"I claim that rape exists any time sexual intercourse occurs when it has not been initiated by the woman, out of her own genuine affection and desire." -- Robin Morgan, "Theory and Practice: Pornography and Rape"
"In a patriarchal society all heterosexual intercourse is rape because women, as a group, are not strong enough to give meaningful consent," -- Catherine MacKinnon in Professing Feminism: Cautionary Tales from the Strange World of Women's Studies, p. 129.
"The fact is that the process of killing - both rape and battery are steps in that process- is the prime sexual act for men in reality and/or in imagination," -- Andrea Dworkin, Letters from a War Zone
"Man's discovery that his genitalia could serve as a weapon to generate fear must rank as one of the most important discoveries of prehistoric times, along with the use of fire, and the first crude stone axe," -- Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, p. 5.
"All men benefit from rape, because all men benefit from the fact that women are not free in this society; that women cower; that women are afraid; that women cannot assert the rights that we have, limited as those rights are, because of the ubiquitous presence of rape," -- Andrea Dworkin, Letters from a War Zone
Nothing could be farther from the reality of most men's experiences with sex than the characterizations of the radical rape theorists. Sexual freedom for women was once one of the foundations of the so-called "women's liberation" movement, but that has been replaced by a rigid political orthodoxy that is far more restrictive for women than the conditions which were the justification of their need for liberation. As the political has bulldozed its way into the personal, the delicate balance which existed in relationships and made them possible has completely broken down.
Today, nearing the crossover point between the 20th and 21st centuries, it is impossible to approach even the most superficial examination of female/male relationships without having to deal with a bottomless chasm between men and women called rape. The word itself has long since ceased to have any specific meaning because the concept has been so broadened that sex itself, any and all sex, between men and women is now called rape by some. This broadening of the aspect of criminality, violence, within sexual relationships blurs the distinctions between the normal frictions inherent in such an emotionally intense experience and true malicious intent. Indeed, malice on the part of men toward women is assumed and has become impossible for a man to disprove.
Rape has become the metaphor for all the conflicts of power between the sexes, and institutionalizes the underdog position of women. Dissident feminist Camille Paglia characterizes rape as "male power fighting female power". Another dissident feminist group, The Feminist Anti-Censorship Task Force (FACT), in "Caught Looking", names and describes the female aspect of power in sexual relationships. "It (denial of the possibility of mutuality) puts the woman in the position that the mother has to the infant: she has the power to give or withold." A few paragraphs later they recognize that "subduing the male through sex, a tradtional female stance, did not give women freedom to become sexual persons in their own right." Journalist Nora Fox, writing for "Squire", magazine suggests "Being the superior sex, women long ago learned the surefire way to get our way is to withhold sex. It's the same way we train dogs. Good behavior merits you a treat; bad behavior puts you in the conjugal dog house for the night. Men never seem to catch on." "It's a sad commentary on social Darwinism that sexual withholding works after all these millennia."
It is an even sadder commentary on the female view of relationships to see a woman advocating that women reduce their sexual nature to commodity status, then use it to play a mean and exploitive version of the futures market: artificially manipulating the commodity to create an artificial scarcity which drives up the price. By equating female sexuality with a dog biscuit, this so-called feminist dehumanizes women and demeans their sexuality far more than men ever could. Implicit in her view, as well as the views of radical rape theory, is a dissociation of women from their sexuality. It is not part of them: it is a THING to be passed around, used to manipulate with, but never something to be valued in its own right. If women, as the superior sex, take that view of their own sexuality, why is it a criminal act for men to believe them?
Extending Ms Fox's analogy of treating men like dogs, anyone who has trained a dog knows that effective training requires iron discipline. When using a treat to coerce desired behavior from a dog, any departure from the conditional withholding and giving a treat when the behavior isn't present will create a game where the beloved pet will try to get the treat without the required behavior. There is no malice on the pet's part, he really thinks it is a game - just like tug-of-war or chase-the-ball.
In sexual relationships, men often have to contend with women who constantly flip-flop in their postions. Sometimes it seems like women want to play: other times it seems like the purpose of the same activity has changed to control. When women attempt to grab the maternal power position described by FACT, and place the man in the position of the infant, by using their power to grant or withhold as a manipulative device, as Ms Fox suggests, men react in a variety of ways ranging from hurt to rage. All of these reactions damage the foundation of a relationship and undermine its mutuality. Depending on his socialization and past experiences with women, he may chose to continue it as a game and try to snatch the biscuit from his would-be mistress's hand, knock her down and take it by force, or simply quit the game and go away.
Prior to the extreme expansion of the concepts of rape, continuing the game was considered to be "romance". Above cited Camille Paglia has also made the statement that "what used to be considered unbridled passion is now called 'date rape'". According to feminist theory, rape definitions were previously biased completely toward the male point of view. Reflecting a cultural and social understanding of the "traditional female stance" of "subduing the male through sex", behavior antecedent to the alleged sex act purported to be criminal in nature was considered in determining whether the woman had been engaging in a power play of bait-and-switch or was truly innocent of any action or intent to provoke interest and desire in a man as a method of gaining power over him. This was a form of protection for men from women who understood the nature of their sexual power and were quite willing to abuse it and use it in a manipulative and exploitive way, just as rape laws were a form of protection from men who were willing to abuse their power to violate a woman sexually.
Nothing is so central to feminist theory as the denial of this as a true form of power. Balancing the so-called "patriarchy" has always been the emotional "matriarchy" of intimate relationships. In its current incarnation, the widely accepted fact that women are "relationship and intimacy experts", women retain exclusive power to define the terms and conditions of intimacy. The male point of view is not just denied and negated: it is demanded of men that they not only accede to, but adopt, the female point of view. Females "know" in their special "women's way of knowing" how relationships "should" be conducted, and they grant or withhold the treat of sex as a means of training men to give them what they want.
This point of view has become entrenched in current legal theory and practice. The determination of criminality has shifted completely away from objective interpretation of events to subjective determination based entirely on the perceptions of the female. Behavior on the part of the female which could have been interpreted in the subjective experience of the male as an invitation or enticement to pursue her, the proverbial and inflammatory "she asked for it", and which can turn really ugly if the woman changes the rules at the last moment and grabs for the maternal power postion of withholding what she has previously implied she was quite willing to give away freely, is now ruled inadmissable in determining guilt. However she says it was, is the law now. The ratios of criminal to non-criminal sexual behavior have been entirely reversed. Rape used to exclude anything which was ambiguous or where the woman's intent was unclear: now it includes all these formerly gray areas and only excludes the rare occasions where the woman is clear and unconflicted in her desires and intent; as Robin Morgan stipulates.
Given the realities of dating relationships, and the complex dance of advance/retreat which is characteristic of them, situations without ambiguity seldom exist. In part, it is the very riskiness of the ambiguous situation which provides much of the excitement of sexuality. Several years ago, Antioch College (always at the forefront of "political correctness") formulated a set of rules for the conduct of sexual relationships which required the male to secure explicit verbal consent prior to each escalation of physical intimacy leading to sex. "Can I touch your breast now?" "Can I put my hand inside your panties now?" "Can I put my finger inside you now?" It's hard to imagine that the people who wrote these rules had ever had sex. The cold and unemotional negotiation of sex like a labor contract is a more effective means of killing a rising bout of libido than a cold shower could ever be. The formal distance and restraint required a separation of intellect from experience and a detachment and dissociation from the event which no amount of lust could survive. What little sexual expression survived this over-intellectualization was necessarily contrived and devoid of emotional content. What started out to be about passion became about nothing more than friction.
In most cases, male ardor could not survive the stilted script and wilted like a cut flower under a hot light. In the current formulation of the sexual script, this was exactly the desired result. Men now assumed the role of the gatekeeper formerly filled by women and rather than rely on her to tell him that he was about to go, or had gone too far, he had to take responsibility for making sure he never stepped over the line: if he did, it was "date rape". Rebalancing the stereotypic division of responsibility implicit in the old tradtional roles would have required women to then take on the role of the initiator, which would also require that they take responsibility for their own sexuality and the fact that they are sexual beings. This, of course, is not allowed under the precepts of either the traditional cultural view of female sexuality or the contemporary position of the rape theorists, which are actually identical in their underlying assumptions despite the cosmetic differences used to hide their true intent. "Women do not want sex, they want love and commitment. A woman who willingly engages in sex is participating in her own oppression. A woman who believes that she has had willing sex is weak minded fool who has internalized her own oppression because she is unable to know any better and patriarchy controls her every move." It would also totally compromise her power postion to grant or withhold sex as a means of getting her way: transferring it to the male.
Given the fact that, historically, a woman's sexuality WAS her primary economic asset; and that the cultural institution of marriage was essentially a socially enforced contract in which the male was held responsible and accountable for providing financially for that woman and any products of his access to her sexuality in return for that access; marital law exempted husbands from rape charges. Rape was considered a form of theft, taking a woman's asset without paying for it. Implicit in this structure was the assumption that, by marrying her, the man had entered into a contract of continued payment for continued access. Cultural stereotyping demanded that women dissociate themselves from any enjoyment of their own sexuality lest men "stop buying cows, because they could get the milk for free". The sexual repression of the first Victorian age was so complete that it was considered somehow shameful and perverse if a woman actually enjoyed sex instead of "lying back and thinking of England" so she could somehow endure the shame and degradation of it all. Sex was primarily for the production of children, and the satisfaction of men's "bestial" urges, and the ideal was to get it over with as quickly as possible in order to minimize the shame and degradation of it all.
The quotes at the beginning of this essay reflect a return to values and cultural attitudes which were far more characteristic of the 1880s than the 1980s. Rene Denfeld has referred to this branch of radical feminism as "The New Victorians" in her book of the same name. The radical rape theorists have somehow managed to pull off a hoax of incredible propotions as they push for reinstatement of total repression and denial of female sexuality while justifying it by claiming it is necessary as a tool to fight the very conditions that it creates as an inevitable result.
The modern day mechanism for this is also identical to the ones historically used: destruction of women's sexuality through a variety of mechanisms and making women fear men because of their bestial and violent inherent natures.
Cultures in Africa and the Middle East take a very straightforward approach to the destruction of female sexuality: they simply chop the genitals off little girls somewhere between the ages of 4 and puberty. Commonly known to western cultures as Female Genital Mutilation, or FGM, these grisly practices are known within the cultures which practice them by the more polite and obscure euphemisms of female circumcision, excision, and infibulation. Western cultures, being on the whole more "civilized", use the more "humane" means of leaving the genitals attached but severing the emotional attachment and ownership, as well as all feeling in them, by the mechanism of shame. The western culture version of FGM is "Female Genital Mindfuck" which confuses and sublimates a woman's real feelings and desires into a form reflecting a prevailing cultural value which serves a social purpose. Women are only allowed to experience pleasure within a highly prescribed and proscribed context. She must be "in love": if she is all things are allowed, up to and including murder, if she isn't nothing is allowed.
This highly scripted social context is just as anti-reality when it comes to the behavior of most women as the characterizations of all sex as a form of violence is regarding the real behavior of men. The cultural mechanism which used to allow women to maintain this fiction and still experience their sexuality was men's fulfillment of their part of the sexual script regarding aggression and initiation. Women could put up "token" resistance secure in the knowledge that men would persist through the 150 rejections required to move the relationship from first eye-contact to sexual intimacy, because that was their role - their "JOB". The inevitable misunderstandings and ambiguities would be excused based on a understanding that the deception involved in the artificial roles made real understanding next to impossible. Women could be sexual without the shame by being "in love", "overcome by passion", "carried away in the heat of the moment", or any one of many other euphemisms for the woman letting the man have her way. Once in a while it got out of hand, and a truly dangerous man would ignore the gatekeeping signals which meant "too far", in which case the man would be convicted of rape. The old code of "chivalry" was sufficient to keep most socialized men in check.
When the public code of chivalry was changed from a woman's privilege to a woman's oppression, the entire system began to break down. Eliminating the distinctions between loving consensual sex and violence, and in fact denying that any such distinctions exist, made it impossible for a woman who was not completely clear on her sexuality (and given the contradictions in the culture on the subject of sex, what woman, or man for that matter, COULD be) to understand the gray areas between her own desires and being exploited by men in purely selfish and self-serving manners. Thus any behavior which fell outside the bounds of "politically correct" orthodoxy came to be criminalized. And since that range was narrow indeed, not to mention anti-reality, almost all sexual actions by men toward women came to be regarded as criminal, or "potentially" criminal (as exemplified by characterizing all men as "potential" rapists). Thus the meaning of the term "rape" has been broadened in its usage to include a vast number of acts that have nothing to do with sexuality, but relate only to the aspect of sex now called by the term "gender". Any time men oppose the desires or actions of a woman; whether it be to grab the moral high ground and maternal power to grant or withhold sex (even after an implicit suggestion that it is to be expected) or simply to impose on men something they have every reason and right to resist; it is now called by some variation of "(modifier) rape".
A female sportswriter, in a often quoted incident which occurred in the locker room of a professional football team several years ago, characterized the male players hostility toward her presence in their locker room, while they were running around in various stages of undress, as "mind rape." No male sportscaster would dream of expecting to be able to hang out in a female athletes' locker room indulging his voyeuristic appetites; but when a woman does and men object - the woman, as always, becomes the victim by screaming RAPE!!!! The very term "mind-rape" should be seen as an oxymoron; and probably would except for the rejection of reason, logic, mind, and intelligence itself as "andro-centric" which radical feminsm has made possible. Rape is being used today in the broadest possible sense to cast the subtle pall of criminal violence on any action of men to assert their own power and right to it. The concept of "equal rights" has been totally lost in the grab for power which feminism has become. Any person in a free society should have the right to deny a person of the opposite sex from leering at them in a semi-private environment. Isn't that the entire foundation under the concept of "sexual harassment". The use of the term "rape" to describe such actions by men illustrates how the meaning has been perverted to the point where the term has no meaning at all any more except to make criminals of men who oppose any action or exercise of power by a woman.
This is not to say that forced criminal sex does not exist, it certainly does and should remain a crime subject to the most severe of punishments. But the destruction and criminalization of the gray areas is most decidedly not to the benefit of either women or men. Kate Fillion, in "Lip Service" describes the experience of a young woman whose interpretation of a sexual encounter changes from the beginnings of a wonderful romance and life together to rape as a result of seeing her lover of the previous night sitting with another girl in the college cafeteria. Many writers, female and male alike, have commented on how this trivialization of the term is incredibly insulting and destructive to those who really have been violated.
The much trumpeted statistic that 1/4 of all women will be rape victims relies on a definition of rape that requires denial of 75% of the women's own interpretations of the experience. Fully 3/4 of the women included in the numbers of "rape victims" themselves characterized the experience as a misunderstanding. Almost half of them went on to sleep with the so-called "perpetrators" again. Under the expanded definition of rape used to create the 1/4 statistic: a man who takes a woman out on that "holy grail" of single womanhood, the "Saturday Night Date", drops a couple of hundred bucks on dinner that includes a bottle or 2 of wine, then they end up doing the horizontal boogie, if she has 2nd thoughts about it later - HE HAS RAPED HER.
The complexity of the conditions for "politically correct sex" have become so prohibitive that failure is inevitable. Perhaps the first area where true equality between the sexes is going to be achieved is by making men as inhibited and ambivalent about sex as the popular stereotype of women portrays women to be. Nothing is so ironic as listening to a woman, who never even took high school psychology, make bitter and scathing authoritative pronouncements about men, their nature, their motivations, and particularly their sexuality; then wonder morosely why none of these exploitive creatures approach her in order to force their unwanted attentions upon her.
Historically, men have shouldered a disproportionate share of the burdens and risks associated with the initiation of potential sexual relationships. They did so both in anticipation of certain rewards, and based upon a certain sense of safety that he would be cut a bit of slack if he failed to do it perfectly elegantly. Assigning the role of the initiator to men and the gatekeeper to women, worked to the general benefit of all. Studies have found that the frequency of sex in lesbian relationships is significantly below that in heterosexual relationships, which is again below that in relationships between gay men. Men initiate, women wait. Theres an old workplace poster that talks about a job that "anybody could have done, but it was really nobody's job, so nobody did it, if somebody had done it, things would have been so much better". Men have been very clearly socialized to understand that the shit work of sexual initiation is "their job." However, when the situation is created where an act is both required AND prohibited, almost everyone will make the choice which carries the lesser sanction. In todays culture that means waiting for the woman to "intiate sex out of her own sincere affection and desire" as Robin Morgan demands to avoid a rape charge. No man goes to prison for the crime of waiting. Men and women alike are waiting for Godot, who never shows up.
The ”dull assumption” to which Norman Mailer refers in “Prisoner of Sex”, ie. that the male sex drive is entirely due to an accident of birth, is more repellant to men today than when Mailer wrote about it in 1971. The fact that it has become so deeply entrenched in the public mind, becoming the 21st century equivalent of the "flat earth" view of the 15th century, has driven all eroticism and joy out of sexual relationships. Erin Pizzey, founder of the first women's shelter in the UK, speaks of the "terrible loss of tenderness and romance which has been leached out of the lives of women." In the gender war, the shared bed has become one of the primary battlegrounds.
The persistence, urgency, and ubiquity of the male sex drive and its power ascribed by the radical rape theorists to all men is a complete fallacy. While the cultural perception remains that men want sex more than women; doctors, counselors, and other helping professionals are increasingly called upon to deal with women trying to adjust to the fact that their chosen partners do not have much, if any, interest in sleeping with them. The sexless marriage is becoming far more common than most people realize. Relying entirely on men's sexual desire to compel them to pursue women and place themselves under the power of women to grant or withhold sex is a strategy that fails somewhere around age 40. Women tend to respond to this loss of power to use their sexuality in a manipulative and exploitive manner in the same ugly fashion as women who never had it in the first place: they bash men for it.
Above quoted journalist Nora Fox says, in the same article "... by the time we (women) reach our sexual peak, men are running on fumes". She goes on to suggest using a man's fear of his loss of sexual potency: "Another useful strategy is the withering glance. Begin with eye contact; move down to the zipper. After making sure no camcorders are present, I often combo this move with a disgusted snort followed by a teeth-clenched snarl."
What this woman is advocating is violence: emotional violence. Violence breeds violence and many a man will react to the long term use of such tactics by becoming emotionally or physically violent themselves. This article perfectly illustrates just about every reason why relationships between men and women are breaking down. How could anyone look at the viciousness inherent in this woman's writing and not realize how it destroys the most fundamental quality necessary for a relationship, i.e. trust?
It also illustrates in elgant shorthand fashion the anwer to Wendy Dennis's question: Why are men not out seeking and loving women? Because they are getting no messages whatsoever that women have any wish for them to. Because doing so is now defined as a criminal act. And because, even if their desire to love a woman is strong enough to overcome these first two hurdles, what they find in the majority of cases is not the loving support and appreciation of their love that they expected; but abuse, hatred, and betrayal of trust.
Simplistic formulations of the complexities of emotions, politics and power, which dominate the sexual exchange, deny the reality of the experiences of most people. Sex is nothing but ambiguities, uncertainties, ambivalences. Today's politicized rape climate reverses the proportions of normal and pathological: making the majority experience pathological and holding up an as-yet unachieved ideal as the prototype of "normality". Demanding that sex be female-initiated in order to avoid criminality, as Robin Morgan does, hardly seems to fit with the observed behaviors of most women.
Still, even this extreme position would be more palatable to men than the current situation. Men are still expected, and under great social pressures, to initiate, but are demanded to do so entirely in accordance with women's specifications, desires, and needs. Failure to meet any of these is punishable by imprisonment. Men as human beings have been completely dropped out of the picture: and the expectation now is that they will function either like flesh and blood vibrators or the hero of some romance novel or chick flick embodying a totally dysfunctional blend of contradictory and mutually exclusive characteristics. Needless to say, not many men are passing romantic muster these days.
The extreme negative stereotyping, combined with the impossibly conflicting demands and expectations, enforced by the power of law enforcement and an increasing body of aggressively punitive laws, have led an ever growing number of men to simply "drop out". Feminst author Wendy Dennis observed several years ago "men had backed off from women in response to the feminst agenda". She also remarked in her book that many men simply avoided romantic relationships except when prompted by a bout of loneliness to make a foray into the singles bars. At one point she wonders why these men are not out seeking, dating, and loving women. While she does an adequate job of acknowledging the beating over the head with feminist demands that they remodel themselves which men have endured for the past 3 decades, she never quite got around to fessing up to the fact that men had been told so many times that doing so was tantamount to rape that they decided it was better to be asexual than a criminal.
Countering the stereotypes on which the radical rape theorists rely to justify their push for lesbianism and elimination of men, are the realities of men who have opted out of the whole game as a means of beating the game of sexual politics. One man I spoke with, now in his mid-40s, gave up sex before the age of 30. He says he barely remembers it, and what he does remember of it was more obnoxious than pleasant or rewarding. In speaking of the reasons for his choice, he refers to the fact that things he shared in an atmosphere of trust were invariably used against him with incredibly malicious intent when the nature of the relationship changed. In his descriptions as well as many other conversations with men on this topic, the word "betrayal" comes up again and again.
Joshua Harris, at age 22 when most young people are almost obsessed with romantic relationships, has written a book called "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" and tours the country speaking to young people encouraging them not to date. In his book, he outlines 7 reasons for not dating. Four of the seven have to do with the misunderstandings that are inevitable given the differing expectations, agendas, and perceptions with which men and women tend to enter potentially sexual relationships.
Men now accept "No" as meaning "no". "Maybe" is also regarded as "no." Since "yes" can never mean really mean yes, any "yes" which is not delivered in writing and notarized is interpreted as a "conditional yes": yes (if there is a commitment forthcoming). The hostility that this breeds in men is illustrated by the man who got the "no, maybe, yes, no, no I mean yes" treatment then pulled away from his "date" and began masturbating. While it is easy to see how this was obviously quite hostile and probably hurt the woman's "delicate" feelings, any empathy for her point of view is tempered by the fact that the political climate makes her ambivalence quite safe while ignoring it has assumed life-changing risks for the man.
The runaway abuse of rape, rape shield, and sexual harassment laws has totally remodeled the landscape of romantic relationships. The mechanisms of attraction buried so deeply in our biology and social customs are not easily redefined. The resulting confusion and misunderstandings has attempted to throw away the old without replacing it with anything new. What is left is a caricature. Women and men fear and distrust each other. If anyone had intentionally chosen an issue which is as cloudy and vague as it is powerful as a means to set one group of people against another, they could not possibly have chosen one more powerful or more vague than sex. Sex is the broadest possible criteria to divide the human race into competing groups in hostile camps, and is so central to survival of the species itself that there has been no alternative to men and women crashing into each other trying to sort it out as they were searching for love.
Individual women and individual women have been defined out of existence by the radical and extreme characterizations of sex and rape. People have been awash in a sea of political orthodoxy as the most outspoken of the architects of the "new world order" have invaded their bedrooms and their very minds with more vigor and contempt than anyone ever thought possible. Before women had any more than a decade to savor their newfound sexual freedom which the pill provided, the very people who most loudly claimed to fighting for their liberation and their rights sought to define away those rights and institute an era of sexual repression which would make the Victorian era look like an orgy of unrestrained libido. In the process they sacrificed an entire generation, and broke the fragile thread of the transmission of cultural and social values from parents to children. In the place of parents we now have the falsely benevolent ulitmate parent of government.
By defining this most basic and potentially tender and passionate, but also incredibly powerful and conflicted, experience purely in terms of preferences versus criminality; the stage is set for everyone to lose. Sexuality is clearly one of the most universal and intense of human interactions. There are only about 6 things that we can be relatively certain every human being does or has the desire to do: eat, drink, excrete, sleep, breathe, and have sex. This is why we are so fascinated with it. Public media inundates us with sexual signals: glorifying sex while at the same time waving the pinched-face moralistic finger of shame at any who respond to the signals. Sex, like Christina Hoff-Sommers characterizes feminism in her book "Who Stole Feminism: how women have betrayed women", has been stolen from men and women alike. It has been stolen by fanatics who sold women out by claiming to act in their interests while their true agenda was to shove a new form of political orthodoxy down their throats and into their personal lives. It has been stolen by making women afraid of and hate men.
If women ever decide to reclaim sex from their would-be saviors; if they ever decide to demand the right to say "yes" that Ms Kitty MacKinnon denies them "as a group, because they aren't strong enough to give meaningful consent"; if they ever decide to stop exploiting their sexual powers of withholding and motherhood; they will find lots of loving men ready to join with them.
But women will have to be the ones who reclaim it. For as we all have heard many times: "All men are rapists and that's all they are," -- Marilyn French Author, "The Women's Room"
Back to “Gender War, Sexuality, and Love”
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