Re: [LCA2011-Chat] Some Anti-Harassment Policies considered harmful

From: Matthew Garrett <>
Date: Wed, 2 Feb 2011 20:11:33 +0000

On Tue, Feb 01, 2011 at 02:17:14AM -0500, Theodore Tso wrote:

I emailed Ted about this privately, suggesting that he may want to think
about how he phrased this because he came across as amazingly
insensitive. His reply was pretty much the same thing restated, so my
conclusion is that he *is* amazingly insensitive. I should also point
out that, unsurprisingly, the rest of this email contains some
discussion of rape and victim blaming.

> If people want facts, perhaps they read some of these URL's and then come to their own conclusion:
> This appears to be the source of the 1 in 6 figure (17.6%). But
> it's worth going deeper. If you look at percentage of women
> reporting rape since age 18 (taking out the child abuse and
> statutory rape cases, which they also treat in detail), it
> becomes 1 in 10 (9.6%), and of those over 61.9% were at the
> hands of their intimate partner, as opposed to an acquaintance
> or stranger. Also in the survey, in the rapes that were
> reported via a randomized telephone survey, in 66.9% of those
> cases, the perpetrator did not threaten to harm or kill the
> victim. (Which makes it no less a crime, of course, but people
> may have images of rape which involves a other physical
> injuries, by a stranger, in some dark and deserted place. The
> statistics simply don't bear that out.)

Or, to put it another way: the cited reference supports Jacinta's
assertion that 1 in 6 women have been raped. Your mention of "1 in 10"
seems completely irrelevant unless you don't think there's lasting
effects of rape in people under 18 - this would probably come as
something of a surprise to the friend of mine who was repeatedly raped
by her brother between the ages of 11 and 13. She's oddly touchy about
issues of sexual violence, for some reason. I'm sure she'd be thrilled
to know that you're implying that she either wasn't really raped, or
that there's no reason for her to feel uncomfortable when surrounded by
men and shown sexual images. And, hey, breaking out the number who were
raped by their partner (ie, someone they *trusted*)? I can entirely see
that having had their trust violated, they'd have no reason to feel
uncomfortable around people they have no reason to trust at all.

Oh, wait. No, I can't see that at all. Because *it's obviously wrong*.
It turns out that one of the outcomes of traumatic experiences is that
people don't approach similar experiences in a rigorously logical
manner. Who can blame them? I mean, other than people who blame them. As
you seem to be doing.

Jacinta mentions that 1 in 6 women have been raped. You then engage in
some mathematical handwaving to say that the number who've been raped by
strangers in dark alleys is much less than 1 in 6. Which might be
relevant if Jacinta had said anything about the number of women who had
been raped by strangers in dark alleys, but since she didn't it just
makes it look like you don't think that other kinds of rape are as bad.
And you have no idea how this might make you seem insensitive?

> This one does a pretty good job of taking apart the Koss / Ms.
> Magazine study, which is the source for the "1 in 4" number.
> For example, it points out that over half of those cases were
> ones where undergraduates were plied with alcohol, and did not
> otherwise involve using physical force or other forms of
> coercion. And if you asked the women involved, only 27% of the
> people categorized by Koss as being raped called it rape
> themselves. Also found in the Koss study, although not widely
> reported, was the statistic that of the women whom she
> classified as being raped (although 73% refused to
> self-classify the event as rape), 46% of them had subsequent
> sex with the reported assailant.

In other news, women who stay with men who beat them aren't really
beaten. Really? What are you actually trying to prove here? That large
numbers of rapes don't involve physical force (something recognised by
the majority of rape laws)? That people who've been raped may prefer to
rationalise it in some other way? That understanding of what precisely
constitues rape is distressingly low amongst college students of either
gender? That getting women drunk in order to take advantage of them is a
common tactic amongst rapists? Because you seem to be saying that some
of these are somehow mitigating factors. I'm having trouble following
your logic here.

> This is a more popularized treatment of the issue. There is
> quite a bit of anti-feminist ranting in the article, which you
> should try to ignore while looking at the arguments, which is
> that some of these rape statistics don't seem to hold much in
> the way of water.

...based on premises like "it is inconceivable that a raped woman would
voluntarily have sex again with the fiend who attacked her", which it
turns out is entirely conceivable. This article isn't a rational
debunking of rape statistics. It's an extended stream of victim blaming.
If you're honestly defending the arguments used there then you're
apologising for rape. But given that you've already implied that various
kinds of rape aren't really rape, I can't say I'm surprised.

> Please note, I am not diminishing what rape is, and or any particular
> person's experience. However, I *am* challenging the use of
> statistics that may be hyperbolic and misleading, and ultimately may
> be very counterproductive if it causes people to become afraid when
> the reality might not be as horrible as the "1 in 4" numbers might at
> first sound. Just as it was wrong for George Bush to inspire fear in
> the population so he could push his War Against Iraq agenda through
> congress, it's also wrong for people who, out of good intentions,
> inspire fear in others or themselves of being raped if the statistics
> used are misleading and manipulated.

You're right, you're not diminishing what rape is. However, you really
do seem to be doing your best to. You've taken Jacinta's entirely
reasonable demonstration that a significant proportion of the audience
may have personal experiences that would leave them disproportionately
likely to be made uncomfortable by sexual imagery in a conference
environment, and you've used it as an opportunity to throw numbers
around in order to forward the argument that the number of women raped
by strangers in isolated areas is lower than 1 in 6 despite *nobody
having raised that subject at all*. Either you can't read or you
ernestly believe that things that aren't "rape rape" aren't relevant in
working out how many people might prefer not to have giant bondage
images projected on screens right in front of them. I'd charitably
assume the former, but you've then proceeded to make much the same
argument in other threads - even after you've been told how bad your
original post looked.

I'm pretty sickened, to be honest. It makes me unhappy that anyone makes
arguments like this. It makes me extremely unhappy when it's a high
profile member of the Linux community with responsibilities for
organising various events, and it seems weirdly ill-judged for you to do
so on a conference mailing list at the same time as you claim that you
treat the entire conference as work. Would you present these arguments
in the workplace? If not, do you think it's more appropriate to do so
here? Do you honestly think what you're saying makes our community look
more welcoming and understanding?

Matthew Garrett |
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Received on Wed Feb 02 2011 - 20:11:33 GMT

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