When I wrote last week about a California man whose wife cut his penis off, we got an avalanche of response from the interwebz, especially thanks to linkage from some men’s interest blogs and a few MRA dudes. I was called a “hypocrite,” “scum”, and a “dick-hating bitch” (the more hateful and rape apologist comments didn’t make it out of moderation, but we kept some of the milder ones in). Some claimed that I didn’t condemn the attack, which is untrue. I did, strongly, in the concluding paragraph (a hint: next time try reading the whole post until you get to the “very, very wrong” part). The other criticisms were that I was somehow being hypocritical or exercising a “double standard” when it comes to violence against men vs. violence against women and that I semi-jokingly said I kept a list of men who I might like to see meet the same fate. I’ll unpack those last two, for the record.
I don’t know if the woman in this case was a victim of domestic violence. I pointed out that she told police her husband “deserved it” and that our society is pretty fucked up if we start wondering about domestic violence and whether the man had it coming immediately upon hearing about such a crime. On that, I think we can all agree. At no point did I say he deserved what happened to him.
But I am not being hypocritical when I said that I understand the urge for female victims to react violently against men who hurt them. Fighting back against your attacker—yes, even violently—is not in any way hypocritical. It’s a completely rational response for any person, particularly when you cannot get justice or protection by other means. Violence may not be the ideal response, but to act as though the ideal response is for women to “rise above” and passively accept victimization—especially when law enforcement fails them—shows either a superhuman tolerance for violence and injustice, or outright support for the attackers.
Now, when I said that I have a “list” of men who I think should be parted from their penises, I was being somewhat flippant, and I understand that flippancy rubbed some people the wrong way, particularly given that we don’t really know much about this particular case, and it doesn’t seem like the man in question has a history of raping and abusing his wife (unlike, say, John Wayne Bobbitt).
However, I am not going to apologize for entertaining some “Dexter”-like revenge fantasies about vigilante justice. We live in a world where one in four women is the victim of sexual assault and domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women ages 15 to 44. Restraining orders sometimes protect women—but often don’t. Female victims are routinely dismissed by law enforcement or slandered by the media, while abusers and rapists are acquitted every single day. Men like Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Roman Polanski, elected officials, and police officers frequently use their money and influence to escape justice for their crimes against women. When these predators don’t go to jail, it’s naive and illogical to think they won’t attack women again—and continue to get away with it. They will, and as a result, women will continue to lose faith in the justice system and be less likely to report assaults.
So is it any wonder that women like me entertain revenge fantasies after being bombarded with proof that society will not protect us or condemn our attackers? When justice is denied, hell, when we’re told we don’t deserve justice because we were foolish or drunk or dressed slutty or dating an asshole or just should have known better…of course we are enraged and, yes, we might even think violence sounds like a good response. Hence, my mental list of dudes who have it coming. Frankly, if they’re not imprisoned, the only way to be sure some men won’t continue to harm women is if they are dead or dickless. I like to imagine that happening, even if I wouldn’t actually take up a gun or a knife myself.
To the men who found what I wrote so objectionable, I invite you to change places with me and try living with the constant threat of rape and violence and the knowledge that you’ll likely be blamed or ignored if it happens to you. See if you wouldn’t occasionally fantasize about fighting back by any means necessary. In return, I promise that when you do, I won’t call you a hypocrite.