Con Artists Are Basically Rapists: An Analogy.
[Content note: this post is about rape. What might not be clear from the title is that it also uses offensive language.]
So I’ve been reading. (What did you *think* I do instead of updating my blog?)
And recently, I read a comment on a blog that was the most perfect example of an argument I see a lot. Unfortunately, I’m having trouble finding it, but whatever.
So there’s an extremely involved and heated debate over wearing “slutty” clothing increases your risk of getting raped. I have no idea which side of this discussion is right, and – thank God – I have yet to need that sort of information.
But interestingly, both sides of this argument seem to believe that the other side is deliberately twisting the *focus* of the discussion, above and beyond any disagreement on facts.
Folk-psychological discussions of rape run roughly as follows:
I *would* be inserting my perfect archetypal quote that sparked this post here 😦
>Rape “survivor”, eh? Was she by any chance a drunken slut, out cruising by a dicking, and now she’s complaining that someone gave her one?
Now, assuming more than three people read this, responses to above pseudo-quote run roughly as follows:
50% “Wow, these people are terrible to say such an awful thing.”
25% “Objection, sir! That is a strawman!”
25% “Just goes to show how messed-up society is that this is even controversial.”
And they’re right.
Firstly, this is a somewhat *blunt* expression of this position. Many people are more politic in their phrasing. But, at the risk of biasing you against it, I do think this is the clearest expression of this – which is, I wish to emphasize, is merely the *reaction*, and a populist one at that.
Now, the strong version of this position is as follows:
>Assuming that signalling promiscuity or sexual availability is, in fact, a significant risk factor for rape; then ridiculing the common reaction is not only misleading, but actively dangerous. We *should* emphasize this risk, in roughly this fashion – and attempting to deny women a degree of responsibility for their actions will inevitably lead to irresponsible actions and thus *more rape*.
I don’t know if sluttiness – I won’t come up with a definition for “sluttiness”, incidentally, because it’s an inherently slangy concept – is actually a risk factor, let alone to what degree. But this argument has always seemed reasonable to me.
The primary counterargument/response to it is as follows:
>Why the [swearword] are you trying to blame the rape victim, here? They are well within their rights to dress however they like; and they are not the one who decided to rape someone! We should be focusing on stopping rapists, not blaming women for being attacked!
And this response has always seemed a touch problematic to me.
Of course, there are various issues inherent in this whole conversation, framed as it is withing the folk concept of rape (which I do know is inaccurate in other ways, regardless, that we needn’t go into here.) But still.
So, the other day, something occurred to me.
I’ve always been interested in con artists. Now, for those who don’t know, it is indisputably true that con artists target criminals – or rather, those willing to engage in obviously unethical and/or illegal activity. Everyone who knows about con artists acknowledges this.
(Put simply, it is rather hard to report someone who scams you, when they had done so by tricking you into believing you could (say) rig a horse race together and they only needed a little seed money. There is a certain tendency to want to keep the event quiet.)
So, by the logic above, you would think experts would speak of a con artists’ victim much the way many speak of a rape victim:
>Got “scammed”, eh? Were they by any chance a greedy bastard looking to rip someone off, and now they’re complaining that someone got them instead?
But, you know, they don’t. The very idea seems ridiculous. How do they react?
Well, everyone knows that you should avoid being unethical. It’s essentially part of the definition. “Unethical” things refer to those things which one should not do. Telling someone “don’t be unethical” is nothing new, wont change their behavior, and won’t prevent them being scammed.
So instead, they tell you that you should be especially careful when you are offered something that seems … underhanded. Then they provide you with various warning signs and strategies, that you can apply regardless, because not all cons use that strategy. (And, of course, just because you aren’t a paragon of money-related ethics doesn’t mean you “should” be robbed.)
And, you know, I think they’re right.
This analogy has changed my opinion of this whole discussion.
I still don’t know which side is right about the facts – I don’t have the background in statistics to wade through the politically-motivated nonsense even if I wanted to – but I now agree that one side is, in some sense, trying to shift blame from the perpetrator to the victim.
And that’s bad.
I mentioned earlier that I was deliberately using the term “slutty”, as in “she was probably dressed sluttily”, rather than more abstract terms. I don’t usually do this, but I felt it captures the point better in this case.
Here’s the thing – “slutty” is not a synonym for “promiscuous” or “sexually available”. Not an exact one, anyway.
Slutty refers to being too promiscuous, too sexually available. It is, by definition, something you should not be. Not everyone draws the line in the same place; but, barring attempts at “reclaiming” it, everyone knows that on the far side of their personal line is “sluttiness”.
It is not useful advice to tell someone to do something they, by definition, already know not to do. What we need to do is give them advice for what to anyway.
Whether someone foolishly acts too sexually available, or not – if they get raped, then that, I think, is what they need help with.