Re: Rape thread

Anthro Students (Anthro.Students@ANTHROPOLOGY.SU.EDU.AU)
Tue, 17 Jan 1995 01:21:13 -0500

There appears to be a problem with endemic reductivism in this thread
concerning rape.

Rob Quinlan writes (17/1)

>Rape is an act of dominance and it may well reflect societal notions of
>the asymmetry of male and female statuses. But, more than a symbolic >act
>of dominance, it is a *real* act of dominance. That the act is
communicative is probably ancillary to the motives of the rapist who is
>seeking a copulation. Lieber and Spear say that the data are clear that
>it's motivated by power and the desire to dehumanized the victim. Well,
>let's hear about these data so we can assess their quality. I've
>admitted that I don't have any data so I don't have that rhetorical
>ploy to hide behind. All we need is a couple of examples.

>The burning question here is why dominate women? A Darwinian >perspective
>suggests that dominance is employed to control access to reproductive
>resources. What does the symbolic approach suggest about the purpose >of
>domination? Is it for fun or self gratification?

What is bothering me here is the peculiar delineation of the problem of
"rape". As far as I am aware (no I cannot offer refereed stats from a
reputable journal) a large (the majority I believe) of rapes do not infact
involve "copulation" but rather a variously used range of implements
(bottles, knives, fingers, etc). Much "rape" is not based on genital sex.
This is a problem for theories of rape based in "reproduction". Further, a
great many rapes involve people who are highly unlikely to reproduce, ie
children and males.

The darwinian would presumably respond with, well they would obviously
rather have copulatory sex with a reproductive woman. This, of course, is
the end of social analysis as I would wish to be involved with it because it
disregards almost everything that makes human beings and life in general,

I might like also to suggest that moral categories of "rape" are frequently
also heavily linked to similar normative and heterosexual conceptions of
sexuality and violence. Humans have sex with, and violate an incredible
number of things in an incredible number of ways. This is clearly part of
the problematics of human subjectivity. Niether "fun" or "self
gratification" appear to be terribly rounded approaches to this problem.

Perhaps if we acknowledge the inseparable complicity of symbolism in the
process of reality and of violence we might have less recourse to continual
reductive splits between the " real" and "symbolic" or between different
categories of rape for that matter. Life is surely more than a finite
collection of bounded categories and mechanisms.

John Cook