Monday, October 19, 2009

Are ANY Men "Natural Born Rapists"? (And if not...)

[image of two rapists who, together, repeatedly raped a 65-year-old woman. Shockingly, they have been jailed for life. They were UK nineteen-year-olds David Humphrey, of Middlesbrough, and Lee Beazley, of Hemlington. They broke into the woman's home in September of 2005. Even the press doesn't blame biology: it blames drugs and alcohol. Nor does the press identify white male supremacist society as an influential factor. The rest of the horrifying story with that image is here]

This blogpost tackles two issues:

1. The misquoting of some white radical feminists about their views on sex and rape.

2. My own perspective on this matter, including what I think creates the rapist societies in which is functionally and effectively a form of both terrorism and subordination of women as a class relative to men as a class.

We can clear up the first matter rather quickly; this information applies as much to Andrea Dworkin's work and speech as it does to Catharine MacKinnon's:

From, in their "questionable quotes" section:

Rape Seeded
Claim: Feminist Catharine MacKinnon said "All sex is rape."
Status: False.

A portion of the explanation and history of this false statement is below:
MacKinnon never made the statement which has been attributed to her. (The quote she never gave has been variously rendered as "All sex is rape," "All men are rapists," and "All sex is sexual harassment.") Critics of MacKinnon's work argue she implies all men are rapists, but the quote given here was created by MacKinnon's opponents, not MacKinnon herself.

MacKinnon claims the first reference to her alleged belief that all sex is hostile surfaced in the October 1986 issue of Playboy. According to MacKinnon, the statement (which had previously been attached to feminist Andrea Dworkin) was made up by the pornography industry in an attempt to undermine her credibility. It became inextricably linked with MacKinnon's name after she began working with Dworkin in the early 1980s to write model anti-pornography laws.

(the above was written by Barbara "ms. attributed" Mikkelson)

On to part two of this post:

Are men*, due strictly to nature and general anatomical features, not due to social forces, "designed" to be rapists. Another way to ask this is: Is it inevitable that male human beings will be rapists, particularly endemically against women? (*I define "men" here as follows: socially defined adult male-bodied human beings with specific and abundant male privileges and entitlements assigned to them at birth, upon inspection of their crotches, at which point they were determined not to be females or infant girls and instead the only other sex imaginable, boys.)

Emphatically, I say NO, men are not born with the desire or understanding of rape as a practice, as an act of humiliation and violation, as a form of sex, and as something that will likely become desireable upon hitting puberty, or inevitable at all. But most men I've known disagree with me, saying they think rape is inevitable and will never stop. Meanwhile, most MRAssholes get upset at women who despair about men not stopping this practice, at women who dare to be angry at men for our insistence on keeping rape on the scene.

One of the people most accused of seeming to think this way--a woman who is accused of believing that men are inherently evil or monsters, is Andrea Dworkin. Oh, how the MRAssholes love to go on and on about her in ways that demonstrate they have never read one single book by this activist-author (or if they have, they have not comprehended the thoughts in it). Many men I have met and read are far more upset at women who claim men might not be able to stop rape than the men who do the same exact thing. Why is that?

I challenge anyone reading this blogpost to produce one sentence from any speech, essay, or nonfiction book of Andrea Dworkin's that says "Men are natural-born rapists", that "rape outside of patriarchy is inevitable", and that "all [heterosexual sex[ual intercourse] is rape". Just to save some of y'all the time searching, I'll let you know you won't find any passages that say any of those things. You won't find this in her books, in the parts written by her, because she never said or wrote it as a declaration of something she believed was true. If you want to know some of what she did say about men, sex, rape, and biology, you can read these two essays (actually written by her, not mistranslated through antifeminist, or woman-hating or over-intellectualising academic/anti-activist lenses:

From reading these two speeches, you will actually discover what Andrea Dworkin said:
Speech one on biological superiority.
Speech two on how men can stop rape.

For those scratching their heads wondering "Geez, how is it that I have believed this distortion about her and other radical feminists for so long?!?" I'll offer up one quick answer: men lie about what feminists have done and do, including what feminists have said and say. And Academics are not primarily interested in promoting radical activism, they are primarily interested in doing what they need to do to keep their academic careers going strong, which means discussing the ideas of people who do radical activism.

And, especially, men's lies to ourselves about how undangerous men are, to women and to each other. If honest, we will admit we don't have very great expectations that men will work to make the world a safer, more respectful place for women. If honest, most of us will admit we think rape is not likely to end any time soon, if ever. And we think it, in part, because we foolishly believe men are somehow naturally wired to be rapists. Or we illogically think "[some] animals rape, and men are animals, therefore men rape" or, more horrifically, we think "women like rape, so men will keep raping to satisfy women". (How incredibly selfless of us! NOT.)

Each of these beliefs are ours, men's, not women's, not feminists'. And it's about time men started owning our own psychological, political, social, and economic investment in this notion: that we, men, will continue to rape until such time humanity is no more. And it's about time we stopped projecting our CRAP onto women, and onto feminists in particular. This projection is but one of many ways men demean and degrade women and behave in an antifeminist manner. There are so many other ways, including the accessing images of raped women and reaching orgasm by looking at raped women. Including the physical act of rape that men unrelentingly commit against women. It is not because our penises (and objects we hold in our hands) are embedded with some code for misconduct. Penises and the human men who build their identities on having one, can be enveloped in sex by a female partner; they needn't aggressively penetrate a person. Dworkin notes this in her book, Intercourse. It's not one of the passages MRAssholes get pleasure from misquoting, however, because it reveals they are liars.

If you have read each of those two Dworkin's speeches carefully, you will hear her belief in and hope for men's humanity, and her wish for men to stop one another from raping women. We men suppose ourselves to be so very smart, so tactical and strategic, and so goddamned superior. Surely if we can send men to the moon, can (with women) create new methods of treating many cancers, we can figure out how to end rape without women's help, right?

But most men, almost without exception, do not share this wish--or if we do there's scant evidence of it in terms of how men really do respond to one another's actions that use and abuse women, that violate and degrade women. (How many men do you know--get out just the fingers on one hand, who let other men know that "using heterosexual pornography" is in fact making the decision to support an industry, financially or ethically, by consuming images of incested, molested, raped, and/or pimped women? I have heard exactly ZERO men ever say this to any heterosexual man I know in my presence. I've had heterosexual male friends all my life (don't worry about me for doing so: men's heterosexual misogyny is not medically contagious).

You'd think in decades, maybe, one heterosexual man might let one other heterosexual man know what using pornography REALLY is and does. You'd think maybe, just out of sheer odds, like with monkeys typing at computer keyboards, some heterosexual men might slip up, get the words wrong, and tell heterosexual men they know that their behaviors of predatory voyeurism, visual violation of women-- "eye fucking" as Divine Purpose puts it--are wrong, unethical, not acceptable, unnatural, harmful, and ENDable. Instead I hear men make excuses all the goddamned time for our violating and degrading behaviors towards women, as if we're all in agreement not to call one another out. In a society where men's rape of women is endemic, HOW FUCKED UP IS THAT? (This is not a rhetorical question, fellas. Those among you who take rape seriously as a crime against humanity, and those of you who do not, are welcome to offer your comments here at this blog. I'll only publish the ones that are not woman-hating and woman-blaming, though.)

But there's more. Yes, it get's worse. There's a book--not one I've EVER seen MRAssholes take the least bit of interest in. I've never seen them vehemently and self-righteously denounce this particular book with all the histerical passion and froth at the mouth which seems to be saved up for dissing and hissing at feminists. This book argues that rape is natural and inevitable. No boys, the authors are not Mary Daly, Robin Morgan, or Valerie Solanas. These are two people from YOUR group: privileged white heterosexual men.

This is the book: A Natural History of Rape, by Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer.

What's the matter boys, cat got you tongues? Where's the outrage, fellas? Or are you only upset when you project onto women that they, en masse, think the worst of you? Drop the histeria, deal with your "brothers" and get rape to be a thing of the past. I hope we can do at least that.

No men are natural-born rapists, because rape is a social-political act, not a biological one. It is an act motivated by a desire to humiliate another person, not by a desire made up of hormonal chemicals. It is an act of gynocide, not genetics. It is an act that can only happen if men are not accountable to women, and one another. When men stop men from raping before they do so, when men convince men that all the CRAP we espouse that supports men raping women is bullshit, when we men take responsibility for our actions and stop claiming rape wouldn't exist as a social problem if only feminists would just shut up about it, then rape will end.


bell hooks says "God is a feminist" to a college audience

[photo of bell hooks and the article below are from here]

Gender, race, media and hooks
Written by Betty Chaney - Life & Arts Editor
Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Behind the dark, heavy curtain, bell hooks sits in a metal folding chair before she took to the stage in Button Auditorium [at Morehead State University in Kentucky], Tuesday night.

“I describe myself, first and foremost, as a seeker on the path,” she says. “Really it’s spirituality that occurs at every aspect of my life. Writing is my divine calling and feminism is the political movement, the theory, and the practice that helped me to fully de-self-actualize,” she says.

Hooks was born in Hopkinsville and is now a professor at Berea College. Hooks says she does not capitalize her name.

“When the feminist movement first began, people were trying to get away from the ego and we were doing all this at a time where a lot of Westerners were looking to the East for a spiritual guidance,” she says. “There was so much, like, it’s not important who is speaking but what is being said.”

Hooks says she gave a lecture this year about whether or not God is a feminist.

“My answer was, of course, God is a feminist because if we accept that God is a god of love then we know that God fully intends for females and males to be self-actualized, self-empowered and full of self esteem,” she says.

The media has definitely has an impact on society, she says.

“You find yourself wanting something without knowing why you want it and then you remember you’ve been listening to a particular kind of commercial,” she says. “The media has a powerful influence. Part of what I speak on is how the media makes culture.”

Dr. Ann Andaloro, associate professor of communication and theatre and director of women’s studies, was excited about having hooks come to MSU.

“Hooks is a prolific writer and scholar,” she says. “We’ve been reading her work for years and now we get to hear her speak those words. I got e-mails from Amsterdam today asking me to pass messages on to her.”

One of hooks' ideas is how many elements are interconnected, Andaloro says.

“Feminism includes race and class,” she says. “It’s all interlinked. You can’t think about one without the other.”

Andaloro says she thinks hooks’s program will be good for the university.

“One of the university’s objectives is a diversity initiative, teaching and learning different factors,” she says. “A discussion of race here will help to enhance our campus.”

Hooks’ message would be really beneficial for students, Andaloro says.

“Students are here because they want to lean and understand the world around them,” she says. “It could be really important for students from a small community who maybe haven’t been exposed to race or race issues so much. It’s the importance of understanding equality.”

Junior Sharon-Marie Boggs attended the event as a requirement for a class.

“My professor said there would be stuff on the next exam that would come from hooks’ speech,” she says.

Boggs says she found the event surprising.

“It wasn’t what I thought it would be,” she says. “I was afraid it would be this dry, droning thing but it wasn’t. I thought hooks was a very good speaker. She kept the audience interested and motivated. She made it humorous while touching on real issues at the same time.”

“I thought she hit a lot of good points, like the thing about Obamas,” she says. “I like the Obamas. I just never realized what he said about whether or not Michelle will be consulted for her opinions. He can be very patriarchal.”

Another MSU junior, Cody Mitchell, was also in the audience.

“It was a very informative and moving speech by a Kentucky native,” he says. “It’s always important to hear from Kentucky natives, especially a world-renowned one, because Kentuckians are typically portrayed in a negative light, typically as being ignorant.”

The criminology major says he attended for two reasons.

“I was interested in the topic,” he says. “I’m taking several classes on race, gender, and equality and it flowed with those classes.”

Mitchell says he did learn an important lesson in the time he sat in the auditorium.

“You have to be careful of what you see and watch on television because it can be dangerous in a sociological way,” he says. “A seemingly innocent report could portray women or any minority group in a negative light.”

Hooks says there is one important thing she hopes sticks with her audience.

“I would like for folks to take away the importance of critical thinking and the importance of learning how to love because if you’re not able to love ourselves and others then you can’t have healthy self esteem or anything,” she says.


Catharine A. MacKinnon Speaks Out on Rape, Prostitution, and Law

[Additional material and a link to her speech was added on 20 October 2009 by me]

[photo of Catharine A. MacKinnon was found here]

Here is a link to her speech as an MP3 file:

Here are my notes taken from the speech as I was listening to it. I cannot say whether or not they are accurate transcriptions, so please don't copy and paste them as "quotes" of hers. What's in brackets was written by me.

[She begins with referencing part of the story told by Marge Piercy in her book Woman on the Edge of Time. This is among the first ten feminist books I ever read, along with Sister Outsider, by Audre Lorde.]

Gender as an inequality that maps itself onto women and men.

Power is even more sexualised around the world now than it was thirty years ago.

Exposure to pornography desensitises its consumers to violence against women.

Sex-based poverty, and gender-based violence. Women have to be kept poor, some of them, must remain poor so they will be vulnerable to men who want to pay them for the kind of sex men who pay for sex want. We call such an arrangement, "consensual".

What was soft-core pornography is now mainstream entertainment in media not owned by practicing pornographers, for whom making pornography is their primary source of income.

Men are given active sexual passivity that is fed to men socially to boost their own sense of entitlement to it.

Male power is real and requires appeasement. You give men what they want in the hope that that giving will be enough to no longer be threatened and abused by men.

Children sexualise being sexually used by being sexually abused by men, usually male family members. This constitutes women's identity.

Sexually abused boys are 12% in college. My sense is that it's easily double that. About half of girls and maybe a quarter of boys, or more. In cultures where girls are kept inside at home, and boys are outside among men, those stats may be reversed.

Many serial killers, rapists, child molesters, and [misopedic] "pedophiles" were abused as boys when younger, not necessarily sexually. Raped boys might be a misogynistic and dissociated population.

Sexual abuse of children geometrically expands the incidence of sexual violence generally in the society. One male survivor can abuse many others, upwards of hundreds.

Some men identify with girls and women similarly abused. Others identify with the power of being an abuser.

Many abused children grow up to see women and men as distinct. Both sexes tend to identify their sexuality with the long-term effects of the abuse: men with being an abuser, women with being the recipients of the abuse.

Why does sexual abuse appear as it does? Sexual scripts attached to gender roles can last at least as long as the traumatic impact. This means men have their identities at stake in their expressions of power interpersonally.

Because sex it is experienced physically it is said to be natural. And extrapolated from this is that gender is natural.

"You do it, you do it, you do it, and then you become it." --Linda Boreman (survivor of many forms of abuse perpetrated by her husband/pimp, and other men, most notably in the film Deep Throat)

At this point expressing sexuality is seen as exercising freedom.

It isn't sexy unless it's unequal. Girls are defined as for sexual use, and boys as sexual users. Boys learn to despise girls, who are defined as the people to whom it is right to be sexually used. It's a crucible for society. The being that is that being is a girl. The alternative is masculinity--their way out, siding with the abusers. It is their choice whether to abuse or not.

The sexual politics of this isn't all Left and it isn't all Right. It produces a sexual politics whereby the Right is to suppress any sexuality that is equality, and the Left seeks to liberate any sexuality that is inequality.

Pornography makes this gender inequality, this sexual use and abuse, sexy.

Often we see pornography and prostitution supported liberally, as if one can be free while being socially unequal, living inside institutions of sex inequality.

I'm waiting for men to resent this--having their sexuality manipulated by this industry. That I'm weeping for their souls apparently has not inspired a [men's] movement [to end prostitution and rape].

A good many women resist knowing this reality.

One is often punished professionally and personally for not being in denial.

Psychiatry conspires to maintain sex as inequality.

This is why sexual violence is expanding. Andrea Dworkin predicted this in 1993.

This inequality of sexuality can express itself in same-gender relationships as well.

If it can't be changed, how do you explain it? Those who know gender and sex is social and not immutable. In Sweden, where the people who buy people for sex--let's call them sex predators, or users. We have been using the term "johns" because they have no name. In the Swedish law, they are criminalised along with pimps.

[me: let's call them prostitutors, or predatory purchasers of human beings who usually return what they buy when they're done with "it". Sometimes they kill what they buy.]

Giving prostituted people human rights. Mediated prostitution is pornography, prostitution shown through media.

Promotion and passage of the Dworkin-MacKinnon anti-pornography ordinance would also help. Women are not sex and are not for sale. Women, in other words, are human, in the full sense of the world. With this, gender would be so transformed as to be abolished. A solidarity among women across race, class, region could be achieved.

Which of Marge Piercy's futures will manifest? In 1976 the odds were closer to equal.

We can choose equality for real and gender as we know it.

There is a fable about a sage, who could see into the future. Two boys come to her with a bird: is the bird alive or dead? If alive, they'd kill it on the spot, if she says it's dead they let it go free.

"Oh wise one, is the bird alive or dead?" they ask.
She says, after many moments, "I don't know, I only know it's in your hands."

And here's one review of her speech, delivered at a U.S. college very recently.

Activist details sexism in world legal system
Issue date: 10/20/09 Section: News
[source may be found here]

Catherine MacKinnon, a respected and accomplished feminist, lectured about her theories on sexism in Neville Hall on Thursday evening.

"Women are in the 50 percent mark of becoming fully human," MacKinnon said.

MacKinnon said women need to overcome denial that they are being violated because of their gender. Overcoming this denial will gear women toward the path of receiving full human status in normative society, she said.

"Whenever I ask 'have you ever been raped', most women answer, 'I don't know,'" MacKinnon said.

She said many women try not to identify with the rape victims they hear about, even though they have been forced to have sexual intercourse when they did not want to.

When MacKinnon made that point, it struck a chord with some of the female audience members.

"She made me think about my own experiences," Jenelle Lewis, '12, said. "I am one of these people it happens to and I don't say anything."

"Rape is war against women," said MacKinnon, who currently works with sexually abused Croatian and Bosnian women, said.

MacKinnon said she believes prostitution should be a sexual law and not a criminal law.

According to MacKinnon, under the criminal law, all partners involved, especially the prostitutes, are held accountable as criminals.

"I don't think everyone in prostitution should be a criminal," MacKinnon said. "They are being bought and sold for sex, as victims, it's outrageous."

She said 90 percent of prostitutes have been sexually molested as children, and are in the industry because of human trafficking, economic suppression, and are therefore victims of the industry.

MacKinnon championed for making prostitution a sexual law. According to MacKinnon, under a sexual law, the prostitutes are decriminalized and treated like the victims; instead, the people punished are the buyers and the pimps.

By lowering the buyers, "Johns," and pimps as sex offenders and raising the prostitutes' statuses as victims, sex equality can be obtained, MacKinnon said.

MacKinnon cited Sweden as having the lowest human trafficking rate because the country has adopted the notion of prosecuting the buyers and pimps.

MacKinnon said U.S. states are male institutions, socially and politically, and that is why state law is ineffective.

She said that under state law, males feel an obligation to protect their fellow males.

MacKinnon rallied for international law because she felt that the male bond is broken, and therefore males are able to prosecute more objectively.

Many people treat sex equality as a good idea and not as a statement of fact that is being ignored, MacKinnon said.

Olajede Osanyingbemi, '12, said he agreed with her in some aspects but felt that some of what she said was a bit too extreme.

"I think a lot of things are sexist, but I think it is wrong to lay the complete blame on men," he said.

When a student from Lafayette College asked how women can succeed in the legal system, MacKinnon replied: "The system isn't designed for you to succeed. You just can take any bull from anyone and always speak up when you feel violated against."

She then reflected on how she handled sexist situations during her days as a graduate student at Yale University. MacKinnon said she used to hand out a yellow card whenever she or another female was violated.

The card read: "You have just insulted a woman, this has been chemically treated, your penis will fall off."

Donasia Tillery, '11, said MacKinnon's lecture was especially meaningful to her because she was able to hear her talk about things she was unclear about.

"She is very influential," Lewis said. "After hearing her talk, I would join Break the Silence. Because I am helping on a lower level, every bit helps."

The event was sponsored by a number of campus organizations including the Women's Center, Global Studies and International Studies.

MacKinnon is noted to be one of the most highly cited legal scholars in English. She is a professor of Law at University of Michigan and a visiting professor at the University of Chicago.