I have been wondering how to write this post.
A lot of my recent posts have been about rape specifically and sexual violence in general. I have even renamed my series “Judges on Rape” to “Justice and Rape” because the scope of the series galloped out of control beyond a narrow focus on the conduct and prejudice of judges.
But how to sum it all up? How to convey, in one post, what I think it all means? There is too much to deal with. Too much material, too much pain, too many different aspects to this deep and seemingly irreconcilable problem. And then there are questions about the importance of sexual violence as a feminist issue: Is it absolutely THE crucial problem for women to resolve? Or is it only one of the worse symptoms of some other problem? How, in any event, do we deal with it? Whose responsibility is it to deal with it in the first place? Or should we all just stop going on about it because, egad, we might be perpetuating a victim mentality? Isn’t it better to focus on something positive instead?
So I don’t have a coherent post here. The topic defies it. I just have what Inga Muscio called a WOMANIFESTO:
I believe that if a man attacks a woman, he is her attacker and she is his victim. She can have whatever mentality she likes. She is his victim and he is her attacker. Since when did being a “victim” become inherently blameworthy?
I believe that since men are (in the overwhelming majority of cases) the ones who rape, and commit other sexual crimes, since men are the ones in power, they are the ones who can stop rape. They can stop it by understanding women as human, and by demanding that their friends and brothers and sons and entertainers understand women as human.
I believe that since rapists are the ones who rape, they are the ones who can stop rape. They can stop it by not raping. They can stop it by not assuming that a woman consents. They can stop it by not coercing women into sex. They can stop it by understanding women as human. They can stop it by NOT RAPING.
I believe that women can rise up and demand that rapists stop raping and that men stop rapists from raping and from thinking that rape is OK. We can only do this together, en masse. But, even then, it is doubtful whether this will make any difference if the men don’t listen, and hear, and accept, and act. If this makes us seem relatively powerless then it is because, under patriarchy, when it comes to rape – we are relatively powerless. It stinks. But we are.
And I am inspired:
- “you cannot separate the so-called abuses of women from the so-called normal uses of women. The history of women in the world as sexual chattel, makes it impossible to do that.”
- “as sex is currently socialized and existing in our society, men can’t have sex with women who are their equals. They’re incapable of it. Right? That’s what objectification is about.”
(Andrea Dworkin. Swiped from Luckynkl’s.)
And, because Dworkin is right, I believe that sexual violence against women will never stop until women acquire fully human status.
Within “sexual violence” I include not just rape but all violence that is perpetrated against women because they are women, which is a hate crime against women as a group. I include – rape; incest; indecent assaults; sex with young girls; the hate speech that is pornography; the buying, trafficking, selling of women’s bodies; domestic violence; wife murder; female genital mutilation; the stoning of an adulteress; sati and its glorification.
In fact, I go further. Because Dworkin is pretty much right, because on the whole men CANNOT have sex with women who are their equals, most “normal” sex is about violence, and is a form of sexual violence. It is about domination and subordination; it is about power and coercion; it is about who controls whom, who submits to whom, who does what to whom, and why. It is conquest, it is victory, it is a score. It is misunderstanding.
When it runs so deep, how can it end?
I believe that it can end only with a revolution. With a liberation.
When women are free, when we can do WHAT we want with our bodies, WHEN we want to and in any manner we choose, sexual violence might stop. As long as we exist even partly as the object of male pleasure rather than the subject of our own, sexual violence will go on. And on and on. And on.
When we are equal in spirit and granted full agency and full dignity and full respect, sexual violence might stop. As long as we exist within the narrow confines of femininity, we will be subordinate, and sexual violence will go on. And on.
And I believe that I will be dead long before the revolution starts.
And I believe that this is no reason to stop my resistance.
And I fantasise.
What would happen if we were all to go on strike? I mean all of us. I mean you, and me, and all our friends. I mean Cherie Blair, and Jordan, and Sheryl Crow, and Hillary Clinton, and Catherine Zeta Jones, and the Queen, and Mrs President of Here-or-There. I mean Anna, and Mandy, Alix and Jade, Chantal and Henrikka, Marlene and Suki and Hortense and Rupinder and Talya, and just – you know – everyone.
We can say no. Not just – “no” to one man, one act, one occasion. We can say NO! To it all. We can withdraw our consent, en masse. We can make sure that we are clear about our lack of consent. We can teach our daughters to be clear about their lack of consent.
What then? Would men’s genitals shrivel off and drop to the ground? Would their balls explode? Would there be a population crisis? What would they do if they were “denied sex (through no fault of their own)” in this way?
Would they suddenly get that they are NOT entitled to sex? That sex is not a human right? That it is not a thing without which they cannot survive?
Would they suddenly get that women CAN say no, and mean it? And stick to it? And not be “persuaded” otherwise? Would they get that we are HUMAN and we have RIGHTS and when we say no it actually means something?
Would we, at last, be freed?
Would sex, at last, be freed?
Would men reach a point where, new rules established, strike called off, they stop assuming that we consent and start asking?