Outstreched arm

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Don't go too far, honey

I'm not exactly a fan of Mickey Klaus' Kausfiles over at Slate. While he can be refreshingly succinct, too often he gets stuck in "neener neener" mode ("No, really, Brokeback Mountain isn't all that popular or all that good! Really!"). Yesterday he quoted an Ann Coulter piece on Natalee Holloway which, according to him, makes a point not often made. It's actually not too bad, but it's not all that insightful either. It's worth quoting in full; I'll comment as I go.

However the Duke lacrosse rape case turns out, one lesson that absolutely will not be learned is this: You can severely reduce your chances of having a false accusation of rape leveled against you if you don't hire strange women to come to your house and take their clothes off for money.

1. I'm not convinced that no one will learn the lesson. It seems likely to me that at least some frat boys will, at least temporarily, go easy on the strippers.
2. How many rape accusations from hired strippers is she aware of? I'm not saying I have the answer; it just doesn't seem so casually obvious to me.

Also, you can severely reduce your chances of being raped if you do not go to strange men's houses and take your clothes off for money. ...


And if you are a girl in Aruba or New York City, among the best ways to avoid being the victim of a horrible crime is to not get drunk in public or go off in a car with men you just met. ...

Thanks, mom. I'll be sure never to get drunk in public again. - Women of America

Everyone makes mistakes, especially young people, but the outpouring of support for the victims and their families is obscuring what ought to be a flashing neon warning for potential future victims. ...

Now, this seems to be her main message here. So, does support for the victims really "obscure" basic warnings about potentially dangerous situations? Are women really thinking, "well, next time I strip for strangers, I know I'll have the public on my side, at least" rather than "uh-oh, I should be careful?"

Few people in the world are unaware of the dangers of placing themselves in these situations. But they do it anyway - out of need, out of stupidity, sometimes precisely because it's dangerous. The obvious lesson Coulter wants the media to preach more often is quite implicit in the story itself. What should the coverage look like, then? "Now, guys, remember: this happened because you hired a stripper. No more strippers!" If nothing else, it's not very effective.

Yes, of course no one "deserves" to die for a mistake. Or to be raped or falsely accused of rape for a mistake. ... But these statements would roll off the tongue more easily in a world that so much as tacitly acknowledged that all these messy turns of fate followed behavior that your mother could have told you was tacky.

Again, I'm not convinced that the acknowledgment isn't made. If Coulter wants it to be made louder, we'd end up with a different bag of problems: would it suffice to simply say "of course the woman didn't deserve it" if the imagined warning implied that she had caused the trouble for herself? It took us as a society a while to figure out that women aren't "asking for it" and men aren't all violent, sex-obsessed dicks. It's a balancing act, and I'm not sure that the scales have tipped to the side of empathy (as opposed to warning) so much that everyone's implying it's fine to engage in any behavior because it's not your fault (and it's all about whose fault it is). That's a straw man.

Not very long ago, all the precursor behavior in these cases would have been recognized as vulgar--whether or not anyone ended up dead, raped or falsely accused of rape.

That's a charmingly naive and motherly view of our past and our present; more to the point, it reveals that Coulter's main concern here might be the ickiness of stripping, not the criminal aspects of the Natalee Holloway case.

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