"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Dec 2, 2010

Does the truism cover a falsehood?

"It’s standard knowledge on a feminist blog that rape isn’t about sex; it’s about power, entitlement and violence. It’s about keeping women in their place, and keeping women as a class fearful. It’s at least a step forward that large media outlets are catching on, and aren’t characterizing rapists as simply sex-crazed maniacs." 


I think this is a curious formula. A "curiouser and curiouser" kind of curious. Because it asserts a truism in order to promote a completely undemonstrated assertion.

Some background, first:

I belong to that very small percentage of total rape victims who have male genitalia. I understand that most rape victims are women, and that most rapists are men. I don't want to give any impression that I dispute that - or that rape is "just as much a man's problem." It's not. It's just fucking not.

After the final incident, I contacted a high school friend who worked at the local YWCA, coordinating that organizations outreach to rape victims, as well as its shelter for abused women. To put it as lightly as possible, I was having a hard time coping. So, I went for a resource I knew, and in doing so learned that there just aren't a lot of resources for rape victims, in general. I know this is fairly common knowledge, but it wasn't for me at the time.

I would come to understand that as a man I still ended up having a privileged position as a victim. When I asked for some help (my friend wasn't in, the first day I went) finding resources, it was rather sharply pointed out to me that I had the whole world as a resource, because of the dick between my legs. I didn't agree then, and I don't fully agree now - but I understand the sentiment. It was a rejection of the privilege I was assumed to have. I get the rejection, though I think that sometimes the assumption falls on the wrong target.

Women's resources are rightly used for women, and I was essentially asking that some of those precious few resources be devoted to my pain. I didn't really see it that way at the time, because I was consumed with my own shame and pain, but I was eventually able to comprehend that whether or not I had any real privilege in the everyday world (I didn't), in the context of an underfunded women's shelter and rape counseling service, I was asking for a privileged position. I was asking for some some women's time to be devoted to me, a man. It took a while, but I figured it out. Dick between my legs and all.

I ended up getting a private counselor. Which is where we get into the applicable background. Out of contact with that therapist, I would eventually gain the opportunity to speak with a number of sexual assailants, all men, from varying economic and social, racial and national backgrounds. Nearly all of them were also non-sexual abusers, but I don't know if that is representative or not. It was just my particular experience. A sizable percentage of them were abused as children. But less than I would previously have imagined.

Not one of them was a political rapist, as is argued in the quote above.

I have never interviewed nor encountered a rapist who was consciously and deliberately attempting to dominate women as a class. I'm not suggesting that this sort of rapist does not exist. I assume the full set of possible universes, when it comes to human depravity. And I certainly understand that rape is itself often a deliberately political act - especially for soldiers and occupation forces attempting to subjugate a population.

I've just never encountered any evidence to support the claim that rape is "about keeping women as a class fearful." It is my actual experience that rapists are a selfish and often solipsistic type of men, with very immediate and parochial urges towards domination.

Rape is about domination. That's the truism, and even though it is obviously a sexual violation, and therefore strictly "about sex," despite the quoted claims to the contrary above, I have met very few rapists who actually had the goal of sexual satiety. For the majority of them, the goal - the expressed, stated, conscious, understood goal - was to hunt and capture a woman as a prey animal.

To kill her, in his mind, by penetrating her. To own and dominate her. To leave his mark on her mind.

I accept this truism. It is valid, and my own limited work in the area sure seems to bear it out.

But the undemonstrated assertion that men rape as a class act of domination bothers me - because I think it ends up as tenet of belief that has no solid corroboration, and one which serves to confuse the issue more than it can or could shed light on it, at least without a data set.

Is it possible that rapists tend to see women as interchangeable victims, as types of a categorical class - even if they couldn't put it in those terms? Sure. But, I'd be very interested in corroborating data.

If anyone has real data, I'd very much appreciate a link to it.




Ethan said...

I don't have data, but I do have a potentially different perspective on the quote you got from Feministe.

A while back I wrote a post (here) about mechanisms of oppression, and how they frequently don't stem from any individual, or group of individuals, deliberately formulating them in order to oppress some other group. Instead, they originate in just ordinary human behavior, and then the oppressive interests of the dominant culture and the dominant classes exert what amounts to evolutionary pressure on those behaviors. The behavioral patterns that serve those interests survive and are amplified, those that harm those interests are squashed, and those that are neutral are left to their own devices.

Thus, any given individual rapist might not see his violence as being political in the sense that you mean, but rape as a cultural phenomenon is. The feminist concept of the "rape culture" is I think very real.

I don't know if all this is exactly what Jill meant when she wrote it, but it's how I tend to take similar statements when I see them.

Word verification: predabl. Very close to extremely creepy.

Jack Crow said...

This is a fucking brilliant summation, Ethan:

"Instead, they originate in just ordinary human behavior, and then the oppressive interests of the dominant culture and the dominant classes exert what amounts to evolutionary pressure on those behaviors. The behavioral patterns that serve those interests survive and are amplified, those that harm those interests are squashed, and those that are neutral are left to their own devices."

Can you show or point to where it is demonstrated, in the context of the issue at hand?

Ethan said...

Thank you!

I feel certain that I can demonstrate this at work in the context of rape culture, but my mind is blank at the moment. I'll get back to you ASAP.

AlanSmithee said...

Reading the original AP article doesn't reveal much about the survey and it's impossible to find the original on-line. Heck, I can't even find an organization with that name listed in Johannesburg. The closest I get is the "African Medical And Research Foundation" and the "South African Medical Research Council" - neither of which mentions the survey on their respective web sites.

Given the rates of HIV infection is SA (somewhere between 15% - 20% depending on who you read) I guess AIDS has something to do with the high rate of sexual assault. Throw in religious and cultural attitudes towards women and the latent affect of SA's brutal apartheid regime and, well, you've got a pretty toxic stew there.

Otherwise, yeah, pretty much what Ethan said.

Jack Crow said...


I'm not sure that South Africa is particularly representative, but that seems to be your point.



what the Tee Vee taught said...

A thanks to Jack for broaching and Ethan for shaping.

You have led me towards the type of constructive thinking that I generally blur with bullshit.

I, for now, have nothing to add, but you've both added to me.


adspar said...


I thought about this for a day, then came back to say the exact same thing as Ethan. Individual rapists are typically going to have sexual motives, but the systems of power that allow (or in many cases encourage rape) have political motives. An example of rape as a weapon of power:


Jack Crow said...


I don't have any disagreement with your or Ethan. My question is aimed at the actual argument in the original quote, all the same:

That rape is "about keeping women in their place, and keeping women as a class fearful."

That may be a common, socially evolutionary consequence of prevalent rape - but rape is about rape. Rapists rape to rape, no?

I think the author confuses consequence with cause, and creates a falsehood in doing so.