I’m currently reading Octavia Butler’s The Parable of the Talents, but it could be any book, really. Any history, any women’s literature, any feminist work, anything chronicling the actions of men who have power over others, including women. We know what happens in that situation: even good, kind, family men conspire to find logic to justify raping. Not unlike the businessmen who, when in Singapore, routinely visit child slaves whom they rape for payment to the children’s keepers. Not unlike men who go to strip clubs and pay for a little extra. Not unlike the male bonding act — using a woman’s body though it is mostly incidental, as a thing in which to ejaculate — gang rape. Not unlike the very many men who peruse the ‘net or bring home the movies, movies depicting the actual photographed rapes and the sexual slavery of innumerable women. Or, sometimes, men.
Two things are clear to me. First, men rape. Second, “normal” male sexuality is in need of an Other to penetrate; it is territorial, power-ensuring, a form of mastery, privilege-promoting, always hierarchal, with the Other merely a means to an end: friction adequate to accomplish his orgasm. “Normal” male sexuality is a terribly solo act, something done inside his head, inside his body; it is deeply selfish — it is all about HIM and in the end, only about HIM.
In this writing, the author suggests that men project onto women their own desires:
[Images become] a substitute for sexual feeling, that sexual feeling becomes externalized and out of control and is given an undifferentiated identity in the appearance of women’s bodies. It is a process of projection in which one blurs one’s own desire with her imagined, projected desire. If a woman’s attractiveness is taken to signify one’s own lust and a woman’s lust, then when an “attractive” woman is raped, some men may think she wanted sex. Since they perceive their own lust in part projected onto the woman, they disbelieve women who’ve been raped. So long as men project their own sexual desires onto women, they will blame women for rape.
But that’s just another way of saying that “normal” male sexuality is tremendously self-obsessed, self-centered.
Not all men rape — but a whole lot of men do. And more men would, if only they could and not be caught and punished for it.
How many men do rape? In an article headlined “1 in 4 Men Admit Rape,” the actual stat is 31%, a bit closer to one in three men who claim to have actually raped women and girls. Maybe the 1 in 4 is easier to take. This is in South Africa, war-torn and western-empire ravaged. What about the US, where I live? Mary Koss seems to have found that 1 in 4 or 5 women will have been raped by men, or rape will have been attempted. The old stat, which Ampersand found to parallel a 4-5% actual-rape admission rate by college men, was 1 in 8 women. One in eight women of college age will face attempted or enacted rape. Does that mean the 4-5% number has also doubled? That 8 – 10% of college-age men will now admit to having already raped? At best, about one in 20 to 25 men is an actual rapist. And, if doubled, it’s closer to one in ten. But this statistic only accounts for college-age men. With all men, the percentage might be lower; college age is said to be about the peak time for men to rape. And yet men who are now older were once that age, were once, presumably, just as likely to rape. So what about the fact that these men who aged also gained in power and in access to female bodies, to power directly over women and girls? One good site, offering a 1997 analysis of US data, suggests that 40% of rapists are men age 30 or older.
Still, these statistics are all in average patriarchal times. What about difficult situations — what about where men are accorded or take extreme power over others, including women? What about war times? In Octavia Butler’s book, with its collapse scenario, even good, kind, family men (staunch Christian men) conspire to find logic to justify raping. From here:
Susan Brownmiller was the first historian to attempt an overview of rape in war with documentation and theory . Brownmiller’s thesis is that “War provides men with the perfect psychological backdrop to give vent to their contempt for women. The maleness of the military—the brute power of weaponry exclusive to their hands, the spiritual bonding of men at arms, the manly discipline of orders given and orders obeyed, the simple logic of the hierarchical command—confirms for men what they long suspect—that women are peripheral to the world that counts.” She writes that rape accompanies territorial advance by the winning side in land conflicts as one of the spoils of war, and that “Men who rape are ordinary Joes, made unordinary by entry into the most exclusive male-only club in the world.”
Under normal circumstances, then, some men rape. Under circumstances where, simply, there are a lot of single females around a lot of single males, the statistic rises to over half of men reporting they would rape if they could get away with it. The statistics are here. And here. And here. 51 to 60-some percent, depending. The stats on how many women are raped? Those are easy to find, direct and to the point. The stats on how many men are rapists? Those are obscured, difficult to locate and cloaked in unclarity when they are unearthed. But given the logic of increases, under more dire circumstances, most men will rape. Men rape.
And the stories of men stopping rapes, intervening when their friends start in with the banter and the attitude, are just legion … oh, wait, they’re not. To be a man under patriarchy is to learn to get along, know one’s place, and NEVER confront another man who is in your group. Cajole him out of his errant ways in private, but other than persuasion, well, what can you expect the poor guy to do?
I expect a great deal, honestly. I expect men who truly feel they cannot help themselves, that they must rape, to suicide. If no female, no woman or girl, is safe with them, then they have a duty to their species to remove the rest of the species from their impending, inevitable danger. They have an obligation to not tarnish those of their sex who are not inherent rapists so that such males can exist as allies to women and girls. I am willing to take them at their word, and I am willing to see them cease to exist.
And I expect men to ally with girls and women, and specifically with radical feminist women, without question.
It would be after this minor revolution, should it ever actually happen, that “normal” male sexuality might reasonably be pondered. There is nothing but taint at this point: the unchallenged use and abuse of female beings as devices for friction enough to get him off. Don’t like that? Challenge it! Don’t like that I wrote it? Make it untrue. But make it untrue in your community as well as in your own life. Personal solutions mean nothing when revolution is necessary. The revolution is not personal; it is for the re-empowering of groups who have been marginalized. Nor is the revolution private — let’s talk about this.