Friday, June 10, 2016

The Pander Troll and Illogical Arguments

I've thought of a new genus of troll -- the Pander Troll. It looks like a really deranged panda, a panda that might live under a bridge.

The Pander Troll gets off on saying "controversial" things that (1) will offend pretty much everyone in the target audience and (2) will completely conform with what the Pander Troll's base of support already believes.

I don't like to say his name on the internet, but M@tt W@alsh is a prime example of this dual trolling/pandering behavior. He's never posted a thought online that he didn't know his extremely fearful audience wouldn't immediately hear and cry, "Yes!" He's never bothered posting one unless he thought he could get a bunch of people riled up -- if you can't offend, then what's the point, right?

Today I saw a Tweet from the Head Pander Troll that went a little something like this: Sad we aren't allowed to recommend that young women not get blackout drunk around a bunch of guys.

Thought provoking stuff, my friends. No one has ever made this argument before.

But even though it is pointless to address the inane mumblings of the Pander Troll, I'm going to give it a go anyway. Because I am feeling sassy.

The first problem with arguments like these is that they ignore the obvious -- that they put the onus of protecting oneself on the victim instead of the onus of not being an evil criminal on the perpetrator. Women in burkas get sexually assaulted. Sober women get sexually assaulted. It doesn't help anyone to suggest, "Dress modestly and don't drink!" Because when you're a woman in a world with rapists, you can never mitigate your risk down to zero.

People will counter this argument by saying, "Well yeah, but if I wander around with $20 hanging out of my pocket, it's obviously more likely to get stolen than if I had it safely tucked in my wallet, right?"

To which I say, FALSE EQUIVALENCE. Because rape victims don't just have to deal with the fact that they were raped -- they have to face the overwhelming fact that the vast majority of rapists are never caught, prosecuted, and punished. Whereas with your $20 example, sure, people might wonder what the hell you were doing with your money hanging out of your pocket, but literally no one is going to ask you, "Are you sure you even had $20? Isn't it possible that you gave the $20 away voluntarily and forgot?"

Because that's crazy. Because why would anyone ask that.

There is [almost -- we will get to the almost in a second] no other crime where the victim is almost automatically disbelieved from the get-go, and frequently by people who have never even met her, who have no idea what happened that day or what facts might already be in evidence. And the thing is, yes, there are false criminal reports filed in every type of crime, but that fact has never prompted a person to ask another, "Hey, why was your car just sitting outside your house when it got stolen? At night?"

The victims of financial fraud don't deal with this. Burglary victims don't deal with this. Arson victims don't deal with this.

Literally [almost] the only crime in which a victim has to put up with people doubting his or her very victimhood is rape. Which is why it is not at all helpful to offer "advice" that continues to feed into the very doubt that will plague victims after the fact.

To illustrate this point, let's get to that almost, shall we?

When I was trying to think of another crime where society was willing to turn a blind eye, where victims were blamed and disbelieved and regularly not assisted in any meaningful way, I did manage to think of one other.

Domestic violence.

Now, I will say there's been a marked improvement over the last 50-60 years in the way that society and the criminal justice system has dealt with domestic violence, which is why I said "almost." (But jeez, just take one look at the Amber Heard case, and you know the deck is still stacked against victims. I mean, the woman has photos, a recording, and witnesses, but let's wait until allllll the evidence comes out because she asked for spousal support, y'all. People who weren't there that day think Johnny Depp is a total gentleman! Also, she smiled at a party!)

Ahem. Getting back to my argument.

Since we're all offering helpful advice, let's think of some helpful advice for the future victims of domestic violence, shall we?

* I'd recommend never having kids. Kids will make it really hard to leave a domestic abuser.

* While we're at it, don't get a pet, either. Domestic abusers frequently threaten pets if the victim leaves, and you don't want to deal with that guilt.

* Once you're in a relationship, you probably shouldn't have male friends. Jealousy is a big trigger for the perpetrators, it's just smart to avoid it altogether.

* Yeah, I think that should go for your dad and brothers, too. Hey, I'm just helping you with some common sense suggestions here!

* Yeah ... actually, no friends is probably best. You never know what might set him off!

* You know, have you thought about not getting into a relationship with a man in the first place? Because you can't always tell who is an abuser on a first date.

You know why it's not helpful to tell girls, "Hey, just don't get drunk at parties!"? Because it's as ridiculous as telling women to just avoid romantic relationships in order to avoid domestic violence. 

The reason a girl gets drunk at a party is because she feels safe there. Because she was with her friends, in a place she felt comfortable.

She didn't wander around a shooting range getting drunk.

She didn't go skydiving drunk.

She didn't do anything that was inherently dangerous while drunk.

She went to a place where she thought it was safe to drink (because that is literally what a house party advertises itself as) and had some drinks.

And then a bad person violated that sense of safety by doing something that NO ONE AT THE PARTY EXPECTED TO HAPPEN. Something that was not an inherent aspect of the party. People go to parties expecting to have fun, get silly, hang with their friends, and maybe drink. They absolutely do not expect to become victims of a crime, and that is a completely fair assumption.

The fact that a rape occurred at a party doesn't make parties inherently dangerous any more than the existence of a domestic abuser makes the institution of marriage inherently dangerous. To suggest that women should just never get drunk around a "bunch of guys" to avoid getting raped is patronizing to women and flatly insulting to men.

If you want to give "helpful" advice, I guess that's your prerogative. But you're not actually helping women and girls avoid violence.

You're just telling them they should never feel safe.


  1. It IS interesting (and not in a good way) that the two crimes where the victim is automatically doubted happen to be the crimes where the victims are primarily women and children. It has never made sense to me. Are there false allegations? Of course. It happens a lot. But does that mean we should just assume every woman is lying? No! That's insane.

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