At Salon, Kate Harding explains what Julian Assange is actually being charged with, why the claims that his accusers have CIA ties are pretty damn flimsy, and wraps it all up with a nice reminder that we can support what Wikileaks does and question the timing and handling of these rape accusations, all while simultaneously NOT diving off a cliff into victim-blaming, slut-shaming, or any other shameful treatment of two women who—for all we know—really were sexually assaulted.
This is one hell of a post, effectively going right to the heart of what's been bugging me about the reaction to Assange's arrest. And Harding positively nails the landing.
The fact is, we just don't know anything right now. Assange may be a rapist, or he may not. His accuser may be a spy or a liar or the heir to Valerie Solanas, or she might be a sexual assault victim who now also gets to enjoy having her name dragged through the mud, or all of the above. The charges against Assange may be retaliation for Cablegate or (cough) they may not.
Public evidence, as The Times noted, is scarce. So, it's heartening to see that in the absence of same, my fellow liberal bloggers are so eager to abandon any pretense of healthy skepticism and rush to discredit an alleged rape victim based on some tabloid articles and a feverish post by someone who is perhaps not the most trustworthy source. Well done, friends! What a fantastic show of research, critical thinking and, as always, respect for women.
I also highly recommend Feministe's look at what "sex by surprise" really means, and the larger implications of rolling your eyes at it.
I'm not particularly interested in debating What Assange Did or Whether Assange Is A Rapist, and I'd appreciate it if we could steer clear of that in the comments section. Rather, I'm interested in pushing back on the primary media narrative about this case, which is that women lie and exaggerate about rape, and will call even the littlest thing -- a broken condom! -- rape if they're permitted to under a too-liberal feminist legal system. In fact, there are lots of good reasons to support consent-based sexual assault laws, and to recognize that consent goes far beyond "yes you can put that in here now." It's a shame that the shoddy, sensationalist reporting on this case have muddied those waters.
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.