Dubious logic

Trigger warnings for abuse and gaslighting mechanics

I’ve had a few comments here recently that I haven’t let through because of the kind of faux-logic involved. It’s a system I refer to as x=y and that can contribute to gaslighting. It can sound persuasive and if you’re exposed to it in a close relationship with someone you trust, it can be incredibly damaging.

The ‘x’ in this equation is something you’ve done or said. It might be your clothing, that one time you cried, something you misunderstood. It may also be something you never did or said that is now being attributed to you. The ‘y’ is presented as the logical consequence of x. As a culture we do this around rape – what a woman was wearing equals her consent to anyone who wanted to do anything to her. New Age Culture does it a lot – success equals virtue, and alongside it, suffering equals lack of sufficient positivity, or bad karma. These kinds of false causalities make life harder for people who are already suffering.

Often with gaslighting it goes a step further so we find x=y and therefore it makes perfect sense if I do z to you. Z is presented as totally justified and the only reasonable response in the circumstance. Your clothes equal your consent so any reasonable person would rape you in the circumstances. It is a chilling line of logic.

What makes this so powerful is that human minds are persuaded by apparent causality. This is why we have superstitions. Our brains are willing to make connections where none exist. If someone else keeps making those connections and telling us about it, we may well start to internalise some of what we’re hearing. We believe that because we look the way we do it is inevitable that we will be harmed for it. We start to believe that use and abuse are normal, reasonable reactions to our faces, our bodies, our tears.

The recent blog comments were more along the lines of ‘if you believe this then you must also believe this really awful thing, so you can see what a terrible person you are’. The ‘x’ of my original statement becoming a ‘y’ of something being put onto me. It’s very easy to do and I’m not convinced everyone who uses this technique does so knowingly. I think sometimes it’s what happens when a person’s own reality is so badly damaged that their head is full of non-sequiturs. If you’ve internalised the dubious logic our culture holds then you might easily regurgitate that without knowing you’re doing it. Women who insist that modest dress will protect other women from rape are a case in point here.

Saying a thing is a logical progression does not make it a logical progression. Saying one thing means another does not make that true either.

Anything that makes a victim responsible for the actions of an abuser needs recognising as an abuse tactic and rejecting – which is not so easy to do in practice when you’re on the receiving end.

X=Y logic is not always worth arguing with. Sometimes it’s just about using up your time and energy and trying to tie you in knots with stupid hypothetical situations. Making you engage is a popular tactic with trolls, and that means sometimes the best thing to do is not engage. Sometimes the best thing to do is exit quickly and quietly. You are entitled to feel safe, and if a conversation doesn’t feel safe it’s often better to just get out of there if you can. If you are living with this kind of stuff, get help around how to leave safely – the risks of being killed or injured by an abuser are at their highest when people try to leave. X=Y logic all too often leads to ‘and this is why I have to hurt you.’

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

9 responses to “Dubious logic

  • Eliza Ayres

    Reblogged this on Blue Dragon Journal and commented:
    I choose not to engage with trolls on Social Media or negative commenters on my own blog. I ❤ the Spam function and Blocking on FB. Walkaway from Trolls.

  • RuthScribbles

    You are 100% correct!!

    I had to remove a comment because someone chose to belittle what I was feeling (physical pain) because I was able to write about it. I was also raised in a family who believed “girls asked for it”. They are so blind. But they blame the victim most of the time. Thanks for this.

  • Pilgrimage Studio

    It’s really easy with blogs. I mean if you don’t like the content… keep on going. So I don’t understand the need to make negative comments? It just seems so unnecessary to me. Txx for the post!

    • Nimue Brown

      I assume for some people’s it an attention thing, and for some it’s about seeking places to push an agenda. But yeah, who benefits from hate-reading? It seems a very odd choice to me.

  • whiterabbitanimation

    I hadn’t checked in for a while with your posts Nimue, and yet again you’ve hit the nail on the head, I was talking about this only a few hours ago! Something I call this “2+2=5” (my name for this kind of ‘anti-logic’ as I believe it is the antithesis of clear, considered or balanced thinking.)

    In my experience, the victim would say/do something often quite neutral or for which many unknown motivations could be applied, but there would be (often a single) ‘event’ that was true. However, this would be heavily distorted and blown up into an entire story that was entirely ignorant of any counter evidence, context, respect or kindness. This is why I call it 2+2=5, as it doesn’t add up and is an inaccurate and over-inflated conclusion!

    And it is deeply hurtful and damaging…. And also incredibly disappointing when others buy into that without deeper consideration, enquiry or kindness, I agree.

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