There’s this great, thinking-outside-the-box bit Louis C.K. did at least once, I saw it in the beginning stand-up bit on one episode of his TV show, “Louie,” where he aligns perfectly with me in the idea that punishing can backfire badly. I’ll paraphrase, I’m sure it’s copyrighted. He says something along the lines of ‘if we hated the people who have sex with kids a little less, maybe they wouldn’t feel they had to kill the kid afterward.’ The punch line is something like ‘so, rather than us getting a call that our kid is missing or has been found dead, we’d get a call from the child-rapist instead, saying “Hey, I just fucked your kid. You want me to bring him home, or should I just take him straight to soccer?”’
I guess the laugh comes from the shock and surprise, hearing something from the ‘things we never thought we’d hear’ file, but like a great many great jokes, it’s a stealthy way to express a great truth. Of course that would be a terrible phone call to get, but it’s clearly preferable to the other one. Louie, the genius, is telling us that our kids would be safer if we hated ‘people who have sex with kids’ a little less., that our desire for retribution is a part of the equation that puts the kids at an even greater level of risk.
Now if we can handle that example, the next one should be relatively easy: rape.
Is it possible that we hate rape too much?
I don’t mean it’s not that bad, don’t get me wrong. It’s all that bad and more. I’m just trying to help, and I’m wondering if we’ve allowed the word to get too big and too bad, so that no-one is willing to use it! Has it gotten so bad that men are unable to believe it about each other? So bad that we think of it as some sort of gargantuan mythical evil that is just too heinous to charge each other with?
Like Louie’s idea that if we hated the paedophile a little less his victims might be allowed to live, perhaps if we brought the idea of rape back into focus, back into the realm of human reality, we could prosecute it without feeling like we’re accusing the rapist of something akin to genocide or cannibalism. After all, as horrible as it is, and as devastating as it is for the victims, it’s clearly common enough, pervasive enough that we can think about it as normal, that is, as a normal enough crime that convictions for it shouldn’t qualify as extreme in anyone’s minds. Rape should be considered a normal crime, and should carry something closer to a normal rate of prosecution.
Obviously, we’re very split on the subject. Obviously, some men don’t think of it that way, and sadly, for some men rape is just business as usual. Part of the bitterness that the subject carries for women and innocent men must surely arise from the horrible irony of knowing the worst sort of rapist can escape prosecution partly because some other men think or pretend that rape is simply unthinkable. Maybe the rest of us men should stop being afraid to talk about our fear that these swine are laughing at us and make that part of the conversation, along with everything else we don’t like to talk about in regards to rape, sexual aggression and outright violence. For instance, why is it that the only people that want to talk about all the ways we’re conflicted on the whole subject of sex and all the factors that make rape prosecutions so problematic are policemen and defense attorneys?