March 7, 2017

Review: Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture and What We Can Do about It

Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture and What We Can Do about It Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture and What We Can Do about It by Kate Harding
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yes, I sometimes read something other than SFF. I'm very glad I read this. I'm sad and angry, however, that it still needed to be written at all, that the idiotic rape myths summed up by this book's title still have such a hold on our culture.

Never fear though, as Kate Harding blows said myths out of the water. Just as an example (from p. 24):

Myth: She asked for it.
Fact: It is literally impossible to ask for rape. Rape, by definition, is sex you did not ask for. So either you mean that a woman who dresses a certain way, or flirts, or otherwise expresses her sexuality on her own terms somehow deserves to be raped--which would make you a monster--or you are wrong, and she was not asking for it.

Myth: He didn't mean to.
Fact: Rapists like to rape. Most of them do it more than once. In "Understanding the Predatory Nature of Sexual Violence," David Lisak cites a study in which 120 college men admitted to a total of 483 acts that met the legal definition of rape. Forty-four of those were one-off crimes. The other 439 rapes were committed by 76 serial rapists, who "had also committed more than 1,000 other crimes of violence, from non-penetrating acts of sexual assault, to physical and sexual abuse of children, to battery of domestic partners." Rape is not an accident.

For those who might sputter, "Butbutbut women lie," Harding also takes an entire chapter to discuss the problem of false accusations, dissecting the cases of Crystal Mangum, Tawana Brawley, and the Central Park Jogger. As she points out, however, according to the best available evidence, between 2 and 8 percent of rape accusations are false. My thought upon reading that was, even if we stretch skepticism to the breaking point and round that figure up to 10 percent, that still means ninety percent of reports are true. So, you know, if a woman says she was raped, the odds are she should be believed until, and unless, the evidence proves her wrong.

(This has nothing to do with the legal standard of "innocent until proven guilty," by the way. One can acknowledge a rape most likely occurred while simultaneously recognizing the challenge and necessity of gathering evidence, and prosecuting a case against, a specific person.)

This is in some ways a depressing, but I think an important book. I'd like to see it used in classrooms, especially when it comes to teaching teenagers about rape myths, rape culture, and consent.

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