Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Arguing With Feminists About Rape

It's not often I do this, but sometimes reflecting on a public conversation can prove to be pretty informative in highlighting particular areas of erroneous thinking. Here's one such example. I won't disclose names here, but a popular Spectator writer wrote an article about the dangers of rape after nightclubbing in relation to dress, and one of his points caused lots of indignation and opprobrium, with feminists from all over the shop wading in to attack him. The point he made that angered them so much was quite simply this: that a woman in a nightclub is at greater risk of sexual assault if she dresses provocatively.

It's the kind of statement that an economist would have no trouble understanding to be fairly evidently true. But equally it's the kind of statement ripe for twisting to justify annoyance. After the Spectator columnist made that comment he was subjected to waves of abuse from (mostly) women indignantly asserting that:

"Just because a woman dresses provocatively it doesn't mean she deserves to be raped"

"That's bollocks because a great many women are actually raped by someone they know, including their partners"

"It's disgraceful blaming the victim and not the offender"

Alas, the reactionary statements above suffer by being irrelevant to the principal point the article was addressing - that there is an obvious correlation between what we do and what happens to us. Don't misunderstand, I wholeheartedly agree with the feminists' comments above: that dressing provocatively doesn't mean a woman deserves to be raped, and that it's disgraceful blaming the victim and not the offender, and also that a large number of women are actually raped by someone they know - but they are different points to the point that probabilistically a woman in a nightclub is at greater risk of sexual assault if she dresses provocatively.

The backlash statements made by the feminists above are as misjudged as hearing someone say "You are more likely to be mugged in the daylight in Brixton than Kensington" and then responding with "No, that’s wrong because most people get mugged at night, not in the daylight". 

The point the Spectator columnist made is actually a simple point to digest - it was a statement specifically about the relationship between dress and rape - it was nothing to do with letting off rapists lightly or accusing women of deserving what they get if they dress provocatively. Unfortunately the Spectator columnist didn't go into any detailed defence to back up his statement, which is probably why he was the target of a backlash. Equally that is why I stepped into his defence in the discussion, because he was being falsely accused and having his name smeared unfairly.

Let me explain the probability. It's not very difficult to see why if a woman is raped after nightclubbing then probabilistically it is more likely to be a woman dressed provocatively. Imagine a nightclub and a guy with a date rape drug who is going to rape someone that night - you will find that probabilistically he is more likely to end up raping a woman who looks as though she is a candidate for casual sex. This has nothing to do with what any woman deserves to happen to her, or how a lady is advised to dress, or theories of rape overall, it is a simple case of likelihood.

For simplicity's sake, let’s imagine last year there were 20,000 rapes connected to women who were clubbing. The people who committed the rapes will be two different types of offenders: the first group will be those who pre-planned their rape and came equipped looking for their victim; and the second group will be those who ended up raping someone but had little or no expectation of doing so prior to meeting their victim. Predators who brought in date rape drugs would almost always choose women who were dressed provocatively – as few items of clothing as possible – anything to make the rape easier for them, in case it has to be quick in an alley or behind a bush. Some will carry a pair of scissors and target girls with very accessible dress straps where two quick cuts and the girl is naked gives them an advantage. If you looked at crime figures detailing these 20,000 rapes after clubbing you would find the greater proportion were those dressed provocatively. Next, in these situations, women dressed provocatively would often be seen by men as better bets for success in leaving the club with them, and girls who are on the pull will often dress in a manner that lets guys know they are approachable for a romantic liaison (this is inherent in our evolution too).

But that's not all of it: that only takes into account the cases where rape is premeditated. Many unplanned rapes occur when a man leaves with a women and she is too drunk to stop it – she may have passed out, or she may simply be so inebriated that a man can take advantage of her. This I consider rape too because if she is in no fit state to be able to consent then a man should not take advantage and go ahead with intercourse.

So think how many times this occurs over all the weekends spread over the year, and then look at probability again – more attempts will be made by guys to approach girls dressed provocatively, because they will be inclined to head straight for the girls they think are dressed to attract a mate. This means more cases of two such people leaving together, leading to the greater number of women who end up being raped in this way increasing. Or to put it another way, the causality isn't merely due to provocatively dressed women being targets for premeditating rapists, it's due to the fact that lots of rapes end up happening against women who were on the pull or available or open to suggestion - and statistically there is a high probability that women in this sample group will be dressed provocatively, which is why the statement "A woman in a nightclub is at greater risk of sexual assault if she dresses provocatively" is true.

Probability is like that - it isn't a comment about rights and wrongs of an action, it is merely an expression of likelihood. By a similar measure one could say that you're more likely to get burgled if you don't have a burglar alarm; you're more likely to have your car broken into if you leave valuables on the seat; and you're more likely to be a victim of a sexual assault if you're inebriated. Of course, no one deserves to be the victim of burglary, car theft or sexual assault - these are merely observations about the correlation between behaviour and outcomes.