And oftentimes excusing of a fault
Doth make the fault the worser by th’ excuse. – William Shakespeare, King John (IV, ii)
I often write about the way in which dogma, whether religious or political, is like a distorting lens which warps the viewpoints of those who look through it so they are unable to see anything behind the lens clearly. Cops and prosecutors, for instance, view the entire world through their twisted “cops and robbers” lens and thereby see innocuous or rude-but-harmless behaviors as “crimes” and minor transgressions as excuses for destroying people’s lives. Prudes see anything involving the human body (including nursing, massage or waste elimination) as “sexual” and everything sexual as “sinful”, “harmful” or “objectifying”. Radical feminists and neofeminists see all male behavior as pathological and all heterosexual behavior as inherently exploitative. “Trafficking” fanatics see any migration by women or brown people and all sex work (even the casual sort) as evidence of an international conspiracy.
These people are lost souls; there’s nothing that can be done about them unless they experience some severe trauma which causes the scales to fall from their eyes so they can once again see the world clearly. Fortunately, these completely deluded types are small minorities; unfortunately they are influential minorities so their sick views are transmitted like a contagion to the population at large: the result is dangerous nonsense like the “War on Drugs” and anti-sex campaigns. The worst result of this is that real problems are often hidden by rhetoric, so millions of dollars and man-hours which might have solved or at least helped that problem are thrown at a scarecrow instead. Or, information which could help people to understand a social issue is denied, shouted down or ignored because it contradicts the official catechism.
Take rape, for example; I’ve already written about the damage caused by the dogma that rape is a crime of “violence, power and control” which has nothing to do with sex. Women who understand that rape is a natural outgrowth of male sexuality (which occurs in many, many nonhuman species) are far better equipped to avoid it or defuse it than those who believe it’s something only scary guys hiding in parking garages do, which is one of the reasons that viewpoint has been replaced over the past 20 years by the equally stupid and equally dangerous “rape culture” myth, which teaches that society “encourages” men to rape and “conditions” women to accept it.
Take a look at this post on Captain Awkward, and this long narrative comment in the discussion thread after it. All three of the reported cases involve men we might call (to use the blogger’s excellent term) “proto-rapists”, guys who are so sexually frustrated and so morally stunted that they constantly make attractive women feel very uncomfortable and appear to be looking for opportunities to commit rape (two of the three tried to get women alone in dark places but were foiled). Some of the blogger’s commentary on the issue, as well as some of the comments in the thread, are right on the mark.
But unfortunately, practically everyone involved in the discussion believes in the “rape culture” myth and is therefore unable to grasp the real root cause of the problem at hand, which is men (and even some women) downplaying and excusing the creepy, threatening behavior. They go on and on about “rape culture” and thereby miss what should be glaringly obvious: Rape is not the only thoroughly nasty behavior people excuse in this way. When people ignore and excuse the sadistic and even murderous behavior of cops, is it because of “police culture”? When they ignore and excuse the corruption, blatant lies and naked power-hunger of politicians, is it because of “political culture”? When they seem unable to recognize that their kids are little monsters, or refuse to say anything about the misbehavior of others’ kids, is that the work of “brat culture”? I’m sure you can think of plenty of other examples, none of which need tailor-made feminist constructs to explain them. The reason people excuse bad behavior in members of the us-group is good old tribalism again: bad things are done by “them”, the “bad people”, members of the out-group. Cops don’t torture and murder people; criminals do that. Children aren’t molested by their relatives; child predators do that. Our duly-elected leaders don’t abuse their trust; members of The Evil Party chosen by the idiots in purple states do that. Our country isn’t a police state; only other countries are.
Furthermore, the cause of this selective blindness isn’t cultural, but neurological; it derives from the instinctive script we all run, a basic program dating back to the time when we would’ve been classified as an endangered species by modern standards and therefore had to overlook the shortcomings of every productive member of the community while ostracizing and eliminating everyone who was perceived as presenting a danger to the group at large. We developed the psychological ability to make excuses for the good hunters, water-finders and berry-pickers because without them the whole tribe might perish, and though no individual is that important any more we are all still running that program in our heads and some misfits are very good at exploiting it. Conversely, it’s extremely rare that an unusual individual is so dangerous as to endanger the entire community…yet we still act as though every non-conformity is an imminent threat. People want to believe that any behavior they dislike, from homosexuality to whorishness to sadism to sex roles to rape, is either wholly voluntary or the result of “socialization”, but that’s utter nonsense; all of these behaviors are observed in other animals, begin to manifest at a young age and can be better explained by evolution and neurology than by ludicrous tabula rasa notions. Why they prefer to believe that people are programmed by “society” or “the Patriarchy” than to acknowledge we are programmed by Nature I cannot say; perhaps they fear that instinct is harder to overcome than learning and therefore choose to deny the terrifying reality, or maybe they prefer to blame a human agency they can complain about rather than superhuman forces which neither know nor care that they exist. But these beliefs, comforting though they may be to social constructionists, are ultimately counterproductive because, as I said in the second paragraph, they divert precious mental and emotional resources which could be used to deal with the real issue into a campaign against an opponent that does not actually exist.