Law in Contemporary Society
"Rape is bullshit," said Nick. "Everyone says all these girls are getting raped all the time, but I don't think it's true. Like, if both people are drunk, they're raping each other, right? Except the guy is always the one to get blamed."

"It's a girl's word against a guy's, and the girl always wins, and then the guy's life is fucked forever," said Marcus. Marcus's girlfriend of eight years had recently left him for someone else. While they were on the "break" that became permanent, Marcus would drive by her house to confirm what he already knew. Her now-boyfriend's car would arrive around seven p.m. and would still be there at two a.m. Marcus would go home to bed at that point - or home to pace around chain smoking on his terrace while calling my roommate to complain manically over the phone.

"What about all those statistics about how many girls have been raped?" I asked.

"Girls think everything counts as rape. And those surveys are bullshit, either way," said Nick.

"Totally statistically invalid," said Marcus, who majored in Statistics, nodding sagely. "Feminist propaganda."

"I don't know a single girl who's actually been raped. The only person I know who's been raped is a guy," said Nick.

"Bet you don't know any girls who've had an abortion, either," I said.

I wish I had made that conversation up. I still think about it often. It's easy to dismiss them as misogynist idiots, hopelessly set in their ways. But Marcus and Nick were my acquaintances from college, not some uneducated randoms. Highly educated, self-proclaimed liberals, vouched for by my roommate and best friend. We were sitting outside at a bar; they were drunk, it was dark, everyone was in an open and friendly mood, and they felt safe to share their real thoughts. I like to think that I planted a seed of a thought while observing the angry white male in his habitat, rather than going for an attack that would raise his hackles and leave him more convinced that all women are crazy and that his secretly-held views are rational and correct and the only reason his views aren't celebrated are because of politically correct bullshit.

But after thinking about it for a few days, my anger subsided and I began to ask myself "Why?" These weren't stupid people. They were ostensibly well-educated. Their political leanings were firmly liberal. They were products of Texas public schools, true, but good schools in wealthy liberal bastions of Austin and Houston. And there are a lot more like them out there. The "having sex with a drunk girl is rape, therefore rape laws are all bullshit" argument is a common internet-commenter refrain (see: the recently created "Politically Incorrect Hyde Park" facebook page, "Hyde Park" meaning "UChicago," where two of the most recent posts lodged this very argument). Where did they get the idea that very few people really get raped, that most women lie about being raped or define acts as rape that don't count, and that it's all a plot to get men in trouble? Why were they so eager to dismiss rape charges as bullshit?

Because then they'd have to admit that if people they knew had been raped (the real kind) and most women are raped by people they know, then they probably know rapists. Probably are even friends with rapists. Might even have the potential to be rapists themselves. And rapists are bad and scary and evil. Therefore nobody they know could be such a thing. That's happening on a more subconscious, secret-heart-of-hearts level. In public, and in their more rational minds, they know they're not allowed to talk about it, so they push it down further and further until it becomes ingrained in the unconscious and only comes out on dark, drunk nights. It doesn't withstand scrutiny (Oh, right, I don't know anyone who's been raped because they'd be too ashamed to tell me). But, like a game of whack-a-mole, I may have hit it underground temporarily, but their closely-held views were still lying in wait.

On one of the first nights of law school, where everyone is trying to meet as many people as possible, my friend dragged me out to a bar to meet some people she'd spent five minutes with at lunch. After 20 minutes, we texted each other under the table to confirm that yes, these people were excruciating, and yes, we needed to leave immediately. We made our excuses and said our goodbyes. "Oh, I should walk you, it's not safe," said one of the guys at the table. That little nebbish probably had 10 pounds on me. I probably could've broken his nose. Who was he to think his presence would be protecting me? Also, get a grip, I'm pretty sure walking down Amsterdam Avenue in Morningside Heights at 10 p.m. isn't going to kill me. I think what really bothered me is that he specifically was part of the reason I was leaving, because he specifically was giving me the creeps. Who was he to suddenly declare himself the protector rather than the person to be protected from? (That same kid later told my friend that he didn't think his exclusive preference for white girls was in any way shaped by cultural stereotypes and social constructions about race. His specific words? "Don't call me a racist.")

One of the main reasons Brown went the way it did was that it was embarrassing for the US that they were touting democracy and equality all over the world, yet lived in a state-sanctioned, deeply socially unequal society. So the laws on the books changed, and champions of equality celebrated, and yes, things have gotten better. But now we have de facto segregation and everyone can pat themselves on the back that on the books, our society cares about equality so very much and is so very colorblind. At the end of the day, you can lobby Congress and change the laws all you want, but a perfect official stance can almost make it easier for invidious ideas to become ever more entrenched. When Marcus discovered his ex-girlfriend was thinking about getting a restraining order, he screeched with righteous indignation about the "enablers" in the criminal justice system for weeks. He just wanted to know whether "that bitch" had cuckolded him, how was that a crime?

Clear and well-constructed until the last paragraph, which could use a little more meditation. The underlying idea seems roughly clear: progress has created forms of complacency, behind which ideologies of inherited privilege continue to excuse and perpetuate racist and misogynist forms of subordination. But your data is deeper than the generalization,

-- TamaraO - 17 Apr 2013


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r3 - 14 Jan 2015 - 22:23:39 - IanSullivan
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