Dear Progressive Community: Stop being rape apologists

As feminists have been saying all week, this business with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange says a lot more about how we feel about rape than any government conspiracy ever contrived. The spin is mind-numbing! Conservatives want Assange’s head on a platter for leaking sensitive and classified US documents through his Wikileaks site. Meanwhile, many high-profile progressives and feminists are bending over backwards to save him from a government witch-hunt.

It’s all bullshit. Progressives: Your hero-worship is making you blind.

As far as I’m concerned, Assange is getting treated just like every other high-profile man ever accused of sexual assault (rape), domestic violence, sexual harassment or any other violent or discriminatory act against a woman. We don’t want to believe it. Oh, not him! But I love Al Gore! But Roethlisberger is awesome! But Clarence Thomas will be the second black man on the Supreme Court! But I love Chris Brown‘s music!

Come on, letting famous guys get out of jail free on sexual violence is what we do! It’s like the fucking national past-time. Why on earth would Assange, who in many progressive circles is being hailed as an anti-government hero, be any different? (I mean, Gore is a Nobel Peace Prize winner. So, he can’t be guilty, right?)

Don’t get me wrong. It’s hard when our heroes fall. Before the rape allegations I was cautiously interested in Wikileaks both in what it contains and the shit-storm it has wrought. Good for Assange to stir things up. And I’m all for freedom of speech and speaking truth to power. (Although, I suspect Assange is just a media-whore asshole rather than an anti-authority profit.)

But with all due respect to my fellow progressives: You are acting like ignorant assholes!

Michael Moore, really? You think bailing out Assange and helping him avoid extradition is an example of sticking up for the little guy? And Naomi Wolf…you can take your sarcastic post and shove it. How can a long-time feminist of your stature stoop to belittling allegations of rape as Interpol acting like the “dating police”?

I’m so disgusted with Wolf’s tone:

Thank you again, Interpol. I know you will now prioritize the global manhunt for 1.3 million guys I have heard similar complaints about personally in the US alone — there is an entire fraternity at the University of Texas you need to arrest immediately. I also have firsthand information that John Smith in Providence, Rhode Island, went to a stag party — with strippers! — that his girlfriend wanted him to skip, and that Mark Levinson in Corvallis, Oregon, did not notice that his girlfriend got a really cute new haircut — even though it was THREE INCHES SHORTER.

Are you really that insensitive? Are you really that callous toward the implications for rape survivors all over the world? You took your high-profile visibility as a feminist and squandered a golden opportunity to talk about rape, sexual violence and how we deal with it. Instead of sticking up for all the women who are never heard or who don’t have the courage, you stuck up for Assange because he is your hero.

Well, on behalf of sexual violence survivors everywhere, if I may be so bold to speak for all of us for just a moment: Fuck you!

Maybe the details are cloudy or maybe everyone’s hero-worship of Assange has made reporting them cloudy. Here Jessica Valenti, of Feministing.com fame, offers the details in this Washington Post article:

The allegations against Assange are rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion. He’s accused of pinning one woman’s arms and using his body weight to hold her down during one alleged assault, and of raping a woman while she was sleeping. In both cases, according to the allegations, Assange did not use a condom. But the controversy seems to center on the fact that both encounters started off consensually. One of his accusers was quoted by the Guardian newspaper in August as saying, “What started out as voluntary sex subsequently developed into an assault.” Whether consent was withdrawn because of the lack of a condom is unclear, but also beside the point. In Sweden, it’s a crime to continue to have sex after your partner withdraws consent.

Well, that seems pretty straight-forward to me, as far as rape cases go. I don’t know about you but I don’t think it’s possible to give your consent to sex while you’re sleeping. No matter how it started, for both women, consent was withdrawn. Game over.

Oh wait, we’re talking about violence against women (because I think we can agree rape is pretty violent), so justice is going to be elusive. Even in Sweden, with its tough-on-rape laws, only 20% of reported cases go to trial. According to RAINN, here in America if an arrest is made there is an 80% chance of prosecution. (And of the estimated 39% of rapes that are reported in the US, there is a 16.3% chance the rapist will end up in prison.)

Meanwhile, our twisted view of sexual violence is one where something like rape is never clear-cut. We have a tradition of not believing rape allegation and judging victims through a harsh morality lens. What were you wearing? Were you drinking? Were you out late at night? Essentially, were you asking for it? And that cuts deep in the Assange case. The two women accusers were, by their own accounts, fans of Assange and they initially consented. So that means there’s no way it’s rape, right? This is not only a limited view of consent but it’s a very dangerous one, too! Does this mean that no wife is ever raped by her husband? No sex worker is ever raped? No stripper is ever gang raped? Consent is the back-bone of sexual violence. After all, sexual violence is not about sexual gratification but power. How better to have power over another than to deny their right to decide what happens to their very bodies?

Maybe we’ll never know the truth. Maybe the rape allegations are a government plot. At this point, it doesn’t even matter. What matters is that we’ve just telegraphed a terrible message to countless survivors (and people living in conditions of torment and victimization right now). We’ve told them, yet again, that their story doesn’t matter. Because why would anyone want to listen to them? Look what happens! You get vilianized and scrutinized and no justice! No one believes you!

Shame on you progressives! Stop apologizing for Assange! Stop making excuses for him! Stop talking conspiracy theories! You make me sick.

2 thoughts on “Dear Progressive Community: Stop being rape apologists

  1. Pingback: What you missed on The Sin City Siren this week « The Tired Feminist

  2. Pingback: On Michael Moore, #wikirape and denouncing Naomi Wolf « The Sin City Siren

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