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Trigger Warning for discussions of rape and rape culture.
Max Temkin, co-creator of Cards Against Humanity, wrote this today in response to a rape accusation against him. Other people who knew both him and his accuser support her version of events over his. His statement about it all sounds pretty and humble and good at first. Hell, even Wil Wheaton reposted it in support of Temkin. There’s a problem with it, though: it has all the hallmarks of manipulation.
Let’s look at what he has to say for himself.
I had a really brief relationship with this girl in college; her dorm room was next to mine, and after a few evenings staying up talking all night, we made out. We spent a few nights in each others’ rooms, but we never had sex and neither of us pressured the other into doing anything we weren’t comfortable with. After a few nights, I broke things off in the cowardly way that 19-year-old guys do, and I just stopped returning her calls and texts. I can imagine she was hurt by this, I know that I would be hurt if someone broke up with me that way.
[Emphasis mine.] We’ve all internalized aspects of rape culture, because we all grew up in it. Here Temkin is alluding to a common myth of rape culture that we all recognize and will all respond to on some level, even if we don’t want to. The myth is that when a man breaks off a relationship with a woman and leaves her feeling used or hurt, she may retaliate by accusing him of rape.
Less than 2-8% of rape accusations are false. Because of rape culture and misogyny, when a woman accuses a man of rape she is putting herself up for a huge and unpleasant ordeal. This isn’t a good method of lashing out at someone, nor it is a popular method. Temkin is just regurgitating rape culture by bringing up the accuser’s supposed heartbreak.
Part of rape culture that hurts everyone is that it makes it difficult to talk about what is and is not consent, and makes it incredibly scary for people to speak up when their boundaries are crossed. It is entirely possible she read something completely different than I did into an awkward college hookup.
Look at him deflecting blame here like a pro. Yes, he actually suggests that rape culture was at fault for making his accuser too scared to say no. He’s too savvy to suggest his accuser is at fault–victim blaming would be too obvious a tactic–but still manages to reassure the reader that he could not possibly be at fault. Only rape culture.
At the same time, he admits she might have “read something completely different” in the experience. You mean like rape? No. Please don’t buy this defense, readers. Read this and think about it, hard: It’s not that they don’t understand, they just don’t like the answer. The TL;DR highlights would be:
Indeed it is evident that these young men share the understanding that explicit verbal refusals of sex per se are unnecessary to effectively communicate the withholding of consent to sex. … It is also clear that the men can hear both ‘little hints’ (l. 278) and ‘softened’ refusals as refusals … Of note here is that in none of the examples given do the men indicate that the explicit use of the word ‘no’ is necessary for a woman’s refusal of a sexual invitation to be understood as such.
The idea that a rapist didn’t understand the victim wasn’t consenting is just another rape culture myth.
Back to Temkin again:
If any part of that was traumatic for her, I am sincerely sorry, and I wish we would have had a chance to address it privately.
If. If it was traumatic for her. This is a classic non-pology. It pushes the onus off of the one issuing the apology, making it clear that the issue is the reaction of the offended party instead of the original action of the one apologizing. But it gets worse:
I’ve sent her an email and a Facebook message and given her my contact information, but so far I haven’t heard back (but she did edit her post to remove my name).
Holy shitballs no. He’s clearly not nearly as sympathetic toward this woman as he’s trying to portray himself, because if he truly worried about her being traumatized he wouldn’t reinforce it by initiating private communication with her. He contacted her without invitation privately not just once, but twice. My rapist did the same thing, couching it as faux concern when it was really intimidation to shut me up and push me to change my story. Lots of abusers do this. It’s not cool. If you’re genuinely concerned about someone who has expressed that you’ve wronged them to this degree, don’t initiate private communication. It is frightening and invasive.
I spoke with my lawyer, and she thinks I have a clear case to sue this woman for libel and get a restraining order, but I have no desire to bully or harm her.
Why does he add these details if he doesn’t want to bully her? Because it’s a threat. “I don’t want to sue you, but I totally can and I’ll win.” It’s a silencing tactic. It’s intimidation.
There is no evidence for this story. I will never have a chance to defend myself. The structure of the modern internet is such that these things never reach resolution and never go away. This is just baseless gossip that will now haunt me for the rest of my life.
And this is the part when I actually said “fuck you” out loud to my computer. There is evidence: witness testimony is evidence. When someone says they have been raped, their word is evidence. Her testimony conflicts with his, but they don’t cancel one another out. In a court of law, all of the admissable testimony should be considered and weighed. In public opinion, we’re free to to consider these things for ourselves. And after all of this posturing about being concerned for her and trying to consider that maybe she experienced things differently, he hand waves it away as baseless gossip. Why? Perhaps because it really was just posturing and he really doesn’t give a shit about this woman.
Max Temkin is very good at using social justice language. He’s very good at making himself seem sympathetic and reasonable. Rapists are perfectly capable of doing all of those things. They aren’t non-human monsters that leap out of closets, with no awareness of society or communication skills. They’re people, like any one of us. They can be intelligent. They can be involved in social justice. They can create awesome games. They can come across as reasonable, kind people. They can, in fact, be reasonable and kind people in every way except for that pesky raping thing.
Is Max Temkin a rapist? I don’t know. I do know that he’s written a manipulative post, though. I know that he’s spreading harmful rape culture myths under the cloak of being a “feminist and an advocate for women’s rights”. I know that he’s using intimidation tactics against someone who, because of his platform and wealth and gender, has far less power than he does. As one tumblr user put it, this is an epic piece of mansplaining.
Do not believe the myths. Do not believe that nice people who talk about rape culture are immune from it. Whether Temkin is innocent of this accusation or not, his blog post only perpetuates the rape culture he claims to abhor. He is harming victims.
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