Is rape universal? Part 2

This is the second part of the previous post. I finished the article, and I have to say it is one of the most interesting ones I’ve ever read! It’s one of those articles that makes you rethink a lot of ideas you’d taken for granted.

Although men and women in Gerai are not equal, the Gerai view that men are “higher” than women does not translate into a conception of that potency as attached to and manifest through the penis – of men’s genitals as able to brutalize women’s genitals. For many in the west, Halliwell claims, men’s superiority is linked to and manifest through his penis, which is why rape is one of the scariest acts imaginable. In Gerai this is not the case – a penis is just a penis.

Rape is something that people in the community find almost impossible to comprehend. “How would he be able to do such a thing?” one woman asked when I struggled to explain the concept of a man attempting to put his penis into her against her will.

Interestingly, in Gerai men and women’s sexual organs are seen as the same, unlike in the west where there exists a clear differentiation between male organs and female organs. In Gerai, the only difference is in the location: men’s are on the outside and women’s on the inside. Also, sexual intercourse is not about penetration by an aggressive force, rather it involves a mingling of similar bodily fluids, forces and so on.

Gender difference in Gerai is not predicated on the character of one’s body, and especially of one’s genitalia, as in many western contexts. Rather, it is understood as constituted in the differential capacity to perform certain kinds of work. While for westerners genitalia, as significant of one’s role in the procreative process, are absolutely fundamental in determining one’s identity, in Gerai the work one performs is seen as fundamental, and genitalia, along with other bodily characteristics, are relegated to a kind of secondary function.

It is problematic to use the English categories woman and man when writing of this community, since these terms are saturated with assumptions concerning the priority of biological difference. In Gerai, it would be more accurate to deal with the categories of “those responsible for rice selection and storage” and “those responsible for cutting down the large trees to make a ricefield.”

Most importantly, the sexual act is seen as mutual: the idea of having sex with someone who does not need to you have sex with them is unthinkable.  “How can a penis be taken into a vagina if a woman doesn’t want it?” one astonished man asked.

An important question from Moira Gatens:

Why concede to the penis the power to push us around, destroy our integrity, ‘scribble on us,’ invade our borders and boundaries, and…occupy us in our (always already) conquered privacy?

This article is a brilliant, thought-provoking one that pushed me to think about how power is given to certain acts (rape) and objects (the penis), and how these are socially constructed. And anything that is socially constructed can be socially deconstructed.


2 thoughts on “Is rape universal? Part 2

  1. Leyla

    I haven’t really read as much of this article as I should, I just kind of skimmed through and had a reaction.

    When I was a teenager, it was the young boy-gangs culture to try it on with girls, harrass and bully them: and then ultimately, hold her down and gang rape her. I blame porn for this.

    This was seen as “normal”- it was the way that things were. In my race of people – rape is a punishment as well – so in the army (for example) a so called weakling will get raped by the stronger lads as a punishment. Or if a boy has sex with a girl and her dad fights out, that boy can get gang raped by a group of heterosexual men because the act of ejaculating inside a person is seen as the ultimate degradation and punishment.

    It is also very very normal to be raped, or sexually touched by any male – your father, your uncle, your brother even – this is a regular story in many families and women’s lives.

    Its nothing any sociologist will ever be able to see, measure and think about – it’s just one of those things. Victims don’t speak – they understand they have been punished for something that they have done.

    I blame porn for this. It is a violent and widely accessible advertisement for the use of sex as a punishment or perversion.

  2. Lady

    This is an interesting article. It wasn’t all that long ago that I started thinking about whether a woman or girl could heal from rape (or avoid being negatively affected by it in the first place) if she didn’t see the man (and his penis) as having power – though m thoughts went on a slightly different tack of the woman or girl seeing rape as a compliment, the same way the majority of men see a woman raping a male as a good thing, as something that highly compliments the male. It seems that this article suggests that I was at least partially correct – if a woman or girl does not view a man as having power over them, does not feel as though women or girls are correct, and actually feels powerful (powerful enough to cause a man to ravish her against her will), she will not view the experience so negatively.

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