Social contracts and white knights an essay of sorts – Guest Post by MadJeffe

This is being posted here with the full knowledge and permission of MadJeffe.  
Today in my Circles a person wrote that a western civilization rape culture might exist in prisons and corporate culture in the US but it’s not that widespread. When I pointed out that 1 in 6 women will be raped or sexually assaulted in their lifetime someone else decided to challenge those statistics and claim that the number (according to the FBI was 1 in about 33 and the same for men and women). I’d like to say I’m surprised but I’m really not.  Society isn’t ready or willing to confront the fact that marginalized groups are harassed, assaulted and raped at a higher rate than the cis (male) white majority.
It’s a power thing and a culture thing by the way; abusers exist in all sorts of groups, but they all share one trait… they prey on the powerless and if a target is available they will use their power and clout to isolate and victimize others. It’s just easier when people are already marginalized.
The military is especially aware of it, and a lot of high profile cases have gone to trial because hazing and bad behavior led to harassment and a breakdown of unit cohesiveness. It exists for two reasons, people get some sort of rush out of abusing others, and people let it. In the military it exists where leaders allow informality, unprofessional behavior or dehumanizing behavior. It leads to Abu Graib or Tailhook by slowly breaking down accepted social barriers and replacing them with “traditions.” Sometimes these traditions can be fun, like end of patrol parties in foreign ports, sometimes they can be wrestling matches that end in one person sticking his thumb up another’s ass to “check the oil” sometimes it can be sexually humiliating prisoners in your care. These are all things that have happened in the military an organization that relies on discipline to maintain order and functionality.
Social groups don’t work like that; there is rarely an authority to call out bad behavior. In a way its closer to how the real world looks than the military. If the military has had higher rates of (reported) rape and sexual assault it’s that in the last decade serious steps have been taken to address them and take them seriously. In society that rarely happens for a myriad of reasons. Most notably the average person doesn’t get annual training on what is and what isn’t harassment, assault, or rape. They don’t learn how to report it and deal with it, how to protect others without having things get violent or out of control. Yes many people have had a required seminar at work, but it’s hardly universal and almost always follows some event. In public there’s no universal social policy because lots of places have lots of different laws.
Many places have no policy for dealing with harassment, or if it exists they don’t have the administrative authority or moral courage to enforce it.
And what about alleged abusers, shouldn’t they get some benefit of the doubt? To that I say only if you also give the accuser the benefit of the doubt. If a crime occurred and it was reported and legal punishment handed out, hell no you shouldn’t let them get away with it. If it’s a grey area, calling out the alleged behavior should be the standard. “I see you is” a good rubric, “I see you and will ensure people are safe from you” is another.  This person needs more social supervision, more policing until they earn back the trust they lost. Sometimes that may not be possible, and we can and should disinvite them from participating.
“What you said/did was wrong.” This is important to say too, it’s a statement of what the community is willing to allow. Drawing a line is absolutely acceptable, and probably the limit that social media will allow, short of a personal boycott of the person. Especially considering that social media is not an organized group.
It is imperative for curated communities like bulletin boards, LARP groups to codify what is not acceptable and imperative that they establish and enforce penalties for the offender. 
If a community is releasing information about the event they must keep language clear; do not turn a violent act into a passive thing. A person wasn’t raped, or groped, or harassed. A person raped, a person groped a person harassed… a person violated a policy.  If legal language needs to be used, that group should let a lawyer write it and not police themselves because non-lawyers are accusing them of libel.  
Basically we can do a lot more than scratching our heads and pretending there’s nothing we can do.
Anyhow to bring it full circle the first person in the story admitted that we have a real issue with harrasment and that would result in a pretty significant rape culture. The other, well last I saw he doesn’t believe we have a responsibility to protect people from harrasment (women specifically) because it will make them weak… but he’d punch a guy out if he harassed his daughter.
Yeah I don’t get it either … but hey getting one more person to see and admit a problem is progress right?
Ugh. So Now if I feel exhausted by this whole conversation, how do you think women feel? They carry this water 24/7.
So try to be an ally, apologize if you give offense, admit your mistakes, ask if a person needs help, listen compassionately, speak up, protect, share, support. And don’t give a damn if some bro calls you a white knight for doing the moral thing. It says more about them than it does about you. 
Thank you, MadJeffe, for standing up.  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s