Glenn Beck someone to compare liberals to.

Dichotomies make for a good news cycle, but the real news lies somewhere in the middle.

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9 Responses to “Does Righteousness Recuse One From A Rape Investigation? A Re-Post.”

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[…] words are absolutely true. George W. said it even better, though: Consent in a sexual setting is always conditional. If your partner is doing everything right you […]

What I disagree with is when people fail to recognize that there are degrees of consent. There is a huge difference between a husband or boyfriend pressuring his wife/girlfriend into reluctant sex, and someone who abducts a woman he doesn’t know off the street and then beats and brutality sodomizes her for hours. People who ignore this difference and insist on treating all forms of sexual coercion as perfectly equivalent really piss me off. As you say, the truth about Assange is certainly somewhere in the middle. Assange may be a douchebag and a narcissist and a generally bad person, but as far as all available evidence is concerned, he is far from being a rapist.

Well Durr, be prepared to be really pissed off……
Firstly, I would like to commend(?) you on being the first commenter on my blog to ever make me feel physically nauseous while reading. Congratu-fucking-lations!!!
You are a world-class Grade-A mysogenist. There are no degrees of consent. At least not ultimately. Perhaps there is a degree of consent something like ” I’m alright with continuing this as long as you stop doing X”, but that is just an extension of conditional consent, and that is expressly not what you are insinuating. What you are claiming is that under certain non-violent circumstances, consent is not necessary or important. That if you have a precident of consent, that continuing consent is unimportant. That is unimaginably arrogant and self-absorbed.

Your comparison is meant to deceive. Someone who kidnaps and tortures is a douchebag, misogynist, terrorist, rapist, kidnapper, torturer, and psychopath. Someone who pressures his wife into “reluctant sex” is a douchebag, misogynist, terrorist, rapist, torturer, and sociopath. Yes one is worse than the other, but serial murder and first degree murder are also different, and one is definitely worse. I guess we should start giving a break to those run of the mill murderers?
What if I change your analogy? What is worse, picking up some drunk slut in a tight dress at the bar, taking her back to your place and forcibly holding her down and penetrating her against her will; or your second example. Are they both rape? Are they comparable? After all, the drunk slut consented to come home with you, right? You met her at the bar, so she wasn’t a stranger; does that count for anything?
I’ll give you my two cents. I first remind you that I say this as a man who has no frame of reference for how rape feels for the victim. Rape must be horrific. You know what would likely be worse? Being violated by someone you invest your trust in. Sex without consent is always rape. Rest assured that “reluctant sex” is still rape, and I think it worse still because the “reluctance” is just a lack of consent coupled with an inability to properly express it because of a relationship dynamic. So when you rape your girlfriend or your wife, and that is what you are doing, you are also raping their trust, their self-concept, their trust in their own judgment, and the list goes on. I think it is worse. I think it is a fundamental abuse of the human charter you share in couplehood.
If Assange is guilty of any of these charges, he is very much a rapist. If you have ever pressured your spouse into “reluctant sex”, you are very much a rapist. Conditional consent is every humans right. Reluctance by definition is not consent, it is deference. It is permission by duress. It is resignation to your fate. Reluctant sex, then, is rape.
Shove that in your pipe and smoke it.

I think you’re getting out of line there, George. There is a HUGE difference in actively KNOWING there is no consent and assaulting someone and misunderstanding someones communication regarding what they do and do not want. It is still the responsibility of men, with every fiber of their being, to understand what exactly is going on, but human beings do not always perfectly verbalize how they feel about sex, especially with people they love. Yes, “please stop” and “no” mean exactly that, and anyone who tries to act like they misunderstood those is lying. But that’s not always how consent is verbalized. Should it be? If only it was, and maybe one day we’ll get there. But by your logic, someone who doesn’t sleep on the couch when they hears “not tonight, I have a headache”, because they could be continuing to pressure for sex, should be PUNISHED even more than a forced sodomist. (You outright said it’s worse.) There seems to be the idea floating around that if we make more things defined as “rape” it will cut down on sexual assault. That’s like saying a society with no laws has no crime. (Though I do agree that a lot of people try and pass off things that ARE rape as harmless when it really really isn’t.) There are people that need to be punished and made an example of (and if the charges against Assange are true, he is one of them) and there are ones that need a stronger awareness of how their decisions make their partner feel and more communication with those they love. Treating the latter like the former will prevent that understanding from occurring, and actually increase the likelihood of the problem getting worse. If there is only one definition, there will be only one solution, and it needs to be the most extreme one in order to prevent the most extreme scenarios. This issue should be allowed to be complicated.

I have thought extensively about my reply to Durr, because I was unsure of my own strong opinion of the subject. I stand by my comments, but regret that I am guilty of a mistake of language. I’ll explain. I think that my primary mistake was in summarizing a very complicated issue into a very general tirade. I still think that “reluctant sex” is by some metric worse than violent forced sodomy, and that is how I should have argued it. By outright calling it worse, I am guilty of an equal yet opposite error of conflating metrics. I should have created a separate post to air my opinions as when I reply as a comment I feel limited to keeping opinions brief.

Our legal system is very well equipped to deal with crime that abuses certain metrics of morality, yet is sadly (and perhaps purposely and rightly) lacking when quantifying others. It is quite easy for a Judge and jury to bring the weight of the law down on someone who forcibly abducts someone and violently sodomizes them; it is a hair trickier to know the truth when someone picks a girl up at the bar and brings her back to his place, harder still when the accuser knows the accused, and nearly impossible when the victim has an established intimate relationship with the alleged attacker. I would argue that the degree to which we understand the truth does not have any impact on the morality of the crime. The actions themselves are objectively moral/amoral regardless of the amount of information available to a third party observer. Here is where our minds tend to draw from the well of heuristics. It is nearly impossible to excuse someone or create extenuating circumstances for forcible kidnapping and sodomy. It is quite easy in the case of established relationships. That, I believe, is why our sodomy example is so abjectly detestable and our relationship example is so complicated. I remind you that based on the facts (not just those available to an observer), based on the truth, an action is equally moral/amoral regardless of our subjective interpretation. With this in mind, the very things that make example a) detestable and b) complicated are the same things that define the metric by which I consider b) to be worse.

Those same “complications” are what make victimizing someone you are charged with caring for and supporting worse. In both scenarios you are breaching the social contract, but in the latter, you are breaching a personal one as well. I believe deeply that by that metric you have compounded the harm, both potential and realized, of your actions. I am not advocating for equality under law, I am advocating for equality under conscience.

I would argue, then, that our society needs to take a moral stand against this behavior; our group morality is by degrees the bulk of our conscience. Rest assured that I am doing my part in raising three boys to understand this concept, and I would wish that every parent would.

To answer some of your nit-picky observations, I think there is a big difference between the spouse who still stays in bed after being refused and the spouse who stays in bed and continues unwanted advances, in fact I might argue that under certain circumstances moving to the couch in itself is abuse. I certainly don’t advocate for conflating that with sexual assault, however. I wouldn’t even necessarily advocate a parring of sexual assault within a relationship with sexual assault of a stranger or acquaintance in a legal framework either. I think that accusation is founded on a somewhat fair but erroneous interpretation of my last comment. I would also argue that your “society with no laws” interpretation is the exact opposite of the conclusion that should be drawn from your previous sentence; if more rape laws reduce sexual assault, then more laws should have the effect of reducing crime. Regardless, I would beg to differ on both the premise and the conclusion of that statement. As an aside, a society with no laws would have no crimes by definition, so long as you are looking at it from a rhetorical and not a philosophical perspective.

What Durr did in his (and Durr is most certainly a he, or a very self-loathing she) comments is to attempt to create a situation where sexual coersion is justified in order to make a case for Assange. Yet Assange had nothing more than a casual relationship with both of the alleged victims in this case, so I am at a loss as to the point he was trying to make. You and I could disagree fundamentally on everything we have just discussed and still agree that Assange is a rapist if guilty of the accusations.

In summary, I stand firm behind my statements, even if I believe now that I was less than clear about the details. This is a fascinating discussion, I am all too happy to continue it if you have anything to challenge or add.

As usual, I’ve taken issue with tone and focus as opposed to details, and it seems I’ve obviously made that point. Knowing your stance (as a father of three boys) also makes the context of your words more clear, in your situation I too might likely rather err on that side of things and I won’t judge you for that. But I’m a huge advocate of discussion being an INTREGAL part of our sexual lives, and sometimes, in those discussions, women are going to feel pressured. Sometimes men will too. These discussions can’t be expected to be comfortable all the time, because if people have that expectation, then these discussions wont happen. If they don’t happen, then we can’t move as a culture towards that being the accepted norm as opposed to the inbalanced male centric way things are now. Rapists of all sorts prey on the silent, and men as much as women need to be encouraged to talk about thier sex lives with their partners.

Some interesting statistics on the issue:

You’re absolutely right, people who exploit others under alcohol, shame and silence are the problem. But they do it again and again. If these statistics are to be believed, we can end 95% of rapes if we catch and stop these individuals as opposed to punishing men who don’t communicate properly by turning them into rapists. Do we have to do our part to create a culture where this doesn’t happen? Absolutely. But make no mistake, there are people who KNOW they are doing this, and they certainly aren’t in long term healthy relationships where sometimes uncomfortable discussions happen. By their very nature, they AVOID those discussions. They are justifying their traumatic rapes as the average sexual conquests men are encouraged to achieve in our society. We can’t discourage men from talking, society does that enough, and men and women talking is the key solution to this problem.

Though I think after your response you’re not “anti-discussion” as much as you are “anti-if-they-know-them-it’s-not-rape”, which to be fair, is certainly more on topic with your post and something that needs to be said re: assange, so my original point was more to put a guardrail on a slippery slope. 🙂

I welcomed your comments as a way to clarify what I was saying without appearing to backtrack by commenting on my own comment. As I said in my very first line in my response to you, I did a lot of soul-searching about the consequences of that very strong opinion I voiced with Derr. I stand by the spirit and letter of my comments, but realize that I was guilty of leaving the waters very murky by not spelling out the reasons I hold that opinion.
I also want to make a distinction between what someone knows to be “reluctant sex”; where they are wholly aware of the lack of consent of their partner yet persist, and internal pressure which is not effectively communicated. I know that this is a very fine line, but one that I think is pertinent to the spirit of the action. This distinction is the one I tried to make clear by my defining of objective morality. If you are aware of your partner’s reluctance and it has been communicated to you, whether effectively or not, you have a duty to stop or change the situation to make it comfortable. By Durr’s own acknowledgment of “reluctant sex”, it is a confirmation that reluctance has been communicated effectively enough. So my anger toward him is directed at his own testimony of the facts as he understands them. That, to me, is rape. Count it, bag it, and take it to the bank….end of story.
Sexual consent is a very delicate subject with understandably blurry lines at it’s fringes. I will not now, nor ever, allow someone to voice the opinion that they get to draw the boundaries of those lines by fiat.
I don’t think that you and I disagree on too much when it comes to this issue, I think I was guilty of not communicating my reasons as clearly as I could have. I don’t know that I would apologize for the tone though. I think that my indignation was both appropriate and warranted given the spirit of his remarks.

I’ll never ask for an apology for an opinion, just do my part to make sure that those who spread them know the consequences should people listen. I don’t think Durr was advocating a “sex positive view of the assange situation” and was indeed just trying to spin something. (They did post aon a blog re: assange instead of some other blog regarding this issue, after all.) Have at since you feel that needs to be cracked down. Wail away with the knowledge they do deserve it. Just be careful to look behind you when you wind up your fists. I won’t ever ask you to apologize for being angry. But I won’t apologize for making you clarify something that I felt was harmful to the exact cause you were working towards, especially when that clarification confirms that was not your intent. 😉

[…] well as a challenge with James Alexander that has not yet come to fruition.  My commentary on the Wikileaks/Assange rape case finished off the year with a bang.  I joined Planet Atheism this fall, and it has certainly […]

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