Undead Sexist Cliche: Rape is all about the attractiveness of both parties

As you’ve probably heard, E. Jean Carroll accused Trump of raping her in a dressing room. Trump’s response: “She’s not my type.”

Several people have pointed out that sounds like Trump isn’t denying he’d rape someone, just that she isn’t hot enough. On the right, however, you can find resounding agreement that she’s too ugly for a stud like Trump to have touched her. More likely she was begging for it! Likewise YouTube Trump-worshipper Bill Mitchell declare that “it just doesn’t seem plausible to me” that Trump would rape anyone that unattractive. (Mitchell also lies that this is just about Trump putting his arm around Carroll, which doesn’t matter because “I didn’t vote for Donald Trump to be my pastor or my spiritual guide.” As if not raping women required some massive level of spiritual evolution).

It’s an ugly argument, but not unique to Trump. Some people made the same point when Christine Blasey Ford accused Brett Kavanaugh of assaulting her: look how handsome he was! Look how ugly she was! He’d never have raped her! And I’ve heard the same argument made in other cases. For example in 2017, a Canadian judge declared that a 17-year-old assault victim was “a little overweight but has a pretty face” and that she may have been a “bit flattered” by the assault. Podcaster Aimee Terese dismissed one harassment case she heard about by saying the woman was so unattractive she should be flattered a guy wanted to ejaculate on it.

Rape is overwhelmingly about power, aggression and dominance. But the myth that it’s all about lust remains widespread. Men rape because women dress too sexy or act too provocatively so the me get horny and just can’t control themselves. Which leads to the assumption the responsibility for preventing rape lies with the victim.

In reality, women who aren’t attractive get raped. Old women get raped. Women who hide themselves behind “modest” dress or burkhas get raped. Because it’s not about being driven made by lust, it’s about men who want to rape.

The flip side of this cliche is the myth that men only rape if they can’t get laid otherwise. The pseudoscience explanation is that this is how otherwise frustrated men can pass on their genes (at the link, I explain why that’s bullshit). The simpler but equally inaccurate explanation is that if a man’s getting sex he doesn’t need to commit rape. I have a film book that makes that point about Errol Flynn’s statutory rape charge way back when: a handsome man like Flynn couldn’t possibly have needed to get laid! Similarly, when Arnold Schwarzenegger ran for California governor, a friend of mine dismissed the sexual harassment charges the media reported: he doesn’t need to assault anyone! Women fling themselves at stars like him (which ignores that he didn’t actually sleep with any of them, only groped, fondled and humiliated them, targeting women who were in a position where they’d have to put up with him)! Similarly, Terese and misogynist Paul Elam have labeled the bulk of #metoo accusations as “starfuckers” trying to get back in the spotlight.

And I’ve seen more than one work of fiction where the stud protagonist assures the female lead he’s never raped a woman — he’s never had to.

This is as much bullshit as “she’s too ugly/she should be grateful.” Lots of people who have no trouble getting laid still commit rape. Multiple movie stars and movie-makers have committed rape and harassment. Men rape women they’re dating or already sleeping with. Married men rape other women, and some rape their wives. Some men commit rape with blunt objects.

But it’s much easier to imagine it’s just horny guys getting a little over the line than to deal with the ugly truth.

P.S. LGM has a good discussion of why it’s important to cover stories like Carroll’s, even if it doesn’t change Trump voters’ views (and it won’t). And Roy Edroso looks at how right-wing blogs distort Carroll’s statement Americans are titillated by rape.

2 Comments

Filed under Undead sexist cliches

2 responses to “Undead Sexist Cliche: Rape is all about the attractiveness of both parties

  1. This intersects with something I was thinking about in portal fantasies / time travel stories where the author has the main character constantly menaced by rape to demonstrate how attractive she is.

    • Good point. Same thing in a lot of historical adventures. It also fits in with the grimdark assumption that rape is just a fact of life for women (in the past or forever).

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