26 Comments

Double standards

Jessica of Feministing is asking for input regarding sexist double standards – e.g. sexually active men are studs, sexually active women are whores etc etc. Sexist double standards are going to be the subject of her next book, and she wants to include as many “infuriating, funny, weird (or whatever)” examples as she can, with proper source credit for those who supply a good ‘un.

So if you’ve got a good ‘un, do let Jessica know, but please share it here as well for our delectation.

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writer, singer, webwrangler, blogger, comedy tragic | about.me/vivsmythe

26 comments on “Double standards

  1. Hmm. I think I’ll play devil’s advocate, since every comment on that site has the feminist perspective covered pretty well.

    If a woman has sex with a drunk man, he got lucky. If a man has sex with a drunk woman, he took advantage of her.

    US Rape Shield laws make it impossible for the accused to bring forth any details of the accuser’s sexual history, regardless of how relevant it may be. On the other hand, the accuser may bring forth details of the accused’s sexual history.

    In sexual harassment cases, the accuser needs not to prove that the defendant committed the alleged harassment, only provide a “balance of probabilities” (to argue that it was more likely that it did occur than that it didn’t).

    I don’t think this is a double standard, but it is interesting:

    When I was in Sydney Airport about 2 months ago, I had a look through a news agency, and I noticed something. When looking at the covers “Mens” magazines, such as sporting magazines or FHM magazines, they all had scantily clad women on the cover. Then when I looked at the “womens” magazines, they ALSO had scantily clad women on the cover. What’s up with that?

    [Moderator note: Altair as a new commentor without a blog presence of record is restricted to three comments per day as per the Comments Policy. This is his third post today. Responses should please note that he will be unable to immediately respond.]

  2. That’s because most double-standads benefit men, not women. Though there are a number of examples of double-standards that harm men over at Feministing. Double-standards suck. As you’ll see, feminists disapprove of double-standards, period.

    Your comment about Rape Shield laws is not a double-standard. It makes perfect sense. Why would an accuser’s sexual history have anything to do with whether or not she’d been raped? Might want to check your attitudes about rape and women’s sexual agency. Furthermore, the sexual history of the accused IS relevant, as he may have a history of harassing, sexually assaulting and/or raping other women.

    I feel the same way you do about magazines. Half-naked women appear on men’s magazines; it’s like, “This is what’s hot.” Then they’re on women’s magazines; it’s like, “This is what men want to you look like.”
    The content on the inside of magazines reflects similar priorities. Men’s magazines are all about how to get a woman to sleep with you and women’s magazines are all about how to please your man.
    Another thing about magazines is that in many book stores “men’s” magazines can be found in the “general interest” section while “women’s” magazines are under the “women’s interest” section. It’s that attitude than men are the default and women are the Other.

  3. With regard to chivalry, women are supposed to think it’s sweet, but if you did similar things to men they might find it emasculating. So men think they’re being respectful to women by doing chivalrous things, but some men find it disrespectful for people to do those things for them.

  4. Have you noticed that, while infantilising as a political/media technique is something that is used on both men and women, and is equally insulting and infuriating, we are expected to derive different conclusions about appropriate action in each case?

    What I mean is, when women are infantilised it is mostly in order to restrict their rights (mainly in terms of autonomy/agency): you’re not up to that / better to leave it to someone who can manage it / we just want to protect you / she’s not in a fit state to make that decision, etc.

    When men are infantilised it is mostly aimed at removing their responsibilities (mainly in terms of not perpetrating harmful action or inaction): he couldn’t help himself / boys will be boys / you can’t expect a man to pick up after himself / you couldn’t know it would hurt her feelings / they can’t control themselves when they’re hot, etc.

  5. Oh, and this is really good: Anne Summers’ classic feminist analysis of women since European settlement in Australia is called “Damned Whores and God’s Police”.

  6. Very good point, Orlando. I hadn’t thought of that. You should add it to the list at Feministing!

  7. “Your comment about Rape Shield laws is not a double-standard. It makes perfect sense. Why would an accuser’s sexual history have anything to do with whether or not she’d been raped? Might want to check your attitudes about rape and women’s sexual agency. Furthermore, the sexual history of the accused IS relevant, as he may have a history of harassing, sexually assaulting and/or raping other women.”

    It is a double standard because the law is supposed to tread the accused and the accuser equally. Regardless of the charge put forth, the defendant is innocent until proven guilty, and if the prosecution’s sexual history is relevant to his defense, he is not allowed to bring it forth. I’ll use a real world example.

    In Oregon, James Anderson was accused in 1989 of raping a fellow patient at a substance abuse clinic. He subsequently served a prison term. Anderson may or may not have been innocent, as he has consistently claimed; but the case against him was based solely on the woman’s testimony, and her serious credibility problems were kept out of the courtroom by the judge’s application of the rape shield law.

    At the trial, the defense attorney questioned the woman about the fact that the morning after the alleged rape, she did not say anything about it to clinic staff members. The woman claimed that she was too embarrassed to talk about it; the prosecutor picked up on this point in his summation, scoffing that the defense expected a rape victim to “just walk up to one of the staff” and discuss “those most intimate details.” But there was something the jury didn’t know: The day before, she had discussed equally “intimate details” — an alleged earlier rape and childhood sexual abuse — with one of the clinic counselors. The jurors never heard the counselor testify about this and never saw his notes, which contained the comment that “client … has a lot of other issues around incest/rape,” because all information about the woman’s sexual history had been ruled inadmissible.

    The laws are based on the assumption that the accused is guilty, with the defendant proving that the alleged rape did not occur, rather than the prosecution trying to prove that it did, as is the case with every single other crime in existence. The defendant needs only to defend himself when evidence is put forth against him – however, in these cases, allegations alone are enough for the man to get a jail term. Is he innocent? I don’t know, but neither did the jury, and he still got convicted.

    Can you see my point? I’m not trying to defend rape, or rapists, I’m trying to make the point that the laws, while allowing them to be brought to justice more easily, has just as much potential to wrongfully convict innocent men.

  8. I still don’t see how, in your example, the accuer’s sexual past has anything to do with whether or not she was raped by the accused.
    And yes, in rape cases the prosecution does have to prove a rape existed. It’s no wonder so many cases never go to trial; there’s usually not enough evidence to prove the victim was raped.

  9. Exactly, SarahMC. When most rape complaints speak of being threatened with a weapon, leading to submission without injury, there is often insufficient forensic evidence to distinguish between consensual sex and rape. Insufficient evidence doesn’t mean that the rape is proven to have never happened, just that there is no proof that it did.

  10. Altair–
    I really find it despicable when people who have never been in a rape victim’s position attempt to say that there’s a way rape victims ‘should’ act. This is what you are doing. There are many, many reasons why someone would tell one person the details of her personal life but not another. It is entirely possible that the woman in question simply felt more comfortable with one of the clinic workers than with the other, or that it was easier to speak of things in the past then of things in the present. Have you told every single detail about your life to every person you have ever met? I doubt it, particularly if said details were things which had been done very recently to hurt you.
    I feel very, very sorry for the woman in the case you speak of. But I must say I feel no real sympathy for the man.
    No matter how convoluted or depressing a woman’s sexual history is, it does not prevent her from being a victim of rape.

  11. Women are expected to smile and be “supportive” of others all the time, men are not.
    Period.

  12. US Rape Shield laws make it impossible for the accused to bring forth any details of the accuser’s sexual history, regardless of how relevant it may be. On the other hand, the accuser may bring forth details of the accused’s sexual history.

    Altair, this is factually incorrect.

    1. “US Rape Shield laws” ignores the fact that sexual assault law is passed at the state level; there is not a single “rape shield law” that applies to every court in the country.

    2. The “rape shield laws” are actually rules of evidence. All evidence must be relevant, and pass a standard of ‘is this more probative than prejudicial?’ If evidence is of minimal value but would substantially and unfairly prejudice the finder of fact, then it is unlikely to be admitted. (So, contrary to your unsourced example, a court would not allow evidence of ‘details of the accused’s sexual history’ unless they were relevant, and if their evidentiary value were not far outweighed by the likelihood that they would just poison a jury against the accused.)

    3. Again generally speaking, “prior bad acts” can only be introduced in limited circumstances; we want to avoid the jury drawing the conclusion that if the accused did X before, s/he must have done X this time too. If the accused had been convicted of a rape where he dressed up like Godzilla before attacking his victims, that would be admissible if he were now the defendant in a case where the accuser claimed her rapist dressed up like Godzilla. Otherwise, it would probably not be admitted.

    4. Rape shield laws do not, as you mistakenly claim, bar “any details of the accuser’s sexual history”, because some of those details are plainly relevant. The goal of rape-shield laws is to prevent the introduction of evidence about the accuser’s sexual history that is irrelevant and/or more prejudicial than probative–in other words, the “who cares, she’s a slut” defense.

    So, for example, Oregon’s rape-shield law (Rule 412) allows evidence that relates to the accuser’s motive or bias, or if it pertains to scientific evidence, such as showing that a different sexual partner was the source of injury or semen.

    And rape-shield laws apply to male victims. I don’t think Altair would be very pleased if a woman accused of rape were allowed to come into court and say “He’s a guy, and you know they’ll nail anything. Besides, he’s been around the block a few times.”

  13. The really fun thing about this blog is that the trolls end up serving a useful purpose, because they articulate all the myths in circulation such that they can then be dismantled in a clear, factually-based way, in a place where others will come for information. Thanks, Mythago (and Tigtog, of course).

  14. “Why would an accuser’s sexual history have anything to do with whether or not she’d been raped?” Your point is largely correct. Most evidence of prior sexual conduct should NOT be admitted. We do not want to return to the day when evidence of promiscuity was admissible, because the prejudice clearly outweights the probabitve weight. But certain instances of past sexual misconduct may go to credibility, obviously. If, for example, the woman had previously lied about being raped and it had been so adjudicated, depending on the facts of the present case that fact may be just as relevant as evidence of the accused’s prior history of rape.

  15. Problem with that is we don’t know what degree of prejudice was applied to her previous accusation of rape.

  16. If, for example, the woman had previously lied about being raped and it had been so adjudicated

    Noah, that’s not an “instance of sexual misconduct”; that would be a conviction for perjury, and such a conviction for ANY kind of perjury would go to any witness’s credibility. (If you had a different meaning for ‘so adjucated’ I’d be interested to hear it.)

  17. As long as we’re dismantling myths:

    In sexual harassment cases, the accuser needs not to prove that the defendant committed the alleged harassment, only provide a “balance of probabilities” (to argue that it was more likely that it did occur than that it didn’t).

    In any civil case, the standard of proof is ‘by a preponderance of the evidence’–colloquially, ‘more likely than not likely’, with the initial burden of proof being on the plaintiff. This is as true of a breach-of-contract case as it is of sexual harassment; legally, sexual harassment is a form of workplace discrimination.

    Altair appears to be assuming that we are talking about criminal charges. In a criminal case (say, where an employee is acccused of sexually assaulting one of her co-workers), the standard of proof is still ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’, with the prosecution having the burden of proof.

  18. A woman who is a virgin is pure, virtuous and has self-control. A man who is a virgin is weak, wet-behind-the-ears and effeminate.

  19. The goal of rape-shield laws is to prevent the introduction of evidence about the accuser’s sexual history that is irrelevant and/or more prejudicial than probative–in other words, the “who cares, she’s a slut” defense.

    Somethings the rape shield laws are abused by the prosecution:

    http://www.cybercase.org/flyer.html


    “Under the pretext of the Rape Shield Law, the e-mail exchanged between Madame X and Oliver was redacted so that among other things, all evidence of a false rape allegation and all mention of Madame X’s sadomasochistic activities were expunged. This of course warped the meaning of the e-mail. Never mind, that she claims to be “what those happy pain fiends at the Vault” (a known S&M club), call a “pushy bottom”, and never mind that she says about her boyfriend Luke: “he was a sadomasochist and now I’m his slave, and it’s painful, but the fun of telling my friends ‘hey i’m a sadomasochist’ more than outweighs the torment.” Never mind that he probably caused the bruises on her body that she falsely blamed on Oliver.”

  20. Somethings the rape shield laws are abused by the prosecution:

    Lots of principles get abused. That says nothing about the nature of the principle itself, it says something about the character of those abusing the principle.

    The judge who allowed the prosecution to invoke the rape shield law to the level of refusing to admit testimony that neighbours heard no screams is either obtuse or wilfully perverse. That makes no sense at all, but again, abusing the rape shield law this way does not mean that the law is a bad law per se.

    Your choice of quote seems to imply that a woman who engages in BDSM somehow gives up the right to refuse sex at any time with any person. What a person consents to with someone else really is irrelevant to what they did or did not consent to with another person: this is exactly the sort of prejudice that the rape shield laws were designed to address. The exclusion of other evidence that had nothing to do with sexual history is far more legally problematic.

  21. Moreover, an abusive judge doesn’t need a ‘rape shield law’ to exclude probative evidence; the judge could simply rule that the evidence is irrelevant, more prejudicial than probative, or falls under some other exclusion, and keep it out that way.

  22. Your choice of quote seems to imply that a woman who engages in BDSM somehow gives up the right to refuse sex at any time with any person
    So you are saying that woman who can be proven to have a predilection to engage in BDSM. has no effect on whether you should consider that any bruising on her body is evidence of a rape.
    BTW, the guy in the linked case is suing the state of New York for prosecutorial misconduct..
    A Case in Point – How Framed Defendants Fight Back – Jovanovic v. City of New York

    http://liestoppers.blogspot.com/2006/09/case-in-point-how-framed-defendants.html

    Moreover, an abusive judge doesn’t need a ‘rape shield law’ to exclude probative evidence; the judge could simply rule that the evidence is irrelevant, more prejudicial than probative, or falls under some other exclusion, and keep it out that way.
    Then why do you need rape shield laws? As any evidence about the woman’s sexual past that is not probative would not be allowed by the judge.

  23. Then why do you need rape shield laws? As any evidence about the woman’s sexual past that is not probative would not be allowed by the judge.

    Because judges, being brought up in a culture which has for generations taught everybody that women’s sexual histories are relevant in cases of rape, did not in the past exclude non-probative sexual history from rape cases. Without the law, most judges would have continued to allow any and all sexual history to be brought up in evidence.

    Remember, the defendant has similiar protections – any previous charges/convictions against him for sexual assault are also excluded. Rape shield laws level that playing field.

  24. Your choice of quote seems to imply that a woman who engages in BDSM somehow gives up the right to refuse sex at any time with any person
    So you are saying that woman who can be proven to have a predilection to engage in BDSM. has no effect on whether you should consider that any bruising on her body is evidence of a rape.

    No, I did not say that. You don’t do nuance well, do you?

    If she did often walk around visibly bruised, then a non-perverse judge should allow testimony from people who saw these regular bruises without reference to what behaviour might have caused them, just demonstrating that the complainant displayed a habitual lifestyle that resulted in regular bruises.

    P.S. BDSM does not always result in bruises, so it really is not probative.

  25. Going back to the original topic, the whole whore/stud dichotomy seems to come from the unwritten presumption that sex is something men take and women give. Thus, a man having sex is an achievement, whereas a woman having sex is a concession. It’s really bizarre when you think about it, yet so deeply ingrained in cultures worldwide.

  26. [content regarding alleged events in an uncited court case deleted ~ Moderator]

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