More Thoughts on the Dangerous Fragility of Men

First, I want to thank my hosts here at Concurring Opinions for asking me to stay on for another month. One of the things this extended invitation allows me to do is to respond at some length to issues raised in the comments on my last post, “The Dangerous Fragility of Men.” In that post, I highlighted a troubling phenomenon: men with privilege and power characterizing their insecurities and lack of self-control as vulnerability, and using that alleged vulnerability as an excuse or justification for murder, rape, and discrimination (and I would add, though I didn’t discuss it in the post, harassment and intimidation). To demonstrate this phenomenon, I offered a sample of quotations from recent, high-profile cases including Oscar Pistorius‘ shooting of his girlfriend and the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl in Texas. The post suggested that our society should make a greater effort both to marginalize this cowardice and become more attentive to actual vulnerability. In this post, I’d like to elaborate on these ideas and address some of the objections raised in the responses to my post.

I first want to spend a bit more time on the question of perceived v. actual vulnerability. I noted in my original post that one of the perplexing aspects of this form of male vulnerability is that it seems to increase, rather than decrease, with power or privilege. Frequently, the men using weakness as an excuse or justification (or others offering such explanations on their behalf) for harm are people who are objectively less vulnerable than most. They include famous athletes, soldiers, and wealthy businessmen. I think it is worth spelling this out more explicitly: there is a tendency on the part of privileged individuals to overstate their vulnerability. This tendency towards exaggerated sensitivity is important because it stunts what might otherwise be a meaningful process of self-examination. Feeling vulnerable is not the same thing as being vulnerable, and even actual vulnerability might need to yield before (or at least take into consideration) the greater vulnerability of other people.

We are all vulnerable in certain ways. Figuring out the what and why of our vulnerabilities is an important part of psychological awareness and well-being. What is of most interest to me here, however, is determining the conditions under which it is permissible for us to impose our vulnerabilities on other people, especially when that imposition takes the form of violence or discrimination. In determining those conditions, I would suggest we should ask ourselves at least three questions. One, we should question whether our vulnerability is objectively reasonable. Vulnerability that results from personal insecurity or prejudice is not vulnerability that we may rightfully impose on others. It is our own responsibility to correct vulnerabilities of our own creation. Second, we should question the magnitude of our vulnerability, especially when put in perspective with the vulnerabilities of others. Third, even if our vulnerability is both reasonable and of serious magnitude, we should question whether we are imposing it on appropriate parties in a just and proportional way.

I began my previous post with illustrations of “doing vulnerability badly” – the examples I referred to demonstrated errors relating to one or more of these three lines of inquiry. In the Jovan Belcher case, for example, Belcher’s supposed vulnerability had to do with his anger and insecurity about his girlfriend’s social habits. This, I would argue, is an illegitimate vulnerability. A person’s desire to control his intimate partner is never a valid condition for imposition. Even if we assume that there were other, legitimate vulnerabilities in his case, such as the fear that his girlfriend would restrict his access to their child, Belcher should have considered whether his own actions might have helped create his girlfriend’s belief that the child was not safe in his presence (given that Belcher ultimately shot a defenseless woman nine times in front of said child, this was not an unreasonable belief). That is, he should have put his vulnerability in perspective with the vulnerability of others, including his girlfriend. Finally, it should be clear that shooting his girlfriend to death was not an appropriate or proportional way to address his feeling of weakness or fear. To take one of my other original examples, it may be an open question whether the sergeant who expressed personal insecurity about how he might react to women being injured in combat could claim that his vulnerability is reasonable. Using his own weakness as a ground for denying his female comrades equal rights and opportunities, however, is unambiguously illegitimate. If male soldiers struggle to deal effectively with their female comrades’ potential to be wounded or killed, then it is their own behavior that is the source of the problem. Before the military was racially integrated, many white soldiers objected to serving alongside black soldiers, but few would argue that the correct response to this objection would have been to prevent black soldiers from serving. Rather, the expectation that rightly prevailed was that white soldiers must overcome their own prejudice. I won’t walk through all of my examples here, but I hope this elaboration clarifies the phenomenon I am describing.

Several commenters seemed to accept the general premise of dangerous male fragility, but expressed skepticism about its prevalence and/or society’s willingness to tolerate or encourage it. This is where responding gets a bit tricky, because the objection came both from commenters who seemed genuinely unsure about the empirical evidence, and others who apparently reject outright the observation that men’s feelings of harm are often privileged over actual harm to women (I also suggested that the same is true for white people’s feelings of harm being privileged over actual harm to minorities, but this claim does not seem to have troubled commenters as much). I want to make clear that I see an important distinction between the two types of objections even if I do group them together in this response.

I understand the temptation to view the examples I offered as exceptions to the general rule rather than the mere tip of the iceberg. It is very hard to confront the possibility that the world we live in is more unjust than just, especially if we ourselves benefit (however unintentionally or even unwillingly) from some of the structures of its injustice. I also believe, however, that even the most sincere form of this skepticism is in part a product of privilege. Some of us have the luxury of being ignorant or indifferent to the pervasiveness of a certain form of harm (and by pervasiveness I also mean implied and sometime express tolerance), but that does not make the harm any less pervasive. When I claim that “society” tolerates and sometimes encourages dangerous male fragility, I of course do not mean that every individual in society, or even a majority of individuals, thinks that “such murders and rapes were good ideas,” as one commenter put it. The most pernicious ideologies are never that explicit. The empirical evidence is not just in what people say, but what they do. And what a considerable segment of society does, according to indisputable crime and harassment statistics, is engage in violence and discrimination against women, and an even larger segment provides them with tacit encouragement and excuse when they do so. If this is news to anyone reading this post, that is not because the evidence is not freely available. In a blog post, I can’t do much more than point those interested in this evidence to the vast wealth of information available on this subject (and I provided numerous sources in my original post); to those individuals whose intuition is that violence and discrimination against women is either rare or widely disapproved, please consider researching the subject before asserting that intuition as empirical reality. There are many, many people who have devoted their careers to researching and documenting the incidence, causes, and responses to violence and discrimination against women, and we are fortunate enough to live in a time when such information is easily accessible.

I am perplexed by those commenters who don’t seem to think there is a link between the high prevalence of a phenomenon and society’s tolerance or encouragement of that phenomenon. High rates of violence and discrimination are not inevitable, and they do not happen in a vacuum. They call out for an explanation. What exactly are the other plausible explanations for the high rate of male violence against women? What is the explanation for why 1 in 4 women in the U.S. has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime? Or why women account for 84% of victims of intimate partner violence while men account for 83% of all spouse murderers?  Or why nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped? Or why men account for 99% of all rapists? Or why more than half of all rapes go unreported?  Or why the arrest rate for reported rapes is 24%?  Or why a very vocal segment of the population still reacts to violence and discrimination against women by blaming the victims rather than examining the root causes of men’s aggression towards women – a segment of the population that is by no means limited to defense lawyers in high-profile cases, but includes judges (who are sometimes former sex crimes prosecutors), police officers, politicians, journalists, football coaches, and higher education officials? Or why on this very blog and in response to the very post in which I described this phenomenon, at least one (anonymous, of course) commenter feels comfortable repeatedly spewing the most blatant myths of “misandry,” myths that have been debunked by every credible authority on intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and sex discrimination, and unwittingly provides a case study of the very logic that the original post critiques (e.g., treating fictional violence by women against men as equivalent to actual violence by men against women (while also conveniently ignoring the fact that this supposed glorification of female violence in popular culture is primarily the creation of male directors and writers for male audiences); suggesting that rape allegations are as or more harmful than rapes themselves (despite the fact that the majority of rapes go unreported, as noted above); and derisively referring to victim-blaming as a “catchphrase”: one could hardly ask for a better example of male fear, delusion, and privilege in action).

If our society does not tolerate or at least excuse the dangerous fragility of men, how do we explain why a group of teenagers would take pictures, tweet descriptions, and make jokes while they watched high school athletes repeatedly rape an unconscious 16-year-old girl (sample commentary: “is it really rape if you don’t know if she wanted to or not? She might have wanted it. That might have been her final wish”). How do we explain why a 17-year-old sexual assault victim would be threatened with jail time for naming the boys who admitted they had assaulted her because doing so “ruined their reputations,” or why a college rape victim faces potential expulsion for “intimidating” her rapist because she spoke to the media (without naming her attacker) about her experience? How are we to believe, as one commenter suggested, that the NRA is really interested in promoting the right of self-defense for those who need it most when it fights to keep guns in the hands of violent domestic abusers and ignores the fact that owning a gun increases, rather than decreases, a woman’s chance of being killed? How are we to respect male soldiers’ alleged solicitude for the welfare of their female comrades when the latter are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire and military officials have done everything they could to cover up sexual assaults instead of addressing them?

In my original post, I picked six recent examples of dangerous male fragility to frame the issue, but there are literally thousands of other examples I could have chosen. It takes an extraordinarily constrained version of the world to point to the criminal prosecutions of some high-profile killers and rapists of women as evidence that society actually condemns violence against women or racism against young black men.  It takes a remarkable amount of privilege to find reassurance of the world’s justness in the fact that people do not often explicitly advocate for injustice in so many words. The people whose very lives are made precarious by the often unspoken prejudice and weakness of others do not have this privilege. I do not doubt the fact that it is a struggle for some people to see such injustice. What is regrettable is the failure to take up this struggle simply because the injustice happens not to be aimed at them.

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18 Responses

  1. Lawrence Cunningham says:

    Much more enlightening and persusaive.

  2. Ken Arromdee says:

    1. The handgun “statistic” you quote is an example of a commonly spread set of statistics that’s so misleading it may as well be called a lie. The statistics compare the number of civilians killed to the number of criminals killed. Most of the time a gun is used in self-defense to save a life, the criminal is not killed; usually, the gun is not even fired. Measuring efficacy by number of criminals killed, rather than by number of lives saved, is therefore deceitful; the goal of self-defense is not to kill the criminal, but to save the innocent person.

    2.How are we to respect male soldiers’ alleged solicitude for the welfare of their female comrades when the latter are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire

    That’s another misleading statistic, because the better the army is at preventing its soldiers from being killed by enemy fire, the worse the number sounds. The same statistic is used by anti-war groups to compare the number of combat deaths to accidents, to make the military sound accident-prone.

    By your reasoning, if there were no deaths by enemy fire at all, it would be *really* bad because it would be *infinitely* more likely to be raped than to be killed in battle.

  3. Joe says:

    The enemy fire comment criticized by #2(2) needs to take various variables into consideration. That is, why is the army able to reduce killings by enemy fire more than rape? Women are less likely to be open to enemy fire – a relatively rare occurrence – than open to rape since they spend much more time in barracks etc. where the possibility arises. If there are more ways to reduce rape, likely, that haven’t been done, that’s an issue, but as noted, the statistic is somewhat misleading.

  4. Orin Kerr says:

    Mary Anne,

    If I understand you correctly, your argument is that we know society tolerates and even encourages murders and rapes because they occur much too frequently to have any other explanation. That is, the fact that these crimes exist shows that society encourages or at least tolerates them, because if society didn’t have that view, these crimes wouldn’t exist at all in the first place. From that perspective, the fact that everyone severely condemns the crime afterwards, and the state seeks a very severe criminal punishment, is not relevant: We judge society’s views by what facts society allows to occur, not what people say or how the state responds ex post. Am I right that this is your argument?

  5. PrometheeFeu says:

    “What exactly are the other plausible explanations for the high rate of male violence against women? What is the explanation for why 1 in 4 women in the U.S. has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime? Or why women account for 84% of victims of intimate partner violence while men account for 83% of all spouse murderers? Or why nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped? Or why men account for 99% of all rapists? Or why more than half of all rapes go unreported? Or why the arrest rate for reported rapes is 24%?”

    Proving lack of consent beyond all reasonable doubt is hard. That probably accounts for the low rate of conviction which probably accounts for the low arrest rate, the low reporting rate (together with the fact that sex is a very private thing which makes discussing one’s rape with a stranger most likely a harrowing experience) etc…

    I have seen some efforts by some to make consent a defense as opposed to an element of the crime. I think this goes against the more general liberal tradition though. Sex is a common activity and to make all who engage in sexual activity guilty of rape unless they can prove consent would be a mistake.

    “How do we explain why a 17-year-old sexual assault victim would be threatened with jail time for naming the boys who admitted they had assaulted her because doing so “ruined their reputations,””

    She was threatened with jail time by the boy’s lawyer because she violated the confidentiality of the juvenile court. And please read the second page of the article you link to:

    “Instead, press coverage of Dietrich’s plight went viral and began trending on the blogosphere. Dietrich’s online petition to have the contempt charges dropped received 50,000 signatures within 24 hours, making it one of the fastest growing petitions on Change.org. The boys lawyers withdrew the contempt motion, but not before there was a tidal wave of backlash against the two boys.”

    Lawyers who are paid to defend the interests of the rapists threaten jail, the media and the public come rushing to support the victim. This is perhaps one of the worst examples you could come up with of your claim that society supported the actions of the lawyers.

    Overall, I do agree that a myth of male fragility is used by some to excuse the inexcusable. But I still find many of your arguments and examples less than convincing.

  6. Colin says:

    Prof. Kerr,

    I cannot speak for the author, but I don’t see why you conclude that her argument is that “the fact that everyone severely condemns the crime afterwards, and the state seeks a very severe criminal punishment, is not relevant.” Society tolerates violence in sports, for example, but still condemns and punishes egregious specific instances of it. Are the condemnations irrelevant to our tolerance of the phenomena generally? My first reaction is simply that society’s a priori actions are not entirely consistent with its post hoc responses. Those responses are still relevant to, and should be seen in context with, the a priori attitudes towards the phenomena in question.

    As I said, though, I cannot speak for the author. Please pardon me if I’ve muddle the issue by misunderstanding her point, or yours.

  7. Orin Kerr says:

    Colin,

    I’m not entirely sure what the argument is, which is why I asked the question. But my tentative understanding was that Professor Franks thought such matters irrelevant because, in response to my pointing out society’s condemning of the cases she mentioned, she responded as follows: “It takes an extraordinarily constrained version of the world to point to the criminal prosecutions of some high-profile killers and rapists of women as evidence that society actually condemns violence against women or racism against young black men.” I took that to be disagreement with the suggestion that prosecution of a person for their criminal act is any evidence that society condemns that person’s act. But maybe I misunderstood it.

  8. Colin says:

    Prof. Kerr,

    I see your point, but I read that statement as an observation that such prosecutions are not dispositive evidence, rather than an argument that they are “not relevant” or “any evidence” as you suggest.

  9. Orin Kerr says:

    Colin, I don’t think they’re dispositive evidence. It’s easy to imagine conduct that might be criminally prosecuted but that society does not condemn, such as mala prohibita crimes that are prosecuted primarily for their deterrent value rather than out of retribution. But I think of murder and rapes as the two most heinous offenses that society most harshly and universally condemns, so I’m not sure how to reconcile view with Professor Franks’s view that society encourages or at least tolerates such heinous conduct. That’s what I’m trying to figure out.

  10. Howard Wasserman says:

    One question (and this was discussed in Mary Anne’s earlier post) is what part of the judicial process we see as “reflecting” societal attitudes. Is it the mere fact that an argument has been raised in a legal proceeding, on the assumption that a party/attorney would raise an argument only if it were non-frivolous and the party believed it might work? Or is it only when the argument carries the day before the judge or jury?

  11. Joey Fishkin says:

    It seems to me that if a behavior is in fact enormously widespread in a society, that is pretty strong evidence that the society in some way tolerates the behavior — even if it is legally proscribed, even criminalized.

    I think sometimes we law professors are inclined to look to statute books or cases to decide what society “condemns” or “tolerates” — that is, if legislators have passed a law saying X is illegal, we say ok, society has condemned X. But this is a rather “constrained,” to use Professor Franks’ word, way of thinking about what “society” is tolerating or condemning. In fact that is a way of thinking that probably makes sense only to lawyers, judges, and law professors — people with an intense focus on law. More relevant to most people’s experience is probably the sociology, not the law, of X; even if there is a broad criminal prohibition against all X, as a sociological matter it might nonetheless be true that people widely expect that a lot of X will go on, don’t think some X is so bad or should really be prosecuted, perhaps would single out some subset of really bad X (or X against some categories of victims) as the subset of X that is really worthy of punishment, while other X is ok, or should not count as X, etc. In that case it would be fair to say that society does not fully or entirely condemn X, but to some degree tolerates it, even if there’s a law prohibiting all X. And if X is _really_ enormously widespread as an empirical matter, than at some point it becomes hard to escape the conclusion that society in some way “encourages” (at least some forms of) X, as opposed to merely tolerating it. I think this is part of what Professor Franks is arguing and anyway it’s my own view.

  12. Orin Kerr says:

    Joey,

    Thanks for the response. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that the mere fact that a criminal statute covers an act means that society condemns it. No one who has read through a criminal code book could think that. Rather, the question is how we know whether society condemns or encourages an act. One way to find that out is to ask people what they think of such acts. A second way to figure that out — really an imperfect proxy for the first — is to see how the governmental bodies tasked with reflecting the judgement of the community respond to the act; not just in the sense of whether the legislature prohibited the act ex ante but in terms of whether the executive brought harsh criminal charges and whether the judge/jury convicted ex post.

    One way to square these different views is to say that there are horrible acts that society condemns but does not do enough to actively prevent. Individuals will commit heinous acts that society condemns, and society should do more to express its condemnation ex ante to shape conduct and actively avoid the harms in the first place. From that perspective, the argument becomes about why society is less active than it should be about preventing acts that it condemns. I think that approach manages to reconcile the fact of condemnation ex post with the occurrence of the act more effectively than saying that society “encourages” the act. My 2 cents, anway — or, by now, $2.

  13. New Prof. says:

    Mary Anne, thanks for the detailed post. This is indeed an interesting discussion.

    I want to first address a theme that floats around paragraph after paragraph: the notion of “privilege.” You write this:

    “It is very hard to confront the possibility that the world we live in is more unjust than just, especially if we ourselves benefit (however unintentionally or even unwillingly) from some of the structures of its injustice. I also believe, however, that even the most sincere form of this skepticism is in part a product of privilege. Some of us have the luxury of being ignorant or indifferent to the pervasiveness of a certain form of harm . . . .”

    Mary Anne, disagreeing with your description of the world’s unjustness does not equate with disagreeing that the world is unjust. But I will agree that our relative privileges can pervert our conceptions of the degree and quality of the unjustness.

    A good example of a perverted conception of the world’s unjustness that arises from privilege is an argument that emphasizes violence against women in demonstrating a relative acceptance of that specific subset of violence, even though, as an elephant in the room, men suffer from most of the severest forms of violence more than women.

    Privilege is having society in general recognize your problems and actually focusing on ameliorating them. It’s a Violence Against Women Act. White House Council on Women & Girls. Etc. This exclusive focus on women’s suffering, in turn, leads to the privilege of one being able to claim a heightened gender-consciousness while at once focusing on the suffering of only one sex in defining “reality.” The conception of unjustness yielding from that privilege leads to the dismissal of others, who attempt to be more holistic in their gender consciousness, as being driven by “fear,” “delusion,” and “privilege” because they choose not to chivalrously ignore male suffering and the logical implications that suffering has on feminist reasoning.

    And the privilege some women enjoy is the privilege of not recognizing their many gendered privileges at all, and, at once, calling men out on their alleged privilege in the specific context of violent crime, even though men are, for example, 78% of murder victims. Call it a “meta-privilege.”

    The perverted definition of “unjustness” manifests in deeming only half of the nation’s violent victimization worthy of consideration when determining how society reacts to harmful behavior.

    On that note, returning to domestic violence—another form of violence the male of victims of which go largely ignored—your response is problematic, and at once is illustrative of the selective focus I argue is the essence of misandry (the concept you think is nothing but a sham). I provided you a law review article wherein Professor Linda Kelly carefully dissects and examines the data and confirms the rough symmetry in DV, and also discusses feminists’ attempts to obscure this symmetry. You respond by arguing that the article was “debunked,” moreover debunked by “every credible authority,” but then cite to one “credible authority” that “debunks” a study that Kelly’s article never relied on; indeed, Kelly never mentions the Capaldi study. And Kelly did not make her assertions in a vacuum. Rather, by reading her article, you can see her references to “credible sources” that confirm her claims, namely work by Suzanne Steinmetz, among others.

    The ultimate point is that I believe your chains of reasoning are too creative and your evidence too tendentiously characterized. A good example would be your superficial use of the UNC controversy as an example of social excusal of violence against women, when what you failed to mention in terming the respective young man a “rapist” is that he was found not guilty of rape by a school council (consisting of both male and female students and faculty) and, in any event, he has not been found guilty in a court of law.

    I will make clear my agreement with what another poster has written: “Overall, I do agree that a myth of male fragility is used by some to excuse the inexcusable.” Thus, I have no doubt your views to a degree reflect reality. The only problem—and it’s a huge one—is that your views reflect only one half of it. And that makes such a crucial difference, since arguments such as yours are always relative: privilege, oppression, etc., are always relative to the status of others. Your approach appears to allow you to view female suffering in a vacuum, which is largely due to a systemic misandric tendency to see female suffering as the only suffering worthy of gendered focus. Synthesizing whatever truth your arguments may contain with my views yields the conclusion that, IF society is tolerant of violence, it’s tolerant of violence generally. This harms women disproportionately in some discrete contexts, and men disproportionately in other discrete contexts. A claim of a net excusal of violence against women specifically requires one to engage in the misandric dismissal of gendered male victimization. Or, at best, it reflects, to use your words, a tendency to “assert[] . . . intuition as empirical reality.”

    Lastly, I wholeheartedly agree with your statement:

    “[T]here is a tendency on the part of privileged individuals to overstate their vulnerability, This tendency towards exaggerated sensitivity is important because it stunts what might otherwise be a meaningful process of self-examination.”

    Indeed.

    Oh, and also, this:

    “I am perplexed by those commenters who don’t seem to think there is a link between the high prevalence of a phenomenon and society’s tolerance or encouragement of that phenomenon.”

    You should not be stunned because it’s a significant non-sequiter that you haven’t squarely dealt with beyond stating your hunch that it should be obvious and providing a chain of references to specific events that, while provocative, are not helpful.

    Howard, I think we should focus on the punishment phase more than any other. In this regard, I noticed that Mary Anne did not address the sources I provided demonstrating that women receive lesser punishments for killing men than vice versa (adjusting for defenses such as battered-women’s syndrome, etc.), and for other crimes, and how the article that Mr. Wenger cited to actually supports the idea that this is largely due to nothing but blatant sexism (chivalry) in deciding who lives and who dies (death penalty) or how heinous a particular victimization is. How is this not the best evidence of society sending the message that it’s relatively acceptable to harm one sex more than the other?

  14. Colin says:

    Prof. Kerr,

    Are you saying in essence that society may have a greater taste for specific deterrence than general deterrence for these crimes?

  15. NewProf, I’m not sure exactly what you’re saying. Are you saying that privilege does not exist? Or are you saying that privilege does exist, and it mostly favors women?

  16. I should mention ahead of time that I’m already on the record as doubtful that “female privilege” has much explanatory power, as I’ve written previously at:

    http://concurringopinions.com/archives/2011/11/harassment-male-privilege-and-jokes-that-women-just-dont-get.html

    http://concurringopinions.com/archives/2011/11/on-female-privilege.html

  17. Shag from Brookline says:

    Query: Should the phrase “the dangerous fragility of men” be countered by “female entitlement” in the manner of Justice Scalia’s Etna-like eruption during oral arguments on Shelby County?

  18. Mary Anne Franks says:

    Orin, I appreciate your continuing interest in this discussion. I hope it is clear, as Colin and Joey suggested, that I don’t take the position that laws against (and sometimes vigorous prosecution of) certain harms count for nothing with regard to society’s general feeling about such harms. I just don’t think they count for everything, and I can’t really state it any better than Joey did: “if X is _really_ enormously widespread as an empirical matter, than at some point it becomes hard to escape the conclusion that society in some way “encourages” (at least some forms of) X, as opposed to merely tolerating it.” Moreover, legal prohibitions of certain acts are, to put it mildly, ambiguous. A harsh rape law, for example, may actually serve the purpose of reinforcing the notion of men’s entitlement to women’s bodies rather than rejecting it (e.g. by treating rape as a property crime committed by men against other men, or by defining the crime in such a way that allows exceptions for husbands to rape their wives, or by granting the law’s protection only to supposedly “worthy” victims such as virgins or “non-promiscuous” women – as many societies, including our own, have done and some continue to do).

    My basic point is, once again, that unless one believes that violence and discrimination against women and minorities is an inevitable feature of humanity, the high incidence of such violence and discrimination requires an explanation. Moreover, I offered in both posts numerous examples of outright encouragement of the dangerous male fragility mentality, and I asked, in all sincerity, what accounts for them if not at least some support from some segments of society.

    In addition to these examples, I suggested looking at the character of several of the comments in response to my post, and I think the responses to this post are even more revealing. Take a look at Prometheefeu’s response to the Savannah Dietrich case (that would be the response that includes the patronizing admonition for me to read the article I myself linked to): “She was threatened with jail time by the boy’s lawyer because she violated the confidentiality of the juvenile court.” Only someone who is pre-committed to valuing the interests of admitted rapists over those of their victim could offer that statement as a justification or explanation for what happened in this case. What precedent is there for a judge deciding on her own initiative that a rape victim is not allowed to speak about her own experience under any circumstances outside of the courtroom? Prometheefeu refers to the “confidentiality of the juvenile court” as if this were some sort of natural and unimpeachable conception. This would be the same commenter who was sounding the alarm at the supposed threat to free speech posed by my draft statute on revenge porn only a few weeks ago (http://concurringopinions.com/archives/2013/02/why-we-need-a-federal-criminal-law-response-to-revenge-porn.html). According to such logic, a statute attempting to address a serious harm is required to hammer out every possible detailed exception to ensure compliance with the most fundamentalist reading of the First Amendment, but a judge ordering a rape victim not “speak about the incident to anyone for any reason,” raises not a single concern for freedom of speech. Again I ask: what accounts for this kind of response? Is it not yet another example of magnifying the interests of men who cause harm and prioritizing them over the interests of the ones they harm?

    But there’s more: this commenter thinks I should be chastened by the fact that some people found threatening a rape victim with jail outrageous and signed a petition to this effect. But why should we assume that the actions of some good people some of the time tell us more about “society” than the repeated bad actions of others at other times? Savannah Dietrich was sexually assaulted by two boys who recorded the attack for posterity. She then had to stand by as the prosecutor, without Dietrich’s consent, offered and received acceptance of a plea deal that “punished” the boys with 50 hours of community service and a requirement of counseling, and the possibility of having their records expunged when they turn 19. She then had to listen to the judge in the case forbid her from speaking about her sexual assault. After asserting her right to speak about her own experience, she was threatened with jail. But all Prometheefeu sees, in all of this, is how much society “supports” Savannah Dietrich because a petition was signed and the defense lawyers reconsidered the wisdom of having Dietrich put in jail. No wonder he finds my examples “less than convincing.” Indeed, I am not surprised that my arguments fail to convince a person so thoroughly committed to prioritizing the rights of rapists over the rights of victims.

    Or, as I mentioned before, consider the worldview espoused by commenter New Prof. For those unfamiliar with his particular brand of dog whistles, New Prof is a men’s rights activist – part of an entire movement built around the cult of imagined male fragility. I won’t link to any of their sites (any more than I would link to sites run by white supremacists), but the Southern Poverty Law Center has great information about them here at http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2012/spring/a-war-on-women (I linked to this in my post but it’s worth linking to again) and you can also find out more about their “movement” here: http://goodmenproject.com/ethics-values/meet-the-mens-rights-movement/. Now, we could dismiss New Prof’s increasingly shrill demands for me to pay attention to his imagined and/or irrelevant grievances as too marginal to be considered a reflection of “society,” but it’s worth considering that he claims to be a (law?) professor and that men’s rights activists are gaining enough ground for the SPLC to consider them worthy of investigation and monitoring.

    We have some good laws, and we sometimes use them correctly. There are some good people, and they resist bad things. Neither of these observations disproves the claim that our society tolerates, and even encourages, the use of male fragility to justify or excuse violence and discrimination.