If rape isn’t about sex, there are an awful lot of penises and vaginas that need explaining.
–American Head Charge
A week or three back, a Guardian article on gerontophiliac serial rapist Delroy Grant came to my attention (hat-tip to my Facefuck friend, Miss TC); written by the uniquely monikered Hadley Freeman, the article, titled “Rape is not a compliment”, employs binary thinking and a few other fallacies in the service of the following argument:
Once again, in the case of Delroy Grant, the public seems unable to accept the idea that rape has nothing to do with desirability.
Rolling my eyes, I remembered the ever so popular slab of sloganeering her argument alluded to:
Rape is not about sex: it’s about power.
At least if we’re talking about the prime motive of the perpetrator.
However, as ridiculous as I find the “Rape…power” shibboleth, I think I understand how it came to be and why people so frequently and fervently throw it around. No one (beyond some kinky fucker or two, perhaps) enjoys being thwarted and overpowered; no one enjoys having their wishes ignored; their will overridden; or being used and discarded like cheap loo roll. All such experiences, however, will be painfully and intimately familiar to a victim of violation.
Unsurprisingly and understandably then, rape is about power—for the recipient.
Of course, the natural empathy of most folk comes into play upon hearing of such incidents, leading them to identify with the violated one. Factor in the idealized images of sex many hold close to their hearts; the aversion to violence amongst the general populace; a politically correct cultural climate; and residual notions of chivalry, and you’ve pretty much got all the ingredients for the sacred shibboleth to emerge, grow and perpetuate.
Amusingly and ironically, this phenomenon is best explained by Freeman herself:
As the bafflingly tenacious power of religion proves, humans like stories that help them make sense of the world, even if the stories themselves make not a jot of sense…This inability of humankind to bear very much reality explains how one clearly ridiculous story still has a purchase on the public imagination…
So what does make sense? What’s not so ridiculous? Well, maybe, just maybe, the notion that lust plays a not-at-all-insignificant factor in a rapist’s choice to rape: after all, why would Mr Ski Mask get his cock out if arousal didn’t appear somewhere in the mix…if arousal didn’t appear at the heart of the mix?
Not that “power” can’t be an additional motivator for any given rape, or for particular types of rape: I’m sure the Red Army saw their trans-European rapeathon as a celebratory stamp of revenge and conquest, as well as a means of sexual release (not unlike similar events preceding and following it); Muslim rape gangs across the western world, in the spirit of blacktivist Eldridge Cleaver, ravage kafir cunt in the name of identitipolitik; the sex-starved lifer, cut off forever from female companionship, devours any twink-flavoured slab of fresh meat unfortunate enough to share his cell; and let’s not forget the conformity-endorsing phenomenon of “corrective rape” that makes both Uganda and South Africa such pleasant places to live if you’re a lezzer.
All those additional agendas needn’t put an appearance, however; sometimes, the sole star of the show may be Mr Rapo’s urge to get his end away. Sexual violation may carry the same urgency and significance in the rapist’s mind as going to the toilet does for all human animals: no need to ask permission—just pull your trousers down, aim for the hole and let rip!
Where power does factor into rape as a (near) constant is by way of the means the rapist takes to secure his quarry; there, power props up proudly, expressing itself as a pill, a pin, a punch, or even just a promise of pain. In that respect, more often than not, power will determine penetration.
Of course, that ain’t quite what Freeman and the shibboleth-sellers had in mind…
Reading Freeman’s article, I get the impression that “the bafflingly tenacious power of religion” still has a hold on her, despite her sentiments. Like a lamb of the Lord holding fast to faith lest hell open up, she seems to think that acknowledging attraction on the rapist’s part, contra feminist dogma, will usher in a new era of victim-blamin’, slut-shamin’ misogyny; she cites the coverage of a recent American gang rape as an example:
One doesn’t need to look too far for examples of this attitude…The New York Times itself fell into this trap earlier this month when reporting the story about 18 men who were charged with gang-raping an 11-year-old girl in an abandoned trailer home. The little girl, the paper noted, "dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground . . ." HANGING OUT with boys?! Well, the little slut was asking for it.
Unfortunately, her ideological bias seems to have led her down the path of editorial dishonesty; here’s what the paper actually stated:
Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands — known as the Quarters — said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.
She also provided a less severe example from her own life:
I had what I would describe as a minor stalker issue – minor, although by the third day, the increasingly weird hourly texts and late-night doorbell ringing really had begun to lose their charm.
I told as many people as possible about it, particularly people who see me most days, just to be safe…Everyone was very sympathetic, but five times out of 10, their first question was, "So did you sleep with him?" Now, I could take it as a compliment that 50% of the seemingly sensible people who know me think that my sexual skills are such that I could cause a man to become mentally ill…this non-compliment contains within the hard nugget of misogyny – namely, that women who are sexually harassed have brought it on themselves, either through their looks or behaviour.
In archetypal True Believer fashion, Freeman reconstructs the world in accordance with a dishonest dichotomy; like a seasoned feminist ideologue, she fails to perceive anything between and beyond desire-denial and “blaming the victim”, hence her automatic reading of an (admittedly brazen) enquiry of context as “misogyny”.
One doesn’t have to buy into that other horseshit shibboleth about rape victims “asking for it” to recognize that protecting oneself from predation is a good idea. Retracing one’s steps in any given hazardous interaction could help reduce the odds of Mr Rapo’s weakness of character becoming one’s own problem in the future. Yet many pushers of the “power” meme seem to bristle at the mere mention of self-protection; to them, the notion of reducing one’s risk of victimization strikes them as pandering to a “rape culture”.
Freeman seems to operate from a similar mentality when equating desire-acknowledgement with victim-blaming. To believe the two equate, however, one would have to buy into the widespread myth of inherent, objective desirability (which, admittedly,seems hard-wired into the social fabric, despite protests to the contrary). As cliché and flowery as it is to say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, that seems to work as an accurate description of reality: after all, if one man’s “fat” can be another man’s “fit”, what stops the senile from being Grant’s “sexy” ?
Desire and desirability, per se, have fuck-all to do with “blame” and everything to do with biochemistry.
On the other hand, when James Blunt inflicts his aural atrocity upon the world, who do you “blame”: his passing muse for unwittingly inspiring the sentiment, or Blunt himself for choosing to make something of it?
It seems Freeman got so swept up in her feminoid-fundie whirlwind, her vision spun into a blur; that’d account for the dodgy attributions, clumsy conflations, and binary, moralistic sloppiness riddling her argument…
…all that in the service of a shibboleth so senseless, it mangles my mind that thoughtful folk grant it credence.