All Apologies

All Apologies

Written By: Date published: 12:49 pm, March 17th, 2015 – 332 comments
Categories: crime, Ethics, patriarchy, sexism – Tags: , , ,

In the recent post about Julian Assange’s continuing attempt to avoid Swedish law, the phrase “rape apologist” was used many times. Oddly, it was primarily used by those defending Assange in reference to themselves, usually as an accusation in the style of ‘are you calling me a rape apologist?’.

For the most part, commenters did not actually deny rape per se. Rape denialism is a perverse and conservative concept that, effectively, there is no such thing as rape, except in very narrowly defined circumstances.

The principle argument put forward is that Assange should not face prosecution in Sweden because the potential consequences outweigh the gravity of the alleged crime. Despite the lack of evidence to back the belief, it’s held that Sweden will immediately despatch the Wikileaks founder to the USA where he will be sentenced to life in prison or execution for crimes for which he is not currently charged.

This is despite Sweden’s reputation as a liberal haven for anti-authoritarian figures such as Assange and the oppressed and stateless generally. And ignoring Sweden’s law that no person can be extradited to a country where they may be subject to the death penalty.

But are some of the defenders of Assange really rape apologists? Having trawled through the comments, the answer is probably yes. The very insistence that the consequences of going to Sweden even for the investigation part of the judicial process outweighs the gravity of his alleged offending is a type of rape apology.

Rape apologism takes many forms, but some of the most regular tropes are these:

No force was used.

The rapist must use violence if it is really rape. Despite a minimum of rapes being committed by strangers there are people who consider that it can only be rape if it happens in an alley behind a pub or a public park.

I didn’t want to wake her:

This should probably be known as the Galloway defence after UK ‘Respect’ (sic) party MP George Galloway tried to excuse what he understood Assange had done by saying:

“This is something which can happen, you know. I mean, not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion.”

She asked for it:

This is where the victim puts herself in danger by, say, wearing clothes, going outside/staying indoors or having a meal with someone or inviting someone home or sharing a bed with someone.

No means Yes:

The secret rape fantasy that all women share. If a guy is just persistent enough, eventually they’ll come around to liking it.

She didn’t fight back:

If she didn’t want it she would have done something. Which ignores actual physical ability, feelings of shame or powerlessness or even the possibility that the victim was not actually awake.

We’ve done it once, so …

Earlier consent does not actually equate to ongoing consent. But see the Galloway defence if you must clutch at straws.

Pedantic penetration:

The use of euphemisms to minimise the seriousness of rape. Surprise sex, unwanted sex, and accidental sex. Non consensual sex, a bad hook up. All use language to diminish the crime.

It was a false claim:

Rape culture suggests that incidents of false or politically motivated rape accusations are regular occurrences. This conveniently stifles rape victims who don’t want to be accused of lying or be battered by media and social media abuse.

Shall we play a game? Here are some quotes from comments on the recent post. Can you link the comment to the correct rape apology meme?

“honey traps?…and I dont think they laid charges…investigation setup to harrass?…”

“… at least she could have given him a karate chop or a kick in the goolies…he isnt very big”

“Whether or not he has committed sexual abuse, exposing him to torture and the death penalty for alerting the world to the corruption of the US government is not an appropriate sentence.”

“… if he’s unwilling to risk permanent incarceration for what would ordinarily be considered a pretty low level of offending,”

“… there are allegations of rape which have all the hallmarks of being specious.”

“… it smacks of a setup imo….especially as one of the women was a CIA agent”

“… given all the circumstantial evidence both leaked and put up deliberately by the accusers”

“thus far it looks more like a leaky condom and a setup … ironically with a CIA agent who boasted of her exploits”

“so a woman agrees to have sex with you … just as you are about to climax … she says get off that?”

I’m not looking for a conversation about whether or not Assange is guilty, but, rather, a discussion about the way his defenders are echoing really damaging ideas about sexual violence which hurts rape survivors. Is there a wider lesson to be learned here? I certainly hope so.


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