When feminism is incompatible with skepticism #2

Photo: Getty Images/DiatoZen
Photo: Getty Images/DiatoZen

A response to a recent piece titled “TIME Magazine is Wrong. Rape Culture Does Exist” published in The Humanist by feminist Ashley Jordan


I will not discuss all of the problems within Jordan’s piece within this page (There is so much wrong packed into this one post, I could write an entire novel-length systematically dismantling everything that’s wrong with it. But I don’t have time or energy for that today…), but will discuss problems concerning Jordan’s assertion that wondering whether victims of rape are telling the truth is evidence of and/or promotes ‘rape culture.’

Jordan defines rape culture as “an environment in which rape is highly prevalent, normalized and excused by society’s media, popular culture and political figures […] perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, which creates a social culture that disregards women’s rights and their safety.” Mere wondering whether people who allege to be raped, according to Jordan — as it seems from her piece — is evidence of and promotes ‘rape culture.’

Jordan’s wording, “wondering whether victims of rape are telling the truth,” is problematic because she assumes women [note that her definition of rape culture specifically mentions women and excludes men – intentionally or unintentionally ‘erasing’ male victims of rape] who make allegations of rape are victims of rape just because they say they are; the use of the word ‘victim’ betrays a bias within Jordan – that hearing testimony is enough for Jordan to believe someone actually is a victim – regardless of any evidence supporting allegations or demonstrating innocence of the accused and that, which must follow, that an alleged rapist really is a rapist – all on mere testimony.

Photo: Getty Images/Todor Tsvetkov
Photo: Getty Images/Todor Tsvetkov

Jordan could instead write about — and rightfully criticize — people who hastily dismiss claims of rape without sufficient reason to do so, but does not. Wondering whether someone is a victim of rape is not hastily dismissing claims of rape or “disregarding women’s rights and their safety,” but rather is a reasonable response to a very serious allegation. One may wonder and later believe someone who claims to be raped [upon obtaining sufficient evidence], for instance; wondering and hastily denying are not equivalent.

Skeptics — those who, at the very least, should withhold judgment about a claim if there are no salient reasons to believe a claim — should ‘wonder’ about allegations of sexual assault and even ‘trust, but verify‘ when this is deemed appropriate (and the burden of proof, by the way, is on a person making a claim – one need not ‘disprove’ something if there is no evidence to ‘prove’ it.

A bearer of information, though, can be an unreliable source – especially people who claim to have been raped but have a history of false allegations and behavior which would diminish one’s credibility. A story about sexual assault may, for instance, lack credibility if the person claiming to be assaulted contacts the alleged perpetrator following the alleged rape claiming they enjoyed themselves, wanting to arrange future meetings, etc.

Even when there is no reason to actively doubt or outright deny a claim, it is good practice to withhold a judgment until evidence — something much more than mere testimony — supporting a claim is offered, especially when the consequences of holding a belief are dire. Allegations of rape, for instance, can lead to extreme consequences…even if a person accused is later found to be not guilty and/or the person making an allegation retracts an allegation (people often remember allegations and fail to notice/not remember retractions and false claims).

Photo: Getty Images/ Meriel Jane Waissman
Photo: Getty Images/ Meriel Jane Waissman

Once again, as is usually the case, a feminist casts people who actively question their beliefs as horrid. Disagree with, question, or even wonder about the ‘approved mode of thinking’ and you are a ‘rape apologist’ misogynist who disregards women’s rights and their safety. Rather than having a productive conversation or discussing ideas, feminists often attack people – attempting to dismiss them from a discussion.

Sadly, reasonable conversation with feminists like Ashley Jordan (although she may ‘prove me wrong’) is next-to-impossible because, as I mentioned, personal attacks are the order of the day and discussion is absolutely refused despite open and honest invitations to have discussion from those who dare to disagree [or wonder]. One feminist, Amanda Marcotte, in a stunning dishonest display, even released her own debate challenge but then refused to honor it.

As a skeptic, I am willing to change any and all of my beliefs if provided sufficient argument, evidence, and reason to do so. Jordan, though, and her approach to feminism, do not allow for this. I am willing to revise my beliefs about Jordan and her approach to feminism. The ball is in your court, Jordan. I doubt a response will come, though. I wonder…

As always, feel free to comment below.

P.S. Donate to Ben Radford’s legal fund ($2065/$10,000 at time of this posting) and see his page ‘Response to Stollznow Accusations.’ You’ll be glad you did. Please help a skeptic in dire need.



Consider reading other pieces within this website…

When feminism is incompatible with skepticism [#1]

Atheism has nothing to do with feminism or pro-choice positions

Secular Woman – dogmatic feminism within the secular community

CNN is not promoting ‘rape apology’ and ‘rape culture’

Justin Vacula

Justin Vacula hosts the Stoic Philosophy Podcast; serves as co-organizer and spokesperson for the Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) Freethought Society; and has hosted monthly Stoic Philosophy discussion groups for the Humanist Association of Greater Philadelphia.

He has appeared on and hosted various radio shows and podcasts; participated in formal debates and discussions; was a guest speaker for college-level courses; was featured in local, national, and international news; and has been invited to speak at various national, local, and statewide events.

Vacula received bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology, a minor in Professional Writing, and the distinguished W.A. Kilburn Memorial Award for Philosophy from King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He is currently living in the Scranton, PA area attending Marywood University’s graduate-level Mental Health Counseling program and has worked with the Arc of Luzerne County’s Transition to Community Employment program as a teacher’s assistant and job coach alongside adult learners with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

He also plays poker; volunteers as a member of the website and media team for the Greyhawk Reborn Dungeons & Dragons campaign while playing at events in the Eastern United States; and enjoys metal music.

  • feral goldfish

    My first experience with “The Humanist”, I expected it to be a nice, rational discussion. Several men (politely) asked for sources and/or invited the author to explain her reasoning in the comments, and instead were trolled by feminists. Last I looked there was still no response from the author. Spreading misinformation is in no way helpful.
    Also: Donate to Ben Radford!

    • I have little faith left in humanism being able to withstand subversion from ideologues of any kind – providing they are the right kind of ideologue of course. They simply are too “nice” to have anything resembling a spine. A superb example of this is how euro-humanists have been subverted by islamists via the socialist left in Europe – creating the current nightmare where “islamophobia” is now a crime akin to Nazism and Britain is home base for islamic extremism and a prime terrorist recruiting ground. And the sad reality of extreme (and racist) British nationalism springing up on response. This kind of capitulation is always lose/lose for all except the fringe lunatics. US victim feminists are pulling pretty much the same stunt and, as usual, the humanists just roll over and take it without analysing the nonsense for validity.

  • Yes, I think ‘rape culture’ doesn’t really exist. Rape is roundly condemned by our society, and while you might get one or two idiots who sincerely defend rape, in my experience practically everybody treats rapists as if they are sub-human wastes of air. In the UK, the late Jimmy Savile’s reputation has (rightly) been utterly decimated by allegations of sexual assault. A rape conviction lands you in prison for a long time. That doesn’t sound like a rape-supporting culture to me.

    Sadly, reasonable conversation with feminists like Ashley Jordan (although she may ‘prove me wrong’) is next-to-impossible because, as I mentioned, personal attacks are the order of the day and discussion is absolutely refused despite open and honest invitations to have discussion from those who dare to disagree [or wonder].

    Perhaps with some, but is this true of Jordan herself? I wonder what you’re referring to; or are you assuming that she’s like the others who hold a similar ideological position?

  • DavidByron

    If “rape culture” as defined (““an environment in which rape is highly prevalent, normalized and
    excused”) exists then it is the rape of men inside American prisons. An argument can be made that rape in prison is tacitly encouraged by those in authority because it tends to make prisoners more docile, and excused by the rest of the country because it is seen as part of the punishment of being locked up (if you are a man). You can point to how rape in prisons is seen as a joke (“don’t drop the soap!”) in America that is suitable for even family friendly audiences.

    Where do feminists stand on this, the most obvious potential example of “rape culture”? They either don’t care about it or actively deny it. They define “rape culture” in sexist terms to completely exclude it.

    Therefore I conclude that “rape culture” is simply not about actual rape. Instead it seems to be a political slogan designed to advance the goals of feminism, whatever those goals actually are (they certainly don’t seem to include sex equality).

    Pushing “rape culture” promotes the feminist brand, which increases their power. It also seems to have the goal of advancing the idea of women-as-victim and men-as-predator. it’s hard to determine what a groups motivations are when they are deceptive of them, but one thing is for sure; rape culture has nothing to do with rape.