Half a day yesterday was spent repairing fences. Sawing fallen trees out of the way was the largest task. Just getting tools out and getting to the fence was a task. Wild rose bushes make the work unpleasant as they claw at everything. Soon my arms are a mess because it’s just too hot to wear long sleeves. I can’t move slowly enough to not engage them as they dangle and spring about with an alacrity that is impossible to avoid.
My daughter springs live trees upright that have been bent over by falling dead ones. Later, on seeing Osage Orange sprouting in a hay field, I comment that the fields need to be free of trees taking over and she responds that trees have rights too. If I were a tree would I want to be removed? I am never sure how to respond to the inevitable clash of life. She is clear that humans have done too much and somehow nature must return. She has big empathy.
It’s difficult to say often what is natural or not. Often it doesn’t matter and is used as a talking point. I never cared politically whether being gay was natural or not. It simply should be supported as a human right.
On another front it is infuriating to see the push back against those trying to prevent rape. And that’s my trigger warning.
Camille Paglia is back in the news with a Time piece that advises us that rape is natural. I’m sure some men are pleased to hear this. Paglia lambasts the current campus drives against rape–presumably all rapes, though date rape (used to be spousal rape) seems to be the litmus test of whether one is really for or against rape as natural. Luckily, no one seems to support the rape of dead people, or rape in war, or rape combined with violence. But all sides do seem to say that rape is rape whether the subjective experience of it defines its horror, to a point. Some women seem to be less affected by their rape while others are never whole again. Men talk about being assaulted and meh, others say it defined their sexuality. Consensus is that more people, by far, are affected negatively by rape. And yes it affects nonraped men because men must help the survivors and help resolve the issue, since men are by far the largest instigators of it.
Paglia harkens back to Hobbes by saying there is great evil in the world and we all are a wisp away from outright war to whatever human elimination can be technically managed. Like animals we are. Indeed, Jane Goodall was disappointed that her seemingly pleasant chimps could become quite aggressive. Yet, bonobos seem to engage in near constant sex to sway aggression while the retiring gibbons use distance to maintain peace. The harem-oriented gorilla hides away but nevertheless maintains size, on many levels, to keep other males in their place.
I am not sure how all of this relates to human rape. Nature only provides inspiration of what has become natural because of cultural survival or what has become cultural because of natural tendencies. Humans are indeed competitive but how that expresses itself is rich with variety, including becoming less competitive. Wars have a way of rewarding the returning-valiant in more food and women. I suppose in isolated combinations of warring groups there would be changes of valiance that are favored. But this is a bit like saying that since men are naturally bigger, they are naturally aggressive to women when in some human groups the size difference is minimal, if not the opposite. Which group when, how, and why? And does that relate to another group?
Laws in democracies and republics are created precisely because people determine a behavior must stop. It really doesn’t matter whether it’s natural or not. Restorative or punitive justice decisions may be affected but not the elimination of the behavior. Law simply doesn’t care if people are naturally murderous, thieverous, dishonest, or all of the other negative behaviors we prohibit. Why a law is necessary certainly involves research and observation but in some cases not. Do we really need research to support we don’t want murder or that we would prefer consent? Well, OK, we do to some as some really do believe that war is required for human thriving. They think preserving competitive and predatory behavior ensures sufficient will to provide aggressive self-defense should war happen to occur again. That would be Paglia when she is not apologizing but promoting. Nor is it true. A peaceful warrior is less likely to go overboard, encouraging negative pushback and spiraling, escalating wars.
Science does inform that sexual crimes have a high recidivism so there is good reason to continue remediation of those who are convicted of sexual crimes. Perhaps even to restrict some who would not be recidivistic (how would we know in the individual until too late) simply because mass human management is difficult. But we haven’t returned yet to castration for sex crimes or death for murder–though some see that as a solution too.
Demonstrating that patriarchy is still alive and well helps. That men still hold the most power in our society should be obvious. Yet men feel they are oppressed too. This binary view on these issues belies the spectrums and probabilities that are part of statistics. Perhaps statistics should be taught instead of precalc in high school as that seems far more useful in life. More importantly would be bridges showing how everyone is affected as well as those who are the worst.
Paglia’s notion that men return to predatory hunting, warring, and the capturing of women does condone that behavior. Rape in war is an often used tactic. That men can rape and physically harm screaming, wounded, women is indeed a tough thing to believe is possible at all. Surely it must be some biological thing of conquest? Who could be trained to that? No. Inculcation works to any level. It’s not a good and evil thing. It’s an adaptability and malleability thing.
To say rape is normalized in some wars should not mean that it is then somehow tolerated at their homes. It’s tough enough to get veterans to not be sound shy, trigger happy, angry, reclusive, or free of nightmares. We don’t resolve those issues by leaving them untreated, as being a natural result. To further the nonsense and say that all men have these problems because of an inherent evilness in people is too much like all people are full of unresolvable sin. It continues the religious notion that sin is inevitable, a thing, and humans can’t ever change.
Evolution shows that to be wrong and the incredibly diversity of individuals within groups shows just how much so. We will most definitely change over time whether we like it or not. But by rewarding behaviors we create incentives for success that do affect how we change and who will thrive.
Carol Tavris gave a talk on the apparently too-common case of where both parties are so drunk that no one knows whether consent was asked or made. It becomes impossible to prove rape when no one can remember? Is it fair to try? That’s not really true and some courts have a lower bar of evidence for rape and sex crimes. Hell the bar is even lower in drug laws where police can forfeit your possessions-money on your person and in your vehicle until you can prove they were not gained by drug deals. By this bar a man would have to prove it wasn’t rape simply because penetration occurred. I don’t think that’s what we want in both cases for different reasons. Well, on the other hand, rape is a worse problem than drug use.
Unconscious date rape is resolved by education, law, and social cohesion. We teach not to steal or murder. What makes rape less educable? Other people simply should not tolerate what appears to be oblivious rape as it happens and they see it. Further, men (all) must be educated that getting drunk on their part is worse than a woman getting drunk. Alcohol as a date rape drug is a problem and frankly I would say men should not get drunk if undiscussed sex is even remotely an issue. If a woman is drunk the guy can still know he shouldn’t go after her. I mean really, why in hell would you want to capture-rape a drunk woman? If that’s satisfying competitive urges then buying food at the store is hunter-gathering.
Saying that men are weak provides legitimacy to isolating women and reducing their freedom. Women can well counter that they are so blinded by male sexuality that men should never be bare chested or have even a bump in their pants displayed. That dancing is too much. That seeing their eyes is too much. That simply never being in the same room would guarantee there would be no rape. Paglia is returning us to this state where genders are balkanized because there just isn’t another way.
But there is a much better way. We can educate and we can treat each other with care. We can root out ancient traditions and values that encourage negative behavior. We can reward good behavior. Women’s studies. Sexuality classes. Morality and ethics classes. Critical thinking and statistics classes.
Jim Newman, www.frontiersofreason.com