Or probably better ones.
On one of my many internet adventures, I chanced upon an essay by Charlotte Shane, ”…a writer and prostitute living on the east coast”.
And then I realized, sometimes we’re just not in the mood for Intelligence. (Or even its kinder younger brother, Smartness.)
Newspapers speak of countless rape charges and battles being waged against ‘ ’em monsters’ who ruined a woman’s life forever, accompanied by the standard pixilated headshot of the victim. Indian print media in particular tends to go overboard with coverage on one ‘breaking news’/’burning issue’, overanalyzing the what-happened-s and how-he/they-did-it with telephone interviews and studio discussions and text-voting to determine if you still feel safe in the city, much like a 5 year-old on a sugar high.
Understandably, the hysteria dies a mysterious death and the woman who whose dignity was compromised by another individual is swept across the floor to one corner to make room for more sugar-high induced breaking news coverage.
The rapist’s blood is bayed for, as feminists over the world (exaggerate much?) gather ‘in support of the victim. Let justice be the reward’.
Charlotte talks of Camille Paglia, who has been roundly denounced for her take on rape (among other things), has said that “rape is an outrage” but that she considers the “propaganda and hysteria” around rape “equally outrageous.”
Nothing short of poetic, righteous justice, you say?
Rape is a digusting act. Being a young woman myself, I empathize with others who have withstood the leaden tides and are still alive. A lot of times, rapes go unreported. Ones which don’t face immense focus under the public nose, when they could really do with someone who cares that it is over and the person is safe and alive and kicking; they live normal lives (… yes. A lot of them do.), date. marry, have kids and you know, the works. There are people who don’t give their past too much of attention.
In 1998, novelist Fay Weldon suggested that while rape is a terrible and serious crime, it is not by definition “the worst thing that could happen to a woman.” She even qualified this by adding “if you’re safe, alive, and unmarked after,” but the level of insult and recrimination she faced was staggering regardless.
I am not playing down what consequences a forced sexual encounter can have on a person but if you have been listening closely through the rising cacophony, i’m sure you realize it is we who have granted the act its heinous and unrecoverable nature. Once you have been raped, you are expected to live on with that one life event as the only life-defining, rather life-altering behavior. You are expected to give up makeup, appear on front pages with a size 36 headline swarming on top of your head, demanding justice for the perpetrator of this monstrosity; asking people to light candles and vote online and create Facebook pages in your name and share your pictures with your story in description, because every time a Facebook user shares your story, it truly makes a difference to your life.
You are expected to condemn the man-race because one guy was pig-headed. You are expected to give interviews to periodicals once the storm subsides and tell people how you’re a survivor (sounds way more badass than victim, duhnit?), fighting the label of ‘raped’ stamped on your forehead in bright blue ink by– guess who? Everyone with their two cents. Misogyny gets a breather as male sexual organs are granted the status of a weapon in a sexual attack, attempting to strengthen the popular notion of absolute and unquestionable male dominance that asserts itself the second we hear ‘rape’. We go a century back when we suggest that the sexual aspect of a woman is the only aspect. When you call her a rape victim, her identity ceases to exist. She is a woman overpowered by a man, and she desperately needs all our help to nab that rapist freak who ruined her life with a penis.
Any other category or type of response to the ordeal is either hushed or shouted back at as rape apology.
For someone who has been through an emotionally difficult and confusing time, positive Rock-of-Gibraltar brand of support is what ideally fits the bill. Despite laying hands on the turkey called liberalism we celebrate Thanksgiving with, we slip into somewhat of an anarchy. Counsellors whose job description assigns them the human task of making them feel better and listening to them (and counselling them for unicorns’ sake) switch roles from passive to aggressive and wire that label into your head, and everyone else’s.
This isn’t a feminism thing. It isn’t a media-fuelled duel either. It is a society thing. We refuse to, as Charlotte puts it, “address rape with the sobriety and clarity the topic deserves because we are still unable to address sex with the sobriety and clarity it deserves. The contention that rape should be regarded as an asexual act has done nothing to remedy this.”
So rapes aren’t about the sex all the time. Sexual aggression has long been pointed out as a cause, although psychology prof from Kent State comments on the goings-on in a rapists head and their attempt at answering questions that rape cases bubble up. As of now, rape is strictly defined as unlawful sexual intercourse; a few half-cooked efforts to try widen the rape law ambit are in motion, and mostly ignored. Shane shares that most activists and supporters feel threatened if rape is brought down from the superlative horror it is looked down as, it will slowly become acceptable. Seriously? No. Just because not every woman goes through the devastation she is expected to after a rape does not mean she’s downplaying the seriousness of it all. Just because we choose to not cry hara kiri and raise our katana and let our roving bloodshot eyes search down that mean creep does not mean we’re welcoming rape into our homes to our women.
But then, you will always be the woman who got raped.