Friday, December 03, 2010

WikiLeaks founder & consent (by Suzie)

What Julian Assange has done raises questions about what should be kept confidential and how our leaders behave. I’m not talking about WikiLeaks' dump of diplomatic cables; I want to examine the accusations of rape and other sexual misconduct against its founder, who faces arrest and extradition.

The champion of transparency in state affairs says what happened between him and two women in Sweden is a private matter, and he won't return to face his accusers. But sex crimes are crimes against the state. Assange may be innocent, but he has a responsibility to answer to prosecutors.

The attitude and behavior toward women by men in power is not a side issue, not merely a distraction, to the importance of their work. It informs their work. It helps explain why some male leftists hate government power, while ignoring the power that men in and outside of government hold over women.

Assange and his organization remain secretive so that they can carry out their work – like agents of the state. He promotes democracy, but he decides what's good for the public, with no accountability to the rest of us. I'm sure WikiLeaks has done some good, but I don't know enough to debate the current leaks. Nor is this post the place to do so. This post is about male hypocrisy and sex crimes.

Assange has said, or insinuated, that the sexual accusations are dirty tricks orchestrated by the Pentagon or that the women lied for revenge after finding out he had had sex with both of them. It’s no wonder that his supporters have been quick to pillory the women. They have speculated on the identity of “Woman B” online while leaking the name, phone number and email of “Woman A.” The former has been described as a nutty slut. The latter, a radical feminist, has been painted as a scorned woman, an anti-sex man-hater. But the guys can't use their usual descriptors of such a woman because "A" is a young, beautiful blonde.

Pity any woman who takes on a hero of computer hackers.

Meanwhile, Vanity Fair's Kate Reardon has made fun of Assange's looks, with the commenters all saying how awful she is. The media often dissects the appearance and style of prominent women, and then hordes of men comment on whether they’d hit that or not.

Many male leftists have rallied to his defense. Violet Socks, the Reclusive Leftist, points out the slant in a column by Glenn Greenwald, who thinks highly of WikiLeaks. He wrote:
I genuinely have no opinion of the validity of those allegations, but what I do know -- as John Cole notes -- is this: as soon as Scott Ritter began telling the truth about Iraqi WMDs, he was publicly smeared with allegations of sexual improprieties. As soon as Eliot Spitzer began posing a real threat to Wall Street criminals, a massive and strange federal investigation was launched over nothing more than routine acts of consensual adult prostitution, ending his career (and the threat he posed to oligarchs). And now, the day after Julian Assange is responsible for one of the largest leaks in history, an arrest warrant issues that sharply curtails his movement and makes his detention highly likely. It's unreasonable to view that pattern as evidence that the allegations are part of some conspiracy -- I genuinely do not believe or disbelieve that -- but, particularly in light of that pattern, it's most definitely unreasonable to assume that he's guilty of anything without having those allegations tested and then proven in court.
How odd that Greenwald has no opinion on whether or not his hero committed rape. It's as if crimes against women were irrelevant, except when they get in the way of bringing down the National Security State. (Reminds me of guys who brush aside sex allegations against sports figures, bemoaning the timing before the Big Game.)

Like Greenwald, I don't know if Assange is guilty or not, and I'm all for the allegations going to court, but Assange promises to fight extradition. Ritter has been accused of, but not prosecuted for, attempting to have sex with minors. He faces trial on a charge that he masturbated in front of a police decoy he thought was 15. Damn, the National Security State keeps getting in the way of his Internet hookups. Prostitution is illegal, and Spitzer -- who had fought prostitution rings and human trafficking -- was astonishingly hypocritical.

Re: the timing. Maybe men who are all puffed up with their importance, who think the law no longer applies to them, become more reckless in their treatment of women and girls.

Assange says the sex was consensual. But it’s possible that his definition of consent differs from that of the women. Woman A reported that she wanted him to use a condom and that he tore it intentionally. According to a source, woman B also wanted him to use a condom, but one morning he didn't.

Both support, or supported, his work. They say they never felt he was a threat. It’s quite possible that they didn’t feel violated until they met and compared stories. Perhaps then they thought he had used his power, as their hero, to have sex with them, not telling one about the other, using them for free transportation and lodging and then treating them like something he scraped off his shoe.

I’d say he sounds like a narcissist except the DSM just abolished that label.

In cases of acquaintance rape in which victims initially consent, women may not consider what happened rape, at least at first, because culture has taught them that once they say yes, they’re fair game. They may blame themselves for what happened. Some will want to see the man again because they want to convince themselves that what happened was some sort of accident, and that the man really does care for them.

Whatever the motives of the women who reported him, if the first woman made clear to him that she did not want unprotected sex, and Assange continued, knowing the condom was broken, then he might very well be prosecuted under Swedish laws. If the second woman told him that she didn’t want unprotected sex, but he had unprotected sex with her against her will or while she was sleeping, that seems to meet the definition of rape in Sweden, which requires informed consent.

I don't expect the state to win these cases, however, because it will be his word against theirs, and the media already has trashed them. In 2008, Amnesty International criticized Sweden for "an abysmally low conviction rate for rape cases."

It would take a lot of courage for any other woman to step forward now, considering how the Swedish women have been dragged through the mud. But it is possible that he has abused other women. His estranged son has written: “That man does have a way of making a lot of female enemies." ETA: He says he was speaking tongue-in-cheek in private.

It would be great if someone leaked emails and other communication that documented Assange's attitudes toward women.