A rebuttal to the rebuttals to "Smashers Against Sexual Assault"

Original post: http://www.meleeitonme.com/smashers-against-sexual-assault/

As early as 5 years ago, smashers who chose to do this were told to stop "creating drama" and were brushed off with their experiences largely forgotten about. In the last 2 years or so, smashers of all genders (mostly women) have been less and less afraid to speak up publicly about being sexually harassed, and also have become less afraid of naming perpetrators. During a snowballing of events in early 2015 that led harassed smashers to realize they weren't alone and had each other for support, a network of people with similar experiences and their supporters have helped provide strength for those who feel the need to speak out. Unfortunately, there still exist those who choose to ignore, invalidate, and bully people who choose to speak out, and even worse, the harassment issue isn't going away anytime soon. Many of the stories we've heard lately follow a similar theme, the perpetrator (as well as many onlookers) not understanding what consent is, with taking silence as a "yes" being pretty popular.

Lilo's intent with creating this piece was very clear: demonstrate what consent is and is not, explain what rape and sexual assault are, explain very logical reasons behind why the survivor often chooses not to contact the police (who don't have anything to do with our privately-managed hobbyist community in the first place), explain how anyone can be a victim regardless of their circumstances, and (IMO most importantly) how to properly support a survivor. Think about this list of goals: not a single one of these is offensive. There are very obviously quite a few Smashers who do not understand how consent works, and that contributes to them either violating somebody else themselves or taking the side of somebody who allegedly has. There are also quite a few Smashers who do not have a good handle on how life works outside a courtroom, and refuse to show empathy to survivors because they believe it's effectively the same thing as prosecuting the accused. You get the picture. The utility of a piece like this being highly publicized is educational, going into it with an open mind will probably teach you something you didn't know before and change how you think about your actions in the future when faced with another story of sexual assault or rape. It's important to have this knowledge for any part of your life, but this is targeted to Smash as there have been many recent instances of community members allegedly assaulting other community members, and the targeted audience is not poorly chosen.

So what exactly is the problem?

There have been a number of criticisms against this piece, many of which I am going to address here. Some are good, some are bad. There are too many examples of each type of criticism so I am going to focus mostly on longer, more incorporated ones to reduce the amount of time I need to spend on Imgur.

Criticism #1: http://imgur.com/g89G2UU

"First of all, hooray for empty virtue signalling! Support this thing to show everyone you're a good person, or else you're the problem!"

This is not a good criticism. What she actually said was "If you agree with the message, please share the article to your local smash facebook groups and retweet it on Twitter. Let's work together to end sexual violence." It's a call to action to spread an education piece, and taking that CTA as a personal slight is an inference that the reader, not the writer, is responsible for.

"Second of all, this article commits literally every problem in this intellectual space. Defining "unwanted exposure to pornography" as rape.""

In truth, the article listed this as a form of sexual assault. The responsible thing to do when reading something outrageous to you is to double check to see if that's what the source actually said.

"Saying that when, (and you really need to read this yourself to believe it) "You spend a lot of time and effort convincing them until they finally say yes" the consensual and rationally justified sex is actually rape. What's the suggestion here?...that the frail, weak, simpleton female psychology can't make it's own rational judgement, and will fold to the strong argumentation that only men can handle??? Honestly, that is brutally anti-feminist and portrays women in an incredibly unfair way."

This is also not a good criticism and demonstrates a poor understanding behind the psychology of repeatedly badgering somebody to get your own way. It often involves guilt tripping and implying that the other person owes you something, and making their life so difficult that it would be easier to indulge the harassing demands than it would to have to keep avoiding you. That is textbook coercion. This has nothing to do with weakness, and is a really weak "gotcha", if it can even be called that. Note the far-reaching to try and act as if this blatant misrepresentation of how coercion works is a feminist point of view. Hell, there's an entire paragraph in the article about this.

"Add to this the absolute destruction of the rights of the accused that this post suggests, add to it the subscription to treat evidence-less testimony as absolutely indisputable..."

This is a bad criticism. From the article: "By offering empathy and support, you are placing faith in a person who may need it more than ever. This simple act of compassion will not result in anybody’s wrongful incarceration or inflate rape statistics." and "Remember that offering support DOES NOT mean you are sending anyone to jail." You'd think that this wouldn't have to be a thing that needs to be explained to people. Nobody's rights are violated by refusing to pass judgment onto the victim. As Dr. Z put it: "What I do see advocated instead is having a default belief in the victims (or claimed victims) of sexual assault as a matter of personal interaction. Which is not the same thing as default belief in a court of law, nor should it be, and I don't see the case being made for such."

"why not focus an article on the particular ways in which sexual assault might occur in the context of Smash? We have video-documented cases at tournaments, we know what can happen at events, why not talk about those sorts of vulnerabilities? Are there ways to protect yourself? Are there things that people should be particularly aware of that come up in the context of smash that don't happen or happen very rarely elsewhere? Do the unique relationships forged in the smash community, oftentimes lasting a decade or longer, create the potential for vulnerability, or create a difficult atmosphere for a survivor? How should we discuss these topics and cases while both making the victim feel safe, loved, and cared for while at the same time protecting the baseline fundamental rights of the accused?"

This is a very GOOD criticism. All of these are points worthy of more discussion and should ideally light a fire under the community's collective ass to pursue this topic further.

From the comments in response: "Every single myth here is an absolute straw man or red herring, you will not find one single person on this thread suggest or defend any one of them because nobody believes them."

This is probably the worst criticism yet, considering that one of the points in the article states "The uncomfortable reality is that most sexual predators don’t simply “slip up” after having too much to drink and accidentally violate someone’s consent.", a point that many onlookers were making to defend a player who molested another player only a few months ago. "Nobody believes them" is not true, and is a bad reason to call these arguments "strawmen".

"The pornography example is under the subheading, "Definition of Rape" so, although the article goes on to walk this back and call most everything on that list "sexual assault" the suggestion that it is rape is there."

OK, so the criticism here should be that the author should change the typo in the header and call it "Definition of Sexual Assault" if it's not clear enough that the list is preceded by a paragraph explaining that the list is of definitions of sexual assault. Simple criticism, easy fix, time to move on? Probably not:

"By the way, it isn't sexual assault either, so my point stands regardless. Unless you believe Hardees/Carls Jr. is committing sexual assault on millions victims every time they do one of those sexed-up burger commercials!"

This is an especially bad criticism of the article as it's looking at definitions created by agencies and authorities who have the legal power to define what sexual assault and rape are and saying "No I don't like this."

"When I speak of "the rights of the accused" I am including a social mandate to not mob-mentality and socially punish anyone who gets accused of something, which is a GUARANTEED result of a policy of assuming testimony without evidence to be unquestionable."

This is also a weak criticism as it ignores that this so-called "social mandate" is violated where the victim is accused of lying every time sexual harassment is outed. None of the article's tips for treating survivors personally with compassion are likely to introduce any more of a mob mentality than currently exists. There is already a large support network available for survivors within the Smash community who treat survivors this way, and yet we're still only seeing people being banned or having long-term damage to their reputation done when there has been documented evidence in the form of screenshots or direct eyewitnesses to the incident. This is the "fear mongering" that others have ironically accused the author of.

"this article is misleading people with bad information and conflating actual instances of rape and sexual assault with completely unrelated acts that may cause discomfort but are straightforwardly not what they are said to be. This trivializes rape rather than helps people understand it."

This is less a criticism of the article and more a criticism of people who make the choice not to take instances of sexual harassment seriously, and the uncomfortable reality is that that includes those who refuse to accept what sexual assault is and prefer it to have a narrower definition they've personally decided on. Those are the people trivializing it, not the article author, and she wrote the article in the first place to change the open minds of those who are willing to budge on their personal definitions.

"the 1-in-3-women-worldwide-are-raped claim is totally irrelevant to American life. This stat is boosted almost entirely by the fact that in Christian Africa and the Muslim Middle East, upwards of 90% of women in many countries are genitally mutilated, married underage, etc. Nothing could be more misleading than to present this statistic as to a smash group expecting it to hold some purchase or relevance."

This is not a good criticism. Not only is this ignoring that smashers participating in events in the Americas actually could be coming from literally anywhere in the world and their life experiences can vary widely, but sex without consent exists in all countries and continents and focusing this on the USA only would do very little for Smashers living in other countries. The stat exists to demonstrate the reality that rape and sexual assault happen everywhere. Whether or not it happens less in the USA makes no difference whatsoever to the purpose of the article.

Criticism #2: There have also been countless short comments accusing the writer of "fear mongering", as mentioned above, and even some comments containing gigantic red flags like this comment: http://imgur.com/TIiOEvQ What exactly is so "scary" about educational material like this? From the article: "You want rape to be a crime so rare it’s almost unheard of–certainly not relevant to your life or worth reading too much about. Perhaps in reading this essay you have realized that you have been a victim of a sexual assault, or you may have committed it against someone else without realizing the full extent of what you were doing. It is painful to examine your past and modify your long-held beliefs about rape to better fit what is actually true." Yeah, I guess "I might have done something wrong" is a thought that makes some people afraid.

Criticism #3: Numerous comments have criticized that the article itself has "nothing to do with smash", which on its own is a bad and irrelevant criticism considering that this issue is a barrier for many people who wish to continue participating in the community but cannot due to being victims of sexual assault at the hands of other community members.

However, there are a couple of diamonds in the rough, such as this Reddit comment: http://imgur.com/c50OdIX There are some good suggestions in here, notably that there could have been more discussion about exactly how these situations and aftermath go down in the Smash community, and that there is a discussion to still be had with event facilitators as to how to handle accusations -- in my mind this is a discussion about how organizers proceed in a manner that does not require banning an accused person with limited testimony and no other evidence or witnesses as well as allowing the victim to continue to participate without having to interact or be uncomfortable by being around the accused. However, it should be noted that naming specific events that happened in the Smash community would make the article not kosher to be shared on some networks (Reddit included) and it would not have been feasible for the author to include them, and that's not even considering the reality of Tafo's comments on the subject: "Based on prior experiences, I am not too confident that being specific about previous stories of smashers and assault would develop a discussion about the topic at hand. Most often, it diverges into discussions about the parties at hand rather than focusing on the overarching themes of defining consent and proper etiquette." Overall, however, this commenter's contribution is good and thoughtful, but I don't agree with the criticism that the article is pointing fingers so much as it is pre-emptively covering bases.

Criticism #4: Discrediting the article because of whatever personal experience the commenter has with the author. Not providing screenshots for this one because it's barely worth addressing. You could (as some have already chosen to do, judging by the arguments they started with me on Twitter) completely ignore the "By: LiloNStitchface" line at the top of the article and still learn something. Accusations of the author's transgressions are irrelevant to the purpose and educational utility of the piece.

Criticism #5: Focusing heavily on the "false accusations" statistic being listed at 2% -- http://imgur.com/04FEHvh and http://imgur.com/Ln3L8X5, among others. Made in good faith, this criticism would offer that the stat should read 2 to 8% rather than just 2%. Instead, the focus is on inflating the problem: 8% is a very low number and implies that there is still over a 90% chance that the victim is telling the truth. Instead it's represented as being 4x as high or a 400% margin of error, which sounds beyond egregious outside of the context of the number still being very small. This is used for little purpose other than to discredit the merits of the article as explained above, as an edit of this stat changes very little about the goals the author seeks to accomplish. Over-focusing on this stat is yet another attempt to accomplish absolutely nothing by derailing a discussion about rape into a discussion about false accusations, which I guess means that it's entirely too appropriate that the article was crossposted to Reddit.

Speaking of reddit, criticism #6: https://www.reddit.com/r/smashbros/comments/52xwm9/i_wrote_an_infographic_and_article_to_educate/d7od8hm This comment somehow ended up receiving over 200 net upvotes and Reddit gold despite offering questionable reasons for using "anti-rape" repeatedly in scarequotes and starting off with the textbook definition of a strawman argument: "Just because you put a bunch of names in parentheses does not make an article well-researched or correct."

"For example, there are published studies that put the rate of false rape accusations at 41% (Kanin), and I could write an article just as heavily cited with them and other similar papers, with the same gravitas of officialdom and scholarly approval. Of course that study in particular has a small sample size and is by no means the best one to cite about the issue (as nobody with sense really thinks the false rape accusation rate is that high). Similarly, you have chosen sources that are biased in the other direction." This criticism is not really saying... well, anything. The commenter does not have any evidence that Lilo deliberately ignored sources that provided different numbers than the sources she listed. All the commenter is saying is "I could make a bad paper, but I won't" and extrapolating that to accuse her of doing the same. There is no flow of logic here. The commenter's next two overstuffed paragraphs uses entirely too many words to make the same point that the other commenter above made, that the incidence of allegations is estimated to be slightly higher by other sources. He even states "That's loading the dice in favor of one side, and requiring your average person to hunt down academic papers to prove that it's a load of crap." while offering no real estimates as to how much of the 15% of withdrawn and 85% of unpursued rape cases might be false allegations. Why is this? "Truthfully, I don't have the time to investigate every single source in the OP and find the likely flaws (though I'm definitely not sure about citing Salon of all places as a reputable source). And I honestly doubt OP read over completely all of the sources cited as well." Basically "I'm not doing much fact-checking, so I'm assuming the author didn't either". This is not how argumentative logic works, but Reddit has eaten it right up because of this section in particular:

"Most similar "facts" are outright fabrications, lies, and distortions, that nevertheless do get cited by "respectable" sources over and over again, allowing somebody like yourself to compile a "laboriously cited essay" about them. For example: http://time.com/3222543/wage-pay-gap-myth-feminism/"

This has absolutely no connection whatsoever with the topic of the article and is blatant karma-farming. Default redditors who found /r/smashbros via /r/all practically sell their souls to anyone who brings up "the wage gap myth" (aka the mating call of people who don't understand how control variables work, but that's a discussion for another time) anywhere, regardless of whether or not it actually demonstrates anything. He's taking one stat on a completely separate subject having "made up statistics" and somehow extrapolating it to Neha's sources, which he admitted to not investigating, with no real connection.

"Statistics about rape are hardly immune from the same misrepresentation. The third point of the article discusses the "1 5/4 women will be raped at college" myth which has been debunked hundreds of time by actual statistics from actual colleges and nevertheless still gets parroted into infinity." Again, nothing offered here, just a vague comment about it being debunked by some unnamed source. This is not an argument made in good faith.

"If Mew2King hadn't been aware that this photo was being taken (http://www.espn.com/esports/story/_/id/17547645/the-story-most-viral-meme-smash-history?ex_cid=espnfb), would that have been rape?"

Again, like the above commenter, did not check the source he was reading before drawing an asinine conclusion. Furthermore, it's been stated multiple times in discussion surrounding this article that Mew2king himself was in on the joke and you'd have a hard time framing that as non-consent or sexual assault.

Criticism #7: numerous people who choose to leave no comment other than being annoyed at definitions of sexual assault including having sex with someone while intoxicated, almost always followed up with "i guess that means my ex-girlfriend and I raped each other, lol!" or some other equally vapid and eyebrow-raising humblebrag. There is no reason to address this in great detail as these commenters should already know that rape investigations aren't an open-and-shut case of "she had something to drink? go to jail, no exceptions" and are subject to further investigation into the accused and victim's relationship to prevent, you guessed it, false accusations.

There have been some well-intentioned criticisms about the article feeling "aimless" and being a convoluted read trying to target too many things at once, which I won't address as I believe this is a subjective criticism that isn't necessarily invalid, but this aimlessness has been mirrored and disproportionately multiplied in the sometimes-critical, mostly-not-critical response to the article. Among the many criticisms addressed above, very few of them are relevant to the purpose of the article and the author's goals, and very few of the proposed changes stemming from these criticisms would change anything about the author's message. There are multiple cries for attention aimed at the author, demanding she engage detractors in a discussion about certain valid points, but these points are lost among a sea of red herrings and overstuffed grandstanding that accomplishes little except overwhelming the recipient and generating little interest from her in accepting those requests for discussion. Very few of the criticisms offered above point out anything that can discredit the author in the eyes of anyone who began reading with an open mind, but rather only serve as validation for those who went in prepared to disagree from the start. Critics would likely be more successful by engaging the author with direct points made in good faith instead of padding their suggestions with poorly-thought-out and overly aggressive nitpicking that offers little but white noise and doesn't do much to address the utility of the article itself. I did not write this article, I did not perform the research that Lilo did, it is not my place to verify the sources she used or the conclusions she drew, but it is clear as day what purpose this article serves and what the author's goals are, and it has been stated by readers that it taught a great deal of things to many people. I am positing that the response has on its own done the "more harm than good" that detractors accused her of doing. The responses to this article should serve as an example of "How Not to Argue" for any readers wishing to join the discussion in the future.

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