March 15, 2011

When Is It Okay To Rape A Woman?

no one's gonna hear nothing

I think I'm supposed to put up a *PTSD triggers* warning, so consider yourself warned.


On the Ron and Fez show, an male intern asked: if you could rape a girl, but then give her this magic drug that left her with no memory of the rape, would you do it?

Such hypotheticals are often argued over beers and best settled over rum, but the real learning isn't in the answer but in the asking of the question.

His argument was that since there's no evidence that it happened and she can't remember it, then she can't possibly suffer the consequences of it.   So, no harm done.  And the response to this is that there's a reality outside of perception, and whether she suffers or remembers doesn't much excuse the act.  Rape is rape.  End of story.

But it's right about there that the question gets more interesting.


Without even answering the question, it's important to understand what the intern did: he assumed that most of the (male) population would (want to) do the same.  He didn't think men would all rush out and do it-- and he was protected from finding out because such a magic pill doesn't exist-- he believed that in men's hearts, when they consider the world of fantasy and what they wish they could get away with, men would want to get away with this.  We all wish we could just bang that girl and then erase her memory.

A caller incorrectly identified this as the consensus fallacy.  A consensus fallacy is the assumption that since lots of people believe it, it must be true.  But in our case the intern's mistake was in assuming that lots of people agree, which is false.  The actual fallacy is called the false consensus bias, in which one assumes others share the same beliefs as you do. 

I make this distinction explicit because it should be evident that two different kinds of people will be prone to either error.  Some will hold, as their premise, what many already believe; and others will PROJECT what they believe onto others.

Importantly, no amount of data or solid evidence will convince the latter-- the false consensus bias guy-- that he is wrong.  That's because it's not a belief, it is a maneuver, it is an act to protect the self, an act that they will take as far as they need to.  "No, they're lying, they're just not willing to admit it."  When you hear that-- "I speak for others who are too frightened"-- run; because if they had a gun, they would speak for you.


In physics, you typically solve an equation by getting it into the form of a different equation that's already been solved.  So the Rape question is of the form "if a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?"  Solve for x: duh.

Not so fast, Sir Charles, technically, the answer is no.  The question doesn't ask if the tree fell or not, but if it made a sound.  The felled tree generates (real) air pressure waves that we call sound waves, and these pressure waves hit the ear machine and are interpreted as sound. The tree doesn't make a sound, we interpret what it makes as sound.  A creature with no ears might experience these waves differently, Beethovening them as vibrations on it's body.

So now our rape question is, if a penis goes inside a vagina, but no one's around to remember it, is it still rape?

The intern says that as long as she never finds out, she can't judge it as rape.  He's arguing that moral questions ("this is rape/ this isn't rape") are different than technical questions ("I penetrated her/ I didn't penetrate her.")  There's no such thing as objective morality, society merely agrees on some rules-- and since she can't remember, she can't judge it. 

Fine; but he is a person, and he remembers it, and he was there.  So it is still rape.  He might try and rationalize that he doesn't think it's rape, but then he'd be lying: the question he asked used the word rape.

One of the biggest mistakes we make when arguing with dummies is that we don't take their own words at face value-- we allow them pretend that their initial move was meaningless in comparison to the revisions, like a bank robber who says to the police, "yeah, but I'm giving it back right now."  The initial volley is always the most relevant: everything afterwards is defense.


But there are some of you who will agree with the intern.  Some of you will wish you could-- not that you'd ever do it, but boy oh boy wouldn't it be great.  It's to them I'm writing.

The intern, and you, don't even need to have performed this rape; simply by answering the question in the affirmative, your lives have veered sharply to the left, you have made connecting with another person substantially more difficult.  By which I mean impossible.


If you could rape a girl, and then give her a magic drug that would leave her with no memory of the rape, would you do it?

In responding to the intern, Ron (the host) made an obvious point, and before I make it I want you to clear your mind and imagine yourself acting out this scenario.  You're a man, on top of the woman, finishing, pulling out, and then giving her the drug.  She blinks, looks at you like she forgot what she was going to say, and goes back to ringing up your order.

Got that image?  She doesn't remember anything.  She's perfectly happy, no harm done at all.  The point Ron made was, "so if a couple of my boys from the west village rape you in the ass, and inject you with the drug, that's ok?"  He used the word "fucking" to modify every noun in that sentence, but I'm paraphrasing.

Some of you are right now experiencing a weird disconnection.  Like the intern, that obvious thought simply hadn't occurred to you.  And it wakes you up to the reality of the rape, of course this rape is wrong.  Forcing you to imagine yourself as the victim makes the scenario  more real, more vivid. 

But why it didn't occur to you?  Are you a bad person?  Selfish?  Homophobic?  Why is imaging yourself as the victim more real than imagining yourself as the raper, even though that was the intended fantasy?

Because picturing yourself exerting power is fantasy; imagining yourself as victim is easy.  Which is why you brought this all up.  You spend a lot of your waking life creating elaborate fantasies of power that contain their own self-justifying logic, and those fantasies are so numerous that added together they actually take up a real portion of your day.  A portion you're not spending on something else.  If I saw a Tardis, then I would know how to pilot it.  If such a drug existed, then my sexual problems would all disappear.

What you don't see is that this logic isn't even self-justifying, it is self-destructing.  Not "since I have sexual problems, I wish I had the drug"; but, "since I wish I had the drug, I have sexual problems."  Since I wish I had the drug, two hours have already gone by.  I'm staying in tonight.


How could you live with yourself?  Guilt without shame, that's how.  Guilt without shame, for you, is no guilt, because what you did isn't who you are.  You're a good person.  How do I know?  You told me yourself.

You can imagine yourself getting raped by the West Village guys, and that's really vividly bad.  Imagining what she must feel when you do it to her-- that's really vaguely good.  How easy is it to empathize?  Easy.  How easy is it to sympathize?  Not so easy.


No one can hear us.  So level with me:  just because it's wrong, doesn't mean you wouldn't still do it. Right?

The intern, in a pseudo-devotion to his premise, said that the west village ass raping scenario is a go under his logic.  Maybe, maybe not, but what he was really thinking was, "I know it's wrong, I don't want it happening to me, but if I could do it to someone else, I might still take the chance."  Stealing is wrong but if the leprechaun is off dancing a jig you're going to shimmy down indigo and make off with his Lucky Charms.

In your defense, violating a rule is much healthier than thinking the rules don't exist.  So you're not lost, you can still change your life.  But it's lonely.  There's no one else in it.


"If a tree falls in the forest, and there's no one around to hear it fall, does it make a sound?"

The question itself is explicitly a question about sound, but we wield it to make a point about  objective reality.  We want it to be about reality,  fine, but that's because the objective reality question seems open to debate while the scientific one is not, and so we alter the question's intent to get to where we want to go.

So the way we choose to hear the question says a lot about what we believe to be true or important, even without answering the question.

Let's re-run the scenario.  On her, in her, out of her, drug her.  She blinks her eyes, smiles, and goes back to cheerleading practice none the wiser.  End scene.  That about right?  Okay, question: was she crying?

The scenario is about a magic drug that makes her forget.  But how on earth do you plan on getting your penis inside her before that?  How are you going to get an erection strong enough to penetrate a woman who is crying in terror, not to mention resisting?  The reason you're even imagining this is because you feel like you can't get her through seduction, so you still have the mechanical problem to contend with.


I agree that a dangerous minority want this fantasy to be about violent rape, and I agree that it's easy to spot those guys because they all have mustaches.  BUT the majority are imagining... come on, think hard, get into the scene, you are imagining that she likes it.  Maybe you imagine her partially drugged (though that wasn't part of the premise, was it?) but by the end of it, she's into it.

That's what makes this premise so bizarre and so revealing.  If she enjoyed it, you wouldn't  bother with the forgetting drug.  What he is imagining is that she'll want to have sex with him and then forget; but what he said-- what we've run through for several paragraphs-- is that he wants a drug to make her forget.

Squirm, wildman, squirm.  "No, what I meant was..."  And it starts, the minor adjustments to the original question, e.g. "well, the drug could be for the times when you know you could totally bang your wife's sister but who needs all the drama later?"  Fine, but admit you just made that up now.  That wasn't what you were imagining.

And so on, a million of these amendments and appendments and defendments to the original question that you say are clarifications, but they're all defensive, they are post hoc rationalizations, they are diversions.  The true form of the question you are asking is, "does the ability to give a girl a forgetting pill afterwards give you the courage to try and hook up with her?"  Which simplifies to: "can you live with rejection?"  Solve for x: duh.


The argument here is that you would rape her as long as she wouldn't remember it or suffer, but it reveals how little you are able to perceive the complete existence of others that you would even consider using them as a prop.  I can confidently predict a gargantuan amount of rage in you, which you will assume is completely unrelated.  You'd be wrong.  They are the same force.

The interesting thing about where you have found yourself is that it is easy to fix, but as usual the focus has been backwards, on you and not on what you do.  While the question reveals a lot about you, it also causes you to think and behave a certain way.  Though it's a fantasy that a pill can solve your problems, your mind includes it in weighing your next real moves.  You are less likely to approach that girl at the DMV because your mind has found a safer way (for you) to handle it.  That "less likely" may only be a dyne of force, but it is not nothing.

Now think about how many fantasies and scenarios you're actively running every day about a million things, and think about how many of those things you're actually attempting in real life.  I know the popsicleogists will say you're running the scenarios to make yourself feel better, but they are what's holding you back.  Those thoughts, in the absence of any action, have defined you.   Just because no one else can see it, doesn't mean it didn't happen.


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