Zaush, Rape Culture, and Me

Seventeen years ago, at about this time of year, a female friend publicly accused me of hitting her.

There was a party at the house I shared with four others, and she was invited. At the end of the night she came into my bedroom. And a couple of hours later, she called a friend of mine, very upset, saying that I’d hit her. She probably told other people as well; I don’t know.

But I didn’t hit her. We didn’t even make physical contact. She was lying.

Here’s what happened next.

Short answer: nothing negative, to me at least.

Long answer:

This isn’t something I’ve ever really talked about, let alone explained in detail. It’s not easy. I’m going to try to use direct language as much as possible. Let’s call my accuser S.

About a year earlier, S was a housemate in the same house. She and I struck up a friendship, and we slept together a few times. It wasn’t a friends-with-benefits situation, nor were we in a relationship: it was somewhere in the middle. It fizzled out and she moved out soon afterwards.

The next time I saw S was at the party. We didn’t really talk to one another until after I went to my bedroom. She let herself in; said “why don’t we talk anymore”; I said something to the effect of “this isn’t the time or place for this conversation” and walked out. She left, and that was it until I heard about her accusation the next day.

And then a surprising thing happened. Nobody treated me any differently. I protested my innocence to people who asked, and people believed me.

Over time, S became an object of derision. My friends decided that she was upset because she “didn’t get any”. When they mentioned her in conversation, she would be called a “fat slut” or a “crazy bitch”.

At the time, it was a relief to be trusted. In hindsight, how can it be, in a he-said-she-said situation, that the accuser is considered to be wrong by default, and the accused presumed innocent? Of course my friends would be more inclined to believe me due to our pre-existing relationship, but why I am so unquestionably trustworthy, and why is S so untrustworthy?

The answer comes down, fundamentally, to sexism. This particular case could be seen to be an example of rape culture, a broad term that describes how society tacitly permits or excuses sexual assault.

In the case of me and S, there was no suggestion of rape or sexual assault, but the situation had a definite sexual flavour. The thought processes of my friends can be seen in the language they used. S’s behaviour can be distilled down to two “bad” traits: being interested in having sex, and expressing emotions.

Women often find themselves in a bind when it comes to sexuality. If a women presents herself as sexual being, she risks being characterized by men as a ‘slut’. Conversely, if she refuses to present herself as a sexual being, she is just as quickly characterized as ‘frigid’. Even in 2014, sex is a taboo topic for women in many environments.

This frigid/slut dichotomy can be clearly seen in a lot of popular movies. Consider a mainstream film, with a male lead who has a female love interest. There is a good chance that the female love interest will be, simultaneously, both sexy and chaste. Typically, she will wear sexy clothing and flirt with our hero, but also have no apparent sex life outside of their sexy banter.

Example: Carly Spencer from 2011’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon

S’s sexuality was one target of my friends’ jibes. Their language implies that she did something wrong simply by being interested in sex.

Zaush does this too, when he defends himself against allegations of sexual assault, such as in this tweet.

A widely-circulated screencap, click for source
A widely-circulated screencap of Zaush’s Twitter, click for source

Here, Zaush implies that the sex is evidence that his accuser has done something wrong. He also writes as if he is a passive victim in the whole affair, reinforcing the idea that sex is something that women “give” and men “get”.

The second “bad” trait that my friends noted in S’s behaviour, further demonstrating that she can’t be trusted, is that she was upset. S expressed emotions, so she is presumed to be ‘crazy’, as if this were some guaranteed biological outcome of the condition of being female. This is another catch-22, where women who don’t express emotions can be accused of being ‘ice-queens’. (Men, of course, are either passionate or pragmatic.)

I’m quite confident, that had I actually hit S, my friends would have concluded that she ‘drove me to it’. They probably would have used rationalizing language like Zaush does:

Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 1.38.00 pm

Notice how, in these two tweets, Zaush presents himself as the completely logical victim of a ‘crazy’ woman. At no point does he take any responsibility, and nor does he in any of the myriad journals and other written records I’ve seen.

This creates a lose-lose-lose situation for women who are sexually assaulted. If they make an outright accusation, like S, they aren’t believed. If they make a vague accusation, perhaps without naming names or going into detail, they can be accused of spreading malicious rumour. And if they say nothing at all, as some of Zaush’s alleged victims have chosen to do, then people will assume that nothing happened.

It’s through this final option, where women who are assaulted choose to stay silent (perhaps because of the abuse they risk receiving if they speak up), that sexual assault becomes invisible. And then it becomes easy to assume that sexual assault doesn’t exist, or at least is vanishingly rare.

In Zaush’s case, the primary accusation against him was made in a private conversation, and not mentioned in any public forum. The accusation only came to light when FA’s private messages were leaked. So even though the accusation was detailed, specific, and made in private, the accuser was still presumed to be lying by many furries.

Further, she cited several other women who had experienced similar problems with Zaush—again, aired only in a private message. The fact that these women have not publicly accused Zaush is seen by some as ‘proof’ that these attacks never took place. But of course, if they did come forward, they too would be discredited with the twin sins of having sexual desire and of having emotions.

This is rape culture, and even if it sounds like an OTT term to some ears, what it describes is very real. Nobody thinks that rape is acceptable, and everyone would like for rape and sexual assault to never happen. But the culture of many male-dominated spaces, including furry, creates an environment that forgives the assaulters, and facilitates future assaults.

A further example of rape culture is the number of people who will believe that an accusation of rape or sexual assault may be false. False accusations are incredibly rare: a study by the UK Crown Prosecution Service found only 35 false allegations of rape (out of 5,561 prosecutions), and just 6 false allegations of domestic assault (out of 111,891 prosecutions)*.

* Ref Violence against Women and Girls Report 2012-013

Of course, there are no statistics available for informal accusations, such as those levelled against myself and against Zaush. However those statistics show very clearly that false accusations are very unusual… and yes, I accept the irony of that statement given that I was falsely accused.

The challenges faced by women who have been assaulted is worse in a male-dominated community like furry (we have about 4 men for every woman). This isn’t to say that all men (or all women) think the same way, just that the preponderance of men puts increased focus on the male point-of-view.

In hindsight, I think that S accused me of assaulting her because she wanted to hurt me. I had unwittingly hurt her.

I’m (fundamentally) gay. The affair that S and I had was unbalanced: for me, it was little more than casual sex with a friend. It’s fair to guess that she had romantic feelings towards me, and I certainly did nothing to contradict that idea. I find it hard to read my own motivations, but maybe I was just trying to avoid conflict, or maybe I trying to prove to myself that was heterosexual after all.

I probably let her believe that there was a relationship on the horizon, and it would have been a painful process as she slowly learned that was never going to happen. Perhaps she was still optimistic on the night of the party.

I don’t want to be too hard on myself, because I was young and I didn’t have the slightest clue what I was doing. And the same goes for S, and her accusation: her actions were about as reasonable and sophisticated as my own.

I don’t think I, on the cusp of 40, would treat someone so poorly nowadays (although I suspect there are one or two people who might beg to differ). At the very least, I think that my actions (and S’s actions) are forgivable. I hold no grudge against S but I remain sorry for the way I treated her.

And my sexist, rapey friends? They aren’t my friends anymore. Nowadays I spend my time with furries. We’re an imperfect bunch, and as a group we have a long way to go to make our community a safe place for women. But I think that we’re improving.

About JM

JM is a horse-of-all-trades who was introduced to furry in his native Australia by the excellent group known collectively as the Perthfurs. JM now helps run [adjective][species] from London, where he is most commonly spotted holding a pint and talking nonsense.

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33 thoughts on “Zaush, Rape Culture, and Me

  1. I can’t argue with any of this. I do think, though, that in the matter of child or adolescent sexual abuse, the culture tends to overbalance in the other direction, such that the accused is always treated as guilty, even if in the end he/she is exonerated judicially or otherwise.

    With respect to the Zaush drama, I have no opinion really. I don’t know enough about it to have an opinion, and I really don’t need to know. I do have significant issues with FA but they were serious enough before this incident that what happens now becomes irrelevant to me.

  2. At one point in my father’s career, a woman working under him accused him of sexual misconduct. He had no documented history of sexual infidelity. He had had one divorce, but it was twenty-plus years in the past. He had a positive rapport with other women on his teams past and present. The woman who had accused him had had a poor performance review the past year. The extent of her accusation was “he looked at my breasts and made me uncomfortable.” She didn’t even claim he’d touched her.

    My father’s manager told my father that the risk of a lawsuit and the negative publicity it could bring outweighed the consideration of whether the accusation had merit or whether anyone believed he had actually done anything wrong. What mattered was that a female employee had raised the spectre of sexual harassment against a male superior. That, and that alone, mandated that my father issue a public apology, attend a sensitivity training, and issue a positive annual review to avoid the appearance of retaliation.

    My father quit his job instead.

    I fully believe that rape culture exists, that it’s a problem, and that it needs to be addressed. I’ve known people who have had terrible things happen to them, and I know that their pains have never been addressed. Worse, I don’t think they ever will be. I’ve heard of Steubenville. I’m aware of the statistics around rape, the double standards that exist in our culture, and the trauma of sexual abuse. I’m not defending Zaush. I’m not defending anybody for whom there is a reasonable body of evidence of misconduct.

    I must, however, defend the ideal of “innocent until proven guilty.” My father isn’t the only person to have ever been falsely accused, nor do I think he ever will be. We must treat accusations seriously, but we must also treat their investigations seriously, and we must be willing as a community to come together around the facts. We must be willing to look at the painful details of terrible situations, and we must be willing to discuss what they mean and how we should respond.

    Are we prepared as a community to say “I don’t care how brilliant this person is as an artist/coder/writer/fursuiter; ey’s done something terrible and I don’t want em around”? Are we prepared to say “yeah, I know ey did something terrible, but ey’s repented and is trying to find some way to make amends”? Are we prepared to stand by one set of morals at the cost of another? Are we prepared to actually do what’s required of us as a society within a society to police our own, and then, having done so, to listen when those who’ve done their time are ready to return?

    Are we ready to be a community, or are we merely a mob?

    1. This is a good example of the kind of overreaction I mentioned. It is far more common when a child victim makes the accusation, but it does happen with adult accusers. Your father was the victim in that case, and though it’s no comfort I’m sure, he isn’t alone.

    2. I find this concurrent with business practices in general. They make a lot of noise about how important they are, how they care about their employees, but I find them to be spineless like this for the most part and if it comes down to it, will fire the long time cherished employee without an investigation and run with their tail between their legs rather than actually try to determine the truth, which would bring to light the dishonorable and untrustworthy employee they have that made a false claim thats serious as that.

    3. Hi Buni, thanks for the thoughtful comment. I was a bit unsure about responding because your comment has, to me, a pretty obvious subtext: it sounds like your father was fired for sexual harassment, and then lied to his family about it.

      Now, I’m more than happy to give him the benefit of the doubt—after all, he and you know far more about the situation than me—and assume that he quit after being falsely accused. I’m sorry for what happened, and I only wanted to mention how your comment may have come across to some readers.

      I completely agree that people should be treated as innocent until proven guilty. But sometimes this is in conflict with the equally laudable idea of believing people when they say they have been sexually assaulted. You can’t eat your cake and have it to: either you treat the accused as innocent (and tacitly suggest that the accuser is lying), or you can believe the accuser (and tacitly suggest the accused is guilty). Both options are bad options.

      (These two options aren’t in conflict when the accused and the accuser don’t associate with one another. So, for example, you can treat me as innocent without doing the wrong thing by S; S’s friends can believe her without doing the wrong thing by me.)

      In the case of Zaush and his accuser, it’s not possible to treat him as innocent without implicitly concluding that the accusation is false, at least in circles that involve the two them. In such cases, the question shouldn’t be “who is right?”, it should be, “what is the best outcome?”.

      1. You’re working from an excluded middle. There’s no reason why we can’t take an accusation seriously and investigate it with the thoroughness we would of any other claim, while simultaneously withholding public judgment and avoiding poisoning the well. I will absolutely grant you that it takes more nuance than I think more furries are capable of having, but that means the fandom has a lot of growth ahead of it, not that it shouldn’t be done.

        As for your conclusion, privileging “what’s the best outcome” over “who is right” is quite literally saying “the end justifies the means.” Is that in fact what you’re trying to convey? If that is actually what you mean, I have some serious doubts about both your ethics and your methodology.

        1. Buni, all I mean is that there is a need to balance two competing requirements: the requirement to treat the accused as innocent until proven otherwise, and the requirement to believe and respect the accuser.

        2. “I have some serious doubts about both your ethics and your methodology”

          Did you just realize this about a believer in such a thing as “rape culture” who simultaneously begs tolerance for zoophilia?

          1. Hi Computolio. My position towards zoophiles is one of tolerance, but like pretty much everything, it’s not a black-or-white issue, and it’s certainly a lot more complex than you’re implying.

            If you’re interested, you can read more in my articles on the topic:

            In general, my stance towards zoophiles and zoophilia is the same as a lot of high-profile ethicists (notably Peter Singer) and researchers into sexual orientation (notably Martin Weinberg).

            That’s not to say that I’m right: it’s just an opinion. But it’s an informed opinion.

          2. So these are “informed opinions.”

            Fair treatment for a victim of false accusation is “sexist” to the accuser. (Stockholm Syndrome, look it up.)

            Raping animals gets tolerance, but let’s eat up bullshit-filled victim ideology about female humans.

            Cite a cherry-picked survey on crime stats that’s explicitly biased to suppress data. (Confirmation bias, look it up.) -Prosecutions- gives no conclusion on convictions. (Or the massive mountain of “unfounded” cases not prosecuted before the attrition rate, same as other crimes). This particular spin puts “false accusations” at 0.02%. But the bulk of all surveys put the rate at 6-10%.

            Poor reasoning makes furries look bad.

          3. It’s important for our everyday assumptions to be in line with reality. People often assume that the accusation is false, but accusations are rarely false, for which you provided evidence. It’s hard to believe that people they know commit crimes. It’s just too hard to believe. And since most rapes are perpetrated by friends or acquaintances of the victims, it becomes even harder for people to accept that the crimes are happening.

            So we’re protecting people that don’t need protecting and not protecting people that need protecting… which is why it’s important to spread the word about the facts.

            This article is a public service. Thanks for writing it!

  3. I don’t mean to always quibble, but I find the choice of “may” in following sentence to be problematic.

    “A further example of rape culture is the number of people who will believe that an accusation of rape or sexual assault may be false.”

    If instead of “may be” you had said “is likely to be,” I would have no problem with it, but being merely open to the possibility that an accusation is false is hardly evidence of rape culture, rather it is following the ideal of innocent until proven guilty. Suggesting that someone is innocent until proven guilty, however, does not mean that the accuser should automatically be considered a prevaricator, rather judgement should be suspended on both sides until the evidence is in.

    On a different note, I agree regarding your statement about how female leads are often portrayed in mainstream films. I am curious as to whether you can think of any films where this is not the case, and in which female leads are allowed to be fully human.

    1. Hi Keito. I understand your point, and it is certainly an arguable one. I think that these sorts of modifiers are important and so I spend time choosing them carefully. I did think about this one, and I decided that “may be” was the best phrase available. I’m basing this on:
      – The statistics I quoted, which suggest that false accusations are vanishingly rare.
      – The need to challenge the prevailing rape culture.

      But as I said, it is certainly an arguable point. (Although as an aside, I would argue that the evidence is most definitely ‘in’ on the Zaush issue, and I’d encourage you to read through the links provided by Kyell in the roundtable article if you have’t done so already.)

      And when if comes to the portrayal of women in movies, I’ll always fall back to the Bechdel test as a starting point. It’s such a low bar, and one that so many films fail.

      1. My comment had nothing to do with Zaush, but rather was limited to the general principle that there is nothing wrong with allowing for the possibility that someone may be innocent when they have been accused and you have yet to see any evidence one way or the other.

        1. Keito, I completely agree and I take your point. I guess that I don’t see any epidemic of false accusations of sexual assault.

          But point taken. In hindsight, I would have reworded that sentence.

  4. Like you, I too have been falsely accused publicly of misdeeds, though I was accused taking advantage of someone sexually. It was clearly vindictive, and it seems as though everyone believed my side of the story as well. However, I did not conclude that this was the due to either the failings of my friends nor the result of Rape Culture.

    I have seen studies enough to convince me that there is an epidemic of sexual assault against women in this country, and that there is a culture of blaming the victim, though often unintentionally. However, I think the concept of not believing the victim is a fundamental human social trait, and not a symptom of misogyny nor sexism.

    I purpose to you that we gravitate toward those experiences that are in-line with our general understanding of reality, namely ones that are more commonplace. Everyone has lied at some point in their life, just as everyone has had a big misunderstanding or made too big of a deal over a situation due to the emotional states of those involved at the time. As such, it’s very natural for us to gravitate to this explanation in a scenario where one person is accusing another of a serious transgression. It seems more likely to us, and just seems to make more sense.

    Additionally, we’re predisposed not to want to believe that friends, family, coworkers, or anyone else we have regular, generally positive interactions with is capable of committing a serious transgression. Our culture doesn’t do a good job of separating out traits to see individuals as wholes. As such, to accept that someone we know has committed a serious transgression our culture has taught us that we must see them as that transgression, which, of course, strongly conflicts with our regular experience of them, and our general denial that people can do such things to others. This is true no matter what the transgression is. Stealing, drugs, sexual assault, etc.

    Given this we can see how this social trait would exacerbate the problems surrounding reporting sexual assaults, but I don’t think it’s fair to conflate the two. Certainly if we want to address this issues and affect a real change we need to fully understand it and its cause, which we’ll be unable to do if we can only see it through the narrow view of a misogynistic trait.

    Now, as for your own experience I don’t believe you’ve given adequate consideration to the circumstances surrounding the incident — or at the very least you’ve omitted enough of them to warrant my comment. Given any person, we may imagine them as more or less likely to commit a particular transgression. For example, I wouldn’t imagine a quiet, bashful individual as very likely to commit sexual assault, they’re demeanor simply doesn’t suggest it. This isn’t always going to be accurate, but it can certainly play a part in people’s decisions, and it’s far from baseless. We’ve observed our friends and they way they interact with others, which gives us a lot of insight into how they would behave in different situations. If, for example, you had never shown the slightest tendency toward anger, violence, or lying, there’s good reason to believe you.

    On the flip side of that argument, perhaps you’re downplaying this woman’s previous actions. Perhaps this was not the first time she had falsely accused someone, or perhaps when confronted for details she quickly recanted. There are any number of reasons why someone may have trusted you over her, and majority of those reason are social valid.

    Of course, it’s always possible that your friends at the time simply were close-minded misogynists, and I don’t want to discount that possibility, but I equally don’t want to encourage anyone to view trusting their friends as a moral failing. We have to create a balance between our trust of our friends and objective reasoning in each situation.

    Though many of the derogatory terms used against the woman in question have an inappropriate quality of sexism to them, they may equally have simply become disgusted that she would lie as she did, and sought out hurtful names to call her. From experience I know that most people who call other’s “gay” don’t say so because they actually believe someone is gay, but because they’ve learned they can say it and have it hurt. The same could be true in this situation. I know that I personally would not have a very high opinion of someone who falsely accused a friend of mine of a serious social transgression.

    Moving on, though women often have their legitimate laments dismissed as over-emotional reactions, it’s not true that men can be freely emotional. In fact, studies have shown that emotional control is one of our societies top, negative expectations of men in our society. Shows of emotion which are considered signs of craziness in women are seen as weakness in men. This is honestly a problem men and woman can address together.

    Finally, the situation where it’s one person’s opinion verses another is anything but simple. When someone is accused of a serious transgression and it’s denied, the situation is extremely serious. At the very least someone is lying, and at worse the guilty will go unpunished while the victim is berated. However, equally dangerous is to create an environment where we rather see the innocent convicted than risk letting the guilty go. Certainly we need to stop allowing random internet individuals to chime in with hate for whatever side they see as being in the wrong, instead encouraging calm, austere review of the situation by those who need to be involved, but I think to call the situation simple and label it as “Rape Culture” does a disservice to both the concerns on the other side, and any honest attempt to get people to desire real change in themselves and those around them.

    1. Hi Dire, thanks for the detailed and thoughtful comment. In general it seems that you and I think pretty similarly, and that much of your criticism has to do with my language, where I talk about sexism and rape culture.

      I understand that these terms are combative, but I would argue that they are justified, and even necessary to bring change. I follow your logic, and I would only challenge one or two of your assumptions. For example, you say:

      > I purpose to you that we gravitate toward those experiences that are in-line with our general understanding of reality

      I completely agree with this, and I would add that we live in an incredibly male-centric world. The prevailing ‘understanding of reality’ is one where men are the default gender, and women are the deviant case. This is the reason why feminism exists: women are not treated equally in many ways, some obvious (like lower pay for the same job), some subtle (like the idea that an emotional women is, literally, hysterical).

      I guess that your comment doesn’t feel very sophisticated to me. I don’t intend that as an insult, because you are clearly a very intelligent, moderate and thoughtful person. You believe that sexual assault of women is an epidemic; you understand that accusers are doubted by default; yet you don’t see this as being sexist or misogynistic. I think that you are failing to understand, or consider, the prevailing male-centric culture.

      I hope you take that comment in the right spirit. I’m trying to unpack how you reached the conclusion that talking about rape culture is both simplistic and a disservice to women. I really do think that we’re largely on the same page when it comes to our analysis.

      Finally, you’re right to say that I simplified the situation between myself and S, but I don’t believe that I gave the wrong impression. S was well-liked and well-trusted by her friends and acquaintances, as was I. Neither of us had a record for lying, violence, or anything else that might have materially informed the situation. And I’m not, and never was, shy and retiring: I’m 6’2″, outgoing, and have always enjoyed rude health.

      1. The way you’ve interpreted my reply is incorrect, so let me clarify.

        “I’m trying to unpack how you reached the conclusion that talking about rape culture is both simplistic and a disservice to women.”

        The disservice is done by only considering the motivations involved as misogynistic, not the topic as a whole. Specifically I take issue with the logical jump from “my friends believed me” to “because rape culture.”

        The depth to which we live in a male-dominated/centric world is in no way lost on me. What I proposed is that if we want to fully understand the reasons and motivations behind your friends’ actions, we need to examine more fundamental social behaviors, and ones which I believe are gender agnostic.

        Lying has no gender, and if anything crime has a decidedly male gender, not to mention sexual crime. Most people don’t even believe that women are capable of sexual crime, with the one exception, perhaps, being against children.

        I see this rejection of that which is perceived to exist outside the norm, outside of our expectations, and outside of our beliefs is instinctual in its nature. We are designed to strongly resist changes to our beliefs/views, and those include how we view the people around us and the actions they’re capable of.

        To add to that argument, we don’t like uncertainty. It frightens and confuses us; it’s complicated and messy. So when you have to people making strong, confrontational claims about very serious issues, people become overwhelmed, defensive, and even angry, and that’s before any question of allegiances in factored in. There’s simply so much more going on at a fundamental human social level than is being considered. Again, these exacerbate a very real and serious problem, but again to try and label as misogyny is counterproductive to actually addressing the issue and bringing about real change.

        As an aside, the term “rape culture” bothers me, because it’s as decisive and misleading as “pro-life”. Though all rape is sexual assault, not all sexual assault is rape. I myself have been sexually assaulted numerous times, but I find it more annoying/aggravating/immature/inappropriate than traumatic. Now, this isn’t to say I discount those experiences others have had, nor do I claim that this is comparable to being a woman — it’s not — however, it is yet another non-misogynistic piece of the puzzle. When you ask people to change their behavior because it’s hurtful, if they only register mild discomfort then you’re already approaching the problem from failing angle because they will have great difficulty seeing the situation from the right perspective.

        I feel all too often this pigeon-holing of explanations for behaviors is why we see disenfranchised groups lashing out at their friends and supporters who share in some of the same misconceptions and misunderstandings as those who are the real perpetrators. If you can only interpret this behavior as misogynistic, then when a woman’s male friend doesn’t understand she’s going to assume he’s misogynistic (to one degree or another) and get angry at him. This exact situation has played out for me in a number of situations across various topic, and it’s done nothing but be counterproductive to progress.

        1. Hi Dire, thanks for the clarification and the extra info.

          I don’t mean to say that misogyny is the primary motivation, or even a conscious motivation, for the comments of my brotastic friends and the general trend for people to disbelieve accusations. I mean that misogyny is an important and strong cultural force, and informs the actions that we see in the examples of the accusations levelled at myself and Zaush. It is not the only factor, but it is a very important one.

          And I take your point about how language can affect how people react to their own experiences. This is the sort of thing that really interests me, and is something I’ve written about before on [a][s]. I understand that you’re making the point that terms like “rape culture” may look extreme and therefore create a conflict with people who are right-thinking but put off by such terminology.

          I hope I’ve got that right, or at least right enough, and I appreciate the point of view. I fall on the side of seeing the good that is done by terms like rape culture, because it is a strong, memorable, incisive description of how low-level cultural misogyny informs society’s reaction to sexual assault. I also think it has done a lot of good, not least because it enables discussion like this article and our conversation right here.

          These are important topics, and you and I are, I think, doing the right thing – talking about it.

  5. I was once formally accused of demanding sexual favors while interviewing someone for a job. Several factors (including the continuous presence a co-interviewer who was also falsely accused and the fact that we recommended a “hire” when the “victim’s” story depended on the assumption that we had not) served not to prove our innocence– and we both _were_ innocent– but merely to create enough doubt that we weren’t punished. Despite this the onus of the accusation itself lingered over my work life for years– my supervisor, for example, clearly thought I was guilty– until the “victim” was finally fired for…. Repeated instances of sexual harassment combined with provably false allegations of the same. (This person was _not_ well.)

    “Innocent until found guilty” is a _good_ rule. Our society supports it– or at least in theory supports it– for a reason. In all honestly I was pretty good about not jumping to conclusions even before this incident. Since then, however, well… I even have my doubts about a lot of jury convictions.

    1. Hi Rabbit. I agree with ‘innocent until proven guilty’, but I also believe that people should be believed when they make an accusation of sexual harassment. These two things are often in conflict, as they are with the Zaush/FA situation, and we end up in a situation wher it is not possible to treat someone as innocent without implicitly suggesting that accuser is lying.

      It’s instructive, I think, that in this comment thread so far, we have three men who have mentioned a false accusation. We know from the data that false accusations—like the ones levels at you and I—are incredibly rare compared to real events of assault, sexual harassment, and rape. And yet we’re only hearing from those few, rare men.

      1. Maintaining someone is innocent until proven guilty is not incompatible with taking an allegation seriously.

        If I were to take some of your writings here at face value, it would seem to argue that we take any accusation of sexual harassment as true and not bother to investigate it because false accusations are “vanishingly rare” and because otherwise we would be assuming the accuser lied. This is clearly ridiculous and I am sure you don’t believe it, but you seem to belittle “innocent until proven guilty” and see it in opposition to believing accusers.

        Investigating a claim seriously is not an insult to accusers. Withholding judgement on the matter as to truthfulness on the part of both the accused and accuser is not an insult either, nor does it mean one is taking sides. I rather think much of the internet and world in general would be better served by people waiting on rather than rushing to judgement.

  6. Zaush’s victim — at least the one in this case, that sent the private message that was leaked — is male.

    1. I’m not sure where you got that idea. I don’t personally know any of the people involved, but it all seems pretty clear to me. She refers to herself as female in the leaked messages, and Zaush refers to her as female in subsequent messages (including the tweets I included in this article).

      1. I don’t wish to name the person here, as I’d like to respect his privacy to some extend, but he refers to himself as male. He may be FAAB, and had not been identifying himself as a man at the time that Zaush raped him, but that does not invalidate his identity /now/.

        It’s quite telling that Zaush /continues/ to refer to him as female to this day.

        1. Hi Anonymouse. I was reflecting on your comment, and wondered whether there is some action I should take here: i.e. editing the article to reflect the reality of the situation.

          On one hand, I think it would hurt the clarity of the article, and might also affect the victim’s presumed wish for relative anonymity. On the other hand, neither of those reasons are good justification for misgendering someone.

          I’m happy enough to leave these comments here to serve as a post hoc correction to my article. But maybe you can provide some opinion as to whether you feel it’s worth making the corrections in the article proper?

          1. I would opt to change the genders to “he/him”, but post an edit note at the beginning of the article that clarifies the situation that states something simple and clear. Like “The victim mentioned in this article now identifies as male, but identified as female during the events discussed,” just to make it clear.

  7. Obviously, your friends believe you.

    You think this is a problem, but it is not. Why?

    Because, chances are (unless she has a reputation for exaggeration), her friends believed her. And, they believe you are an asshole.

    There is nothing wrong with this situation.

  8. I really appreciated this article – you’ve taken a lot of thoughtful pains and make a really good balanced analysis between some difficult areas of thinking.

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