On the Basis of Sex

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As I noted last week, after the torture-murder of a gay student, the FBI was tasked with collecting hate crime statistics. Their reports began to appear in 1996, at which time the categories included were race, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation. In 1997, they added disabilities. Sex and gender identity were not added until 2013. This week I want to talk about hate crimes based on sex. I can’t help but think the FBI numbers are almost laughably unreliable:

                                                2013    2014    2015    2016    2017

  Anti Male                                      5                    10          7          7        22

  Anti Female                                13       23        16        24        24

These are annual statistics for the entire country. How do the police decide what crimes fit into these categories? If, for example, a white man beats a black man and issues a stream of racial slurs, the attack would likely be labeled as hate-based. But what if a man attacks a woman and calls her a bitch or a cunt? The man might get charged with assault, but not with a hate crime.

Women have been pointing out for decades that rape isn’t about sex; it’s about power and domination. When a man rapes, when he grabs a woman by the genitals (I’m not just looking at the stranger in a dark alley, but at that orange-haired idiot in the White House, and at every molester in a crowded bus or subway car), he is saying I have power over your body, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me. And rape is the most underreported of crimes, because women are blamed and shamed for it.

The major exception in the U.S., of course, has been when a black man is accused of raping a white woman. Or even flirting with her—I’m old enough to remember the Emmett Till case. Black men have to be terrorized into submission, into respecting the white man’s property rights over his women. (And of course, a white man is usually free to rape black women without consequence.)

Hate crimes are crimes of terrorism. As we’re so often reminded, not all men are rapists. But not all men have to rape in order for all women to be terrorized into staying home after dark, or avoiding being alone without some other man present as protector. In certain countries (Saudi Arabia, for example), a woman can’t leave the house without a man’s permission. Here in the United States, we don’t need a law to keep women afraid. A steady onslaught of male violence works even better. If every rape and assault against a woman was properly classified, instead of an absurdly low 24, the numbers would likely run into the millions. Every year.

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