Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Frog

I thought it was time my friend's baby had an official nickname - so in the future I am going to call him the frog.

I told the frog that men all over the internet were feeling sorry for him and he laughed hysterically. Although that probably had more to do the fact that he was playing with a cellphone than anything I said (he loves playing with cellphones and computers - I think he wants to be a grown-up).

My post about the frog got a lot of attention, Span has summarised it so I don't have to. I thought about ignoring the furore, but there are two ideas, that almost every right-wing male blogger who wrote about this made, that I thought it might be useful to clarify.

There have been a lot of men who have implied that my worries about what will happen to the frog are my primary, or first thoughts about him, or change the way I look at him. I suspect most of those men haven't spent that much time around 11 month old babies. Here are some of the most frequent thoughts I have about the frog:

'You're just the most cleverest baby that ever was.'
'You've established that the gravity works, so do all the frozen peas need to go on the floor?'
'You want to read 'the very hungry caterpillar' again?'
'Shit I need to tie my hair back.'
'oh no horrid o'clock, what will we do?'

The ridiculousness of the way they overplayed my worries for the frog in an attempt to discredit what I said isn't that a big deal. What is more worrying is that the men who have written about my post have implied that rape is a rare crime. They have compared being afraid that a boy will grow up and rape to being afraid that a woman will commit infanticide.

It should be no surprise that right-wing men have no idea how many men rape women. It's not a tiny percentage, and it's many order of magnitude larger than women who kill their babies. For example 4.5% of American men going to college admitted forcing a woman to have sex with them when that woman didn't want to have sex. That's one in twenty men at university who will admit to having already raped a woman. Then there are the men who don't admit it, or who don't count what they did as force, or think that silence means consent, or that if she's passed out it's fine. Studies show that somewhere between 20% of 60% of men say that they would force a woman to have sex with them, if they knew that there wouldn't be any consequences (the variation depends on how the questions are phrased).

I don't want the frog to be part of that group. I want him to only have sex with people who don't just consent to sex, but actively want sex. I know that if we lived in a world where women were valued, and our desires were considered to be important as men, I wouldn't need to worry about that. I know that if the only influences on the frog were the people around him now then he would always respect the desires of the women who he is having sex with (if he's having sex with women). I'm worried about how the rest of the world will change that.

In the comments thread it was clear that I wasn't the only woman who had this fear. Flea has already written about it, much more eloquently than I ever could. I recommend you read her post.


  1. Everyone with an ounce of humanity in their bones worries about how children they love will turn out.

  2. That post by Flea made me cry. I think it should be required reading for any man who's hostile to feminism before he's allowed to participate in discussions about rape.

  3. The thing that annoyed me a lot about your posts (and to a certain extent flea's) was that they were holding up examples of what men shouldn't be rather than the good male role models from around them that they should aspire to be like.

    But I suppose that's a real glass half empty, glass is half full thing. I think that the vast majority of men are great and that they think woman are just as great. I also think that under certain circumstances, we can all do horrible things which explains some 'bad male behavior.' I also think that some people are just evil, which explains away the rest of the 'bad male behavior.'

  4. There are plenty of good male role models out there, and men hardly need to have that pointed out to them. Some men, however, do need to be educated about rape issues, because male privilege (and a whole host of misconceptions, such as that rape is rare) mean they haven't had to think about them as much as women have, particularly feminist women.

  5. Clint, your response to Maia's posts has been incredibly offensive, and quite unnecessarily so. The level of abuse you have used does you no credit and to now try to get up on your high horse is pathetic. Maybe you should be a little sensitive to the fact that there may be people in this forum who know far too much about rape and find your comments distressing.

  6. Maia - given the reality of post natal depression et al. trying to dismiss the comparison with infanticide doesn't exactly work either.

    It is much more effective trying to get a point across if the sundry points aren't incorrect.

  7. Sofiya,
    Yes, men do need to have good male role models pointed out to them it helps them reach outside their comfort zone and break down misconceptions of life. I'm not just talking about men that are in the media, but men who contribute to soceity in a small way. Like one of my students from last year who wants to be a chef so that he can make food for his future wife. Hardly earth shattering stuff, but still beautiful and something worth celebrating.

    As for rape. Some of us have dealt with it, some not. While I think that women have a right to be angry over it, putting men that may be sympatic on the defensive about it, isn't going to do anyone any favors.

  8. Stef, I might be more sympathetic to Clint's "sympathy" if he was less abusive about all this, particularly on his own blog. Some of the language he has used does not indicate someone who has "sympathy" or is sensitive to the difficulties of these discussions at all.

    On a different note, I would be interested to know how many of those who have slammed Maia for sharing her thoughts read the posts criticising her before they actually read her original post.

    I also note that Blair, who raised the original objections on Kiwiblog, has not exactly been known for his sympathetic views on rape and consent:

  9. Span the tone of the debate was already set in her Orignal Post where she said:
    "I'm so scared of what this world will turn him into... How our world in general, and the army more than anything, makes men into monsters."

    Using the actions of what some men do to call all men monsters is what they are reacting to. It would be like generalizing about woman on the basis that the way that Paris Hilton etc. act. People don't like being attacked on things like gender on the basis of what someone else does.

    So while Clint's rantings are nasty, and I think he should perhaps show a bit more sensitivity in the debate, I don't think that particular comment from Maia's orginal post did much to set the tone of the debate. Perhaps that magic word 'some' before men may have changed it.

  10. Oh ffs... would these same people be so defensive if your comments had been based around hoping the frog (love the name, btw) didn't grow up to be a bully? I know quite a few people who have recently had their first child, and concern and speculation about the type of person they are raising and the heaviness of that responsibility is rife.

    So why does phrasing such a common concern as being about rape rather than bullying, which is simply another form of power-related badness, make it a conversation that Shall Not Be Had?

    Any sensible adult involved in the life of a child will have at least one long and sober think about how to help raise that child to be a good person.

  11. Clint Heine - you can take your sexist abusiveness somewhere else - you're no longer welcome commenting on this blog and I will delete any comments you make.

    Stef - you have taken that statement completely out of context. Just read the sentance before, I was writing about a group of men who had raped a 14 year old girl and killed her family the many more men who had been involved . That is a monstrous act.

    To say that the level of rape and the number of men prepared to rape isn't a natural result of 'boys being boys' but as a result of a culture that creates that behaviour is not anti-male.

  12. Maia, I'm not disagreeing that the act was monstrous. However the men involved in the incident aren't representative of the American Army, let alone the entire of the male gender. If they are caught, they'll expect to be court marshalled and will spend a lot of time in jail for their crimes. If the army supported their actions in any shape or form, then they would have been honored.

    The numbers and level of rape are still in a minority of males so to make blanket statements hurts, not helps the anti-violence message because you are alienating the population you are hoping to reach, men.

  13. I like Flea's post - it is actually a good message to deliver to boys at puberty. It should be along with positive male role models as well, but it is something that boys at the right time should think about. However, the general message about how using force to get your own way is wrong should be taught from a very young age - if it has been, then the message Flea delivered at puberty would simply re-emphasise it.

    A culture that does not glorify the initiation of violence would be an enormous leap forward.

  14. You know what, Stef? I'm really tired of comments like yours:

    "putting men that may be sympatic on the defensive about it, isn't going to do anyone any favors."

    I'm tired of having to sugar-coat my beliefs so I don't repel any men. I'm tired of having to act nicey-nice so that I can get men on board. I'm tired of having to do favours. If men are defensive about it, they should think about why. Rape is one of the patriarchy's systematic tools for oppressing women, and all men, in some way, benefit from its very commonness. I'm tired of even talking about rape with men, because nine times out of ten in my experience they'll try to take over the discussion, share some moronic anecdote about some woman they knew who ran around to a man's house naked with "I WANT TO FUCK" tattooed on her head and then cried rape, and then start giving women advice on what to do to avoid rape. I wish they'd just shut up and listen. The only excuse for getting defensive is if they've got something to defend -- like the patriarchy, for example.

  15. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  16. (I deleted my comment because it was on the wrong post! sorry about that)

  17. Sofiya,
    If you insult someone, they aren't going to listen to you. Simple as that. They may try the stupid ancedotes because they are feeling uncomfortable, and chances are that they are. Ranting and raving isn't the way to do that.

    I see men as my brothers, and think that they have as much as a role to play in anti-violence as women do. So I don't think that limiting yourself to crying in corners with other woman isn't going to change the world. Working together will.

  18. I don't insult men during discussions about rape. I just won't pander to them or let them frame and control the discussion. If we let men off the hook and don't make them hear unpleasant truths about rape, we're just perpetuating the status quo.

    And by the way, your comment about "women crying in corners" is incredibly offensive, and to my mind shows a profound ignorance of what rape survivors go through.

  19. "Rape is one of the patriarchy's systematic tools for oppressing women, and all men, in some way, benefit from its very commonness."

    Systematic? There once was an insipid culture of rape tolerance or ignorance - an elderly relative of mine was a victim of that. Today I know few with that view, and I, and most who I know don't hold it.

    I benefit from rape? I don't want rape to ever happen, because I don't want women and children I know, and don't know, to be victims from rape or any violence. I don't want people fearing others will initiate violence.

    Yes men should listen, I've never ever disagreed with that. Listening goes both ways, and those with other perspectives and experiences are not disagreeing with the key point. I'm appalled and revolted by the fact that several women I know have been raped - I find it distressing and it angers me.

    Men are already "probably pedophiles" in their contact with children. This is one reason why so few become primary school teachers, because men having close contact with children "probably want to fuck them". This attitude and fear has been cultivated for around 25 years and is incredibly sad, and innocent men can't do a damned thing about it. Now parents can't even change their toddlers beside a pool because of this hysteria. Yep, patriarchy is doing a fine job looking after men there.

    When statements like "heaps of men, as discussed, rape" get thrown about, it is like saying "you probably do". You can either accept, as Stef said, that there are men who don't rape and find it abhorrent and support steps to change the attitudes of those who tolerate it, or you can brand them as part of the problem. Do the latter and it's an insult, and hurts you more than helps, because you alienate all men, and a fair number of women who don't agree with that approach.

  20. I object to being used as an example of "insensitivity" to rape simply for raising what I felt at the time was an academic question. I accepted that the view I expressed was incorrect, and it is therefore not a fair representation to use it to defame me in this way.

    Of course rape is widespread, but frankly women who use rape as an excuse to be bitter and twisted towards men make me angry. Often these women have not even reported their rape. And that is why rape is so prevalent - men can get away with it. The day men start being punished for rape is the day it stops being a common occurence.

  21. Blair - it's unfortunate that you feel misrepresented. I'll leave your comment up so that your insensitivity towards women who have been raped can be matter of public record.