This was the prelude to an intended laugh-line at the International Conference on Men's Issues, a men's rights gathering held outside of Detroit this weekend. And according to Adam Serwer, the laughs at the expense of rape victims were plentiful:
“The vast majority of female students allegedly raped on campus are actually voicing buyer’s remorse from alcohol-fueled, promiscuous behavior involving murky lines of consent on both sides,” [National Post columnist Barbara Kay] said, drawing chuckles from the audience. “It’s true. It’s their get-out-of-guilt-free card, you know like Monopoly.” The chuckles turned to guffaws.These guffaws came from a collection of men's rights activists who claim, as one of their many grievances, to be "unfairly stereotyped in America as violent sexual predators." And yet here they were, laughing off thousands of raped college women as nothing more than guilt-ridden coeds.
It's precisely this sort of blithe dismissal that feeds a dangerous culture of rape in America, and is partially why the FBI failed to report a million sexual assault incidents from 1995 to 2012, particularly on college campuses. How could such a staggering number have gone unreported? Because many police officers treat rape victims in a similar fashion to men's rights activists gathered at a chest-beating conference, with sinister consequences:
Victims of sexual assault still encounter hostility, doubt and aggressive questioning. When they do not conform to officers’ preconceived ideas about how rape victims “should” act, officers’ implicit biases come into play and, as a result, victims often feel they are the ones being investigated. These issues are often compounded by racism. Native American women, who suffer the highest rates of sexual assault in the country, describe being questioned about mental illness, drug use, alcohol abuse and more when reporting assaults. While some jurisdictions have substantially improved their policies, with many women reporting compassionate treatment by police, many others continue to report the opposite.So a note to men's rights activists from a fellow man: women would be much safer in this country if we all actually were stereotyped as a violent, sexual offenders. You know why? It would mean that the very real rape crisis in this country would be on full display and recognized for what it truly is: unspeakable.
These preconceptions, rooted in myths about rape and a still-powerful cultural predisposition to blame victims, are serious and consequential. Police officers display the same implicit biases as the general public, a tendency also evident at colleges and universities, where campus police are often more focused on investigating the credibility of victims than in whether or not their vulnerability was exploited in a predatory way. Studies show a strong correlation among police officers between rape-myth acceptance, sexist attitudes and an unwillingness to process or investigate reported assaults.
So instead of worrying about being cast as a sexual predator, stand up and defend rape victims when they are attacked and delegitimized. Instead of laughing at jokes with women who have been violently raped as punch lines, raise those oppressed voices of yours and proudly state, I will not be stereotyped as a sexual offender, and thus I will not laugh like one.
Once this happens on a societal scale – once we stop attacking the countless women who have been raped in this country and instead resolve to seek justice – you in the so-called men's rights movement won't have to worry as much about being stereotyped as violent, sexual offenders.
Because maybe, just maybe, the stereotype won't actually hold. At least, that's the world for which we should all be striving.
In other words: quit laughing you pricks.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, recently published by Oneworld Publications.