By Joshua Bardwell, originally posted in March 2010 at Jack-Booted Liberal.
I’ve been thinking a lot about oppression and privilege lately. Fat-hate. Rape culture. Sexism. Racism. Able-ism. I don’t claim to be particularly well-versed in the topics, but I have started to notice a trend or two in the ways that people respond to an idea that challenges their position of privilege. One behavior that I’m noticing at this moment is what I’ll call selective outrage. Honestly, it’s a topic that I, myself, am only really starting to grasp, so I may have a hard time describing it, but I”ll give it a try. Selective outrage works something like this.
In 2007, A law was proposed in Australia which stated that intoxication does not imply sexual consent. Note: the law did not say that intoxicated people cannot give sexual consent, just that intoxication plus the lack of a “no” does not mean “yes.” Apparently, “She was drunk,” was being used successfully as a defense to rape charges, and this law was intended to change that. Put another way, the law requires drunk people to actually agree to fuck you. Seems pretty non-controversial, no?
Here are some of the comments made on a certain web forum regarding this law:
So yeah, we had a few drinks, we went back to her place she threw me on the sofa, blew me for awhile and then rode we until she orgasmed and then the next day I get arrested for raping her
This commenter appears to be concerned with the potential for misapplication of the justice system. He doesn’t want to see innocent people accused of a crime, and he is OUTRAGED.
When you drink and drive, it’s is YOUR responsibility in the fact that you should of known to say no to driving. Why is it then, that when women drink, our justice system thinks they are nothing but children, unable to control themselves at all, and thus exonerate them of ANY responsibility?
This commenter appears to be concerned with issues of personal responsibility. He also seems upset at a system that treats women like children, rather than autonomous adults. He is OUTRAGED!
Now, I can support the Sober Guy/Drunk Girl = Rape argument to some degree, but I have two issues with this. Foremost; Shouldn’t this girl be, in some respects, responsible for her own level of intoxication? Hate to tell you, but you don’t HAVE to get drunk, and then the consent issue stays clear. How can the guys be the only ones faulted when both parties are drunk?
Likewise, this commenter raises questions of personal responsibility and agency. OUTRAGED!
Do you want to deny a woman with a slumbersex fetish pleasure?
This commenter tackles the conjoined issues of sex-negativity and sexism, standing up for the right of people to consent to treatment of their bodies, even in non-mainstream ways. He is OUTRAGED!
Except it’s all bullshit, isn’t it? Because these people are probably not outraged about misapplication of justice, treating women like children, taking away people’s personal responsibility, or, more to the point, rape, ANY OTHER TIME than when it might affect them. And that slumbersex person? The most egregious example. Is that person actually kink-positive in real life, or is this just some semantic trick, used solely for the purpose of opposing the new law? Which, I will re-iterate, says simply that intoxicated people have to consent to sex just like everybody else.
The sneaky thing about selective outrage is that the points raised are, on the face, valid. At least they would be if they occurred in a vacuum. But they don’t. They occur in a context in which, for example, WOMEN ARE ACTUALLY BEING RAPED and the people who raped them are not being convicted at stunningly high numbers. The commenters often have absolutely nothing to say about that. Being outspokenly angry about rape is reserved for Feminists Who Are Probably Also Lesbians. Oh, if you asked them, they’d probably say, “Rape is bad, yo,” but the only time they can be bothered to actually type a comment on the Internet is when a law might be passed to actually DO SOMETHING about the raping, and when they do, it’s to poke holes and point out potential problems with the law.
This is the essence of selective outrage. If the only time you express your outrage is to oppose ideas that seek to change conditions, then you support the conditions, no matter what you might intend. And in this case, that means you support the status quo as it pertains to rape, which is a little shocking given the state of rape in America today. If you are anti-rape, I don’t insist that you actually speak out about it. Hey, there are a lot of issues in the world for people to care about, and rape may just not make your list. That’s actually fine with me. But at the very least, maintain your position of silence on the issue when those who care enough to speak up do so.