Done with Dawkins

Blaming other people for their own rapes is a bright line for me. You don’t cross it. Back when Dawkins was being a complete asshole to women who wanted people in the movement to treat them with a modicum of respect, I didn’t write him off. I tried to explain why his statements were a problem. He didn’t listen to any of us who wrote to him, but several years later, he did help call for an end to threats and harassment, and I thought for a few seconds he’d seen a glimmer of light, before he went back to being a fuckwad again. But he hadn’t crossed the bright line just yet: he hadn’t explicitly blamed women for their own attacks.

Then he did.

Image shows two tweets from Richard Dawkins. First tweet says, "Officer, it's not my fault I was drunk driving. You see, somebody got me drunk." Second tweet says, "The REAL Rape Culture: 'All occurences of sexual intercourse are rape unless there is certified evidence to the contrary.'"
Tweets by Richard Dawkins, blaming the victims and dismissing rape. We are done here. Screenshots from Stephanie Zvan’s blog.

Some folks, like PZ, still tried to talk some sense into him. And failed.

I won’t even try.

It’s not a too-old-to-know-better issue. I can’t excuse him on that count.

Some folks, like Courtney Caldwell, are able to respond with mocking contempt. I’m too angry for that just yet.

Dawkins’s frantic back-peddling, pretending he thinks raping a drunk woman is abhorrent (but so is accusing someone of raping you while you’re drunk!), only sinks my opinion of him further. He’s trying to blow enough smoke to screen Shermer, and I have nothing but utter contempt for people who do that shit.

Image shows Dawkins lecturing with a screen behind him.  Across the top of the screen is, "Moral: Make sure she stays unconscious, fellas." Below is a screenshot of two tweets from Richard Dawkins. First tweet says, "Raping a drunk woman is appalling. So is jailing a man when the sole prosecution evidence is 'I was too drunk to remember what happened.'" Second tweet says, "Don't EVER rape anyone, drunk or sober. But also, don't accuse anyone of a crime if you can't remember what happened (& no other evidence)." Below, on either side of his head, is the slogan, "It's only rape if she remembers."
My interpretation of Dawkins’s noxious opinions. The tweets are his own words. The slogans are what potential rapists are hearing in his words.

Even if he hadn’t already been pressing Ophelia Benson to help him shut people up about Michael Shermer before Oppenheimer’s article, and continued his determination to defend an alleged rapist by spitting on the victims, those original statements mean we are done here. There is nothing he can say, nothing he can do, that will make amends for them – aside from a full and unqualified apology, followed by strong, sustained action on behalf of rape victims, which we will never get from him.

Dawkins is on the side of the rapists. I am finished with him. Why shouldn’t I be? He’s made his position crystal clear.

This tweet referencing the deleted tweet above is still visible:

Image shows two tweets. First tweet is from Zee Mhaskar and says, "OMG @RichardDawkins might fall in trouble again with feminists." Second tweet is from Dawkins, and says, ".@MhaskarChief With a certain kind of feminist, of course. Not with feminists who truly respect women instead of patronising them as victims."

Yes, that’s what he said. Listening to and believing women who report their experiences of sexism and misogyny and harassment and assault and offering them support in seeking social change to the attitudes that perpetuate sexism and misogyny and harassment and assault? That’s disrespecting women, and acknowledging the truth of anybody’s victimisation by anyone else is patronising them. But pretending that sexism and misogyny and harassment and assault is not really happening is truly respecting women!

That attitude is beyond reprehensible. But it is Dawkins’s attitude. Rape survivors such as myself can expect nothing but patronizing contempt from him, and a dismissal of our experiences. The people who supported me and helped me survive the aftermath, who got me back up and out in the world, who taught me that violence against women is the fault of the rapist only and that our culture can be changed to give people like my rapist condemnation rather than support, the folks who turned me into a feminist and gave me back my voice, all those people aren’t real feminists to Dawkins.

I know who the real feminists are. They are not Dawkins and his lackeys. No one on that side of the rift has anything to say to me, ever, unless it is, “I’m so sorry. I was wrong. What can I do to fix this?”

Dawkins is beyond hope at this point, and needs to be excised like a cancer if movement atheism wants to be more than an old boys club with a few chill girls and a reputation for being full of rapists and the men and women who love to let them get away with it.

I’m not speaking to him right here. I’m speaking to the few fans of his who may have a trace of decency left within them, and yet think his idea that being too drunk to consent means a woman is responsible for her own rape have some merit. I have a simple message I hope you’re still humane enough to hear: It doesn’t.

As FossilFishy said at Pharyngula:

For those playing along at home, it’s simple:

Sex without consent is rape.

Impairment due to alcohol removes the ability to consent.

Therefor sex with the impaired is rape.

It doesn’t matter how she got drunk, once she was impaired enough to be unable to give meaningful consent having sex with her is rape. To say she was responsible is victim blaming.

In case you’re still confused, Pteryxx at Pharyngula is here to help you further:

For background to those poor confused souls who just can’t understand how drinking too much alcohol could be anything less than a fully conscious and deliberate action on the part of the wanton woman rape victim. We had several long discussions last summer on just that. How an over-eager host topping off one’s wineglass can make you lose track of how many glassfuls you’ve had, with reference to the refilling-soup-bowl experiment. How bartenders or party hosts sometimes deliberately over-pour women’s drinks so that they’ll be softer targets for predatory bros. How traditional “girly” drinks contain a lot of fruit juice that covers the taste so the drink doesn’t seem as strong as it actually is.

From one such discussion: (link to comment)

I was responding to statements that the women involved should have known better than to get drunk. Having been in exactly the same situation (@ 194) — my glass never being empty– that one of the women described, I know it’s not that simple.

I love wine, but I’m a pretty careful drinker. When I order in a bar, I also order water and I stop at three glasses. But the night I got so drunk I didn’t finish even one glass. So the usual rule, a three-drink limit, didn’t ever get into play.

That “just know your limit and quit,” or “just make sure you also drink some water” can be deliberately subverted by sexual predators, even without spiking drinks. Putting all the onus on potential victims to keep total control of the situation, when the victims are dealing with someone who has studied and practiced ways to undercut that control, is a clear cut example, in my mind, of exactly how rape culture operates.

The potential rapist is allowed to use any trick in the book to get the victim drunk. It’s up to the victim to see through every trick and remain sober– but of course, all the while not even *suspecting* that the person manipulating her is a rapist until that’s been proven in a court of law.

Tilted playing field, much?

See also Almost Diamonds and some research…

Furthermore: if you don’t want to be called a rape apologist? Then don’t be one.

As for myself, I’m going to remove Dawkins’s books from my shelves. We’re done here.

Done with Dawkins

29 thoughts on “Done with Dawkins

  1. rq

    Great job writing this. With you on every step.
    Also, with the resulting fall-out, did you see Rebecca Watson’s amazing Dear Muslima Dawkins response? Something about those witchhunts…
    Nobody better defend his age or possible age-related mental dysfunction. Nope. None of those things magically make a person an asshole, therefore Dawkins is just an asshole – not an old asshole, not an asshole-with-potentially-dementia, just an asshole. He has oodles of privilege, and he has no idea how to use it.
    What a rational thinker, yup.

  2. 2

    Richard Dawkins has taken a step beyond being a rape apologist. He is a rape promoter, busily tweeting a how-to manual, as indicated by your picture offering your interpretation of his tweets. There is no excuse for anyone who remains willing to defend him. No matter how much he might protest otherwise, his words and actions indisputably mark him as someone who dogmatically adheres to the irrational and hateful belief that women simply aren’t people.

  3. 3

    ZOMG, that was epic and a thing of great beauty. If I do a link round-up, that’ll be among the first.

    And yeah, Dawkins’s age has nothing to do with it. Plenty of people just as old grasp these things and change their minds. So fuck any but-he’s-oooold noise.

  4. 4

    Also, where outside Saudi Arabia and Mormon torture porn is “getting drunk” a crime?
    All these “know your limits” and “be responsible”, especially when voiced towards women, smack of Victorian prudery: You are bad because you drunk, morally depraved, good people don’t let themselves go like theyt, they are under control.
    Now, if you didn’t have yourself under control in the first palce and got drunk, it’s not a big step to you not having yourself under control later, right? Why should anybody believe somebody who exercised so little self-control and made such poor judgement in the first place, right?

    I was a stupid teen once, like most people, and I did a lot of stupid things teens will do because they think their parents are ignorant idiots when they try to tell them that this is stupid.
    So I got really drunk one night.
    And then smoked weed.
    Together with older guys (by older I mean just no longer teens)
    To cut a long story short, at some point I threw up, and I really wanted to take a shower, because that was gross, and because I couldn’t walk anymore those guys helped me to the shower, undressed me, helped me shower, and at some point in that shower my memory stops and only returns when I wake up the next morning. In a clean T and undies. In my bedroll. Completely unraped.
    I shouldn’t have to consider myself lucky for that.

    Also, to come back to Saudi Arabia, there are several reports any given year when a western woman gets raped in SA or some other muslim theorcracy and when she reports it to the police she gets charged, quite often because she drank alcohol. Yes, that’s the side Dawkins is on now. Muslim theocrats. They’re also against rape! They also believe that they truly respect women! But maybe in that combination it is wrong…

  5. 5

    Yeah, it takes only about two seconds of thought to look over that set of tweets and realize, “Oshit, I just told rapists how to rape. And I told them I’d give them all the free passes if they pull it off. Whoops!”

    The fact that Dawkins hasn’t… well, “incandescent with rage” is a fair descriptor of what state it puts me in. I mean, ffs, even back in my chill-girl days, when I bought a bunch of rape culture nonsense without question, I knew that shit wasn’t right. How can a stupid little teenager get it, but it get missed by Dawkins’s almighty mind? I don’t think he’s that obtuse, which leaves me with the conclusion that his “reasoning” is rather motivated…

  6. 6

    I shouldn’t have had to shudder and cringe reading your story, sure it was going to end with gang rape. I shouldn’t have to be amazed that these guys managed to do the decent human things with their wasted friend. I fucking hate this culture. I want the one where your story is completely unremarkable.

    Your point about Saudi Arabia is one I shall rub Dawk’s nose in, should I ever have the chance to do it personally.

    As for “Mormon torture porn,” you wouldn’t happen to be referring to something with a title that references another word for dusk, would you?

  7. 7

    If sex with a drunk woman is OK, how about sex with a mentally handicapped woman? Neither is able to give consent. I have a hard time understanding the difference. I wonder what Dawkins’ view would be.

  8. 8

    I did not read the variety of dusk books ;)

    But yes, I have a full collection of stories that start exactly like those we hear time after time again in which somebody, mostly women, end up raped. From drinking, to crashing on couches, to walking home with somebody and so on. And they all end with “and they lived happily ever after”. Makes you wonder what might be the different, decisive factor is if it’s apparently not what the girl or woman in question does…

  9. 9

    Considering his comments on Down’s it’s probably still a woman’s fault, but now it’s the handicapped woman’s mother instead. See if the woman had aborted as he said this just wouldn’t happen…

    I’ve never really liked Dawkins, but I did used to recommend some of his pop-sci books to people. Not going to anymore.

  10. rq

    You and me both. I’ve had guys help me puke my guts out and never try a thing; I’ve chugged whiskey from the bottle just like one of the guys and subsequently passed out, to no negative result; I’ve been walked home, lent beds, lent clothing, with never a worry for my safety, even in a houseful of guys and the only woman staying overnight, with a party on the first floor (I had Saturday classes, so Friday nights were spent with this houseful of guys) and never a spot of trouble.
    I know a factor in some of these stories (the ones mostly occurring amongst Latvian-Canadian youth) is a lack of so-called sexual morals: it was a very sexually open sort of society, with a musical-chairs of partners and a no-hard-feelings attitude for anyone refusing to partner up with anyone else. And, I might add, a lack of mean-spirited gossip (in the sense that no one was ever put down or ridiculed or bullied for their sexual exploits). Heck, a friend of mine was on the point of penis-insertion with one of these guys, and she freaked out, said no, and you know what he did? He backed off, put his penis away, and made sure she was okay, and has never (to my knowledge) pressured or teased her about it in any way. And nobody got blamed for anything.
    The factor in the second kind of these stories (university roomies) is, again, a sexual openness – it wasn’t the same level of sexual freedom, but several of the guys were volunteers with the Sexual Education Centre, and took a lot of pride in being knowledgeable about women and sex and generally not being assholes. I suppose they were as arrogant about it as any university students would be, but at least they got most things right. Playing strip foosball? No problem. It’s strip foosball, not foreplay. :P

    Funny how neither one of those factors rests on denying women the opportunity to have fun as people…

  11. rq

    How do you know a mentally handicapped woman cannot give meaningful consent? Define ‘mentally handicapped’. That’s a very broad brush you’re using, there. Be very, very careful.

  12. rq

    Do we really need to go down this hypothetical? Seriously? I doubt Dana, who above has quite clearly expressed she is done with Dawkins, really wants to speculate on his views on the sex lives of handicapped women, never mind on their rapes and consent in general. You know what? They’re people, too, and as such they have a right to their own lives and their own opinions, and yes, sometimes they have guardians to help with decisions and consent – but you know what? Fuck that, it’s none of your business and it’s none of my business, and most certainly not Dawkins’ business.
    Just cut it with this pointless hypothesizing, people are not theories that can be discussed. You’re being an asshole.

  13. 15

    He makes me sick. Really truly nauseated. I cannot understand how he can say that and still call himself a feminist. Every time he has gone as low as I think possible he opens his mouth again. How disappointing he has become, I fear he was always like this too.

  14. 16

    The first time I felt Dawkins was beyond hope was at the beginning of elevatorgate when he compared Watson’s experience to chewing gun in an elevator instead of just saying how comfortable he would have been if a stranger invited him to their room at 3 am in an elevator. This is truly someone who is just to stuck in their upbringing to effect personal change. And coming of age in the 70s I’ve had experience both ways. I say stop and the partner stops and the partner says stop so I stop. I’ve also had less than optimal experiences.

    I almost wish sexual violence wasn’t broken out from “traditional” violence because the victim shaming and defence of the perpetrator. People seem to be able to overcome their prejudices of the victim easier with assault and the targets of the assault can easier find social support.

  15. 17

    instead of just saying how comfortable he would have been if a stranger invited him to their room at 3 am in an elevator

    The problem being that he’d probably be flattered by the invitation if it came from the gender he prefers (seeing that is what society teaches/expects of men). Still doesn’t make him look any better since it adds a strong dose of narcissism to the lack of empathy he showed in that response.

  16. 18

    Is telling how, in the not-so-much-a-rape-car-analogy, Dawkins erases all traces of a perpetrator. There in the car sits this irresponsible woman alone, drunk driving for the sake of it. There are a number of very good posts here at FTB discussing this exact problem, where people always talks about rape (or not-so-much-a-rape in Dawkins view) as something that “just happens”, with nobody commiting it. It’s really sad to witness as Dawkins keeps sinking deeper and deeper into bigotry. He was a very important voice for atheism, and is certainly a brilliant writer… Now I cannot read anything by him whitout this voice in my head saying “but he’s such a fuckin huge piece of shit of a bigot”

  17. 20

    rq, shouldn’t we both be standing on the other side of the rift, shouting at survivors that if they had just been as smart as us and been born in the exact right location and time-frame they wouldn’t have to be sorry now?
    Why can’t they take responsibility once

  18. 21

    As a long-time Dawkins fan, I’m with you all the way. I loved his evolutionary biology books, particularly ‘The Ancestor’s Tale’, and ‘The God Delusion’ crystallized my already atheist inclinations.

    I’ve been deeply disappointed with some of the statements that he’s made over the past year or so but after his public support of Shermer’s actions I will never be able to read (or reread) Dawkins again without feeling revulsion.

  19. 22

    As someone pointed out over on PZ’s blog (too lazy to go dig it up): Dawkins doesn’t want to be called sexist because there’s a stigma attached to the label. He doesn’t give a damn about actually being sexist. (Not unlike the way the Republican party constantly does racist things but reacts with outrage if called racist, or the way there was that survey/study a while back where people said they had not committed “rape” but they were perfectly willing to admit that they had used physical coercion to force people into sex, because that sounded better..)

  20. 23

    I was never a Dawkins fan, and I’ve only bought one of his books-The God Delusion. I liked most of it (despised the “indoctrination of children into the concept of hell is worse than child sexual abuse” shit he discussed), but ever since his comments on stranger vs date rape, I’ve had this urge in the back of my mind to set fire to that damn book. I still haven’t convinced myself not to.

    I’m sorry to all those people who have been hurt by Dawkins’ words. He may not have been someone that affected me, but clearly he did have an effect on many of you, and I can only imagine how disappointed he has made you all.

    ::fistbump of solidarity with Dana:: You rock.

  21. 24

    But yes, I have a full collection of stories that start exactly like those we hear time after time again in which somebody, mostly women, end up raped. From drinking, to crashing on couches, to walking home with somebody and so on.

    One extra shit cherry on the whole shit pile of bad analogies and handwaving to me is that many a couch crasher is a person who drank and is refraining from driving home. A person who realizes that they aren’t safe to drive (or perambulate) shouldn’t face extra dangers on what’s, for others, a safe prone position on the couch.

  22. 26


    I’ve mentioned this before but I got a certain “vibe” from the (numerous) books of his I’ve read, specifically when he goes off the rails here or there to go on some tangent or another. Most of the time it’s harmless stuff like “I like my definitions of words better than modern definitions!”, which we all do from time to time (I hate the word “blog”, it sounds like an intestinal disorder), but at least once a book, he goes off on how pedophiles are being “hunted like witches”, and it always gave me a small case of the jibblies reading that. I used to just explain it away mentally by saying “well I don’t know enough about British culture to say, so maybe they really ARE doing stuff like that”, and then it turned out the BBC in particular WAS in fact slandering innocent people with the pedophile label. But, then it was revealed that a major employee of the BBC WAS a major pedophile that the BBC had covered up for years, and I realized that the problem with the BBC was the slander, not the general goal of revealing pedophiles. There went that excuse. So, when he posted a few years back that he didn’t think his OWN abuse was a big deal, it didn’t surprise me so much, but it did still disturb me, and it kinda informs the rest of us on where his position on sexual abuse stems from. It could be a cultural thing, his upbringing, or a way to not have to deal with the facts of what happened to him that “requires” him to dismiss other similar cases. At any rate, the clues have been there.

    I won’t be selling or throwing away my old Dawkins books. His Selfish Gene book and other things he’s done are still “important”, but I’ve written off thinking he’s a moral person, written off actually wanting to get to know the guy, and relegate any admiration entirely to his work in biology alone. I’ve done similar before. There’s a convicted murder who, by sheer coincidence, also wrote a very important new partition type for data storage. I really don’t care one whit about him as a person, but if that partition type turns out to be good enough, I’ll still use the product. Not sure what that says about me, but no reason for us all to intentionally hold back on technological progress out of spite.

    No matter, at any rate, Dawkins you can’t come into my treehouse. You’re not invited.

  23. 27

    If I may be allowed a little revision here, my comment quoted above was specifically about Shermer, hence the gendered language. If I was making a general statement I would have used neutrals; rape is rape regardless of the gender of those committing it. I’m pretty sure that’s clear from context but I thought I’d make sure.

    Oh, and here: have an ‘e’. Getting quoted whilst worshipping Tpyos is a bit embarrassing.

    Also, Dana! Holy hell, I had no idea how good your blog is. Despite being a FtB regular and a Horde member in particular I’d never read you. Please don’t take the following as a criticism, it’s more an indictment of my own biases than anything else.

    The title put me off. I grew up with an alcoholic father and my relationship to alcohol is problematic to say the least. My mother was fond of saying “In vino veritas? In vino bullshit!” and she had good reason to feel that way. This unfairly* coloured my view of your blog. Sorry.

    *Profoundly, literally prejudicially. Sigh.

  24. rq

    You’ll find practically no tequila on this site (unless it’s a mountain), and I heartily, heartily recommend becoming a regular reader. No, of course I’m not biased by the fact that this is the first blog where I started commenting on FtB, and that Dana has, on occasion, mentioned me in posts (*special glitter for me*). :)
    I hope you enjoy the reading, and the birds, and the geology, and most especially Dana’s sharp, witty fingers and fearlessness.

  25. 29

    It’s astonishing how Britain has tolerated so many pedophiles for so long, but this story earlier this month about 1400 girls in the town of Rotherham in northern England being prostituted out and gang raped by organized crime is truly frightening.

    Of course the Islamophobes immediately jumped on that story as another example of how “dirty Muslims / Pakistanis” are destroying Western civilization, but when you combine it with the fact of the (white) police doing nothing about the problem for years, or about the prolific abuse of celebrities like Savile, or about the “light touching-up” (ugh) forms of child sexual abuse in private schools like the one that Dawkins attended, well, it shows how the remains of the British empire really feel about the rights of women and girls.

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