Different Comedians Have Different Styles, you see…

Anyone in guffaw withdraw from the lack of hilarious rape jokes from Daniel Tosh can relax: the bros at Friendly Rabid Atheists have got your back.

It’s been absolutely fascinating watching the evolution of the “Should we put up with sexual harassment with a coy smile and a curtsey?” debate that began when Rebecca Watson had the fucking nerve to say she didn’t appreciate being propositioned by a stranger in a locked metal box at 4 AM like she had the right to have feelings about her experiences.

As Amanda Marcotte argues so well:

Anti-feminists are “joking” about raping feminists to silence us. It’s unusual that they’re actually using the word; most men who talk about raping women into submission frame it more softly, by employing words we should only use to describe consensual sex, such as “getting laid”.

I know this shit is depressing, but take heart. You know you’ve got them on the ropes when they stop speaking in code and just come out with it. It’s the verbal version of flipping on the lights and watching all the roaches scatter.

That’s exactly it.

My Odyssey
Over the last ten years of my career as a full-time SIWOTI technician, I’ve gotten quite good at recognizing dog-whistles in certain debates. For instance, when I was 15 and stil thought there was a snowball’s chance in hell forced birth advocates liked babies, I’d argue with them. Like, sincerely. I invested myself in the outcome, and would try to actually persuade random people on the internet that my medical decisions should probably be left up to me.

Perpetually disappointed in their refusal to recognize my humanity, crushed under the ennui of their predictable and inevitably narrow range of responses, and frightened by their occasional rage, I logged off and disappeared into Nepal for several years. During this time, I was too traumatized to even drop a post-card in the mail. What if NRLF put me on their mailing list?

I found some Jedis and trained with them deep in the mountains. They taught me everything they knew about flamewars and I emerged with a preternatural ability to hear the dog whistles uterus-usurpers would send out, entire posts before they’d just come right out and say something overtly misogynist. The inevitability of this result, given the right pokes with the right sticks, revealed what they believed all along: They really don’t like women.

It’s one of my favorite games now; just the other night, I had a guy come out and say after a 30 post mansplanation of “ethical realism,” that “In an ideal world, I would not permit a woman who doesn’t want a transvaginal ultrasound to get an abortion, because she’s too ignorant to know what she’s doing.” There’s no such thing as too ignorant to be a parent for these dim bulbs though.

That’s what we’re seeing here.

We sat through the boring mansplanations about humor, the pretense of shock that anyone but the most hirsute joke nazi feminist could find innocent compliments as threatening, the facade of gender neutrality in frequency and hostility of “date” requests. None of it worked. We didn’t buy it. So as the old saying goes, when you’re out of bullets, why not fling shit?

What I find most illuminating here is that previously, we were fighting off this silly frame of “Oh how else are you supposed to know it’s unwanted before you even DO it?” which theory of consent if applied children would accept the “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you!” defense, and if applied to rape would require actual penetration before the “no.” We were previously bound by convention to pretend who is propositioning whom had nothing to do with the sex of the people involved. The women are demanding special privileges to never endure an unwanted come-on! It’s like, denial of my free speech! I don’t get to make them say yes, so how can they say I can’t ask?! Now they’ve tipped their hand in a big way.

It’s obvious that they’re the ones who’d know best whose getting harassed. Non-harassers don’t ponder questions like “Would it be immoral to rape a Skepchick?” The creepy philosoraptors at Friendly Rabid Atheists do. So it stands to abductive reason that they’re the ones who are probably doing the harassing.

The undertone of “Do it or maybe I’ll rape you” is a dog whistle which many people, but probably primarily women, have been forced by circumstance to get quite good at hearing. Remember: just because you can’t hear it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.

(Obligatory caveat: of course, this does not mean that all pings of the creeper radar are right. With any detector, there is a trade-off between sensitivity and specificity, or in other words, between how many false positives versus false negatives you’re willing to tolerate. With something ilke rape, where a false positive is at worst embarrassing, but a false negative can be devastating, the creepometer is going to sacrifice specificity for sensitivitiy.

It’s also an artifact of low signal-to-noise ratio of encounters with creeps in the wild. Your eyes do the same thing at night, where every shadow becomes a lurking evil monster in part because there’s so little signal – light – and in part because a little jumpiness is acceptable if it prevents an evil monster from eating you).

But would it be immoral to rape a Skepchick? Wouldn’t it be funny if it was like five guys? You almost want to pinch their cheeks; they’ve abandoned the earlier attempt to exploit the stereotype of female insanity by arguing that “skepchicks” – which in some circles has apparently morphed into a general word for any female skeptic – are horribly irrational for giving the amorous dudebros the side-eye, and volunteered to be an object lesson in why we really need to have good policies for dealing with the rape-obsessed weirdos that show up to conferences.

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Yessenia is a graduate student studying to be a speech therapist with an emphasis on traumatic brain injuries. She spends far too much time correcting the wrong people on the internet, lifting heavy things and training her cats. She's a proud internet atheist and trolls only for the greater good.


  1. July 24, 2012 at 9:05 am —

    Awesome post. One of the great things about the whole ugly deal is that us mere blog-readers get to read awesome essays like this one.

    It’s amazing how gratifying it is when assholes are forced to reveal that, yes, they really are assholes.

  2. July 24, 2012 at 11:45 am —

    Okay, I’ve read this post twice now and there’s something I still don’t seem to understand. Specifically where you say some people say “Oh how else are you supposed to know it’s unwanted before you even DO it?”

    Assuming the “it” in question is interacting with someone, this seems a valid question.

    • July 24, 2012 at 12:47 pm —

      Erm….you do see that it’s a valid question only in some circumstances, right? I mean, you didn’t have to murder a person before you discovered it was wrong, I hope.

      And in this case, the “it” is considering another person’s feelings before imposing your sexual desires on them. It’s not really a stretch to expect -empathy- as a baseline for human interraction, is it?

    • July 24, 2012 at 3:28 pm —

      It’s a valid question when asked by a small child who hasn’t had several decades of experience interacting with other people/being interacted with. For instance, when I was four, I thought licking other people was just the most awesome thing ever.

      However, I eventually learned that people as a generally rule do not like to be randomly licked by strangers. So even though I don’t know for sure whether, say, my coworkers would appreciate being licked, I’m not four anymore, and I know better than to try it.

      It’s my studied opinion that those who have interactions that consistently result in the other party feeling harassed, who pretend to have no idea what it could possibly be about their behavior that’s problematic, are exploiting a concept known as plausible deniability.

      The point I was making in the sentence you quoted is that the philosoraptors were pretending to be poor, misunderstood social naifs who just made a faux pas or were just trying to get a date. And as you point out, the question does sound plausible. We’re sincere people. We know that sometimes conversation can get awkward without any ill-intent. But our mistake is in assuming other people are just as sincere and just as well-intentioned.

      But the thing is, the rape-enthusiasts? They know how to lie plausibly. For a related example, consider a rapist who targets an intoxicated women. He knows he can plausibly deny the allegation the next morning much more easily than if he pounced on a virgin walking home in broad daylight after church. He can say she was drunk, she just doesn’t remember consenting, she wanted it, she just has morning after regret, etc.

      What’s great about their new strategy of outright threatening us with rape is that now there’s no plausible deniability. We know they’re opposed to harassment policies because they want to be able to keep harassing with impunity. We know they’re not sincerely confused about how to talk to women. They’ve taken off the mask and shown us all their hatred. Who’s gonna believe them now?

  3. July 30, 2012 at 3:00 pm —

    This! Every argument I’ve been in, comment thread, etc. comes down to “what about the poor nerd-guy who just doesn’t know?” He gets described as described as some kind of socially challenged Johnny Depp (or Joseph Gordon-Levitt if you’ve seen one too many damned pirate movies) who would be really fun or great in bed or a boon to The Cause or whatever, if only us nasty feminists gave him the benefit of the doubt when he shyly reached out for a hug of gratitude on finally meeting his Atheist/Skeptic tribe.

    But this guy dosn’t exist. He’s just a mask that the harrasers want to wear. He’s just an example of why we’re supposed to put up with their bad behavior, again and again and again.

    Quick anecdote. In my youth I hung out with a bunch of guys a lot. One weekend we got together to watch a sci-fi series marathon. I was totally crushing on dude 1 and dude 1 totally knew it. He asked me for a back rub and I gleefully obliged. Not 10 mins later, dude 2, who was a hideous troll and barely tolerated; asked for same. I said “hell no” and of course, that meant I’m a bitch. How dare I treat the two of them differently, after all, we’re all human beings?!?

    It’s the fatal flaw it these guy’s case. CONTEXT MATTERS. If poor, naive, and willing JGL look-alike, fumblingly rushed into my arms at a conference, SURE I would hug him. That doesn’t give troll dude permission to chat me up, and I for one, am not giving any ground when they trot out their straw man to prove how mean and nasty we are for wanting a little respect.

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