Some truths just aren’t meant to be said out loud

Professor Richard Dawkins has drawn an angry response from women’s campaigners after he referred to “mild date rape” and stated that date rape is not as bad as being raped by a stranger.

The academic and author also differentiated between “mild pedophilia” [sic] and “violent pedophilia” in a Twitter row about language and logic.

But it was his comments about rape that proved the most controversial.

The End Violence Against Women Coalition said his words were “not merely ignorant but extremely offensive”. Shami Chakrabarti of the human rights group Liberty said there was “no such thing as mild rape”.

Don’t go around telling the truth now, eh? Some shouty bird might get upset with you.

48 comments on “Some truths just aren’t meant to be said out loud

  1. Are you saying that there is such a thing as mild rape? And that date rape is not really too bad?

  2. Surely any normal person can draw a distinction between violent rape by a knife-wielding stranger and reluctantly giving in to sex with a partner you don’t really fancy much but who’s paid for drinks & dinner?

    Or are we supposed to pretend a paper cut is the same as multiple traumatic amputations?

  3. Not quite, SE. You shouldn’t borrow one from me, because I’m normal and sensible, and not a shrieking bag of neuroses with a chip on her shoulder and a poly degree in wimminz studies…

  4. Why do you assume that “less bad” equals “not really too bad”? It’s possible for both to be terrible but for one to still be less bad than the other.

  5. Although I seem to remember many, many progressive and arty types defending Roman Polanski and claiming the exact same thing.

    It’s all about context, innit? Mostly we want you to say this, but sometimes we want you to say that, and we decide when. Oh, and you have to fervently believe both positions.

    Do all that and you’ll be a man, my son. Or maybe a mangina.

  6. Rob beat me to it, but didn’t Oprah say that what Polanski did wasn’t ‘rape rape’?

  7. Surely any normal person can draw a distinction between violent rape by a knife-wielding stranger and reluctantly giving in to sex with a partner you don’t really fancy much but who’s paid for drinks & dinner?

    Yes, because the latter isn’t rape.

  8. The statements weren’t purported to be true in themselves, indeed he said switch them around if you want, but examples of his (true) assertion that saying “X is worse than Y” is not an endorsement of Y.

    Regardless, upset was inevitable when he used the phrase “mild date rape”, as if it’s not too bad, or possibly even slightly pleasant.

  9. Dawkins is a fuckwit. It’s actually quite easy to imagine circumstances which would make a date rape worse than a stranger rape. At least for the latter you have a better chance of a prosecution, and you won’t be forced to share a lecture hall or common room or office with your rapist.

  10. Always wondered about organisations such as;

    “The End Violence Against Women Coalition”

    Why not;

    “The End Violence Coalition”?

  11. I think one could do a R Murphy Venn diagram ™ here.

    One circle for “Richard Dawkins comments” and another separate circle not intersecting the first at all for “political astuteness”.

  12. Dawkins was trying to make a point about logic, and using clickbait-topics as a tool. The logical point was obviously correct, and didn’t actually seek to do what the angry hoardes were accusing him of doing, but the ensuing twitstorm was manufactured and predictable. Slow hand claps all around.

  13. Arty types here in Australia regard artist Donald Friend’s pedophilia in Bali with boys as young as 9 as nice, culturally acceptable pedophilia because he didn’t harm them and, according to him, they seduced him and enjoyed it.

  14. Big mistake calling it “mild”. Bit like distinguishing between “brutal, sadistic murder”and “mild, everyday murder”. A serious faux pas.

    I think by and large the law has it right – rape is rape is rape (in terms of the offence that is prosecuted) and is a very serious offence. But the sentencing can reflect circumstances that make a rape particularly awful – or to turn it around, a less terrible rape will have a lighter sentence, though a sage judge is unlikely to call it “mild”.

    Pure speculation on my part, and wondering if any studies have been done on it – we often think of human trauma as operating on a sliding scale. But at some point it is presumably “maxed out”? If for a victim something like date rape is already towards the top end of that scale (some victims end up with depression, self-harm and even suicide so this seems plausible to me) then in practice it might not be much less serious or terrible than stereotypical violent stranger rape.

  15. Also, what bif said. Separately from the issue of initial trauma, there is something particularly nasty and pernicious about the “social” element of date rape. I wouldn’t be surprised if date rape actually led to more trust issues in future relationships than stranger rape did.

  16. TTG
    Yes I too wondered if the Dawk is on a retainer for Twitter. He could have illustrated his X>Y with:
    “Stealing a car is worse than stealing a bike. But that doesn’t mean bike theft is not a crime”
    and noone would have got upset, so no twitstorm.

  17. To be fair, Dawkins was talking about neither rape nor paedophilia.

    He was talking about the Doctrine of Double Effect – specifically the concept of endorsement.

    An example of DDE.
    Is it right to stab a child? Well, a surgeon might need to when operating on a kid with appendicitis. The doctor doesn’t want to hurt the child, and they aren’t endorsing child stabbings, merely doing what they need to to minimise harm (advocating the least awful thing).

    Dawkins was looking this idea, namely the concept that if one thing X is ranked as less loathsome as thing Y, it does not mean the person doing the ranking is “endorsing” X (any more than a surgeon is endorsing child stabbings).

    Rape and paedophilia don’t really come into it, no more than the Paradox of the Cretan Liar involve Crete, or Schrodinger’s Cat a discussion about animal welfare.

    ps: David Edmonds’ book “Would you kill the fat man?” is a fine work on DDE, endorsements, and moral decision making when both choices are awful (but maybe not equally awful).

  18. Unless he has experienced both several times by the sex he would normally go on dates with, how does he know?
    Of course as he is a heterosexual man,I think this is unlikely.

  19. If you steal a car you could claim you were doing it to reduce carbon emissions and that it was the driver who was the real (climate) criminal. Stealing a bike denies the owner’s right to be a smug, sanctimonious bastard.

  20. Dawkins is a fool – he said:

    “Whether X or Y is worse is a matter of opinion. But it is a matter of LOGIC that to express that opinion doesn’t mean you approve of either.”

    He’s getting trashed for his opinions, not his logic – and he doesn’t seem to realise that. His opinions?

    There is such a thing as ‘mild’ paedophilia, and there is a difference between ‘date’ rape and ‘stranger’ rape.

    If he’s just said ‘pedophilia is bad, violent pedophilia is worse’ or ‘rape is bad, rape at knifepoint is worse’…. far less contentious and the law agrees more or less. Also a great illustration of his point.

    But he gets all trollish because of his own emotional neediness (does he have friends?) and cries like a baby when other people reply emotionally.

  21. it’s the fallacy of the excluded middle in play.

    And remember that the most extreme feminists consider ANY male-female sex to be rape. Because false conciousness… patriarchy… etc.

  22. If only Dawkins had said “Tax evasion is bad; Tax avoidance is good” there would have been no controversy at all……….

  23. I think rape is a pretty horrible crime, and ‘date rape’ is rape.

    But then we all know that, and we all think it – no-one here thinks that a man who forces a woman to have sex with him is a good man, even if he’s spent £200 on wining and dining her over the previous three hours.

    Lijkewise, no-one here thinks that it is impossible (or wrong, or mad) for a woman to say ‘No’ right at the moment the knickers come off, having been all up for it until that point.

    It’s just the way these things sometimes go. It’s one of those things. Live with it, chaps. She’ll say Yes next time. Or someone else will.

    The real issue is really that it is TAIAP impossible to prove date rape in he says-she says cases, and that the feminist/mangina agenda is trending, horrifically, towards altering that.

  24. Mr Ecks
    ‘Scared to: So you have to be murdered before you can have an opinion about murder?.’
    Several times apparently…

  25. “Mao was worse than Stalin” is not an endorsement of Stalin. That was his point. Many people are too stupid or too emotional to grasp it. That’s scarcely news is it?

  26. Dawkins is a complete and utter failure as a communicator. He simply can’t do it. And I say this as a convicted atheist.

    Picking a sensitive topic like this as a logic example proves the point. The way to make this kind of point is to invent a humorous example. That way people remember the point rather than kicking your arse for being insensitive, or picking holes in some aspect of the analogy that isn’t quite perfect, but which thus has no influence on the interpretation.

    Dawkins has a dreadful habit of talking down to and past people. He can’t seem to descend from his ivory tower to mere mortal level and engage.

  27. In the same way that the film Jaws isn’t about a shark, Dawkins tweets do not reflect his opinion about rape or paedophilia.

  28. BiG: And I say this as a convicted atheist

    in what jurisdiction did that happen?

    To be serious, though, what I find so hard to grasp is why anyone should – as Richard Dawkins does – find a belief in God so offensively irrational as to bang on about it all the time.

  29. His logic is undeniable, but the words “mild rape” seem calculated to offend. “Less severe rape” would have made the logical point as well.

    Bloke in Germany is correct. I’ve been following Dawkins’ career since my late teens. He’s of interest to me because I sometimes love and sometimes hate his output, never neutral. More than twenty five years ago someone told me about a lecture he gave that surprised them by its ineptness at persuasion. Verbally he frequently manages to annoy even people disposed to agree with him. Yet he obviously does have legions of fans for his writing and, these days, his twitter posts.

  30. Anyone who conducts any sort of serious conversation via Twatter has demonstratively suffered a logic failure. You might as well shout down the toilet.

  31. Tim,

    you might regard it as a truth that some varieties of rape are less bad than others, but this post makes it look like you are claiming the taboo truth is that date rape is “mild”.

    Shouty birds and other people are justified in getting upset about that.

  32. Dawkins was trying to have a rational discussion. Under the Progressive Sharia, this will not do.

  33. To be serious, though, what I find so hard to grasp is why anyone should – as Richard Dawkins does – find a belief in God so offensively irrational as to bang on about it all the time.

    To be honest, I don’t think that Dawking finds a belief in God as offensively irrational as he finds those believers in God who contact him. As he is an evolutionary biologist, he is likely to come across the worst of the Biblical and Koranical* literalists** rather than, say “Quakers who aren’t the LHTD”. And these are people who believe that his knowledge is fundamentally heretical.

    * If it wasn’t a word before, it is now.

    ** And there is a far higher %age of literalists within the Muslim than the Christian community. Yet Dawkins always kicks Christians. I wonder why?

  34. When my uncle tried to rape my four year old sister, and was thrown out, lawyers would say that was mild.

    No harm, no foul. Cannibals worship living hearts. Small bites, not greedy, enough to share.

    Well, said uncle blew his brains out, later on, and left his poor wife homeless. Very logical.

    Lots of talk, no real heart in the matter. At least, not where real things count.

  35. There are degrees of rape but no degrees of the crime though perhaps judges may punish in haphazard ways.

    We have men convicted when the victim changed her mind later. One for lying about his wherewithal, deceiving the victim. Rape is applied to consenting under aged girls regardless of previous experience or circumstances. Lolitas sometimes treat sex nonchalantly leaving older men devastated. At the other extreme are those rapes involving torture & murder – one man abducted, raped & w/ an ax chopped off the arms of a teen.

    Rapes are not all the same. “Date rape” is sometimes not mild at all and others times is.

    A woman with whom I am close was abducted at gun point during a robbery & raped. She only talked to me about it years later saying the sex was not the horror. They drove her a long way into the woods discussing killing her to avoid detection & repeatedly & angrily telling her to shut up or they would kill her keeping guns pointed at her. She could only uncontrollably sob & shake. They took her clothes leaving her naked in the woods where she remained in fear expecting their return to kill her. She eventually found a highway & wanted to summon help from a car but hid in a ditch fearing each car was them coming back for her. Hours later she finally gathered courage to go onto the highway naked, flagged a car of several men who stopped. In fear she refused to get into the car with them, but they left one man who gave her his shirt while the others drove to summon the police who did come. The men were caught only because one’s girlfriend was pissed at him and ratted. They were sentenced to life because of the rape, the sex part. The detectives told the victim the sentence would have been less for the terror they inflicted which, in her opinion, should have the the other way round.

  36. Shami Chakrabarti got it wrong. Just to be clear, Dawkins never mentioned “mild date rape” what he said was: “Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse”.

    He did refer to “mild” paedophilia meaning, I suspect. something like the pederast PE teacher who takes a sneak look at young boys in the shower which is not the same as the anal rape of a 9 month old baby.

  37. @”Mr Ecks
    July 30, 2014 at 11:30 am
    Scared to: So you have to be murdered before you can have an opinion about murder?.”
    No. But it is hard to say what type of murder is worse – family or stranger without having had relatives killed by both.
    Sadly my wife has and I think she would say murder is murder.

  38. Shami Chakrabarti got it wrong. Just to be clear, Dawkins never mentioned “mild date rape” what he said was: “Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse”.

    Incorrect, he wrote:
    “Mild date rape is bad. Violent date rape is worse.” Is it really so hard to understand that that doesn’t constitute endorsement of either?
    https://twitter.com/RichardDawkins/status/494039058122039296

    he also wrote:
    “Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think.”
    https://twitter.com/RichardDawkins/status/494012678432894976

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