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Moral complexity, Julian Ansange, and Rape Culture
December 7, 2010, 4:09 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

So, Julian Ansange.

1. He’s responsible for leaking documents that reveal a lot of dodgy dealings that various world leaders have been involved in.

2. He probably raped two people.

First off, I think 1 is pretty cool. It’s a good thing that we now know a bit more about what our leaders get up to. And the fact that Julian Ansange and the other people working at Wikileaks have gone ahead with their work even in the face of quite a lot harassment is laudable.

On the other hand, he almost certainly raped two people. That is a Big Deal.

The details of the rape allegations are sketchy and seem to vary from newspaper to newspaper, but as far as I can gather, in one case he had sex with a woman who was asleep, and in the other case he was having consensual sex with a woman, but then she realized he wasn’t wearing a condom, she told him to stop having sex with her, but he didn’t stop.

If that’s accurate than both cases were definitely rape. If you have sex with someone who is asleep then by definition you are having sex with someone who can’t consent, which is rape. In the second case, the only things we need to know are:

(a) She told him to stop having sex with her, and

(b) He didn’t stop.

The fact that she told him to stop because he wasn’t wearing a condom is irrelevant. If someone says ‘no’ and someone else keeps having sex with them anyway then it is rape whether they said no because a condom broke or because they have a headache or because they have to pee or because they just realized they don’t really like the person they’re with and don’t want to be having sex with them anymore, or for some other reason.

So there are a lot of people who think that what Wikileaks does is Really Important, and that the fact that Julian Ansange probably raped two people is a minor insignificant little detail.

For example: on the front page of piratebay.org today there’s a link to an appeal to people to take all their money out of their Paypal accounts in protest against Paypal’s decision to prevent people from making donations to Wikileaks. Fair enough, I think that’s a good idea, if I had a Paypal account in the first place I would probably go along with this action. But follow the link, the following text stopped me short:

“Our dear friends at WikiLeaks just got their PayPal account shut down…”

“Our dear friends”. Wow. The PirateBay aren’t just saying that they agree with what Wikileaks does as an organization, they are saying that the people at Wikileaks are their “dear friends”. Since Julian Ansange is the best-known representative of Wikileaks, that pretty much means that Julian Ansange is their dear friend.

You know what? If I knew that someone was probably a rapist, I wouldn’t be friends with them. Just like I wouldn’t be friends with someone who was a racist, or a fascist, or someone who liked to beat up gays or set fire to synagogues for fun. I know that no-one is perfect, but there are certain lines you can’t cross and still be my friend. Now I imagine that if asked about this the PirateBay people would try to gloss over the rapes, saying that is only a personal matter which does not concern them, and that they are focused on Important Issues like Free Speech and Government Transparency.

It’s wrong to gloss over rape.

As well as being devastating to the survivor, rape is part of a wider system of oppression against women. Rapists are the frontline stormtroopers in a system which (still!) makes sure women don’t get the same respect, the same opportunities, and the same level of safety that men get. The people who don’t commit rape but who commit the more minor sexual assaults that virtually all women have to endure are also stormtroopers in the Rape Culture, standing a row or two back from the rapists. And a few rows further back are the people who don’t commit any assaults themselves but try to make it sound like rape is OK as long as not much physical force was used (“It wasn’t really rape, it was just a misunderstanding!”, “It was surprise sex!”). Alongside them are those who rush to the defense of rapists (“he can’t have raped anyone, he’s my mate!”) and those who insist that rape is just an unimportant personal problem, and refuse to recognize that it is part of a system of oppression.

Image: Star Wars Storm TroopersDon’t be a storm trooper.

(Just as a side note, I can’t think of a more sick-making phrase than “surprise sex”. If your partner came home early from work one day and said, “hey honey, would you like to go to bed?”, that might be a nice surprise. But if someone has sex with someone else who isn’t expecting it and hasn’t consented, it’s not “surprise sex”, it’s rape.)

I really appreciate the work that Wikileaks does. At the same time, all evidence suggests that Julian Ansange is the worst kind of scum: a person who thinks he can commit rape with impunity. I sincerely hope he goes to jail for a long time. If he doesn’t (and let’s face it, he probably won’t) it will send a clear message to rapists that they can continue to rape people with impunity, and it will send a clear message to women that they are fair game and that if they are raped they will get zero help from the supposed justice system. (By the way, if you are one of those people who was trouble understanding what the phrase ‘Rape Culture’ is supposed to mean, I think the previous sentence pretty much sums it up.)

To conclude:

Wikileaks: awesome.

Rape: very very wrong.

Julian Ansange: probably raped two people, in which case he should go to jail for a very long time.

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