Neither too much to expect, nor too much to ask: how Lesley Garner gets rape, marriage, and men all wrong

Via Amber, whose blog I’ve long admired, I found this horrific English advice column and this blistering retort from M. Le Blanc.

A woman, Eva was raped by her boss while abroad on a business trip. Upon her return to the UK, her husband noticed something was wrong, and Eva told him the terrible story. She also discovered that the rapist had impregnated her; she made the difficult choice to keep the baby. Too upset at the prospect of raising another man’s child, the Eva’s husband left her, and has never seen the son to whom she gave birth. Seven years on, she’s still single — as is her ex-husband — and she’s written to a Telegraph advice columnist about the possibilities of reconciling. The advice columnist, Lesley Garner, is breathtakingly unsympathetic to her, writing:

You decided to continue with the pregnancy in the absolutely unrealistic expectation that your husband would be happy to bring up the child of another man, his wife’s rapist. This is a no-brainer, Eva. No man could contemplate this. He would have found your decision inexplicable.

M. Le Blanc, Amanda Hess, and many of the commenters at the Telegraph site, are appalled both with Garner’s dreadful analysis and the beastly behavior of Eva’s husband. Amber, with whom I generally agree, surprised me by sympathizing with the ex, rejecting Hess’ characterization of him as a “total dickwad”:

It is baffling to me how the same people who would (rightfully) snap if a female rape victim was told not to abort her pregnancy because she’d love the baby as soon as it was born, or that tons of women are stepmothers or social workers and thus raising other people’s kids is no big deal, are incensed at the idea that a man might not be able to embrace this situation.

Count me in the camp that labels Eva’s husband a complete and utter “dickwad”.

There is nothing remotely analogous about, on one hand, forcing a woman to carry to term, against her will, a fetus conceived as the result of a rape — and on the other, expecting a husband to support his wife’s decision without equivocation. Even in marriage, a woman’s body doesn’t become her husband’s property; he doesn’t get to be sovereign over her reproductive choices. Obviously, in terms of their shared sexual life, a couple should, ideally, make decisions together about every aspect of family planning. Real life, however, wreaks havoc with our ideals. Men still rape women, and sometimes those women get pregnant as a consequence. While it would be a rare married couple who would have discussed this potential scenario in advance, it’s not at all unreasonable to expect a husband like Eva’s to share his wife’s burden to the best of his ability — and to share in the joy and responsibility that comes when a child is born.

This doesn’t mean that a man whose female partner is raped isn’t entitled to the full spectrum of feelings that would seem natural, given the situation. He’s entitled to feel ambivalent about raising a child conceived in an act of violence. But he wasn’t raped, and he’s not carrying the child. To leave his wife because he “can’t handle” the constant reminder of what happened is to elevate his feelings above her, to suggest an indefensible false equivalence between the harm done to his wife and the harm done to him.

This is, in yet another nasty form, the old “myth of male weakness”. This version suggests, as Garner does, that men are incapable of bonding with a child not biologically their own. I know a great many adoptive dads, including some wonderful gay male couples who parent together, who would be flabbergasted to learn this. (Parenthetically, I’ve always thought that what makes Joseph, husband of Mary, a saint in the Catholic tradition is not his willingness to raise a son who is clearly not his own. That was his moral if not his legal obligation, and ought to be expected of any husband. What made him saintly was his willingness to stay in a marriage that would never be consummated, the lasting companion of the ever-Virgin!) It is not “asking too much” of husbands to expect them to stick by their wives following rape and an unwanted pregnancy — unless we believe, as Garner does, that the male ego is terribly fragile, and the male capacity to love so very small indeed.

Years ago, one of my partners (I won’t say whether it was a wife or a girlfriend, but it was someone with whom I was living) was raped. She called me, hysterical, immediately after it happened, and I went with her to the hospital and through the police interviews. (The rapist was never caught.) This was before the availability of emergency contraception, and there were a few weeks where we wondered whether she might be pregnant. This ex of mine was from the “I could never have an abortion, but I support women’s right to choose” school. She said she had no idea what she would do if she was pregnant, as the two options that would be presented would be so wrenching. I could do nothing but promise her that I would stand by her no matter what. I was certainly ready, if she were pregnant and chose to have the kid, to stay and help her raise the child. When I say I was “ready”, that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t overwhelmed with my own emotions, my own anger, my own fears. But I had enough damn sense (and this was at a time in my life, many many years ago, when I had precious little of that indispensable commodity) to know that it wasn’t about me. My biological invulnerability to getting pregnant meant that when it came to making decisions about what to do with an unintended pregnancy, I had an ethical obligation to defer to and unconditionally support whatever decision my partner made. That wasn’t heroic in the least. It was just the right thing to do. After a few weeks, my ex learned to her immense relief that she wasn’t pregnant, and the decisions we had wrestled with didn’t have to be made after all.

I’m a great believer that men in heterosexual relationships ought to be involved in contraception and every other aspect of family planning. But because of the radically unequal nature of pregnancy, shared responsibilty for pre-pregnancy decisions doesn’t give men an equal right to decide the outcome of that pregnancy. That’s as true when the condom breaks as it is when one’s female partner is raped by another man. When you’re partnered, what happens to a spouse’s body involves you, but it doesn’t give you the right to make decisions for them as long as they are capable of making decisions for themselves. A husband whose wife develops terminal cancer, for example, might wish that his wife would avail herself of every possible long-shot surgical treatment — while she may be, after consulting with her doctor, ready for hospice care. But if a husband in that situation were to leave his wife because she refused to follow the treatment modality he wanted, we’d call him a “dickwad” and worse. In the end, it’s the person with cancer who gets to make the call about treatment; it’s the partner’s job to stand by them to the end. There’s precious little difference in Eva’s situation.

When we marry, we have a right to expect the “heroism of the everyday” from our spouses. As a a rule, we do in fact expect that heroism from women. But we don’t dare, it seems, ask it from men. That’s a mistake, a mistake the likes of Lesley Garner cruelly compounds.

0 thoughts on “Neither too much to expect, nor too much to ask: how Lesley Garner gets rape, marriage, and men all wrong

  1. Have you read about the phenomenon where a woman with cancer is much more likely to be divorced by her spouse than a man stricken with it? The difference is striking – about 6x. The authors attribute the difference to the different expectations about caretaking women and men are raised with. A man doesn’t expect to have to tend closely to anyone’s needs. A woman knows she’ll eventually find herself in a situation where her close caretaking will be needed by a loved one. I would compare this woman’s situation to that of a wife discovering they had a chronic medical condition, and it’s not uncommon for that to precipitate divorce. (I’m not saying that’s right, just that it happens a lot.)

  2. Hugo, I couldn’t disagree more that anyone has such an ironclad ethical obligation to stand by a spouse no matter what. Should we outlaw divorce then? Eva, in this case, had the absolute right to her choice, but her husband had the absolute right to his choice as well whether he chose to stick around or not contingent on her choice. No one should be trapped in a relationship they don’t want.

  3. Of course he had a right to leave. But what is legal isn’t always ethical — I’m saying he deserves scorn and shame, not arrest.

    He had a choice about how to deal with his feelings, and he made the wrong one. It was a choice he was legally entitled to make, and I (of all people) am all for the right to divorce. But his reasoning is not above reproach, and indeed deserves a very healthy dollop of it.

  4. Whoa. The flipside of pro-choice/ pro-life, much? As in, how a woman’s right to choose to KEEP a kid destroys “family values.” I wish a few Conservatives and Evangelicals would smoke this one in their pipes …

    And “dickwad”? You’re too civilized, Hugo.

  5. If he would not have left her if she had gotten accidentally pregnant with HIS child, then he should not have left her due to her rape-related pregnancy. A partner who was adamantly against being a father should not be forced to do so. However, many people become parents under less than ideal circumstances – leaving without giving the new situation a serious try was not my definition of “in sickness and health”.

  6. I think that we probably draw the line differently as to how far we’d inquire into others’ choices and response to their feelings, Hugo. I don’t know for sure what Eva’s husband was going through and neither do you. While I’d hope that he would maintain at least some regard for her circumstances and support for her decision after the fact as a friend and someone he shared some years with, and that their divorce had an equitable settlement under the circumstances, he had as much of an unquestionable and unqualified right to decide whether he wanted to continue with the marriage or not as she did as to whether she wanted to keep the baby or not. That’s not exercising sovereignty over her choices but it is exercising sovereignty over his own. No person has an obligation, legal or moral, as far as I’m concerned to be perpetually encumbered by a relationship that is unsatisfying or deeply distressing to them, and, realistically, no person has a right to expect total, unqualified and perpetual commitment from any other person. A promise like that may sound nice in wedding vows and greeting cards but it’s ultimately empty, much of the time. Whatever of that sort of commitment anyone receives from any other person, in my view, entirely gratuitous.

  7. I will clarify that I do find the logic of the column, that treats the possibility that a man could or would accept this circumstance and remain in the marriage as inconceivable, to be offensive. Men certainly are capable of making that choice, and it paints with too broad a brush to believe otherwise of all men. But it still would qualify in my view as extraordinary, rather than being “heroism of the everyday”.

  8. I agree with Tom. I don’t consider the husband’s decision to leave admirable. However, if he’s reasonably sure that he couldn’t love the child as one of his own and would always resent the child, then he might be doing everyone involved a favor by leaving. His failure to be extraordinary is unfortunate, but I don’t think it calls for heaping shame and scorn on him, either.

  9. Well, I don’t think it’s extraordinary to expect a man to stand by his wife after a trauma, instead of treating her like damaged goods. Surely HER mixed feelings about the pregnancy were at least as strong as his, yet she bravely decided not to take that out on the innocent baby but instead give it a chance at life. Not that every woman ought to carry a rape pregnancy to term…it’s up to her to decide what’s just unendurable. Double standard? Maybe, but as Hugo says, men and women don’t bear the costs of rape and pregnancy equally. Eva’s husband seemed to be acting like the primary injury was to himself.

  10. Of course he had a right to leave. But what is legal isn’t always ethical — I’m saying he deserves scorn and shame, not arrest.

    Ironically, this is the same opinion many “pro-lifers” have in regards to abortion, so it is quite interesting to see how quickly and easily “pro choicers” who typically abhor any judgments on one group’s choices will engage in judging another group’s choices (quite drastically in this case). However, it is more ironic to see ethics and morality being brought up as if it only applies in these instances and never in reverse.

    Regardless of that, given that we do not have all the facts, it seems most unwise to assume to know who initiated the divorce and for what reasons.

  11. Maybe, but as Hugo says, men and women don’t bear the costs of rape and pregnancy equally.

    While males cannot get pregnant, 1 in 6 males can and do experience rape and sexual abuse, and there are numerous studies showing that male victims share the same effects of sexual violence as females. In regards to Eva’s husband response, it is a typical response of men and women who are partnered to sexual violence victims. Relationships can cause people to experience their partner’s pain as if it happened to them.

  12. I don’t know if he deserves scorn and shame…speaking as a survivor myself, if he couldn’t hack it, he’s probably not someone I’d want standing by my side trying to help me cope with a rape and, at the same time, raise a child. If he couldn’t deal, I wouldn’t want him shamed into staying in a situation where his inability to deal would continue to disrupt my life.

    There are certainly problems with Garner’s article. But that’s almost a separate issue to analyze from the husband’s actual actions. Some people are just not the sorts who have your back when the chips are down. Whether they’re selfish or immature or cowardly or whatever. And I’ve discovered that, as much as it stings at first, it’s far better that they remove themselves from your life.

  13. Jendi: I don’t think anyone said it was ok for the husband to treat his wife “like damaged goods” or not stand by her after a trauma. The issue is whether or not he deserves to be castigated for not being able to handle raising a child resulting from the rape of his wife. Again, I don’t think so.

  14. Like Jendi, I have trouble seeing it as extraordinary to stand by your wife when she’s been raped. On the other hand, “dickwad” though the husband may be, I have more sympathy for him than I do for the advice columnist. I once met a woman in a psych ward who’d wound up there because she broke down after abandoning her cancer stricken husband. I can understand that people break under pressure, and fail at “in sickness and in health” in horrible ways. I can understand how the guy who did this thing might, for the four years before his wife was raped, have seemed a good enough guy, and had a good enough relationship with her, that now she still misses him, would like him back, and is willing to let bygones be bygones if he is.

    What I can’t understand is the advice columnist putting all the blame on her, telling her she wasn’t raped after all when it’s pretty darn clear from her description that she was, and suggesting she should have gotten the abortion to protect her husband’s precious feelings. That she’s selfish for talking about her feelings and needs when she was the one raped. Meanwhile, the husband was short enough on sympathy for her feelings that, even before she decided to keep the baby, he wasn’t even willing to go inside the abortion clinic with her.

    No, I really don’t think it was too much to ask that he stand by her in this case. And, no, I really don’t think she deserves criticism for being “unilateral” in deciding to carry the pregnancy to term.

  15. I think that this topic has set up an interesting (and, to my mind, false) dilemma between stereotypes of men and what we’re supposed to be. Either we’re supposed to be cads who, as a whole, will never be able to deal, as the advice columnist indicated (myth of male weakness)… or we’re Saint Joseph.

  16. My point is that there’s nothing saintly about staying by a spouse after they’ve been raped, nothing especially saintly about raising a child conceived by rape. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s the hard thing to do, and one surely is entitled to expect encouragement and support as one does it — but it’s the stuff that spouses are entitled to expect, not merely hope for.

  17. My point is that there’s nothing saintly about staying by a spouse after they’ve been raped, nothing especially saintly about raising a child conceived by rape. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s the hard thing to do, and one surely is entitled to expect encouragement and support as one does it — but it’s the stuff that spouses are entitled to expect, not merely hope for.

    In a previous era or another culture, one that expected stiffer upper lips in dealing with these sorts of vicissitudes in the most intimate aspects of life (dare I say it? One that might have even expected men to be “sturdy oaks”), and one in which divorce and abortion were not so lightly taken, that might have been a reasonable expectation on average. I don’t think that’s the world we live in anymore. A decision to stick it out under these circumstances would be extraordinary today.

  18. If the man didn’t want children at all, and she knew this, then I can’t fault him. But if he did, then yeah, he has a tiny heart and doesn’t deserve her love.

    But I reject the duty language. Love not given freely is not love. And one should not settle for fake love.

  19. Hugo,

    Thanks for your link and thoughtful response. I agree that there is no equivalence to the injury suffered by Eva and the impact of the assault on her husband.* But the lesser ripple effects of that event cannot be denied, and the choice to raise a child resulting from the assault is not a choice that we always shame someone for not being able to make—presumably Eva could have carried the pregnancy to term and then adopted out the baby. I would be just as sympathetic to the husband if she had followed this path despite him being eager to raise a child** that was, if not his, hers, and he left after their relationship was undermined by that disagreement. (Neither departure is admirable, but being self-aware enough to realize when marital foundations have crumbled is.)

    I’m not sure that this is a male weakness question so much as a human weakness question. And while the hope for spouses is to rise to heroism of the everyday, it’s not clear that scorn and shame are the best response when someone fails.

    *We don’t know he saw them as such, either, merely that he was seriously affected by trauma to a loved one.

    ** Is it really broadly accepted that openness to children in a marriage means openness to any child at any time? One of my commenters noted that she would differentiate between being agreed to an adoption option and those who had not. And it seems reasonable to me that even many people who are willing to adopt acknowledge limits on their parenting limitations (e.g. special needs kids or traumatized children). Maybe he was a dickwad to Eva, but did the best thing he could for the kid, as Gigi said.

  20. Argh, that last paragraph is a mess. But you get the point.

    there’s nothing … especially saintly about raising a child conceived by rape. It’s the right thing to do

    I want to push this point a little more. If a rape victim refused to raise her assailant’s baby and gave it up for adoption, would you think she had done the wrong thing? Does it matter if her husband was willing or not? Should we shame her?

  21. I hate to sound like the “you’ll love it when it’s born” anti-choicers, but how would he know how he’d feel about the baby until the baby is actually there?

    The difference here is not “try it, you may like it, if you don’t you’re stuck with a baby and oh by the way you might die or have long-lasting health problems because of it,” but rather, “try it, you may like it, if you don’t you can still get a divorce and never worry about it again.”

    The idea that she and the baby are better off without him presupposes his small estimation of himself is correct and always will be so. That may not be true. He may have been convinced of it by someone else who told him you can never love a child that’s not your own genetic offspring.

    So it might be worth her exploring reconciliation with him.

    It would be tricky, and she’d have to be careful so she doesn’t get the child’s hopes up that s/he “finally has a daddy,” but it could work.

  22. Can we stop treating adoption like a realistic option? People seem to think giving a baby away is a piece of cake. In the real world, though, abortion is usually far less traumatic. Agreeing to an abortion is therefore much more likely to work out than agreeing to an adoption.

  23. Amber, I reject the analogy between the rape victim and the rape victim’s spouse. The rape victim’s spouse has one job — unconditional support of whatever decision (barring something totally destructive, like suicide) the survivor makes. The survivor herself has a different task — to go about the business of healing however she thinks best, ideally relying on her partner (should the partner prove reliable).

    Women have a say in what happens to the contents of their uteri; men don’t. But that lack of “say” doesn’t vitiate an ethical onus to “be there” for one’s partner. Sometimes equal responsibility comes without equal rights, and this is the textbook example of that principle.

  24. The difference here is not “try it, you may like it, if you don’t you’re stuck with a baby and oh by the way you might die or have long-lasting health problems because of it,” but rather, “try it, you may like it, if you don’t you can still get a divorce and never worry about it again.”

    OF, one little complication: if the common-law presumption that any child born of the marriage is legally the child of the husband, whether biologically his or not, then that decision has 18 years of legal and financial consequences. There might not be any “never worry about it again” in that case.

    But that lack of “say” doesn’t vitiate an ethical onus to “be there” for one’s partner. Sometimes equal responsibility comes without equal rights, and this is the textbook example of that principle.

    Strictly from a positivist perspective, there’s not much of an onus. Obviously, there isn’t much of a consensus, even here, that such an onus in fact exists.

    There’s a world of difference between “being there” in an emotional and supportive sense, even to a friend, much less a partner, even to a former partner whom one might not want to be with anymore; and signing one’s entire life over to another person’s unilateral decision like this.

  25. Raising a child conceived without the consent of either spouse, that is the offspring of someone who both of you have good reason to hate, is not part of the reasonable expectations people have for “better of worse.” PG pointed out some of the crazy shit you are signing on for with this, such as the fact that “paternal grandparents of a child conceived through rape and kept by the mother have been known to try to establish a relationship with what is, after all, biologically their grandchild.” That is a nightmare, and the obligation to “be there” for your spouse does not include them dragging you into this horrorshow.

    There’s a lot of stuff, short of suicide, that a survivor could choose to do as a method of coping that would be utterly destructive to the happiness of her partner. Marriage is not an emotional suicide pact.

    Adoption is not a piece of cake, but slicing the issue at that point is the only way to get at the heart of the matter, which is parenting, not pregnancy. (Alternatively: Make both spouses female and flush the gender baggage from the inquiry.) It doesn’t appear that Eva’s husband questioned her right to choose.

  26. I see a lot of otherwise happy couples break up over the desire or lack thereof to have children. I don’t think that either side, in those cases, has the right to say ‘I love you and we make a great dyad, so one of us should just give in on one of life’s greatest decisions and commitments’. How much more so when one partner presents the other with a ‘if we don’t agree to carry to term and raise this rapist’s child as our own, our relationship is over’ (I find it pretty straightforward to imagine that coming from the guy; lots of guys are way less comfortable with abortion than their female partners)?

  27. I think I’d feel the same way if there were two female spouses, but I appreciate the thought experiment.

    Rape is a horrorshow, and Eva was dragged into against her will. What follows will be tough regardless. It would be lovely to be able to choose not to have been raped and impregnated in the first place, but that option wasn’t on the table. It’s not clear to me that there’s anything defensible — again, on ethical grounds — about saying, essentially, “Look, sweetcakes, it sucks you were raped. But let me tell you, if you don’t handle things the way I want you to, I’m goner than gone.” That seems to be, in effect, what Eva’s spouse said. What am I missing?

  28. Rape is a horrorshow, and Eva was dragged into against her will. What follows will be tough regardless. It would be lovely to be able to choose not to have been raped and impregnated in the first place, but that option wasn’t on the table. It’s not clear to me that there’s anything defensible — again, on ethical grounds — about saying, essentially, “Look, sweetcakes, it sucks you were raped. But let me tell you, if you don’t handle things the way I want you to, I’m goner than gone.” That seems to be, in effect, what Eva’s spouse said. What am I missing?

    First, we can draw a distinction between the rape and the pregnancy, in my view, especially where an alternative (abortion or adoption exists). Eva had the right to her decision, but that cannot, morally or legally in my view, include roping another party involuntarily into a lifetime commitment that they never planned for and don’t want. There’s a reasonable limit to the support that even a rape victim can demand of anyone. If she had been so traumatized by the rape, for example, that she insisted on becoming a hermit completely cut off from human civilization, it wouldn’t be any more reasonable for her husband to follow along either. If it turned out that she never again wanted to have sex, likewise, I couldn’t fault her husband for leaving if he couldn’t deal with that situation. (I would also note, compared to the burden that you would lay at her ex-husband’s feet, Eva was not willing to take any action towards seeing any criminal or civil consequences against her rapist at all.) She made her choice out of a set of perfectly reasonable alternatives, he made his. No relationship, not even marriage, conveys an ethical responsibility to unqualified support for any and all personal choice that a person might make. Neither does being a rape victim.

  29. Above should have read “Neither does being a rape victim convey a right to absolute and unqualified support for any personal choice one might make.”

  30. Hugo,

    “but it’s the stuff that spouses are entitled to expect, not merely hope for.”

    If that is your position with regard to marriage, you’re absolutely right. This is a particularly problematic case of “in sickness and in health” and it *is* the right thing to do to stick with her. If your committment to marriage is indeed “in sickness and in health”, uncompromising.

    Yet, this is not standard we live by anymore. People get divorces, you got divorced. Irreconcilibe differences. All the time. What, if not this could be an irreconcilible difference? She wants to keep the baby, he can’t live with that decision. This is tragic, and it, quite frankly, doesn’t have anything to do with men adopting other people’s children, this is about raising the child of a man who raped your wife. If you can’t see that difference, you have to look a bit more closely.

    A week ago, when I asked you for advice about my female friend who is considering cheating because of sexual discontentment in her marriage, you said that she had the option to talk it over or end the marriage. Sexual frustration was sufficient reason for you to end “in sickness and in health”, but not feeling to be able to raise the child of a man who raped your wife isn’t?

    I don’t know. This is a personal tragedy, and though I, as others, certainly wished that things had turned out different for the two, I am also appalled by the apparent desire to call her former husband names because he wasn’t able to live with her decision. That’s out of line.

  31. Sam, I think there’s a big distinction between ending a marriage over an irreconciliable difference like enduringly disparate desire and ending it because you’re unable to cope with the consequences of something very tragic that happened to your spouse. It’s not like leaving because one of you wants more sex. It’s like leaving because one of you got cancer and the other one doesn’t like the treatment choices you’ve made.

  32. Am I the only one wondering if the issue is really the kid? If he wasn’t willing to go with her to the abortion clinic because he didn’t want to hear about conception dates, it sounds like this guy is freaking out about his wife being raped. I honestly don’t think that he was issuing an ultimatum and his wife picked the wrong option – I think he would have left even if she hadn’t gotten pregnant, or if she had gotten the abortion.

    Now, we can analyze why men feel like their significant other being raped is an assault on them as well, and from anecdotes I’ve heard before, sometimes it’s an overwhelming feeling of failure to protect, or buying into the societal idea of a ruined woman, but if that’s what this guy is feeling, then I can’t insist he stick by his wife’s side. As I said, I’m a survivor myself, and the sort of “support” that would come from someone with those feelings would be so harmful to the healing process that I can’t pass judgment on him. If he can’t be what she needs, and I don’t think there’s any way to force yourself to be when you’re just not, I don’t want to shame him into lying just to avoid looking douchey.

  33. It’s not clear to me that there’s anything defensible — again, on ethical grounds — about saying, essentially, “Look, sweetcakes, it sucks you were raped. But let me tell you, if you don’t handle things the way I want you to, I’m goner than gone.” That seems to be, in effect, what Eva’s spouse said. What am I missing?

    What is missing is that it is not clear that is what Eva’s spouse in effect said. It is entirely possible that his contention was Eva keeping the child. He may have been fine with her carrying the child to term and then giving the child up for adoption. We have no idea what his or Eva’s state was at the time, how outwardly Eva expressed her pain or whether her ex-husband assumed she changed her mind in an attempt to cope with the rape. There are a host of unanswered questions that just cannot be reduced to him wanting her to handle the situation his way.

    Assuming the ex-husband initiated the divorce and did so because Eva refused to have an abortion, ethically it is defensible. For instance, a person who harbors apathy or anger towards a child can become abusive, if not physically or sexually certainly emotionally. That is a risk women who keep children who are the product of rape also face, so one could argue that ethically a man or woman harbors those kinds of feelings should leave the relationship.

  34. saying, essentially, “Look, sweetcakes, it sucks you were raped. But let me tell you, if you don’t handle things the way I want you to, I’m goner than gone.” That seems to be, in effect, what Eva’s spouse said. What am I missing?

    Well, it could be the case that he didn’t make such an ultimatum, but rather tried to do the right thing, at least at first, and found it too much. In that case, I’d still consider him morally blameworthy, but given the unusual circumstances, I’d hold back on comfortably labelling him “dickwad”, which goes quite a bit farther than “weak person confronted with a challenge he wasn’t up to”.

  35. Sam, I think there’s a big distinction between ending a marriage over an irreconciliable difference like enduringly disparate desire and ending it because you’re unable to cope with the consequences of something very tragic that happened to your spouse.

    But that’s not why he’s ending it – or at least it’s not clear that’s why. It seems that he’s ending it because he’s unable to cope with the consequences of his spouse’s decision regarding the consequences of this tragic thing. His wife is morally entitled to emotional support from her husband in the aftermath of a rape. But in choosing to keep the child, she’s made a conscious decision about her response that drastically affects both of their futures in unexpected ways.

    This isn’t the same as supporting a wife with terminal cancer, who did not choose her fate. Nor is it the same as raising an unwanted child he accidentally created, since he would be a conscious participant in that matter and should’ve accepted the chance of it happening. She chose to take her life in a different and completely unexpected direction, and he wasn’t ready for that. It’s a tragic situation, but it’s not a clear moral failure on his part.

  36. On the cancer analogy, we can even draw a distinction there. If a spouse had terminal cancer, and the choices were between an expensive and painful course of therapy that might give a few more months of life, versus hospice care, that might be a better case to argue for this moral obligation. If it were a potentially very survivable cancer, and the patient spouse was insisting upon treatment exclusively, say, with laetrile, or even refusing treatment at all, then I would argue that, failing to persuade the patient spouse, the other spouse would not be out of bounds to say “I’m sorry, I love you, but I’m not going to stick around and watch you die needlessly.”

  37. I think Toysoldier makes some good points re: what we know and don’t know about Eva’s spouse’s state of mind. There are reasons to end the relationship, the marriage, that are more difficult to judge harshly and less difficult to judge harshly.

  38. Hugo forms snap judgments on “what is in a person’s mind” and then wants to shame him for it (and yes, “him” is almost invariably the correct pronoun).

    Absolutely bizarre. Hugo’s thoughts are absolutely different than mine, in fact diametrically opposed in a lot of cases, incomprehensible in a lot of cases. But still he knows what every else thinks – applying the worst possible interpretation to men’s actions (making me suspicious of what is going on in the deep recesses of Hugo’s head) and applying the best, most innocent interpretation to women’s actions.

    Why?

    I assume it was to impress the young girls in his class (to sleep with them, which he has admitted), but what is the reason now? Habit? Mental problems?

  39. Honestly, the fact that he wouldn’t go into the clinic with her tells you the whole story of his motivations—he’s bad news. And stupid, too. If she’d felt supported for her abortion, the odds increase exponentially that she would have done it.

  40. I don’t think that the husbands situation is so different from that of a women faced with choosing to abort or not.

    The woman has no ethical obligation to share her resources with a person (or not, it’s irrelevant here, that she did not invite into her body. The choice of what to do with her body’s resources, her future, and all that pregnancy and childbirth entail, is her’s alone. The fetus has no moral right to demand these things from her. This is effectively Thompson’s argument regarding the violinist. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Defense_of_Abortion

    On the other hand, the husband at this point has no moral obligation to share his time and resources with the child or the mother. He did not choose for her to carry the pregnancy, any more than a woman pregnant due to carelessness, rape, or contraceptive failure, chose to be pregnant.
    I don’t think that we can morally demand one person’s resources due to something beyond they’re control more than another’s.

  41. “Honestly, the fact that he wouldn’t go into the clinic with her tells you the whole story of his motivations—he’s bad news. And stupid, too. If she’d felt supported for her abortion, the odds increase exponentially that she would have done it.”

    Bingo. His actions come off as entirely callous and self-serving. It doesn’t seem he actually loved her, but instead cared only about himself. In which case, she is clearly better off without him. Here’s to hoping she comes to see that.

  42. “the other spouse would not be out of bounds to say “I’m sorry, I love you, but I’m not going to stick around and watch you die needlessly.””

    Because the most important thing is what the non-sick person wants. The sick person matters not one bit. Nah, nothing callous and self-serving there!

  43. Honestly, the fact that he wouldn’t go into the clinic with her tells you the whole story of his motivations—he’s bad news. And stupid, too. If she’d felt supported for her abortion, the odds increase exponentially that she would have done it.

    We do not know his state of mind at the time, only what his ex-wife says he did not do. He might not have gone in because he did not want to view the child as a child, which is what a conception date can do. He may not have been able to cope with his own emotions about his wife being raped and going into the clinic might have been too much for him at that time. There are a number of reasons a person avoids situations like that, so without knowing what he was experiencing at that time it is unfair to jump to snap judgments about his character and his intelligence.

  44. Would it make a difference if she had an affair and got pregnant?

    It is unfortunate this story is about rape. It robs us of being able to nuaince a couple of things. First, couples probably do not talk about rape but they probably talked about abortion. If both of them were pro-life and had a conviction, religious or otherwise, then we could say this guy went back on his word or beliefs. If the woman as pro-choice and decided to keep the child then that could be reasonably be interperted as a way of saying to her partner that he is genetic scum. Good enough to support her and her progeny but not good enough to breed with. In other words, “I like you as a beta but you are no alpha”. This is not complicated.

  45. I think that here as in other cases, it’s helpful to separate out the various jobs moral evaluation is doing. At the very least, we’re talking about: 1, what the husband ought to do; 2, what the woman ought to think his actual behavior implies for the possibility of reconciliation, 7 years later; and 3, what we as *bystanders* (or, mutatis mutandis, friends/co-workers/family) ought to do (by way of shaming, or criticizing through our moral discourse more generally) about situations like this.

    There’s very little reason to expect the 3 categories to line up precisely, especially if one is (as one ought to be, since it’s the correct moral theory, =P) a consequentialist about the relationship between states-of-affairs and ought-ness. As a very rough cut: 1, the guy should stay with his wife, only giving up if his emotional responses are genuinely harming his wife and child; 2, it depends on whether he made a good faith effort, and/or whether he seems to have grown in the meantime, and of course whether she can, if not forget, then at least forgive, when of course it would be quite reasonable not to; 3, we should probably focus our critical energy where it does the most good: by encouraging those who must do the hard things, supporting their burdens as best we can, and trying to be generous in our acknowledgements of human frailty when tempted to judge a person’s entire character based on discrete choices.

  46. Everyone is different.
    Some people have more hability than others, he could not believe that his wife loved him while having another’s man baby. He must have felt betrayed.

    That is all.

    Lets bet tolerant here.
    He deserves no shame, we dont know what he felt.

  47. xyz

    It pretty clearly would, since a foundation of the whole discussion is that he should just “man up” and function normally regardless of how traumatised he was, since her right to be traumatised exceeds his. (Which it does, unless they’re both absolute, though that they may be.) (And, of course, why he might be traumatised is probably problematically gendered, though we might agree that feeling like a complete failure as a husband because you failed to protect your wife is very different from say, feeling violated because you think you own your wife; I have no idea how to judge this of him – then again, maybe we wouldn’t agree to this.)

    It’s not obvious to me how traumatised he’s entitled to be, nor whether it’s a level we can reasonably expect him to cope at. (For instance, if he’s this guy, then his actual ability to cope may be much less than if he’s this guy. How

    I mean, I don’t want to claim a moral high ground I’m not certain I’m entitled to. I can’t honestly answer “Brian, what would you do if your partner was raped and decided to have and raise the rapist’s baby?” I can say what I’d like to think I’d do, but that’s worthless rubbish. I haven’t been tested to breaking, so I don’t know where I break.

  48. She made the choice to not abort, not him. He had no choice in that matter. The only question left was whether or not he would chose to support her choice. In spite of all of the hand wringing we hear (we did not get a chance to hear his interpertation of the facts)the bottom line is that he was not willing to raise someone elses child. Hopefully the courts will not impose child support on this guy.

  49. Some people have more hability than others, he could not believe that his wife loved him while having another’s man baby. He must have felt betrayed.

    Well, if that was his reason, and I were the wife, I certainly wouldn’t forgive him and take him back. Anyone who suspected me of loving a rapist more than him wouldn’t be anyone I’d want back in my bed.

    My own husband has known since before we married, through many conversations about abortion, that I am, like Hugo’s ex, in the “doubt I could personally bring myself to have one” camp; though we haven’t specifically discussed rape, our conversations have been along the lines of “well, I suppose if I got a prenatal diagnosis of anencephaly, and there were really no chance at all of a baby who could survive, I’d abort,” and “absolutely, without a doubt, if I had a tubal pregnancy.” So if I did get raped and was unable to bring myself to get an abortion, I’d be shocked if he assumed it was because I was so all fired crazy about the rapist. Given that rape makes most people more, rather than less, willing to abort, it’s hard to imagine that someone who carried a rapist’s baby to term, even if pro-choice, wasn’t all along, in the regular conversations about abortion that most couples have, showing similar uneasiness about it. (Although that doesn’t mean they were both on the same page, and she changed; it could just as well be that, even if they differed all along, neither considered it a big deal, because they expected their birth control to work, and not to have any pregnancies with major medical issues.)

    we might agree that feeling like a complete failure as a husband because you failed to protect your wife is very different from say, feeling violated because you think you own your wife; I have no idea how to judge this of him – then again, maybe we wouldn’t agree to this

    It would make a difference to me, at any rate, if I were the ex-wife considering whether reconciliation were worth a shot. I’d more likely take someone back who, however abandoned I’d felt when he left, left me because he blamed himself for not protecting me better than someone who blamed me for having been raped. If a man’s jealousy of a rapist had proved to be a dealbreaker for him, it sure as hell would be a dealbreaker for me.

  50. He might not have gone in because he did not want to view the child as a child, which is what a conception date can do.

    The point is that he should’ve saced up and gone in with her any way. That’s the kind of support that is expected in a marriage. His unwillingness to even just go into the building with her (he didn’t have to be in on the exam) shows that he was more than willing to shame and blame her and be cowardly even before the birth of the child. I’ve shown more compassion and support to complete strangers than this man showed to his wife. A wife he vowed to support in sickness and in health.

  51. Naah, shakahi. You’re expecting too much of modern-day men, who can’t be expected to do any damn thing at all that they can’t see how it will be to their personal preference and benefit, and the world should just go their way regardless. Wife gets sick? Has to spend time in hospitals or clinics? Not the most pleasant or comfortable of places, eh? Just dump her! What the hell, right? You’re God’s gift to women, there’ll be another along soon enough! And what the hell’s a promise supposed to count for, anyway? Just words — just breeze! Doesn’t mean a damn thing. Sucks to be you, eh? Doesn’t have to! Just dump the bitch!

  52. I realise what I am about to say will put me well outside civilised company, but after thinking about the case this is my honestly held opinion and I’m surprised I’m the only one who seems to hold it. I dunno, maybe I don’t have a moral compass, but on the other hand I may just have a misconception and one of you might set me straight.

    Hugo: “It would be lovely to be able to choose not to have been raped and impregnated in the first place, but that option wasn’t on the table.”

    Here’s the quote from the letter:

    “The man was my boss and he was very drunk and forceful. I tried to push him away without upsetting him, but he was too strong and I didn’t fight him.”

    I don’t doubt she was raped and that the boss should be in jail. But the husband has a legitimate interest in who his wife sleeps with. And faced with the option of (a) be raped vs. (b) hit your boss hard enough to ‘upset’ him; I’d think that the later has rather a lot going for it. Again she’s a victim and shouldn’t have been placed in that situation. But if they’ve an understanding this is a monogamous relationship then he does have a legitimate interest in how she responds to it, and she has to account to her husband for her actions.

    To clarify things: if you give a child your wedding ring because you’re threated with a waterpistol then you’re a victim of robbery. But based on our weighting of risks/rewards most of us expect a rather more serious threat before their partner allow this to happen. Similarly, if I’m in a monogamous sexual relationship with someone I’d expect at least a credible threat of serious physical violence as a consequence before she sleeps with anyone else. Is that really unreasonable? That’s not to I approve of rape or that she’s not a victim and doesn’t deserve the protection of the law, just that her not being raped is valued more to me than not hurting or upsetting her boss.

    P.S. The abortion clinic thing is unforgivable on his part. He should have left her before it got to that or gone in with her.

    P.P.S. I also don’t buy Amanda ideas about love. It’s true you will do anything for someone you love, but that doesn’t mean you should. You should stop yourself from doing things out of love otherwise it will just cause you to be taken advantage of.

  53. James, your misconception is as follows: you assume that marriage comes along with a proprietary interest for the husband — you liken being raped to being robbed, as though both were simply examples of the same general class of property crimes, and you further cast the property damage in question as damage to the *husband*, as opposed to the person who was actually raped, whose suffering you offer only mealy-mouthed platitudes as you rush to lay out your criteria for deciding that your own lover and life partner has genuinely been violated, whether or not she did enough to protect your ownership interest in her personal and bodily integrity and peace of mind.

    I’m a little curious, in a morbid sort of way, just what sort of consequence you have in mind should you decide that the bitch didn’t take enough bruises before she gave in. I mean, I could be charitable — I could gently handle the towering arrogance of your vast and unexamined privilege, I could try to sort of lead you around slowly to the idea that one of the things “love” means is that, when someone you love is raped, you don’t spend your time interrogating and cross-examining to find out whether they were *really* raped, or just making excuses. That’s not only “not what a loving person does”; that’s “so incompatible with the very concept of ‘love’, as a feeling, a behavior, whatever, as to border upon the interpersonally terrifying”.

    I really do mean that, too — I don’t want you to misunderstand what I am saying here, I don’t think you are a person I actually know, and I’m glad to have it that way, because the way you’ve talked about this makes it seem very much to me that you are severely lacking in the vital capacity of empathy. It’s not out of some high-minded elitism that this makes me regard you as beyond the pale; it’s because I have sufficient experience of such people to know that they are actively and genuinely dangerous, especially if you can’t get away from them.

  54. See, this is why I wonder when the appropriate time is to mention to a woman that, all things considered, I’d really rather not raise a kid with Down’s Syndrome, and would it be too much to ask to murder the fetus while it’s still in the womb?

    Because I know everyone would think I’m a dickwad for suggesting it, even if NOBODY ACTUALLY WANTS TO RAISE A RETARD.

  55. Nick — it is apparent that your mom didn’t object though given your level of empathy, you might well have been raised by a feral cat.

    Everyone else — sorry for feeding the troll.

  56. Addendum to “is she a dickwad” – more importantly than is she a dickwad, is “does she deserve scorn and shame”?

    Because Hugo, you are saying this man deserves scorn and shame because he doesn’t want to raise someone else’s child. Is a woman with the same position equally to be shamed?

    Do we REALLY think it’s OK to shame and scorn people who aren’t heroically self-sacrificing?

  57. but on the other hand I may just have a misconception and one of you might set me straight.

    Yes, you have a misconception. You do not get what it’s actually like to face someone who is “very drunk and forceful,” is bigger than you, and is “too strong,” so that when you “tried to push him away,” he still overpowers you. You do not get what it is like to have to decide, in a very short period of time, just how hard to fight that big, strong, forceful person, when if you fight hard enough to “upset” him he could do you further injury, and if you don’t fight hard enough to “upset” him, you may still be blaming yourself seven years later for not fighting harder. If you think this remotely resembles facing a child with a water pistol, you indeed have a very big misconception.

    Look, I didn’t get raped; I did keep physically defending myself against the big, strong, forceful, person who kept coming at me after I’d said no three times and pushed him away, and I got away. Which could simply have been luck; maybe the guy who was coming after me was less determined than her boss. But even so, there were things I might have done differently. Why didn’t I get out of the shower and leave the moment he entered it? A friend did ask that question, and, from her perspective, I can see why it was strange that I didn’t. I didn’t leave because at the time he got in the shower, I was completely focused on getting shampoo out of my hair, to the exclusion of anything else. Or, there was this moment when he started to touch my back, and I didn’t fight, or move, but just froze. Why not fight yet? Because that was the moment that it sunk in that this person who had ignored the three times I told him no was bigger than me. Bigger than me by probably at least eighty pounds. And then anger kicked in and I pushed him away.

    And there was a man, in the same student house where this visitor came after me, with whom I willingly slept, and that man got to find out about this other guy when I told the RA what had happened, and she told everyone and got the other guy barred from the house. This ex of mine might well have had his own feelings about the incident, that he didn’t choose to burden me with, but if he had made any judgments of how I felt about him, the ex, based on exactly how much fight I gave when I faced someone very big and very forceful who kept coming when pushed away, he’d have been mistaken. I fought the guy off because I got angry under pressure. Another woman, one perhaps who got more scared than angry under the same pressure, might not have. And which decision you make in fight or flight mode, when faced with someone drunk and forceful and stronger than you, really doesn’t have anything to do with how much you value your boy friend or husband.

  58. Sadly, james is an example of the rule that a sufficiently crazy wingnut is indistinguishable from a troll, and vice versa.

    Amanda, I get that you’re vocally childfree, but seriously, wtf? If you marry somebody fertile, there is a chance they’ll end up a biological parent at some point. Period. In most of the US, and I’m guessing in Britain, a husband is legally the father of his wife’s biological offspring, so a man who doesn’t ever EVER want to be a daddy shouldn’t be partnering up with a woman capable of having children. And if he does get pregnant, he probably shouldn’t whine if she doesn’t run off and have an abortion while he waits in the car.

  59. Thank you Aaron. You said almost everything I wanted to say. Plus you expressed it better than I could.

    The only thing I would add is that, James, along with other comments on this thread seem to think there is only one way for a woman to act during and after she is being raped. And, of course, they are entitled to dictate what that behavior should be. If she does anything other than their narrowly prefabricated list of accepted behavior then she wasn’t raped. Or like James, they’ll grudgingly admit she was raped but still at fault because she didn’t act the way he would demand. As one other blogger said “She didn’t deserve it but…” has become the new “I’m not racist but…”

  60. Can I remind folks that this is still a feminist blog, and not in the least bit friendly to those who suggest that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way for a rape victim to react.

  61. There is certainly a point in a bad marriage where you have a duty to yourself and possibly your children to initiate divorce proceedings. Spousal abuse, whether physical or emotional certainly qualifies, particularly if it continues after therapy has been initiated.

    Today, I would consider a couple to be driving blind if they got married without having at the very least discussed their feelings about children in general, and abortion in specific. Throwing the whole rape thing out the window, I would feel personally betrayed if my spouse changed their mind when the time came, considering that we had agreed beforehand, and in all likelihood our marriage predicated on us having the same general values with regards to children. Were this to occur, I would feel no moral obligation to remain married whatsoever. Because then, they would be asking that I either be a) giving up considerable time and resources to raise a child I did not want or b) staying with a partner who performed abortion which I was strictly morally against, depending on which side of the fence I was on.

    I define love as being willing to consider someone else’s needs and desires before your own, but I am uneasy whenever I am expected to do so because it’s the right thing to do. Who are they to tell me who to love and how much? Because there are entirely different levels of love involved in I’ll move with you to another city to support your career or I’ll help pay for your education or I’ll bail you out of jail at 4 AM or I’ll stay with you even though you’re cheating on me or I’ll forgive you again for hurting me or I’ll watch you die of cancer over 5 years as your primary support, emotional and financial, or I’ll raise another man’s child for you or I’ll watch you fight a battle with dementia until you forget who I am. Some of those are simply matters of, not only is their life over, but so is mine if I choose to stay with them. Beyond love (or maybe it is the same as love), I would feel obligation as I would to any close relationship, in the mutual debt owed to each other to do so to not be a fair-weather friend, and it would be stronger for a spouse than anyone else, but I would feel less, not more of a person if societal scorn factored into my decision. Expecting other people to line up exactly the same as us when it comes to these decisions supposes a certain fungibility of love. Frankly, I’m unnerved whenever somebody suggests that marriage is a condition of all-consuming sacrifice.

    Unfortunately, if this is his reasoning for running away, there is no reasonable chance at reconciliation for them.

  62. Robert, while I think those are valid (rhetorical?) questions, I also think the answer lies in the fact that the responses would result from very subjective views. There is no general guiding principle of ethics or morality at play because if the situation were reversed, most people’s opinion of the matter would change. The dynamic changes because, I think, the issue is not about ethics or morality, but gender expectations. There are a certain set of things expected of men that this ex-husband essentially failed to do and that is what is generating the scorn and shame. Reverse the situation and the man would still receive scorn and shame for claiming he was raped by a woman, for failing to react correctly in the situation with his female boss, for wanting his wife to engage emotionally with a situation for which she was unprepared, for wanting her support when he changed his mind about his decision and for wanting his wife to bond with the child of the woman who he claims raped him. All these factors violate the gender expectations we place on men and so would elicit a scorn and shame towards because of those expectations and because of the political views at play.

    Perhaps the question to ask is how much of the reaction is based on based on gender politics as opposed to the acts done (or not done) in and of themselves.

  63. “Reverse the situation and the man would still receive scorn and shame…”

    Sure — from the same kind of assholes who’re so anxious to scorn and shame raped women, maybe. People who are actually equipped with what is optimistically known as “human compassion”, though, react differently, regardless of the victim’s gender or sex.

    Of course, I do realize that in mentioning compassion I’ve hopelessly confused about a third of the people following this thread, and upset and angered another third. I know it’s hard, but y’all should learn to make the distinction between the way you yourselves react to things, and the way complete humans equipped with the quality of empathy react to things. Lots of things will make more sense that way.

    Or, alternately, you could keep writing off your own near-sociopathic lack of simple care for other human beings as “gender politics”, and continue completely failing to understand why people seem so often to cross the street when they see you coming.

  64. Well as to her asking him to raise another man’s child ….

    Fatherhood has a lot more to do with presence and commitment, caring and love than genome.

    If he were able to stay and be a father to this child he would find, if he could let go of his ego for a second, that genome is the least element of fatherhood.

  65. Randomizer I agree that this man needed to let go of his ego but I flinched while reading your last paragraph. It reminds me of the lie sold to women and that when you have a child it suddenly makes you a better person and your life instantly becomes perfect. Even if this man would have put his ego aside and supported his wife, as any decent human being would, it doesn’t mean that he would feel strong connection the moment the baby was born.

    I don’t think you meant to condone or perpetuate the fetishistic culture of parenthood. But you flirted with the idea that once the child is born everything will be rainbows and unicorns.

  66. She obviously wants to restart a relationship with this guy, but the fact that she wasn’t going to tell him about being raped until he noticed her “strange mood” tells me that the relationship wasn’t that great to start with. She needs to move on.

    I’m not sure what “wasn’t quite rape” means. A drunk and forceful man who MAKES another person have sex with him is a rapist. Period. It does makes me wonder if we don’t have the whole story. Is she hesitant to call it rape because there was consensual petting or kissing going on prior to the rape? . . . If that’s the back story then the ex-husband may feel that she cheated on him.

    Unfortunately, many scientists now conclude that rape is more likely to result in pregnancy than consensual sex. This is one of the reasons that I believe that emergency contraception should be very widely available. I would put the stuff in vending machines next to the Advil and Rolaids.

  67. It does makes me wonder if we don’t have the whole story. Is she hesitant to call it rape because there was consensual petting or kissing going on prior to the rape? . . .

    Well, no, she’s probably hesitant because she lives in a world where people like you think that if she wasn’t beaten black and blue while screaming her lungs out for help, it’s not reeeeally rape and she was probably a cocktease on top of being an adulteress.

  68. Mythago-

    I realize that you are an angry person simply from reading what you post, but the “people like you” routine is uncalled for. I find the broad categorization of people to be intellectually dishonest and probably not very helpful to the feminist cause. It also reminds me of old-school Rush Limbaugh when he would do his bellowing “you people” shtick.

    I’m not disputing that it was really rape . . . despite the fact that the poor soul in the advice column says that it “wasn’t quite rape.” I simply wonder about the context, for context is key to understanding actions. I wasn’t there. You weren’t there. It is entirely possible that consensual infidelity (kissing and/or touching) preceded the rape. If you claim to know about the context with certainty you are psychic and should be making millions by betting on sports. :)

  69. @davev: Well, since she said that she thought “it wasn’t quite rape” because she didn’t think she fought hard enough, since she didn’t say anything that suggested consensual infidelity, and since it’s not particularly uncommon for rape victims to feel they must have been at fault somehow and to blame themselves for not fighting harder, I don’t really see any reason to speculate about such infidelity. It seems to me that Occam’s Razor points against multiplying entities when we already have a sufficient explanation for why she’d blame herself.

  70. “I realize that you are an angry person simply from reading what you post”, and I realize that, like all women, you can be expected to be hysterical and emotional rather than logical and reasonable, because your uterus pollutes your brain and there’s just nothing to be done about that. But, as the Enlightened Man of the Future I am, I understand that this is the case, and am nonetheless willing to condescend to you for a short while by pretending that I believe you’re capable of having a discussion on the same rarefied planes of pure ratiocination on which men exist *all the time*.

  71. (Of course, by “condescend to pretend you’re capable of reasoned discussion”, what I *actually* mean is “give you the benefit of my awesome feminist wisdom, then liken you to Rush Limbaugh, because I don’t like what you said about me yet find myself unable to answer it on the merits”.)

  72. Lynn, what the woman said was “If we do meet, and if he wants to talk about what happened, should I keep to my old story or should I tell him the truth? What happened on that trip wasn’t quite rape but I wasn’t exactly willing either. The man was my boss and he was very drunk and forceful. I tried to push him away without upsetting him, but he was too strong and I didn’t fight him. Maybe it is too late and too complicated.”

    In context, her statement could be read as implying there initially was consent, but her boss went further than she wanted to go and in an effort to avoid upsetting him she did not fight back. Yes, it is true some female rape victims blame themselves. It is also true, however, that sometimes rape occurs following what was at first a consensual act. Her initial comment does make it sound like there was something else going on before she was raped. She may not have meant for the statement to imply what it does, but the implication is still there.

  73. I rarely agree with Hugo or Mythago on much, but I agree with them here: the guy in this situation is a first class P.O.S. (hope that language is OK on this blog). It’s true that in the animal kingdom males are often unwilling (though not always) to raise offspring not their own- hell, sometimes they even kill & eat them. That’s precisely what makes us different from other animals, because we are possessed of reason and conscience.

    Re: Because then, they would be asking that I either be a) giving up considerable time and resources to raise a child I did not want or b) staying with a partner who performed abortion which I was strictly morally against, depending on which side of the fence I was on.

    Leaving aside the first part of your sentence (which I think is horrid) I don’t think the second part is valid either. I am very much pro-life, but I would _hope_ that I would be decent enough not to leave my wife or girl friend if she had an abortion _after being raped_. You wouldn’t disown your parent, your child, your relative or your friend if they did something of which you disapproved, so why would you disown your romantic partner?

    Re:Unfortunately, many scientists now conclude that rape is more likely to result in pregnancy than consensual sex. This is one of the reasons that I believe that emergency contraception should be very widely available.

    I agree with you here (and disagree with many other pro-life people). It should be widely available.

    I didn’t know Hugo believed in the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, by the way, but I’m pleased that he does.

  74. Someday somebody is going to have to explain this Perpetual Virginity of Mary thing for me, because, and I say this with bafflement rather than malice, I truly don’t get where that comes from other than wishful thinking.

    davev, you invented facts out of whole cloth to imply that the reason this “wasn’t quite rape” in the writer’s mind was that she must have been screwing around with her boss, and not (as she flat-out said) because she didn’t physically resist enough to prevent the rape. You weren’t there and I’m guessing you aren’t psychic, either, but you’d like to blame the rape victim so you’re going to make up facts as “entirely possible”.

  75. Plus, you know, even if you are going to make up “entirely possible” facts that aren’t in the letter, you could just as easily make them innocent ones as adulterous ones.

    For instance, it’s “entirely possible” that the writer was a naive woman who so trusted in her boss’s professional integrity that it never occurred to her, when he knocked on her hotel room door and asked to come in, that he was lying about wanting to go over their professional presentation together. She hardly drinks herself, and is rarely around anyone who drinks, so she didn’t figure out that he was “very drunk” until he was in the door. She’s normally conservative about being alone with a man, so once she was raped, she looked back on her naive decision to let her boss into the hotel room as something inexcusable, which her husband would surely see as a form of adultery.

    I made every one of those things up, of course; the letter doesn’t say that she voluntarily let him into her hotel room at all, and for all I know she trusted the boss as much as she trusts a rattle snake, but went on the business trip with him anyway because he’s the one who signs her paycheck. But the point is, if you’re going to go making up out of whole cloth reasons that weren’t in the letter for the writer to think it “wasn’t quite rape,” there’s no particular reason those made up facts have to involve the least little bit of voluntary making out with the boss.

    I think it’s better to go with the facts that are actually in the letter; the boss was stronger than she was and forced her, and she physically resisted, but thinks in hindsight that she didn’t physically resist enough.

  76. Re: Someday somebody is going to have to explain this Perpetual Virginity of Mary thing for me, because, and I say this with bafflement rather than malice, I truly don’t get where that comes from other than wishful thinking.

    Well, briefly, it comes from:

    a) the theological belief in the uniqueness of Christ: that just as he was the _only_ son of His divine Father, so he was the _only_ son of His mother
    b) consistent ecclesiastical tradition, held by all Christians and questioned by none, right up until the Reformation
    c) various indirect scriptural evidence (e.g. that Christ in his dying moments would not have placed the responsibililty to care for his mother on St. John if Mary had had other biological children of her own)

  77. In context, her statement could be read as implying there initially was consent

    I’m not going to insult anyone’s intelligence by going over the difference between ‘infer’ and ‘imply’, but that difference is being used here precisely for the purpose of victim-blaming and for excusing both the boss and ex-husband. There is nothing whatsoever in the woman’s statement that implies she engaged in any kind of consensual sex with her boss; however, if one’s intent is to dig for some reason she deserved everything that happened to her, one can certainly choose to infer that ‘wasn’t exactly willing’ really means ‘we had our hands down each other’s pants’.

    It’s odd to hear this kind of salacious speculating come from people who ostensibly support men’s rights. I know several men who were victims of sexual assault, and all but one of them kept silent about it for years (and even then, shared it only with a trusted few people) precisely because they were in a situation like this woman’s; their rapists didn’t beat them up, they offered some resistance but didn’t kick or scream, they were afraid to hurt or offend. And in at least one case, the victim blamed himself for years because he actually experienced physical pleasure, and so was torn about whether he was “exactly willing”. (As an adult he eventually came to realize that being a young teenage boy locked in a closet with an adult friend of his parents is not exactly a situation where one can freely and thoughtfully exercise consent.)

  78. Pingback: Noli Irritare Leones » Blog Archive » If you loved me, you’d gnaw off your leg

  79. OK . . .

    Aaron – My analysis of “anger” is based solely on the posting history of Mythago. You invent in your mind that I deem all women hysterical. Such an invention is intellectually dishonest. Strawmen such as “you people” and simplistic analysis don’t help feminism (or any “ism” for that matter.)

    Lynn- Understanding context is the key to understanding actions. We weren’t there, but she says that something about her story wasn’t quite the truth. We’re not clear about what wasn’t quite the truth. Occam’s razor works wonderfully for scientific things, but not so well for human interactions. The state of Illinois has imprisoned numerous innocent people because judge and jury simply guessed that the simplest explanation was that the witness or police officer was telling the truth. DNA has often revealed the truth at a later date.

    Mythago- One of the most dangerous things that one can do, from an intellectual standpoint, is to draw conclusions without understanding the context. I don’t argue that she wasn’t raped. From her story it is clear that she was raped and that the boss should be serving time. Now, if my boss raped me, I would probably be so traumatized that I wouldn’t be enjoying my job, but that is beside the point.

    The actions of her ex-husband seem so cold and uncaring. It could be that he is just an jerk or it could be that there is a context within which his cold and uncaring actions can be more easily understood. It is not unreasonable to merely explore such a possibility.

    Again – I really do think that marriage requires openness and honesty. The fact that this wasn’t possible back when they were married indicates to me that there never was a solid relationship. Now she is wondering if they can get back together and whether or not she should stick to her story OR TELL THE TRUTH. Huh??? This woman needs to move on and find someone with whom to have an open, honest relationship. I hope that she gets therapy to deal with the trauma and advice on establishing criteria for suitable qualities in a possible life partner.

  80. Mythago

    Someday somebody is going to have to explain this Perpetual Virginity of Mary thing for me, because, and I say this with bafflement rather than malice, I truly don’t get where that comes from other than wishful thinking

    Hector:

    a) the theological belief in the uniqueness of Christ: that just as he was the _only_ son of His divine Father, so he was the _only_ son of His mother
    b) consistent ecclesiastical tradition, held by all Christians and questioned by none, right up until the Reformation
    c) various indirect scriptural evidence (e.g. that Christ in his dying moments would not have placed the responsibililty to care for his mother on St. John if Mary had had other biological children of her own)

    Shorter Hector: It’s Magick!

  81. The state of Illinois has imprisoned numerous innocent people because judge and jury simply guessed that the simplest explanation was that the witness or police officer was telling the truth.

    Which is why the standard for when you should throw someone in prison for a very long time isn’t Occam’s Razor, but rather proof beyond a reasonable doubt. I’m up for jury duty in about a month, and you can be sure if I get put on a jury for a criminal trial, I’ll apply the beyond a reasonable doubt standard.

    But we’re talking, instead, about what conclusions one can draw from a letter to an advice columnist, and postulating as likely made up facts about the advice seeker’s situation that aren’t in the letter at all doesn’t seem the best way to do that. It’s possible, of course, that nothing in the letter is true, and it was all made up by some college prankster like the Yalies that Ann Landers used to complain about. But I’d propose that when evaluating letters to advice columnists, multiplying entities that haven’t been mentioned in the letter isn’t the best way to go about it.

    The actions of her ex-husband seem so cold and uncaring. It could be that he is just an jerk or it could be that there is a context within which his cold and uncaring actions can be more easily understood.

    I’d suggest a context that I think actually has more basis in the text of the letter than the hypothetical about the adulterous wife: a marriage that had always had lousy communication. Marriages with lousy communication are really common, and marriages with really lousy communication that end in divorce are even more common. The wife’s description, from her own reluctance to tell her husband about the rape to her uncertainty now about what he means by his texts, all suggests to me that communication was lousy to start with. If communication was lousy to start with, they may also have been much less aware of each other’s general attitudes toward abortion than the average married couple is.

    Still, however lousy their communication may have been all along, going beyond that to speculate about things she must have done to him, that aren’t in the letter, to make him treat her this way, seems unwarranted. Just because he was cold to her when she got raped doesn’t mean she’d been flirting or necking with the boss first.

  82. My analysis of “anger” is based solely on the posting history of Mythago.

    I’ve been on the Internet for a long time, davev, and I’ve found the “gosh you’re an angry person” accusation happens only when at least one of two things are true: the poster believes I’m female, and the poster wants me to shut the fuck up. Since you’re the one who thinks that mind-reading is a very poor interpretive tool, may I suggest you apply that to your own postings?

    Of course the issue of “why did her ex do this?” is a legitimate question. Your attempt to answer that question is to dream up salacious behavior based on nothing other than a claim that gee willikers, it could be possible. Well, sure, it’s also possible that the ex-husband was secretly carrying on his own affair with the boss and was jealous, but as lawyers are apt to say, anything’s possible.

    shakahi, I don’t really have a dog in the fight because, so to speak, Hugo and Hector lost me at “Christ”. That said, I ask (as a purely intellectual matter; not to try and argue anyone out of their faith) because the Bible clearly refers to Jesus having brothers, and Mary’s virginity before Jesus’s birth suggests nothing at all about her marriage after. I assume that it relates to some notion of sex-as-defilement (which goes right back to Paul) and so we don’t want to think of Mary as having sex, ever.

  83. Lynn-

    Back in college I took a couple of criminology courses. “Circumstantial evidence” looks a whole lot like Occam’s Razor and has been used in a large number of convictions. There are people in prison right now based on nothing more than the “simplest and most likely” explanation.

    Mythago-

    You labeled me by using the pejorative “people like you” and assumed that you knew my view on rape simply because I CONSIDERED the possibility of a context that MIGHT have impacted the ex-husbands feelings about the situation. To be honest, a whole lot of your “shorter version” comments are strawmen where you misstate what someone has said.

    As for being female, I don’t care if you’re a man, awoman, or a hermaphrodite. I read Hugo’s blog (and other blogs) to learn, not to label. I’m not into simplistic stereotypes of what people are and what they do. I’m a thinker who likes to consider the possible context of events rather than jump to conclusions. I certainly don’t want to “shut you up.” You’re a free woman, right? How could I shut you up even if I wanted to? :)

  84. Marriages with lousy communication are really common, and marriages with really lousy communication that end in divorce are even more common.

    Phrased this wrong. I should have said, “Marriages with really lousy communication are even more common among the set of marriages that end in divorce,” so that it doesn’t look as if I’m saying a subset is larger than the set of which it’s a part.

  85. That said, I ask (as a purely intellectual matter; not to try and argue anyone out of their faith) because the Bible clearly refers to Jesus having brothers, and Mary’s virginity before Jesus’s birth suggests nothing at all about her marriage after.

    Among those Christians who believe in Mary’s perpetual virginity, the explanation is that the brothers were either a) half-brothers, sons of Joseph by an earlier marriage, or, b) cousins, i.e. “brothers” in some broadened sense of the word. Tradition has Joseph significantly older than Mary, which would be consistent with the half-brother interpretation (the Bible, of course, is silent about their relative ages, though Joseph does seem to have predeceased Mary, given that she appears to be the only parent still around by the time Jesus takes up preaching).

    (Not defending the perpetual virginity belief, since I personally am of the opinion that Mary and Joseph probably had sex like any other married couple, but just explaining it. Actually, of the various Marian beliefs, the one I have most trouble with is the Immaculate Conception, which is not to be confused with the Virgin Birth, but going into that doctrine would be a total threadjack; maybe sometime I’ll discuss it at my blog.)

  86. @ Mythago: Perhaps it is best that you not explain the difference between the words as you do not appear to understand it. Here is an explanation. In context, an inference would be to conclude the woman engaged in an affair. An implication would be that based on the woman stating the act was not quite rape that the act may have initially been consensual (the reason being that an act that is not non-consensual is consensual). The issue is the language she used, in terms of how it reads literally and how phrases like “wasn’t quite rape” can be interpreted. In this instance, one could interpret “wasn’t quite rape” as meaning the act started out as consensual, in which case it is fair to state that she unintentionally implied the act may have initially been consensual. Keep in mind that stating something can be read a certain way and stating something happened a certain way are two different conclusions.

    It is a testament to a weak argument to accuse those who do not automatically support it of claiming someone deserves rape. It is also a testament to a lack of forethought to accuse a person who has experienced such acts violence of claiming someone deserves rape. Likewise, it is quite odd to hear those who pretentiously deny and ignore the existence of male victims invoking and exploiting them in an unscrupulous attempt to “win” an argument. Ironically, several years ago when I mentioned my experiences on another site you took my vague statements as an implication the acts were consensual. It was a fair (albeit presently hypocritical) conclusion given the vagueness of my statements, which is why I did not take issue with your implications or inferences about my responsibility for or willing engagement in the acts.

  87. Hmm, there’s so many hypotheticals in this discussion now. I thought the question was whether his not being able to live with her decision not to abort the child conceived when she was raped is fundamentally immoral and whether the standard expectation should be that any husband, bound by his vows, would stand by his wife regardless of his own feelings about raising her rapists child. Hugo suggests that *not* doing so would elevate *his* feelings over hers and that would be wrong. I don’t think that this is a case where hierarchies of suffering are helpful in any way. His inability to live with her decision is what he felt and his feelings are his feelings. I don’t think weakness of character is immoral in this case.

  88. Toysoldier, indeed, the issue is the language she used. The clear inference is that “wasn’t exactly willing” refers to the fact that she didn’t fight her boss off tooth and nail, as he was drunk and overpowering. An implication that a victim-blamer might find it useful to make is to assume “wasn’t exactly willing” refers to facts never suggested in the letter and that contradict the letter, for example, the writer’s statement that she was raped.

    davev’s post was not “supporting an argument”. It was rank and rather unsavory speculation which did, in fact, blame a victim of rape and suggest that the real reason for her behavior was that she must have been screwing around with her rapist.

    Ironically, several years ago when I mentioned my experiences on another site you took my vague statements as an implication the acts were consensual.

    I apologize for not having memorized every discussion I have ever had with an anti-feminist on the Internet, particularly those several years old, but I’d be happy to look at whatever it is you claim to have posted. I confess to being baffled at the accusation that I simultaneously deny that male rape victims exist but claim they exist in order to exploit them. I’m not quite that clever, I’m afraid.

  89. Mythago,

    You have it reversed. An inference is a conclusion drawn that is not explicit in what was said, such as your inference about victim-blaming. An implication is a conclusion drawn that is explicit in what was said, such as the implication of nonconsent based on the woman stating she tried to fight back, but not much and the implication of consent based on her stating that what occurred was not quite rape, but was not exactly willing. Again, that a particular statement can be read in a certain way does not mean a person holds those views or that a person drew that conclusion.

    None of that, of course, has anything to do with the inferences drawn about the ex-husband. As I stated before, we have no idea what his or the woman’s state was at the time and there are a host of unanswered questions that just cannot be reduced to him wanting her to handle the situation his way. Accusing the people of victim-blaming in order to avoid our collective lack of knowledge about the ex-couple’s situation is mildly clever, but ultimately demonstrates the weakness (or the biased nature) of the argument against the man’s choice.

    In regards to your comments, I recalled them only due to their similarity to what I heard as a child and how emphatically you repeated them. No apology is required as we are in agreement about my sole responsibility and as your concern is at best disingenuous. As for the other matter, the Roman Catholic Church simultaneously denies the sexual abuse of children while exploiting the victims in order to attack gay men, so you are in good, astucious company in regards to such contradictions. That said, if it would please you I would prefer to remain on topic rather than fending off ad hominems.

  90. @davev: Back in college I took a couple of criminology courses. “Circumstantial evidence” looks a whole lot like Occam’s Razor and has been used in a large number of convictions. There are people in prison right now based on nothing more than the “simplest and most likely” explanation.

    How am I supposed to have a discussion with you if you won’t even read my comments? I already replied to the suggestion that Occam’s Razor would throw people in prison by pointing out that my standards of evidence for what should throw people in prison are different from my standards of evidence for what assumptions we should adopt in discussing the moral implications of letters to advice columnists. When deciding whether to send someone to jail, you want to see something proven beyond reasonable doubt. When discussing the moral implications of letters to advice columnists, you’re better off adopting the simplest explanation of the contents of the letter, so that the discussion doesn’t become mired in silly hypotheticals about things that aren’t suggested anywhere in the letter and have no particular likelihood of being true.

    If you’re asking whether the husband should be thrown in prison for leaving his wife when she was impregnated as a result of rape, I quite agree with you that he shouldn’t be, and even that he should legally be able to divorce her; I’d even agree that her boss, who by her account was surely a rapist, shouldn’t be thrown in prison only on the evidence of a single letter seven years after the fact to an advice columnist. At the same time, I hope you might grant that neither should she be punished on the basis of speculations about hypothetical things she might possibly have done that aren’t suggested at all in the letter, just because the letter doesn’t absolutely rule them out.

    Seriously, taking the quite reasonable rule that people should only be imprisoned when the evidence is clear beyond reasonable doubt, and using it to argue that women should be presumed to have been unfaithful to their husbands any time they just might possibly have done, is one of the sillier arguments I’ve seen.

    @SamSeaborn: Thanks for having the common sense to take the discussion back to the dilemma actually presented in the letter. For my part, I agree that we’re better off focusing on that issue, and I’ll make this my last comment on the attempt to make the discussion about things we can’t absolutely prove for sure that the woman didn’t maybe possibly do.

  91. This was a very compelling article, Hugo. Thanks for sharing it. I agree that the husband’s actions and the pathetic response that this poor woman got from her advice columnist hark from the center of Dickwadville. Although I don’t have a crystal ball to see into the future with, I am as sure as I can be without being in the situation that I would NOT have an abortion if I became pregnant, even out of rape, and anyone who pressured me to do so or left because I refused to do so would automatically make it into my personal Dickwad hall of fame.

  92. Re: Among those Christians who believe in Mary’s perpetual virginity, the explanation is that the brothers were either a) half-brothers, sons of Joseph by an earlier marriage, or, b) cousins, i.e. “brothers” in some broadened sense of the word.

    Yup- I go for the ‘cousins’ explanation myself. Many cultures today refer to first cousins as ‘brothers’ or ‘sisters’ in casual speech, and I suspect something similar was going on in the First Century.

    Re: Actually, of the various Marian beliefs, the one I have most trouble with is the Immaculate Conception, which is not to be confused with the Virgin Birth, but going into that doctrine would be a total threadjack; maybe sometime I’ll discuss it at my blog.)

    I look forward to reading that! Perhaps one of these days I’ll discuss the reasons why I believe in the immaculate conception, over at my own blog. You can read my thoughts on the other doctrine that’s interdepdent with in, the Assumption, over here: http://patriabolivariana2008.blogspot.com/2009/08/lily-among-thorns-assumption-of-mother.html

  93. It is worth noting that the man leaving his wife because she did not have an abortion was not presented in the letter. The woman actually never states what prompted the divorce or who initiated it, meaning the discussion about the ex-husband’s reasons for divorcing her is at best speculation about things we cannot know or prove for certain. Given the lack of information and only one person’s perspective it seems unwise to draw conclusions about anyone’s motives or reasons for their behavior or their character (sans the rapist).

  94. Yup- I go for the ‘cousins’ explanation myself. Many cultures today refer to first cousins as ‘brothers’ or ’sisters’ in casual speech, and I suspect something similar was going on in the First Century.

    There’s no reason to believe this, especially given that we can look at the meaning in the original text, which was “brothers” and not “cousins”. The idea that they were Joseph’s sons but not Mary’s is much more plausible.

    In regards to your comments, I recalled them only due to their similarity to what I heard as a child and how emphatically you repeated them.

    Conveniently, you still don’t say what the comments where, when they were said or where you heard them. It is rather difficult to address an accusation that boils down to “you once said something bad that contradicts what you’re saying now”.

    Indeed, we don’t know that the woman’s refusal to have an abortion led to the divorce. The argument about speculation is simply that davev invented facts not supported in any way by what was in the letter to suggest that the woman was somehow culpable, or that any negative feelings her ex-husband had were justified to some degree because his wife was adulterous.

  95. Re: There’s no reason to believe this, especially given that we can look at the meaning in the original text, which was “brothers” and not “cousins”

    The Gospels are written in Greek, but JC & Co. didn’t think in Greek, they thought in Aramaic, which apparently doesn’t have a word for ‘cousin’. Here’s an analogy: my mom refers to her first cousin as ‘sister’ when speaking English, even though English has a separate word for ‘cousin’, because she was raised in a culture which didn’t have such a word. I suspect something is also true of the reference to ‘adelphoi’ in the Gospels. In any case, tradition gave us the scriptures, not the other way around, and that same tradition held from the first century that Mary was ‘ever virgin’.

  96. @shakahi — I am not naive about parenting. I have three children that I sired and am raising three more that have no biological relationship to me. I suffer no “ponies and rainbows delusions.” I also do not believe that, given the behavior of the married couple towards each other, this was a marriage that was firing on all cylinders. I emphatically do not believe that throwing a child into the middle of a struggling marriage will make things better.

    My point, however inadequately stated, was to negate the sentiment expressed by the advice columnist, and echoed by at least one commenter above, that it is an extraordinary thing to expect a man to be able to raise a child bourne by his wife that he did not sire. I think this is an aspect of “the myth of male weakness”(TM) that Hugo so sucessfully debunks on occasion.

    It would certainly require maturity and empathy and a degree of selflessness to put aside thoughts of jealousy and misbegotten sense of victimhood and instead to focus on the reality that your wife is having a child that needs supportive adults in order to grow and become a good productive human. A marriage should be a place where people are willing, if called upon, to do things that are difficult for them out of love for their partner.

    A marriage cannot thrive between people who refuse to grow outside of their comfort zone. Men can do that, really. Sadly for the writer, it seems her husband couldn’t. I wouldn’t think of excusing the husband in this case for his dickwad behaviour and certainly not on the grounds that it’s all about the sperm.

  97. @Sam

    Yeah, there seems to be a widespread inability to acknowledge the vast area between “His feelings merit no consideration, and must be subordinate to hers” and “Her feelings merit no consideration, and must be subordinate to his.” It isn’t like he upped and packed his bags the day he heard about this. He stayed with her for something like a year; which certainly sounds to me like he was trying to deal with his emotions about the situation but ultimately could not. Even getting the usual male training in how to deal with your emotions, strong ones can’t be neglected forever without consequence.

    @All
    It should be pretty obvious that in all likelihood she was raped. Why she feels conflicted about the truth of it we’ll never know, and doesn’t really matter to any judgment of the husband/advice columnist anyhow. Whether the husband knew that she felt deceitful is really relevant, though, since your wife telling you she was raped by a man she intends to continue working with, and have the child of, is probably a lot easier to deal with if you aren’t also aware she’s being deceitful about something. But like a lot of the important bits here, we’ll never know.

  98. Mythago,

    Davev only posed the question of whether the woman’s “wasn’t quite rape” comment meant that the act may have been consensual, particularly given that the woman stated she had not told the complete truth. He did not state that the act was consensual.

    I agree that there is no reason to conclude the woman had an affair anymore than there is a reason to conclude the man divorced his wife because she refused to have an abortion. The letter is very vague and one can draw any number of conclusions (implied or inferred) as a result. Taking sides with that much lack of information is unfair to both people. It is wrong for the columnist to claim the woman was not raped and it is wrong for feminists to claim the man is a “dickwad.” There simply is not enough known about the ex-couple’s relationship to draw conclusions about why either of them behaved as they did.

  99. @Brian: Suppose I construct a hierarchy of the man’s hypothetical blameworthiness, like so:

    1) The husband was a complete dickwad, with a heart a couple of sizes too small. It’s hard to understand why she even wants him back, and she’s surely better off without him.

    2) The husband was weak under pressure, as all too many of us often are. He should have stayed with her, but falling short in that particularly trying situation doesn’t rise to the level of culpability conveyed by the word “dickwad.” Likely, he did his best to do the right thing, and his best just didn’t work out.

    3) Irreconcilable differences, no blame either way, no reason the couple should have been expected to stay together once things weren’t working out.

    4) While the wife isn’t particularly at fault, it would really be an act of supererogation to stay with her under the circumstances, maybe something one might admire as particularly virtuous and heroic, but not something ordinary husbands should be expected to do.

    5) The wife is more at fault. Either she wasn’t really raped, but lied and said she was, or she was more than likely necking with the boss first, or she was incredibly unrealistic and unreasonable to go ahead with the pregnancy with such an obviously available choice as abortion (or adoption). This last is the position the advice columnist seems to have taken.

    I’d argue that, depending on just how you interpret the letter, you can make a good case for either 1) or 2) (some aspects of the letter could be taken to suggest a disturbingly cold husband, but others, like the point you make about his staying with her nearly a year, could point to a different reading). I’m uncomfortable with 3), since it seems to suggest more equality in investment, between a rape victim and her husband, in how she responds to having been raped. (Though I’ll allow that her self-doubt about her own truthfulness, apparently unwarranted given her description of the facts, might have come across to her husband and made matters worse.) I’m even more uncomfortable with 4), since I do believe in “in sickness and in health,” and don’t think it’s unusual saintliness to live by it (I’ve stayed with my husband through multiple chronic illnesses, for example, and don’t think of myself as a saint). 5), for me, is beyond the pale.

  100. @Lynn

    I’d more or less agree, though I think if we frame 3) as explicitly “The rapist boss is to blame”, it might seem more reasonable. There’s no need to equate the husband and wife, beyond to say they were both put into trying situations by the actions of the rapist, and each responded as well as they could be expected too, even if the husband was less damaged, we can’t (realistically) judge him against a scale relative to his wife, but against an absolute scale of what people can deal with.

    Blame the rapist for the damage the rapist caused seems like a highly sensible (and feminist-friendly) approach to dealing moral culpability.

  101. Lynn-

    We’ll just have to disagree on the usefulness of Occam’s Razor with regard to interpersonal relationships. It’s a heuristic used in science that I believe does not translate well to the way that people interact with one another.

    It sounds like you will take your jury duty very seriously and that’s a good thing because far too many people don’t. I bring up false convictions to illustrate how what seems simple is not always so, and I don’t think it should cause upset to MERELY CONSIDER the context of a situation on an internet blog.

    In the legal system, there have been many innocent people convicted through circumstantial evidence. Some of the people who are falsely convicted have prior criminal records for things like drug violations, petty theft, etc. I’m sure that at the time it just seemed like such a simple explanation to the jurors . . . But later we find that the simple explanation is not correct because DNA proves that the blood or semen or hair belongs to someone else.

  102. Oh yes Hugo – for someone quick to judge what another man should or should not do in such a fraught situation can you explain to us your lack of judgement in picking spouses – what is it now three or FOUR marriages you have cycled through??

  103. Phil/troll – do you always come into someone’s place and insult them? I would say that demonstrates questionable judgement.