This comment was from NickMostly, replying to Joanna Schroeder, on the post “I Can’t Speak for Men and I Shouldn’t Have to“
Joanna, I think there are two things here. The first is the response to Nikki’s piece, and the second is what our moral culpability is as members of society.
Nikki’s post at first assumes that rape culture exists, and then takes men to task for not fighting it. A lot of men don’t agree with her initial premise, so it’s something of a non-starter. I think the reason many men don’t accept the idea of a rape culture is because the idea is contrary to their personal experience. I’ll take my own personal experience as an anecdote – the most misogynist man I know, a guy who has internalized the “war of the sexes” as truth and sees women as manipulative bitches, would never rape anyone. As he said to me when I asked, “What? No, that’s just fucking wrong!” I also know (knew) two rapists. One is a highly disturbed individual (we’ll call him Jack) and is recently released from jail, living in a motel, and listed on the registry. The other (we’ll call him Gene) was a gang member, who was required to rape a girl as part of his initiation. Jack insisted she wanted it and got what was coming to her. Gene realized the wrong he had committed (he saw a difference between shooting a rival gang member and assaulting a “non-combatant”) and was remorseful until the day he died.
Researchers have done a lot to tell us who the rapists are. Most rapists are not like you and me, they are lacking in empathy and have other psychological disturbances. Gene appears to be the exception. His act was not one borne of feelings of privilege or malice towards women, but because of external pressure to be part of the gang. But neither Jack nor Gene are representative of men yet, according to the way “rape culture” is often described, we are to believe that our culture tolerates the behavior and existence of Jack and Gene. We know this is not true. Even in prison rapists are looked down upon as the lowest scum.
I think to many men the idea of a rape culture is foreign because they don’t know any rapists (or at least they don’t think they do). Again, going only from my circle of friends, none of them are friends with rapists or even know any rapists (saving one who is a public defender). To them, the idea that our culture “accepts” rape just doesn’t ring true.
Whether or not we believe “rape culture” exists, there is a secondary question of what moral obligation we have to address the incidence of rape within our culture. Setting aside the fact that men are also and increasingly victims of rape, this is actually a tricky problem that is exemplified by the classic moral dilemma of the drowning girl. If you’re not familiar with it, the problem sets out that you’re walking along and you see a drowning girl struggling for help. You can dive in and rescue her, but you’re wearing a very expensive outfit that will be ruined in doing so. Most people don’t hesitate in saying they would rescue the drowning girl and that it’s the moral thing to do. However, now assume that instead of a drowning girl, you’re asked to write a check to save the life of a girl around the world. We are assured that she will die and that our financial intervention will save her. Most people do NOT feel morally compelled to write that check.
I think this is the very mechanism at work with respect to the alleged rape culture. Men will work in their immediate lives to counter rape, both by not raping and by not tolerating rape or rape language among their friends. But to ask men to “write that check” to combat rape culture, and to fault them for not doing so, is to demand men behave in ways that moral psychologists say we as a species are ill-equipped to do.
I think what you’re saying, Joanna, is essentially what Murat is saying. He is acting morally within his personal sphere and he believes that it is our requirement to do so. What he rejects, and I don’t think you’re suggesting otherwise, is the idea that men should feel guilty if they don’t write that check. I’m inclined to agree, because as just as writing the check may be, it is a moral standard to which we don’t hold ourselves, and to demand it of others is unreasonable and unfair.