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Christopher "Tanoro" Gray is a web programmer and science advocate especially concerned with resource management technologies, biology, and artificial intelligence. He is a student of epistemology and philosophy as well as an Atheist competent in Christian theology.


HOME > Tanoro's Blog  >  Richard Dawkins and Categorizing Rape
Richard Dawkins and Categorizing Rape
Posted by: Tanoro - Jul 29, 2014 10:52am

Oh my Flying Spaghetti Monster, what a goddamn pseudo-controversy from stupid people! Richard Dawkins is getting some heat from people for making a few questionable tweets involving rape and under what circumstances the experience is worse.

The point is simple enough to me. Am I the only one who reads Dawkins' statement and understands them as mere variables in an overarching concept? If you remove the example of rape, you are left with the point that I suggest Dawkins was trying to make. "Experiencing two simultaneous unfortunate circumstances is logically worse than experiencing only one;" ergo, being raped as well as violently beaten and/or stabbed is logically worse than simply being raped. Some readers understood the point while others saw the word "rape" and went ballistic. How dare you discuss rape in a hypothetical example!? Dawkins rephrased.

I am willing to admit that this rephrasing was poor and with ambiguous meaning. It makes the same point as his first attempt, so I am increasingly confident that I understood him correctly, but a careless -- or half-cocked -- reader may fill in between the lines that this is implying that rape is not itself a violent behavior. I am sure Dawkins would agree that rape is certainly a violent behavior and that he was talking about violence in addition to rape. Huffington Post quotes Jody Woodward from East London Rape Crisis, "Rape itself is a violent act regardless of whether any physical force is used. For survivors there is no hierarchy as to what constitutes 'better' or ‘worse’ rape. Rape is rape; there is no such thing as mild rape." Let's make the exact same point using a different context. Which is more unpleasant: 1.) kicking you in the shin; or 2.) Kicking you in the shin and then slapping you across the face? Both are violent behaviors, but one option obviously causes more pain than the other. Violence may be violence, but that doesn't mean we can't spin our brain gears and determine which one is "worse" than the other. Nobody expects rape survivors to compare their experience against what others have endured. That would be rather conceited of them. However, this is a hypothetical example in a character-limited tweet. Calm down, people.

Jody Woodward continues, "...these worrying myths around 'real' rape being committed by strangers at knifepoint can impact on women..." Well said! Now, go find someone actually promoting that argument and feed them that line. Taking both of Dawkins' attempts to articulate this point, he does not appear to be trying to say what you are trying to make him say.

Finally, "The impacts and consequences of rape for victim/survivors are no lesser because there was no knife involved and to suggest this is the case is discrediting the voices of survivors." That depends on what you are trying to assess. If you are only trying to assess the impact the experience had on the person, you would probably be absolutely right. But let's remove the subjective element and look at the same point objectively. Two people are sitting in an emergency room. Both were raped, but one was also lacerated with a knife and is bleeding profusely. According to you, the person who is bleeding doesn't need any treatment, urgency, or care beyond what the other person gets because, after all, they both got raped and all rape is equal. The absurdity is clear.

Experiencing two counts of violence is worse than one. Work with that and calm the fuck down.

UPDATE 12:35:47:

After some thought, I am willing to concede that date rape carries with it a violation of trust in addition to the violence of the rape itself while a stranger rape at knife point is carries two counts of violence. An individual may subjectively feel that impact as two violations versus one, respectively. Once again, this depends on what you are assessing. If you are assessing the subjective impact, it is two violations versus one. But let's assume we're looking at it objectively, as a court of law would do so.

If someone were take you out on a date, take you back to your home afterwards, and force sexual intercourse upon you, you'd have a case for sexual assault. A stranger rape at knife point would be prosecuted for sexual assault in addition to assault with a deadly weapon. The latter is the more severe, making it a "worse" crime meriting a more severe penalty. Most of Dawkins' critics have been adamant that he was attempting to determine what is subjectively worse to the victims of these two situations, but I am skeptical that Dawkins was even trying to speak within that context and that these criticisms are half-cocked.

UPDATE 12:46:39

Writer Lizzie Dearden at The Independent has decided to join in by butchering the context of the conversation. Look at the headline, "Richard Dawkins says 'date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse' on Twitter." No, he said stranger rape at fucking knife point is worse. Fortunately, I'm sure Richard Dawkins is accustomed to this sort of treatment. After all, creationists also have selective hearing.

UPDATE 17:17:19:

Richard Dawkins have clarified further on his blog. A lack of quotations barred from me understanding his original point clearly. His intended message was that categorizing one misfortune as better or worse than another (any X or Y you care to compare) does not mean that you endorse the less unfavorable of the two. I detected the followup statement as a pre-emptive rebuttal against critics getting the wrong idea -- like they did anyway.

Huffington Post
The Independent

This blog is an editorial and contains only the opinions of the author. The author claims no expertise on most topics of discussion and this blog is not to be cited as an alternative for properly vetted journalism or scientific sources.

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