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Why I Cancelled my Reddit Q&A

Snoopy

SERIOUS TRIGGER WARNING FOR RAPE

One of the events I had lined up for the launch of my new book was a Q&A with Reddit’s fantasy community. I did an “Ask Me Anything” session with them earlier this year and had a great time, so I was looking forward to another round. And then Twitter pointed me to an active Reddit discussion which starts with, “Reddit’s had a few threads about sexual assault victims, but are there any redditors from the other side of the story? What were your motivations? Do you regret it?”

Numerous rapists jumped in to tell their stories. I’m not going to link to them.

The comments and reactions were mixed. Some people were horrified. Others tried to reassure the rapists, to minimize what they had done, or to praise people’s courage in anonymously talking about how they committed rape. There’s plenty of victim blaming, and comments from the “Women lie about rape to attack men!!!” contingent.

Earlier today I emailed the person who was coordinating my Reddit event to tell him I will not be doing it unless that thread is removed. Given the nature of Reddit as an open, relatively unmoderated community, I don’t expect this to happen.

An announcement was already posted that I would be giving away a copy of Libriomancer on Reddit. I don’t think it’s fair to back out of that, so I’m planning to post an additional giveaway on my site and ask my contact to update that announcement with a link to the giveaway. (He has been incredibly cool and supportive of my decision, and agrees that the rape posts are offensive and should be dealt with by the moderators.)

There are aspects of this decision I need to talk about. A Jezebel post called Rapists Explain Themselves on Reddit and We Should Listen talks about the way this thread provides insight into the minds of rapists, and how it’s important to have this conversation in unprotected spaces like Reddit:

“Nothing will change if we discuss rape culture in a vacuum. Taking the discussion beyond that vacuum, however, means opening it up to a wider audience that isn’t necessarily sympathetic. Reddit may not be the best place for that, but it’s certainly a start — and that’s important. It’s in these less-protected, less-sacred spaces where the conversation is needed the most.”

Others have argued that it’s important to understand evil, to see where it comes from and recognize that these are seemingly-normal people who’ve committed horrible acts. One person said that reading the posts helped her to realize that there are men deliberately targeting women, and that her rape wasn’t an accident or a “misunderstanding,” but a deliberate choice by the rapist. In other words, it helped her see that it wasn’t her fault.

That really stuck with me. But for me personally, the harm far outweighs the good.

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.

Some of my problems with the Reddit discussion are as follows.

-Who are these people? My guess is that most of these stories are true, but I have no way of knowing who is telling the truth and who is trolling for attention. In the overall scheme of things though, this is a minor complaint.

-No accountability or responsibility. In none of the stories I read were the rapists held accountable for their actions. Nor did they take responsibility. The pattern tended to be, “Here’s the story of how I raped this girl, and here are all of my excuses. I got away with it, but I feel really bad now of course, so give me cookies!”

-Some of the posts are essentially How-To guides for rapists. Rape is not an accident. It’s not a misunderstanding. Predators practice their technique. They learn how best to target and overpower their victims. And now we have a thread from experienced rapists sharing their successful techniques.

-Rape is a crime of sex and power. I read some of these stories, and I see rapists getting off on the chance to relive their crime. The sexual aspect comes from the graphic descriptions of what they did, and the power comes from the reactions of the commenters. The dynamic I’m seeing here is one that allows a number of rapists to recapture the rush of their crimes.

-The Hurt Outweighs the Good. I won’t deny that some people have taken positive things from all this, but I believe the harm far outweighs that good.

#

I know Reddit is not a single unified group, any more than Twitter or LiveJournal or Facebook. My guess is that very few members of the Reddit Fantasy group have any idea what’s happening in the rapist thread, and that many or most of them would be horrified. I feel like I’m punishing innocent people for actions they had nothing to do with, and I don’t like that.

I’m also a big believer in freedom of speech. These people have the right to tell their stories. But that right to speech doesn’t obligate one of the largest sites on the Internet to provide a platform for their speech. Reddit, as I understand it, prides itself on a relative lack of moderation and an “anything goes” approach. To quote one member, “It allows any voice to be heard no matter how uneducated, insensitive or outright wrong.”

I don’t think people should be silenced for lack of education, for tone, or for having a different opinion than me. And I’m not going to tell Reddit how to run their sites or communities. Nor am I going to try to say everyone who chooses to stay with Reddit is a bad person.

But I’ve made the choice to walk away, both for myself, and for the hope that it sends a message to those with the ability to make a change at Reddit.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Comments

( 105 comments — Leave a comment )
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badgermirlacca
Jul. 27th, 2012 11:48 pm (UTC)
*applause*
museclio
Jul. 27th, 2012 11:51 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you're taking a principled stand.
jimhines
Jul. 27th, 2012 11:53 pm (UTC)
This was pretty much the only choice that would allow me to sleep tonight.
(no subject) - museclio - Jul. 27th, 2012 11:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Jul. 27th, 2012 11:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
deborahblakehps
Jul. 28th, 2012 12:06 am (UTC)
Gah. "Their side"???? Their side is that they are rapists. They perpetuated a violent crime against someone weaker or more vulnerable. They don't have a side.

I admire you more every day.

That is all.

mtlawson
Jul. 28th, 2012 12:45 am (UTC)
Makes me wonder if they let serial murderers on to tell their side too.
(no subject) - harper_knight - Jul. 28th, 2012 10:17 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - deborahblakehps - Jul. 28th, 2012 11:52 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - inaurolillium - Jul. 28th, 2012 12:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - harper_knight - Jul. 28th, 2012 12:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Jul. 28th, 2012 01:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - compost75 - Jul. 28th, 2012 07:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - koshkabegemot - Jul. 29th, 2012 12:05 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Jul. 29th, 2012 02:59 am (UTC) - Expand
northernwalker
Jul. 28th, 2012 12:17 am (UTC)
I tried to read that thread just now and had to stop because I was feeling so sick. I agree with all the points you mention above. I also wish I had a puppy to cuddle so I'd stop shaking.
jimhines
Jul. 28th, 2012 12:23 am (UTC)
I would loan you one of ours if I could. Or any of the cats, for that matter. (Though the trick with the cats is getting them to *stop* cuddling.)

It's totally okay to walk away from the internet, or to do whatever else you need to do to take care of yourself.
martianmooncrab
Jul. 28th, 2012 12:23 am (UTC)
I applaud your honesty and your decision.
barb27
Jul. 28th, 2012 12:37 am (UTC)
Why I cancelled my Reddit Q&A
Good call. I'm not saying you'll change the world, but a few subscribers to a "lad site" like Reddit might be curious about the rape culture factors which prompted your action. Also, if it's any comfort, those entering your giveaway may be more enlightened than most of the Reddit crowd
nounsandverbs
Jul. 28th, 2012 12:40 am (UTC)
For me it's the "how-to" aspect that's incredibly destructive here. I'm in the news business, and where I work, we don't ever reveal the names of the victims of sex crimes unless they've specifically chosen to come forward -- to shield them. Hell, when the cops advise us that a sex crime has been committed, they don't even tell us where it happened, so we can't unwittingly put a picture of the victim's address on TV.

And then comes a thread like this. As a comedian once said: "Yeah, let's give the pyromaniac the Zippo. Great idea."

Thanks for taking a principled stand on this. We need more people to do that.
thedragonweaver
Jul. 28th, 2012 01:37 am (UTC)
I concur. Principled and PUBLIC, so that people know that it's not "just because", it's because you find the condoning of this thread repulsive.
mtlawson
Jul. 28th, 2012 12:42 am (UTC)
Reddit sounds exactly like Usenet. Unfortunately.
sister_bluebird
Jul. 28th, 2012 12:44 am (UTC)
An unpleasant example of how rape isn't thought of the same way as other crimes. Threads on "armed robbers: what's your story?" would not get the same treatment.
jimhines
Jul. 28th, 2012 12:46 am (UTC)
That's a great point.
(no subject) - adrian_turtle - Jul. 28th, 2012 01:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
songfire3
Jul. 28th, 2012 12:46 am (UTC)
Thank you! <3
cathschaffstump
Jul. 28th, 2012 12:57 am (UTC)
Jaysus! I leave the country for 10 days, and this happens.

I support your decisions to walk away and your intellectual analysis of the situation, Jim. But you don't have to watch this go down.

I won't be wandering over that way myself.

Catherine
jimhines
Jul. 28th, 2012 01:01 am (UTC)
The internet was vomiting fail all over the place today. I could do a week's worth of ranting based on the crap I read today. Sigh.

But no, having written this post, I don't intend to go back to the discussion over there.
serialbabbler
Jul. 28th, 2012 01:03 am (UTC)
I think you make excellent points.

The fact that we have no way to verify the stories makes it a poor source for even informal research. (There are a fair few people on the internet who lie about really bizarre things. It would not surprise me at all if some of them ended up cluttering a thread like that with complete fabrications. Which might give you some interesting insights into the minds of pathological liars, but only if you could figure out which ones were which.)

And since it isn't a reliable source for research, that pretty much leaves the how-to aspect (even if would-be rapists probably shouldn't rely on it as a good source either, that's still a scary thought) and the rush for rapists in the forefront.
cakemage
Jul. 28th, 2012 01:38 am (UTC)
*standing ovation* For what it's worth, I think you absolutely did the right thing.
deborahjross
Jul. 28th, 2012 01:41 am (UTC)
Fascinating juxtaposition of your courageous decision here and the Readercon decision to ban a harasser for only two years.
jimhines
Jul. 28th, 2012 01:21 pm (UTC)
I was talking about the Readercon decision in a few places yesterday as well. I swear, it felt like the internet was just determined to piss me off yesterday :-P
dejadrew
Jul. 28th, 2012 01:44 am (UTC)
I'm... not going over there to check, but have any of them said anything incriminating enough to notify the police over? It would be nice if, you know, open public confession to a CRIME could be put towards a conviction...
jimhines
Jul. 28th, 2012 01:50 am (UTC)
They're posting anonymously.
apricot_tree
Jul. 28th, 2012 01:44 am (UTC)
I applaud your stand. We have free speech. That doesn't mean you have to hang out with bad things in parts of the internet you don't approve of. And you're a braver person than I that you went in to read it before deciding. *shudder* I feel icky just hearing about it.
filkertom
Jul. 28th, 2012 01:51 am (UTC)
Three cheers and a tiger for you!

The rapist's side of the story doesn't honestly interest me much. I don't need or want to hear the details. Nor do I care about the excuses. I care that someone was hurt, and the one who did the hurting in such a vile and violent manner really doesn't deserve the chance to explain himself until he's well into the legal system trying to put him away.

Enabling these guys to turn a thread about one of your books into an online All Rape Edition of Penthouse Forum ("I never thought anything like this would happen to me, but...") would be just awful, and much applause and respect to you for proactively nipping it in the bud.
jimhines
Jul. 28th, 2012 01:53 am (UTC)
I honestly can't imagine my own thread getting derailed in that fashion. In part, I think that goes to the "separate fiefdoms" thing in Reddit. But I'm still not personally okay with participating over there.
difrancis
Jul. 28th, 2012 03:08 am (UTC)
Oh holy mother of fuck. I'm appalled. I disagree that the rapists' side needs to be discussed or the why of it. Does why matter? It's evil. Giving it room for discussion legitimizes it on some level--like it's acceptable because it people are discussing it out of the dark.

A_Skye
Jul. 28th, 2012 03:29 am (UTC)
Some thoughts
Despite being a regular redditor, I haven't read the thread in question and don't plan to. I can and have read quite a bit on the topic of rape, but I fear this one would be way too trigger heavy for me. For that reason, I'm not going to comment on the content, which I can only speculate on or take your word for.

But one thing I am very sure of: we cannot have real, meaningful, open conversations about rape, about its victims or perpetrators, in the form of essays or "research". These rapists are not writing essays. They are not participating in research surveys, at least not honestly. Something about the openness of reddit has brought them out of the woodwork. And maybe more important than their stories is the thoughtful reactions of readers (whether we agree with their conclusions or not) which sure as heck wouldn't have happened with any obscure journal article.

Considering I don't want to read it myself, maybe this is not the best way to go about this discussion. Then again, is there an alternative?

Edited at 2012-07-28 03:29 am (UTC)
dargai
Jul. 28th, 2012 05:41 am (UTC)
Re: Some thoughts
You're far more eloquent than I am here so I'm just going to leverage off what you said. I would be sorry to see the space for threads like this vanish on Reddit because they are oddly honest and insightful. I read those threads and then I read the threads attacking victim shaming and rape apologists. I find value in the cycle.
Re: Some thoughts - inaurolillium - Jul. 28th, 2012 06:27 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Some thoughts - dargai - Jul. 28th, 2012 06:51 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Some thoughts - inaurolillium - Jul. 28th, 2012 07:05 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Some thoughts - dargai - Jul. 28th, 2012 07:22 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Some thoughts - inaurolillium - Jul. 28th, 2012 07:35 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Some thoughts - dargai - Jul. 28th, 2012 07:44 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Some thoughts - inaurolillium - Jul. 28th, 2012 07:51 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Some thoughts - dargai - Jul. 28th, 2012 08:29 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Some thoughts - inaurolillium - Jul. 28th, 2012 08:34 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Some thoughts - novin_ha - Jul. 28th, 2012 07:42 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Some thoughts - kehrli - Jul. 28th, 2012 09:49 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Some thoughts - jimhines - Jul. 28th, 2012 01:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Some thoughts - A_Skye - Jul. 28th, 2012 09:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Some thoughts - jimhines - Jul. 29th, 2012 03:12 am (UTC) - Expand
cailleuch
Jul. 28th, 2012 03:41 am (UTC)
Great call!

The other, I don't understand. Sigh.
cissa
Jul. 28th, 2012 04:15 am (UTC)
Thank you for making that call and decision. Sometimes one just has to walk away from Omelas.
alecaustin
Jul. 28th, 2012 04:57 am (UTC)
I hope your decision helps make a difference here.
riotlounge
Jul. 28th, 2012 05:54 am (UTC)
The main post that was linked around had the rapist in question saying he'd changed, yet the way he lovingly described his techniques, the sexist slurs he used...there was no change there.

Even it wasn't real (which I doubt), it was still true. All these rape stories are true in that they can and do happen to someone. They aren't fantastical and pulled out of the air.

The fact that people want to know about stuff from a rapist's point of view anonymously means they want the spectacle of predatory behaviour, some confirmation that they are either a) TOTALLY different from what "real rapists" are b) they want confirmation they are in fact normal for these things they think or do.

Good on you for taking a stand on this. If I was a celeb, I wouldn't want my name associated with that site either.
saya22
Jul. 28th, 2012 07:17 am (UTC)
Oh god. That's...that's appalling. Rapist's point of view?? WTF??

Good on you for taking a stand, Jim. It counts.
dulcimeoww
Jul. 28th, 2012 07:51 am (UTC)
Walking away is a hard thing to do, and I don't fault you for choosing to do that. I do question your choice to make that walking away conditional, though. That's the part where you're effectively issuing an ultimatum: break their policies and end this thing you feel is wrong or else you walk. I think you would be more genuinely respectful of the Reddit community and their policy of open discussion as well as free speech in general if you had simply opted out of participating in an environment where rapists are not held accountable, rather than trying to silence the discussion or at least force it into someone else's back yard by holding something completely unrelated hostage. You make a lot of good points about that discussion, don't get me wrong, but the attempt to enforce them for others is, I think, less than admirable.
inaurolillium
Jul. 28th, 2012 09:21 am (UTC)
Stating a boundary (I cannot take part in a community where this is permitted; if the community ceases to permit it, I may be able to take part after all) is not making an ultimatum. It isn't as if he expects them to delete the thread in response to him not wanting to do an AMA.

And FFS, it's not about "free speech," which refers to a legal right which may not be infringed upon by the government, cuz hey, look, no government involvement.
(no subject) - jimhines - Jul. 28th, 2012 01:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dulcimeoww - Jul. 29th, 2012 05:25 am (UTC) - Expand
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