Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Problem With Rape

On 16th December 2012, a 23-year-old girl was gang-raped, beaten, mutilated, and thrown off a bus in India's capital New Delhi. The case sent shockwaves across the world. 
Angry civilians poured onto the streets of India for the next couple of days to demand stronger actions against rapists. The poor girl died of her injuries two weeks later. The six men who committed the atrocity have been charged with murder. But is that enough to prevent similar tragedy from happening in the future?

How do we define rape? Firstly, rape is non-consensual sex. It hurts emotionally. It leaves lifelong psychological trauma in the minds of the victims. Secondly, it is a form of violence. Very often, rapists beat their victims or kill them post-sex. Rape is sometimes used as a means to express masculinity and dominance.
The Rape of the Sabine Women. Image:
Our history is full of rape. In the past, war rape was often used as a means of psychological warfare to humiliate the enemy. Soldiers use rape to deflate opposition morale. Women and children were raped and then murdered en masse. Mongol warlord Genghis Khan raped so many women during his campaign that today 1 in every 200 men carry his gene. During the Massacre of Nanking, it was estimated that 20,000 women had been raped by Japanese soldiers. The Geneva Convention in 1949 explicitly prohibits wartime rape and forced prostitution. However, war rape was still rampant and practised extensively well into the 1990s. During the 1994 Rwanda genocide, observers have suggested the number of women raped to be between 200,000 to 500,000. Many of the victims were raped repeatedly, some up to five times a day.

And rape is still prevalent even to this day. The only difference being that the victim now includes men as well. Iraqi prisoners of war were allegedly raped as a way to feminize and humiliate them. Men in prison were constantly raped by fellow prisoners. A Russian immigrant who joined the U.S. army was gang-raped by fellow comrades who
"were showing him who was in charge of the United States. When he reported the attack to unit commanders, he says they told him, 'It must have been your fault. You must have provoked them.'"

A study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that when rape was defined as oral or anal penetration, one in 71 American men said they had been raped or had been the target of attempted rape, usually by a man they knew.

The problem with rape is that it is essentially an instinct. If we apply our concept of rape in the natural world, then dolphins rape. And chimpanzees. And ducks. For the animals, it's the reproduction instinct that's compelling them into rape. Male water striders threaten females with calls to lure in predators if she doesn't submit. Male bed bugs stab females in the belly using their dagger-sharp penis and leave it there. Those are non-consensual, traumatic sex all right. And human rapists often blame their act of violence on uncontrollable temptation, or reproduction instinct.
It is true that rape is a part of nature. But humans have taken it further with by introducing lots of violence into it. Reproductive instinct alone is never enough to justify the ludicrous level of cruelty the poor Indian girl, or rather, many rape victims have been through post-rape simply because chimps, ducks or dolphins don't kill, torture or mutilate the rape subject post-sex.
We are humans. The ability to defy instinct and act ethically is what defines us as the smartest creature on the planet.  So we should fare better than animals. If you can't control your urge to rape, then you are no better than chimps, dolphins, or water striders. Or even ducks.
Anti Rape Campaign. Image:
It's preposterous to impose something you don't like on another person, especially on a woman. Nobody wants their daughters to become the victims of rape, so rapists shouldn't go around raping other people's daughters. If you want sex, earn it, don't force it.


1 comment:

  1. "If you want sex, earn it, don't force it."?

    It is so hopelessly capitalist to suggest that sex can be 'earned.' Thus reducing mutual activity and one of the potential participants into a commodity. It is unsurprising that you, though well-intentioned, go on to make a number of mistakes in your piece.

    Further, a violating act is of itself violence - and indeed the very essence of the rape offence - even without physical assault and battery 'after' the event.

    I have read this piece at a time when a young man, named Elliott Rodger, has shot and killed several people (on 25 May 2014) because, for whatever warped reason or lack of it, he felt he deserved sex from the objects of his desire. That is, the women he objectified.

    There is something pervasively disturbing about the concentrated focus on the 'getting' of sex by a 'go-getter' and achieving the objective, as if it were just any other kind of material reward. Doing that psychologically blurs the difference between an ACTIVITY which is at its core about sharing and the WOMAN with whom it is supposed to be shared. This misapplication of the work ethic is wrong; because good sex/love is at the very least about FREELY GIVING... and getting physical gratification and perhaps getting something more from that giving and so on.

    Perhaps you should have written: "If you want sex, find someone who wants to have it with you as much as you want to have it with them." Better still, "Find someone who wants you as much as you want them."

    Then, you see, you make it more about THE PERSON and less about 'THAT THING' to which the Lauryn Hill song refers.

    But at least you're trying.



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