by Doctor Science
The other day KJ Dell'Antonia of the NY Times' Motherlode parenting blog wrote about a Parental Quandary: When Young Boys Joke About Rape, about two recent emails she received:
WARNING: cut for potentially triggery talk about rape, realistic and "joking"; also for images of canonical artistic nudity.
She arrived just as a large group of fifth graders came bounding in from school — and that’s when D.’s story becomes a quandary. “Three fifth-grade boys ran up the stairs and announced that they had passed a bunch of high school girls on the walk over and told them they were going to rape them.”I asked my Sprogs whether boys make these kind of rape "jokes" at our local middle and high schools, and they said, "Duh! they're middle-school boys!" Sprog the Elder says she thinks this kind of thing also goes on at most colleges, though not among anyone she associated with voluntarily.
D., startled, said nothing — she didn’t know the boys, and wasn’t the host — but one boy repeated the remark several times.When we got home, I was talking to my son, doing the usual play date debrief, when he mentioned that while the boys were playing upstairs, one was on the top bunk on top of another pretending to rape him and the other boys were laughing at them.M.’s story was similar: her son, whose part Asian heritage makes him one of the few minorities at his new school, tells his mother that his classmates tell both boys and girls, “I’m going to rape you,” and “throw around the N-word as if they own it.” (None of the boys are black.)
D. e-mailed the school’s social worker, who declined to get involved. M., too, feels stonewalled by an uninterested school. “We’re new,” D. writes, “and I don’t want to be *that* mom that starts something, but …”
For comparison, Sprog the Elder *never* heard anyone using "the N-word" in our high school, and Sprog the Younger has only heard it used from one black kid to another, never by anyone of another race. Our school district is economically well-off but fairly diverse racially, so no-one really stands out as *unique* that way.
I was honestly taken aback when the Sprogs told me how common rape "jokes" are among schoolboys these days. I was further surprised -- well, maybe not *surprised*, but *disappointed* -- at how Dell'Antonia and the commenters to her post discussed being "*that* mom" -- without any talk about being "*that* dad".
You see, as time goes on I become more and more convinced that we can't fight rape and rape culture unless *men* do, and in particular unless men press back against it when women aren't around. IMHO the best argument for men not tolerating rape "jokes" in all-male environments is in Helpful Hints for Dudes, by Time Machine:
A lot of people accuse feminists of thinking that all men are rapists. That's not true. But do you know who think all men are rapists?For middle- and high-school boys, who are trying to figure out how to act like men, rape "jokes" are pretty securely masculine, because *women don't make them.*
They really do. In psychological study, the profiling, the studies, it comes out again and again.
Virtually all rapists genuinely believe that all men rape, and other men just keep it hushed up better. And more, these people who really are rapists are constantly reaffirmed in their belief about the rest of mankind being rapists like them by things like rape jokes, that dismiss and normalize the idea of rape.
If one in twenty guys (or more) is a real and true rapist, and you have any amount of social activity with other guys like yourself, then it is almost a statistical certainty that one time hanging out with friends and their friends, playing Halo with a bunch of guys online, in a WoW guild, in a pick-up game of basketball, at a bar, or elsewhere, you were talking to a rapist. Not your fault. You can't tell a rapist apart any better than anyone else can. It's not like they announce themselves.
But, here's the thing. It's very likely that in some of these interactions with these guys, at some point or another, someone told a rape joke. You, decent guy that you are, understood that they didn't mean it, and it was just a joke. And so you laughed.
Or maybe you didn't laugh. Maybe it just wasn't a very funny joke. So maybe you just didn't say anything at all.
And, decent guy who would never condone rape, who would step in and stop rape if he saw it, who understands that rape is awful and wrong and bad, when you laughed? When you were silent?
That rapist who was in the group with you, that rapist thought that you were on his side.
This is another example of my subtractive theory of masculinity: that masculinity ("acting like a man": a cultural performance that isn't merely "having the chromosomes or genitalia of a biological male"), in our culture, is defined as "not being feminine or womanly".
a Man is defined as someone who is Not A Woman. This worked OK when men could do a lot of things women can't. But if women can be smart, then men must be stupid; if women can be moral, men must be evil; if women love beauty, men must love ugliness.I hadn't realized that this kind of "joking around" about rape had oozed all the way down into middle schools, or when this happened, or if it's going on in other countries, too. But it's frankly appalling, and I think it's time for more men to step up and tell their friends -- and their sons, and their younger brothers -- that rape isn't something for a Real Man to joke about.
Livy is clear that no sexual assault took place. On the contrary, Romulus offered them free choice and promised civic and property rights to women. According to Livy, Romulus spoke to them each in person, "and pointed out to them that it was all owing to the pride of their parents in denying the right of intermarriage to their neighbours. They would live in honourable wedlock, and share all their property and civil rights, and—dearest of all to human nature—would be the mothers of free men."-- but as Sprog the Elder pointed out to me, the Roman state traced its origin to the idea that the rape of a Roman matron was utterly unacceptable, so Livy had to make sure that Rome's founding myths included no "real" mass rape. The Greeks were never so squeamish.