Would It Be Immoral to Rape My Friends?

Have you ever gotten a chance to sit down and talk with Rebecca Watson in one of those rare times when she isn’t overcommitted and rushing off to the next thing? I have. If you haven’t, you might not understand that she’s a rarity among people who do a lot of public speaking. She’s a good listener. Yeah, she’s funny as hell and will crack you up at almost any opportunity, but at the same time, she’s quieter than you’d expect. Sadly, she’s quieter than she was a little over a year ago.

Have you ever talked to Surly Amy? Wow, does that woman have passion. Enough for three people. Enough that it can be a little uncomfortable if you’re not agreeing with her, but oh, well. Much of that passion is compassion, and it drives her to accomplish an amazing amount, much of which benefits anyone but her.

Speaking of accomplishments, have you met Elyse? If you’re on Twitter and you don’t follow her, you’re missing the person who may have pioneered tweeting about poo and actually making it interesting. That’s not her big accomplishment, though. That would be Women Thinking Inc., which runs the Hug Me, I’m Vaccinated campaign and which has just completed research on vaccination behavior that will be coming out shortly. She did that while raising two kids (and giving birth to the second) who require more than an average share of care. Oh, and losing her stomach to cancer. She’s kinda badass.

Then there’s Kammy. Ask Kammy sometime about her adventures in running her own small business. If Kammy isn’t in the middle of running the most popular programming track at CONvergence, encouraging a crew of dedicated volunteers and spreading science and skepticism among the geeks, she’ll make you snort your drink out your nose with her stories. Choose your beverage wisely.

When I met Maria, she was preparing to cosplay as Death from the Sandman series and planning to crash a pro-Twilight panel at CONvergence. The Death costume was lovely. The panel crashing never happened, because Maria showed up to a room with three sincere tweens in it and couldn’t stand to harsh their squee with points more appropriate to an older audience. Also, she went to a book signing with a Wil Wheaton puppet that she probably made herself.

I don’t think you have to buy Debbie a drink to get her talking, but it might be worth doing anyway. I’m not sure anyone, much less anyone as young as her, knows as much of the ins and outs of the history of the atheist and skeptical movements. Then, once your head is full with that, get her started talking about regional differences in word usage across the U.S. Having grown up in Pennsylvania, a state with multiple odd regionalisms, then moved to Buffalo, New York, she’s becoming something of an expert. Plus it makes her laugh.

Mindy was afraid she’d be too shy to introduce herself to Marian Call at CONvergence this year. After a Twitter conversation, in which Marian herself took part, that turned out not to be a problem. I did, however, have to drag Jason Thibeault from the FtB party room to the Skepchick room next door because Mindy was to shy to come over and introduce herself. Also, she has the most awesomely geeky Twitter handle ever.

Bug Girl is one of the small number of people who have left me breathless with laughter. Despite a brain trauma, she is a fount of knowledge on bugs and related critters. She’s endlessly patient with people who want to know more about creepy crawlies, she tirelessly promotes others with knowledge and talent, and she’s one of the bravest people I know, even when it costs her.

Heina has to hide much of who and what she is from her family and the community in which her family lives. She does this for the sake of her own safety as an ex-Muslim woman and for the comfort of those family members who want to understand her but can’t quite. Despite that, she is not only an enthusiastically vocal atheist but an enthusiastically vocal pervert who speaks about both on a very public stage. I had no idea anyone could speak with their hands as much as Heina does.

Nicole is one of those tiny women who apparently stores energy and determination in an extra-dimensional pocket somewhere. Alternately, because she’s an astronomer, she manages to be getting into the swing of things just as I’m winding down. In any case, she was one of those doctoral students who decided that just getting her PhD wasn’t going to be good enough. She had to blog and share her education and her love of science with an audience at the same time.

Those are the Skepchicks with whom I’ve spent any significant amount of time, mostly at CONvergence. There are others I’ve interacted with on Twitter or met mostly in passing (Sam is so very Texan, but in the good way; Felicia speaks English with a British, not Swedish accent). Every single one of them is actively involved in making the world a better, and better understood, place. Every single one of them is a distinct human being.

So how the hell does anyone begin to think that something like this is acceptable?

Would it be immoral to rape a Skepchick?

Post by Pappa » Fri Jul 20, 2012 8:46 am

Not for sexual gratification or power or anything like that, just because they’re so annoying.

I’m really torn on this one. :dunno:

The easy question, of course, is how does someone think that (presumably but hardly certainly) joking about raping anyone is the least bit okay. Then there’s the question of how someone would think that making such a suggestion, which has repeatedly been slung at at least one of the Skepchicks for exactly the same reason for over a year, would possibly be “funny” instead of stupidly tired and unoriginal.

The question I’d like people to devote some brain power to, though, is how anyone could look at that statement and not see the blatant dehumanization of a group of people. Nor am I even talking about the “joke” that rape might not be immoral. How can anyone look at the group of people and decide that they are interchangeable, that you can just grab any of my friends mentioned above at will and have someone who is somehow everything that a Skepchick is?

Then, seeing how far this dehumanization has gone, think about what it means to be one of the people telling the Skepchicks they just need to stop whining about the situation in which the last year has placed them. Think about what it means to be someone who tells the Skepchicks–not the kind of assholes who make this sort of “joke”–that they need to shut up. Then drown any impulse along those lines you might find yourself having in a shallow bath and count that as your contribution for the day toward making the world a little better.

Would It Be Immoral to Rape My Friends?

59 thoughts on “Would It Be Immoral to Rape My Friends?

  1. 2

    There is no way to read that comment without it being abhorrent. It’s never ok to rape someone. It’s never ok to JOKE about raping someone. Anyone who seriously considers that or who finds joking about rape to be acceptable: please isolate yourself on a desert island away from the rest of humanity.

  2. 3


    So rape is now an “appropriate” extrajudicial “punishment” (feel sick just typing that) not for being an outspoken feminist or any other such “crime” but merely for being supposedly “annoying” to this vile piece of human garbage!?

    Not sure if that makes things better or worse. Hard to make it much worse starting with such thuggish, casual patrichal brutality to begin with, of course.

    Stephanie Zvan, your skepchick friends are awesome people.

    Their enemies are, well disgusting is an understatement of an understatement times about five thouand.

    I hope the=at “Pappa” offender who send that hate message has had a little visit from law enforcement or will soon be recieving that little visit and chat – and restraining order.

  3. 4

    You’re awesome — your friends are awesome! And this was a well-written post on a rather horrible not-a-joke. I’ll join in Dana Hunter’s applause.

  4. 9

    Okay, that comment disturbs the hell out of me, and his insistence that it was a joke and therefore shouldn’t be criticized this harshly is just foolish.

    If I made a joke that you pretty much had to buy into racist tropes to find funny, I would rightly be criticized for it. Someone would likely point out that I’m lending support to racist ideals, that it’s built on false premises, and that what the joke supports is abhorrent.

    This is the same damn thing. You pretty much have to buy into misogynistic tropes to find the idea of rape-as-punishment-for-anything to be funny. Because of that, he’s getting criticized. Rightly.

    Also, Stephanie: I had to re-write this five times before I hit on something that didn’t Godwin, I’m that PO’d by this guy. You and your friends have my support, and there’s no excuse for this sort of dehumanizing behavior.

  5. 10

    Didn’t we just spend a week discussing how and when rape jokes can be funny? I guess people weren’t explicit enough, so I will try. The setup “Wouldn’t it be funny if X person was raped [because of some perceived flaw or sin].” is never funny. It’s not even a joke. Rape isn’t some absurd thing to punish someone with. It’s been a fairly common way to punish people (mostly women) for a very long time.

  6. 11

    You and your friends are awesome.

    Om the other hand Pappa and his kind are sad, deluded losers. I think somewhere in the back of their minds is the thought that you need to be shown what a Real Man(TM) is like, and they are ready to volunteer. Not punishment, therapy.

  7. 12

    I write for Teen Skepchick, and felt included in that ‘joke’. Lucky for me, I have no past to trigger.

    This is the first time I’ve been the subject of a rape comment, directly or indirectly.

    It’s really sad that someone could wish such a horrible thing on someone else. I’d challenge anyone who makes these comments to take a moment and imagine what it would be like to be subjected to rape. Really changes your perspective when you realize what you’re saying.

    It’s easy to be disconnected from the connotation of the words we use.

  8. 13

    Goddamn it. I kind of skipped over the title and forgot what the post was about, I was enjoying your description of the Skepchicks so much. They sound like such fun to know. Then I hit on that comment.


    Goddamn it.

    I’m so sick of people who say awful, marginalizing, hateful things, and then say “Hey, sister, it was just a joke! Don’t you have any sense of humor?”

    No, that wasn’t a joke. They say things that make room for hate and assault and awful pain and suffering… it’s not a joke, it’s a window into the festering pile of garbage that is their brain. If they find stuff like that funny, it tells us everything we never wanted to know about their character. It’s Nature’s warning beacon.

  9. 15

    Pappa’s response seems to be tellingly narcissistic. A lack of empathy seems to be the minimum requirement to write such things, but possibly also thinking that the won’t be caught and that the internet is anonymous and impersonal also contribute.


    Only the most dysfunctional sociopath tends to flaunt their malice if they think there will consequences. These would-be comedians probably assume that they are attacking some sort of avatar, rather than a real person.

    I suppose that they aren’t that different to those who wish bodily harm to parking attendants, those who believe that they are attacking the badge and the uniform and don’t see the person behind them. The use of Skepchick, rather than a particular individual’s name may be significant.

  10. 16

    I’ve never had the privilege of meeting any of the Skepchicks, but I have the utmost respect and admiration for them and their work. Count me among those utterly appalled and revolted by these attacks on them, and on everyone here at FtB who are the targets of such hatred.

    Thank you for this post.

  11. 17

    I keep trying to come up with a parallel that would adequately demonstrate what is so wrong about this “would it be immoral” question.

    * Would it be immoral to kill someone that gets on my nerves? Not to shut them up, just to demonstrate to others that the person was annoying.

    * Would it be immoral to rob someone at gunpoint because they are wealthy? Not to obtain their stuff, just because nobody should be that rich.

    * Would it be immoral to forcibly castrate a man who repeatedly said misogynistic things? Not to punish him, but just to make sure he can’t pass on his genes.

    The thing is, every time I try to come up with something, the answer in my head is “yes, it is immoral to commit, or threaten to commit, a violent crime against someone” and the question itself sounds obscene in my head.

    Too bad so many people don’t seem to get that same answer in their heads.

  12. 19

    Pappa also seems to like to sling the term “retarded” around. “Arse-lickers” rings of homophobia as well (unless he’s referring to cat-like or dog-like qualities I suppose). I guess human psychology and communications aren’t scientific enough studies to warrant serious consideration?

    You know, I always felt slightly guilty for how triggering I found the skeptic movement to be. I figured it was my own issues with engineering-types and that I was unfair to characterise it as a bunch of self-righteous intolerant white guys.

    Now I’m supremely glad my first deep exploration of the skeptic movement has been via the Skepchick community after the skeptics who deserve to be avoided have well and thoroughly outed themselves. I only sorry that they’ve done so at the expense of a vibrant and amazing group of women.

  13. 20

    Even if (as I assume) he was engaging in hyperbole, how do these men not understand their very actions and words provide the proof of what we’ve been saying? That far too many men behave like this, and not enough other male leaders call them out on it?

  14. 21

    Thanks for this, Stephanie. I was so sickened by that thread that I really haven’t been able to be online much this weekend. But I’m really lucky to be a part of this amazing group of people. It makes up for a lot of the crap.

    Also, for the record, I didn’t make the Wil Wheaton puppet; it was done by the Death By Puppets Master Puppetmaker, Charles. 🙂 It was a lot of fun, though, and Jenny was very happy 🙂

  15. 22

    Even if (as I assume) he was engaging in hyperbole, how do these men not understand their very actions and words provide the proof of what we’ve been saying? That far too many men behave like this, and not enough other male leaders call them out on it?

    The thing is, it isn’t just males, there are plenty of females involved using minimising or dehumanizing language. Anyway, why should it require only male voices to address this issue?

    There needs to be a broad and representative coalition leading the way on matters of diversity. Those who want to listen will learn and follow their lead, those who don’t want to listen will be left behind to become irrelevant.

  16. 23

    Even if (as I assume) he was engaging in hyperbole, how do these men not understand their very actions and words provide the proof of what we’ve been saying?

    Because they’re by and large not interested in NOT providing the proof of what they’ve been saying. They’re more interested in the fight and the conflict than any actual policy or social ends. I.E. they’re trolling for damage, not for “progress” (in the direction they want to go)

    You can find this attitude in pretty much every movement (I always use animal welfare as an example that most people can easily grasp) and it’s generally toxic. (MRA groups are particularly bad for it, I think mostly because it’s modern and really gained most of its form post-Internet. It’s RRRAAAGGGEE from the bottom up)

    Unfortunately, as time passes on, you’ll reach a situation where these ragers are more and more isolated, and as such it’s going to get more and more intense, but don’t make the mistake of mistaking intensity for level of support.

  17. 24


    Now I’m supremely glad my first deep exploration of the skeptic movement has been via the Skepchick community after the skeptics who deserve to be avoided have well and thoroughly outed themselves. I only sorry that they’ve done so at the expense of a vibrant and amazing group of women.

    Yes. This. I started blogging about things I care about, and learned there was a whole community of people who care about those same things almost entirely after the fact. Sure, I’d seen lots of science blogs, and some atheist blogs, and some skeptic blogs, prior to my jumping in feet first — but I had no idea just what percentage of those blogs espoused ideas that I would have been entirely put out by, entirely turned off of supporting, and embarrassed to share even one whit of philosophy in common with, had I not learned of the good, caring people in this community first.

    I am glad to share so much common ground with so many good people, and to be able to throw punches and take punches in the greater battlefield that they themselves might not be able to take or throw. I wish there was more I could do. It is terrible enough to see rape threats from some ostensible leaders of communities in our movement, but even more terrible to see other leaders call us bullies for fighting back against those more odious bits of damaging memetics.

    These people are engaged in anti-humanism — racism, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, other soft or hard bigotries that inform people’s philosophies but are never skeptically examined. It is unbefitting of so-called skeptics to mistreat one another so, especially where they must needs set a domain of thought sacrosanct from skeptical examination. If fighting those memes and silencing those bits of anti-humanism makes me a bully in some folks’ eyes (Paula Kirby, Russell Blackford, Jeremy Stangroom), then I’m a bully. And their uncritical treatment of such blatant hatred is more telling about them than about the “bullies” like me that they rail against.

  18. 26

    Have you ever talked to Surly Amy?

    I met Surly Amy some years ago. She and her partner Surly Johnny are among those rare people with whom you feel an instant connection, as if you’d been friends for years. The kind of people who make you feel at home in your own skin.

    Speaking of accomplishments, have you met Elyse?

    I have. I’m embarrassed to admit I had no idea of her accomplishments, probably because she never even brought them up. We spoke as a couple of people, joking and laughing.

    Now, for a feeling of accomplishment, one really needs to talk to A Kovacs. She’s a firebrand, brash and funny and serious at the same time, the kind of person you know you could entrust a task to and she’d damn well get it done and do it better than you even knew it could be. She gives off a vibe as if she were just about to take on the world, and there’s nothing stopping you from taking it on too.

    Those are just my limited memories of meeting a few of these people. Thanks for the opportunity to share, Stephanie.

    *Oh, the irony of meeting these skepchicks** at TAM. I should note that I met certain other well-known skeptics there, and they were substantially less impressive in person, though they were probably busy looking for the evidence, as they are wont to do.

    **I didn’t even know they were skepchicks (though I don’t think Surly Amy was one yet). That’s how unassuming and simply human they are.

  19. 29

    I came to skepticism in large part because of Rebecca, who founded Boston Skeptics. She has influenced me both personally and through her work with Skepchick and the SGU. Maria is someone I look forward to hanging out with every year at Dragon*Con. I’ve had lovely interactions with Amy and Debbie as well.

    Regardless of whether I have friends among the Skepchicks, however, I wouldn’t wish rape on my worst enemy. It takes a despicable mind to think that’s “funny”.

  20. 30

    “why should it require only male voices to address this issue?”

    Because these types only respect and listen to men. If a woman addressed this, she would just get the same treatment as the Skepchicks.

  21. 32

    Because these types only respect and listen to men. If a woman addressed this, she would just get the same treatment as the Skepchicks.

    I know that male voices are often afforded more respect, but as we’ve seen time and again, there is a significant group who will decide that any male expressing disapproval has been unmanned and is told something along the lines of, I used to respect you, but….

    Looking back, I probably misread <plutosdad as suggesting that males are the solution, rather than rightly identifying male inaction as part of the problem.

  22. 33

    After reading the question and then picking my jaw up from the floor, I could only think, “The only way someone could be that brain damaged is hypoxia, and the hypoxia was caused by having his cranium up his rectum for long periods of time.”

    At times like this, I find it embarrassing to be a man. It doesn’t matter that I and many others know that equality for women does not constitute a “threat” to men, or that Anita Sarkeesian is brilliant and insightful, not a “man hater”.

    That “joke” is the modern equivalent of “I’m going to go home and beat the wife.” It’s days like this that make me want to crawl under a rock…or at least, stop using the internet for a while.

  23. 34

    Pappa means dad in Swedish. Wonder if it’s a coincident or if this is one of my countrymen acting like a jerk. Anyway if i were his “pappa” i would be ashamed and the twerp would get quite a lesson in manners.

  24. 36

    Who *are* the people who make jokes like this, and what have they done with their brains? I wish I could say this is unbelievable. 🙁

    Thanks for your lovely description of so many of the Skepchicks. You and they both have my thanks for continuing the fight, even when it seems it will never end.

  25. 37

    Regardless of whether I have friends among the Skepchicks, however, I wouldn’t wish rape on my worst enemy. It takes a despicable mind to think that’s “funny”.

    Yeah, it’s not humorous at all. Clearly just intended to be hostile and humiliating. The only “laughter” I can hear in response to it is the braying “haw HAW” of the cartoon bully on the Simpsons.

  26. 38

    there is a significant group who will decide that any male expressing disapproval has been unmanned and is told something along the lines of, I used to respect you, but….

    But you’ll also get a more sincere attempt to engage with arguments, a greater willingness to accept emotional investment as “appropriate,” and a lot less stupid cunt and oughta rape ’em to shut him up and over here, buddies, there’s some dude that needs to be shouted down, and the other kinds of threatening discourse that doubles as a silencing tactic. So the conversation tends to last longer.

  27. 40

    I don’t have the words.

    I’ve only been an atheist for about three years, my mother was a evangelical Christian, and a woo-fiend, and it’s all taken a lot of time to shake off.

    The last week has shaken me. I couldn’t come to FTB as often (I felt upset and triggered by the vile trolls), orac’s blog (not since he showed his arse over this whole thing, actually), and now I’m wary of the SBM blog too, after someone Iwas in awe of acted so fucking despicably at TAM.

    I have new heroes now though. Every woman here who’s writing and fighting against the horde of scumbags who threaten rape because they’re scared of losing a micron of privilege. You, Ophelia, the skepchicks, Natalie, Maryam, Zinnia, Ashley, du al.

    And Jason, Ian, PZ, and the other guys who are backing the cause.

    Fuck the old guard and their fans who glorify evil.

  28. 41

    I’ve seen how rape harms people, and I would never wish it on anyone. If someone annoys you, ignore them or write a blog back. If you want a Skepchick free conference, organize your own. Don’t stoop this low!

    The past year has made me reconsider if I really want to call myself a skeptic.

  29. 43

    Well I managed to get on that forum and challenged the people who were making the “its just a joke/objecting to jokes is a threat to free speech” type arguments. I started with a link to this post (’cause I think it’s the best response Ive ever seen to this kind of crap) and a question for “Pappa”…what was it about these amazing women that made them so annoying that they had to be subjected to that kind of juvenile abuse? Never really got an answer. Got threats of outing my identity, threats of lawsuits for libel (LMAO!) a few thoughtful replies, some reluctant,muted agreement that maybe Pappa went too far. But mostly excuses and denial.

    And now this…ERROR
    The requested URL could not be retrieved

    Don’t know if I’ve been banned or the site’s down.

    But just before that happened I noticed that one of their commenters independently found this post and quoted it approvingly. So some of them are getting the message…

  30. 44

    In tow with my local atheist/freethinker group, I’m just here to say: the (silent) majority supports you. I’m sorry that people are trolls/assholes, and I’m sorry to see this explode in the way that it evidently has.

    I have been steering clear of this discussion, because all I can really offer is an opinion, and there’s enough voices about that it really won’t matter what I express, there will be plenty of (legitimate) reasons to find fault with it. We’re at the cusp of differents sets of values, and I’ve no doubt that a certain level of hypocrisy underlies mine.

  31. 46

    Great response.
    I have no idea what kind of empathy disconnect is required to write something like Pappa’s deplorable post (and the “it’s a joke” excuse is pathetic), but I’ll be optimistic and hope that perhaps this might make some who supported his idiocy re-consider.

  32. 47

    @KarenX #38,
    Yes, as I say I somewhat misread plutosdad’s post to mean that male voices are the answer. They are, to the extent that you’ve identified, and because we also need to be vocal in our condemnation of sexism for the sake of ourselves. But, of course, we also need to be able to point to strong female voices, voices of all gender identities in the wider debate about inclusion, and to be able to say, these are the people to listen to.

  33. 48

    I’ve been following this controversy off and on since elevatorgate happened. One thing I’ve noticed in every round is that what the MRAs are consistently trying to do, is to get women to change their emotions.

    The theme is relentless. Rebecca *shouldn’t* be creeped out by being cornered in an elevator at 4 in the morning. Amy *shouldn’t* be upset when somebody wears the same t-shirt putting down her organization for 3 days in a row. Ophelia *shouldn’t* be frightened by e-mails predicting she’ll be shot. And, of course, all of us *shouldn’t* be disgusted by rape jokes. We *ought* to find them amusing!!

    The ironic thing is that the men who do this are giving themselves the implicit message that they– not the women– are fragile and ineffectual. They are setting the objective that they’re only okay as long as Rebecca and Amy and all the rest of us feel exactly the way they tell us to feel. But, of course, that’s not the way human emotions work. Lecturing people on what they *ought* to feel only changes their emotions from whatever they were feeling in the first place, to whatever they were feeling plus resentment of the person lecturing them.

    So, that’s about where we stand now. The MRA messages that I’ve read recently have come across, frankly, as pretty pitiful. It’s pretty much “You women have got to stop feeling creeped out/upset/frightened/disgusted– or I can’t feel like a man!

  34. 51

    To be fair there were lots of people over there expressing disagreement with Pappa’s “joke”, though often tempered with “yes but…” statements.

  35. 52

    “Not for sexual gratification or power or anything like that, just because they’re so annoying.”
    Um, no, that IS for power. You want to shut someone up because they “annoy” you, i.e. challenge your power.
    So he’s sorry that he might have caused offense with his “humor”? It doesn’t sound to me like he actually learned anything as long as he insists it was funny.
    Once again, for those who are slow, rape=funny=never

  36. 53

    At least he recognizes that he was trivializing rape and that this had a hurtful effect on people. It took someone he knows being hurt and being brave enough to tell him so.

    It was interesting to see how the dynamic over there changed after “Gallstones” came out and expressed how hurt she was by the “joke.” Some of them were actually angry at her for being hurt instead of getting the joke. Others went from a kind of abstract objection to the “poor taste” to actually objecting to the intent of the joke.

    Stephanie’s right to describe it as “dehumanizing”; it seemed to me that the objections that were being raised (and again, to be fair most of the people on that forum did object to the “joke” at least to some degree) became a lot stronger when they could see it affecting someone they actually know instead of an abstract target called “Skepchicks.”

    I think something like this post can make a difference too; challenging the apologists to explain why it’s OK to “joke” that way about specific, identifiable people makes it a lot harder to defend the use of that kind of imagery.

  37. 54

    Nobody thinks rape is funny when it happens to someone they love. I wish there was a way to get people to see real people like gallstones, or like a sister/mother/friend before they make rape “jokes” or comments about anyone they interact with on the internet.

    And I’ve met a few of the skepchicks and they seem like lovely people. But even if they were the horrible crazies that some like to make them out to be, it would still be immoral to rape or threaten them. How have we gotten to the place where it is ok to wish horrible things on people as long as they disagree or are different from ourselves?

  38. 57

    First of all, the rape comment was horrible, and obviously unacceptable.

    What made me comment was to thank you for writing such a good summary of various of the awesome and useful things that various members of the Skepchicks have been doing. One of the attacks that I’ve come across at times has been “they’re not doing anything for skepticism”. This post provides a good and lengthly demonstration of what they are doing.

    I encourage people to link to it whenever that particular attack is made.

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