Rape By Any Other Name…: Why We Need to Stop Slandering Assange’s Rape Accusers

By now I’m sure you’ve all heard about Mr. Wikileaks Julian Assange and his arrest.  He’s charged with alleged rape and sexual assault.  The women involved claim the sex began consensually and then when they told him to stop due to lack of condom usage, he wouldn’t.  Well my friends, that’s rape.  But not all see it that way and have taken to attacking the women making the claims.

So why is everyone brushing this off as no big deal? Why are so many laughing this off as “surprise sex?” Jill Filipovic at Feministe explained why this IS a big deal.  She writes,

“But the concept of withdrawing consent seems to be a little tougher for folks who think of sex as something women give to men (or men take from women); it’s definitely a tougher concept for folks who think that sex inherently sullies women. I suspect that the thought process goes, If the damage (penetrative sex) has already been done, then the situation can’t possibly turn into a rape, because the initial penetration itself occurred consensually, and it’s that penetration that’s the basis of the harm in any rape case.”

But Robert S. McCain, blogger at “The Other McCain,” accuses Filipovic of blowing things out of proportion.  Rather than recognize Jill’s astute explanation of what constitutes rape, he vilifies her, calling her post “unadulterated nonsense” and “silly.”  He writes,

“In an era when some 40% of U.S. births are to unmarried women, in a culture where “Girls Gone Wild” and “hook-ups” are normative, where threesomes, bisexual experimentation and amateur video-porn orgies have become a virtual rite of passage for many young Americans, where chlamydia and herpes are pandemic — in this era of rampant sexual decadence, I say, does Jill Filipovic (J.D., NYU) seriously expect horny strangers to negotiate consent calmly on an act-by-act basis while they’re knocking boots, making the beast with two backs, in flagrante delicto?”

Wow.  Listen asshat, ANY time a person tells you to stop during sex, and you don’t, THAT’s rape.  I don’t care if it’s 30 seconds in or an hour.  This douchebag asshole actually makes the offensive statement, “Listen up, sweetheart: You buy the ticket, you buy the ride.”  WOW part deux! After he was bombarded with negative comments for his hateful and callous words, including from blogger Tommy Christopher who hilariously writes,

“As for McCain, I hope he stops taking his views on sexual consent from The Lost Boys; your penis is not the head vampire, and a lone invitation to enter doesn’t entitle you to wreck the place,”

R. McCain responds with what I’m sure he thinks is a pithy and clever retort.  He chalks up his comment as an allusion to a Hunter S. Thompson quote. Um sure, it’s easy to say that after the fact.  He might as well have said, Oh I’m sorry I didn’t mean to be insensitive and uncaring to rape and sexual assault survivors…but fuck you, I’m going to be anyway.  He whines and rants about how feminists and their allies are blowing it out of proportion, vilifying him rather than demonizing the potentially guilty Assange.

Now look, I believe that people are innocent until proven guilty.  So Assange, while he sure seems like a sleazebag, might in fact be innocent.  But I also don’t believe we should assume that women lie about rape.  This does nothing but torment survivors and makes them relive painful experiences over and over.  As I’ve written before, don’t talk to me about how a woman is trying to get money or notoriety by crying rape.  I’m not saying it never ever happens.  But we shouldn’t foster an environment in which rape and assault survivors (women and men) fear telling the truth.  It’s disconcerting to me the way some in the media are describing the case in the first place.

R. McCain calls the women involved “leftist chicks” (ah what a gem of a guy).  Both Sky News and Daily Mail called one of the women accusers a “radical feminist,” as if it’s a dirty word and makes her surely unbelievable.  Luckily, Kate Harding at Salon criticizes the media’s warped portrayal of Assange’s accusers:

“The fact is, we just don’t know anything right now. Assange may be a rapist, or he may not. His accuser may be a spy or a liar or the heir to Valerie Solanas, or she might be a sexual assault victim who now also gets to enjoy having her name dragged through the mud, or all of the above. The charges against Assange may be retaliation for Cablegate or (cough) they may not.  Public evidence, as the Times noted, is scarce. So, it’s heartening to see that in the absence of same, my fellow liberal bloggers are so eager to abandon any pretense of healthy skepticism and rush to discredit an alleged rape victim based on some tabloid articles and a feverish post by someone who is perhaps not the most trustworthy source. Well done, friends! What a fantastic show of research, critical thinking and, as always, respect for women.”

But the problem is that even other feminists are taking to making light of the situation.  Naomi Wolf, a feminist icon whom I love, wrote what I assume is a satirical piece on how Interpol has become the “dating police.”  (Why, Naomi, why?!)  Of course not all feminists, including moi, were pleased with her post. While I’m all for humor, a statement like this, even in jest, does more harm than good.  As I’ve written before, we need to remember that abusers are the ones to blame, not survivors.

Amanda Marcotte at Double X argues,

“What is disgusting to me is how much of the left has conveniently forgotten that women who file rape charges can pretty much always expect to have their names dragged through the mud, unless they were “lucky” enough to be raped by someone of much lower social status who also jumped out of the bushes to rape them.  And even then, it’s iffy if a woman gets a sympathetic audience.”

Assange’s jerk lawyer blames feminists…as does R. McCain.   Listen, feminists aren’t lurking around every corner trying to frame men.  That’s not what we do; we’ve got bigger problems to contend with.  These solipsistic men think that our world revolves around them.  Newsflash…it doesn’t.  My problem lies in R. McCain’s callous behavior and attitude towards rape.  He also bashes Jessica Valenti and Jaclyn Friedman for writing in their book Yes Means Yes about how while conservatives don’t explicitly condone rape, they purport a rape culture.  Yet, that’s precisely what R. McCain is doing when he drops comments like these.  He’s telling women that their concerns are frivolous.  Whether Assange committed rape or not isn’t really the issue here.  When the media berates women and brushes off their concerns, ultimately they condone rape, betraying sexual assault survivors.  Detrimental sentiments like these need to stop.

4 thoughts on “Rape By Any Other Name…: Why We Need to Stop Slandering Assange’s Rape Accusers

  1. Hear, hear. Rape charges should always be taken seriously and no one is suggesting we lock Julian Assange up and throw away the key without following the Swedish legal system. The disappointing part is how many people, including liberal writers like Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill, have seemingly joined in the fracas.

    I also think it’s worth mentioning that people seem to want Assange to fit into some coherent, narrative box. Either he’s a heroic whistleblower or he’s an evil sexual predator and, depending on how you view WikiLeaks, you pick your narrative. But I think it’s possible that he’s both or neither or some combination of the two.

  2. Got to love McCain’s outrageous claims about sexuality: “…threesomes, bisexual experimentation and amateur video-porn orgies have become a virtual rite of passage for many young Americans…”

    He sounds like an old man blaming the world’s youth and sexuality for creating situations like the one discussed here. While I can understand the views of Assange’s supporters: the timing of the charges to come to light seems mighty suspicious in the wake of the Wikileaks scandal breaking and far too often in the news do we see stories of women accusing men of rape, only for the evidence to dry up or the suspect changing their story at the last minute. It is probably natural for the average person to think this is another situation like that. However, that DOESN’T mean we as human beings should ignore and dismiss these accusations, either. Sexual assault is a serious matter and until a heavier hand is laid on those who perpetrate such acts more and more victims will stand back and do nothing and say nothing because of the emotional toil it needlessly brings on them to report crimes.

  3. Perhaps it’s time people started criticizing women AND men for thinking and behaving like sluts, instead of normalizing a risk-infested, destructive and harmful way of thinking about sex, devoid of any moral or committed relationship framework. The women here are the ones who are responsible for their own reckless sexual activity.

    However, contrary to macho jingoism, thinking and behaving in a “slut”-like way is terrible and irresponsible for men as well. It’s this issue of the normalization of reckless, loveless, respect-less sex that liberals (US meaning) anywhere are too cowardly and devoid of ethics to address, whether it applies to men or to women.

    All three individuals in this case (two women and one man) have harmful views and behaviors about sexuality and personal relationships. And yet, this is the model that is being consistently pushed in just about every television show and movie, being taken up by a large number of people, young and old. I believe the damage that this does to the individual lives of millions of people is being completely ignored by a good part of society.

    If these women aren’t pawns of the CIA, they are pawns of the prosecution, which ridicules real rape survivors. And if the claim is that they have had their integrity violated, we have all had our intelligence violated by the ridiculous behavior of all involved in this case.

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