Only Men Benefit When Even Feminists Don’t Know What Rape Is
Language is important. I’m not going to do a history of language or do a deep analysis of how language, in the hands of men, has affected and continues to affect women. There are excellent blogs (one in my side bar) devoted to the study of patriarchy and language, and while I teach language and love to learn about meaning, evolution of meaning and word origins, I am in no way an expert nor can I do a better analysis than said experts.
But I want to talk about the word rape and how it is defined. I am not going to provide a deep history of the word or a legal history of the meaning. There are actually some excellent articles out there that do this very thing, which are highly findable through a Google search. I’ll give a brief background, and then plunge into my intended topic, which is current and relevant now, and I’ll tie it in to some unexpected results of my quickie quiz on feminism dilution, which you can still participate in if you wish.
The purpose of language is to communicate. Maybe you’re saying ‘duh’ to yourself, but given that I teach university ESL (speaking, writing, research communication) in China, I’ve noticed that after 10+ years of English study, most of my students can’t communicate to save their lives. (The Chinese government isn’t focused on communication, but obscure-grammar-test-taking.) So, I don’t consider my statement to be all that elementary or obvious. Language exists to allow us to communicate. To communicate problems, needs, wants, states of being, observations, discoveries. You name it.
It’s a tool. And like all tools that exist in our international patriarchy, it is controlled by men. What is the purpose of controlling language? Well, simply, the class that controls language, also controls who gets to express problems, needs, wants, states of being, observations, discoveries, etc. So, as men are in control of language, they are the ones who get to express themselves openly. They are the ones who have legitimate problems, needs, wants, states of being, observations, discoveries, etc. Women? Not so much.
Language forms the bedrock upon which the educational, political, legal, medical, and all other systems are built. So if you control language, you control these systems. And they work for you, the controllers.
The legal system uses male-defined language to protect men from each other and from women and their silly-willy accusations. Women are not protected by the law because the language does not allow them to define their problems/crimes against them.
So we get to rape. The word ‘rape’ has a long history, and men have been fucking around with its definition for centuries. Since the early 13th century, it has been used to mean all sorts of things from speed/hurry, a kind of food, plundering, theft, seduction of men, kidnapping women, and sexually violating women.
In more modern times, most of the various definitions have fallen away, and it has come to vaguely mean ‘sexually violating a woman’. But even that is problematic as it doesn’t address by whom, how, and under what circumstances. And that was the intention. By controlling the meaning of the word, men essentially controlled the crime and its prevalence. If a woman can’t fit the constantly shifting definition of the crime, then no crime has been committed against her. Sweet! For men.
Now there are many other issues and problems with how rape is seen and prosecuted, but I won’t be addressing those here as many, many other worthy people have devoted their expertise to its discussion and analysis. My concern is with language; specifically, defining rape, and by whom and to whom is it done.
At some point in the not too distant past, women started speaking up for male victims of sexual assault (male prisoners, Catholic school boys, DV abuse victims, etc), and the movement took on a life of its own. Once a problem experienced by males has been identified, it takes on immediate importance and seriousness on all levels of society, and almost always, if it is similar to a very widespread problem experienced by females, the latter is brushed under the carpet in order to devote time and resources to men and boys.
This has happened with rape. At some point, it was decided that men and boys could be raped. I suspect, like with backlash to all progress women make in having their oppression acknowledged, this male rape victim business followed women making headway in having rape taken seriously. All of a sudden, we heard: “Men can be raped, tooooo!!!” And everyone got on board. With that movement came the mantra that rape wasn’t a sex-motivated crime but one of violence, which I think is incorrect, despite what experts say. If rape were a crime solely of violence/domination, straight men would be ‘raping’ men right, left and centre. They don’t. And at the same time, straight men would just beat up or kill women like they do men and leave the vaginal penetration out of it. I believe rape is a sexual and violent/dominance/power-motivated crime. And the adamant nature of the ‘it’s not sexual’ argument smacks of a patriarchal system cleverly trying to weasel its way out of naming sex-based oppression and male-domination as real problems, which would then have to be dealt with. Men would be held responsible for once, in other words.
And so, ‘rape’ is no longer a sex-based crime committed by men and boys against women and girls as a deliberate act of terrorism designed to uphold a millennia-long system of male dominance. And when you subscribe to that, you erase the existence of misogyny and hate crimes against women. You give equal importance to the occasional ‘rape’ of one man here and there as you do to the international crisis of the rape of women and girls. They essentially become the same, and thus women no longer have a unique problem.
Now, let’s get to my little quiz. On the whole, the respondents were on board with radical feminist theory. There was a small contingent confused by which factors influenced economic outcome most (15% of respondents didn’t see sex as being the number one factor harming economic success, and instead erroneously chose race or sexual orientation).
But the most surprising outcome was that this mostly feminist group of respondents didn’t have a feminist working definition of rape. It surprised me because they well understood why allowing men to define sex, as we are seeing with the whole trans (MtT) movement, is a problem for women. Specifically, when men can magically become women, and when sex and gender are equated, it erases sex. It erases misogyny and sex-based oppression. Women suddenly become ‘oppressors’ of newly transformed/realized ‘women’, instead of the largest and longest-standing oppressed group in the history of the world. So respondents saw this and understood this issue with men controlling language, and specifically the language of oppression as it related to the trans movement.
But what most respondents didn’t get was how allowing men to define the specific term ‘rape’ to be a crime against men and women where perps could possibly be either men or women, erases the seriousness of a crime of sexual terrorism against women. Rape has lost its unique and important meaning, in other words, and even feminists have bought in. I’m worried about that.
One of the three options to the question was about a male-on-female act (which was the feminist answer). The other two options allowed for male AND female victims with variation in wording of details.
Specifically and sadly, only 26% of respondents correctly defined rape as ‘forced, coerced, or unwanted PIV (penis-in-vagina) sex that is done by males to females.
Now, this quiz is not nuanced enough, as I stated in the original post. As the designer, I’m the first one to admit inadequacy. There is more to explore here. I didn’t look at the sex of perps, specifically, but focused on victims. And you certainly can’t draw big conclusions based on an untested test with one inadequate, related question. So, I honestly don’t know what respondents are thinking. I mean something is going on. Possibly people were thinking that in the case of lesbians, women can rape women. Possibly some people believed that rape could involve the penetration of an anus or a mouth. But what was clear was that most respondents believed that men could be raped. And that is a big problem.
But regardless of what is going on, one thing can be said for sure. We need better, woman-defined language concerning different kinds of sexual assault. I would like to see rape better defined to return to a male-on-female crime (as it was for so long) that is both sex-based and sexual in nature as well as power or violence-motivated. I am not sure why ‘forced sodomy’ isn’t enough to describe the assault of men’s (or women’s) anuses. Prison ‘rape’, speaks to me of male guards and psychologists and doctors (and MtTs) sexually assaulting the vaginas of FEMALE prisoners – not of male prisoners/guards assaulting male prisoners. And I think we need to stop calling it that in order to ensure that assault of women and girls actually means something. We need language to address crime between lesbians. We need language to define the occasional assault of a man by a woman. We need clear language about specific acts. We really don’t have that. There is better definition of acts in porn…
As it is, rape is now a word that can apply to anyone and everyone for all sorts of different acts of sexual violence, which isn’t really sexual, but ‘violent’. Whatever.
Posted on March 3, 2016, in Feminism, Male Privilege, Violence and tagged crime, language, law, legal, misogyny, patriarchy, rape, sexual assault. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Only Men Benefit When Even Feminists Don’t Know What Rape Is.