This is propaganda, pure and simple. Designed by the parent of an only child to make herself feel better about her choice by collecting countless posi...moreThis is propaganda, pure and simple. Designed by the parent of an only child to make herself feel better about her choice by collecting countless positive (quantitative) studies to dismiss the negative only-child (qualitative) experiences of Sandler's friends and other interviewees, while debunking supposed stereotypes and replacing them with reasons why everyone should do as the Chinese do: have only one child, and in the process, shaming those that have more. In the end, I feel this is a biased, self-congratulatory piece of questionable value, of which I learned nothing new.
Talking about only children right now is highly relevant. Today, there's a continuing trend of having fewer children and there's a rise of only children in developed countries. This is due to high childcare costs, women deciding to have children later, lower fertility rates, the global recession, and economic pressure on families to have two working parents. This topic is in need of discussion so we can figure out how to handle a changing (decreasing) population and work out the advantages or disadvantages of being an only child in the twenty-first century. Sadly, Sandler neglects the disadvantages.
The too briefly described research Sandler refers to is troublesome as she relies upon large scale studies, one of which had 13,000 participants, leading me to question how much time was spent with each person, how accurate the data is when individual circumstances tend to be overlooked, and whether the conclusions drawn could be trusted. Few quantifiable results are quoted by Sandler, yet over and over again we're told only children are more intelligent, but when it's revealed this status only adds one to three IQ points, that assertion no longer seems quite so certain when the difference is so minimal. Are the other positive differences she quoted also as minimal?
As far as I could tell, none of these overwhelmingly positive studies actually asked the participants how they felt about being an only child, and when the author quoted interviews and asked her only-child friends, unhappy negatives start rearing their ugly heads. Some of the stereotypes Sandler has been aggressively attempting to quash are truisms among them, though she quickly whips out another positive study or two to devalue those cases. Belittling these personal negative experiences and dismissing them with positive research is unforgiveable, no matter how positive her own experiences as an only child, it denotes a lack of respect for others in favour of her own agenda. Sandler neglected to criticise the studies in the same way, which I'd expect if she was evaluating all the research fairly. By taking all of the research into consideration, one could conclude that things like intelligence and self-confidence go up (quantitative studies) while happiness goes down (qualitative interviews).
Yes, not all only children are selfish, lonely, spoilt and maladjusted - but some are, there's no point in denying it. And yes, it's more environmentally friendly to have one, and it's glaringly obvious one child will receive more resources like more money, time, space and attention from their parents than having to share with siblings. And they will benefit from those things, although how and how much they benefit will differ according to individual circumstances. However, other factors such as socialising with and being able to relate to their peers is important because spending too much time with adults can alienate them from their peer group. I'd argue attending school isn't enough, as Sandler suggests it is, proximity and access to other children outside school hours is necessary, too. Activities outside the home and exercise are other factors to consider as I'd postulate that those who do these socialise more with a variety of people, rather than with just their parents.
On and on, Sandler repeatedly preaches her 'only children are more intelligent and prosperous' mantra, and cherry picks famous onlies and cites the 1979 Chinese One-Child policy for their recent economic improvement to back up her claims, which is more than a little reductive, if you ask me. Really, Sandler's subtitle should be, 'Why You Must Have an Only Child, and Why Being One Can Make You Smart and Successful'. However, upon closer inspection those famous people and Chinese case studies all had pushy parents who provided strict educational schedules for their children lasting from the minute they woke up to bedtime, thereby surpassing the norm for the average child whether they had siblings or not. Most Chinese can't afford more than one child anyway, but rather than just a wish for their child to have it better than themselves, I started to wonder if there was an air of competition between parents to make their child successful, or whether it was to improve their retirement as it's tradition to move in with their child and care for their grandchildren when they reach that age. There's also the enormous pressure on that single child to perform and succeed so they're able to provide for both their parents when the time comes. In any case, you could argue privilege gives these children opportunities to prosper because their parents have clearly invested a substantial amount of time and effort, regardless of finances, and are able to reap the rewards.
Full disclosure here, I'm an only child, and one with negative experiences. Sandler would hate me because I don't conform to her views. As one stereotype goes, I was late to walk and talk, but my reading level was years ahead of my peers. Early schooling taught me that being an only set me apart as teachers frequently asked us to talk or write about our siblings and pets - I had neither, and that made me feel like I had and experienced less than everyone else. Despite many children living on my street, they were all a year or more younger though I made the best of it, still experiencing loneliness on the dark, cold, rainy winter days, of which there are many in the UK. Unfortunately, when I was seven we moved 100 miles away to where no children lived near me. Cue more loneliness and a growing preference for the company of older children (usually by several years) and adults. I've never been comfortable with those of a similar age to myself; school was hell - I frequently truanted in my teens, and age 18 onwards my friends have been more than 10 years older than me. I'll also confess that I'm selfish, but only children can hardly claim the monopoly on that trait. And hey, I was spoilt as far as toys, clothes and my mother's attention were concerned. I was lucky.
When I think of others I've known who are onlies, most them also had negative experiences for a variety of reasons, but one thing was very clear: they fit into two types. Some were able to cope or be happy in their own company, and others weren't and would do anything to avoid it. Before reading, I had wondered if being an only child meant there was an increased likelihood of becoming an introvert, which would feed into Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, and because of this I've been comparing the two books. They don't compare. Cain, despite being an introvert, manages to confer balance when discussing her subject matter by acknowledging both positives and negatives of being such, and Sandler as an only child fails in this. Her bias is so pronounced it's impossible to draw parallels when I can't trust her interpretations of her much vaunted sociological studies.
A monumentally bad first impression was made after reading the opening chapter. I should've gone with my instincts and discontinued reading then. That chapter was the most biased, one-sided diatribe against negative stereotypes associated with being an only child, never stopping to consider that there may be some truth to them for some or allow for other aspects that, in tandem with being an only child, could produce those stereotypes. Challenging myself to read on was a mistake, and I've struggled to finish. Currently stuck @ 41%.
Only children may find they know about most of what is discussed but could find parts of it insulting. Everyone else on the other hand, may find One and Only informative and helpful, or offensive and upsetting if they've chosen to have more than one child themselves.
*eARC provided by the publisher in return for an honest review.(less)
"Vulnerability scares us, very deeply. To feel your body being forcibly penetrated by another human being is an experience of such utter, terrifying...more"Vulnerability scares us, very deeply. To feel your body being forcibly penetrated by another human being is an experience of such utter, terrifying vulnerability and helplessness that most people recoil from the thought. To overcome that resistance, to actually identify with the experience and the person who suffers it, is an act of profound empathy, and considerable courage. Most people, frankly, are not up to the challenge; certainly not without a lot of support..." ~ David Lisak
Rape is Rape successfully shines the light on widespread, harmful misconceptions about rape using detailed high profile cases of the likes of Julian Assange and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, emotive real-life victim accounts, and analysing the opinions and rulings of influential people.
Defining rape itself is the first major problem. Many have strict and narrow opinions on its meaning. Just checking the most widely used online dictionaries proves how restrictive, stereotypical and gendered official definitions are. Strangely, Wikipedia has one of the best:
'Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, or below the legal age of consent.'
For more inclusive, realistic and acceptable definitions you have to look at criminal legislation. UK and US law cover different types of rape and the issue of consent.
The spreading of misinformation and the resulting confusion hurts victims because they're less likely to report a rape if they (a) are ignorant of the legal definition of rape and sexual assault, (b) ignorant of how to report it, (c) believe they lack proof, (d) are embarrassed and don't want anyone to know, (e) fear bad treatment by the police, (f) think the accused will be able to retaliate for reporting them, (g) don't see high profile rapists convicted, believing they'll have less chance of justice.
A CDC study concluded more than 1 in 10 American women aged 18+ are raped, 620,000 in the last year. In the UK, 1 in 20 women aged 16+ is raped (1 in 5 including other sexual offences), averaging 85,000 per year for women and 12,000 for men. University campus rape appears the most prevalent type no matter where you live. Disturbingly, one study on marital rape showed 5% of women 'said their partner has forced their children to participate in the rape, and 18% reported their children has witnessed an incident of marital rape at least once.'
"Rape is not about sex at all. This isn't just bad sex ... How could anyone think that? It isn't even sex. Sex is consensual and rape is not. This isn't sex. Is it sex for the rapist? I don't think rapists know sex as sex. This is using sex as a weapon."
Rape is the exertion of power and control to humiliate, possessively take ownership of the victim's body and treating it as less than worthless. 'Society's responses to rape further the rapists' humiliation of victims.'
Rape deniers attack statistics and studies, like that of Mary Koss, for using 'overbroad definitions' for what they perceive as 'bad sex' when those studies follow the legal definition. In effect, they're challenging the law itself. Feminists caught minimising the importance of rape, Raphael posits, are fearful of the reversal of women's liberation, sexual and otherwise, yet by not acknowledging the seriousness of this crime they're not supporting the majority of its victims: women, hurting the very people they wish to empower.
'Denying rape makes society unsafe for women and allows predators to go free.'
Perhaps those that deny and minimise rape should put themselves in a victim's shoes and look to feel the empathy Lisak speaks of in the opening paragraph of my review. After reading the personal accounts of victims' experiences of the rape and the journey afterwards, you can't fail to sympathise and gain some understanding of post-traumatic stress and problems with the institutional processes and practices victims encounter when reporting their attack, and the changes required to prevent further traumatization.
80-90% of victims know their attacker, quashing the notion of the much hyped and stereotyped 'stranger danger'. We strongly believe the people we trust the most aren't monsters and vehemently deny what very well may be the truth. Accepting we're not at fault for not knowing about the accused's behaviour and that being connected to them does not necessarily reflect badly on the type of person you are, are the first steps in working past the disbelief and seeking the facts.
The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women (my review) is referenced several times (which prompted me to pause my reading of Rape Is Rape to read that before continuing), Raphael whole-heartedly agreeing with Valenti's views on this subject. Anyone can be raped, not just women, and not just virgins. Both see the "All men are rapists" line is unnecessarily inflammatory, but it's possible the rapists believe this. Everyone has the potential to rape, that doesn't make everyone a rapist. Using men's testosterone-infused, cliched high sex drives as an excuse for rape belittles men and assumes they possess no self-control and don't know right from wrong.
In the same breath as alleviating the accused (i.e. men) of guilt, the victims (i.e. women) are blamed, and yet 'forgetting to set the antiburglary alarm or getting robbed despite "neighborhood watch" does not exculpate the thieves.' If we're not criticising them for their supposedly risky behaviour ('she was asking for it' responses for: the way the victim was dressed, being drunk, walking home alone at night, etc. part of the victim blamer's philosophy), we're subjecting them to polygraphs (unreliable as stress increases the chances of failing), scrutinise their sexual histories (slut shaming), carry out (sometimes gratuitous) rape exams with rape kits that are never analysed despite taking four hours in which one victim describes it as follows:
"After undressing in front of strangers, I was poked, prodded, scraped, swabbed, combed and photographed. I wouldn't wish it one anyone."
Then having those colour photos of their genitals passed around jurors and shown on television screens to the entire court. A judge threatening an amnesiac rape victim with jail for contempt of court for failing to agree to watch the footage of her own rape so she could be questioned about it, is evidence of harrassment and an attempt to humiliate the victim. 'That members of the community would blame an eleven-year-old child for her own rape shows the extent to which victim blaming has become accepted in our culture.' I completely understand why more don't come forward or decide to recant their statements when they're seemingly punished for being violated by a rapist.
If victims aren't blamed then their met with indifference or they're accused of lying, vindictively making false rape claims to punish a man. Women have been demonsied as seducers and liars since Eve was perceived to have corrupted Adam.
The media often publish more column inches and attribute more importance to false rape claims, sowing the seeds of doubt in the minds of readers when presented with accusations, driving 'out compassion for real victims.' The media also tend to use euphemisms for rape rather than calling a spade a spade, deliberately confusing the issue, for example 'Paedophile, 25, had sex with girl, 12' should be 'Paedophile, 25, raped girl, 12.'
'A rape report cannot be considered false if the person describing the crime is unable to provide corroboration that it happened or if investigators decide it did not occur based on their own views of that person's credibility. According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports Handbook, this is an inconclusive or unsubstantiated report and not a false one.'
Police are often criticised for failing to report accurate figures of rape, hiding cases or dismissing them as false. 'Institutions such as churches, schools and colleges, social organizations, and the military, among others, provide a steady source of victims for predators.' By ignoring or supporting the perpetrators, these institutions are validating and encouraging this behaviour by facilitating its continuance. They might want to keep in mind that failure to report the crime is illegal in some places. Failure to charge a perpetrator by a prosecutor for what they perceive to be a low chance of conviction or their own prejudices, denies victims a chance of justice and puts the larger community at risk by allowing a predator to prey on more individuals. Alternatively, if criminal prosecution doesn't work, civil litigation may scare a rapist enough to prevent further rapes.
"If you don't fight tooth and nail and be on the verge of death, it is simply unbelievable. Compare that with someone who goes to the police and says someone she met in a bar broke into her house to steal something. Under no circumstances would anyone question a victim who makes that type of report."
One victim account says she wished she could relive her rape so she could 'do it right' and fight back more or that she'd been killed so people would believe her. Not fighting or stopping resistance does not equal consent; it's another survival instinct -less chance of serious injury or death. Unfortunately, "society doesn't believe the woman until she takes a step to harm herself."
One study on the vulnerabilities of rape victims including: aged under 18, mental health issue(s), currently/previously intimate with offender, had consumed alcohol or drugs prior to the attack. 87% of victims had at least one vulnerability. This proves opportunism -rapists calculating how likely they are to succeed in raping their victim, and getting away with it. Of all of the factors noted, consuming alcohol or drugs are the only things a victim can control.
Ideally, I wished the following had been included:
✻ Male rape. Apart from the brief mentions of a rape victim's partner who'd been raped in the military, of prison rape, and one CDC study of child victims, male rape isn't discussed. Perhaps this is due to few studies on male rape and the low number of reported cases to the police and in the media. However, I don't see why the reasons for this and societal perceptions of male victims couldn't be examined. Why not look at prison rape? Prisoner-on-prisoner ('don't drop the soap') and guard-on-prisoner which is more prevalent than authorities like to admit.
✻ Children raping children. An intricate dynamic I'd have liked the author to have addressed. It's shocking how young some of the aggressors are, and their victims.
✻ Rape victims raped again. I believe rape victims are more likely than any other group to be raped again because the first rape compounded the vulnerabilities they original had beforehand, making them even easier prey. And again, this isn't discussed.
✻ Rape in entertainment. Raphael doesn't explore positive and negative depictions of rape in TV (e.g. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), movies, and books. Nor is rape fantasy, a highly controversial topic which I myself recently came to terms with after reading twoFeministing articles criticising Katie Roiphe's views on female fantasies of sexual submission.
While I wish a little more was included, what's in these pages is pure gold for unveiling the truth and prevalence of rape in the West and suggesting improvements to the way we perceive and report rape. It's imperative and supremely relevant that we pursue justice for victims and protect our more vulnerable members of society, and this is supported by recent global events.
My request for the ARC was accepted on the day a 23-year old gang rape victim died of her injuries in Delhi. Six men were arrested for raping and murdering her on a moving bus. Soutik Biswas responds with an article on How India Treats its Women, showing why it's the 'worst country in which to be a woman.' Sympathy is scarce for the accused after it was alleged "They were beaten most bruatally. They were forced to drink urine and from the toilet. They were sexually assaulted with sticks in their backside. Whatever statements they made were made under duress and worthless." While this has sparked anger at the victim blaming, Feminist Spring protests have been male dominated ironically due to the risk of rape, which was followed by another rape on an Indian bus and an Indian school. This prompted proposals for change.
'Savile got away with it because we let him, and he knew we would let him. He knew his victims would be trapped between horror and a twisted sense of privilege at being hit on by someone famous. He conferred chocolates on favoured victims to normalise his abuse, and he made resistance appear abnormal. If it came to his word against some starstruck minor's, he knew who would be believed. When, latterly, standards began to change, he counter-attacked with the threat of libel lawyers.' (Source)
*One Billion Rising is an annual global campaign for the one billion beaten and raped to protest on February 14.