Death, taxes, and rape. Which one does not belong?

Why men should be insulted after dumb statements about sexual assault

Dar Yasin/AP

Men, and sometimes women, have and will always say stupid and horrendous things in the aftermath of rape. Said things usually go like this:

“Don’t dress like a slut.”

“Don’t dress like a whore.”

“Until today I have not seen a single incident or example of rape with a respected lady. Even an underworld don would not like to touch a girl with respect.”

The impetus behind these statements is that rape is inevitable because some men just can’t help it. And if rape is inevitable, if it’s a biological certainty that men are dormant deviants until a bare midriff in a dark alley catches their eye, then women should take “practical” precautions, like wear modest clothing or walk to and from their points of destination chaperoned by male specimens less prone to deviant outbursts. (For the record, the “don’t dress like a slut” argument is pretty easy to refute when you’ve been verbally harassed in a balaclava and snowsuit.)

Or perhaps, as former murder suspect and Indian Yoga guru Asaram Bapu, suggested recently, women should try and reason with their rapists–bring out the man inside the beast.

No one, you’d think, would be more insulted by this brand of thinking than the alleged deviants themselves: the majority of boys and men, who–correct me if I’m wrong–are perfectly capable of free will, and incapable of committing the kind of horrors perpetrated by the band of alleged rapists and murderers currently on trial in India. Yet it’s women, not men, who are most incensed by the notion that their attire, or lack thereof, is the catalyst for sexual assault–the underlying logic being that men are as naturally short-fused, violent, and ultimately, blameless, as animals.

This isn’t a fringe theory spouted by fringe groups. It rings true for men and women around the world. The alleged biological explanation (and sometimes justification) of rape is probably older than human biology itself. Boys will be boys.

But this time it’s different isn’t it? People are protesting the world over–men included. Surely, at least attitudes have changed.

Not really…

Think about it this way:

Replace the grossly popular sentiment that “rape is inevitable because men just can’t help themselves” with one of these: Money grubbing is inevitable because Jews just can’t help themselves. Terrorism is inevitable because Muslims just can’t help themselves. Theft is inevitable because black people just can’t help themselves, etc., etc., etc.

All these statements are absurd, none more so than the next. Why then, are the racist remarks above official reputation and career destroyers, while the one about rape is viewed as a mere gaffe or insensitivity?

I’m not a man, as far as I know, but I think the assumption that women would be safe from rape with the right clothes or the right chaperone is–if not more offensive–as equally offensive to men as it is to women. As biologist Frans B. M. de Waal wrote in the year 2000, in a New York Times review of A Natural History of Rape–another attempt to explain the crime evolutionarily–“If women feel offended by this book, let me say that I, and with me probably most men, resent the foisting of the crimes of a minority onto us as something that we would just as eagerly do if the opportunity arose.”

Until good guys like de Waal start getting really resentful–more so than even women do–when bad guys make the case for rape’s inevitability, attitudes will remain roughly the same.