Undermining the narrative of Rape

A video posted yesterday has caused some consternation on the internet.  Called “The Public Rape Experiment” made by a popular “pranks” youtube channel, with a primary following of young men, it is well worth watching in the light of what rapists tell us.

The video comes with a trigger warning.
I’ve briefly described its contents below for those who do not wish to see it.

The video opens with the director and an actress recording the sound of a woman being sexually assaulted in a toilet cubicle.  The video then cuts between a survivor describing her experience of rape by a stranger in a toilet as a child and intermittent recordings of men in a public bathroom overhearing the pre-recorded tape coming from within a cubicle, sometimes busting through the door, sometimes backing a hasty retreat.  The plot twist comes at the end, where you are shown that when they burst in, they see a mirror with the words “This is what a rapist could look like” painted in red above.

Its not your normal “prank” video, and the vlogger who posted it acknowledges a request from a survivor to do this video, and his nervousness about publishing it.  The comments are predictable.  “But you’re insulting the good guys, they were heroes – they rushed in to save the damsel” is a theme which runs throughout.  This response is fairly typical of the general reaction.

…instead of learning a valuable lesson, that they have the ability to stop rape by simply acting, they get called a potential rapist for their trouble…perhaps if the video ended by saying if more people like them intervened, things like rape wouldn’t happen and all it takes a little action on their part

After release, the vlogger updated the blurb on the video to read…

I really wish the purpose of this video wasn’t lost behind the misunderstanding of what the mirror and the message on the wall represented.  In no way shape or form did I say all men are rapists or say that the men who barged in were rapists.  There’s something far deeper in the context and I don’t want to openly say what MY vision was behind it because I’d much rather it be discussed amidst the conversation sparked from the video.  Sidenote, the original message on the wall said “YOU JUST SAVED A LIFE” but that wasn’t the direction I wanted to go in.

The juxtaposition of a survivor recounting her experience of the narratively privilaged stranger rape cut with scenes of people intervening when they overhear something which fits that scenario; with an accusatory response suggesting that that themselves may actually be a rapist sticks in the craw of many men.  The hero narrative that they expected, willing the bystander to dramatically intervene and save the victim,  undermined by the finale.

Yet most rapes are far more banal than dramatic scenes in public toilets.  David Cloe, a facebook artist, recently confessed in a video interview to raping a woman.  None of the men interviewing challenge him despite a bit of a stunned look on their face, instead they attempt to lighten the tone by asking about the victim’s breasts.  When the woman interviewer steps in and names the behavour as rape, Cloe takes it in a jocular spirit insisting that he is not just a rapist, but a “successful rapist“, although later, , denies he’s a rapist because she “said yes with her eyes”.

Trigger warning for this video as well.

In a later statement released in response to a post on XO Jane, Cloe denies that he is a rapist and describes the video as art and a work of fiction. The mindboggling fuckwittery of wishing rape on people while announcing how much you hate rapists seems to have passed him by.  Stating

I am not a rapist. I hate rapists, I think rapists should be raped and murdered.

Setting himself up as the anti-rapist good guy, ignoring that even if that video was a work of fiction and the events did not happen, he portrayed himself raping a woman at her place of work as a hilarious anecdote, rather than a source of shame.

Studies have estimated that around 1 in 20 men have raped women, most are serial rapists and most do not conform to the stranger/bushes/knife scenario slightly twisted for the Public Rape Experiment. Although feminists have been saying this for years, it is only just penetrating the mainstream, far less into areas where young men congregate to have a laugh and watch something funny.

Rape is normalised in society, given a free pass when when it is presented as a hilarious anecdote, it is more likely that a rapist will look like a hero than sound like a villan and the reactions Chloe’s confession demonstrate how willing men are to ignore that, while the reactions to the Public Rape Experiment demonstrate how uncomfortable being uncompromisingly presented with that fact makes many men.

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