Recently it feels like I've been involved in too many discussions about what actually constitutes rape. Long, involved discussions that boil down to the argument that victims are somehow to blame for what happens to them, whether it's based on how they dress, what their behaviour was, if they did or didn't fight back and so on. I hit on a phrase that seemed to stop one friend in his thinking tracks: bullying someone into accepting sex is still rape, in exactly the same way that bullying someone into giving up their lunch money is still theft. Just because the victim accedes to the demand does not mean that the crime was not commited, nor does it make it somehow less, and violence doesn't have to be used, or even implicitly threatened, to make it bullying/rape/theft.
Which got me thinking - how much is bullying used in theist communities? I have no 'real life' experience here, as I've been raised in an atheist family. Where I have experienced it, though, is on websites and online forums when discussing evolution (and therefore creationism, whether I want to or not), abortion, contraception, and various legal and moral issues. I've always been unsettled by the aggression theists have used against their opponents, which has frequently seemed to be over the top. Even people I consider friends, who are not what I'd call hard-core debators, seem to have this pattern of throwing out "facts" like grenades, with a "hah! Gotcha!" attitude and no attempt to listen to, let alone try to understand, what is being said. It's as though having stated their position, there is no onus on them to consider the opposing argument; the content of the argument is irrelevent, the only thing that needs to be fixed on is the defiance of their position.
Going back and looking at those arguments, there does seems to be a prevelent use of bully-like behaviour. The theists don't seem to feel any need to consider, reflect on, learn and understand the contrary argument, nor do they seem to see a need to provide a genuine, reasoned argument of their own; all they seem to feel the need to do is to keep contradicting any claim laid before them. Facts, figures and explanations are irrelevent, and don't even need to be dismissed, they can just be ignored as another line of beligerent "reasoning" or "fact" is thrown out. No discussion into the validity of those facts or how well the reasoning stands up to examination will be entered into; any attempt to engage in discussion is simply bulldozed.
Quite simply, the line seems to be to bully the other into silence, and then to claim the silence as victory.
So now I have to ask myself the question: how do you argue with a bully without yourself becoming a bigger bully? A bully isn't interested in being right, or honest, or in providing an enlightened view. A bully simply wants to control the situation, regardless of what they have to do in order to acheive that. Which means that a rational, reasoned conversation is, by their terms, irrelevent. So how do we engage? How do we make the bully enter into a reasoned conversation instead of a shouting match? How do we make it about discussion, not grandstanding and shouting each other down? My entire life, my response to bullying has been to disengage and walk away. There must be a better response - but I don't (yet) know what it is.