This piece didn’t sit well with me. At first I thought it was just because of my knee-jerk, “no-duh”, reaction. Penetrating someone who is sleeping is rape. I still can not fathom why the guy was struggling with the idea he raped the girl. She was sleeping for god’s sake! But I was also have a hard time with this “good guy/bad guy” dichotomy that was being pitched at me. Not that Alyssa Royse is alone in this conversation, and I don’t think it was her intent to start a good/bad labeling war.
Matthew Salesses had the same response as me: trying to separate society and the individual’s sense of responsibility seems like a faulty way to go. After a semester of dealing with ethical issues with my senior communication students, I was reminded how important this conversation of personal responsibility is, as too many of them wanted to blame everything on the mass. Society! It makes us Do Things! The one student who consistently said, “But we have a choice,” was often shot down. So I was already sensitive to Royse’s idea that society is playing a role here. In fact, typing that makes me realize how much that still grates on me–my soul is screaming “we make choices!!”
The conversation shifted a little with these two pieces. Lynn Beisner talked about why consent isn’t an end all, and promptly came under fire for giving rapists ammunition–to the point that we need to sit down and play the label game. I don’t think that was Lynn’s intent either, and I think it was amazing of her to share such a personal and important story. The piece that really allowed me to understand the real struggle I was having was the one telling us why we shouldn’t say only “bad guys commit rape.” Joanna Schroeder’s piece alone has given me a lot to mull over, but what really struck me was the title. “Bad Guys.”
Good Guys do this. Bad Guys do that. Rapist Monsters. Is anyone noticing the language we’re using here? I see this when students give opinion speeches on crime/criminals or when people talk about any group of people they deem “beneath” them. Only good people do this and everyone else is a disgusting monster. Step one to hatred, intolerance, to indifference? Decide that some category of people is no longer human. Demonize, segregate, ignore completely the idea that ANY human has the capacity for ANY behavior. The language that decides “once a rapist, always a rapist” (really, put any crime in there), doesn’t allow for humanity, doesn’t allow for change, doesn’t allow to any societal improvements.
Oh yeah, it also doesn’t allow for that personal responsibility I’m talking about. Those choices we all make? If we say well that person is bad so that’s why s/he did that, then we’ve taken away any personal choices in the matter, as well as any ability for the individual to change and improve. Why bother rehabbing anyone at this point? They’re all bad, that’s their life sentence.
Joanna called it empathy. I’m fine with whatever you want to call it; I just want us to pay attention to our language choices. It’s a short easy step from bad/awful/horrific acts to “all these people are monsters.” Taking that step, in my opinion, places us right there with those we’re shaming.