whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong

April 11, 2013 § Leave a comment


The idea that there might be different emotional responses to rape is not popular. All rapes are equally traumatic and those who suggest otherwise are labeled rape apologists. It is unforgivable to publicly question the mythologizing of rape’s status as the ruination of all women who go through it. Camille Paglia, who has been roundly denounced for her take on rape (among other things), has said that “rape is an outrage” but that she considers the “propaganda and hysteria” around rape “equally outrageous.” I’ve never forgotten reading her Spin interview from the early ’90s in which she shared the story of an acquaintance who had been raped and found the rape counseling more alarming than helpful because of its focus on the inability to recover. “The whole system now is designed to make you feel that you are maimed and mutilated forever,” Paglia said. “It made her feel worse.”

In 1998, novelist Fay Weldon suggested that while rape is a terrible and serious crime, it is not by definition “the worst thing that could happen to a woman.” She even qualified this by adding “if you’re safe, alive, and unmarked after,” but the level of insult and recrimination she faced was staggering regardless. She’d hurt all women with her “extremely dangerous” comment, she’d made it harder for women to “come forward,” she was “talking rubbish.” I hope I may be allowed to at least say that my rapes were not the worst thing to ever happen to me. They are not even in the top five. They are not the worst thing I can conceive of happening to me, nor happening to any human being. I can, of course, imagine rapes much worse than mine, but the idea that there may be degrees of rape is not a popular one, either.

Though some feminists regard “rape equals devastation” as sacred fact, the notion that a man can ruin me with his penis strikes me as the most complete expression of vintage misogyny available. Common sense instructs us that it is far more “dangerous” to insist to young women that they will be broken by an unwanted sex act than it is to propose they might have a happy, healthy, and sexually pleasant future ahead of them in spite of a sexual assault. Weldon ventured this same conclusion when she said that “defining it as some peculiarly awful crime may even be counter-productive.”

Similarly, Germaine Greer claimed, “It is not women who have decided that rape is so heinous, but men. The only weapon that counts in rape is the penis, which is conceptualized as devastating.” When we refuse to acknowledge the possibility that a rape could be anything less than a tsunami of emotional and mental destruction for a woman, we establish a fantasy of absolute male sexual power and absolute female vulnerability. We are, in essence, honoring the timeless belief that a woman’s worth, self-respect, and ability to function within society are dictated exclusively by the sexual use of her body.  read more

ART: Lucio Fontana

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