John Walker's Electronic House

Rum Doings Episode 53

by on Dec.09, 2010, under Rum Doings, The Rest

In episode 53 of Rum Doings we don’t discuss whether it’s time to give up on the panda.

We begin with an attempt to understand our favourite worst drink, Stroh. Then Nick gets concerned about how very, very old he is, and John is finally recognised Mozart. We discuss John’s meeting Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, whether Derren Brown has got his name wrong, and how John is the cause of all of Rum Doings’ naughtiness.

There’s talk of Enid Blyton, today’s vote about student tuition fees and my battling with Bath MP Don Foster, Lib Dem bingo, and bad documentaries about Calvin & Hobbes. Then via the topic of WikiLeaks, we end up with what will likely be understood to be a particularly controversial conversation about rape. Just so you know.

Tweet it, Facebook it, as strangers on Formspring about it. And please really do. I’d like to see a spike in our listener numbers. And writing a review on iTunes brings us more attention.

If you want to email us, you can do that here. If you want to be a “fan” of ours on Facebook, which apparently people still do, you can do that here.

To get this episode directly, right click and save here. To subscribe to Rum Doings click here, or you can find it in iTunes here.

Or you can listen to it right here!


43 Comments for this entry

  • laddy_gaga

    Lovely, I just put the kettle on.

  • Alex Bakke

    A lovely mention of me in the first 30 seconds! Awesome.

    Seriously, if you listen to Laura and imagine John, you get John. If that makes sense.

  • James Campbell

    Yikes! Re the rape argument I agree whole heartedly with John (except for the spiritual stuff).
    Nick I think you’re being incredibly presumptuous and to suggest that people who feel they have endured something far worse than serious assault feel like this because of “society” is unbelievably offensive.
    I’d choose the crowbar. I have been subject to relatively serious physical violence and would choose that over being violently sexually violated.
    As an interesting aside in Scotland a man cannot be raped (as far as the law is concerned anyway). What one might call “anal rape” (against a man or woman) is a serious sexual offence in Scotland.
    I’m still listening to the podcast so will probably return to this with further points when I’ve had a think.

  • Nick Mailer

    James, my question is this: is your choosing the crowbar intrinsic or explained by your cultural programming? Can you be sure of your answer? If someone were hit on the head with a crowbar and also raped, and suggested that the crowbar was the worse, more affected experience, would you call them terribly offensive, stupid or simply misguided?

    Finally, before you enjoy reeling from my being “unbelievably offensive”, I think you should investigate the patriarchy’s traditional reaction to rape, and why it became so totemically shameful in the patriarchy such that people were told that, perhaps, they should rather kill themselves than live with the shame.

    There’s little intrinsic in this, and lots culturally extrinsic, and it all does a massive, massive disservice to victims of such assault.

  • Nick Mailer

    Also, James, however presumptuous I’m being, are you not also being presumptuous in assuming that women must surely intrinsically feel horror and shame beyond all else when they have been raped? I find that “unbelievably offensive” as it happens ;-) It says something about what we expect a women intrinsically to value beyond all else, and I’m not sure I like what it says.

  • James Campbell


    I didn’t suggest that /women/ must “surely intrinsically feel horror and shame beyond all else”. I said “people” by which I was meaning men or woman (despite what Scots law might say I, and I understand most people, regard anal sexual assault as something as serious as rape no matter the legal terminology). I may well be being as presumptuous as you but it is a presumption about people rather than either sex.

    Neither do I think they must automatically feel horror or shame but those that do (or those that suffer other extreme unpleasantness) should be able to feel as such without being told they only feel that because of the way society regards rape.

    You ask me whether I can be sure of my answer when it could so easily be affected by cultural programming. I would suggest that this is a moot point as I could just as easily suggest your opinion is what it is due to your contrariness to something that you believe is cultural programming.

    Finally, I apologise if I came across as enjoying being offended. To a certain degree you have become someone I respect and I think it is understandable if I’m offended by you saying something something I find abhorrent and which I completely disagree with.

  • Wurzel

    Eeesh, the rape discussion. In my mind, I’d say the choice you’re presenting isn’t just between physical violence or sexual violence, but between physical violence and BOTH physical and sexual violence; the act of rape is far more a violation of your personal freedoms, in my mind, than assault.

    To be honest, what struck me somewhat is the dismissal of anyone who stopped listening to the podcast because of this discussion. They were made out to be immature and reactionary by you, and I don’t think that’s fair. I’m planning on continuing listening because you’ve been interesting to listen to before, but the sheer callousness of the discussion felt incredibly off-putting. It’s like finding out your best friend is secretly a huge racist, and doesn’t think anything of it when you bring it up.

    (Also, being beaten unconscious doesn’t always create permanent brain damage.)

  • James Campbell

    Also also also! People from Fife aren’t teuchters but people from Aberdeen, which is where I thought Stu was from, are (well they are if you live in Glasgow or Edinburgh anyway :-)).

  • Flameberge


    I wonder if my response is going to fit in this comment box? Let’s find out.

    The historical, patriarchal background to rape is certainly a point. However, from there I think you have made a massive jump from its historical roots of objectification of women (something, interestingly, you said you were fine with earlier in the podcast) to ‘it isn’t that bad’ – which is what you seemed to conclude. The problem I mainly have is that you didn’t manage to really bring up anything in support of your opinion, to the extent you really just begged your own question, doing nothing to support your argument than ‘rape used to mean this’ therefore it still does’ and one example of anecdotal evidence, which seems to me unsatisfactory. Not to mention somewhat circular. Simply saying ‘oh, society makes you think that’ is an appalling argument, and I think you know it.

    The ‘patriarchy’ that initially conceptualised the shame of rape is indeed true, to an extent. But over the years, this has been re-conceptualised as women have had a sexual, social and political awakening: rape is the utmost assault, surely, on what it is to be a woman. It takes away this liberation, their autonomy, and places them firmly under the power of the man – for, under English law, only a male can be a rapist (though a man can also be a victim of rape). This loss of sexual control – and control of sexuality surely is one of the key parts of female liberation – seems to be at the philosophical, especially if we follow a Liberal account of society, crux of the matter. Denying this self-determination and control that every individual is entitled to, is in fact, returning the victim to being under the dominion of male sexual oppression.

    The argument that ‘society makes you think that’ has no traction, and at worse is irrelevant: we live in society. Humans, even if we follow a modern, liberal, human rights approach to life, do not live atomistic individual lives – we are constantly in interaction with one another, and rape is a massive infringement of our personal autonomy and our right to self-determination in a way that mere physical assault is not. The reasons for this are the aforementioned invasion of autonomy, the intimate nature of the act and also that ‘sex’ is generally a good thing. It is one of those things we all assume we have control over. Having control of an intimate act taken away is a massive, massive degradation. On top of this, is indeed, a certain ‘shame’ that many feel is imparted by society. I will agree there, as there should be no shame in being raped, but the shame, I think, may not originate from the old patriarchal ‘property’ concerns, but something far darker: the shame may be a side effect of male opinion on some women who have been victims, that it is somehow their own fault. However, that is an issue to be tackled, but does not go to the crux of the matter. Once you take away this shame – which, whether you like it or not – is unfortunately a massive effect rape has on its victims, rape is still, of itself, appalling, and much worse that a mere physical assault. (Of course, you conveniently forget most rape is conducted in the accompaniment of physical violence and psychological manipulation, and it is these two further concerns that also lend themselves to the seriousness of the offence and why rape is not merely a form of physical assault).

    The fact that rape once upon a time was conceptualised as almost a property offence matters not – it no longer means that in our society. The history of something is worth knowing. It is not the be-all and end-all trump card of a debate. The victim of rape in the past, if we completely accept your historical account places the husband of the wife, for example, as the victim, not the wife herself. The modern conception of rape does not in anyway do this.

    Also: Nick’s self-satisfied smugness about people no longer listening was somewhat distasteful. If he really wants to be taken seriously on such an controversial argument, he should be trying to engage as many people as possible in this discourse, not telling people to go away because he’s decided they’re not good enough. Maybe that was not your intent, but it certainly came across that way to me. Not that I’m going to stop listening, but I can see why some listeners might, and I wouldn’t blame them. Some people don’t have the required quasi-philosophical background to feel confident enough when debating a point with someone who is so happy to brand people idiots and yell at them ‘that’s just society telling you to’. It’s one thing doing that in a jocular fashion, and another thing when all it will achieve is scare people away from engaging in constructive debate. In fact, I think that may have annoyed me more than the inherent repulsion I felt at your argument against rape being serious.

  • Flameberge

    Oh, and a final (side) point: the example you gave John in the podcast, would you rather be hit over the head with a crowbar or have it inserted into an orafice – the latter isn’t actually rape, and never has been rape. it used to just come under Indecent Assault, then Sexual Assaunt when the terminology was changed, and in 2003 a new category of offence was created, labelled ‘Assault by Penetration’ which is ( and I’m paraphrasing here) any non-penile penetration with a body part or foreign object, without the victim’s consent.

  • Flameberge

    Oh (and I do apologise for breaking internet etiquette with the triple post), it might be easier to have a serious debate if you address me by my name, Matt, than trying to talk to ‘Flameberge’ :-)

  • Xercies

    Hmm I kind of agree with Nick because there is this kind of feeling that after a woman that’s been raped she must be psychologically traumatised and all that. but the thing is i kind of agree with John in that Nick is having a bit of an argument where he cannot lose. Women deal with rape in different ways depending on there genral psychology beforehand more then society genral feelings on how you feel about rape. A depressive women i.e will probably feel more trauma then one that can fight out though saying that a depressive women have found that rape is a motivator not to be depressive(sorry if thats going a little to far)

    I do think though that its very suspicious the wikileaks guy has been charged with rape just after the big leaks that have pissed off quite a few people no matter how trivial it seems.

    Also as for the beginning i don’t know why but when I’m speaking to people random words can pop out of my head for no reason and i’m left there stammering and basically stopping the sentence to try and find that word again.

  • Jambe

    The “rape or crowbar” question got me thinking. I’d rather be raped provided the rape weren’t physically damaging, but isn’t “conscientious rapist” oxymoronic? How many rapists take care not to physically injure their victims?

    To be frank, I find the idea of my colon being damaged from the inside terribly abhorrent. So, if my rapist had a great regard for my physical well-being, I’d rather be raped, but if not, I’d rather be beaten. If the question is “would you rather be subjected to the average rapist or be beaten” I would rather be beaten.

    It’s somewhat unfair for men to suggest how women should feel about rape, isn’t it?

    Rape should carry harsher penalties than simple physical assault. Yes, that view certainly has been ingrained in me by society, but that’s not inherently bad. I doubt lessening the penalties for rape would make the “hapless rape victim” stereotype disappear; I actually doubt it would have much impact at all. You’d combat the stereotype by teaching children that women aren’t psychologically inferior or mentally frail. That and make practical martial arts mandatory.

    There’s just something about rape which makes it seem especially abhorrent. Carrying on with the assault comparison, examine mitigating circumstances. Assault charges might be lessened if the person was in dire straits – if he/she had starving children, for example. What are the mitigating circumstances of rape? Extremely rare physiological abnormalities and/or parental and peer problems? No, there’s just something about the selfish, objectifying nature of rape that makes it peculiar enough to deserve harsher punishment than “mere assault”.

    Interesting podcast. PROVOCATIVE THIS TIME. My girlfriend and I discussed this and her opinion on the rape v crowbar question ended up at the same place mine did — rape if no physical injury, beating otherwise (therefore, beating). “Genital damage is scarier than other sorts of damage.” I agree. She also said there was something particular about the idea of being used like a gratification tool that is creepy and unconscionable, and that’s also true. Some folks enjoy that sort of thing, but they consent beforehand.

  • devlocke

    I haven’t gotten to the rape bit, but I’m curious about the ‘Calvin and Hobbes Guy didn’t monetize Calvin and Hobbes’ thing – I regularly see Calvin used in all kinds of bumper stickers, even now (usually peeing on something) and I know I saw at least one stuffed Hobbes doll when I was younger. Has his stuff been pirated consistently for decades or what?

  • laddy_gaga

    devlocke: Yes.

  • devlocke

    And, having finished the episode, I think John is ridiculously wrong but on the other hand, Nick isn’t amazingly right. Sex is a big deal mostly because we make a big deal out of it, but a.) not entirely, and b.) there are reasonably justifiable biological reasons to make a big deal out of it, from the standpoint of species survival n’ whatnot, I think.

    I’m not a rape expert, tho. I’d rather be raped than struck on the head with a crowbar, and furthermore, I’d rather be raped with a phallus than a crowbar. It’s all relative, because none of it would be pleasant, but generally speaking, I’d take psychological damage which is at least in theory ALWAYS repairable to physical damage which can be permanent.

    I suppose that if medical science ever reached the point that all physical damage was reversible and I could be BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE, I’d re-evaluate. But that doesn’t seem likely to be a factor in the near future.

  • devlocke

    Oh, last thing, re: “…what struck me somewhat is the dismissal of anyone who stopped listening to the podcast because of this discussion. They were made out to be immature and reactionary by you, and I don’t think that’s fair.”

    The point that John made – while possibly not considered by Nick when he was being all curmudgeonly and saying “I’m glad they quit!” for shock value – was that anyone who quit listening to the podcast because they disagreed with Nick was also quitting listening to a podcast that they AGREED WITH JOHN about. In theory, at least, cutting it down to a binary issue of “crowbar or cock”, there was no way the totality of the opinions expressed could be more than neutral as far as offending you goes. Because if you’re all crowbar, half of the opinions expressed were cock, and vice-versa. So quitting listening would, in fact, be a bit silly.

    Also, is Assange being charged with rape, or with having sex without a condom, which is apparently sometimes considered a crime in Sweden? I seem to be reading the latter, in places. I am not familiar with Sweden’s legal system, so I don’t know if that’s just the go-to charge for rape, or if it’s some weird attempt to use a law on the books that’s never actually enforced in practice to bother him, or what… do you guys?

    I just double-posted, and triple-posted in spirit. My bad. Good episode, for the record.

  • Nick Mailer

    Wurzel: your reaction here troubles me more than anyone else’s. It seems that you have a censorbot in your head which doesn’t allow you to engage with troubling conversations unless they’re dipped in a specific sort of honey. And your final analogy was far more ACTUALLY offensive than any callous thing that John or I said.

  • Duncan

    I’m not sure what to say about your rape argument, so I think it’s best I say little about it rather than wade in ignorantly. Although I’d probably rather take a crowbar up the naughty as I value my brain more than my colon and emotions. I think that to get anywhere with this a few women would need to join in, I’m not sure that presuming what an entire gender thinks about something like rape is at all fair. Perhaps you could do a somewhat downbeat special episode.

    But it was certainly interesting to listen to and I like it when you two have a big serious discussion.

    And it also amused me how John is planning to write a children’s book, but I do hope you stay at RPS and don’t completely follow Kieron’s career path.

  • Kirrus

    Having known both severely brain-damaged and mentally handicapped people, and rape victims, I’d go with being turned into a *total* vegetable, over rape any time, any way.

    It is a horrific attack on someone’s identity, and has severe consequences. One person I know of was raped a couple of times from the age of 12 till 18, one of the strongest people I know, but also drastically hurt and damaged by it. She was raped before she could have normalised much of societies views on rape – hence I think Nick is quite wrong.

    Rape is much more than mechanics, in that it takes away someone’s control of their body, in a far greater way than being assaulted.

  • Nick Mailer

    Hi Kirrus. My point is to try and create a society where such people will not be hurt and damaged as much as they are. If there’s anything we, as a society, can do to take away the power of the rapist by refusing to allow him to be this almost mythical demon, then it’s something I’d want. The word rape has such terrible baggage that is not at ALL helpful to the victim. Why do we want to abuse victims of it with it?

  • Nick Mailer

    (Also, Kirrus, I’m certainly not talking about child abuse here, which is a completely different situation).

  • Hidden_7

    Kirrus, would you say that this person you know is better off dead? That it would be a kindness to kill her?

    I’m really not trying to be snippy here, but this is one thing about the “rape fetishism” that Nick talks about that I always really find peculiar.

    Let me first say that I have no personal experience with severe assault or rape, and I’m not close to anyone that has ever been raped. A few acquaintances have gotten in decently violent bar fights, but no one I know has ever been seriously hospitalized or suffered permanent damage from an assault. In that respect I am tremendously fortunate.

    It does leave me speaking from a bit of a position of ignorance on this topic, however. I found myself largely agreeing with Nick during his talk. I don’t know if I’d go all the way to having rape be classified the same as a very serious assault, and I don’t know how much, if any, intrinsic damage rape carries above brutal assault since I haven’t seen much research on it, and as John correctly points out, it would be difficult to get really accurate data on the subject. My gut says that rape is probably intrinsically worse than assault, I’m just not sure how much.

    The thing that really riles me about it, however, is this taboo that has formed around rape where the only accepted position is that it is the worst possible thing that could ever happen to someone, and to suggest or question otherwise is to prove yourself a terrible misogynist. Which is itself a rather sexist attitude, because obviously men can be, and are raped. As a general principle I rile against taboos that shut down discussion, but this one in particular bothers me because it seems that the uncontroversial position is to say that rape is worse than murder. That being raped is a fate worse than death.

    This attitude, I’d argue, is incredibly offensive to rape victims, and probably does, as Nick suggests, intensify the damage done by what is already an awful experience. Because the consequence of saying that rape is worse than murder is to say that in a given situation, if you have to either rape or murder someone, you should pick the murder. It means that given the choice between being raped or being murdered, you should pick the murder. It means that if you have been raped, you would be better off dead.

    What kind of message does this send to rape victims? That they are irreparably damaged. That there is nothing there to salvage. That they may as well just kill themselves because they have been so damaged that they are doing themselves a disservice to continue living.

    Kirrus, you say that you would rather be a total vegetable over being raped. You say that this is because being raped is a horrific attack on someone’s identity. Personally I can think of no greater attack on one’s identity than the total annihilation of it. Which is what happens when one becomes a complete vegetable, assuming you and I are thinking about the same thing.

    I understand the reasoning that leads people to say things that suggest, or outright explicitly state even, that rape is worse than murder. I’ve seen people who know rape victims and very passionately denounce rape as “a thousand times worse than murder, any day.” I get that they are trying to avoid trivializing the awful experience their friend went through. But what they are really saying is that they’d rather their friend were dead. Because they have been raped, and so their life can only be needless suffering from that point on.

    I rile at this attitude, I feel it is insulting, demoralizing, and damaging. It does no favours for the rape victim, it doesn’t make you on their side. What I also rile at, though far less so, is the fact that whenever anyone makes this claim I’m forced to hold my tongue, as to even suggest that there are worse things that can happen to a person than to be raped would reveal me as the worst kind of woman hating, apologist scum, when all I’m really trying to say is that “It is awful that you were raped, but it’s good that you are alive.”

    Personally then, I’m am incredibly grateful to Nick for making the far more contentious claim, so that I may make this comparably milder one without feeling like I’m going to be lynched.

  • Matt

    I’d have to agree with Nick to some extent here, the effect of sexuality and holy grail of sexual power that women have been liberated to, is also another ingrained effect of society, of course you can argue that the basis of life is derived from procreation and as such sex has an inherent value but not to the point where the freedom of sexuality or the oppression of it would have such an effect if based on purely intrisic idealogy. I probably couldn’t agree with his dismissive tone towards those who suffer more than others though.

    I’m suprised anyone would like to be turned into a total vegetable rather than be raped though, that seems a complete absurdity to me. You talk about the loss of control of the body, of your identity etc. but being a total vegetable is to give up those for the rest of your life, the psychological effects can be treated somewhat and you still have free will and a sense of identity however tarnished, whilst becoming a total vegetable removes all of this, forever.

    As for me, definitely the rape, I’m much too good looking for that crowbar to my face… Or to will possible brain damage on myself.

    Hah, this was the first podcast I listened to, interesting. A good podcast to start with no?

    Also as for this case with Assange, the crime is sex by suprise in this case it’s a strange law, it’s equivalent to rape but it has some murky areas, essentially it’s about the use of a condom, in the first charge the condom split and Assagne is accused of splitting it on purpose, in the second charge he is accused of refusing to use a condom. The sex itself has been established as concensual.. I’m confused on how you can have consensual sex and then complain about the use (or lack of) of a condom but alas I’m not a lawyer, the case has already been thrown out once before in september I think, but was recently and by recently I mean suspiciously close to when all the fuss started, by some big name lawyer.

    It’s still strange that Interpol were forcing the issue so much and the current lawyer for the plaintiffs refuses to talk to Assange before he gets to Sweden where he’s in danger of being extradited to America. Despite multiple attempts by his English lawyer.

    There’s a pretty good vid by fox about all this;

    This skips a bit at the beginning but.. yeah it’s pretty good at getting an overall view of what’s going on.

  • Xercies

    If your unconscious for more then 5 minutes you probably going to have severe brain damage if you wake up if i remember rightly. So being knocked unconscious is very severe.

  • James Campbell

    Google suggests that it’s more like over 6 hours that is required for severe brain damage though I have no idea as to the reliability of those sources. I’m still not sure as to how useful the “being knocked unconscious” analogy is but what I can say is that I have been knocked unconscious for a period of more than 10 minutes and suffered no long-term damage at all (I’m aware anecdotal evidence isn’t exactly helpful but Nick used some so I’m allowed).

    I’m not sure how useful this discussion is as a whole to be honest but I would like to make it clear that I’m glad you two are willing to give your opinions even when they are controversial, unpopular, unfunny or incorrect (;-)). I hope any responses you get along the lines of “I’m never listening to this offensive filth ever again” don’t dissuade you from saying whatever you damn well please in the future.

  • mister k

    Nick, I feel like your style of declamation on controversial topics can come across as needlessly confrontational to those who don’t get that its partially an act. To me at least it seems clear that you always slightly exaggerate your reactions when arguing with John on the podcast, although you usually mean your core point. I suspect Wurzel doesn’t get the same feeling I do.

    To address your point, I think that while you may be partially correct- to treat rape as worse than murder implies a surprising contempt for life and a lack of belief in women to recover from trauma- your solutions don’t address the core of the problem. There are two things that might be considered especially bad about rape that are not so bad about physical assault

    1)A notion of sullification, that the woman is somehow in the wrong. Many rape victims do display this, and this is something it would be nice to remove.
    2)A lack of autonomy. While during physical assault you are obviously being hurt and do not want to, sexual assault means that something that can be considered a gift, something that should be under your control, is being given to someone else. And that is fundementally unpleasent.

    I don’t think anyone would want to live in a society where people didn’t believe that their bodies were their own, and that sexual acts were for them to aportion. As to fixing the first problem, reducing rape in terms of a crime seems counter-productive to that goal. Making society treat sex as a less sacred act, and becoming more female positive, would be useful.

    Most importantly, you’re solving the wrong problem. There are various problems related to female and indeed male sexuality that need to be solved, and the high horse that rape might be placed on is not particularly one of them- for now juries remain critically ignorant of how rape victims tend to act, because most people don’t understand shock very well.

  • Edgar the Peaceful

    Everyone’s ignored the ‘plank’ option.

  • mrstrellis

    The rape topic is one I have discussed with Nick on many occasions and we are mostly in agreement.

    Firstly, John is incorrect to say that physical trauma from a crowbar to the head would always be less severe than that from a rape. One blow from a crowbar can kill you quite easily – has he never played Half-Life? Indeed, has he never held a crowbar?

    Secondly, it is simply not true that people aren’t severely psychologically harmed by straightforward assault: the many individuals who suffered debilitating shell shock in WW1 would have something to say about that, for a start. A physical attack can leave a person emotionally destroyed.

    Rape is something over and above mere physical assault, I think, because it is more intimate. It is like the difference between street and house robbery.

    However, I think that it needs to have some of its power deflated. The ability of a rapist to destroy someone’s life is partly predicated on the way our culture views rape.

    I also think that our notions of rape are distorted by the media: we have this notion of a single dramatic incident whereas the truth is usually far more sordid and mundane.

    Finally, cases of rape often make the newspapers whereas the more widespread crime of domestic violence usually does not. Would I rather be raped than be a victim of domestic violence?

    The answer would have to be mu.

  • Blackberries

    A good podcast, this one. Touched on a few interesting topics, especially the rape one.

    I’m not going to come down strongly on either side of this argument, as I’m not even slightly an expert in psychology or sociology or anything like that. I will, however, commend you for having the discussion. Unlike Wurzel, I found nothing ‘callous’ or ‘off-putting’ about it. This question, and questions like it, are thoroughly important and interesting ones, and I believe it’s vital to be able to talk about them in a properly intellectual way. If you can’t divorce yourself from feeling repulsed or angry, that isn’t helpful. So I would agree with Nick in saying ‘good riddance’ to such people.

    Regarding the question itself, mister k managed to articulate an opinion fairly similar to my own, especially his last two paragraphs. I share Nick’s fear that we might be making matters worse for rape victims by dictating that it’s almost the arch-crime, and one of the worst things a person can experience. Okay, it is one of the worst things a person could experience, but it seems to come with an added aura of terribleness, beyond even murder at times. I can understand feeling that this might be counter-productive by socialising (for want of a better term) people into feeling even worse than they otherwise would about what happened to them.

    I’m keen to stress here that I’m not trying to say ‘oh, rape’s not really that bad, get over it’. It’s incredibly nasty and a serious assault. I’m saying that I understand Nick’s point. This doesn’t mean I confidently agree with him, however.

    To further turn up the controversy dial, I happened to be having a vaguely similar discussion regarding mental disorders with a neurobiologist-in-training friend of mine last night. I was expressing my concern that, in the case of certain non-major psychiatric disorders, there’s a danger of legitimising negative or unhelpful patterns of behaviour by affixing a label to somebody.

    She’d been talking about avoidant personality disorder (specifically, suggesting that I might have it). I wasn’t questioning that such a disorder exists, or that it probably has a genuine genetic or biochemical aetiology. But I expressed concern that to tell somebody that the difficulties they were having are part of an illness, are perhaps out of their control, or are maybe a psuedo-disability might make those very difficulties worse than were you to play down their seriousness and encourage more positive thought or behaviour patterns. That is, you take a genuine difficulty and encode it as a ‘problem’, which to an extent legitimises their thinking or behaving that way.

    I was musing rather than asserting, and perhaps only speaking for myself and how I might react. I think it’s an interesting and complicated topic, and related to the problem Nick raised in the podcast – that societal expectation can make a bad thing worse.

  • EthZee

    I thought the debate you had was fascinating. This podcast always takes a more interesting, narrow-beamed focus when a serious debate is introduced; I for one hope that there are more debates on this level.
    And the idea that someone may decide, “I’m not going to listen to this podcast again!” because of a debate of this caliber, seems inherently childish. It was a valid debate, and nothing about Rum Doings says that it has to be light-hearted whimsy (and kiddy-fiddler jokes) at all times. If this hypothetical offended person was disgusted by Nick’s opinion, then would it not be a better idea to stay and attempt to refute this idea, rather than simply throw one’s toys out of the pram and leave?

    Anyway. I’ve been thinking. Initially, I was swayed by some of Nick’s arguments; but reading this thread, there have been many excellent points against him. I agree with Hidden’s statement; maybe rape could be considered more grievous and offensive than being assaulted and injured, but the act of making it a more serious affliction than death must cause problems. The expectation that a victim of rape would have been better off dead cannot do any good for their psyche.

    But there is something to the idea that rape could be more damaging to a person overall than assault. Not based on John’s wishy washy “spirituality” thing, but based on the fact that as an organism that uses sexual reproduction to pass on genetic material (arguably the most important thing to a biological being, if not so important to people nowadays) sex is a very important thing to humans. Being able to choose one’s sexual partner is important to a person, so being made a sexual partner without consent can be said to be psychologically distressing to a person.

    Sex can be a large part of a person’s psyche – their preferences, their methods of attraction, spreading to love and lust and all that. Violating and intruding into someone’s psyche by sexually assaulting them could be considered very damaging (no matter what gender). Not to mention that there is a loss of control of one’s personal freedom associated with rape and sexual abuse that can’t be equivocated with assault (depending on the means of assault, of course.).

    Maybe a better parallel would be – would one rather by kidnapped, tied up and physically assaulted, or raped?

    So, personally, I would rather be raped than murdered. But choosing between assault and rape? If the rape could not be guaranteed to not cause me major physical damage? Then maybe assault would be better. I’ll admit that maybe this isn’t based so much on intellectual conclusions as the psychological settings that society has placed upon me.

    Anyway, sorry if the above is a bit rubbish, I’m not too good at debating. But I do love it when you two decide to tackle something serious rather than sticking to the light-hearted fluff. Fluff is good, but there’s something about the energy when you argue something with sincerity that really shines. This is a high-caliber podcast.

  • Xercies


    Your last point intrigues me because its something thats been on my mind a little bit to after watching Lioux Therouxs documentary on kid psychological problems in America.

    I do think that certain behaviours of people, and especially in America where you have the taint of profit in selling drugs to people. Are called psychological problems, and very distressingly “normal” kids behaviours are beign one of them. So shouting at your parents because you didn’t get a toy is actually being put down as a psychological problem which actually scares me no end because these kids are being put on drugs like antidepressants.

    I had severe epilepsy and even my mum took me off some of those drugs because she told me i was more zombie then person. i hate to see some of these kids that are on unessacary in my point of view drugs.

  • MrsTrellis

    On reflection there are a couple of problems with Nick and John’s approach.

    Whilst I am broadly in agreement with Nick, he does not take into account that most rapes and sexual assaults take place between individuals who know each other and usually in the context of an existing relationship.

    In these situations the assault is quite different from the random violation by a stranger that both Nick and John have in mind. I mentioned domestic violence in my last post: it is often difficult to disentangle the two.

    There are also rapes that take place due to a series of misunderstandings, some wilful, some not, and often coloured by alcohol or other drugs, popularly known as “date rape” although the truth is usually more complicated.

    Neither of these fall neatly into the concept that Nick and John have: they may not be particularly violent (not to say that they are particularly welcome or particularly pleasant) and in some cases have been going on for years, forming part of a whole spectrum of abuses and assaults on a person. The rape cannot be neatly distilled out as a single major trauma and compared with a thwack from a crowbar.

    The psychological effects of events like these are difficult to categorise with the same broad brush approach that Nick and John used.

  • James

    Wow. I’ve posted here before when I’ve disagreed with Nick (and it is usually is Nick. With John, at least I know we’ll always have Jesus and The Longest Jouney in common.), but this is the first time I’ve actually felt repulsed by something said on the podcast. A few people have commented about the calibre of debate, and how thankful they are it’s so high. I can’t agree. The ideas discussed here are fascinating, and it would be great to hear them discussed in depth, but the unprepared nature of Rum Doings meant neither John or Nick was able to produce any actual evidence that could shed any genuine light on the subject.

    While, obviously, I would be all in favour of anything that would reduce the psychological trauma suffered by rape victims, I suspect Nick’s assertion that it’s only made worse by social condidtionaing wouldn’t be borne out in evidence. If that were the case then we should expect that rape victims in the type of patriarchal societies Nick describes not to suffer trauma, as the crime would be perceived as against the husband or father of the woman concerned. In fact, of course, girls in such societies who suffer rape, even when too young to know the significance, are left severly emotionally scarred.

    Mainly though, the whole crowbar or cock debate seems ill founded. It’s clearly ludicrous to suggest that one is always worse than the other, when all victims handle these things differently. More interesting is Nick’s original assertion that rape and assult should be treated the same under law. It’s not that one is is worse, but that they are different that matters. As has already be noted by others, rape is almost invariably either accompanied by violence or a breach of trust, often both. What appeared repulsive in Nick’s position was not his belief that people would be better of not making the distinction, but his seeming trivialisation of rape, and of the horrors it involves. Rape is brutal and violent. It’s not a case of being hit with flesh or steal.

    For a look at some of these issues, and evidence of how women around the world are affected by sexual violence, I strongly recommend Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

  • Coccyx

    Definately one of the more interesting podcasts – definately one of the more provocative ones anyway. Indeed,I think I’ve only been moved to comment here once before. I found myself unhesitantly on the side of John. I then reconsidered when Nick suggested that that was the automatic reaction of everyone in society. I still agreed with John. While perhaps rape victims should not be looked upon the way they are, there is no avoiding the fact that rape is worse than normal physical violence. Nick mentioned a hierachy: whilest there is such a thing, rape is very near the top; and rightfully so. Rape involves both physical and mental violation, and so has to be much worse than normal physical assualt. Regardless of whether these views are a result of the socity we live in, criminals should be punished regarding the amount of harm done. (within reason)

  • Mark O'Brien

    I think Nick has a point, mainly because you have to take it on a case by case basis.

    I think it should be easy for most people to imagine physical assault scenarios (torture etc) which may be more traumatic than some rape scenarios (perhaps drug-related date rape where there is no violence and no memory of the act).

    The seriousness of assault is a wide spectrum, and if rape were classed as assault it wouldn’t necessarily have to mean that punishments for rape were reduced. It would just mean that rape fits into that spectrum somewhere, presumably more on the serious end of the spectrum. Mild assault is a slap in the face. “Mild” rape? Quite a bit more serious!

    I think it makes sense to treat them as the same general crime, not because it’s important to trivialise rape, but because it should be recognised that physical assault can be just as traumatic and demeaning.

  • Capt Fatbeard

    I would suggest that sex normally is something that is shared between two loved ones, hence when this is violated by another person it is normally much more horrifying than getting hit in the head with a crow bar. Also the fact that men are normally stronger than women (unless I’m being deeply insensitive) means it is also that feeling of helplessness that also compounds the horror of rape. Thus whilst I understand the arguments that Nick and to some extent agree that society has had an effect on the way people deal with rape. I cannot agree that getting hit over the head with a crowbar is worse than being raped.

  • MrsTrellis

    Fatbeard, what about male victims of rape? It isn’t always about physical strength.

  • Mike McQuaid

    That was uncomfortable listening. Interesting but I’d still probably rather I hadn’t listened to it. I’m certainly not in the camp of “I’d never listen to this again” but if it was like this every single week I’d probably question if I really wanted to listen to this podcast again.

    Perhaps surprisingly, the problem I had wasn’t with the content but instead the tone of the conversation. I completely agreed with John but was willing to hear Nick’s point of view. I couldn’t understand his anger towards those who would not listen to this podcast as a result. How dare anyone feel emotional enough about the topic of rape to not want to hear someone saying “it’s not as bad as you it is”. It also felt like Nick was attacking a bit of a straw-man. Who is saying that rape is worse than murder? I know a podcast isn’t the easiest place for citations but actually putting an identity to “them” would have been a bit better. Regardless of your intent, the tone came across as somewhat smug and not very sympathetic for victims of a crime that, although not as severe as murder, clearly causes a lot of pain.

    My views on the topic, as mentioned, lie similarly to John. I think it’s the fact that our sex organs are for forming an intimate bond with someone and for procreation that makes rape so tragic. It severely damages the ability for people to relate sexually with others; sometimes for the rest of their lives.

    I’m someone who does understand physical violence (unlike John, according to Nick). I’ve taken someone to court for assault and was bullied physically throughout my schooling to the point of broken bones or blood being drawn on multiple occasions. I’ve wanted to kill myself as a result of it. I’ve also done martial arts for a few years and been punched and kicked hard and done the same back to others (with their consent, obviously). I think a more apt analogy to Nick’s would be if that every time a partner wanted to be intimate they wanted to do it in a classroom in which I received so much pain and suffering and I was forced to make the choice between reliving that suffering and having a normal and close relationship ever again. I feel this is a closer fit to the trama of rape than Nick’s simple “squishy object or hard object”.

  • Gassalasca

    Even before the rape argument this was one of the best episodes in the past few months. And then it got even better.

    Unfortunately I don’t have time right now for long posts, suffice it to say that I think Nick more right than he is wrong.

    Surely, there have been many cultures since the dawn of man where being raped was no more psychologically traumatising than being severely beaten. Both are a huge attack on the ego, a brutal invasion of one’s personal space and integrity, and serve as a demonstration of dominance and humiliation. The rest of the baggage is derived from the specificities of the culture in question.

  • DXN

    Some of Nick’s arguments are ignorant and wrong, and the general tone is repulsive. (To point that out doesn’t mean I have any intention of not listening to Rum Doings or that I’m not considering his points, by the way. I also don’t think that Nick is a misogynist or that his intentions are not good here).

    He’s right to say that it can be more damaging than it is helpful, to “place rape on a pedestal” and “fetishize” it as being infinitely bad, and always worse than murder or serious assault. He’s right that certain reactions and teachings should possibly be tempered in order not to exacerbate psychological damage. But he deploys this argument against a strawman: most participants in this argument (present or otherwise) have more nuanced and subtle views than the ones he is attacking, and know that the seriousness of a crime depends on the specific circumstances. Yet he reduces *all* argument that there are components to rape that set it apart from common assault to “fetishization” and “the influence of society”. This argument is flawed and he does himself and his opponents a serious disservice by being so dismissive and trite about it – not only because it’s bad debating etiquette, but also because he arrogantly assumes the tone of knowing better than these silly-headed rape victims and victim’s advocates — a tone that, as I’m sure he’s aware, is all too commonly used by grotesque misogynists. Before he leaps on that, I’m not saying that he is one. I’m saying that to be so insensitive to tone is ugly and that it’s not unreasonable for someone to take offense to it given how deeply affecting the subject is to many people, regardless of the cause of that affectation – the emotions stirred up are real whether or not Nick thinks their foundation is valid or not.

    Now to address his arguments. Of course the reaction of a rape victim is closely tied into the expectations and emotional structures put in place by society. But it’s ignorant to claim this makes them trivial and “wrong” or “overblown” or nothing but the work of the patriarchy. Firstly, the same could be said of nearly emotional reaction. It’s not possible to strip such emotional structures out of society or humanity; they’re fundamental to our awareness and personalities. Can these reactions, these expectations, be harmful? Can the be addressed and changed? Certainly. But to assume that anything based on them, such as a reaction to rape as being having aspects that make it worse than other sorts of assault per se, is not a useful line of thought.

    Given that, it’s undeniable that there are real and serious emotional side-effects of rape beyond the physical attack. Sex is or can be a fundamental part of our sense of personhood, our emotional connection with others, and our sense of self-worth, without being an artifact of patriarchy and women as sexual chattel. Rape can violate those things in ways that normal assault does not. It also has repercussions across society and changes the way that groups of people treat and regard each other, in the same way that hate crimes do. This is why it is, and should be treated separately from non-sexual assault. To recognise that does not make someone a tool of the patriarchy, or a shrill and unreasonable simpleton.

  • boaby

    bit late, but good episode! the rape conversation was fascinating. i don’t think i agree with nick entirely but he does make some good points. i would however like to ask why kiddy fiddling has to be treated so differently? i think the psychological reasons for rape (which you also neglected to discuss with regards to it being treated as assault) and child abuse are often similar, to do with power, control etc. diddling kiddies has obvious and proven psychological effects which i think you’d find difficult to pin on social disapproval, the transition mentally between child and “adult” is a long and personally i would probably say ongoing one – i don’t think it’s stretching things too far to imagine that it affects adults in a related way.

    of course you could point to examples of children having been beaten who might also grow up “wrong”, but i bet not to the same degree as abuse victims..

    anyway, good stuff, i don’t think you should shy away from interesting/controversial topics should they arise (though i get the impression nick wouldn’t anyway)