If the point of Silence Is the Enemy is to get people talking, this post at Greg’s about whether there is a “rape switch” that can be triggered in warfare is doing the trick. Of course, much of the talk is debate over rape statistics and over this section of the post:
In the [genteel] society in which we imagine ourselves living (at least according to many of the comments on the above cited post) the switch is off, and stays off for most people’s lives. But there are circumstances in which most men’s switch is turned on. The switch being on does not mean that rape will happen. It simply means that the man (with the switch on) is now a rapist, whether he actually rapes or not (but he probably will), and when the switch is off, he is not (so he probably won’t). It is a bit of a metaphor, and a strained one (see comments by commenter Elizabeth) at that.
The first comment is from Rystefn, objecting to the classification of “rapist,” something he does throughout the thread. Finally, he wants to know, from me:
Oh, and while we’re on the subject, why is it that you’re so opposed to calling actual rapists monsters, but stand idly by and let innocent innocent men be called rapists without a word of complaint?
(Monsters is explained here.)
DuWayne’s first response is much less rejecting:
My gut reaction to this is that it’s total bullshit. I want it to be bullshit – almost need it to be. But I then consider the recent discussions about torture and my acceptance that while the circumstances are far-fetched (i.e. on a scale with getting struck by lightening three times, each time standing in the same spot) I can think of hypothetical situations in which I would not only condone torture, but wouldn’t hesitate to engage in it myself.
Eventually, however, he posted his response on his blog. Much of it is a very eloquent exposition of one part of why I don’t talk about monsters in general. I highly recommend reading it.
At the end of his post is his response to the rapist question:
Now a reasonable reading of this discussion will show that this is not something that Greg is saying as an absolute. Indeed, it is clear that he is willing to be convinced otherwise, though he strongly suspects that this is the case. I am going to answer the question in the title and respond to the idea in this quote with an emphatic and resounding; No, this is complete and absolute bullshit.
A person does not move from having the potential, to being the thing, unless they actually commit the act. The fact that a lot of people who end up fitting a similar set of variables commit acts of rape, does not mean that everyone who fits those variables is a rapist. It simply means that those who don’t rape, require a different set of variables to become a rapist. […]
I’m sorry Greg, but unless and until a person actually commits the act, they only have the potential to commit the act. Until the specific variables that will cause them to act are met, they are in fact, incapable of committing the act.
Read the whole thing.
I understand where Rystefn and DuWayne are coming from on the questions of moral judgment and punishment. For those purposes, the presumption of innocence should absolutely be maintained. However, that still leaves me with a question.
As a potential victim in this situation, what do I gain from making that assumption of innocence?
There are a lot of benefits, to me, of treating that large increase in incidence of rape as a universal, particularly if my goal is to prevent my rape in a war situation or that of others in a potential war situation. If I avoid all male soldiers in war, I am much more likely to avoid being raped. If I can stop war from happening, I can keep many more women from being raped. If I assume that no man is a rapist, even in war, until it’s proven, there’s a very good chance I can’t do either. But both of those are the point of Silence Is the Enemy.
So, what outweighs the potential costs, to me, of acting as though Greg’s statement were untrue?