Here is an ironic feature of rape culture: One of the key ways the rape culture is protected is by media outlets giving space to people (men, usually) who don't even know the most basic facts about sexual violence to wax imperious about rape culture.
It happens every time there is a major rape case in the news. And, every time, misinformation is disseminated about rape and rape culture by pontificators who imagine that everything there is to know about rape and rape culture is so self-evident that experts are unnecessary, irrelevant, nonexistent.
It is one of the great lies that the rape culture tells about itself: There is no nuance that requires a trained eye; there are no hidden details to be teased out, no patterns to be identified by experts who spend their lives immersed in this ugly subject. Instead, anyone who takes a most cursory gander at The Issue of Rape finds everything there is to know.
How else to explain this piece by Doug Saunders in Canada's Globe and Mail, which is positioned as a piece of anti-rape advocacy, but nonetheless:
1. Concern trolls (and implicitly serves to undermine the credibility of) Western feminists who underline the extensive rape problem in India is part of a global rape culture.
2. Suggests that it is irresponsible to identify a global rape culture.
3. Suggests that it is impossible for feminists to both identify a global rape culture and simultaneously identify and address the specifics of how it manifests in India.
4. Suggests that the rape culture manifests universally across India (which is not accurate).
5. States that Western feminists who won't single out India as totally unique—which would be colonialist, Othering, self-defeating, and inaccurate—have "rushed to declare that India's crisis wasn't notably severe," ignoring that saying India's rape culture doesn't exist in a cultural vacuum and saying India's "rape crisis isn't notably severe" are not remotely synonymous.
6. Presents misleading figures to make the (false) case that India's rape culture is totally unique:
In New Delhi last year, there were 635 rape cases brought to court, and only one resulted in a conviction. That's a conviction rate of 0.16 per cent; in comparison, English-speaking countries typically have rape conviction rates of between 40 and 70 per cent. Of course, the situation is actually far worse than that, because very few rapes in India are ever reported.In the US, factoring in a conservative unreported rape rate, only about 3% of rapists ever serve a day in jail. Conviction rates are not a good measure of how rape-averse any municipality or state is, because they only reflect the number of cases of reported rapes that police thought contained enough evidence for arrest, and prosecutors thought contained enough evidence for prosecution, and juries (or defense attorneys encouraging deals) thought contained enough evidence for conviction. Which is a vanishingly small number of actual incidents of rape.
If you're not actually trying to function as a rape apologist, quoting conviction rates as if that's some kind of definitive proof about the prevalence and cultural intolerance toward rape is A Bad Idea.
7. Says some real stupid shit about how Western cultures regard sexual violence:
Rape is a terrible crime everywhere, and it probably remains underprosecuted and all too commonplace and hidden in many places in the West, so there's plenty of room for activism. But, in part because that activism has succeeded, rape is a grotesque anomaly, universally recognized as a serious crime. That's not true at all in many parts of India.Rape probably remains underprosecuted. Rape probably remains commonplace and hidden. Rape is "universally recognized" as a "grotesque anomaly" and a "serious crime." If only.
I can't overemphasize how catastrophically unhelpful (to put it politely) it is for journalists writing about rape to casually throw out something like, "Rape is probably underreported." There is a mountain of evidence that rape is definitely underreported. No need to fucking guess.
I also cannot overemphasize how profoundly irresponsible it is for journalists writing about rape to assert that rape is universally regarded as A Terrible Thing. That is not the case, as anyone knows who has ever meaningfully engaged with anti-rape advocacy for more than ten seconds.
Never mind the endless onslaught of rape apologists, tellers of rape jokes, users of rape-appropriative language, and various jack-booted enforcers of the rape culture who seek to subvert attempts to treat rape with the seriousness it deserves. Never mind that calling something that happens (frequently multiple times) to one out of every six women an "anomaly" seems to suggest its user lacks a working knowledge of the definition of "anomaly."
The only evidence one needs to know that rape is not "universally" acknowledged as a "terrible crime" is the fact that there are rapists.
And they do not exclusively engage with the rape culture with acts of rape. They engage as sexual harassers. They engage as bullies. They engage as compulsive and chronic breachers of boundaries. They engage as rape apologists.
Some of them might even write articles for international publication that seek to minimize rape in their own backyards as nothing about which anyone should be too concerned. That is not a suggestion that Saunders is a rapist; it is a factual observation about how foolish it is to believe rapists are self-contained agents without an agenda that do not seek to influence public perception. They are writers; they are legislators; they are judges and police.
No: Not everyone agrees that rape is a terrible crime.
Saunders concludes, incredibly: "Activism can work—but talk of a 'universal rape culture' only helps perpetuate the problem."
So it's those of us who spend our lives immersed in anti-rape advocacy who are the real perpetrators of the rape culture. Well. For someone who purports to regard rape as a heinous crime, Saunders has been very generous to rapists.
[H/T to Shaker stuckincarn. Contact the Globe and Mail here.]