Playing with Matches

By Cyberquill 03/15/2016Leave a Comment

Anytime a woman was, or felt, sexually molested in some way, it is the mother of all unforgivable no-nos to imply, be it ever so subtly, let alone to openly suggest, that she—via her apparel (or the economy thereof), her arguably flirtatious manner, her state of inebriation, etc.—may have sent a wrong or mixed signal that an individual with low impulse control and a proclivity for aggression could conceivably have mistaken for an invitation to engage in improper conduct toward her.

Even if a young lady, no matter how many sheets to the wind, rips off her clothes and launches into a racy pole dance at a drunken rager, enlightened people will agree that in doing so she is in no way whatsoever “encouraging” indecent advances by any of the onlooking frat boys. Period. End of story. If bad things happen, and you were to sink so low as to dare insinuate that her behavior, although not having outright provoked them, may not exactly have been conducive to preventing those bad things from happening, expect to be put on blast to no end for your utterly disgraceful victim-blaming.

Discussing a recent uptick in male-on-female sex attacks in my native country, Austria, a local media outlet reports that the police have pledged to react to the problem “by increasing the use of video surveillance technology, and also to offer more advice to women and girls about keeping themselves safe.”

Offering such safety advice to women is inherently problematic, for, by definition, nothing a woman says or does, nor how she presents herself, must ever be regarded as a potential contributing factor to a man’s approaching her in an untoward manner against her will, as this could be construed as reducing the culpability of the perpetrator by transferring some of the responsibility onto his victim. So if a man feels inspired to transgress, it is invariably his own devious delusion, not some signal actually emitted by the woman, that constitutes the sole source of his inspiration.

So far so good.

But then how come this very principle, which basically says that there’s no such thing as sending signals that may precipitate brutish behavior in aggressive impulse-control-challenged individuals, doesn’t appear to hold in other areas as well?

After a bunch of violent protesters lead to the cancellation of a Donald Trump campaign rally in Chicago last Friday, the media, as well as his political opponents, are falling over one another speculating not whether but to what degree Trump’s own rhetoric has created a climate that conduces to intemperate outbursts among his crowds.

“After months spent goading protesters and appearing to encourage violence, Trump has seen his raucous rallies devolve over the past two weeks into events at which chaos is expected,” writes The Associated Press.

Yet if we subscribe to the thesis that the responsibility for wrongdoing rests solely with the wrongdoers, how is it acceptable to wonder aloud—indeed, how is it even relevant—whether a particular person “goaded” others and “appeared to encourage” them to regress to barbarism? How can there exist a direct causal linkage between the message a speaker “appears” to be sending and the improprieties that follow?

Either we believe that individuals—through their choice of words, actions, or attitudes—can, passively or actively, inadvertently or otherwise, precipitate a lowering of inhibition thresholds in others; or we stipulate that this is impossible and that, therefore, uncivilized behavior, whatever its nature, is by definition 100% self-induced, i.e., neither caused nor triggered externally.

We can’t have it both ways depending on whether we happen to despise or sympathize with and regard as belonging to a protected class the person whose signals certain numskulls have read, or might read, as a bright green light to liberate their inner Neanderthals, be that person a woman walking around in what some—especially other women of catty disposition—might call, pardon my Frenglish, a “fuck me” outfit, or a political candidate making statements that could be taken as either playful figures of speech or literal incitements to physical aggression.

“If you play with matches, you’re going to start a fire you can’t control,” Hillary Clinton weighed in on the Trump riots.

Of course, even the tiniest match or spark can start a humongous conflagration ultimately indistinguishable in its destructive power from one set off by a massive blowtorch.

In its figurative sense, however, what is and what isn’t a match lies entirely in the eye of the combustible matter. Different idiots will catch fire and spin out of control in response to wildly different stimuli, be it the sight of a skimpily clad female in her cups wandering around alone, or a would-be politician with a funny hairdo that recklessly jabbers about punching people in the face.

Based on what are we to determine under what circumstances and to what extent, if ever, a given stimulus bears complicity in the actions of a given idiot?

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