Rapists Not Viewed as Criminals?

Amanda Marcotte argues that society secretly sympathizes with rapists.

Amanda Marcotte makes a rather odd assertion:

Our culture treats rapists not like out-and-out criminals but with the ambiguity reserved for vigilantes.  Yes, we officially condemn people who take the law into their own hands by attacking those who threaten us, but we also admire them and often refuse to convict them when we’re on juries.  Rapists are viewed as just a specific kind of vigilante—the kind that assaults women who threaten by transgressing the multitude of sexist and often contradictory rules we have for women, especially “be sexually appealing but not too sexual,” or “be fun to be around, but don’t have too much fun yourself.”  So while rape, like other forms of vigilantism, is illegal, society often sides with the rapist over the victim.  To cite a recent example, the rapist is kept on the team and the girls are forced to cheer his name, while the victim is booted off her team and fined $45,000.

The fact of the matter is that rapists are considered among the most vile of all criminals. Lore has it that they’re singled out for special scorn even by fellow inmates in maximum security.

Murder is often thought of as a crime of passion. In the case of, say, a father who tracks down and murders the man accused of raping his daughter–classic vigilantism–we’re likely to be quite understanding and either think he doesn’t deserve to be convicted at all or at least consider the extreme mitigation. There’s no parallel for rapists. It’s an act of depravity that normal people simply can’t empathize with.

Further, rape and all sex crimes are considered such a sign of dysfunction that we continue to punish them even after they’ve served their time. When a murderer or bank robber finishes serving his sentence, he’s a free man. Most states won’t allow him to vote and he’ll have a hard time finding a decent job. But he won’t be prohibited from living within a certain distance from a schoolhouse or have all his neighbors notified of his previous life.

Do men accused of rape sometimes get exonerated by juries? Sure. We have this thing in America called “due process” and, before we can take away a man’s liberty, we have the burden of persuading a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that he’s guilty of the crime. That’s actually hard to do in the case of rape, where there’s almost never an eyewitness aside from the victim and the physical evidence is often destroyed.

And, please, the cited case of the cheerleader forced to cheer for her rapist is horrifying but hardly typical. Indeed, the ball player in question had been suspended from school and the team until a grand jury failed to indict. The incident in question happened after that and before he later plead guilty to misdemeanor assault; so he’s not a rapist in the eyes of the law. Unlike vigilante justice, which is fast and feels good, due process is messy and unsatisfying. But, as it turns out, people are occasionally falsely accused of crimes. Including rape.

Is it true that we sometimes “blame the victim” for being raped? Sadly, yes. To some extent, we do that for all assaults; if a male gets beaten up whilst walking by himself late at night through a rough neighborhood, we’ll wonder what the hell he was thinking. But, despite years of teaching that rape is a crime of violence, many still viscerally regard it as a crime of sexual appetite that can be warded off by proper dress and comportment. Our mores have changed radically within my memory but, yes, we counsel our daughters to dress conservatively and take prudent precautions about their public behavior more strenuously than we do our sons. Partly, that’s leftover sexism. Mostly, though, it’s a bow to reality. All things being equal, women are more vulnerable to attack than men. And, yes, while women have much more sexual license than they did in years past, there are double standards.

Regardless, though, nowhere in decent society are rapists viewed as anything other than vermin. Nor has it been otherwise in modern times.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Law and the Courts
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. I could equally say that people like Marcotte forget about the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” whenever a rape charge is made.

    The Texas case is a good example. She calls him a rapist, but he was never charged with rape, and he was ultimately convicted of misdemeanor assault. Rape has a specific definition under the law, and she’s abusing it by using it for someone who was neither charged with, nor convicted of the crime.

    The other factor, of course, is that “rape” has come to something other than violent, forcible, sexual intercourse. The entire nebulous concept of “date rape” comes to mind.

  2. Ken says:

    Bear in mind this would be the same Marcotte who proclaimed the guilt of the Duke Lacrosse players, expressed outrage that anyone would question whether they were being treated fairly, and then dumped her whole history of writing on the subject down the memory hole.

    Rapists are scum. However, there is no rational basis to suggest that accusations of rape are inherently credible.

  3. Paul L. says:

    Amynda Marcotte is still mad that in her view the Duke Lacrosse Players escaped Justice and even profited from the coverup.

    Since people are determined to make hay over this quick shot of a post, I’m deleting it and here’s my official stance. The prosecution in the Duke case fumbled the ball. The prosecutor was too eager to get a speedy case and make a name for himself. That is my final word.

  4. James Joyner says:

    There is, alas, a fiction within parts of the feminist movement that women never lie about rape because it’s such a traumatic thing. So, if a woman accuses a man of rape, he’s automatically guilty and any questioning of that fact is an outrage.

  5. I think the disbarment of the prosecutor and the accusers recent indictment for murder close the books on the Duke Lacrosse Case. Sad Marcotte still can’t admit she was wrong.

  6. mantis says:

    Marcotte’s a nut.

    Such a sentiment ignores how quick “society” can be to condemn someone accused of rape, rightly or wrongly. The Duke lacrosse players being just a recent high-profile example. The only other crime I can think of that would be worse to be wrongly accused of is child molestation. Good luck ever living that down.

    There is, alas, a fiction within parts of the feminist movement that women never lie about rape because it’s such a traumatic thing.

    Ridiculous, isn’t it? It’s not hard to lie about trauma you’ve never experienced! I toiled in a Chinese labor camp for decades! See how easy that is?

    Also, women who are raped lie about it all the time. It’s terrible, but it happens. It’s a very difficult thing to admit, and then to deal with the aftermath.

  7. Southern Hoosier says:

    We are talking Western law, Islamic law is quite different.

    Under Islamic law, rape can only be proven if the rapist confesses or if there are four male witnesses. Women who allege rape, without the benefit of the act having been witnessed by four men who subsequently develop a conscience, are actually confessing to having sex. If they or the accused happens to be married, then it is considered to be adultery.

    http://goo.gl/Qoc2V

    Here’s a story about a 14 year old rape victim that didn’t have four witnesses.

    Only 14, Bangladeshi girl charged with adultery was lashed to death

    http://goo.gl/VtMYC

    And then there is treating the rape victim as a criminal that needs to be punished.

    Sixteen-Year-Old Pregnant Rape Victim Murdered by Family in Honor Killing

    http://goo.gl/2zBxh

    Islam is peace.

  8. Drew says:

    I’m not sure what the point of the anecdote to follow is other than a commentary on the jury system……

    True story. It was on PBS years ago. If they keep archives for 20 some years you could probably find it.

    Documentary on a rape trial. Defendant aquitted. Interview with a juror who voted to aquit; elderly black man – (paraphrased a/c time passed) “yeah, he probably did it, but listen, nothin’ she could do about it…..she should have just laid back and enjoyed it, you know?”

    Now seriously. What can you do with that? Professional jurors? I just don’t know.

  9. PJ says:

    Maybe she got something wrong and actually meant to write about young, beautiful, female teachers and statutory rape?

    Because that would make sense.

  10. PD Shaw says:

    Rape, at least until a few years ago, was the only personal crime for which one could face the death penalty. Justices Kennedy, Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer are apparently pro-rape.

  11. PD Shaw says:

    I meant personal crime not resulting in death.

  12. PD,

    That’s so off base it isn’t funny. I oppose the death penalty for the reasons I set forth in this post and this post. .

    Does that mean I’m pro-murder?

  13. Cool Hand Luke says:

    Staying in the main by using sexual metaphors…Amanda Marcotte is a “dildo” and I can eat more boiled eggs than she can.

  14. PD Shaw says:

    Doug, it may not be funny, but I was being sarcastic. Sorry if I offended anyone.

  15. PD,

    Okay never mind. I totally missed the sarcasm.

  16. Janis Gore says:

    Cry me a river.

  17. Davebo says:

    The entire nebulous concept of “date rape” comes to mind.

    What exactly is nebulous with the concept of date rape (sans quotes for obvious reasons).

    In the end the burden of proof is on the victim and prosecutors. As you certainly should know prosecutors are loath to press the issue without more evidence than the alleged victims testimony.

    In almost all cases the alleged victim is required to prove they are victims.

    And seriously, I don’t think nebulous means what you seem to believe it means.

  18. Janis Gore says:

    I think that the conversation is stupid. I was not “date raped” at 16. I was ready and willing to meet an intelligent, talented, and handsome boy.

  19. Dave says:

    Janis – Date Rape is not the same thing as Statutory Rape.

  20. Trumwill says:

    Date rape isn’t having sex at 16. That’s statutory rape (or typically referred to as such). Date rape is being raped by a romantic acquaintance, whether you’re 16 or 26. It’s pretty straightforward. Doug needs to be clearer on what’s nebulous about it, unless he’s referring to rape cases involving women under the influence. That can be a bit trickier. But the concept of date rape is essentially that because you went out with him, you are not obligated to have sex with him.

    That aside, I agree with the consensus that Marcotte is way off-base here.

  21. Janis Gore says:

    So, I have a decent backhand. What is our threshold here?

  22. @Trumwill et al

    I am referring to the numerous instances we’ve seen over the years where a romantic encounter that started out as consensual becomes “rape” because one of the parties says it was. Typically it happens on college campuses and typically alcohol is involved. Also, typically, it happens when the female regrets the encounter for one reason or the other. These are cases where there is no physical evidence of force that one would see in a typical rape case.

    Given the existence of rape shield laws and the fact that there is a bias in the press that prevents an accusers name from being reported while the accused has his name splashed all over the paper, someone’s reputation gets ruined regardless of whether criminal charges are filed or successful.

    I think the law needs to distinguish between these cases and actual, violent, rape. Marcotte seems to fall pretty close to that line of thinking that believes all sex is rape.

  23. Dave says:

    Doug – Which do you think is more common: 1) a woman claiming she was date raped only after the encounter, or 2) a woman withdrawing consent midway through a sexual encounter and her partner refusing to listen?

    I have a hunch you’ll say 2 (it should be 2) yet you seem to bet putting a large emphasis on 1, which I just don’t think is as common as you think it is.

  24. Dave says:

    Let me revise 1 to A woman claiming she was date raped only after LATER REGRETTING the encounter.

  25. Dave,

    Depending at what point the “encounter” is at, withdrawing consent can be incredibly ambiguous to say the least

  26. Dave says:

    Depending at what point the “encounter” is at, withdrawing consent can be incredibly ambiguous to say the least.

    I believe the words “no” and “stop” are pretty unambiguous.

  27. Janis Gore says:

    I don’t know. Not one of the young women who have come through my house have complained of it. Do you know something else?

  28. Dave says:

    Let me put this a little more boldly: Doug, have you ever had sex with someone after he or she told you she didn’t want to be having sex with you?

    That is what date rape is. Your claims of ambiguity are way way overstated.

  29. PD Shaw says:

    Davebo, the NAACP at least at one time thought the prosecution of the alleged rapist of the chearleader was political. Prosecutors can have political pressure to pursue any case.

  30. Janis Gore says:

    There’s the much messier job of taking a young man’s brains into your lap after he’s shot himself with a shotgun, but one of my girls hasn’t talked about tthat either.

  31. Dave says:

    Janis – I’m having a really hard time seeing how what you are saying is following the conversation here.

  32. Janis Gore says:

    I’m saying that your young women are putting themselves into situations where they do not have the wits or the fortitude to escape, and calling themselves raped. I don’t believe it. Unless they are drugged.

  33. Trumwill says:

    Doug, what’s the alternative to withdrawn consent? Once you get started, it can’t be rape no matter what the guy does? If he starts doing something that makes her uncomfortable, she should just accept it?

    Absent physical evidence, I think it should be hard to prosecute a man for rape. But that’s the case whether it’s date rape or not. Whether it’s withdrawn consent or not. As Dave points out, the biggest risk is a completely consensual encounter later regretted. That false accusations can be made does not mean that the crime itself is ill-defined. Don’t have sex if she doesn’t want it. Stop if she says stop. Pretty cut-and-dry.

    Other than rape shield laws*, I’m not sure how it can be a problem with the law itself. Standards of proof are a bit more problematic. It’s an unusual crime that way. Makes it really hard to prosecute. It should be. But it’s not generally a problem of definitions, as far as I am concerned.

    * – Well, there is some ambiguity surrounding “too intoxicated to give consent” and a little bit surrounding statutory rape (Selective prosecution and questions about what he knew about her age, when, and what he should have known). But not really date rape, per se.

  34. Trumwill says:

    I’m saying that your young women are putting themselves into situations where they do not have the wits or the fortitude to escape, and calling themselves raped. I don’t believe it.

    It’s a woman’s obligation to have an escape route at all times, or else she wanted it?

  35. Janis Gore says:

    Until you boys pack it up with vasectomies and getiing off pornagrahy and 44 D tits, I guess so,

  36. Janis Gore says:

    What do you do?

  37. michael reynolds says:

    Janis:

    Actually it’s pretty easy. You’re starting to have sex, the woman decides against it, says no, and if you keep going you’ve committed rape. Maybe she was drunk and now she’s sobering up. Maybe she sees something she doesn’t like the look of. Maybe she remembers she forgot to take her birth control pill, or the condom looks unreliable. Maybe a lot of things.

    I’m a guy and I have no real problem understanding it. I’ll instruct my son accordingly, and my daughter as well.

    Maybe you should join the 21st century: men are expected to be in control of themselves. I don’t have much sympathy for men who aren’t. They’re no different at that point than the Egyptian mob that raped the female reporter. No doubt they’d blame her for being attractive and blond and unaccompanied by various male relatives.

    That’s bullsh*t. Just because we have penises we are not somehow allowed to be brutes. I certainly won’t set the bar that low for my son.

  38. Janis Gore says:

    Much as you would like to put Ms Applegate and your daughter on a pedestal, young women do lead young men on.

  39. pcbedamned says:

    Janis – STFU. You have no clue wth you are yammering about.

    I was raped at 15 (date raped if you will). I said NO. Plus, I was a virgin at the time. But the 20 year old guy didn’t stop. Did I place myself in a precarious position? Yes, which is why I told NO ONE about the actual events of what happened until I was almost 40. Yes, 40 – because back when it happened, most people felt the way you seem to be projecting, and I felt it was my own fault. It took me a long time to come to terms with what happened, including many years of drug and self abuse. All symptoms of a rape victim. Rape is power – not sex.

    NO means NO. Michael has it right. I have told my own teenaged son since he was old enough for ‘the talk’ the exact same thing. If a girl says NO, I don’t care if you are in the height of things – NO means NO. Always. End of discussion.

    (*angry at myself for responding to trolling, but this particular subject makes me livid*)

    Peace.

  40. Janis Gore says:

    I do not think that mid-coitus is where a girl says ‘no’.

  41. Janis Gore says:

    TrollIing?

  42. Tsar Nicholas says:

    I suspect the many thousands of men serving 15-to-life for sex crimes at various penitentiaries around the country would disagree strongly with the major premise of that (preposterous) article by Ms. Marcotte. Just a hunch…

  43. tom p says:

    Much as you would like to put Ms Applegate and your daughter on a pedestal, young women do lead young men on.

    Speak much Frued lately Janis?

    Look I don’t know about you, I don’t know about Doug, I don’t know about James…. BUT… when a gal said “no”, I took it as “NO.”

    James now has 2 (?) daughters and I can only hope that all their beau’s are that considerate. Other than that, I think James needs to have a conversation with his wife….

    She could educate him.

  44. MM says:

    Color me shocked that in a thread about rape, an upper middle class libertarianism white guy like Doug takes the side of “the real victims of rape are awesome dudes”. This has not happened in at least 4 seconds

    And for the record, Marcotte is an over the top humorless nutter.

  45. Janis Gore says:

    Young women do and they’re good at it. Nothing excuses gang banging a 13-year-old girl in Texas, however.

    Nothing excuses the rape of pcbedamned.

    But nothing excuses, also, too, waking up with a drunken Frat boy on your arm. Men call us coyotes.

  46. michael reynolds says:

    Much as you would like to put Ms Applegate and your daughter on a pedestal, young women do lead young men on.

    Honey, before I met Katherine I had a fairly . . .ambitious. . . history with women. One might even say I devoted my life to the pursuit of same. Single-mindedly obsessed might even be apt. I have been led on at times. I’ve never failed to control myself. Like many people I have things I regret in my life but the notion of forcing myself on an unwilling woman is repugnant. Even when I was a nearly amoral 20-something I knew better than that.

  47. Janis Gore says:

    This is why I think that the assignation of “rape” could be some overblown. “Rape” is a felony charge. Testify and send the boy up.

  48. Kindagrumpy says:

    Holy hell, who the frickin’ hell are you? Tell me, Janis – have you ever had your hair pulled while someone forces their genitals down your throat? Have you ever been pinned down and had a man (yes, 20 is a MAN to a 16 year old girl) try to ram himself into you while you cried no? While you begged for him to stop, and the only reason he did is because you were a virgin and it hurt HIM? Have you ever been forced, naked, to allow someone to violate you, insult you, pinch you, and call you vile, disgusting names for his entertainment?

    I was in a precarious situation – my parents left me in the care of another family, who had a 20 year old boarder, whom I dated. My parents thought I was safe. Initially, so did I. Two months later, I was a completely different person. I STILL bear scars from that summer – primarily internally. Abuse is wrong, Janis, whether it is sexual, emotional, physical or psychological – it’s just wrong. Your refusal to see that men DO rape women places you in a very precarious position… I hope none of your daughters ever have to read this vile tripe. Do you think I told MY mother, Janis? I tried. She didn’t listen.

    No is just that… NO. It’s two letters, one word, and yes I HAVE interrupted mid-coitus and said NO, I’ve changed my mind. That gentleman respected my wishes, and I still hold him in high esteem (may he rest in peace). There ARE real men out there, Janis, who understand and respect that a woman’s right to say NO exists regardless of how ‘far’ they are along the copulation scale. I was fortunate enough to meet one.

    Someday I hope to stand naked in front of someone else again – and not hear the voice in my head telling me how horrific I am, or listing all of my flaws, or pinching me, or poking me, or laughing or jeering at me. That is my goal. For 20 years I have controlled how close I allow others to me by manipulating my weight… and dammit, it’s been a long, tiresome ordeal. I’ve been anorexic, I’ve been overweight – and most of it, I realize as I get older, is deliberate. I couldn’t silence his voice in my head telling me how fat, ugly, and worthless I was while he TRIED to rape me. So I made sure he was right.

    That ends, Janis… for me, as I’ve worked hard to lose a lot of weight and regain my life and self-respect. Too bad that people like you still exist, to make others feel like they somehow deserved it. I know I didn’t…in my head. I still argue with the nightmares from time to time, after all of these years. So screw him, and you know what, you worthless piece of scum? Screw you too – for making victims feel like they deserve to be victims. You’re on the same level as the rapist; you make excuses and allow the violence and humiliation to continue. Damn good thing you didn’t have sons….

  49. Janis Gore says:

    Good lord. What have I ever done to you?

    I’ll go back to my space, where they’re going to open the Morganza Spillway and wipe out about 20,000 homes and camps.

    I’m sorry to cross you.

  50. ponce says:

    Republicans nicely demonstrating why they have such a hard time attracting women voters.

  51. Janis Gore says:

    Not at all, Ponce. Formulaic feminists against formulaic something else,

  52. G.A.Phillips says:

    I can understand what you are saying Janis.

  53. Barb Hartwell says:

    No means no period. Let`s not go backwards.

  54. Mr. Mataconis, perhaps your sensitivity to being “pro-murder” might inhibit such careless accusations as others being pro-torture.

  55. Eric Florack says:

    I could equally say that people like Marcotte forget about the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” whenever a rape charge is made.

    Actually, that wold include anyone she doesn’t like at the moment. Ponder her writings about GWB as an example. Kinda tells the whole story about her there, doesn’t it?

  56. TG Chicago says:

    Mr. Mataconis, perhaps your sensitivity to being “pro-murder” might inhibit such careless accusations as others being pro-torture.

    Advocating against the death penalty for murderers doesn’t make you pro-murder.

    However, advocating for the use of torture does make you pro-torture.

  57. Right, so saying that I can condone waterboarding under some very limited circumstances means I think that whatever Saddam did in his dungeons is ok. Got it.

  58. TG Chicago says:

    Leave it to Mataconis to take a slam dunk “Marcotte is being nutty” post and make it all about himself. Or as MM said:

    Color me shocked that in a thread about rape, an upper middle class libertarianism white guy like Doug takes the side of “the real victims of rape are awesome dudes”.

    The lack of empathy — or even common-sense perspective — is remarkable.

  59. TG Chicago says:

    Right, so saying that I can condone waterboarding under some very limited circumstances means I think that whatever Saddam did in his dungeons is ok. Got it.

    It doesn’t mean that (nor did I claim that it did), but it does mean you’re pro-torture. Condone=pro. Waterboarding=torture. Condone waterboarding=pro-torture.

  60. Janis Gore says:

    What I’m asking for is for women to embrace the power of their sexuality, internally recognize rape as a violent crime against their persons, and respond with more pure anger and less humiliation and shame when it occurs. Less crying and more hissing.

    Which is what Ms. Marcotte is getting to in her article, I think.

    As for the Texas cheerleader case, I’d be damned before I’d cheer for the team that kept the boy.

  61. pcbedamned says:

    @ Janis

    I wish you had have put it that way last night. And thank you for the comment above re: my circumstances. I am sorry for coming down on you hard like that, but when someone puts forth the idea that ‘the woman asked for it’, I really get my back up. I know sometimes on the ‘interwebs’ it is sometimes hard to understand context in someone’s comment, and maybe I was projecting my anger inappropriately. If so, I apologize. But as I said prior, this is one subject that really makes me livid. And not only regarding myself.

    Last June I found out that the ba$tard I was married to for 17 years had been sexually abusing our 16 year old daughter since she was between 3-5, and began actually raping her at 12. Now, due to my own experience, I had always told her NO means NO. I was very open with both my kids re: sex and all things concerned. I thought that I WAS empowering her, all the while not knowing that she was in fact powerless. See, he had groomed her so very well that she could spout all the right platitudes back at me, making me think that what I was saying was getting through to her. The last thing I ever wanted for my daughter was for her to be in a ‘position’ such as I was at too young of an age. And yet, all the while I was telling her that SHE was the one in control, unbeknownst to me, that control had been taken from her by the one person besides myself that she should have been able to trust with her very life.

    So yes, I may have overreacted. It has been the ‘year from hell’ to say the least. The one upside is that the moment I found out, he was gone. He is now in the Pen, but the collateral damage is immense. Just the word ‘rape’ brings out a visceral reaction as opposed to a reasonable one.

    Peace.

  62. Janis Gore says:

    I wasn’t very clear.

    Peace.

  63. Dodd says:

    Our culture treats rapists not like out-and-out criminals but with the ambiguity reserved for vigilantes.

    What planet does Marcotte live on again?

    This is quite possibly the dumbest, most willfully (and ideologically) purblind column I have ever had the misfortune to be exposed to.

  64. Eric Florack says:

    Sad part is, she’s been that deranged for years….. And the trouble is that one needs that level of derangement to be a good liberal, apparently, given the number of followers she has.

  65. An Interested Party says:

    And the trouble is that one needs that level of derangement to be a good liberal…

    Please, considering some of the ridiculous things you have written, you have shown that derangement is hardly confined to liberals…

  66. Rick DeMent says:

    Rape has a specific definition under the law, and she’s abusing it by using it for someone who was neither charged with, nor convicted of the crime.

    So does murder, but somehow the anti-abortion folks seem to forget that and some of them use their own definition to justify vigilante justice. Wake me up when Marcotte starts shooting people.

  67. Eric Florack says:

    Please, considering some of the ridiculous things you have written, you have shown that derangement is hardly confined to liberals…

    ]
    You are, trust me, in no position to make such judgments.