Jim Hines, author of a whole bunch of fantasy novels I have never read, recently decided against participating in an “ask me anything” session on Reddit, an online community known as much for narwhals and bacon as misogyny, rape apologia, and men’s rights activism. Oh, and Anderson Cooper. And memes. Lots and lots of memes.
I was initially distraught at the idea that an author, even one I am personally unfamiliar with, would deprive the generally good-natured Reddit community of an opportunity to ask what sort of operating system Mr. Hines uses, but after reading his explanation, I side with Mr. Hines.
I read the Reddit thread in question last week, before various blogs (like Shakesville — a blog you should be reading) picked up the story, and couldn’t bring myself to write my thoughts on the subject simply because they were so complicated. Mr. Hines writes very clearly what I liked and did not like about the thread in question and why he cannot participate in his scheduled AMA.
From his post:
“It is important that we understand why people rape. But there are other ways to find that insight. Books, essays, research, and more. I’ve spoken with rapists and batterers, and it did give me a better understanding as to how this crime happens. But the circumstances of those conversations were very different. They were controlled, with people who had been convicted and held accountable for their actions. People who, as far as I could tell, appeared to genuinely regret what they had done. In situations where excuses were not tolerated.”
And from Shakesville: “If one in twenty guys (or more) is a real and true rapist, and you have any amount of social activity with other guys like yourself, then it is almost a statistical certainty that one time hanging out with friends and their friends, playing Halo with a bunch of guys online, in a WoW guild, in a pick-up game of basketball, at a bar, or elsewhere, you were talking to a rapist. Not your fault. You can’t tell a rapist apart any better than anyone else can. It’s not like they announce themselves.
…It’s very likely that in some of these interactions with these guys … someone told a rape joke. …[Y]ou laughed.
Or maybe you didn’t laugh. …[M]aybe you just didn’t say anything at all.
And, decent guy who would never condone rape, who would step in and stop rape if he saw it, who understands that rape is awful and wrong and bad, when you laughed? When you were silent?
That rapist who was in the group with you, …he felt validated, and he felt he was among his comrades. ”
Is the Reddit thread in question, as Hines suggests, a “how-to guide” for rapists? Possibly. Or is it a way for some rape survivors to gain closure? Definitely a possibility. Could it be, as I felt when I read the thread, a way to gain insight into the minds of criminals? Yes. It could. But the risks far outweigh the benefits.
Someone reading this thread could think rape is okay. Someone could feel he is “among his comrades.” And I applaud Hines for not only walking away, but stating clearly and effectively that he will not participate in this community and this thread is not okay.
But go read it for yourself. And maybe buy one of his books.