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In 2005, Takahashi’s day parole was revoked after he met with a convicted sex offender in Vancouver.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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