Rape denialism and gay-bashing denialism


Pattrick Blackburn

Pattrick Blackburn (taken from CBC, Courtesy Pattrick Blackburn)

Pattrick Blackburn from St John’s NL was brutally attacked a week ago today. He was called a “faggot,” and then he was physically beaten and nearly died as a result. Shortly after this happened, a whole lot of people who weren’t even there informed him over the Internet that he probably misunderstood the attackers. They might not have been attacking him out of hatred for gays. After all, just because he was beaten nearly to death by someone calling him a “faggot,” doesn’t mean that he was being beaten to death for being a faggot, right?

Violence inspired by hatred for gays does happen, even in Canada, even in the year 2013

Let’s start by establishing that this is a Thing That Happens. For example, just this week, my boyfriend and I had a full bottle of water thrown at us from a moving vehicle. Why? Because we were holding each other’s hands in public. And in the same walk, a few seconds later, a car drove by and the passenger yelled “gay!” at us in a manner that was somewhere between sneering and threatening.

We probably get an average of 2 negative or threatening responses per week, just by holding hands on the way to the gym. It is worth noting that we live about 400 m away from our gym. It’s not a long walk, and we only go 4 times a week. This means that just by walking down the street and holding the hand of my boyfriend, my safety is threatened.

Hence, I am inclined to believe that Pattrick was attacked in exactly the way that he described, and that it was motivated by hatred for gays. This sort of crime is invisible, but it happens, and it happens more than we want to think about. The sort of response that Pattrick has received is exactly why we never hear about it.

So let’s forget any patronising nonsense about how this sort of thing “doesn’t happen.” I haven’t had anyone try to kill me, like Pattrick has, but  I still don’t always feel safe when I’m in public with my boyfriend, and it is perfectly rational for me to feel that way.

Denialism and victim-blaming

The really scary part about this whole thing is how much this parallels rape denialism, which is also unspeakably disgusting and deserves more attention than it normally gets. It’s not a perfect analogy of course, but it’s pretty close. See Table 1.

We should all be condemning this attack on no uncertain terms, but the first response of so many people I’ve talked to is something more like, “We can’t really say whether the attacker was motivated by hatred for gays or not. We should really give the attacker the benefit of the doubt.”

What is insulting and de-humanising about that is the fact that the attacker hasn’t even been identified or accused, let alone arrested, and the biggest concern that so many have is to be sure that no one thinks that he is a homophobe.

By telling Pattrick that this did not happen to him or that the attack didn’t happen because he’s gay, we’re blaming the victim. In the same way that rape denialists say, “You weren’t raped. You probably sent the wrong signal or faked the whole thing,” gay-bashing denialists say, “It wasn’t a hate-crime. You must have provoked it some other way or just faked the whole thing.” By doing this, we are accusing the victim and putting the victim on trial, when we should be rushing to their defence.

I don’t have the vocabulary to describe how offensive this is.

But what if the attacker seriously wasn’t motivated by hatred for gays?

Let’s recap:

  • A gay man was attacked and nearly killed.
  • The attacker called him a “faggot” while doing so.

The fact that the attacker is using that particular language while bludgeoning his victim makes the attack into something racial or sexist, even if hatred for the race or sex of the victim isn’t “the main reason.”

Update (2013 Nov 26): Ted Falk, the Conservative MP who won the by-election in Provencher, Manitoba has graciously provided another example of gay-bashing denialism, when he famously claimed that a 17-year-old teenager had staged his own bullying.

Table 1: Similarities and differences between rape denialism and gay-bashing denialism

Rape denialism Gay-bashing denialism
Victims Women* Faggots*
Common triggers for violence
  • Manner of dress
  • Use of make-up / anything overtly feminine
  • “Slutty” behaviour
  • Flirting with a man
  • Manner of dress
  • Use of make-up / anything overtly feminine
  • “Lewd” behaviour
  • Flirting with a man
Common justification Done as a corrective—”she was asking for it” Done as a punishment—”that will fix him”
How the victim is blamed “You weren’t raped. You probably sent the wrong signal or just faked the whole thing.” “It wasn’t a hate-crime. You must have provoked it some other way or just faked the whole thing.”
Focus of concern “Don’t ruin the lives of promising young men.” “Don’t suggest that straight people might be homophobic.”
Category of privilege that this culture protects Men* Straight people*
Effect on victim Victim blamed → victims stop speaking out → “This never happens; what are you talking about?” Victim blamed → victims stop speaking out → “This never happens; what are you talking about?”

* Not exclusively


    title = {Rape denialism and gay-bashing denialism},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2013-08-22,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/08/22/rape-denialism-and-gay-bashing-denialism/}


Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Rape denialism and gay-bashing denialism" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 22 Aug 2013. Web. 22 Mar 2019. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/08/22/rape-denialism-and-gay-bashing-denialism/>


Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2013, Aug 22). Rape denialism and gay-bashing denialism [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/08/22/rape-denialism-and-gay-bashing-denialism/

2 responses to “Rape denialism and gay-bashing denialism”

  1. Alan says:

    “See Table 1.”
    This is why I like you so much.

  2. […] a country where people who live outside the sexual / gender mainstream are regularly the object of abuse ranging from actual physical life-threatening violence to institutional and systemic discrimin…. Straight people often don’t realise that this still happens (“But we have gay marriage […]

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