Rape Culture and the "Colonized" Mind

This email was sent to the Alas moderators and I thought it would be a good thing for everyone to discuss.

So I have an interesting, for lack of a better word, anecdote relating to rape culture. I am a 22-year-old white queer female, fresh out of one of the most lefty elite colleges in the US — and I even majored in queer studies while there (and yes, they actually call it queer studies!). I was raised by Democrat-to-leftist parents who are economically upper-middle-class (~$60k combined/yr) but socially and educationally upper class (Harvard.). I never had a feminist “click” moment, because I didn’t realize feminist was anything but a positive term until sometime in high school, at which point I affirmed it ferociously, being the rebellious protodyke I was.

AND YET.

I am currently dating a dude (bio and identified as such), and have been dating this dude for over two years. I tend to go to sleep a couple hours after him, which occasionally, and very consensually, results in my waking him up for a bit with nightnight sex, if he’s up for it. Tonight I started feelin’ it, looked over at him, saw how cute he looked, and found myself thinking very distinctly, in my inner stand-up comic voice, “Oh I am so gonna rape you– wait, what!?”

Now, I did not mean rape literally. What I meant was “wake you up with sexual advances that will lead to sex if accepted.” But my inner monologue went ahead and made a) a joke about rape that b) belitted what rape actually means and c) treated rape as rape-as-compliment!

My point in sending this e-mail is, how horribly pervasive rape culture can be — I look at someone I love, sexually desire them, and want to give them a hopefully pleasant midnight experience, and my broseph inner monologue compares that to rape. As if rape is just surprise sex! If they don’t want it they’re moody! Also I’m only doing it because they’re totes hot right now!

I’m just so, well, terrified that rape can come into my innermost thoughts as “boy, you are gonna love this unexpected goodness!” I spend a good part of my day finding and analysing the evidence of rape culture that show up in advertising, television, and social interactions, and yet my uncensored self still uses “rape” casually and incredibly inappropriately. Horrible and amazing, and something I’d love a comment on, if any of you have got the time.

I answered:

That’s really intense. I think we all have moments like that where it becomes weirdly clear how much our brains have been “colonized” by the dominant culture. For me, they’ll often be about internalized fatphobia, directed at myself and at other women.

I don’t know if there’s a way to get rid of such things entirely. Writer Nisi Shawl describes those quick-thought rising-from-your-subconscious bad reactions as being sort of your “lizard brain,” although obviously that’s metaphorical. We all have those kinds of bad reactions, but the point is to know why they’re bad, and then sculpt your action in the world around that.

Would you like us to post this on our blog and open it up for comment from others? People might learn from this, or have more substantive comments to add than mine — or feel relieved at seeing the ways other feminists experience and cope with mental “colonization.”*

*

The writer agreed that posting might be interesting, so let’s open it up to comments. What do y’all think?

I’m going to warn y’all: please be respectful of the person who wrote in. She’s a guest in this posting space, and exposed some tender and personal details, even if they are being released anonymously. I’m not going to limit this to feminist-only commenters because I think non-feminist-identified people may have smart things to say about this — but only as long as they are respectful of the subject and the poster.

*I put colonization in quotation marks because I know that some people of color object to the term being used as they see it as appropriation. I don’t know of a better way to express the concept clearly, though, off-hand, so I hope that the quotation marks will suffice to demonstrate that the term suggests an imperfect metaphor that should not be taken to diminish the real effects of colonization on literally colonized minds.

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52 Responses to Rape Culture and the "Colonized" Mind

  1. First, I just want to honor the courage it took for this woman to write what she did. To embrace this level of vulnerability takes a kind of bravery that few people have and that many who might have it are unwilling to act on.

    Second, Mandolin, regarding “colonization:” I wonder if a verb like appropriate or co-opt might be more what you are looking for.

  2. Open questions – Do fantasies related to the word rape and the idea of rape always automatically reinforce the rape culture and the real threat of sexual violence? Are there ever times when they don;t? Are there times when they can be recognized as a manifestations of rape culture or of a “colonized” mind and still be allowed to exist as fantasies? Is the goal to purge such fantasies, or can there also be safe (safe to all parties) spaces to express them? When should individuals’ desires be subject to critical analysis and when not?

  3. 3
    PG says:

    Writer Nisi Shawl describes those quick-thought rising-from-your-subconscious bad reactions as being sort of your “lizard brain,” although obviously that’s metaphorical.

    It’s also a reference to the basal ganglia, I think, and thus not purely metaphorical. Gene Weingarten recently described it thus: “The human brain, he says, is a magnificent but jury-rigged device in which newer and more sophisticated structures sit atop a junk heap of prototype brains still used by lower species. At the top of the device are the smartest and most nimble parts: the prefrontal cortex, which thinks and analyzes, and the hippocampus, which makes and holds on to our immediate memories. At the bottom is the basal ganglia, nearly identical to the brains of lizards, controlling voluntary but barely conscious actions. ”

    (The linked article is very intense and I don’t recommend reading it if you’re somewhere it would be bad to be having an emotional reaction.)

  4. 4
    Mandolin says:

    “It’s also a reference to the basal ganglia, I think, and thus not purely metaphorical.”

    Yeah, I know, but a lot of scientists have taken a very dim view of condensing the evolution of the brain into ideas like “lizard brain” and “monkey brain”, and I wanted to be clear that I didn’t endorse it.

  5. 5
    Lilian Nattel says:

    I also want to commend her courage and her awareness of herself and her willingness to look at this issue. Fantasies of “rape” are really fantasies of helpless pleasure, given and received. The fact that the word used for this is the same word as used for sexual violence illustrates exactly the point that the original poster made: “I look at someone I love, sexually desire them, and want to give them a hopefully pleasant midnight experience, and my broseph inner monologue compares that to rape.”

    We need a broader sexual vocabulary which has words for helpless fantasy and for waking up a lover with caresses. We also need to be aware, as the poster is, of the insidious cultural notions that rape is something other than a sexual crime of violence.

    Perhaps it would help to call rape what it is: crime, violence.

  6. 6
    Mandolin says:

    Can we analyze the flitting use of the word rape here with the same lens we usually use for women who have fantasies of rape? The situation seems too different.

  7. 7
    Renee says:

    While her commentary referred specifically to rape, I think that it is fair to state because we have been raised in a racist, sexist, patriarchal society such thoughts come to us because we naturalized a discourse of inequality. I think the issue is far more problematic when we refuse to acknowledge our privilege by realizing that these thoughts are problematic. Many would not have taken the time to reflect on just how serious the equation of sex and rape are. I understand that the author is hurt to find that she too is capable of expressing some of our most demeaning cultural understandings however, simply by being born into this culture makes such thoughts unavoidable.

  8. 8
    chingona says:

    I think this is different than a rape fantasy. I haven’t been in a situation exactly like hers or had a thought exactly like hers. What I’m thinking of is a time that I was having a relatively minor fight with my husband – bickering, really, but over something that had been an ongoing issue, so there was an extra level of frustration there – and I felt this sudden pulse of rage run through me and this desire or thought of punching him in the face. It was not something that I had ever felt before, even in much worse fights. It seemed like it came out of nowhere, and it really scared me. That’s different than what she’s describing, because it came out of a place of anger, but in some ways I see it as more similar to her situation than a rape fantasy is.

    I’m also thinking more generally about the effect on our relationship when I was working full-time and my husband was home with our son (and going to school and working part-time). We had always earned similar amounts of money and always had a fairly egalitarian relationship before that. But over time, I felt a certain sense of entitlement sneak up on me, a feeling that I didn’t have to take him or his ideas as seriously because I was the one bringing in all the money. I don’t think that I gave in to it very much, and I always knew it was wrong, but there it was.

    Like the writer, I grew up with liberal, feminist parents, and never had a really strong “aha!” moment with feminism because it always seemed completely self-evident to me.

    A lot of us (if I may generalize) are striving for more egalitarian relationships, but I don’t think relationships are ever completely equal. And I suspect that for a lot of feminists, that inequality isn’t always going to break down along traditional gender roles. In some ways in my relationship I have the “female” role but in other ways I have or have had the “male” role. And despite myself, I’ve absorbed society’s ideas about what constitutes the “male” role and what rights I have or what things I’m entitled to when I’m in that role. And sometimes I end up ceding those things to my husband and other times I claim them for myself, despite myself. I think it’s given me a glimpse into how even feminist or feminist-allied men can act in sexist ways.

    I’m not saying we’re helpless in the face of this – that cliche that you can’t control how you feel but you can control how you act, and all that. But like Renee said, we’re all products of this culture, and we all get exposed to some really poisonous understandings of how things work.

  9. 9
    Elkins says:

    Brave Anonymous was struck by how cute her partner looked while asleep. She thought he looked “ravishing.”

    Is there any way not to have our thoughts colonized in such a fashion, when the culture of rape is embedded in our very language? Rape flows through the veins of the mother tongue at whose breasts we all suckled. (As — as we’ve just seen evidenced — is a host of other gendered nasties.) How could we not have taken these metaphors in?

  10. 10
    al-Zorra says:

    Acculturation, saturation in a culture of violence that also abjures the intelligent, the sensitive, the imaginative, the generous and compassionate — and enforces this ‘dumbing down’ via an ongoing debasement of language.

    We are at a loss to describe those lovely emphemeral moments of impulse romance in other terms for we snark at at a more delicate language. It’s difficult in contemporary usage to express exhuberance and exileration other than with terms that connote violence.

    Spoken and written language are connected to our body language, our platform for communication. We even speak with our animals, who may not understand any words beyond a few command or informative sounds. Yet we speak to our horses and other animal companions far more extensively than that.

    Perhaps we need to treat language with more respect than we have since the days when the reagan admin began changing the names of things in order to provide an illusion of positive change? Maybe we need to be more conscious of what words mean — thinking here that ‘slut’ is employed ‘promiscuously’ as put-down, whether in intention of snark or even affection. But why would a woman want to call herself or other woman sluts? Empowerment, I’ve been told.

    Then, maybe I’m an idiot here. In Jack London’s Call of the Wild, the primary human protagonist so loves and respects his dog, Buck, that they sit together at night by the campfire, Buck’s big head in the man’s hand, and the man croons – calls Buck by the worst epithets he knows, and as a man up there in Alaska’s gold fields, he knows a dictionary of them. Buck whines and growls back, in this duet between man and dog of love and loyalty, in the only terms the man knows of how to talk to a dog.

  11. 11
    Lexie says:

    When I was in my late teens/early 20′s, I had what I will call “rape fantasies” in which I was the victim. And I found that really disturbing. But then I really looked at what I was actually fantasizing about. It wasn’t the rape in and of itself. I mean, my mind never really even went to the actual mental pictures of myself being raped. It was just something that had just occurred. The fantasy part was more about the after. I fantasized that people would be nice and caring and supportive of me. And even be protective and help me through the trauma of it.

    And when I asked myself, “Why the hell am I thinking all of these thoughts?” I sort of came to the conclusion that it was some kind of defense mechanism my brain was playing out. I feared rape. And I feared the reaction I would get upon being raped. I think my subconscious just wanted to believe that if it did happen, it would be okay. That I would be helped and supported and that I could recover from it. After I sort of realized that, I stopped having these thoughts.

    Anyway, I know this is not exactly what the poster is saying, but sometimes I think our minds work out ways to protect us from our deepest fears in weird ways. Perhaps by the kneejerk minimalization, controlling and joking use of the word “rape”, the poster was just subconsciously defending herself from the fear of it. And I’ll bet, now that these thoughts are being caught and analyzed, it won’t happen again (or will happen less often.)

    Just a thought?

  12. 12
    PG says:

    I think “rape” here may have been used as a synonym for “dominate,” and unfortunately because we don’t have BDSM well-integrated into mainstream sexual discourse, the impulse to dominate a partner during a particular sexual encounter gets put into terms of violence and non-consent that aren’t at all what we really mean.

  13. 13
    Myca says:

    I think “rape” here may have been used as a synonym for “dominate,” and unfortunately because we don’t have BDSM well-integrated into mainstream sexual discourse, the impulse to dominate a partner during a particular sexual encounter gets put into terms of violence and non-consent that aren’t at all what we really mean.

    That’s an awesome point, PG, and I think that that disconnect in language and thought also understandably influences a lot of the anti-BDSM sentiment out there . . . after all, if the original poster faced that confusion in her own thoughts and her own actions, how much more likely is the confusion going to be when it comes to the thoughts and actions of another? Really really good point.

    —Myca

  14. 14
    Jake Squid says:

    I started to write a comment much earlier in the day similar to PG’s.

    I was thinking about the link that Brave Anonymous’ email made in my mind to the discussions we’ve had here about whether or not BDSM fits in a feminist paradigm and why those who say, “no,” may feel that way.

    PG’s comment is much more concise and clear than my abandoned attempt. And then Myca carried it on in much the same way my muddled mind was trying to do.

  15. 15
    PG says:

    I was thinking about the link that Brave Anonymous’ email made in my mind to the discussions we’ve had here about whether or not BDSM fits in a feminist paradigm and why those who say, “no,” may feel that way.

    I can see why domination on a totalizing scale, e.g. in a whole-life master-slave relationship and especially where a bio-female or gender-femme is the person in the subjugated position, would feel like it didn’t fit with feminism. BDSM constrained solely to sex seems like less of a threat to equality, in part because it’s easier to flip around (“today you tie me up, tomorrow I tie you down”). BraveAnon’s story fits that very well — there’s no intimation that the boyfriend doesn’t also get to wake her up by initiating sex.

    Though even when sex is all you see, I have a hard time with pornography where the woman but not the man is getting called names, etc. because then it’s hard to think of it just as play. If it’s only a temporary role, it ought to be flippable and thereby equalizing. But I do realize that some people’s buttons are pushed only in a particular role and thus demanding turnabout-is-fair-play equality would kill that enjoyment for them.

  16. 16
    LD says:

    Hey, so I’m the one who wrote the original anecdote, and I have one or two more thoughts:

    – for me it wasn’t the same thing as a rape fantasy at all. My properly verbalized thoughts would have gone more like “I’m going to wake you up, you will be happy about it, and there will be no particular D/s or top/bottom dynamics about this night,” rather than “I am going to dominate you sexually with your consent.”

    – The thing that disturbed me most about my inner monologue was the equation of “surprise sex” with rape. Obviously my waking up my partner with sexytimes has happened before and is a standing “this is ok” agreement (and vice versa). That is, consensual and anticipated. My inner thoughts played into the idea of rape as simply a passionate act, rather than a violent crime of power.

    LD

  17. 17
    Holly says:

    Firstly, I think it was very courageous of the person who wrote that email to write it in the first place and also top open it up for discussion.

    The concerns that email illustrates has a great deal to do with the culture we were born into and how society throws has a tendency to throw around words that are harmful and offensive to others like it’s second nature. Thought processes like this are normal and unavoidable and are not our fault, but the fault of a discriminating society that still has a tendency to show obvious signs of woman shaming and blaming.

  18. 18
    Ruth W. says:

    The thing that disturbed me most about my inner monologue was the equation of “surprise sex” with rape.

    LD, I think it may well be the amount of time (“a good part of my day”) you spend on “finding and analysing the evidence of rape culture that show up in advertising, television, and social interactions” that has ingrained this idea in your mind. There are studies (sorry, no clue about the citations) that have shown that advertising influences people’s subconscious beliefs, i.e. affects their behavior, even if the people consciously reject the ideas portrayed in the advertising.

    Personally I have a policy that I avoid any cultural depiction of rape, because if it’s portrayed realistically then it’s traumatic to watch, and if it’s portrayed in a titillating way it’s enraging. I find that most depictions of rape are kind of like the Meese report on pornography–they allow people to be titillated while feeling self-righteously condemnatory of what titillates them. Same deal with that frothing right-winger who reads the sexual personals ads in the Washington Blade every week, and denounces all gay men as perverted sluts (again, sorry I can’t remember/find the article I read about this dude). Yeah, he needs to do that for research.

    Not that I’m implying that’s what you do, LD. I myself actually have a weird fascination with horrifying true stories, like the Soviet gulag, other prison camps, extreme survival stories, etc. Whatever twisted psychological need it fills, it also educates me about history, biology, disaster preparedness, etc., and gives me perspective on current events. So, I guess it’s up to you to figure out if your anti-rape-culture work is worth the psychological fall-out to yourself (assuming my advertising-comparison analysis is correct). Good luck.

  19. 19
    PG says:

    Yeah, he needs to do that for research.

    That reminds me of my favorite story about Robert Bork.

  20. 20
    Patch says:

    I’d just like to toss a thought into the mix: I think that it’s dangerous to critique one’s own inner thoughts as being “good” or “bad” in the context of feminism. Human beings are social creatures, and it is inevitable that the culture in which we live is going to profoundly affect the way we think. Creating an internal censor that jumps on fleeting thoughts and imposes some sort of ethical system on them in response is … well, it’s a very traditionally Catholic way of looking at things (where thoughts are sins), but I’m not sure that it’s a healthy way, or a way to actually get anything does as far as changing your attitudes and behavior toward the outside world.

    I think that it is a far more powerful thing to give the part of yourself that came up with the thought a hug and a “there, there”. Embrace it. Accept it as part of yourself. Acknowledge its presence, and use that knowledge to become a more powerful and self aware actor when it comes to your actual words and deeds.

    - Patch

  21. 21
    Schala says:

    If it’s only a temporary role, it ought to be flippable and thereby equalizing. But I do realize that some people’s buttons are pushed only in a particular role and thus demanding turnabout-is-fair-play equality would kill that enjoyment for them.

    Yeah, I can’t “flip the role”, or really – I don’t want to. I don’t want to dominate my partner, instead of being enjoyable, it would become a chore to me. Certainly, I also want to avoid abuse or forms of ‘play’ that I don’t like.

    I don’t want an equal relationship for myself, but I don’t want my form of relationship to become universal either. It’s simply okay for me. It might not be for others, and I accept that. Diversity is what makes this world interesting anyhow, I’d see no point in all being the same.

    I will also condemn relationships where there is abuse, but that is not how I see the majority of BDSM relationships. For those who would want to flip the role, there are always people who are switch (I know some), provided they also are with a switch.

  22. 22
    Mandolin says:

    Schala, I want you to comment for the next two weeks on this blog without mentioning your preferences or identity once. You’ve been told many times that you derail conversations with such, and it doesn’t seem to be sinking in for you where the intuitive line is between productive and unproductive self-description. Practice making other kinds of comments might help?

  23. I have been wondering about the ways in which the situation LD describes is gendered, and I am typing quickly since I need to move on to other work, so I hope people will understand if my language is less than precise. Suppose we reverse the genders in the story LD tells. Would there be as much wiggle room or slippage between the “surprise sex” he was planning to wake his lover into and the reality of what the word rape means–and let’s assume a committedly feminist and progressive man with all the right credentials, so to speak? My point is not to play tit for tat, but to wonder about this: To what degree is LD’s use of the term rape defined a priori, implicitly and explicitly, by the culture at large as figurative because in stereotypical terms we do not think of a woman as being capable of “really” raping a man? I was doing a thought experiment, trying to put myself in her place, thinking about surprising a lover with sex and then characterizing that surprise sex as rape, and somehow I just couldn’t bring myself to do it; the moment I thought “I am going to rape you” I quite literally couldn’t think it–and I think that was the case because the word brought me immediately to the beginning of an imagining of an actual rape. In other words, I could not see my use of the word as figurative, even though there was no ambiguity: I was trying to use the word figuratively. I am less interested in asking this question in order to talk about myself than I am in asking whether my experience points to something larger at work.

  24. 24
    Sailorman says:

    Kudos to the OP for raising this issue. It’s interesting as all hell to read this discussion even though I don’t really understand it enough to comment further.

  25. 25
    chingona says:

    To what degree is LD’s use of the term rape defined a priori, implicitly and explicitly, by the culture at large as figurative because in stereotypical terms we do not think of a woman as being capable of “really” raping a man?

    Richard, it’s interesting you should write that. Just yesterday I read a comment on a thread elsewhere that had drifted off from whatever the original post was to talking about enthusiastic consent. A commenter – a man – was saying how he didn’t understand how anyone could want sex that was not enthusiastically consented to. Then he said the sexiest thing he has ever heard a woman say to him was a time when his partner, after a very extended session, said to him, “Fuck me now or I’ll kill you.” Now, the ” … or I’ll kill you” struck an off note with me, but my reaction was not really strong. Obviously, she didn’t mean it literally. And while I never have and don’t think I would say the second part of that sentence, I found myself daydreaming a bit, lingering over this and that memory. But my daydream came to a rather abrupt halt when I tried to imagine what that would sound like coming from a man, said to a woman. It is as if the woman cannot help but speak figuratively here, but it’s much harder to avoid at least thinking of the literal meaning if a man were to say it.

  26. chingona:

    It is as if the woman cannot help but speak figuratively here, but it’s much harder to avoid at least thinking of the literal meaning if a man were to say it.

    So obviously–or at least obviously to me–this phenomenon is rooted in gender(ed) norms and expectations, as well as gendered assumptions about male and female sexual physiology, as well as assumptions that define rape as penetration. (I imagine most people would find it easy to recognize as rape a situation in which a woman forcibly penetrates a man anally with a dildo, but would have a much harder time imagining how she could rape him with her vagina.) An interesting question for me, though, is the degree to which those assumptions are about not only bodies and behaviors, etc., but also about the different kinds of heterosexual boundaries men and women are, within patriarchy, understood to have. To the degree that men are understood not to have any heterosexual boundaries in terms of “taking what we want when we want it, because we always want it,” are we not also understood to have no boundaries when it comes to saying no. In other words, the idea that men always want sex works both ways, right? Not only are we supposedly always, at least implicitly, on the prowl, but we are also never supposed to say no if sex is offered to us. And if we never say no, then how can we be raped?

  27. 27
    chingona says:

    To the degree that men are understood not to have any heterosexual boundaries in terms of “taking what we want when we want it, because we always want it,” are we not also understood to have no boundaries when it comes to saying no. In other words, the idea that men always want sex works both ways, right? Not only are we supposedly always, at least implicitly, on the prowl, but we are also never supposed to say no if sex is offered to us. And if we never say no, then how can we be raped?

    Don’t you think this is because men get erections? That is, if a man gets an erection, he must be turned on, and if a man doesn’t get an erection, a woman can’t rape him, at least not with her vagina, and if he didn’t really want it, he wouldn’t get an erection.

    In writing that, I’m not dismissing or disputing your comment, more wondering to what extent our understanding of the biology of the act influences our perception of it or to what extent our perception of sexuality causes us to have perhaps erroneous understandings of the biology.

  28. 28
    Schala says:

    I think it goes deeper than erections, since even impotent men would be said to “always want it”. People don’t ask you if you have erectile dysfunction before implying this trope fits you. It’s probably part of the picture, but I’m saying it’s probably not the whole picture.

    @Mandolin:

    I’ll admit my comment was at best tangential, but someone did bring up BDSM and relationship equality within comments. I just wanted to show a way for it not to be inherently unfeminist.

  29. 29
    chingona says:

    Richard, it occurs to me that I didn’t quite connect your comment back to the OP (and that my response has the potential to be derailing in a “what about the men?” kind of way). Are you saying that we see women as speaking figuratively here because on some level we don’t think men can be raped by women? If that’s what you’re saying, I would agree, but I also think we shouldn’t lose sight of the other reason we see the woman as speaking figuratively – it is much, much, much more common for a man to rape a woman than it is for a woman to rape a man. I don’t want to get so theoretical I obscure that reality.

  30. 30
    Schala says:

    I read the rate (from various statistics) to be about twice as common or a bit less than twice as common (for women than for men). It’s a big discrepancy to be sure.

    Gender rules make it unlikely for people to think its even possible for a man to be raped by a woman. Then yes, the erection thing gets into play. I think the socialization part (that men can’t be victims, or they’re not even men anymore) plays a bigger part in this though.

    Personally, I’d take it literally unless I knew for certain the concerned person was joking. Their genital bits wouldn’t matter in this pronouncement to me. My security would be first and foremost in my mind.

  31. 31
    PG says:

    I read the rate (from various statistics) to be about twice as common or a bit less than twice as common (for women than for men).

    Which statistics tell you that men rape women at only twice the rate that women rape men? I realize that men will under-report even more severely than women do, but from what I understand, women’s rape of men is rare to a degree much greater than merely “half as common as men’s rape of women.”

  32. 32
    chingona says:

    Schala, are you sure those statistics aren’t for victims of rape, regardless of perpetrator? My understanding has always been that most men who are raped are raped by men.

  33. 33
    Schala says:

    Yes its rate of victims, regardless of perpetrators.

    If we believe that 5-10% of men are gay (or bisexual, or pansexual). That male victims of rape are overwhelmingly raped by men, and that rapes in general occur more with intimates/friends than with strangers, then it would mean an incredibly high rate of rape amongst gay (and bisexual, pansexual) men, wouldn’t it?

    I can’t really know how many are committed by women. What I can know is that, regardless of perpetrator, its ridiculed and not taken seriously. For certain, that doesn’t encourage victims coming forward.

  34. 34
    Sailorman says:

    Schala Writes:
    March 13th, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    Yes its rate of victims, regardless of perpetrators.

    If we believe that 5-10% of men are gay (or bisexual, or pansexual). That male victims of rape are overwhelmingly raped by men, and that rapes in general occur more with intimates/friends than with strangers, then it would mean an incredibly high rate of rape amongst gay (and bisexual, pansexual) men, wouldn’t it?

    No.

    It wouldn’t preclude such a high rate of rape among gay men, but neither do those statistics require it.

    If you don’t get that, then that makes me think I should try explaining this in a different way:

    There are as many men as there are women.
    Hetero men who rape (outside prison) tend to rape women.
    So if, say, 0.1% of men are rapists, then there is a 1:1000 ratio of hetero rapists to their victims; it’s the difference between 0.1% and 100%.

    Now:
    Assume that gay men who rape (outside prison) tend to rape other gay men (I don’t know why you seem to assume that they would rape only gay men, and not all men. That doesn’t make sense, but i’ll run with it.)
    If gayness doesn’t affect tendency to rape (which it doesn’t AFAIK) and if gays are 10% of men, then 0.01% of men are rapists.
    So if gay rapists rape only gay men, then there is a 1:1000 ration of gay rapists to their gay victims; it’s the difference between 0.01% and 10%.

    See? It’s the same ratio. That’s because the “gayness” 10% affects both the rapists and the victims, in your analysis.

    And with tah fun math lesson, i’m off to bed.

  35. 35
    Schala says:

    (I don’t know why you seem to assume that they would rape only gay men, and not all men. That doesn’t make sense, but i’ll run with it.)

    Because common statistics tells you rape is stranger rape 33% of the time only. So it would be a friend, a parent or a lover the rest of the time. I’m only taking into account adult rapes, so it mostly takes care of parents/family.

    But yes, it doesn’t follow. A man who paid for a drunk pregnant woman to stay at a motel, got raped. He could very well have been gay that it wouldn’t have mattered to her. So the opposite situation (a gay man raping a straight man, or vice-versa) is very much possible.

    I’m mostly assuming it’s rapes as part of marriage/dating. But I might be wrong.

    So if gay rapists rape only gay men, then there is a 1:1000 ration of gay rapists to their gay victims; it’s the difference between 0.01% and 10%.

    See? It’s the same ratio. That’s because the “gayness” 10% affects both the rapists and the victims, in your analysis.

    The problem is if say the rape of women is a rate of 15%, and that of men is 7.5%, and gay men as victims represent, say 5% of that ratio. They still represent over 20% of all rape victims (5 out of 22.5), when they’re only 2.5% of the sample (5 out of 200, if you count women).

    This is a 8 for 1 ratio. This is why I say it doesn’t make sense.

    It makes sense if gay men are not 5% of the 7.5%, but rather 1/8th of that or so, meaning 0.62% of males. This would leave straight men at 6.88%, or slightly lower than half of female victims.

  36. 36
    Mandolin says:

    Okay, enough what about the menz for this thread. Schala, you’re not welcome in this one anymore.

  37. 37
    Charles S says:

    If anyone does wish to continue discussing rape statistics, this other thread would be an appropriate place. However, Schala, if you post on that thread, please cite your source for your statistics, as the vague descriptions you have given don’t align with any credible source I have ever seen.

  38. 38
    chingona says:

    I just want to apologize for my role in all that.

  39. 39
    Mandolin says:

    Oh, not at all. Once it was happening, it was happening. No blame. Just… I think there was something sort of raw and fascinating in the OP, and I wonder what we can get to by engaging with it, rather than trying to bring it around to other subjects.

  40. 40
    chingona says:

    I know. But I dashed off my comment at #27, finished some work, and ran out the door to get my kid from daycare. I was about 100 feet out the door and somehow I knew I had teed something up that I hadn’t intended to, but I didn’t have time to go back and change it.

    It might be interesting to pick the discussion up at #16, where LD added some additional thoughts.

    Particularly this:

    My inner thoughts played into the idea of rape as simply a passionate act, rather than a violent crime of power.

    In my initial reaction, I obviously went somewhere with it that was really far away from what was going on, and I think some other commenters did as well, in their own way. Which is interesting in its own right, but maybe not what she was hoping for when she wrote to you. I thought Elkins raised a really interesting point, about language like “ravishing.”

    I don’t know that I have any additional insight into it, but maybe someone else will.

  41. I think I also may not have been clear about where my comments about male heterosexual boundaries, etc. were coming from. I was responding, though it was more of an associative response than a direct one, in comments 23 & 26 to what Mandolin wrote in comment 6:

    Can we analyze the flitting use of the word rape here with the same lens we usually use for women who have fantasies of rape? The situation seems too different.

    I think that looking at LD’s thinking/use of the word rape and what it says about the way patriarchy appropriates–the (I think) more accurate image that came to me as I wrote was “infiltrates”–our thinking and structures the world view inherent in our use of language can’t be separated from how male heterosexuality is constructed within patriarchy. This is not to turn the focus of this discussion to heterosexual men’s experience of actual rape by women or to the frequency with which men are raped or whatever; nor is it to turn the discussion into a patriarchy-hurts-men-too discussion.

    Rather, and more to the point, I was trying to explore the possibility that women can more easily use the word rape figuratively in a situation described such as the one described by LD precisely because, in reality, men rape women far more frequently than women rape men. But then I was thinking, if you go further than that, if you start to wonder not just about what actually happens in the world and how that positions men and women differently in relation to the kind of situation LD describes, but about how our language structures our perception/experience of the world, then trying to understand the difference between LD’s use of the word rape and mine (in the thought experiment I described above) can’t not bring us around to the question of how the word/concept rape structures and is structured by our understanding of heterosexuality in general and of male heterosexuality in particular.

    So, for example, LD describes herself as queer, and yet her use of the word rape is nothing if it is not heteronormative: her ability to use the word figuratively (in the way that I could not imagine for myself) depends on a very traditional patriarchal understanding of male heterosexuality, not in terms of her lover’s actual sexuality, but in terms of the categories of meaning (for want of a better term; “categories of meaning” is not quite right) she carries around in her head. Which suggests that “getting the patriarchy out of her head” in this respect means/requires thinking more deeply about male heterosexuality as a structuring metaphor of/within patriarchy–and this is why I brought up the point I brought up about male heterosexual boundaries.

    (I would just add, now that I think about it, that I think it would be interesting to try the same thought experiment I did assuming that the situation LD described involved two women or two men. Does the same difference that I experienced happen? Can women “get away with” using the word “rape” figuratively with other women, and is there the same issue between men of not being able to wrench the word away from its literal meaning?)

  42. 42
    Tamen says:

    Chingoona writes in comment #27 at 4:27 pm:
    “Don’t you think this is because men get erections? That is, if a man gets an erection, he must be turned on, and if a man doesn’t get an erection, a woman can’t rape him, at least not with her vagina, and if he didn’t really want it, he wouldn’t get an erection.”

    The line of reasoning Chingoona describes is all too common and it’s scary how many women and men subscribe to it. It is, of course, patently wrong.

    The fact is that an erection doesn’t necessary mean that a man is turned on. Just ask any man if he’s had en erection he didn’t want.
    An erection can occur from mechanical stimuli regardless of whether the man want sex or not. Erection can also occur due to a full urinary bladder.The so called “morning wood” (nocturnal penile tumescence) is most often not caused by erotic dreams. In some males nocturnal penile tumescence can appear also during daytime.
    Even such as painful thing as a bite from the venomous spider Brazilian wandering spider (Phoneutria spp.) may casue priapism.

  43. 43
    PG says:

    The fact is that an erection doesn’t necessary mean that a man is turned on. Just ask any man if he’s had en erection he didn’t want.

    But that’s true for women as well: they can be “wet” when they’re not actually turned on. The most plausible explanation I’ve seen for the recent studies showing that women will appear aroused (i.e. will lubricate) when watching sexual activity that they don’t consciously find arousing is that it’s an evolutionary defense mechanism: Women who could lubricate when forced to have sex they didn’t want had a much better chance of survival than women who failed to lubricate and consequently suffered worse injuries due to torn skin that would become infected. The fact that a vagina managed to lubricate in order to protect itself doesn’t mean that the sex was consensual or enjoyed.

  44. 44
    Daisy Bond says:

    RJN:

    I would just add, now that I think about it, that I think it would be interesting to try the same thought experiment I did assuming that the situation LD described involved two women or two men. Does the same difference that I experienced happen? Can women “get away with” using the word “rape” figuratively with other women, and is there the same issue between men of not being able to wrench the word away from its literal meaning?

    I would be interested to here from a gay or bi guy here; when I imagine this (I’m a lesbian), it plays out pretty much exactly how it played out for LD. I would be startled and troubled if this happened to me, but I can complete the thought experiment. My theoretical use of the word “rape” can/does remain figurative. Also, although my girlfriend would never do this, if I imagine her accidentally saying that to me, I can still understand it as figurative and nonthreatening. If she said that, or thought it and told me about it, I would be baffled and somewhat disturbed, but not actually afraid — basically how I feel when someone I know to be feminist has a surprising sexist outburst that they immediately retract.

    This leads me to suspect it’s not so much about the construction of male heterosexuality specifically so much as it is about the construction of gendered sexuality in general: female sexuality = benevolent/harmless, male sexuality = powerful/dangerous, an extension of the idea that women themselves are harmless (and therefore helpless) nurtures while men are powerful (and therefore dangerous) aggressors.

  45. 45
    Daisy Bond says:

    PG,

    But that’s true for women as well: they can be “wet” when they’re not actually turned on.

    Very true, but I don’t think wetness is used as a sign of consent the way erections are for men. Maybe because someone making out (or even just hanging out) with a fully clothed man can see/feel his erection and assume he wants sex, while someone making out/hanging out with a fully clothed woman can’t tell whether she’s wet and therefore can’t use it to determine whether she wants sex?

  46. Daisy Bond:

    This leads me to suspect it’s not so much about the construction of male heterosexuality specifically so much as it is about the construction of gendered sexuality in general: female sexuality = benevolent/harmless, male sexuality = powerful/dangerous, an extension of the idea that women themselves are harmless (and therefore helpless) nurtures while men are powerful (and therefore dangerous) aggressors.

    Agreed, in general. But you also wrote, in your other comment, this:

    Very true, but I don’t think wetness is used as a sign of consent the way erections are for men.

    And I think the reason I was focusing on male heterosexuality specifically is that what it means for erection to be seen as a sign of consent is something we do not normally look at when we think about heterosexuality in general.

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  48. 47
    Daisy Bond says:

    And I think the reason I was focusing on male heterosexuality specifically is that what it means for erection to be seen as a sign of consent is something we do not normally look at when we think about heterosexuality in general.

    Okay, that’s fair.

  49. 48
    chingona says:

    So I clicked on that trackback and the writer there said:

    For instance, I have heard friends say “I’m so gonna rape him/her one day” when they talk about someone they are attracted to. Of course they don’t mean that they are going to force penetration of any bodily orifice of that individual. They’re just throwing the word “rape” around in a way that discounts its severity and bears witness to how pervasive rape culture is, that we can just joke about raping people without thinking about what rape entails.

    I’m obviously familiar with that use of the word “rape,” but I think I’ve only heard it once or twice and never from anyone in my own social circle. But there are other, pretty anti-feminist uses of language, that I’ve heard plenty in my life and those pop into my head unbidden all the time (for myself, I’m thinking mostly of thinking so-and-so “is such a pussy”).

    I don’t know how often the OP has encountered that sort of use of the word rape (she said she spends a lot of time studying rape culture), but is it possible that we’re over-thinking this? That this thought came into her head because she’s picked up this meaning of the word rape the same way we learn to assign various meanings to any word?

  50. 49
    Korolev says:

    Instead of “Colonization”, you might want to call it “infection”, as in, a cultural meme that infects the brain. The term “infection” doesn’t necessarily imply that its a bad meme (although it might well be a bad meme), but I would think it’s apt.

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  52. 50
    Alain says:

    Thanks so much for your words in the OP, this very thing happened to me something over a month ago, with my girlfriend. We were fooling around together, in our bedroom, just playful, lots of movement, giggling, pouncing on each other – and as I was about to pounce myself, and I thought something along the lines of “Oh I am so gonna rape you– wait, what!?” myself!
    It shocked me more than the OP, it immediately soured my mood – and I didn’t really want to continue, but I didn’t want to disappoint, so I tried to pretend that nothing was the matter, of course that didn’t work, she saw the change in my mood almost instantly and asked me what was up – so I explained what was bothering me. She was sympathetic , but is a down to earth Welsh lass (her words) and she honestly found it almost funny that I was bothered by what she said was a “word not even a word, just a thought of a word”
    Like the OP I did not mean rape literally. What I meant was “pounce on you in a sexual manner (as we had been doing) and that will lead to sex if accepted.” But like the OP my inner monologue had gone ahead and made a) a joke about rape that b) belitted what rape actually means and c) treated rape as rape-as-compliment!

    That didn’t really make me feel any better about the underlying problem – that I’d actually thought it, but it soothed things for that moment. But it’s been bothering me ever since, I’ve kept a watch, a double watch on everything I’ve been saying and thinking… was this a pattern in my personality, were there less serious things that were slipping past me? I was really worried about what this was telling me about myself. I couldn’t really work it out, but the responses to the OP have been overwhelming, and so useful, thanks!

    In particular “That’s really intense. I think we all have moments like that where it becomes weirdly clear how much our brains have been “colonized” by the dominant culture”, and as Renee said “simply by being born into this culture makes such thoughts unavoidable”
    That helps a lot, and makes so much sense.