Wednesday, August 02, 2006

On blaming the blameworthy

Okay, so there's an interesting discussion over at Pandagon and Feministe inspired by the horrible murder of Jennifer Moore, an 18-year-old New Jersey girl who was out partying with a friend in Manhattan and was abducted, raped, beated, choken to death, and left in a trash can.

The murderer, Draymond Coleman, had more than 16 prior arrests, some of them for violent offenses, and was described by one source as a "small-time pimp." He was 6'1" and 240 pounds to Moore's 5'2" and 105. And yet what we hear about - and not just from people like Michelle Malkin, but from supposedly-feminist commenters at blogs like Feministe - is how irresponsible it was for Jennifer Moore to be out drinking, and how if she'd just done X, she might still be alive today.


Maybe she was out drinking under age. Maybe her friend parked illegally and got her car towed. Maybe she was wearing a short skirt and a halter top. Maybe she was wandering around alone after her friend passed out and was taken away in an ambulance. Maybe she called her boyfriend, instead of calling the police, when she found herself being stalked by a drugged-out psycho. Maybe she would have been safer on the street (with the psycho) than in a cab (with her eventual murderer). Maybe she wouldn't have been.

Draymond Coleman abducted her, raped her, sodomized her, beat her, choked her, and put her in a laundry bag, and when it turned out she wasn't dead, he opened the bag and finished her off.

How is there a thing a girl could do to negate even a tiny bit of his responsibility? What can a person possibly do that would make Coleman's actions even the slightest bit understandable?

And if they are completely, utterly, and entirely inexcusable, if there's nothing that she could have done to have deserved such a fate, if Draymond Coleman is, in fact, an evil, wicked, inhuman animal not worthy of breathing free air, why are we talking about "what she could have done to avoid it"?

Here's a tidbit that might be news to some of you guys: Most women know the rules. Now, there are a lot of young women, teens, tweens, some college girls, who might not have gotten the lecture, and they certainly need to hear it, because it's all good advice. But pretty much every woman over the age of 18 has heard it at least twice: How to Be a Good, Modest Young Woman and Never, Ever, Ever Get Raped. Don't show skin. Don't go out alone. Watch the bartender like a hawk when he's making your drink, and keep your drink covered thereafter. Don't walk at night; call a cab (like the one that Draymond Coleman was in, perhaps). Take self-defense classes. Carry Mace. Don't talk on your cell phone. Talk on your cell phone, so that potential attackers know they'd have a witness. Act confident. Act crazy. Take the fastest route home. Don't take shortcuts.

We don't need to hear the list. We've heard the list. We've heard it, and we know that while it's good advice, it's stupid to think that following the list is a surefire guarantee of our safety. Jennifer Moore got into a cab to escape her stalker; her murderer was in the cab. Any precaution that a woman takes becomes meaningless if she gets raped anyway; all people do is list the stuff she still got wrong. The only absolute surefire way to avoid rape is to stay in your steel-walled panic room, wearing a chastity belt and footie pajamas, surrounded by a team of eunuch bodyguards, and honestly, it sometimes seems like that's what society expects of women. It seems like any deviation from those circumstances is "just asking to be raped."

Let's work on a brand-new assumption: the assumption that, just like men, women sometimes make poor decisions, but that we're not complete and utter idiots. And from that assumption, let's move on to another assumption: that in a world where rape doesn't happen, chastity belts and eunuch bodyguards aren't necessary.

I've seen the same comment posted by several different people on this subject, and I kind of liked it:
I went to a bar looking for anonymous sex, got drunk, met a man, agreed to have sex with him, went back to his house, went into his bedroom, took off my clothes, proceeded to become intimate with him, changed my mind, and the only reason I didn't get raped... was that he wasn't a rapist.

Most of the guys I know are guys like that. Most of the guys I know would never have the slightest inclination toward violent rape and have been raised well enough to avoid even the risk of date rape. But then, I only hang around decent guys, and I know that all guys aren't decent. Some guys, some Draymond Colemans, some Orange County rapists, are far from decent. And whether or not it's society's fault that guys like that exist, it's society's responsiblity to keep them from terrorizing innocent people.

Now run with it. I particularly want to hear from guys, because no one knows a guy like another guy, but women are absolutely encouraged to chime in as well. What can we, as a community, do to create a society where men don't rape? Is anti-rape education necessary? Do we need to objectify women less, in terms of advertising and adult entertainment, or is women's equality a more effective goal, in terms of reproductive rights and gender bias? How can we encourage the court system to take rape accusations more seriously? How do we make a world where Jennifer Moore can walk down the street in whatever she wants to wear, get into a cab, and not be a headline the next day?

Note: I am, as a rule, completely against censorship. I don't censor, delete, edit, or otherwise alter comments from my threads, because I like the idea of having a forum where anyone can express an opinion, even an unpopular one, freely. But on this comments thread, and only this one, victim-blaming comments are getting deleted. I'll even go so far as to start an open thread just for victim-blaming, if that's what you really want to do. But I'd like this one to turn into a thoughtful and reasonable discussion of how we can put down the rape culture in our society, and if all you want to do is talk about how Jennifer Moore shouldn't have been wandering around drunk, we've heard it, thanks, you're out.

For the rest of you: What can we do to cut down on the rape culture in our society? Your answers, and I really do want to hear them, go below.


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