War Rape

It’s not just an enthusiastic spillover of violence and aggression.  The act of sexual intercourse is too specific, too far removed from the other acts of wartime violence and aggression.  Shooting a person twenty-five times instead of once or twice would be such a spillover; forcing your penis or something else into a woman’s vagina is not.  Furthermore, war rape is often not a spontaneous, occasional occurrence; apparently it’s quite premeditated and systematic.

And it’s not, or not just, a matter of ethnic cleansing.  If men truly wanted to eradicate the other culture, (and if they believed ethnicity was genetic), they’d just kill the women along with the men.  (Women are killed, but as I understand it, they’re usually raped first.)   (Or, sometimes, after.)  (And men are castrated, but not nearly as often as women are raped.) 

And if they truly wanted to increase their own numbers, they’d hang around and see that the kid reached maturity.  (Raped women are sometimes kept prisoner until the child is born – but unless the kid is subjected to specific and exclusive cultural conditioning, how is their purpose achieved?  They’d have to look after the kids themselves for ten years.)  (Which is unlikely.)

And it’s not, or not just, a property crime against the enemy.  If men sought merely to destroy their enemy’s property, they’d, again, simply kill their women and children, along with their livestock, before or after they burned their houses.  (Unless, of course, they wanted to confiscate their property – in which case, they’d enslave the women rather than rape them.)

So what is it?  What can explain this peculiar practice of male soldiers forcing sexual intercourse with enemy civilian women?  Some insight can be gained if we consider that for men, sexual intercourse is an act of conquest.  But then we must ask, since one army of men conquers another, why don’t the soldiers rape each other as an act of conquest? 

Perhaps men are so afraid of being considered homosexual, they rape the enemy women instead of the enemy men.  (So only homophobia prevents men from raping enemy men?  Note the vested interest women have, then, in discouraging homophobia: maybe then men would rape each other instead of us.) 

Or perhaps the conquest involved is not that of one person over another, but that of one person over another’s property – and women are men’s property.  And as long as conquest, rather than destruction, is the point, the property will be occupied, not destroyed.  And in sexual intercourse, men literally occupy women’s bodies – they thus occupy the enemy’s property.

But all of this is nothing new.  One might persist, however, and ask how men can continue to regard women as property when legal and economic conditions no longer support that interpretation.  The answer lies in attending not to the ownership part of property, but to the inanimate part of property: to be property is to be a thing.

Men do not, clearly, consider us equals – otherwise, we would be the enemy, not the enemy’s property.  And they’d kill us as they do the men (or they’d rape the men as they do us) (well, except for the homophobia bit).

They don’t even consider us inferior human beings, say, as children.  Children are either spared or ignored.  (Or, increasingly, drafted.)

We aren’t even considered (non-human) animals.  They too are either spared or ignored.  (Or just killed.)

We belong to some special category – that of cunt: we are a vagina, and sometimes a uterus; we are a sexual body part, a sort of subhuman thing.  Rape is not so much impersonal as apersonal.  It’s no coincidence that one protests, or tries to escape, rape by claiming the characteristics of personhood: you’re hurting me! (sentience); I have a name! (identity); I have a life! (interests).  (One might wonder how the husbands and fathers can renounce their raped wives and daughters – don’t they recognize it was against their will?  But of course not: subhumans don’t have will, don’t have volition.) 

Greer once said something like women have no idea how much men hate them.  To be hated would be a step up.  I say women have no idea how much men fail to see them as anything but their sex.  On the basketball court, playing with a bunch of high school boys, a pick by me is not just a pick: it’s a pick by a girl, and so it elicits extra humiliation and anger, it elicits shame and rage.  And the next time I set a pick, the boy aggressively ploughs me out of the play.  In the university classroom, teaching to male students, a critique of an argument is not just a critique: it’s a challenge to one’s masculinity, and so it elicits strong defensive action.  Complaints are made to the Dean. And a suggestion to a colleague, a male colleague, is not just a suggestion: it’s a woman telling you what to do, and so at best it’s not taken seriously.  (At worst, it too is taken as a challenge.)  It’s certainly not accepted.  Thus our agency in, our interaction with, half the world is denied.  Men’s insistent perception of us as female limits us, because to be female precludes being a person.

Such a perception may indeed be irrational – and the consequent behaviour, such as rape, may indeed be primitive and/or pathological.  But it is their perception, and women would be wise to understand that.  (Even more wise would be the men who understand it: for enlightenment and/or imprisonment is surely not going to be brought about by anything we subhumans do.)

Postscript, Sep29/13: “…I’m at the very least boosting Guard morale.  It’s an historically proven tactic, Zeldin.  That’s why rape has always been a part of every war.”  Alanya to Alanya, L. Timmel Duchamp (p.195)  So it’s just a morale booster.  Oh god.  It’s all worse than I thought.

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