March 05, 2006

All men, all women

Susan Brownmiller called rape "a conscious process by which all men keep all women in a state of fear." Maybe this is just hyperbole and misandry; but maybe there's a legitimate point here.

Twisty Faster has a suggestion:

No matter what kind of man you are, you benefit in a thousand different ways from the violent sexualization of women’s subordination. Actual rapists have got the initial shock and awe covered, but they’re only the infantry; it’s up to the rest of you to finish the job.

You do this by demonizing feminists, by renting women for lap dances, by letting rapists off the hook in court, by buying cheap crap Victoria’s Secret thongs for your woman, by congratulating your girlfriend on her boob job, by ignoring mass rapes in Rwanda, by passing along the URL to Paris Hilton’s fuck video, by ogling that girl at the bus stop, by letting your mom do your laundry, by “giving away” a bride, by voting control of women’s uteruses over to godbag politicians, by pressuring your girlfriend to take it up the ass because all your friends are doin’ it, by having an opinion on the size of human labia, by arguing that stripping is “empowering,” by claiming you’re “hardwired” to be turned on by women who emulate the ludicrous fashion practices of strippers and centerfolds, by your inability to conceive of sex without dominance, and by refusing, despite 30 years of intelligent, educated women telling you otherwise, to concede that you don’t really, truly view women as human beings in anything approaching the same light in which you view yourself.[...]

The dehumanizing groundwork laid by these rapists forms an excellent foundation upon which to build many a creatively misogynist cultural practice.

My emphasis. You should read the rest of her post.

So we have rape. And we have sexism on a broader level. And we have pornography -- although I think I left it out of that quotation, pornography is often identified by feminists as the (usually not 'a') propaganda vehicle of sexism and heavily dependent on an eroticization of power that's not far off from rape. How are these three related?

One possibility is Twisty's, which is much like the one Catherine MacKinnon (sp, I'm lazy this morning) and Andrea Dworkin argued for: that rape is the foundation on which patriarchy is built, the reign of terror that keeps us from having a truly just society, and that young men are taught to rape and to take advantage of their place in the hierarchy more generally by being raised on pornography.

Another possibility is that women's secondary status in society is more fundamental, and takes on different appearances in different contexts. So the power relations embodied in rape certainly share a common root with the power relations on display in a lot of porn, and both are just eroticizations of the hierarchy of gender that runs throughout our entire society. Here rape isn't a tool of oppression; it's an expression of it. Rape prevention and the regulation of pornography (and the sex industry more generally) are like painkillers -- they'll make things feel a little better, but they won't do shit about the cancer festering underneath the surface.

On the other hand, what other way is there to stomp out patriarchy?

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