Rape of woman and other spoils of war

Sometimes when you’re going through Bloglines looking at the excerpts, it seems like so many variations on a common theme. But then you click to another and you’re faced with What Causes Rape? Anatomy of a Rape Culture and the shock is staggering.

Ampersand at Alas, a Blog wrote an essay on rape culture, giving, as opinion, three reasons why rape occurs:

  1. The Myth of Masculinity
  2. Low Regard of Women
  3. Sexuality is something possessed by women, given to (or taken) by men

When humanity first breathed war, rape followed on the exhalation.

In ancient times, women were taken by conquering soldiers as spoils of war, sometimes becoming the wives of the victors, whether they wanted this or not. In many ways the fate that met many of these women was no different than if their lands hadn’t been overrun, except that their fathers would have made the determination of which man would own them.

Up until the last century or so for most cultures women were literally considered property, so it’s not surprising that a winning army would take the horses, the gold, and the women, usually valued in that order. This fits with Ampersand’s assertion that rape is a result of women being seen as little value, except, of course, in those cases when women were of value – just like the horses and the gold.

There was an additional reason women were raped in war: to humiliate the men. However, rather than taking the women, they would be left, sometimes dead, sometimes alive, as soiled reminders of the men’s failure to succeed on the battlefield. Rather than sympathy from her family and friends, though, the woman would be driven out of her home in shame because she didn’t die rather than submit. Rape is seen as the fault of the woman, not the man.

However, humanity is more civilized today, isn’t it?

During World War II, Russian soldiers raped hundreds of thousands of women – I’ve even read esitmates of millions of women, some being their own country women freed from German camps. In China, an estimated 80,000 women were raped by Japanese soldiers during the war, which was bad enough but there was at least some familiarity with this type of rape – the women were victims of wartime behavior. However, the Japanese government also, calmly condoned the concept of jugan ianfu or comfort women – women from many different countries but primarily Korean, kidnapped and or sold to the Japanese military to provide sex for the soldiers.

Supposedly these women were paid a small sum for each man they had sex with; I’ve read that they received 2 yen per man. Also supposedly after 500 or so men, they could buy their way to freedom. These women, many in their early teens, had to service so many men that sometimes they would fall sleep while the men were still using them.

Of course, the details were hushed up and the few photographs of the practice in the time showed Geisha-like girls winking at the camera, or signs showing:

`We welcome with our hearts and bodies the brave soldiers of Japan.’

US soldiers don’t escape the stigma of rape. The worst forms of rape can occur during civil war, and our own Civil War was rife with assault and abuse of women. As for modern times, you don’t have to look too far back to find an example in Tailhook, but even in Iraq, female soldiers not only have to duck bullets and bombs, they have to duck their comrades in arms.

But this is all war, and we know that in war behavior changes. Or at least, that’s what I’ve been told. But what about rape in a peaceful society?

Rape is used to punish women who go against the norms of society. “She’s a slut”, the kid says on the streets of Bloomington, as if this is all the justification that’s necessary. Even now with high profile cases, the rape victim is treated as if it were her behavior that led to the rape, rather than the lack of control, or even interest in control, of the man.

In other countries, rape is used to enforce religious dictates. “She’s immodest,”, the kids say in Baghdad, as they kidnap 13 year old girls and gang rape them until they’re half dead. But this type of rape isn’t to punish the women as much as it is to punish the men. It sends a message: control your women or we’ll ruin their value to you.

Rape is also crime of poverty. This weekend, Jane Fonda and Sally Fields helped to publicize the mass rape, torture, and murder of young women in Juarez, Mexico, most of whom worked at maquiladoras, or border factories. Rather than go after the real criminals, most likely organized crime, the authorities are instead going after bus drivers and farmers, too poor to defend themselves.

While I find Fonda’s ‘vagina warrier’ rhetoric and decision to produce and star in the play “Vagina Monologues” to be inappropriate to the event, I can still appreciate what they’ve done. Unfortunately, though, the balloons will soon pop, the pink paint fade. Where will Fonda be tomorrow?

But let’s focus on the more personal forms of rape. Ampersand talks about rape as a way of men asserting their masculinity, but I’m not sure if that’s a reason for rape. Rape in schools or in frat houses seems to me to be more pack behavior than assertion of male dominance. Men have raped as a group, where they won’t rape as an individual.

I do agree with Ampersand’s belief that rape is at least partially based on viewing women as an object of gratification. And you don’t have to look further than something like the hip Fleshbot to see women treated as objects: nude women as art, women pictured in cartoons being raped, women in bonds, women as nothing more than vagina, ass, mouth, and breasts.

Fleshbot may represent the mainstreaming of porn, but oddly enough, there is no clear correlation between pornography and rape. In fact, I found a fascinating study that shows there may be more of a correlation between a magazine like Field & Stream and rape. In other words, between a heavily masculine environment and rape.

Rather than rape being a reaffirmation of masculinity, masculinity becomes a affirmation of rape.

Still, what about rape porn. Feministe wrote about rape pornography, and whether this can desensitize the act of rape. In her view, if there is no acceptable forms of rape, then there should be no acceptable form of rape pornography (sharing the same view on child pornography).

Ampersand lists as one reason that men rape is that women have sexuality and men want it – rape for pleasure. According to an FBI Study of serial rapists, though, most did not experience any significant pleasure from the act. In fact, many of the rapists were dysfunctional during the act.

However, I believe that Ampersand may be focusing more on so-called date rape with his essay. And with date rape, all the rules about serial rapists or wartime rape goes out the door. Except for one common point shared by all, which I’ll get to in a moment.

The date rapist takes advantage of circumstances, such as the victim being incompacitated. Usually the rapist is himself drunk or stoned on drugs. In addition, date rapists are aggressive in other interactions with the woman, and tend to see women more as sexual conquests and objects of gratification; even more so than the serial rapists.

Acquaintance rape is the most common rape in this country, and in most other countries. It is also the one least prosecuted and most tolerated by society; more likely to be blamed on the victim than any other form of rape – leaving the woman to be victimized twice: once by the rape, and the second time by society.

In fact, that is the common shared aspect of all rapes – a belief that if only the victim had changed their behavior (dressed differently, behaved differently, not stayed poor, not joined the military, fought back) the rape wouldn’t have happened.

Rape is the only crime where the victim is held partially, or wholly, accountable.

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