Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Okay, so, that happened.

A long, long time ago* I wrote a post dealing with the topic of rape generally and a book by Susan Brownmiller particularly. What I said was that it was a powerful and incendiary book that provided rich material for the construction of theory, but suffered from a number of problems. Most important, in my view, was the fact that the book often sacrificed journalistic accuracy** in favor of narrative power, often serving more as a feminist polemic and less as an honest study of the phenomenon of rape. Nonetheless, I generally praised the book and then, as now, view it as a useful perspective on the issue. It is a starting point but, without question, not an ending point.

Now I haven't thought about this post in a long time. That's what happens with old posts- they're forgotten. But the great google-gazoogle hasn't forgotten and it must have led someone new to this post recently. I say that because I received a comment on this post and it was not particularly complimentary. Specifically, my commenter remarked as follows:

You do not need to apologise or excuse 'wanting' to read about rape.

Many people want to read about rape. That is the correct word to use. You want to read it..for whatever reason.

If you didn't want to read it, you would not seek it out and read it.

I have more to say so hopefully i'll remember to come back but I just wanted to say the above AND most importantly; that so-called rape story is pathetic and childish and looks like some kind of wannabe, taboo, internet erotic story about rape, meant to titilate. The lack of full stops should have given you a clue to the so-called author's intelligence or writing level (or should I say- lack of)

Now, I may be oversensitive but, really, this comment seems to by implying- rather darkly- that I have a prurient interest in rape. Perhaps my commenter imagines that I read the passage quoted in my post with a throbbing pulse and firm erection. Certainly, the brunt of my post argues against such a conclusion but, nevertheless, there you go. And while my commenter is at it, he or she accuses Hubert Selby of being stupid.***

The problem is, I have gotten this sort of thing before. I have a professional interest in rape, it is something I am interested in studying, and so I have spent a certain amount of time reading the literature on it. As I am familiar with it I have, from time to time, used examples drawn from it in class- particularly when I need to make the point to my students that correlation doesn't equal causation and discuss the famous, but meaningless, correlation between ice cream consumption and sexual assault. And in this context I recall a student remarking in class, "What the hell is wrong with you that you're studying rape?"**** So, since it's evidently a point of confusion, let's just go over a basic idea.

If someone tells you that they study murder, it doesn't mean they want to kill people. If they say they study malaria, it doesn't mean they want people to be sick. If they say they study terrorism, it doesn't mean they're going to blow themselves up. If they study nuclear fusion, it doesn't mean they're going to build a hydrogen bomb. And if they study rape, well, it doesn't mean they have some kind of perverse interest in it.

Look, seriously folks, a lot of the things scientists study are viewed as actual or potential problems. Do we study hugs? Well, some of us, but not most. Do we study HIV? Hell yes- not because we like it, but because we don't like it. Yes, I have an interest in studying rape, but it is not because I just think that rape is teh awesome. It is, in fact, because I dislike it rather a lot. And the thing that drives me crazy is that I have, at various times, felt as thought I have to defend my interest in the subject, as though sexual stimulation is the only possible reason I might have for not pretending sexual assault doesn't exist.

Yes, some people read about rape or watch shows about rape because they find the idea exciting. But accusing everyone who professes an interest in the subject of doing it for kicks just discourages genuine research. And in the final analysis, that hurts everyone.

Or, to respond to my commenter in the short sentences he or she seems best equipped to deal with: Bite me.

* Over four years ago, to be accurate.

** Never mind social scientific accuracy.

*** The New York Times famously remarked that, "To understand Selby's work is to understand the anguish of America," and some of you may remember another of his works: Requiem for a Dream.

**** Gosh, I love how free undergrads feel to ask questions sometimes.

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