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Don't auto-HR.  It's not me saying that.  I believe nothing of the sort.  

I believe rape is a horrendous crime, that stranger rape and date rape and spousal rape and child rape and gang rape and "taking advantage" of an intoxicated person are all wrong, despicable, vile, rape-rape.

I wish I had more company in that.

"Rape = No Big Deal" is an incredibly common belief.

Of course, recently rape as no big deal has been making international headlines as the policy of India's national government and local police.  But we cannot simply shake our heads at the backwardness of some distant Other.  

"Rape = No Big Deal" is also the de facto position of today's Republican Party.

It's not just individual Republican misogynists running their mouths.  Rape minimization, and/or the minimization of women and girls' rights and humanity, is absolutely central to denying rape victims emergency contraception (Plan B) and abortion care.

But it's not just the GOP.  (Or the Catholic Church, which claims moral authority while covering up for child rapists, threatening victims, and comparing anger over child raping priests to the historical persecution of Jews.  If that's not a cultural sanction that rape is okee-dokee, I don't know what is.)  It's not just our ideological adversaries.

It's our laws.  As Brainwrap documented in the link above, 31 states allow rapists visitation and custody rights.  South Carolina only made marital rape a crime in 1993, and as of 1999, thirty states still considered it a lesser crime.  A California appeals court today overturned a rape conviction on the basis that married women can be raped by men impersonating their husbands, but that unmarried (sleeping) women cannot be raped by men impersonating their boyfriends.  The law in question was written in 1872; the ruling happened Wednesday.  Of this week.  Of this year.  [Edit: Villanova Rhodes has pointed out that this case has been remanded for a retrial.  The scary thing is, the appeals court may have correctly interpreted state law -- only impersonating a husband to commit rape is illegal in California, not a boyfriend.]

And of course, it's U.S. families, U.S. cities and towns, which cover up rape, blame the victims, and put other considerations -- sports, public image, institutional authority, the rapists' pasts or futures -- over justice for the victim.

But why?  Why all this covering, all this minimizing, all this denial?  The answer is as simple as it is uncomfortable: because of the people we like to erase when we say somebody "was raped" or some other passive construction: the rapists.

Because so many people have been raped (pick your statistic, they're all deplorable), statistically speaking we all must know, and possibly care for, a rapist.  They are our friends, colleagues, and family members.  (Statistically speaking, some number of registered users at DailyKos are almost certainly rapists, and not just trolls or spammers.)  The idea that rapists are, for most of their lives, just ordinary guys (99% of rapists are male) can cause anxiety and distress in the abstract and emotional chaos and hence denial in specific instances.  As a fabulous essay "Polanski, Rape, and the Myth of Not Like Us", now offline, put it, we need to believe that rapists are lurking monsters, visibly different than men we know.

This is why Hollywood celebrities line up to support a man who had admitted to anally raping a thirteen-year-old while she begged him to stop -- because they knew him.  They liked him.  They had to find some way to rationalize (minimize, deny) what he'd done.  And besides, he was powerful -- like the Steubenville rapists, writ large, he had talent and prestige which gave him impunity.

Which gave impunity to Sandusky, and Paterno, and continues to give impunity to countless rapists and their enablers.

I know this isn't a pleasant diary to read.  I didn't much enjoy writing it.  But it is important to call out cultural condoning of all forms of sexual abuse.  Our collective tolerance for rape, our "it's a no big deal" mindset, or our tolerance of others' "it's a no big deal mindset", is a sickness that lurks, latent and pervasive and destructive, throughout our society.  It contributes to ongoing crimes, and the ongoing victimization of survivors, in between cases like Steubenville and New Delhi which shock our jaded consciences.

Rape is a goddamn big deal.  We need to call out everyone, friends, "allies", or not, who says or implies otherwise.

© cai

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