Saturday, November 28, 2009

Rapism in Action: An example of how men who desire to "consensually" and selfishly exploit and abuse women sexually, without legal or social consequence

[image is from here]

TRIGGER WARNING on all that follows, for graphically, if not with many details, describing sexual exploitation and violence against women presented by men to one another as "consensual sex", and how men allow this, among friends, to continue uninterrupted and unchallenged.

If you pay attention, it gets pretty clear pretty quickly how rapism works in a male supremacist society.

I define "rapism" as a political ideology, systematised and institutionalised to the point of being seen as natural and inevitable. It is naturalised to the point that rape and other forms of gross sexual exploitation and abuse are taken and fully accepted by men as "a given" in male dominated societies. Rapism also includes how men support one another, in various ways, to be sexual exploiters and sexual abusers of girls and women. Rapism also includes an uncritical use of and promotion of the use of industry pornography made by white heteromale supremacist pimps. Rapism makes female subordination sexy, and in societies that are soaked in rapist values, men learn that abusing women is sex. Men may or may not engage in abusive sex with women, but they understand abusive sex to be normal, not extreme, not unusual, and certainly not a political matter or an ethical one. The Urban Dictionary defines "rapism"  far more narrowly and apolitically.

Here's the latest story.

Last night, for hours and hours, I spoke with two people. One person is a woman whose heritage is American Indian, Sephardic Jewish, and white French Christian. The other is her husband, whose heritage includes U.S. white Christian, and Sephardic Jewish. He is one of the only two males I engage with person to person. I only know him because my friend met, went out with, and married him. I like him. He's a funny, smart, silly person. The three of us generally get along very well.

Part of last night's conversation was about two male friends of his, who are not from the area in which he and his partner now live. They are U.S. men, though.

I'll call the husband "Matt".

Matt told us about two of his few male friends, in the context of how one's sexuality, how it is expressed, can inversely indicate how empowered and in control of his life he feels generally.

I've heard this theory before, and the most common form of it, not told by Matt, btw, is as follows:

Some white powerful men, because they spend so much of their work lives "in charge" and in positions of authority, like to visit women in systems of prostitution, and pay them to "humiliate" or "degrade" or otherwise dominate them sexually, as such men define and experience "sex". (For more on that, read Sheila Jeffreys' The Idea of Prostitution, for a superb analysis and discussion of how prostitution, as a male supremacist form of sexual dominance by men against women, shapes what "sex" is for many people outside that system of racist/misogynistic/classist oppression.)

Matt told us about one middle class man who is very in charge of his life, to an alarming degree. He demands, from friends, that things go "his way" and has a fit if they don't abide by his decisions about how they should spend time with him. He decides where they'll go out to eat, for example, and at what time and in whose vehicle. And if his plans change, and, say, he decides at the last minute he'd like to leave a half hour later than he once planned, he expects his friends to just go along with that and not put up any fuss or objections. To me, he sounds like an extraordinarily self-centered prick. Let's call the prick, "Jon".

Jon has heterosexual tastes that involve him being abused by women who are older than he is. He likes it when women take the domineering "role". He likes being ordered about, given instructions as to what he can and cannot do. He likes being hit in the face when he achieves orgasm, for example.

The second friend of Matt is, according to Matt, "just the opposite". Let's call this friend "Al". Al's life has not gone well. He's privileged in many ways, but can't seem to get his life on track with work, relationships, etc. He's a regular pornography consumer and is into pornography of women in bondage. He has a mild level of physical disability. In his twenties he suffered a stroke and one of his arms is almost entirely paralysed. The hand at the end of that arm is curled and he cannot use it in the way he can his other hand and arm. He is now in his early 30s.

His sexual life consists of finding "girlfriends" or "dates" who are female, and teenagers. Or maybe as old as in their early twenties. He will only have sex with these women if he can completely restrain them, using typical sexual bondage gear. He seeks out such women. Some women, he says, want this, and those are the only women he wants to be with sexually. So when they meet he restrains them so their range of motion is severely limited, and so their agency to leave the scene is taken away completely. They do this consensually, according to Al. As part of his sex play (ahem), he smacks the young women in the face and calls them derogatory names. In fact, he cannot achieve orgasm unless he is doing this: unless he is being sexual with a young woman who is completely restrained, in bondage to him.

Matt didn't tell me either of these stories with any great alarm. He was simply making the point that men often want (in the bedroom) what they don't get outside of the bedroom.

I called him out on this. I noted that, first of all, Jon is always in control, including when he sets up sexual situations where he is being "dominated"--precisely in the ways that he wants. Nothing ever happens that he doesn't orchestrate or want to have happen. He's never "powerless" or without agency, including when he's being "sexually dominated".

I also asked if any of the men in the other guy's life (Al's) have called him out on being a batterer and rapist. I might not have used those terms last night. I might have said "on him physically abusing and sexually abusing women". He said no. That includes him, Matt. Matt knows this is what he does, is a friend of Al's, and has never questioned Al's right to "consensually" abuse women physically and sexually.

And Matt has very mixed feelings about what he calls "radical feminism". His mother, apparently, went through a period of being heavily into "radical feminism in the extreme". Matt also feels that is mother, who Matt's partner and I both know, is and has always been very domineering of his father.

I said in my experience your mother is one of the least empowered women I know. Matt's spouse agreed, and she has spoken to his mom at great length about many things--more than he has, in fact. She knows his mother far better than he does. He has "an idea" about his mother as domineering that is, in fact, not true. His dad does exactly what he wants to do all the time. He works out of the home in a job he has chosen. He does other activities outside the home that do not involve his spouse AT ALL. They also don't tend to discuss much unless through yelling. Matt sees this dynamic as his mother being domineering.

I asked him "So what does "radical feminism in the extreme" mean? What books did your mother read, or which "radical feminists" was she into. He only had one name. There was only one woman whose books his mom read from a lot. Matt asked me, "Have you ever heard of a feminist named 'Camille Paglia'"? I said yes, and most women I know don't even consider her a feminist, but rather an antifeminist, and certainly not at all "radical". He asked "What are her politics?" I said "Libertarian": she's a classic U.S. libertarian in believing "anything goes" as long as individuals want it to happen and that the State should not get in the way of whatever people want to do.

I asked Matt how he felt about Al sexually and physically abusing women. He said he feels it is really messed up, and that Al's whole life is really messed up. I said "You realise he gets to do this to women because no men in his life who care about him are challenging him to not do it, right?" He sort of realised this, once I said it. But it didn't occur to him that he ought to have a role in challenging Al's abusive, if "consensual" sexual behavior.

I said I've known women who want to be abused during sex, or who find pornography in which women are being humiliated and degraded "arousing", and that virtually without exception, ALL those women were either raised in severely emotionally distrurbing and dysfunctional families, were sexually abused as girls, or who learned about sex by finding and consuming their father's pornography.

My friend, btw, is not into being abused-as-sex, and Matt isn't into abusing women-as-sex.

So, in conclusion, men protect, defend, or stay silent in the face of men who abuse women. This is how the abuse continues. It also continues because pornography and sexual violence against girls sets girls up to think being degraded and abused is "sex". Men who want to dominate women sexually find girls and women who "want to be dominated". Men who want to be dominated sexually by women find women who are into that scene.

I asked Matt has it ever occurred to either of those men, assuming they care about women at all, to inquire, before sex, about WHY those women want or need to be in or out of control during sex? He said it doesn't occur to them to ask.

I said, "How self-serving and ethically convenient for them" to not care at all about those women, but instead to just use them and abuse them as they wish. Matt told me "You'd have to get into a long email exchange with Al before he'd even begin to see what's messed up about how he thinks about and treat women." I wondered why it hasn't occurred to Matt to be "That Man" who engaged him in just such discussion, and puts their friendship on the line if Al refuses. I plan to ask him that the next time I see or speak with him. And I plan to say, "If you don't call him out on his abusive behavior towards women being harmful to women and girls, then our friendship is on the line." And I'm going to ask for the rapist dude's contact info so I can report him to the police for sexual battery and rape.

These are "normal young white heterosexual men". All of them.

So you see, boys, it's usually and normally men who equate sex and rape while controlling women's bodies and behavior. And if radical feminists and profeminists notice this and critique it as WRONG, we are called man-haters so that you don't have to deal directly with one another's misogyny. How convenient for you.