Serial rapist Larry Takahashi’s release met with outcry, but where’s the outcry about porn culture?

Larry Takahashi
Larry Takahashi

Yesterday, it was reported that Larry Takahashi, who has been dubbed the Balaclava Rapist by the mainstream media, has been released on day parole in the Vancouver area.

In 1984, the 63-year-old faced 70 charges involving 22 women. He admitted to raping at least 30 women in Edmonton in the 70s and 80s. Takahashi was convicted of 14 charges, including four counts of rape, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault and six counts of disguise with intent. He was given three life sentences and served over 30 years in prison.

“You are capable of extreme violence,” the Parole Board stated in its July ruling. “You planned and pursued the victims; you were a cold, callous sexual offender with no regard for the plight of the victims.”

Takahashi’s request for full parole was rejected by the Parole Board of Canada, but the board said his “risk to reoffend is manageable on day parole and is not an undue risk.”

Spokesperson for the board, Patrick Storey, says that the fact Takahashi admits he still has rape fantasies is considered a sign of progress, which played a role in his release:

“… He’s being forthcoming. The correctional programs are all designed to help these guys manage those fantasies. It’s actually the sex offender who won’t admit to having the fantasies that becomes much more difficult to supervise.”

When Takahashi was temporarily released on parole in Victoria in 2013, there was outcry. One of his former victims, Erica Hammermeister, said, at the time, “Put him back in jail, because it guarantees the safety of women.”

Takahashi’s predatorial behaviour included, early on, “peeping into women’s windows and masturbating,” something that, while criminal, is a behaviour that is normalized by society at large and porn culture. The idea that men enjoy “looking at” or “gazing” at women is generally accepted as “natural” and unchangeable. It is sometimes viewed as a “kink,” but is also treated as a normal part of growing up, for boys. Porn exacerbates this practice, connecting the gaze to sexual pleasure and release.

for better or for worseMedia reports explain that Takahashi’s “peeping… escalated to breaking into women’s homes and raping them while wearing a balaclava.”

In 2005, Takahashi’s day parole was revoked after he met with a convicted sex offender in Vancouver. Currently, he’s under 11 conditions, including a 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. curfew, being prohibited from using computers (in order to prevent him from accessing pornography), drugs, or alcohol, and a requirement that he avoid post secondary campuses, his victims, and his victims’ families. Takahashi has agreed to electronic monitoring and is must to return to a “secure facility” at night.

But does it make sense to pressure the City to put him back behind bars?

“It’s typical of the media to focus on the ‘monsters,'” says Hilla Kerner, a collective member at Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter (VRR). “They pay attention to men who are known to have committed an enormous amount of violent crime and get really obsessed about the details.” Kerner’s concern is that this offers the false notion that “if we deal with this man, we’re safe — we solved rape.”

VRR doesn’t generally call for harsh sentencing. “We don’t think that sentencing a rapist to spend the rest of their life in prison is a useful thing in a democratic society,” Kerner says. She notes that the justice system unfairly targets the most oppressed and decides sentences based on “how much social power you have and how much money you have to pay for a lawyer,” not based on the crime itself.

“There are some exceptions where men are so dangerous that they should stay behind bars, but unfortunately we have a correctional system that doesn’t really help men to correct their ways — usually it makes men more dangerous,” she adds.

While Kerner does believe convictions are an effective measure, as they send a message to not only the perpetrator, but to other men, that violence against women is a crime and will not be tolerated, she says, “We can’t put all men behind bars.” Instead, “we have to have better ways to force men to stop raping.”

Feminists have pointed out, time and time again, that most-often, the violence that happens to women comes from men they know. While “stranger rape” is a real concern, there is a larger culture of rape that goes unaddressed when we focus heavily on “lone wolves” without addressing the factors that create the culture in the first place.

“Men are constantly [encouraged] to rape women, through the massive propaganda of pornography and sexism,” Kerner says. “It’s interesting to see that even the parole board understands that and is prohibiting [Takahashi] from watching pornography.”

Robin Morgan famously said, “Pornography is the theory, and rape is the practice,” yet many who claim to be angered by rape culture refuse to address the role of pornography in it. 

Beyond that, the fact of women’s inequality (which is also evidenced to the extreme in pornography) ensures not only that male violence against women continues, but that most men are not held accountable for that violence.

“We have to understand rape and violence against women in the context of equality, and fight for women’s equality in all aspects of life,” Kerner says.

What’s important now, Kerner says, is to ensure the parole officers and the parole system need to keep a close eye on Takahashi and maintain very clear, strict conditions, which she says is completely feasible. “His parole officers need to be really diligent,” she says.

The more troubling reality is that most men who rape and abuse women are usually not held accountable by the criminal justice system or by their community — certainly not by the men around them. Porn use is treated as normal and harmless, objectification is viewed as inevitable, and men are understood to be incurable — naturally predatorial and unable to control their “physical urges.”

Where is the public outcry about this reality? Where are the media warnings? I’ll admit I panicked when I read the reports about Takahashi’s release, knowing it would only add to the fear I experience nightly, in my home, but I also realize that we will never end rape without building an equitable society, wherein men are not encouraged towards this behaviour in the first place.

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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  • Laura

    Thanks for the article. I disagree with Kerner. Atm I’ve given up on men correcting their ways, I just care about protecting women from male violence. In any case, why can’t we do both, put men in prison for raping and also get rid of the porn and other messages that it’s ok to rape women)

    • Meghan Murphy

      Kerner doesn’t disagree that men who rape should be convicted and serve time. Just not necessarily life sentences. And we do indeed have to try to change culture — we can’t protect women from men at all times… It simply isn’t possible. We have to hold men accountable in more way than one.

      • Laura

        i’m with you there, about the more ways than one part. i know we can’t protect women from men at all times, but…putting a rapist in prison for life will prevent him from raping another woman, and like that’s a start. anyway i agree with the broader point of the article, i just wanted to put in my 2 cents

        • Meghan Murphy

          Fair enough. I am not personally opposed to this individual rotting in prison, but I do think Hilla’s broader points/analysis are important… At this point, I do think it’s important to ensure this guy is monitored very closely and I’d like to know more details about exactly what they are doing to ensure he can’t harm anyone ever again.

    • TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsYoya

      I’m not convinced this man is rehabilitated. Narcissism is very high among child molesters, I would not be surprised if the same is true for a violent, serial rapist like this man. It’s notoriously difficult to treat narcissists/psychopaths and they can’t be “cured”. You can’t make a conscience appear where there isn’t one.

  • TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsYoya

    The fact that this man views women as less than human isn’t treated as that big of a deal, because society and the justice system view women in the same way. He’s viewed as somewhat of a nuisance.

    • lk

      Violence against women isn’t treated like it’s a big deal. And I think so often its treated like just a normal part of the life that we need to just deal with.

      But in this case, the juries did recognize it’s a big deal and that is clear by the fact that they sentenced him to 3 life sentences!!

      I really don’t understand the purpose of letting him have day parole…

  • radwonka

    “Media reports explain that Takahashi’s “peeping… escalated to breaking into women’s homes and raping them while wearing a balaclava.””

    Ted Bundy was also a peeping tom: ” For weeks prior to Ann Marie’s disappearance, her parents, Donald and Beverly Burr, had been awaken almost every night by noises in their backyard. Mistakenly, they assumed it was a raccoon or stray cat. Police now believe that this may have been Ted Bundy, developing his peeping tom habits, peering in at the Burr family as they prepared to sleep.”

    ” Ted Bundy had perfected his skills as a peeping tom and according to published reports, the window on the south side of the house, when un-draped, afforded a view of Terri Caldwell’s bedroom, which may be what drew Bundy to that particular house. ”
    (source: https://murdersandmonsters.wordpress.com/2014/10/12/ted-bundy-the-campus-killer/)

    Canadian Serial Killer who was a colonel in their Armed Forces Russell Williams too (https://missingandmurderedinhamilton.wordpress.com/peeping-toms-are-very-dangerous/)

    “Many sexual predators said when window peeping became routine, they needed more thrilling behaviors to become sexually stimulated. Their actions would escalate to burglary when residents weren’t home, to cat burglary when people were home, and eventually to sexual assault. The importance of window coverings can’t be over-emphasized. ” ( And http://www.annarbor.com/news/not-all-voyeurs-are-rapists-but-all-rapists-have-been-voyeurs/)

    peeping is a sexual and predatory thing, we can conclude that it is part of rape culture (men watching their prey, men not respecting women’s boundaries etc. They like the idea of watching women against their will, against their desire. Creepy sociopath).

    If peeping toms are dangerous, then virtual peeping (porn) is also dangerous by default.

    It’s just like porn, men like the idea that women did not consent and cant defend themselves

    • Meghan Murphy

      Yes! Exactly. I was in the midst of a very frustrating argument about this just a couple of weeks ago. Some women I know were arguing that ‘peeping toms’ (and, of course, porn) were simply natural, innate parts of men, and also harmless. Like, no… Clearly not. The male gaze is harmful — the objectification is harmful. The thrill of the watching, in this case, is that the women didn’t consent and that the man is in a position of power. The connections between objectifying women in public, private, and on screen, in porn and media more generally, is pretty clear…

    • Rachel

      Great comment – completely agree. Ted Bundy himself said that porn was a major issue in society, even back in the 80s in its “soft” form. He predicted it was going to become much worse and he said all the men he knew in jail had one thing in common – porn. I’m not saying it’s solely responsible for these crimes, but I’ll be damned if I say it has Nothing or even little to do with it. The whole men watching women thing that people tout as normal and natural is nothing but porn culture at play.

  • Hierophant2

    Where’s Valerie Solanas when we need her?

  • Lavender

    I agree that when perpetrators have displayed a pattern of violence well beyond a single incident, ESPECIALLY if they have continuing fantasies of violence toward women, they should be locked up for life. How do they test these guys? How do you let someone go who still wants to harm women?? And if they say they don’t think the same way anymore, do you take their word for it? Psychopaths are gifted manipulators. What’s the point of a curfew – does a man’s desire to defile women switch on and off with the hands on the clock? He’ll be out there in public seeing women again, thinking sick thoughts about them, and we’re supposed to believe he won’t act on them? There are circumstances in which one’s danger to society outweighs one’s individual rights. Letting him live is mercy enough.