War Machine thinks he has a right to rape women (and so does porn culture)

war machine

MMA fighter, “War Machine” (born Jonathan Koppenhaver), is in court facing 34 charges, including sexual assault and attempted murder, in relation to his abuse of ex-girlfriend, Christy Mack.

Last year, the self-described “Alpha Male” broke into Mack’s home, beating her and friend, Corey Thomas (who Koppenhaver allowed to escape, ordering him not to call the authorities), viciously, leaving the 24-year-old woman hospitalized with a lacerated liver, 18 broken bones, multiple stab wounds, a fractured rib, and two missing teeth. Koppenhaver also forced Mack to undress, threatened to rape her, then, allegedly, sexually assaulted her with his fingers after saying “That’s my pussy and I’m going to take it back now.” She escaped and ran to a neighbour’s house while Koppenhaver was in the kitchen, she believes, looking for another knife. Afterwards, he claimed he did all this out of love.

Of course this was not the first time Koppenhaver had assaulted Mack.

“He became abusive about four to five months in,” she told ESPN. “But by that time I was totally in love with him… The first time I thought, ‘Oh it’ll never happen again.’ The day after, he stayed home from training and coddled me. After every time he would hit me, those were the best days of our relationship.”

In November 2013, she tweeted that her boyfriend at the time “beath the shit out of [her]” and threatened to kill her. There are other accounts of his violence, too…

christy mack

Needless to say, it’s unsurprising that this misogyny has continued in court. On Monday, Koppenhaver and his defense attorney, Brandon Sua, argued that the fact that Mack was a porn actress constituted consent to rape, instilled in her “the desire, the preference, the acceptability towards a particular form of sex activities that were outside of the norm,” and that the sexual assaults Mack was charging Koppenhaver with were “a consensual part of their relationship.”

These claims are disturbingly familiar to the ones we heard from Jian Ghomeshi last year who, likewise, attempted to claim that assault was, in fact, simply consensual “rough sex” and said that “sexual preferences are a human right.”

Essentially, Koppenhaver and his lawyer were arguing that because Mack engaged in violent sexual acts, “rough sex,” and rape scenes in porn, she was unrapeable. But it’s not really just that he thinks she, as an individual, isn’t rapeable, it’s that he actually doesn’t think rape is wrong. He thinks it’s what “real men” do.

In 2013 he tweeted that he raped Mack, following his statement up by saying, “Real men rape. ( Their GF’s and wives, not strangers, don’t get your panties in a bunch.)”

Presumably, I don’t need to tell anyone here that rape is not negated because a woman works in the sex industry… That is to say, prostituted women and women in porn are raped all the time. But I also think it’s worth mentioning that the cultural narrative surrounding pornography and the supposedly “consensual rough sex” we see in porn is part of the problem. Men all over the world watch women be abused and raped in porn and learn that it’s simply a “sexual preference” and are told this “sexual preference is a human right.”

It’s not as though violent monsters like Koppenhaver are the only ones pushing this narrative — it’s progressive men and women, too. Ghomeshi is a good example — a man who pretending to be a feminist ally and, by all accounts, a politically progressive man, who also thought he had a “right” to act out his violent fantasies on women. But where do men get these ideas from? Whether or not they’re comfortable admitting to it, leftists and liberals are complicit.

Editor of Jacobin magazine, Connor Kilpatrick, defended men’s right to access porn (you can’t argue that men in prison have a “right” to porn without arguing that all men have a right to porn), framing the sexualized abuse of women as simply “booby pics.”

The idea that porn culture is not only harmless but that it is a human right is embraced in our culture, despite the harm of the overarching message.

Porn actively advocates against consent. It teaches its audience that consent isn’t sexy but that violence is. Porn sends men the message, every single day, that sex, in any form, is their right. That access to women’s bodies is their right. It says that rape and violence is a “sexual preference.” So it’s no real surprise that men not only try to defend, but truly believe that their abuse is not abuse at all but simply a personal sexual preference that is completely harmless — they are fed this message constantly by liberals, leftists, and porn culture alike.

Sure there are men who watch porn but don’t rape, but the fact that we work so hard to convince them that the images they see on their computer screens constitute “sex,” a “human right,” and that they are a perfectly healthy part of being male don’t counter the anti-violence messages liberals and progressive pretend to support. Men aren’t seeing that line you keep trying to draw between rape culture and porn culture because it isn’t there. I mean, it’s no wonder men like Koppenhaver and Ghomeshi think they can get away with these lines.

War Machine only epitomizes the kind of behaviour our culture, at large, condones. To say violent porn is a man’s right only to turn around and say sexual violence is not sends a dangerously inconsistent message that has real-life consequences for women everywhere.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • Rachel

    This makes me feel sick. It hits way too close to home. The problem is that the men that do these things are held up as some sort of model man now! People say we’ve progressed towards understanding domestic violence, but we really haven’t. In Australia this year the number of women killed by their partner or ex partner has almost doubled from previous years. Yet, people are still arguing that “women abuse as much as men”. I doubt any man (ok maybe there will be a couple in history – there are always exceptions to the rule) have experienced a beating or been genuinely terrified of an ex female partner finding them and killing them or their children or other loved ones. These men are like model citizens now – “oh he just loved her so much. Poor guy. He’s so depressed without her he just needed her really badly”. And I actually read a story where a lady had her children killed by her ex partner (the ex tried to kill her, and did kill himself), and people were commenting that it’s because the law restricts access to fathers after separation! I was furious reading so many comments vilifying women for abuse and killing men and kids. And as if them restricting access to their children (because they probably knew what the guy was capable of – it’s not easy to sort threats from actual capability – actually it’s terrifying and confusing trying to figure it all out when you’re stuck in it). Any mother whose children had been threatened would try to take them away from him – but often the law actually doesn’t allow that anyway! It allows violent men to have access time and time again. And they go on to kill like this! It’s so depressing. Yet I bet if she did allow access and he had made threats people would be saying “she’s a bad mum she shouldn’t allow access”. Women cannot win!!! Oh and the other thing – people kept bringing up that women kill their children as often as men?! They ignore the ten high profile stories that we’ve had in Australia just this last quarter! But bring up a killing by one mum… Two years ago!!! Oh my gosh it just infuriates me

    • Michael Furio

      Unfortunately I’ve seen it the other way around and my friend got the shit kicked out of him by his girlfriend and then turned around and told the courts he was abusive… he got his access to his daughter taken away simply because he was a man and she was a ‘defenseless woman’. This is after I’ve encountered her battering him several times and him taking it. I will however fully agree that it’s more common for men to behave this way, and sexual media is to cause. There’s men out there who honestly believe rape culture does not exist and they share the same ideology as this scumbag. Just outrageous.

      • Sabine

        Of course this can and does happen but the fact remains that men do not grow up afraid of women and what they might do to them. For pretty much all females on the planet it’s “normal” to have a very real (and valid) fear of male violence. It’s practically impossible to find any woman who has not been harassed, abused or threatened by a man in some way. It’s part and parcel of being female within patriarchy. It’s all about the broader perspective and context. When it comes to society as a whole it’s male violence that dominates massively. Using minority examples simply does not bring anything new to the table.

      • Cassandra

        Nobody here gives a shit, Mikey boy. Male violence against women is a fucking epidemic disease and that’s what this is about. Take your “what about teh menz” whining and go fuck yourself.

  • Derrington

    Porn is violent, chauvinist propoganda – Goebbels would be proud.

  • Ghoul1977

    This depiction is certainly not true of all pornography. The breadth and history of erotic art and media is vast and more complex than this narrative provided here. Is this author’s position that erotic or obscene media categorically advocates rape? What is the basis for this position? Is this author aware of any number of queer-produced and I would say, extremely politically conscious pornography being produced today? Is the author prepared to unequivocally characterize this media across the board as endemic and causal of misogyny and rape culture? I don’t think that’s a complex enough approach to pornographic or erotic media, nor a nuanced approach to why this kind of media is consumed and produced by people from ALL different kinds of backgrounds, and beneath the banner of pointedly feminist and queer friendly ideologies. Maybe a fuller understanding of humans and erotic media would still be something we wouldn’t and shouldn’t accept, but it’s something that requires more nuanced analysis.
    Still, the author’s depiction largely holds true of our culture’s erotic media. I think it’s worth investigating why erotic media has taken this form, what the even deeper roots of it are in culture. Pornography does condition us, but maybe it’s worth investigating what the appeal is of this particular violent ‘nonconsent’ pornography. Where does this conditioning start? Where has it come from?
    DH Lawrence wrote a great essay tying a lot of our more hateful sexual attitudes to the Victorian era and the latent misogyny behind Victorian sexual sensibilities, which were at once prude and paedophilic. It’s called “Pornography and Obscenity,” I highly recommend it, it’s very easy to find on the internet for free.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Conflating “erotic art” and pornography is a convenient way for you to avoid addressing the inherent misogyny of porn, hey?

      • Cassandra

        It’s the same arguments over and over again, huh? I once read a great comment about male violence against women — something like “When a bank is robbed, nobody sits around talking about what made the bank robbers that way and we should all talk about this and study it before the problem can be addressed.” Nope the bank robbers are wrong and they are prosecuted. But when it comes to men and their sexual violence against women, it’s like “Oh, we must have a NUANCED conversation about this and figure out WHY it happened, and blah blah blah blah blah rape apology male violence apology blah blah blah.” It doesn’t matter WHY!!!!!!. It matters that it’s wrong and that IT HURTS WOMEN.

        • Armordog99

          Big difference in those two scenarios is that, as far as my knowledge goes, exactly 0% of bank robberies have been proven to be false allegations. As far as false rape allegations go I have read studies that put the figure as low as 3% to as high as 40%.

          However, this guy deserves to be put away for life. I saw the pictures of what he did to Christy Mack and there is no excuse for it. His lawyer also deserves a kick in the nuts for suggesting that cause she does porn she can’t be raped. Nonsense.

          • tinfoil hattie

            Fuck your “studies” – which you have not “read,” but have seen mis-cited on the Internet, so you now confuse them with fact. Most rapes aren’t even reported. So take your “40% of raped women are lying” bullshit and peddle it on MRAssholes dot com.

          • Cassandra

            OH LOOK! It’s an MRA talkin’ false rape accusations in the comment thread about a story about a misogynist piece of human garbage. What a surprise! Look at the shocked look on my face!!

            You guys are so fucking boring.

        • Sally

          The crazy thing about their response is that we all know why already. Male entitlement. Misogyny. Rape culture. Patriarchy. It’s no fucking mystery lol

        • Pornography isn’t “sexual violence.”

          • Meghan Murphy

            K bye troll. I think you’ve wasted enough space here. Best.

      • On what basis is it inherently misogynistic? This is based simply on your interpretation of male sexuality. You don’t know what male sexuality is like because you’ve never experienced it first hand. You’re basically telling men what their experience is when it’s not possible that you could know yourself.

      • Ghoul1977

        I didn’t say erotic art, I said erotic media. And pornography certainly falls within the category of erotic media. I guess all I can do is suggest that you look up this article on the huffington post called “Principled Pornography,” since the comment section of a website is about the worst forum for any kind of discussion.
        I don’t excuse rape, this guy War Machine or whatever he calls himself is repulsive, obviously. And yes, most pornography IS misogynistic. But I think you should investigate the nature and implications of the involvement of people who are, to my perspective, inarguably feminists in transforming pornography, and also why it is that virtually every culture in history that produced images, produced images that are understood to be pornography. The patriarchy? Maybe, I guess. But it seems like you’re dismissing the perspectives of a lot of women and feminists who consume AND PRODUCE pornography explicitly under the banner of feminism. I guess your evaluation is that these women are misguided. Fine, I guess. If you want to make evaluations about the validity of other women’s ideas of feminism, that’s your prerogative.
        I don’t necessarily have a problem with dismantling the pornography industry. But I think it is misguided to approach the question with simplistic narratives about why humans produce these kinds of media again and again. Patriarchy certainly has a big place in that narrative, but I’m trying to suggest that that doesn’t exhaust the reasons why pornography exists. I think having that simplistic a narrative is going to have you spinning your wheels unless you investigate it a little bit deeper. Just don’t throw sex workers under the bus.

        • Meghan Murphy

          The word, pornography, means ‘the graphic depiction of whores.’ It has nothing to do with eroticism and everything to do with images of the sexualization of inequality and the objectification of women for the gratification of men. It has zero to do with female sexuality.

    • Tired feminist

      So you read a detailed description of an extremely violent rape and all you have to say is “not all porn”?

      What’s your freaking problem? Seriously?

    • Elaine Grisé

      «extremely politically conscious pornography»! You can’t be serious!? Only extremely addicted porn watchers would say something that idiot.

    • Kamilla Vaski

      erotic art has nothing to do with pornography.

    • tinfoil hattie

      I am not very nice today, so shut the fuck up. Nobody cares about the fact that you can’t get erect without looking at sexualized and violent images of women.

  • Misanthropia

    Waste of air. Waste of life. He should be made to die horribly. And those of you who say that porn didn’t have a role in this mess, you can die with him too.

  • zirreael

    This latest twitter argument is facepalm-inducing. Does this guy think, that the most barbatic thing about real GULAGs was the absence of readily available porn?! Did he sleep through his history lessons?…

  • Mac

    “There is non-violence porn”… Oh yea. Where is it? Type porn into a google search and all you will find is woman hating misogyny.

  • Chico Gonzalez

    War Machine?? Babble on, asswipe. You and me, in the street. I will walk away, a hearse will take you back to God.

  • Rachel

    Yes, thank tinfoil hattie. I was too tired and deflated to argue back. I have been in this situation and couldn’t get proper help because there was a huge uprising of the “but but but men get bashed by women too”. It was horrible and exhausting trying to get people to see the severity of my situation, when people were more concerned about women hitting men, which was nowhere near on the same level, and usually because they finally retaliated after a lifelong suffering of abuse themselves.

    It meant that every conversation I had with people about my own situations which had me frozen with fear for my life and my loved ones lives, had to start with “I know some men get abused to…” Or “i know women can be abusive too”. And it was extremely hard to have the actual conversations I needed to be having, about male privelidge and entitlement and society’s views on masculinity and power and control, that were vital for me finally being able to leave. I feel so bad for the women that are still stuck in those relationships, between seeing the best in him and loving him, to feeling sorry for him, wanting to be “better” so that she deserves and he will treat her better, and dealing with the “but what have you done to cause this?!” The way society constantly talks about how men are abused too (and yes they can be, but with very different dynamics and nowhere near as often or severe most times), it silences women, pushes them away from other women who don’t understand the situation themselves because they’re trying to be progressive and man focussed as society tells them to be, and it isolates and confuses the victim even further.

  • Sabine

    Meghan, that last paragraph just nails it. Cannot agree more. Bang on.

  • maskedghoul

    And thus we have the reason why I am voluntarily celibate. It’s expected as their god given right, no matter what you’re feeling like. I’m tired of lying back and thinking of england.

  • Meghan Murphy

    You are aware women are socialized within a patriarchy just like men are, right? And that it makes perfect sense that women would sexualize domination and subordination as a result? We, women, also learn that our own objectification and sexist gender roles are ‘sexy.’ Despite the fact that you seem to believe you’re throwing some big old wrench into feminist arguments against pornography and rape culture, you aren’t.

  • Sabine

    Do some actual research dude. You can’t see further than the end of your…whatever appendage suits.

    • This isn’t a very convincing argument. I assume that I’m supposed to go read the scholarship produced by gender studies departments. This is like telling somebody who questions the efficacy of laissez faire to “go do some research,” because you assumed that neoliberal economic theory was the only economic theory there is. Entire academic disciplines have been built on faulty ideological assumptions. Neoliberal economic theory is one, eugenics in the late 19th and early 20th century is another. Things aren’t true simply because they are in a book. And in the case of modern gender studies, you’re talking about a discipline that isn’t even that old, one that is largely the product of bourgeois western white women in the latter half of the 20th century. Is it possible that people in that demographic and circumstance might not have recognized their own ideological assumptions?

      • Tired feminist

        It is possible, but it seems you’re the only one here not recognizing your own ideological assumptions.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Do you truly not understand how socialization works or are you just wasting our time. (I tend to err on the side of ‘quit trolling’ but am working on being more generous in the comment section.)

    • I could ask you the same thing. Do you understand how socialization works?

      Also, you seem to assume that sexuality is culturally constructed. Do you think homosexuality is culturally constructed? And if so, then doesn’t that put you on the same side of the debate as religious conservatives? Can homosexuals actually go to Jesus camp and deprogram then?

      You haven’t really made the case that women read those novels because somehow the patriarchy made them do it, as if culture can even dictate to us what are sexual inclinations are. What if patriarchy didn’t make them do it? What if culture doesn’t determine what you find sexually attractive, not for either gender? What then?

      If that’s the case, then where does that leave your argument about pornography being rape culture, unless you want to argue that a biologically rooted male sexuality leads inevitably to rape? Are you suggesting that a different culture would produce men who didn’t find pornography appealing sexually? We can engineer people’s sexuality culturally?

      I don’t get it, I chose my own sexuality, but somehow my gender constructed and imposed yours?

      Nobody is trolling you. My point is simply that men don’t get to decide what masculinity is if they are socialized in a social landscape that women have created for them. Men don’t get to decide what women want and expect of them anymore than women can decide what men want and expect of them.

      Men don’t get to decide what women find attractive and unattractive, they either adhere to it or they disappear in any meaningful social sense. That *is* the process of their socialization, that is how masculinity is imposed by women, not by the patriarchy, or chosen by men themselves.

      Gender is a two way dynamic, not a top down imposition from men to women. Women are half of that dynamic’s equation. There is no aspect of masculinity in any of its forms that doesn’t have its root in women’s expectations, desires, prejudices, and beliefs, and that would be the very same masculinity that people on your side of the aisle presumably identify as the root of women’s oppression.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Are you arguing that sexualized violence against women is natural and has nothing to do with the fact that we live in a patriarchy?

      • marv

        Why are you so defensive of the sexual status quo. If you can see that entire “academic disciplines” can be built on faulty neoliberal ideological assumptions, why isn’t it possible for people’s understanding of sexuality to be grounded in erroneous liberal ideas, a product of bourgeoisie western white men (as
        capitalism is). Things aren’t true just because they permeate a culture (think of religion too). “Ideological assumptions” are rampant in liberal and conservative theories of sexuality.

        Back to capitalism. Many libs and cons argue it is natural to have class stratification. They refer to classes as normal social differences (as they do gender). What if they are wrong? What if capital is a political force dictating workers self-concept and what they do? What if corporate culture determines what they find appealing? What then?

        What about consumerism? Are we inevitably driven to unlimited acquisitiveness or does the corporate economy with its advertising schemes coerce us to value accumulation as central to self-actualization. There are alternative indigenous societies that find consumer culture unappealing. Are they biologically different from us?

        The privileged white male made economic system does extensively decide the meaning and purpose of work and life. In a similar vein males invented masculinity and created femininity out of females.

        To quote you with corrections:
        “Gender class is a two way dynamic, a top down imposition from men to
        women. Women are half of that dynamic’s equation. There is almost no aspect of
        femininity in any of its forms that doesn’t have its root in men’s expectations,
        desires, prejudices, and beliefs, and that would be the very same masculinity that people on your side of the aisle deny as the root of women’s oppression.”

        • Preptaurian

          I am generally a quite observer in these forums. My question to you is an academic one, not part of a contention. I have frequently read that a lot of Feminist theory aligns with Marxism or Marxist ideals. Would you describe yourself as a Marxist?

  • Meghan Murphy

    Why do you need to pretend pornography is ok? Why do we need pornography at all? It’s bad for women and for men. Why not just reject it?

  • Meghan Murphy

    LGBTQ people are fully capable of being wrong. In fact, they often are. LGBTQ does not = feminism.

  • Hierophant2

    I am baffled as to how you’d be unable to remember your last comment or even read it. It’s right there.

  • Hierophant2

    “Principled Pornography”??

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    That’s the punchline of a joke, right?