May 18, 2005

Alas, a blog - Rape Culture and the Myth of “Female Sexual Advantage”

Alas, a blog - Rape Culture and the Myth of “Female Sexual Advantage"

No matter what I said, this guy “translated” it to fit his preconceived notions. “No” meant “yes.” “Not interested” became “interested but won’t admit it.” “You’re not my type” becaome “she’s just shy.” Many feminists argue that pornography “silences women.” This is what they mean. The woman is only allowed to say what the man wants to hear - even if what she actually says is completely different. Pornography that plays with the rape myth tells the story of a woman who says no, but ultimately means yes. That is what this guy was doing to me. He was insisting that whatever I said meant what he wanted it to mean.

Another real life example of how a woman’s sexual power silences her. I was not one of the “popular kids,” partly because I had little interest in being one, but one of my good friends was exactly what you describe when you are discussing a woman with a lot of sexual power. She was a cute, feminine blonde, popular, intelligent, cheerleader, upper middle class, dressed conservatively but was perceived as sexy. The guys I hung out with - who, like me, were NOT socially powerful - said she was the most beautiful girl in the school. What did all this sexual power get her?

Well, in 10th grade it got her raped by most of the guys on the football team. She was dating one of them, he slipped her something stronger than she was used to, then passed her around to his buddies. When she told people about it, most of her friends basically said she got what she deserved - if you’re going to be beautiful, them’s the hazards. Mind you, she did not disagree - she accepted that this is just the way the world is. When I pointed out that being pretty is no excuse for rape, she said I was probably right, but what can you do about it? [...]

Arguing that a woman’s sexual power in any way “evens things out” between the sexes is to miss the point entirely. A woman’s sexual power is used to justify rape; a woman’s sexual power is used to silence her; a woman’s sexual power is used to dehumanize her. The fact that some women manage to use their sexual power in some instances to their benefit doesn’t change any of this.

I desperately want to write more. But words can't capture the way I feel right now.


MosBen said...

Now, I'm nowhere near clear about what I think about this, but I'm hesitant to use the jusitifications of criminals as evidence for a larger rule for general society.

Noumena said...

I don't see this as evidence. Rape, these sorts of justifications for it, and the the objectifying nature of female sexuality in our culture all quite clearly sexist. The problem is the connection between the first and the last, via the second. I'm often feel there's some truth to the theory that rape is 'merely' the expression of what our culture considers 'female sexuality' by more violent means.

At the same time, a friend of mine (who was raped) pointed out that rapists don't do what they do out of arousal or for sexual gratification, at least not directly; it's been well-established that rape is about power, putting the victim 'in her place'. Here's where feminist theorists like Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin step in to argue that, in our culture, the female sexual 'place' is strictly inferior(izing) and degraded(-ing).