For instance, my brain thinks sex is about sex. This is so simple, that my brain is really convinced it's correct on this one. So when my brain hears about a rape, it thinks "that guy must have really wanted to have sex with her." Wrong brain! You see, my brain is not a rapist (thankfully), and so it doesn't really understand how rape works, or why it happens. So my brain might think, maybe that rape wouldn't happen if the victim hadn't been so sexy looking. Because, (my brain figures) then the rapist wouldn't wanted to have sex with her so badly. But, wow, just wow, brain, that's all kinds of wrong. It's factually incorrect. So, sometimes, we have to tell our brain to take a backseat. Us, as a society, we have to take charge, and use facts to over-ride our brain. It doesn't always work, and it's certainly not easy. But in policy and public discourse, it's essential.
Take, for example, the fact that someday I am going to die. Both my brain and I agree on this fact. We, however, disagree on the method of my death. I'm fairly certain that I will die of heart disease, stroke or maybe a car crash someplace near my home. My brain on the other hand is pretty sure I will die in an airplane crash, an armed robbery or from a spider hidden in my shoe. I told you before, sometimes my brain is an idiot. So when a plane goes through some turbulence, my brain makes sure that I'm good and scared, because I'M IN A FLYING TUBE OF METAL! Yet at the same time, my brain will let me shovel bacon cheeseburgers into my mouth like they're tic tacs, without so much as a tiny bit of adrenaline. What's up with that brain? And, really, this isn't a big deal. I'm capable of making decisions in my life. It requires work, and effort, and knowledge, and ordering salad instead of fries (and recognizing that an iceberg lettuce salad with thousand island dressing isn't much better than fries). The real problem emerges when we all start talking together, and making decisions together, as a society and a culture.
You see, it's fine for me to grab the armrest of an airplane with a deathgrip every time the airplane I'm in adjusts its flaps, but if I insist that billions of dollars be shifted from heart disease research into increased airplane safety, well, that's not fine. That's not OK brain! It would result in more people dying, probably me among them.
So, on rape. I get it. Guys, and people closely related to guys, are scared that AT ANY MOMENT some slutty lady will seduce him and then, upon realizing that other people will judge her for voluntarily having sex, accuse him of rape. Then his life will be over. Sure, it's a pretty scary scenario. Your word against hers. It would also be pretty scary to fall from the sky in a giant metal tube. And, here's the thing, the trump card your brain can always play: It does happen! It happens. So no matter what kind of facts we throw at our brain, it can always point this out. But, it's a brain trick. The fact that something is technically possible, doesn't really do us any good in addressing whatever it is we should be addressing.
The facts on the issues of rape are clear. But so many people's brains don't like them. Rapists don't rape for sex. They rape as part of violence, dominance and power. They choose victims based on opportunity. Does that mean they sometimes pick victims who are dressed provocatively? Yes. But it is because the provocative dress or behavior provides an opportunity, not because they it inspires the rapist to want to have sex with that person. Our brains might not get it, but it's how it works. Often, this opportunity is increased because society will assume that that person was "asking for it." The person will know society will assume this. The person will be less likely to report the rapist. Because of us. Our brains' belief that rape is about sex actively empowers rapists to get away with rape. Bad brain! So, we must have the ability to look at reality, and say 'no, brain, that's not right."
Even if we wanted to lower the number of false rape accusations. Lets just pretend that is our priority. Then why are we attacking women for slutty behavior? Aren't those attacks *the exact reason why we think women make up rape accusations*? So now our brain has us both empowering rapists AND incentivising women to accuse innocent young men of rape. After all, if they don't accuse the first guy of rape, then we will use the fact she slept with that first guy so willingly as an example of how she's being stupid by increasing her risk of being raped, because she's a slut.
Our brain says rape is about sex, and then says that therefore sluttiness leads to rape, which results in us empowering rapists to get away with it, AND we creating the very environment that causes our brain to imagine that women are out there "crying rape" all the time. (Guess what brain? They're not! Repeated studies show that false rape accusations occur at the same rate as false accusations for other crimes.)
Back to the airplane analogy. Our rape situation is even worse than redirecting all our heart disease money to excessive airplane safety. It's more like redirecting all our heart disease money to making airplane flaps not make that scary noise. More people will die of heart disease, and, at the same time, just as many airplanes will crash. Because our brain doesn't understand why airplanes crash. Our brain is stupid when it comes to airplanes! We have to spend time to learn about airplanes before we know how they work!
Intuition serves us well in many areas of our lives. Sexual assault is not one of them (neither is airplanes). So, yeah. It takes a lot of work and a lot of knowledge to tell our brains to shut up.
Sexual assault is very real. Somehow this is true despite the fact that we have been slut shaming for quite awhile. So it's time we look at the facts, and tell our brains who's boss.