Unpacking the Monster comment more

My comments about not all rapists being monsters seem to have been misinterpreted by some. So I will take this opportunity to look at this a bit more.

I’ve already explained how our perceptions of rapists as monsters can make it hard to disclose, less likely victims will be believed and offenders held to account.

I have spoken to women who have said to me “if he wasn’t my partner… it might have been…” [rape]. Sometimes the way we talk about rape and sexual abuse makes it hard for victims themselves to understand. What that says about our culture infuriates me.

To state again – I see the denial of humanity and sexual agency inherent in sexual and domestic violence as monstrous. The impact of this abuse is profound and disturbing. I am in NO way minimising that.

Recently in New Zealand, we’ve seen sexual violence and violence against women and children minimised and dismissed, and we’ve seen very public figures do this. Can I remind you of Tony Veitch and Chris Brown and Roastbusters and ponytail gate. It’s my observation that often these same people rail loudly against RAPISTS, like the Prime Minister did. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Positioning rapists as extreme and ‘other’, we enable many people, mostly men, to consider themselves incapable of sexual assault, domestic violence, or sexual harassment when that may not be true.

We also ignore the many social messages, and cultural and institutional practices that dismiss sexual assault or rape as ‘her’ fault, or not really sexual assault. By doing this we miss the fact that we have some power to change the culture and the institutions to reduce sexual violence. When we characterise rapists as just monsters we subtly shift our focus away from the need for that work.

I’ve spoken to people working with sex offenders and they tell me that the majority of sex offenders only offend once. The majority of sex offenders are able to change. I don’t think characterising them as monsters helps that happen.

If you listen to my speech in relation to Tony Veitch you may understand my position more. I want accountability. I want abusers to take responsibility and change. I will keep advocating for victims, and being as honest as I know how about these issues.


1 Comment Posted

  1. It takes a deep understanding of human nature to work through the pain and examine the root cause of the problems we have in creating a society that gives real equality. Biology may not be destiny, but it definitely predisposes us, no matter what our gender, to certain behaviours and expectations.

    In evolutionary terms we are only a eye-blink away from the dominant bull ape owning the females, and the aspirations and schemes of every other male to a mate, and the corresponding female submission and reproductive strategies. Hundreds of thousands, even millions of years of biological evolution have to be overthrown through social evolution and revolution. So that within each of us there are primitive and natural instinctive behaviours that are NO LONGER appropriate but must be controlled.

    So we have pornographic outlets, and we have social pressures brought on every one of us to encourage us towards gender equality. Sometimes those outlets and pressures fail us and we have a man who abuses or a woman who submits, and that should not surprise us. It must be resisted, it must be fought and the battle is going to be a long one, but we are what we are, and we need to confront those urges and overcome them and deal with them rationally, or we become victims of our history.

    It is an important struggle. It is not going to end in a generation or even 10. We have to evolve enough to cooperate better with one another. To be something besides owners and owned. We are all prisoners in the bodies and hostages to the abilities and luck, of our birth. There is no escaping at that level. We all HAVE to face this struggle as individuals. It makes our social interactions complicated and far more difficult than we’d like them to be, and it is up to honest people to make it clear that the struggle is for all of us.

    James Earl Carter – “I’ve looked at a lot of women with lust” shocked a lot of people… but I think none of them were men. The difference between civilized restraint and what goes on in the back of the brain-stem is a tension that underlies many of our social behaviours. I think we can do better if we understand better what we are struggling with, but I don’t expect the struggle to end in my lifetime or my children’s.

    Not the most important thing to me, I understand the demons and how to manage them, and I worry about keeping our civilization from cooking long enough for people like you to prevail with the social changes… but I emphatically agree with the need for that struggle to be continued. Another thing we must do, a struggle that cannot be ignored. The task you undertake is sisyphean , and essential. Thanks.

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