Bubbles of Violence
Now we have to admit that there are bubbles of violence that occur within our timeline where the violence is abnormally high for a short period and then tapers off- Pinker notes that the 60’s was one of such periods. I would argue that we appear to be in one now for two reasons.
The first refers to the rise in Nationalistic tendencies.
According to the FBI, hate crimes (which were low during Pinker’s assessment) have risen since 2017 and predominantly targeted Black males, Jews, and Gay Males among the categories of Race/ethnicity, Religion, and Sexuality respectively. These appear to me to occur alongside an increasingly white nationalist movement within the United States that may or may not be a result of the current political climate.
This is not a major bump- but an isolated one. The FBI states that since 2014 crime rates have dropped by at least 6% in the following: Murder, Robbery, Property Crime, Burglary, Larceny, and Arson. Mass shootings, being an abnormal factor, appear not to affect the percentage or are not covered by the data.
The second reason refers to the apparent rise in sexual harassment or rape.
Why is it that rape and sexual assault seems to be increasing globally? In our world today we are bombarded with a constant stream of rape/sexual harassment related media. From the #metoo movement to the public outing of powerful males who took advantage in a systematic rape of multiple women and children. Why does it seem like we are living in a world increasingly dangerous for the sexual well-being of our children and daughters?
The answer to this is simple, forty years ago rape did not mean what it does today. In the past, Pinker argues, a husband in most US states could not by law rape his own wife- a thousand years ago the bodies of women were counted not only as a potential slave population but as incentive for soldiers to attack a city. Pinker says that back then a body did not appear to be thought of as belonging to anyone but the state government, and so it’s easy to understand how sexual gratification used to be a male right both in the US and in war.
This definition trend has continued even further in the modern US legal system. The FBI changed their definition of Rape in 2013 to remove the term “forcible” and include “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” This has undeniably changed the data scores. Rape under this new definition has increased 1.1% in the US since 2014.
But that number is significant, It shows that even under this new definition of rape, there is only a 1.1% increase. That 1.1% is surely felt in our communities and our homes- but is minor enough to say that there is still a downward trend.
These new definitions have also shed light on the sexual misconduct of men in the past. With victims feeling more empowered by the anti-violence rhetoric, men can be held accountable under modern definitions for actions committed when they were somewhat more normal. Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, Thomas Jefferson, Michael Jackson- to name just a few- are examples of such men. Each of these men have been accused, convicted, or even denounced for the actions they committed.
There are those that argue that this is a bad time to be a male- I disagree. For the first time in human history, it seems, men are held accountable for taking the possession of another person’s body and objectifying it without that person’s consent.
This only shows a growing trend of inclusiveness in human society. People are now fully coming to realize that women are people too- with thoughts and feelings that are actually relevant when it comes to sexual and social gratification.