Tuesday, 21 June 2011

How Feminism Hates Women

Part One: Rape.

It's not that far back on the timeline of civilized human existence that noted feminist writer and anti-pornography activist, Andrea Dworkin penned one of her most controversial works--Intercourse. In it, she posited that sexual intercourse--as influenced by culture, patriarchal oppression and pornography--is "the pure, sterile, formal expression of men's contempt for women..."

Now don't get me wrong. There are a lot of negatives about pornography, and these negatives play out among both men and women. Body image issues abound, just like they do with any air-brushed, pancake-made-up entertainment industry, the recent trend in genital grooming through bikini and brazilian waxing and even labiaplasty being one, and another evidenced by the plethora of "male enhancement" drug ads that find their way into my spambox. Yet another is humorously addressed in this article at cracked.com, which blandly asserts (correctly) that porn sex isn't "real sex". I've even gone so far as to warn my 16 year-old son that what plays to the camera ain't always what feels good.

And don't get me wrong, I'm willing to admit there are misogynist men out there, and that their misogyny is as likely to express itself through their sexual activities as it is in their speech and public behavior.

However, with respect to Ms. Dworkin's (and other feminists') insistence that porn "trains" men to rape...I can't help but conclude that this theory has been soundly debunked--by none other than the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which reports that rape has been on the decline to the tune of something like 90% since 1979.

Remember, this is an era where porn rocketed out of inaccessible, skeezy XXX theaters and 8mm film reels to become more available than ever, through home VCRs and the internet. This was also a period during which rape shield protections have made it less painful than ever for women to report their rapes, and concurrent with a healthy (or unhealthy, depending on your POV) hook-up culture where more young women are putting themselves in sexual situations with men they hardly know than ever before. And while no one has been able to conclusively prove that the now-universal availability of porn is what's actually put the kibosh on rape, it's hard to give any credence to the predictions of Dworkin et al., who in the 70s forecast nothing but rape rape rape all over the place if men, en masse, were allowed to regularly watch people humping in movies.

But contrary to the findings of our friends at the Bureau of Justice, according to many feminist academics and activists, rape is more rampant than ever. In fact, we're living in a whole culture of rape, if you didn't know. And according to the law, they're right. Because the legal definition of consent has been implacably narrowing and the legal definition of rape broadening--largely due to feminist theory and jurisprudence. It would seem that if a predicted epidemic of rape was not forthcoming, the answer (according to some) was to manufacture one, through criminalization of behaviors that had once been considered both normal and legal.

Drunk sex? That's rape, (depending on what gender you are, of course). Touching your partner in her sleep, even at her request? Sexual assault. Nagging, pestering, whinging and cajoling a woman into sex? RAPE.

One of Ms. Dworkin's most pithy quotes: "Seduction is often difficult to distinguish from rape. In seduction, the rapist often bothers to buy a bottle of wine."

And another: "No woman needs intercourse; few women escape it."

It is no wonder, considering her entire body of work, that many of her critics have accused her of characterizing all heterosexual sex as rape. When seduction is synonymous with rape, and sexual intercourse something women must "escape" from...well, this is a completely reasonable assumption. That Ms. Dworkin hated men ought to be self-evident, and that she worked tirelessly to help build a society that would also hate men is a political position that drips from her every printed word, not least her assertion that "making love" is something one can only truly do when one leaves one's gender at the bedroom door. Judging by her lesbianism and her writings, one can guess which gender she's talking about.

Her war was always a war against maleness, and one that was to be fought on every front, even (perhaps especially) in our beds. Victory would only be achieved through the utter desexifying of sex, the entry of the political into our most intimate relations, a society where someone other than the individuals involved sits in clinical judgment of what politically sanctioned activities you're permitted to engage in to get your rocks off.

And we're on our way there, for sure. At least, this attitude is what the law is beginning to reflect as the state pushes its inexorable way back into our bedrooms.

Now if I was self-absorbed enough, I'd go into detail on how the sex life Ms. Dworkin and the law approve of is patently not the sex life I want. A sex life of my partner asking my permission at every escalation of a sexual encounter, a sex life of sweet, tender reverence on the part of whatever man I'm with, a sex life where gender remains outside the bedroom door, a sex life where fucking doesn't happen, a sex life of always being asked and never told, always having to give and never being taken.

But that's an argument for another day. Today, I'm going to try to explain a few ways feminist discourse and activism with respect to the problem of rape, harms women. The first lies in feminist academia's arbitrary and dismissive attitude toward women's actual experiences to further their agenda of manufacturing a rape epidemic.

Yes, you heard me. Feminist academics dismiss the experiences and perceptions of women. Let's examine one of the most frequently cited studies on rape--the 1985 Ms. Magazine study authored by Mary Koss, which determined, based on a random sample of three thousand, that 1 in 4 college-aged women in the US have been victims of rape or attempted rape. In a paper published three years prior to this study, she characterized rape as "an extreme behavior but one that is on a continuum with normal male behavior within the culture". In other words, rape is not a deviate behavior of certain individuals, but in its essence, just another "normal" expression of male sexuality. Like our late friend Ms. Dworkin, Ms. Koss subscribes to the belief that maleness is not only the root of all rape, but that maleness is synonymous with rape.

In the study, rape was defined as nonconsensual "penetration by a finger, penis or other object." This is an extremely broad definition of rape to begin with--penetration by a finger? Seriously? In addition, the wording of question 8 (the drug/alcohol question), which was responsible for roughly half the findings of rape, was ambiguous to the point of absurdity, something Koss later admitted when pressed by reporters.

But it gets better. Because of all the women determined to have been raped, only 27% considered themselves to be rape victims. Yes, that's right. It was the surveyors, not the respondents, who decided who had been raped and who hadn't.

When corrected for these discrepancies, the number of women in the study who were victims of rape or attempted rape drops to about 1 in 22. Still unacceptable--especially if you're woman #22--but one thing that number won't do is get you all kinds of nationwide press.

Another study done in 1992, by Dr. Dean Kilpatrick, found that 1 in 8 women in America would be the victim of forcible rape at least once in her lifetime. Which is pretty scary, especially for the hordes of women who opted not to enrol in post-secondary education, believing it would keep them safe from all those rampant campus rapists.

In order to avoid the uncomfortable conflict that arose in Koss's study, where victims of rape were apparently in the dark as to the fact they'd been raped (how awkward!), Kilpatrick thought it prudent to omit the question altogether. Yes, you heard me. In a study of how many women have been raped, he didn't think "Have you ever been a victim of rape?" was a pertinent enough question to include in the 35 minute telephone interview. When pressed by reporters from a small, award-winning investigative newspaper, as to why he'd omitted the question in his million-dollar study, his reply was, "If people think that is a key question, let them get their own grant and do their own study."

Except guess what? He'd already done that study--one where he'd explicitly asked respondents whether they had, indeed, been raped. And the number he arrived at? Coincidence of coincidences: 1 in 20. You'll understand how that study didn't land him a spot in Time magazine, whereas his super-scary 1992 study based on the Koss/Ms methodology made him a feminist household name.

Which brings me to the second way feminism's approach to rape harms women: Feminism wants women to believe that rape is so prevalent as to be virtually inevitable. To paraphrase Ms. Dworkin: "No woman needs [rape]; few escape it."

Why would feminism want women to be more afraid than they have to be, if not to pit women against men--potential victims against potential rapists--and to characterize the entirety of male sexuality as a pathology to be cured? That Koss herself posited that rape lay on a "continuum of normal male behavior" tells me that according to her, male sexuality is like cancer--"normal male sexuality" characterized as stage 1, and rape as stage 4, the only difference being the degree of harm done.

That feminism does not apply the same reasoning to deviant female sexual behaviors is telling. Women who commit sexual abuse of children, or who prey on adolescent boys are characterized as victims of patriarchy--the slave who turns herself into her oppressor in self-defence--their deviant behavior thus segregated from [pure, vaunted, innocuous, admirable] female sexuality and tossed into the male camp, where predatory behavior, domination, abuse and rape are all par for the course. Women who rape other women? Acting out the misogyny they've internalized through patriarchal oppression. Women who rape men? They don't exist.

What does all this mean for the average woman? It means confusion, conflict and fear. It means many women walking around afraid of all men, feeling like victims before they are even victimized. It means many women developing a creeping self-hate if they discover a little of the spanky-spanky in bed gets them wet. It means many women being terrified of something that is a lot less likely to happen to them than they've been led to believe. Not because of reality, but because of the feminist theory and activism that has essentially lied to them.

But this is hardly the end of it, because even many sensible pundits still characterize rape as a "uniquely horrible crime", and I've often wondered why that is. What makes rape--absent of any aggravating factors, the simple act of being subjected to nonconsensual sex--"uniquely horrible" when compared to, say, being stabbed, or beaten, or taken hostage, or any number of other forms of assault and violation of our bodily autonomy. What is it that makes us as a society characterize rape as a crime so bad only murder would be worse?

If any of you all have read my piece on slut-shaming and feminism, you'll know I believe rape continues to be viewed as uniquely horrible because of a conflict between sexual liberation and a Victorian view of female sexual honor as a woman's primary asset in life, one without which she is nothing. Back in 1850, the shame and personal devaluation a woman suffered when her sexual honor was gone was very practical and very concrete, and the consequences to her future absolutely dire. It hardly mattered whether her honor was taken by rape or because she had consented to sex. Either way, she had no further value as a woman.

But now, in the 2010s, there is no logical reason for any woman to feel ashamed or devalued as a woman because the "sanctity" of her sexuality was violated--because women's sexuality is no longer considered sacred, and the concept of sexual honor no longer exists in any practical way. Considering how society's views on women who have sex outside of marriage, and of women's value as more than wives and mothers, have changed, a woman's feelings of fear, trauma, violation and victimization associated with rape ought to be similar to those associated with any other form of assault. There is no logical place for shame and loss of self-worth in a world where there is no shame in a woman having sex, and no real-world value placed on her sexual virtue.

Yet this reaction to rape--a reaction that is very real to many women, despite the fact that it has no logical basis--has been allowed to dominate the entire public discourse on rape. In much the same way as discussions concerning routine infant male circumcision are often constrained by requests to speak less frankly out of consideration for the feelings of men who were circumcised as babies, conversations about rape are constrained by demands that everyone walk on eggshells, and that women who "got over" being raped be silent lest we make women who were more damaged by their rapes feel even worse. The result is that when discussing rape and how it effects women, the only permissible dialogue is one of shame, terror and human devaluation. Any frank, open, honest or questioning voices are told to be quiet.

And the fact that this dialogue is reinforced time and again through popular culture's portrayal of rape as both psychologically destroying and sexually shameful for women... it's as if feminism and popular culture not only want women to feel rape is virtually inevitable, something that is bound to happen to them, but that it is, indeed, the worst possible thing that could ever happen to them, that it is so horrendous an assault that it literally must change the way a woman sees herself and her value to humanity, and that she does indeed have something to be ashamed of if she is raped.

Which seems like a horribly cruel thing to do to women. But in radical, modern feminism's war on male sexuality, the women harmed by this deceit and emotional manipulation are merely collateral damage, pawns in the political game, and well worth the sacrifice.


  1. This is an amazing post. You have captured all of the most salient points regarding rape hysteria in our modern culture. I especially loved the section regarding Victorian-era values being mixed in with modern day experiences. It's something I've been thinking of for a while because of the levels of hypocrisy it generates.

  2. "In the study, rape was defined as nonconsensual "penetration by a finger, penis or other object." This is an extremely broad definition of rape to begin with--penetration by a finger? Seriously?"

    What's wrong with that definition? What definition would you use? I only wonder because further on in your post you seem to (rightly) object to the idea that women can't commit rape, but any definition of rape that allows for women to be considered rapists would have to be at least as broad as the one in the study, and possibly even broader.

    1. It seems weird to have to explain this, but if two kids are doing some heavy petting, and one starts doing a little grinding with the hand down there and a finger goes in a little and the girl says "wait a minute!" and pushes the hand away---was she just raped?

      The complexities of this don't always lend to easy answers, but I think most people would say "well no, she wasn't raped."

      Note that I just used gender-neutral language there on purpose. Would you view it differently if it were two girls in that scenario rather than a boy and a girl?

      How about if I'm having sex with my wife and she gets excited and sticks a finger in my anus and I don't like that? Did my wife just rape me?

  3. I think we can all agree that rape would be considered "nonconsensual sexual intercourse". Sexual intercourse would be, to my mind, anything that would turn a virgin into a non-virgin. While one could argue that (especially) repeated, ongoing penetration of vagina or anus with, say, a foreign object such as a broom handle or sex toy, could be construed as sexual intercourse (and I'd be inclined to agree), I'm pretty sure the first night a boy felt me up for three seconds at age 13 was not my first experience of sexual intercourse.

    And I would say the same for a man whose sexual partner penetrated him briefly with a finger--at most, I would consider that sexual assault. But you seem to be of the mind that the only way a man can be raped is anally.

    Women can and do use force, threats of force or psychological threats (I'll end the relationship/I'll accuse you of rape/I'll divorce you and take the kids) to coerce unwilling men into perfectly ordinary penis-in-vagina sex all the time. More women do this to men in relationships than the other way around, actually. So even if we kept the definition of rape to nonconsensual penetration of vagina or anus with a penis, this does not eliminate the possibility that a lot of men are victims and a lot of women are rapists.

  4. The names of these various studies really need to be given.

  5. I found the part on the clashing of modern day sexual liberty and victorian values perplexing. I'd imagine that extreme aversion to rape could have a biological component. Having a baby without a man to support it or the mother would be at worst a death sentence for woman and child, and at best, a huge drain of resources to the surrounding community if they are to chip in. The stakes would indeed be higher than in cases of simple assault, and yet less than murder, just as we see in modern society.

  6. As a man, I seem to be forbidden from even having an opinion about rape at all, no matter how informed or rational it happens to be. The current state of political discourse in this country seems to have degenerated to the point where a man can't even express a single thought on the issue without a hoard of militant feminists descending upon him and picking him to pieces for being "part of the rape culture of our patriarchal society." For evidence of the extremes this attitude can go to, you need only google "a man is a rape supporter if" and observe the results.

    I have often felt that in my lifetime, our society has been trending toward a definition of rape and sexual assault that effectively makes all sex outside of state-sanctioned marriage a crime. Turns out I was just watchdogging the wrong political action groups; I naturally assumed it was the christian right who would be leading that particular crusade, and not feminists. The irony is not lost on me.

    1. One way a man may enter the discourse and shield himself somewhat is admit to being a victim of sexual abuse of some sort himself, if that happens to be true, although that still might not be enough.

  7. Just reading feminist works make me feel inferior as a woman. Andrea Dworkin was the worst. As if vaginal sex was degrading to a woman because of 'penetration' and 'being occupied'. Quite ridiculous.

  8. Rape culture does exist, but its not a war between women and men, it is about oppression and privilege. Men are treated and regarded differently than women by society, and so they grow up with less fear, are far less objectified,and enjoy more privileges, such as the privilege of never having to "accidentally" get pregnant and the repercussions of that, higher wage opportunities, and suffer less sexual assault. These are not reasons to hate men, but any person/man who has privilege over another is encouraged not to abuse the privilege, and to be understanding of why the other person/woman my resent that privilege.
    We live in a rape culture because globally there is a vast culture of abuse of male privilege, at women's expense.

    However, women are treated differently than men, by women AND men, and its not just men who perpetuate and perpetrate violence and abuse of women.
    Women perpetuate and perpetrate violence and mysogeny, just as much as men do. For example, any women, who calls herself a feminists or not, who has ever been nasty to or jealous of, or threatened by another women because that women "looks good" perpetuates violence and mysogeny. Any feminst who claims to be anti-porn, anti-sex worker, anti-make up, anti-body issues, anti-heterosexual is actually opressing many many women, and yet calling themselves a feminist. Women AND men need support and encouragement to make a better world for all.

    1. Men enjoy less fear, despite being more at risk for literally every violent crime. Women's fear is condoned and accepted far more to mens, and men are often mocked for being afraid. Men are more objectified as success objects, because womens' sexual arousal generally works differently than men. Men do not get to sever themselves from the consequences of accidental pregnancy, and have been forced to pay child support in cases of both statutory and regular rape. I mean, kids not old enough to drive. Higher wages are the result of choices in the jobs men take and the way they work; women are less likely to sacrifice personal/family life for their career, and polls have found a large number of men wish they made the same choice.

      Rape is something both men and women do, and it is far, far more condoned for women than it is for men. Male rape is almost nonexistent in feminist dialogue, despite statistics indicating roughly as much men are raped outside of prison as women. Why is it not classified as rape? Because many states and all of the UK literally do not legally recognize being made to penetrate as rape. Men have it objectively worse than women with regards to sexual assault, rape, and domestic violence.

      No, being insecure or shallow or just jealous doesn't "perpetuate violence and misogyny". Stop trying to conflate one woman and all women. You are not the thought police.

      I like how you're concerned solely with what you think is oppression of women.

  9. Actually, the comment about the biological component of rape aversion is pretty accurate, if only for the fact that sneaker males (those usually engaging in rape across all species) tend to be of lower "quality". There might be some deep limbic aversion to rape simply because it is so costly reproductively, and as with many limbic aversions a cultural proxy has been developed to explain it.

  10. I was raped.
    I take issue with the tone of this post.
    My virtue is important to me - even though we are in the 2000's and I am a westerner.
    My body was and is important to me. My feelings were and still are important to me. My thoughts were and still are important to me.
    Is there something wrong with me because I am now afraid of men? Because, it has affected my whole life? That I'm not somehow nonchalant about it? After all, I am meant to be a sexually liberated, western woman.
    I have since had sex within a loving relationship.
    In my opinion, rape is a monstrous thing to happen to a person. It's affects are lasting. The violation is immeasurable.
    I would not compare it to another crime. I don't want to and I don't think it's relevant.
    However, knowing how full and lasting the effects of rape are by firsthand experience - I think our society does not punish it enough or seek to find ways of preventing, if it can, enough.
    I don't have all the answers. But, I do think this post doesn't actually help anyone or further any cause.
    I also don't think one person, their way of life and thoughts make up a whole "movement" - in this case the "feminist movement".
    The feminist movement is a lot more complex and involved.

    1. how the fuck do laws 'prevent' crimes? Explain that one too me, it's not like that approach backfired during the prohibition... but wait, aren't the only people committing rape right now criminals? It's like having a new law about how murder or theft is illegal...

  11. Another thorough, brilliant and insightful argument. Thank you, Karen.

    I don't know about any other guy, but I get weird anxieties about even touching women that I'm dating anymore. I mean, I'm constantly asking, "Is it right for me to grab her hand or wrap my arms around her when she's not looking?"

    It's like this rape culture is terrifying society out of connecting with each other. Physical contact can be an ugly form of connection, yes. BUT, a lot of times, I think physical contact, especially with a loved one (partner included) is a wonderful, satisfying thing. So, I keep asking myself, what the fuck is wrong with the rest of these people?

    Then, I read about modern psychology, basically written by feminists, to teach every man and woman that masculinity is inherently evil... that's the cause of soo many years of atrocities and blah, blah, blah. A real thinking person should ask themselves, why the hell do these feminist psychology books not talking about all of the great advantages masculinity has provided humanity?

    And then, the answer comes from people like Karen here. It's all due to the man-hating agenda of angry feminists, whether they're lesbians or not, it doesn't matter. What does matter is that they hate men and all men stand for.

    I swear, if men hated men like these bitches hate us, things would be a lot different for women today.

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