A world without rapists would be a world in which women moved freely without fear of men. That some men rape provides a sufficient threat to keep all women in a constant state of intimidation, forever conscious of the knowledge that the biological tool must be held in awe, for it may turn to weapon with sudden swiftness born of harmful intent… Rather than society’s aberrants or ‘spoilers of purity,’ men who commit rape have served in effect as front-line masculine shock troops, terrorist guerrillas in the longest sustained battle the world has ever known.
— Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape (1975)
You think you’re being brave, you think you’re being sexy, you think you’re transcending feminism. But that’s bullshit.
I don’t want your love unless you know I am repulsive, and love me even as you know it.
I was always being told, “Smile and look like you’re enjoying yourself!” And I wondered, why am I not smiling and why am I not enjoying myself? Maybe it’s because I’m not enjoying myself!
As psychologists have told us, the more you mistreat people, the more pressing your need to explain why your victims deserve their fate. A great deal has been written about the “natural” inferiority of women, much of it by the philosophers and religionmakers whose ideas underpin Western society. Much of this thinking was grounded in what French calls, with wondrous understatement, “men’s insistent concern with female reproduction.” Male self-esteem, it seemed, depended on men not being women. All the more necessary that women should be forced to be as “female” as possible, even when- especially when- the male-created definition of “female” included the power to pollute, seduce and weaken men.
— From Margaret Atwood’s foreword to Marilyn French’s “A History of Women In the World” (via deermoon
Characteristics of male power include:
the power of men
- to deny women [our own] sexuality
[by means of clitoridectomy and infibulation; chastity belts; punishment, including death, for female adultery; punishment, including death, for lesbian sexuality; psychoanalytic denial of the clitoris; strictures against masturbation; denial of maternal and postmenopausal sensuality; unnecessary hysterectomy; pseudolesbian images in media and literature; closing of archives and destruction of documents relating to lesbian existence]
- or to force it [male sexuality] upon them
[by means of rape (including marital rape) and wife beating; father-daughter, brother-sister incest; the socialization of women to feel that male sexual “drive” amounts to a right; idealization of heterosexual romance in art, literature, media, advertising, etc.; child marriage; arranged marriage; prostitution; the harem; psychoanalytic doctrines of frigidity and vaginal orgasm; pornographic depictions of women responding pleasurably to sexual violence and humiliation (a subliminal message being that sadistic heterosexuality is more “normal” than sensuality between women)];
- to command or exploit their labor to control their produce
[by means of the institutions of marriage and motherhood as unpaid production; the horizontal segregation of women in paid employment; the decoy of the upwardly mobile token woman; male control of abortion, contraception, and childbirth; enforced sterilization; pimping; female infanticide, which robs mothers of daughters and contributes to generalized devaluation of women];
- to control or rob them of their children
[by means of father-right and “legal kidnapping”; enforced sterilization; systematized infanticide; seizure of children from lesbian mothers by the courts; the malpractice of male obstetrics; use of the mother as “token torturer” in genital mutilation or in binding the daughter’s feet (or mind) to fit her for marriage]
- to confine them physically and prevent their movement
[by means of rape as terrorism, keeping women off the streets; purdah; foot-binding; atrophying of women’s athletic capabilities; haute couture, “feminine” dress codes; the veil; sexual harassment on the streets; horizontal segregation of women in employment; prescriptions for “full-time” mothering; enforced economic dependence of wives]
- to use them as objects in male transactions
[use of women as “gifts”; bride-price; pimping; arranged marriage; use of women as entertainers to facilitate male deals, e.g., wife-hostess, cocktail waitress required to dress for male sexual titillation, call girls, “bunnies,” geisha, kisaeng prostitutes, secretaries];
- to cramp their creativeness
[witch persecutions as campaigns against midwives and female healers and as pogrom against independent, “unassimilated” women; definition of male pursuits as more valuable than female within any culture, so that cultural values become embodiment of male subjectivity; restriction of female self- fulfillment to marriage and motherhood; sexual exploitation of women by male artists and teachers; the social and economic disruption of women’s creative aspirations; erasure of female tradition]; and
- to withhold from them large areas of the society’s knowledge and cultural attainments
[by means of noneducation of females (60% of the world’s illiterates are women); the “Great Silence” regarding women and particularly lesbian existence in history and culture; sex-role stereotyping which deflects women from science, technology, and other “masculine” pursuits; male social/professional bonding which excludes women; discrimination against women in the professions].
Adrienne Rich, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” (1980), pp. 638-40, as printed in Signs 5 (4), pp. 631-660.
You can also find this essay online - for “legit” citation, please refer to ↑↑↑.
Because we are separated everything separates us, even our efforts to join each other.
About rape. Rape is extremely dehumanizing regardless who the victim is, but the relevant thing to notice about rape is that the threat of rape, and the threat of the grossly unfair repurcussions from being raped, are used in a very target-specific, very gender-specific systematic way to prevent class female from ever achieving equality with class male.
It’s impossible to behave in your day to day life as if you are equal when you realize that many people would happily see you be dehumanized at the drop of a hat.
The mechanism by which this occurs is subtle, but the result is not. Most men would never say directly, “you must be subserviant, act coquetish, tolerate my arrogance, or if you don’t then some man will surely rape you”. Those things are never said explicitly but the threat is usually there.
These implicit threats comes in the form of a thousand different messages which are directed only at females from the day they are born, and continues every single day of her life. It’s why the usual misogynistic reaction to a publicized rape case is so damaging — all those blame-the-victim tropes which are trotted out only serve to reinforce the message that dehumanization of females is acceptable, and that any excuse no matter how ludicrous or illogical will be accepted as valid.
Once you realize that you can be dehumanized with impunity, then it’s simply not possible to act as if you are equal with those who are considered human. And this awareness affects every move you make, every course of action you ever consider making in your day to day life; it becomes second nature to pander to the egotistical demands of those who have power over you in order to avoid their abuse.
It isn’t *just* the fact that most guys are bigger and stronger than me, it’s the knowledge that our society doesn’t care enough about my humanity to prevent men from thinking they are entitled to dehumanize me. That’s rape culture.