Respond by Numbers

1. This article infuriates me, because it moves from “My rape did not traumatize me, and I shouldn’t have to apologize for that,” (totally valid) to “We shouldn’t make rape such a big deal” ( totally invalid).

2. She also quotes Greer misleadingly here:

“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.”

In context, Greer is referring to outdated rape laws that defined rape solely in reference to the penis, rather than as non-consensual penetration. She was calling for the abolition of the legal crime of rape for the sake of broader and more comprehensive assault laws ( a broadening that is already starting to occur), rather than a cultural downplaying of the trauma of assault.

3. She also gets rape culture wrong–it does not refer as much to the collective experience of rape, as to the collective and communal enabling of its perpetration.

4. Rape is not equally traumatizing for everyone. Duh. No evil is equally traumatizing for everyone. But rape is not  rape because it’s traumatizing, it’s rape because it’s wrong, and a serious affront to justice.

5. The author may pay lip service towards the end of the article to the validity of all women’s stories, but her tone of impatience throughout the article towards the survivor mentality, therapy, “the depiction of rape as the ultimate horror,”  undermines any commitment she may profess to a serious treatment of other women’s experiences.

Many, if not most, rape victims suffer some kind of trauma. Many, if not most, do find it uniquely horrifying. This is because rape is a violent crime committed not against one’s possessions (it is telling that she compares it to armed robbery) but against one’s person, and the most intimate and life-giving area of one’s person.

8.  “According to the cultural script, women are simply not strong enough to bear such an experience easily.” She tries to blame the suffering of rape victims not herself on a cultural script, then argues that male rape should be taken more seriously. It should, but it won’t be if men are supposed to be “strong enough to bear such an experience easily.” Or is it only women who are supposed to have this superhuman strength?

I started out being infuriated, and ended by being confused. I’m not sure exactly what she’s saying, except that she recognizes the seriousness of rape, but only measures whether rape occurred by subjective trauma rather than the question of consent; respects the trauma of other women who are just so much weaker than her, poor things, but snips at and chides the (by no means mainstream)  culture that takes it seriously; sees the horror rape elicits as misogynistic in origin, but wishes men were shown more compassion.

There is an excellent point here, about recognizing the diversity of responses to rape, the various and strange permutations of trauma an assault can entail, and  the importance of privileging the actual experiences of women above political points and ideological integrity, but it gets lost in a pile of senseless self-congratulation.

The other interesting point, and I think one that will continue to gain credence, is that the seriousness of rape’s evil depends on a particular conception of sex–a conception that in its very definiteness many find inherently oppressive. To me, this is one of the single strongest arguments against both “sex positivity” and the commodification of the human body that both sex work and patriarchal marriage entail. They destroy the basis for any response to sexual assault at once basically feminist, decently compassionate, and rationally coherent, and it’s already starting to show.

And now, I am going to go call my little sister and say a rosary or five.

Update: I realize that I jumped from point 5 to point 8. I have no idea why I do that, but am leaving it up to shame myself into stopping.

Update 2: Had all the rape your stomach can handle for today? Too bad!

Update 3: Also, I think what really bugs me is that every time she says “Some feminists think,” or “Some feminists say,” a huge, wispy strawman follows.

Update 4: Because even I can only take so much awful, I’m going to let Feministing handle the Reddit rape thread.

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