Re: Emerging rape thread

Eve Pinsker (U56728@UICVM.BITNET)
Sun, 15 Jan 1995 14:45:35 CST

On Sat, 14 Jan 1995 21:30:30 CST Rob Quinlan said:
>To some extent war time rape and
>acquaintance are the same in that they are the extremely selfish and
>violent acts of horny men. Further, they are similar in that they are
>relatively low risk to the rapist. I have never heard of a man being

I wonder. I would hypothesize that war time rape might not have that much to
do with "horniness." And as far as being low risk to the rapist, what about
the opposite question: are there not some cases where a soldier's refusal to
join in such activities could be high risk to him? I would ask people who are
more familiar than I am with accounts of what actually goes on among men at
war, whether or not group coercion from other fellow-soldiers would likely be
involved, however overt or implied. Acquaintance rape is "selfish" insofar as
it is an act of one man against one woman (however much it may have to do w.
ideas that rapist has about the relationships between all men and all women);
I would think that war-time rape would have to be looked at in terms of a
relationship between a group of men -- who see themselves as part of an army
that represents a "nation" -- and a whole population which they have, in their
own minds, dehumanized -- cf. terms like "gook" -- and acts of violent
sexuality against the females of this population are part of dominating that
population, whether or not such acts are condoned by those higher up in the
army's chain of command. It has very little to do with "normal" horniness or
sexuality as I understand it, except that cultural definitions of "normal" sex
might have something to do w. the varieties of violent acts that soldiers
perform, e.g., some armies may have a higher rate of members who perform
homosexual anal rape than others. I have no idea if there's any data on this.

>The fourth type of rape (stranger rape) seems to be an act of desperation.
>Donald Symons in his 1979 _The evolution of human sexuality_ has a chapter
>on rape where he argues that rapes are committed by men who have no other
>reproductive opportunities. The argument is too involved to go into at
What people in one place I've done fieldwork, Pohnpei, told me would seem to
belie this. There were cases of repeat rapists that people talked about, men
who were clearly regarded as aberrant and having something wrong with them.
THere was one man, Gerhardt, from Lehwehtik, where I stayed for awhile.
People told me it was safe for me there because Gerhardt was in jail (on a 5
year sentence) and there weren't any more men in that area like him. Well,
once they pointed out to me a man in his 70's and said that he'd been like
Gerhardt when he was younger, but he grew out of it. Gerhardt had been married
(when he was in jail his wife married somebody else), so one can not argue that
he was a rapist because he had no reproductive opportunities. I met people
from his family (his mother) and they seemed fine, not that I knew anything
about their family psychodynamics. But the other members of the community
didn't see anything wrong with the rest of the family, just Gerhardt. He
was "bad" (sakanakan), and the general advice to females about such men was to
avoid them, once they had been identified. There were cases I heard about, in
the area of the island near the port town (Net), of young men putting paper
bags over their heads and committing rape; this was clearly an attempt to avoid
identification, which in a face-to-face community is an important part of
the social control of aberrant behavior. This activity was regarded somewhat
differently than Gerhardt's; people from other parts of the island saw it as a
sign of social disintegration in Net -- like Gerhardt's, it was considered
"bad" behavior, but it potentially represented something more than just the
problems with one flawed person, it was connected to general contemporary
problems that senior adults have in controlling and properly raising the
younger generation, especially adolescent men. This is a pattern connected to
problems that Mac Marshall, Leslie Marshall, Francis Hezel, and Don Rubinstein
have written about in other parts of Micronesia -- suicide, alcoholism, and
violence among young people that both local and outside observers connect to
economic and social change that's resulted in the weakening of controls and
support that formerly came from extended family and clan relationships.

>It seems curious to me why some people insist on interpreting rape in terms
>of symbolic and/or political significance. Can someone explain this to me?
>Is there some other reason for these interpretations other than advancing
>a theoretical program? I would agree that the Bosnian ethnic cleansing has
>political motivation and that the Wai has symbolic significance, but the
>motivation to other types of rape seem to be better explained sexually.
Since when does "sexuality," whether involved in behavior regarded as abherent
or as "normal", not have symbolic or political significance, insofar as I
would think most of us define these as dimensions of all human behavior (of
course, whether one includes "the politics of the family" in say, Laing's terms
as part of the category "politics" depends on how one defines that category;
but most cultural anthropologists, anyway, define both "symbolism" and
"politics" pretty broadly). It's hard for me, anyway, to see how anyone could
think that something as fundamentally a part of being human as sexuality could
be discussed without discussing those other fundamental dimensions of human
existence, symbolism and politics (and certainly none of these things are
mutually exclusive categories).

Eve Pinsker