Contributor: Tasia Alexopoulos
|Jonathan Kay, Gender Expert Extraordinaire.|
Jonathan Kay is a name I associate with many things: "feminist" is not one of them. This morning while I was scrolling through Twitter I was surprised to see that an article he had written about rape was being circulated by smart, feminist peoples. Unless I really want to subject myself to bigotry, idiocy, and a far-right politic that terrifies me I generally ignore Kay's work (this ban also applies to his mother, Barbara Kay).
"The many horrible reasons why men rape women" encapsulates why I ignore Kay's work and why I think the National Post is ridiculous for giving him a platform. There is no point of his article, he is barely making an argument, and he's using anecdotal evidence to make sweeping generalizations about rape and sexual violence.
Apparently being at a famous party where someone was raped makes Jonathan Kay an expert on the issue. The infamous Zeta Psi assault was a galvanizing event and, certainly, an important moment on the Canadian political landscape in terms of how we understand and view assault. It raised questions about the culture of sexual violence and rape on campuses, the silencing of victims, and the shortcomings of the justice system. It was not, however, an isolated incident nor are incidents like it uncommon today. What I find offensive about Kay's piece is that he refuses to contextualize this moment in time, he doesn't refer to any of the work done around it (including the personal voice of the woman he discusses who has written about her own experience), and he seems to think that having a cursory knowledge of it gives him a unique view on the general topic of sexual violence.
Careful to point out that the victim admitted she was "too drunk" to know how she arrived at the location of her assault but remembered details from the actual assault, Kay discusses how no charges were laid due to "questions about the reliability of the victim's recollections of that alcohol-soaked night. As well, according to Kay, "this was the era before cell phones and so there was no hard evidence." Does Jonathan Kay realize that there have been successful rape prosecutions without photo and video evidence? There are other kinds of evidence but at the time (and now) the most important evidence of all, a woman's own recollection of what happened, was ignored and discounted. Had Kay done any research at all on rape/assault cases he might see a distinct pattern of ignoring women's voices, invalidating them, claiming they were too drunk/too slutty/too scantily clad, accusations of story changes, improper collection of evidence, and police insensitivity when it comes to "proving" allegations of assault. It is never as simple as there not being "evidence" to support a charge. In fact, women's difficulties within the justice system was a keystone of this case but rather than even doing a cursory Google search or paying lip service to this Kay trusted that his own personal opinion and recollection was enough.
Kay goes on to discuss the motivations of the perpetrator (there were three and others watching, but he focuses on one). In the mind of the accused, what he did was a "sort of lurid sexual theatre for his pals," "he was quite giddy during the incident, acting as a sort of sexual emcee for the others... he'd treated the whole thing as a show and at the time seemed delighted by the attention." So, because a rapist is "giddy" during the act or enjoys the attention it garners him, he doesn't realize that what he is doing is wrong? Or that him appearing to enjoy himself means that the act is not really rape because it's not really about power or violence? I'm so confused. What appears to be a point is forming here, but it's so convoluted that I can barely understand it. The man, writes Kay, was not popular. Before he became "sexually infamous" everyone in the fraternity already knew that letting him in was a mistake, which he knew. Ok.. so does being unpopular make someone more likely to be become a violent gang rapist? Is that what he's getting at here? As far as Kay "can tell" the motivation behind the rape wasn't sex or violence but was a "desperate attempt to bond with higher status peers through the collaborative humiliation of someone helpless." The collaborative humiliation of someone helpless sounds a lot like violence to me. Proving that one views women as objects also seems like violence to me, violence that stems from a culture that sustains itself on privilege and entitlement. What Kay doesn't seem to understand is that even if this guy was raping someone to make his frat brothers like him more it is still violence and still a wielding of power. It is a product of systemic misogyny and sexism. There are people who are actual experts on this type of thing, maybe Kay could have supplemented his bizarre expoundings upon the nature of rape with some actual facts.
Kay concludes with some ask and answer: "Is rape sex? Yes. Is it violence? Yes. A criminal pathology, a product of booze and incapacity, perversion, sadism, an expression of dominance, a bonding agent for mobs, a means for dumb men to climb within hierarchies of other dumb men? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. Rape can be any twisted combination of those things, which is why the crime is so tragically common, and so difficult to eradicate. It is also why the concept of rape can’t be reduced to mere slogans about sex and power. It’s much more complicated than that."
Who is reducing the concept of rape to mere slogans? What is the point of this article?!?! And, actually, rape is not sex. Rape is rape. Sex is sex. Kay simultaneously borrows from feminist rhetoric on sexual violence while spitting on it, offering no solutions.
This coming from a man who publicly berated anyone who had the audacity to connect the Montreal Massacre with sexism, misogyny, and violence against women. Writing the Massacre off as having "no larger social or political message at play [as just a] horrible tragedy that symbolizes nothing more than our inability to prevent bad things from happening to good people," Kay not only tightened his blinders in terms of the power of social inequalities but also did so at the expense of the women who were murdered that day by a man who was a self professed woman hater. Jonathan Kay is correct when he says this problem is complicated and difficult to eradicate but it's not because rape is a nuanced thing. If we refuse to target the root of the issue, the systemic sexism and misogyny that operate at every level of our society, then how can we ever hope to eradicate symptoms of such inequality?