I know I’m supposed to be posting installment three in the work-life balance series – and it’s coming tomorrow, I promise – but I was distracted by this post by Isis’s new co-blogger. I think there’s a relatively strong consensus that this invention is clearly a bit of Technology Gone Bad.
In a really old Saturday Night Live sketch, Gilda Radnor and Dan Akroyd play a befuddled couple at home in the kitchen, arguing over Shimmer. It’s a floor wax. No, a dessert topping. But wait! Spokesperson Chevy Chase pops in to tell them it’s BOTH!!!!!
What does this have to do with understanding rape?
Well, commenter hibob has set down a long stupid argument on the comment thread of that post by Set Oculus at Isis’s blog, trying to make the case that rape is mostly motivated by sexual desire. Because this is patently stupid, it has naturally riled everyone up, and lots of people are saying no, rape is violence. Floor wax! Dessert topping! Floor wax! Dessert topping!
In the midst of all this some commenter named Dick left this remark about the useless Technology Gone Bad that sparked the original post:
Fascinating! Do you suppose it will work equally well with variants of rape like when the assailant shoves a gun barrel up the vagina? Or ass? Just wondering.
Also: at what age should I recommend to my friends to have their daughters start using this? Babies get raped, too, sometimes.
Dick’s comment reminded me of something I once wrote in an essay critiquing Thornhill and Palmer’s A Natural History of Rape.
According to Thornhill and Palmer, feminists insist on a monolithic account of rape as a violent act that has nothing to do with sex. This, along with feminists’ inability to embrace evolutionary theory, prevents feminists from producing accurate accounts of why men rape and so from arriving at useful solutions. This claim itself misrepresents feminist perspectives on rape. As Natalie Angier notes, “Most of us have long known that rape is about sex and power and a thousand other things as well, and that rape is not a monolithic constant but varies in incidence and meaning from culture to culture and epoch to epoch.” Angier also rightly notes that it is feminists who “sought to have the word ‘rape’ replaced in the legal lexicon by the terms ‘sex crime’ and ‘sexual battery,’ the better to include offenses that don’t involve intercourse but are clearly sexual in nature, such as…forced fellatio, anal penetration, the shoving of a gun barrel up the vagina, and the like.” Rape clearly is not limited to a single type of behavior or pattern of behavior that is found in every case. Feminists have always been attentive to this reality, and to the fact that in the real world of sexual offenses it is difficult to ignore the ways in which sex and violence are often fused.
When douches like hibob are trying to figure out what “causes” rape, they would do well to remember that rape – more accurately, sex crimes and sexual battery – have myriad manifestations and causes. In the same essay from which the paragraph above is taken, I also quote Mart Carmill: “…it’s a mistake to argue about the causes of rape…We define [rape, murder, and war] by their properties and their effects, not their causes, and there’s no reason to think that acts that share an effect also share a cause…[A]ll homicides share the same effect…but they don’t all have the same cause…Seeking the cause of murder, war, or rape may be a fundamental mistake, like asking for the cause of things that weigh 10 pounds.”
So, Douchey McDoucherson commenter hibob, lay off the “where’s yer proof, and yer data, and how do you know rape isn’t caused by sexual desire”. Give it a rest. Why don’t you take up something more profitable – like investigating the cause of things that weigh 10 pounds.
The reference to Angier is her article “Biological Bull,” in Ms. June/July 2000: 80-82.
The quote from Matt Cartmill is from his article, “Understanding the Evil That Men Do.” The Chronicle of Higher Education 46 (39) 2000
My essay from which the paragraph above is excerpted is “They Blinded Me With Science: Misuse and Misunderstanding of Biological Theory” in Fundamental Differences: Feminists Reply to Social Conservatives ed. Cynthia G. Burack and Jyl J. Josephson, Rowman and Littlefield, 2003.