Rape Really Isn’t a Big Deal

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.

-1st Baron John Dalberg-Acton

Date Rape
Image by Ry Summers

My favorite scientist might be a rapist, and a cheat. I say “might” because only one woman has accused him of rape. Timeframe is irrelevant. Two others allege misconduct, ranging from creepy to sexual.

This is why we don’t place importance (regarding status) in people. Because humans are nothing if not disappointing. If one of the smartest, seemingly logical and peace loving men in the US is capable of this, what does that say of the rest of us?

I know what it says. One but has to look at the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh and the election of the POTUS. Hell, even some elements of the #metoo movement are cool with persons like Louis Farrakhan, who, himself, was at the very least a well known misogynist.

Kaepernick, who knelt in protest against police brutality, was kicked out of the NFL. Just the other day, the Washington Redskins picked up a player who has been thrice accused of domestic violence.

The priority in this country is not rape, sexual assault, sexual misconduct.

It’s optics.

What I’d call the “institution of rape” is a weapon. Right-wingers will use it as revenge and as a matter of political expediency. Left wingers will use it as a way to show that, in spite of what the Right believes, we are a very moral people, willing to turn on our own to save face. Sometimes. But how you respond to whatever allegations are leveled at you is what really determines your credibility in the court of public opinion. Not whether you actually did it or not. Not the actual investigation. It’s your response.

Nobody really cares about rape. By “nobody,” I mean mostly men. We might say we do, but only insofar as disassociating ourselves from that guy. I really care about rape because I don’t want to also be seen as a potential rapist. It’s not really because rape is the penultimate denial of the autonomy of another person, the theft of their will by force or duplicity.

I am quick to weaponize rape against the Right. I am holier than thou. Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, Donald Trump: they’re clearly rapists and misogynists. But a member of my team? It has to be a scam. He couldn’t do that. It’s a setup. A Chinese and Right wing hoax implemented by lizard people and alt-right gun shop owners to discredit science, because Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson is one of the most prominent voices on the issue of Climate Change and a force for science education.

Now my hypocrisy is showing.

We don’t really care about rape. If we did, Trump wouldn’t be president, or else CNN and MSNBC would have included the 19 allegations still standing against Trump (one of which involved a child) as part of their daily lambasting of the POTUS. There wouldn’t be a question of bringing charges against Catholic priests, bishops, cardinals, or even Pope Francis for the thousands upon thousands of rape and assault allegations over which the Church is currently losing money. Betsy DeVos wouldn’t be rolling back protections for victims of on-campus sexual assaults while wrapped in a cloak of “protecting” the rights of perpetrators. And good men would preface any arguments in the defense of their heroes with an acknowledgement there is high potential their heroes are guilty as charged. It would not be a matter of merely believing the woman. We’d all want an investigation, a review of any available evidence, and accounting of past behaviors.

Rape–both the act of violence and the institution–are weapons. That’s the truth.

We will move past this present controversy, adding one more name to a list of “great” men (a list which, oddly, includes a few women) who found their undoing in the memories of their victims, whether real or imagined. And we will pay lip service to #metoo, because even the most vulnerable and likely victims of rape will look past it when it’s a member of their own team.


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