Today in Rape Culture

[Content Note: Sexual violence; rape apologia.]

One of the most pernicious lies people tell in asserting there is no such thing as "rape culture" is this: Everyone agrees that rape is terrible.

After RAINN made their absurd statement earlier this year undermining the notion of the rape culture, Caroline Kitchens wrote a piece for Time, titled "It's Time to End 'Rape Culture' Hysteria," which included a passage that is perfectly indicative of this lie:
In January, the White House asserted that we need to combat campus rape by "[changing] a culture of passivity and tolerance in this country, which too often allows this type of violence to persist."

Tolerance for rape? Rape is a horrific crime, and rapists are despised. We have strict laws that Americans want to see enforced. Though rape is certainly a serious problem, there's no evidence that it's considered a cultural norm. Twenty-first century America does not have a rape culture; what we have is an out-of-control lobby leading the public and our educational and political leaders down the wrong path. Rape-culture theory is doing little to help victims, but its power to poison the minds of young women and lead to hostile environments for innocent males is immense.
Rapists are despised.

Well, some rapists are. Especially the ones who hew closely to the Law & Order: SVU central casting description of a swarthy monster who jumps out the bushes to prey on innocent, beautiful strangers.

But rapists who look like—or literally are—the boy next door, rapists who are boyfriends and husbands and fathers, or girlfriends and wives and mothers, or bosses or classmates or free speech heroes or film stars or admired athletes, or even just good-looking, they're not as likely to be despised. Or even believed to be rapists at all.

Roman Polanski gets awards. Woody Allen has stars lining up to be in his pictures. And Mike Tyson, a man who was not merely accused of rape, but who was tried and convicted and served time for raping Desiree Washington, gets a biopic made of his life starring an Academy Award winner:
Having already played the corner man to one of the greatest boxers of all-time, Jamie Foxx looks ready to get back in the ring to portray one of the most recognizable boxers and sports figures of this generation.

Sources tell Variety that Foxx is attached to play Mike Tyson in an untitled biopic that Terence Winter is set to pen. Rick Yorn, who is Foxx's manager, is shepherding the project and will produce.

The package is still coming together and is currently without a studio, but once the final details are ironed out and it is presented to the market, it shouldn't be hard to interest a distributor.
Of course it shouldn't.

The piece goes on to call Tyson "one of the most polarizing figures in sports" with "a rough around-the-edges personality," before briefly mentioning that, in the 1990s, his "life began to spin out of control, including a six-year stint in prison after being found guilty of rape."

He also "made headlines" when he "bit off part of [Evander] Holyfield's ear." His history of domestic violence, and subsequent rape charges, are not mentioned.

"In recent years," we are told, "he has kept out of trouble."

Some rapists are despised. And some rapists are rehabilitated. By which I mean: Their crimes both forgiven and all but forgotten, in order that they may be adored once again.

Mike Tyson will forever be an interesting figure in terms of the rape culture, and the narrative that we all condemn rape and despise rapists, because he is notable for having been convicted of the crime. There's no wiggle room for rape apologists to say, "He hasn't been convicted of anything." He has. Yet despite the conceit that convictions will silence apologists, Tyson's conviction hasn't.

To the contrary, he's still not even regarded as "a rapist," but a man whose life spun out of control, including having to serve time for being found guilty of rape. Just one of many reckless mistakes he made. Oopsy.

We need to get honest about this. Not all rapists are despised. And that is, from where I'm sitting, pretty damning evidence of a culture that tolerates rape, just as long as it's committed by someone we want to like.

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